It has taken me several months to complete this blog post; when I decided I would write about defining oneself I had an internal struggle because I always strive to be honest however being honest with tact isn’t something I am good at. There is no guarantee that my words will change your life. Yet it is my hope that you will take away an idea, an incentive, a new way of looking at yourself and the people around you; giving you the benefit of some of my life’s experience in the hope that you might find some of my experiences useful.
Can I as a woman with a disability have it all? For me the question has been at the forefront on my mind most of my adult life. Most individuals with disabilities have the same desires as all other people. Some might say that people with disabilities couldn’t possibly have it all, so don’t even attempt it or the word cant shouldn’t be a part of your vocabulary; mixed messages. Thankfully, the naysayers are dwindling as society is becoming more enlightened. And I believe that to a certain extent people with disabilities allow those people to dictate what they can and can’t be or do; stop doing that right now. You have the right to determine your own level of success; every individual will have a different interpretation of having it all. Whatever that level of success may be always strive to be the best you can be, and above all else be happy and try to stay healthy, and remember you will need support from those who are closest to you.
Speaking of naysayers, I remember one occasion in my 20’s I was on a board for a non-profit agency; my first so I was a little naive. I had made such a good impression on someone that they felt it was appropriate to call me a token cripple. Don’t ever do that to someone; it will only serve to make you look foolish; as far as I was concerned I was making a mark and impressed everyone else on the board.
Be realistic; I wish I could be a super model but not very realistic of me; crushing I know but I will survive. I have had several professions in my life from the transportation industry to being a political aid and everything in between. You could say I have worn many hats and even though I’ve had my share of setbacks including being sabotaged, being true to my self has always been my main objective. True story; I was working with a non-profit agency in which I was tasked with letting individuals with disabilities know about our agency and ultimately introducing myself to them; I decide it was important to do a large mailout; after doing everything involved in getting a mailing ready to be sent one of the staff members offered to take the stuffed envelopes to the mailbox. The next day the letter carrier returned the mail to us because the envelopes had been placed in the mail box ripped and mangled. And yes again I say don’t do this to anyone because you are not going to look like a team player to your coworkers.
For people to be happy they must stop trying to meet other people’s expectations about who they should be. They must define their own worth. If you are to define yourself and be successful you need to take risks, be courageous and ignore the fear mongers in order for you to attain that personal success and happiness you deserve. For me it didn’t happen overnight or by accident.
I may not have to be the smartest or the prettiest. Just be the best me, always put your best foot forward and avail yourself of every opportunity that comes your way. If you’re lucky, you have someone or many individuals in your life who make an impression on you when you’re young and even throughout your life.
Eventually I came to the realisation that I had to figure out what I was naturally good at. I came up with the idea that I was naturally good at conversations and had common sense and people skills. So I set out to find a way of distinguishing myself. That is when I decided it was time to throw myself into being a disability advocate, in the process changing people’s lives one step at a time and having a great deal of success in doing so. I am not going to name drop or brag about any specific success; it pleases me to know that I had or have had a hand in making things better for someone, even if may not know them personally. I continue to do this and will likely always consider myself an advocate; there is something very appealing to being able work independently.
Put yourself first; there is no shame in putting yourself first. In order for you to be a success you will need to be at your best emotionally and physically. Learn that not to live someone else’s idea of what my life should be is okay.
It really is true what they say; do what you love and find a way to get paid for it; make choices that fit your style and natural abilities. It is never too early to have your dreams fulfilled.
Whatever you consider your level of success to be being successful and happy in life takes skill and the willingness to work for it. Whether it be in an employment setting or as a volunteer make yourself indispensable; in our society, success is often considered synonymous with making a lot of money. But not every person is going to climb the corporate ladder or become a multimillionaire. Self-esteem and contentment are achieved by knowing you are making a unique contribution, no matter what you do.
If I were going to give one basic piece of advice I would say in any situation, always strive to become indispensable. Being indispensable gives you job security and will impress the people around you. It also gives you a sense of accomplishment that no one can take away. Feeling needed and relied upon is good for your soul. There are many opportunities like that.
A successful individual is smart enough to understand that meeting the needs of others will get him/her far. It’s important to be the person who is trusted, admired, and who provides something that no one else can. Being indispensable builds skill and it also builds confidence. Confidence builds success; it’s a positive cycle. Life can be treacherous out there, having your ear to the ground and knowing what’s really going on gives you power.
Be fearless and don’t allow yourself to get stepped on. Sometimes you have to speak up because no one else is going to do it for you.
This may get me into a lot of trouble and some of you may be tempted to challenge me but hear me out then you can go to town with your criticism. Use your best assets; brains are definitely an asset but brains and beauty are lethal weapons. When someone complements your good looks give them your brightest smile. That probably sounds shocking to those living in our current politically correct universe. I remember walking down the hallway of an office building this gentleman was walking in the other direction takes what appeared to be a shocked look at me and said “Why are you so good looking”? To which I replied “I don’t know, you will have to go ask god”?
I understand that we want to be respected for our intellect. Put your best foot forward and use all your God-given assets but be smart and remember you are a whole package. Using your assets means using your brain.
You managed to get your foot in the door now you have to make a good impression so don’t blow the first impression. You only have one chance to make a first impression.
The strong handshake, eye contact, putting away the cell phone, dress appropriately; meaning no sweat pants or ripped jeans. Something has to set you apart from everybody else.
Knowing your audience, the way you carry yourself is important, speaking clearly. And I have been guilty of this one; you don’t need use the word like in every sentence. Don’t be so serious; humour can be an excellent way to make a serious point; steer clear of the angry glare. Be on time or preferably early for everything. Carry yourself with confidence, grace and dignity, be kind and keep your word.
You’ve got to be interesting; have information, experiences, work, hobbies and talk about them. Always have an interesting story on tap about current events.
I’ve been very fortunate; when opportunity comes my way, I take the risk; I make myself available to opportunity; although it hasn’t been easy for me. Keeping in mind that the life span of people with disabilities is extending all the time; you may as well make the best of it. You can have a journey that’s fulfilling, or you can have a journey that you can’t wait to end. I’m opting for a fabulous journey every step of the way. I’ve always said what’s on my mind. What I’ve learned at this stage in my life is to focus on what really matters. The footprint you leave behind is entirely up to you. Not everyone will have a mark of worldwide magnitude. You must always attempt to show yourself in the best possible light. It is more important to do the right thing rather than always being right; keeping in mind that you do the right thing that is right for you. For most people demanding what you are worth may imply demanding a pay raise however demanding what you are worth can also be applied to your value as a friend, sibling and spouse. Don’t allow yourself to be a doormat. You are worth more than that.
It would be dishonest for me to promote the fantasy that through hard work and effort every person can have it all. For many these are empty words. The reality is they have families that are not supportive and health challenges to face. However, every person has a passion and a purpose. If you can’t make your career your passion, pursue your passion when not working. Carve out a block of time that is just for you. You never know when a door will open for you while you are fulfilling your passion. And if the door never opens, you have created a richer life for yourself. Learn to be good to yourself and always Engage, Enlighten, Empower.