How to Handle the Stares?
- Published on Friday, 06 April 2012 14:16
The reason why it's difficult to deal with someone staring at you is because it is uncomfortable, especially if you've never had to deal with it before. When someone stares at us, we immediately go on the defensive. We start trying to figure out what they are staring at and assume something is wrong. Even the average looking person starts to check their face, clothes and more trying to figure out what's out of place. So when a person with a disability realizes that their disability is the reason for the stare, we assume that's what's "wrong" and become offended. That is where we make a mistake, because that assumption is the result of us not understanding the reason for the stare. Remember, the whole point is for us to learn to handle a situation that is going to occur no matter how much we don't want it too.
The real reason why people stare at persons with disabilities is because they're curious. A person whose physical appearance is different than the norm in anyway, is a cause for intrigue. When you always see things look one way and then they change we as humans take notice. It's like trying not to stare at the inkblot on a blank sheet of paper. When we see a difference we want to know more. When someone sees a person with a disability they want to understand what's wrong, how it came to be and how it feels to be in that position. Even people who are disabled find it hard not to stare at each other. Though we are used to our own differences, we aren't used to the differences of others and so that same curiosity kicks in. Of course, because we know how it feels to be stared at we try to control ourselves a little more.
So, let's learn how to handle this by starting at the bottom of the list. What do you do in that inevitable situation when a kid stares at you? I always have to chuckle a little when a kid does it because they haven't yet learned to be discreet and/or tactful. They'll stare at you, mouth and eyes wide open like "Whoa!" But how can you fault them. All they know is that they see something different from what they are used to and they want to learn more. Then they'll look at their Mom or Dad and say "Mom, look at her." And a lot of times they will come right up to you and ask "Why...?" Though the parent is often standing there mortified, answer their question. "I was in a car accident and it made my legs not work anymore." Or "I came out my Mommy's stomach like this." Then follow it up with a statement like "That's why you should always wear your seatbelt." or "Don't worry I'm still happy." Answering takes the awkwardness out of the situation and teaches the kid and even the parent to not be afraid because we're people just like them.
What about when an adult stares? The thing is they are curious too. While we expect adults to maturely handle the situation they don't most of the times. Though they know it's not right to stare and it seems like it should be easy for them not to they still do.
So how do you handle this situation? First, ignore statements made by well-meaning family and friends saying that those who stare are "ignorant or "only hurting themselves." Those are blanket statements that ignore the real issues. Look at it from an objective viewpoint. As uncomfortable as it is to be stared at, the reality is it's inevitable. While we wish they wouldn't stare, they do. They aren't trying to be rude and they don't even want to stare, but it's a hard urge for them to fight. Since we understand this what do we do? Do you let this hinder you or stop you from going out and enjoying the life you have? No. Your life is just as valuable as anyone else and you have the right to a wonderful one. Once you know and except this no one can take it from you by means of a stare. So go on and live your life. Go out and educate yourself to the extent that makes you happy and if you want to work, do so. Whatever paths you choose, follow it as best you can, knowing that you are living a happy and full life.
And the next time you walk in that store and all eyes are on you you'll know why and you'll be showing them and the rest of the world that your disability doesn't stop you from being happy and they will be looking on in awe and amazement.