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The Cheering Section Silences The Self-Critic

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Are you tired of feeling so invisible?
Are you sick of silencing your voice?
Do you still have hope that peace is possible?
My friend, oh you are not alone

You Are Not Alone | Songwriters: Emeli Sande / James Poyser / Salaam Remi

Squashing The Self-Critic

I hadn’t planned on doing a blog post today because I have two back-to-back speaking engagements this weekend. Seriously, I must be having some sort of out of body experience since I SHOULD be practicing instead of writing. However, when inspiration strikes I have to trust my gut and go with it. So here we go:

I am so excited about the events on Friday and Saturday because I get to do what I love—advocacy! Talking about the value and abilities of people with disabilities makes my heart want to explode. Well, maybe not explode because that would kill me, but you catch my drift. So anyways, the thought occurred to me, while in the shower I might add, that none of this could be possible without my cheering section.

My self-critic, I call her Cruella, as she’s quite cruel, is a monster. Fun fact: Cruella de Vil is also my alter ego who I adore because she’s so deliciously evil, but I digress.

Cruella the self-critic is constantly chattering non-stop in my head telling me I can’t do this, that or the other. Some days the noise is so loud I have to stop what I’m doing and take a nap, she wears me out so. However, today, while showering I heard another sound, it started out small then grew tall. To my delight, I discovered it was my very own cheering section. Honestly, I couldn’t help but get a little misty-eyed because the cheering section silenced Cruella.

Thank You To My Cheering Section

You know who you are! You’re in the arena with me and accept me as I am, flaws and all, unconditionally. I’m so thankful to have you in my circle.

Robert, the braille and large print booklets you created are phenomenal. Kathy, the braille mugs are perfect. Vicky, the powerpoint presentation with audio cues exceeds my wildest expectations. Amy, offering to manage the BBB Facebook page has been huge and I can’t thank you enough. Carla, you are no longer with us yet your voice is one of the loudest and most supportive. Becky, and the Giggle Girls, I will carry you in my heart while sharing my message on the importance of inclusion and representation. Gigi, your constant encouragement has meant so much to me. Holly, Maria, Chelsea, Max, Nasreen, George, Cate, and Jose our friendships/partnerships are so meaningful and you are extraordinary people.

There are so many other people out there who’ve supported me and I am so grateful for our connection. Thank you for being there for me, you’re the BEST! ~Steph

During my talks, I’ll share my recipe for social entrepreneurship and limitless possibilities. If you happen to be in the area you can catch me here:

  • Disability InSIGHTS – October 18, Erie, PA
  • SPARK Saturday (Self-confidence, Peer support, Accessibility, Resources, & Knowledge) – October 19, Harrisburg, PA (Pennsylvania Council of the Blind Annual Conference)

On a side note, Emile Sandé is one of my favorite artists and here’s an awesome song from her new album.

Image Description:

A black and white photo of an excited crowd of concert-goers.

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Path To Passion, Purpose & Identity

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Path To Passion, Purpose & Identity

“Pay attention to the things you are naturally drawn to. They are often connected to your path, passion, and purpose in life. Have the courage to follow them.”

~Ruben Chavez

Birth of an Advocate

When I was growing up I remember feeling so small, powerless and insignificant. From an early age, kindness, compassion, and more importantly, the need to do the right thing was always important to me. As a child, I wanted nothing more than to make the world a better place. Accomplishing this goal would be a challenge without a roadmap to follow.

One thing I was really good at though was making poor life choices. Bad decisions like turning down a scholarship to marrying quite young and more, became my MO. Depression, poor self-esteem and emptiness derailed me more times than I care to acknowledge. Thankfully, my negativity was balanced by my tenacity and the desire to challenge myself to become more.

At the outset, I had everything against me. I was the product of a broken home, poor, black, female and I had an unhealthy portion of self-hatred. My childhood wasn’t the best and I learned early on that life wasn’t fair and to always be on guard. From my point of view, serious changes were needed but I couldn’t make change happen–I was just a kid. Even so, being a kid I knew injustices when I saw them.

