My Expectations Set a Precedent for How Others Perceive Me

Sean Baumstark avatar

by Sean Baumstark |

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When the time came to sit down and write this column, I hadn’t given thought to a specific topic.

This doesn’t usually concern me, because I often jot down notes, moments, experiences, or ideas that come to mind throughout the week. Then, I simply dig into one of those ideas when the time comes. However, every now and then, I scare myself by going into my writing time with absolutely no clue what to write about.

Obviously, having no clue is no excuse, so of course I must figure something out.

In times like these, I often start asking questions of those around me, hoping to hear something that inspires me to dig a little deeper.

Today was one of those times. One friend I often talk to when I have a random idea or no idea at all is Kyle Bryant, with whom I co-host the “Two Disabled Dudes” podcast.

He said something while on the phone that struck a chord with me, and he inspired me to expound on the thought process. In addition to Kyle’s words, I was reminded of a similar thought process I heard described on a podcast recently.

“You will never get any more out of life than you expect.” —Bruce Lee

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Kyle was talking in terms of disability and living with a rare disease like Friedreich’s ataxia (FA). The speaker I heard was quoting Bruce Lee and applying the principle to personal and professional development.

This principle is powerful no matter the context, especially when we consider how many of the results in our lives are tied to an expectation — a plan, a strategy, or a process we adhere to in order to obtain an expected or desired outcome.

I appreciate Kyle’s perspective on how this applies to living with a disability, and I believe it’s a good reminder for me and you.

Too often, people who can see our disability, or perhaps know there is some underlying disease impacting our lives, tend to expect less of us. Someone might expect a person utilizing a wheelchair to be unable to drive. Someone might expect a person lugging around an oxygen tank to be unable to talk or multitask. Someone might hear me or a fellow FA patient talking with slow and slurred speech and expect that we are cognitively dysfunctional.

Although their expectations may be misplaced or uninformed, it is my job to help them expect more of me. It is my responsibility to help people understand what is reasonable and what may be ill-assumed.

This mindset automatically requires me to expect more of myself. If I want others to treat me as a valuable human being with a contribution to make despite my disabilities, then I have to lead by example. People will follow my lead, especially in relation to my disability, and if I expect people to treat me with dignity, respect, and some level of equality, then I must realize that my expectations of myself are being showcased as a precedent for those around me. 

My disability cannot, and should not, be an excuse for me to expect less of myself. I may be limited in my abilities and I may have to get creative and resourceful on a regular basis, but those efforts do not mean “I can’t.”


Friedreich’s Ataxia News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.


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