Every year, I talk to seventh-graders about the book Out of My Mind. The YA novel follows a female protagonist, Melody, who suffers from Cerebral Palsy, the same neurological disorder that affects me. A major difference between her and me, though, is that she’s nonverbal, while I’m very verbal—just ask my family!
Because Melody can’t talk, very few people understand what she’s capable of mentally. She tries with her actions to show it, but they’re often misinterpreted. She’s placed in a multiple handicap class, and her true intelligence isn’t revealed until she’s included into a mainstream class in fifth grade, when she’s also given a computer that she can use to speak for her. She even qualifies to be on the school’s Whiz Kids team.
The last time I prepared for my visit, a thought occurred that I’d never had before, which I added to my presentation. With a disability as severe as hers, Melody could’ve allowed everybody to think what they wanted to. In fact, it would’ve been the easier course, saving her much frustration and frankly, pain. She had a loving family, and the schoolwork she was given was a breeze because it was beneath her actual skill level. Why not bask in that life of ease?
The conclusion I’ve come to is that it’s due to her high standard of herself. Though no one else knew what she could do, this little girl wasn’t going to allow that to downgrade her own self-worth. Despite the challenges she faced to prove herself, she wanted to live up to the standard only she could set.
Although I have the ability to speak, I’ve had similar struggles with being underestimated. When I was first diagnosed at ten months old, my parents and doctors could only venture to guess how and in what I’d progress. One specialist went as far as to warn my mom and dad that I might never be potty-trained. Hence, they had to wait on me to show them my advancement, and because of my high standards—and stubborn spirit—, I’ve been happy to debunk as many of those grim predictions as I could.
Isn’t it true of all of us, however, that we can set the best standard for ourselves individually? Regardless of our abilities, nobody else knows our potential like we do. True, others may help us realize it more fully, but it’s up to us whether or not to let it show.
All too often, though, manifesting that leads to a harder path, just like it did in her case. In my opinion, this is the reason we see many of the problems we do in today’s society. Since outsiders can’t prove what others are capable of, people have come to figure that they’re better off not showing it. Otherwise, they’ll be given more responsibility.
That’s why the highest standard has to come from within. You can lead others to believe whatever you want, but there’s no fooling yourself…to a point. Just as repeating a lie time and again can make even you believe it, repressing your potential can make it dwindle in your own estimation. So don’t shortchange yourself. Even if it’s the easier course, don’t allow everyone to see you as a lawn full of dandelions when you’re actually a field of sunflowers.
2 thoughts on “The True Golden Standard”