Who knew working on internalized ableism was a full-time job?

Neck-down shot of person in golden brown sweater with gold bracelet typing on laptop at wooden table.
Hi ho, to work we go. Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash

It took applying for a full-time job to realize how much ableism I've internalized over the years.

For one, we freelancers are a proud fucking group. We like our freedom, we don't like having to work to someone else's schedule (ironic, I know), and for the most part, we tend to be reserved about personal information.

There are also more chronically ill, disabled, and neurodivergent self-employed workers than traditional ones. Why? Because we've historically dealt with a whole host of discrimination and accommodation issues in the workplace.

Further reading on this topic:

It's probably no wonder many of us are reserved about our health status and prefer to (or have to) carve out our careers.

But even as freelancers, we're often cautious about what we tell clients about our limitations. I can't tell you how often I've cited "taking a sick day" or "personal emergency" for needing additional time on a project because I was worried I'd be passed over for the next one.

Now, this could very well just be me. But as someone who's cautious about talking about my health (until I started splashing it across LinkedIn), it's been a hard mindset to shift.

Turns out, I might be living in the past.

The working world has changed significantly. The fight for remote and flexible work continues, but it's already part of our "new norm". Being open about mental health at work is much more acceptable in many industries. And DEIAB initiatives have made great strides in supporting different groups of workers.

There's clearly a long way to go, but even I can see that there's been a lot of positive movement. Which brings me right back to my ableism.

I think a part of me still saw full-time work as "bad" and freelancing as "good" without ever really knowing why. I've heard of companies that are welcoming where people can be honest and vulnerable about their struggles, but it was jarring to actually hear how that works.

Throughout the interview process, I could hear myself thinking...

I can't "handle" this.

I don't "deserve" full-time benefits.

No one wants me because I'm defective.

I assumed I was a liability so I spent a lot of time apologizing for my needs. I've only ever been a freelancer, so I worried a lack of corporate experience would work against me.

In the end, I was the only one struggling to accept me.

Whether I fall in love with full-time work or not, ultimately I think this is a good decision for me. I haven't even started yet and already I'm having to rethink a lot of my own preconceived notions. Sometimes, we need a good shakeup to put things in perspective and I'm looking forward to seeing where this takes me. Hope you are, too!

These are some big changes for me. I went from freelance and planning to move countries again to staying put and getting a full-time job in just a few months. So right now, things are still a bit weird.

But as J.M. Barrie once said, "To live would be an awfully big adventure". Wish me luck!