Defining Success

Knowing my personal values were key components for me in becoming an advocate. Long before I worked for one of the “Big Four” accounting firms I defined my success. For me, success was always more than a cushy job, fancy title, or social status. Being able to adapt no matter the circumstances, to me, is a success.

When my three sons were small it was tough being a single parent. It was even tougher working full-time when one son was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Looking back now it almost seems like the struggles with my son Devon was a bad dream. Today, Devon is such a joy and he is also a great source of strength to me.

My Three Greatest Accomplishments

  • Raising three sons to adulthood with very few support systems and even less in the way of material things. Adapting by going without became our protocol and we did alright.
  • Advocating for Devon by working with daycare centers and school districts was another full-time job. This meant learning everything I possibly could about special education and spending hours on end communicating with school officials. To this day I still have the 3-inch binder filled with IEPs, transcripts, etc. This doesn’t include the back and forth email communications and phone calls almost on a daily basis.
  • My third greatest accomplishment was advocating for my disabled mother who was denied disability benefits. Her last denial spurred me to begin a massive letter writing campaign to my legislators. The outcome? My mother received disability benefits in a matter of a couple of months.

My greatest achievements have nothing to do with employment, wealth or material things. These successes have everything to do with creating positive change by challenging a system.

Challenging systems or societal norms with a laser-focus to make life a little better for others is who I am. Ultimately it’s my ability to focus, a systematic approach, combined with a thirst for learning; that propelled me into advocacy.

Coming To Terms With Who I Am

As a die-hard introvert, my most comfortable place of residence aside from being at home is inside my head. While sometimes being inside my head can be a scary place to be it’s also where the magic happens. Ideas and dreams of a world where people of all abilities embrace one another despite our differences are my passion. Having respect for other’s opinions and being open to the idea that every person has a unique walk in life has expanded my world.

For so many years I tried to figure out who I am and what my purpose is only to find I’d been living it all along. Sure I made many mistakes and I think the greatest was not listening to my gut because I wanted to fit in. Today, I’m no longer concerned with conformity and I’ve found contentment.

Terms others placed on me like a buzzkill, intense, and quirky, used to bother me but no more. I am all of these things and more and it’s okay. While I’m not sentimental I find gratitude in the smallest of things.

It’s no accident I’m an advocate, after all, I’ve tried to pattern my life after my favorite childhood quote. This quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson remains my favorite today:

Do not go where the path may leadgo instead where there is no path and leave a trail.

Never in a million years would I have imagined I’d lose my sight. Learning to navigate the world with a white cane and adjust to blindness is an ongoing process. However, my life is so much more enriched largely due to advocacy and empowering others.

Path To Passion, Purpose & Identity Featured Image Description:

I’m wearing white jeans with a gray Steeler tee with our black and gold team colors. I’m standing in grass with a tree behind me wearing tan flats and of course my color coordinated gold #WhiteCane slimline cane.

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A Dedication To Advocates A.K.A. Champions

Champion Featured Image description is in the body of the post.

A Dedication To Advocates A.K.A. Champions

Courage
Honor
Attitude
Motivation
Persevere
Integrity
Optimistic
Never giving up

One of the definitions for the word champion is “a person who fights for or defends any person or cause.” I can’t tell you how awesome it feels to work with so many champions (women & men, sighted & nonsighted of all abilities) featured here on Bold Blind Beauty.

“Belle et rebelle” (beautiful and rebellious)

I recently came upon the lovely term “Belle et rebelle” from a blog post. My friends at Green Global Trek recently used the phrase in Postcards from France ~ La Rochelle. When I saw the phrase I immediately thought of this community because we are shaking things up. The following song with the lyrics (below the video) is dedicated to you. Together we are breaking down barriers!

