Christian Long

Aimee Mullins: The Opportunity of Adversity

In TED Talks on April 11, 2010 at 10:39 pm

Reflection by DERON M.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

Aimee Mullins:  The Opportunity of Adversity

Have you ever been “labeled”? Have you ever been told that you could never even dream of accomplishing something? Are you tired of being “labeled” and being told that your dreams are out of reach.

Aimee Mullins is.

Aimee is sick and tired of her and others like her being labeled “disabled” by a majority of society. She believes that society automatically assumes that she struggles every day to do the tasks we take for granted, but nothing could be further from the truth. Aimee was a world class sprinter as a double amputee and has been trying to shed her label since the day she was born.

Aimee’s story of how her doctor and physical therapist, Dr. Pizzutillo, used words of encouragement to make Aimee believe that she was capable of being able to be a strong, able-bodied human being and settle for nothing less. Whether or not “Dr. P” actually believed what he was saying is beside the point. The point is that the positive feedback from a person with power and influence inspired Aimee to continue to fight to be what we assume to be normal.

Aimee also explains how being “disabled” in today’s world is not what it was many years ago. Technology has changed the game completely. Those who could not walk or have the ability to move independently now have those abilities that we take for granted every day. I also love Aimee’s comment on how social networking sites (facebook, myspace, twitter, etc.) “allow people to self-identify” and to “claim their own descriptions of themselves”. We try desperately try to seek out what we feel is our identity and not conform to the identity that others label on us. Sadly, this is not always the case.

Aimee also describes how overcoming adversity can be misperceived. Society views the act of overcoming adversity to avoiding obstacles and not being drastically changed by the issue or problem that was presented. Mullins argues that overcoming adversity is not a roundabout process that forces someone to avoid obstacles but is a mental and emotional straining experience that makes them stronger in the long run.

The last thing Mullins talks about was how the words we hear and the labels that are put on us can have either a positive or negative effect if we let them consume our thoughts about ourselves. The story Aimee shared about the English students is both uplifting and depressing at the same time. On one hand, you have the A students who were given D’s and told that they were not bright. On the other, you have the D students who were given A’s and began to believe in themselves as being smart and having value in society. As predicted, the students swapped roles. The A students began to conform to what they were told and began to do D quality work and the same went for the D students who began to turn in A level work. Both let what others said about them get inside their head with two vastly different results. We need to be able to take in the positive feedback that we are given and have it inspire us to do even better and listen to the negative comments we receive but not let it take control of our thoughts.

Aimee’s view of the labels society puts on us and the positive and negative effects those labels can have on a person has many very valid points. She has yet to let the outside opinions of those who are “disabled” get to her head and that is a testament to her mental and emotional strength. Aimee refuses to be labeled by others and let their negative opinions influence her daily life.

Will you?

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