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Know You Matter

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“You’re not the shape of your body. You’re not your status. You’re not your position in life. You’re not the car you drive no matter how fancy it is. You’re not your house or square footage.”

~Oprah Winfrey

Do you know who you are?

What defines you? When asked “so tell me about yourself,” what do you say?

Writing a self-compassionate letter to myself has been one of the best-wholehearted exercises I’ve experienced to date. Telling my story from a perspective of ’empathy and self-compassion’ allowed me to see myself differently. While on the “Dare To Own Your StoryTM” retreat this summer, all attendees were prompted to write this letter to ourselves. Since I couldn’t finish mine at the time I promised myself I would finish it later and I did.

Kindness, compassion, and a deep desire for social justice are central to who I am; these are my values. Bold Blind Beauty was born out of a personal need for empowerment that I wanted to share with others.” This is only a small part of who I am!

Knowing who you are, empowers you to accept yourself wholeheartedly. When you know who you are you can stand confidently in the knowledge that you matter. Recently my good friend Vicky, and I were talking about this topic and she wrote a song. The lyrics that she’s given me permission to share with you speak to my soul.

Friendships; real, authentic, friendships should never be taken for granted. Being able to be authentic, while sharing mutual respect, admiration, interests, and values is worth more than gold. Treasure yourself, treasure your friends, and enjoy Vicky’s beautiful lyrics. Just wait till you hear the music with the lyrics (still a work in progress).

Know You Matter

By Victoria Claire

Don’t deny yourself,
You’re just as good as anyone else,
You’re a shining star,
Never forget who you are,

Don’t reduce yourself,
Not for anyone else,
Feel your value from within,
Let it radiate through your skin,

And know you matter, you matter to me,
Know you matter, you matter to me,
Stand up, be tall, reach for your inner belief,
Let your strength shine through as you mean so much to me

Don’t reduce yourself,
Not for anyone else,
Know you are enough,
Feed your soul with love,

And know you matter, you matter to me,
Know you matter, you matter to me,
You’ve been through so much, yet you rise above your grief,
When your spirit shines, it gives so much hope to me. 

And know you matter, you matter to me,
Know you matter, you matter to me,
Just know you matter, you matter to me,
Oh how you matter, you matter to me.

Connecting With Victoria Claire:

Image Description:

Photo of a chalkboard with the words “YOU MATTER” written in all caps and white chalk. The “O” in ‘you’ is a bright red heart.

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My Path From Poverty To Possibilities

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How Losing My Sight Expanded My Vision

Steph at the podium speaking in Erie
Steph Speaking At Disability InSIGHTS

Despite everything she’d been through; growing up poor, feeling unworthy, battling lifelong chronic depression, homelessness, and an endless reservoir of self-hatred she persisted. She wanted to quit life so many times because her self-critic constantly told her, she had no value. Even so, there were two things that kept her going: her drive and her intense belief that anything is possible. She is me and this is only a small part of my story. As a person of color, over 50, female, and living with an acquired disability; blindness, social justice has always been important to me and I know what it feels like to be excluded. Here’s the thing: No one, absolutely “No one wants to be reduced.”

Advocates Unite & Provide Insight

The first paragraph in this post was my introduction to my recent talks at two remarkable events. The first, a seminar, Disability InSIGHTS, was organized by my friend and phenomenal author, Amy Bovaird. Early this year Amy had this idea of hosting an event for Blindness Awareness Month in October. Next thing you know, she brought together a diverse group of authors, speakers, and exhibitors for a series of events celebrating National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). Along with educating the public, the seminar was designed to showcase the value and accomplishments of people living with disabilities.

When I arrived on Thursday Amy and her brother Michael picked me up at the bus station. After a quick bite to eat we headed over to Hofmann Church & Religious Goods for a book signing to promote Amy and Max’s books. While I’d previously met Amy and Max meeting my friend Kerry Kijewski and her parents was a little surreal. I met Kerry who has also been featured here on Bold Blind Beauty, five years ago through blogging. Kerry and her parents, Janet and Bob traveled from Ontario, Canada to support Disability InSIGHTS.

I want to serve as a catalyst in the positive wind of change to blow over the vision-impaired community and sighted world alike to bridge understanding.

~Amy Bovaird

Back in 2016 On Being The Change You Wish To See I featured the above quote. What’s so noteworthy about this is Amy has consistently been the change she wished to see. From the books she’s written to public speaking, she continually pays it forward by increasing awareness about blindness. Following are a few of the speakers/exhibitors who were at the seminar:

Erie (service dog in training)
Erie (service dog in training)

Overall, Disability InSIGHTS was an amazing, insightful, and empowering seminar that I hope will continue. Brava Amy!!

Peers Challenging Beliefs

My second speaking engagement was at the annual conference of the Pennsylvania Council of the Blind. SPARK Saturday (Self-confidence, Peer support, Accessibility, Resources, & Knowledge) was phenomenal.

Thomas Reid of Reid My Mind Radio kicked things off with his presentation “Podcasting with a Purpose, Developing your own Passion Project.” Thomas talked about how we all can use our inherent interests or hobbies for fun, advocacy, and personal fulfillment.

Next up was Kristin Smedley, if you recall I recently featured Kristin in Positive Change Begins With Action Through Advocacy. Kristin the Author of Thriving Blind who presented “Thriving Blind: A Parent’s Perspective.” A mom of two sons both of whom were diagnosed blind at four months of age, Kristin shared her experience and gave powerful life lessons for everyone.

