For months I have been trying to figure out why my able-bodied peers are so easily impressed by my living my life. Finally, in the wee hours of the morning on yet another sleepless night, I had an epiphany! While I am by no means a psychologist, I wanted to share my theory.
I have long believed that losing a limb is a deep seated fear for most. If I had just one dollar for every time I have heard, "I wouldn't be able to continue" or "I don't know how you do it; you're so strong" I would be a rich lady. Most look at an amputee and instantly think pain, disfigurement, and disability. They fail to realize that the surgical pain wanes, that the mind slowly adjusts to a new body image. In reality, limb loss is something that must be experienced in order to fully grasp the personal evolution. I used to challenge the unnecessary compliments, but I quickly discovered that it wasn't worth the argument. I have learned simply to say thank you and move on.
Casual acquaintances often shower me with accolades without my doing anything remarkable. I assure you that I don't need praise because I finished the laundry, went grocery shopping, or took my son to school. These are tasks most parents do on a regular basis. The fact that I live my life relying upon a prosthetic is simply a part of my reality, not a reason for hero worship. However, if the self-soothing makes them feel better, I won't point out the flawed logic.
On an unconscious level, most people rationalize reasons that limb loss will never happen to them. This is accomplished several ways, the most obvious is blaming the amputee. The diabetic hears whispers, "She should have taken better care of her blood sugar." The traumatic amputee might overhear, "What was he doing driving that late at night," whereas the soldier "knew what he signed up for." I believe that this judgment is an attempt to separate the amputee from society. Coming up with a cause that could have been avoided is a way of justifying that a limb loss won't happen to them.
Trying to rationalize why bad things happen is human nature. I think it makes people feel better to believe that I had the strength and fortitude to overcome the obstacles, hence the amputation happened to me instead of them. It is simply too overwhelming for the average person to believe that limb loss can happen to him at anytime. I won't contest the praise and accolades and will continue to smile graciously, but I think that the compliments hide a common and pervasive fear.