Crossing Your Bridge: The difference between defeatism and realism

A sign on a bridge says that it can hold two tons of weight. If the bridge builder tells you you can not drive a three ton vehicle across it, he is not being a defeatist, he is admitting that the bridge has limits and he is protecting it from being destroyed.

I think that society takes for granted the fact that not everyone- not every bridge- has the same capabilities.

When I first admitted my limitations to someone very close to me, I was called a “defeatist”. I was accused of giving up simply because after learning my body’s limits and accepting that they are there, I admitted that those limits needed to be acknowledged for the sake of my well-being.

I was not giving up on life. I was not withdrawing from society and hiding in my misery. I simply admitted that my body was not fit for employment. I was admitting that continuing to work was causing my health to decline and I needed to stop before it got any worse. My bridge was bowing dangerously under weight that it could not carry. I had to decide whether to continue on with my current load, or back up and remove some weight to ensure that this bridge wouldn’t collapse beneath it.

My bridge is not as strong as most. I can carry some weight, but not much, and not often. My bridge is more of a footbridge than a freeway. It is not “defeatist” to admit that a footbridge cannot carry the weight of a semi truck.

Yet, society continues to look down on those of us with disabilities that keep us from working. I did not choose my disability. My health conditions are congenital, and they are not genetic. In fact, doctors don’t know for sure what the cause of this mutation is, so the blame for my poor health falls on no human being. Because of the complications brought on by my dysfunctional body, I am unable to obtain gainful employment. This is not something that I can help. There is no cure. My body is a dud, and there isn’t anything I can do to change that fact. I always try my best to get my body the treatments it needs to be as healthy as possible, but treatment is not a cure, and treatment for my condition is so complicated that it is mostly a matter of trial and error. Because of this, I spend a lot of time unwell while my doctors and I try to find the right balance of medications and treatments to keep my body functioning. If I were to try to do what a normally healthy person does every day, my health would suffer.

This is a fact.

Admitting that this is true does not make me a defeatist. It makes me a realist.

It is important to acknowledge your limits, even though society may judge you for it.

If you want to drive a semi truck across a footbridge, be my guest. Just don’t come crying to me when you wind up in the river.

Featured image courtesy of

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