Here’s to all the Belle et rebelle:

Helen KellerAngela WinfieldSusan & Sherri RodgersEmpish ThomasAmy Hildebrand, Libby ThawKaren RowieJule Ann LiebermanEmily DavisonSuzanne GibsonFatmatta WurieStephanie Stephens VanSue Wiygul MartinJennifer RothschildLeigh Anne FocaretaKerry KijewskiJill KhouryChelsea StarkPaul MugambiMaribel SteelMary (Mel) ScottAmy BovairdCharlotte PoetschnerAudrey DemmittDonna HillSusan KennedyHolly BonnerKimberly WhiteTosha MichelleAshley NemethJenelle LandgrafJoy ThomasArie Farnam, BlindBeaderNicole Schultz-KassMara LaurenBecky AndrewsCarla Ernst, NicoleChristie SmithSilvia SeyringerJo Elizabeth PintoMaria JohnsonTaylor PapadopoulosVirginia MazeMegan DarcyRose-Ann LyonsLynne NicholsonCasandra XavierChristina HoltzclawEileen RobinsonDiane KrekMelody GoodspeedAngie RobertsLiz OleksaJill StephensShaini SaravanamuthuBeatriz García MartínNysha CharleneChrissy AntonopoulosBrittany WinnerEmily MetautenIvana TorbicaLizzie CapenerJayd Alex, Mja StæinarrJade RamosVictoria ClaireJennifer DutrowJ RenéeHawkeyeFaith & SavannahSuzanne ClarkeMarieke DavisNasreen BhuttaKathy Keck, Kirsty MajorLisa SalingerCaitlin HernandezAshley MorganLeslie ThompsonTori ClarkMichael RobertsonSherry IngramPortia MasonPenny ParkerPeggy FleisherMatt De GruchyJessica JannengaGlenda HarrisonJennifer Barrille, Laura Sottile, Jessica Marano, and let’s not forget you, our followers and supporters without whom none of this could be possible.

The Champion (Carrie Underwood)

I’ll be the last one standing
Two hands in the air, I’m a champion
You’ll be looking up at me when it’s over
I live for the battle, I’m a soldier, yeah

I’m a fighter like Rocky
Put you flat on your back like Ali
Yeah, I’m the greatest, I’m stronger
Paid my dues, can’t lose, Imma own ya, ay

I’ve been working my whole life
And now it’s do or die

I am invincible, unbreakable
Unstoppable, unshakeable
They knock me down, I get up again
I am the champion
You’re gonna know my name
You can’t hurt me now
I can’t feel the pain
I was made for this, yeah, I was born to win
I am the champion

When they write my story
They’re gonna say that I did it for the glory
But don’t think that I did it for the fame, yeah
I did it for the love of the game, yeah
And this is my chance I’m taking
All them old records I’m breaking
All you people watching on the TV
You go ahead and put your bets on me, ay

I’ve been waiting my whole life
To see my name in lights

I am invincible, unbreakable
Unstoppable, unshakeable
They knock me down, I get up again
I am the champion
You’re gonna know my name
You can’t hurt me now
I can’t feel the pain
I was made for this, yeah, I was born to win
I am the champion, oh

Born champion, Luda
The C is for the courage I possess through the drama
H is for the hurt but it’s all for the honor
A is for my attitude working through the patience
Money comes and goes so the M is for motivation
Gotta stay consistent, the P is to persevere
The I is for integrity, innovative career
The O is optimistic, open and never shut
And the N is necessary ’cause I’m never giving up
See they ask me how I did it, I just did it from the heart
Crushing the competition, been doing it from the start
They say that every champion is all about his principles
Carrie

I am invincible, unbreakable
Unstoppable, unshakeable
They knock me down, I get up again
I am the champion
You’re gonna know my name
You can’t hurt me now
I can’t feel the pain
I was made for this, yeah, I was born to win
I am the champion

I’m the champion, yeah
Surpassed all rivals
It’s all about who wants it the most (I am the champion)

Fight for what we believe in
That’s what champions are made of

I am the champion

Songwriters: Brett James / Chris De Stefano / Christopher Brian Bridges / Carrie Underwood
The Champion lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc, Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

Champion Featured Image Description:

Two blue boxing gloves standing upright on a white background.