Steph & Kristin Smedley image is described in the body of the post.
Steph & Kristin

Third, in the lineup was “yours truly” and yes, I was ridiculously scared yet at the same time energized. Thankfully, being able to share my passion for creating a world where every person is valued and included overshadows fear. Afterward, several more people would clasp my hand in theirs and thank me for empowering them.

Back when I received my final diagnosis and was declared legally blind I felt so isolated, scared, and didn’t know what to do next. Thanks to my friends at the PA Council of the Blind I had positive role models to help guide me on the next phase of my life. There is life after blindness, there is life after an acquired disability, as long as we are alive we can and must fulfill our purpose.

Summary Of My Talks

Before I lost my sight I viewed life through a very narrow lens. Today, my daily practice is gratitude without comparison, positivity as a choice, and kindness. While I consciously do these things I still struggle with depression, petty anger, self-esteem issues, and more. I’m slowly learning the importance of self-compassion, mindfulness, and forgiveness. The one thing I really love about life is the constant opportunities we are given to choose our path. We don’t have control over many aspects of our lives yet we always have an option on how we respond and this is what I hold close to my heart.

Image Descriptions:

  • Featured image is a photo of me speaking at the podium during the SPARK Saturday event. I’m wearing black wide-leg pants, white tee, and black flyaway sweater.
  • Gallery of nine photos (l to r)
    1. Amy Bovaird kicks off the Disability InSIGHTS seminar
    2. Max Ivey is speaking with Emanuel and his translator in the foreground
    3. The Sight Center of Northwest PA exhibition table
    4. Closeup photo of Emanuel wearing a white headband and his translator who is in a gray suit
    5. Abstract paintings created by a gifted young teen with autism
    6. Kerry Kijewski is sitting at the registration desk smiling broadly
    7. Autism Society Northwestern Pennsylvania exhibition table with a large 3-panel informational display and additional handouts
    8. Kerry and I are standing in front of a 6 foot vertical banner of Abby, Bold Blind Beauty’s fashion icon. Both of us are posing with our white canes. I’m wearing an olive green outfit (long sleeve asymmetrical sweater, leggings, and suede boots. Kerry is wearing a black outfit (black & white striped top under a black cardigan, pants and flats.
    9. Adaptive Yoga exhibition table with books, flyers, and pamphlets
  • Adorable photo of Erie eyeing a dog treat. Erie is a black lab service dog in training. Erie is currently living with his puppy raiser preparing for his upcoming intensive training.
  • Gallery of four photos of Amy and Max’s books (l to r)
    1. Seeking Solace by Amy Bovaird
    2. Mobility Matters by Amy Bovaird
    3. Cane Confessions by Amy Bovaird
    4. The Blind Blooger’s NYC Adventures by Maxwell Ivey
  • The final photo is Steph standing next to Kristin Smedley. I’m holding my white cane in my right hand and Kristin’s book Thriving Blind in my left hand. Kristin is wearing a white shirt under a navy blazer paired with navy pants.
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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.

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

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From Despair To Captivating A Podcast

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The naysayers said you couldn’t succeed. What they didn’t know was their definition of success was not your definition. Creating your path by believing in possibilities has brought you to where you are today and will continue to guide and sustain you.

From “Dear Stephanae”

Have you ever felt like you don’t fit in? For most of my life, I knew I was different and couldn’t understand why I wasn’t “normal.” Then I read The Introvert Advantage by Marti Olsen Laney and to my surprise was thrilled to find I’m different, not abnormal.

If you’ve been following Bold Blind Beauty for a while I’ve remained on message partly because of my introversion. The other reason why I’m consistent is because of the path I’ve been forging for myself.

A few months ago I was honored with a scholarship to attend a life-changing Daring To Own Your StoryTM retreat. The retreat, for blind and visually impaired women, opened the door to reveal a side of me I didn’t know existed. One of the tasks we were asked to complete on the retreat was writing a self-compassionate letter to ourselves. Needless to say, the introvert in me seized up and I was unable to finish my letter. Thankfully, I made a promise to myself to finish it at the right time. That time was yesterday and the opening paragraph to this post is from my letter.

Creating The Path

The thing with creating your own path is there is no blueprint or navigation system to direct you—only your gut. Outsiders won’t understand and will try to convince you that you’re delusional. Your inner self-critic incessantly keeps you second-guessing yourself and you’ll feel so lonely and afraid.

It cannot be a coincidence that this quote from my childhood has remained my favorite:

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead

where there is no path and leave a trail.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

It’s no coincidence that the people I’ve connected with on my journey would be instrumental in keeping me on my path. Today, Thomas Reid of Reid My Mind, sent me the link to the podcast we recently recorded and it warmed my heart.

In the interview, Because We Are Captivating, Tom and I talk about the path I’ve created and he did such a great job pulling it together. The timing is perfect as I’m preparing for two speaking gigs next week and am solely focused on the upcoming events.

I’ve included the direct link to the podcast below.

When you have a moment check out Tom at Reid My Mind who is sharing his talent as host and producer of the show. Thank you, Tom, for featuring me a third time on your podcast—it was a blast!

Image Description:

A stunning black and white abstract illustration of the head and left shoulder of a woman. She has both hands on her shoulder and her head is slightly tilted downward. What makes the image so magical is the trees blended into her face and background.