‘I define a leader as anyone who takes responsibility for finding the potential in people and processes.’Brené Brown
Growing up I never saw disability portrayed on the screen, I never saw or met other people like myself who experienced life as a girl with a disability. I felt ashamed to have a disability because of the lack of portrayal in the media. Instead to compensate, I fell into fiction which provided me an escape from the reality of growing up with a disability. This fall was the catalyst for me to pursue my writing not in a fictional way but to use it to voice my thoughts against the hardships that this world places upon not only women with disabilities but people with disabilities across a range of backgrounds including gender, belief systems, sexual orientation, and race. I combined my passion for writing and voiced one of the many problems our society is far from achieving less of and maintaining, discrimination. Over the course of the year, I interviewed people from different backgrounds who all had one thing in common – each one of them suffered discrimination at the hands of uneducated people, afraid to ask questions and learn from their indifference. Their stories and interviews drove me to achieve writing a book and expand more of my knowledge of discrimination.
Once completing the book, I was required to present a 15-minute speech in front of a crowd of 60. I am no public speaker, hence why I prefer to use words on pages, so I expressed my interest in being one of the first presenters within the group. My animacy worked and I found myself behind a podium only 10 months after voicing the idea. I know you may think, ‘10 months! That’s a long time!’ but when you must formulate your own interview questions, find interviewees, interview, write, research, edit, self-publish, 10 months is gone with a blink of an eye. Despite this I had a heaven-sent project advisor who supported me non-stop, provided me with new ideas and was someone who I could vent my ‘why am I doing this’, they simply reminded me that I was doing it for them. I was doing it for you. So, I stood myself up on stage, behind the podium and introduced my book to the audience. I did not care if anyone could understand what I was saying, and if they didn’t it gave them more of a reason to purchase my book and learn for themselves.
I like to think that my leadership journey and writing my book started when I was a little girl who fell in love with writing on a page. She showed leadership to herself in the way that she wasn’t going to let anyone come between her and her imagination and love for writing. Leadership was the teenage girl who saw wrong in the world and wondered if she could do a little to right that wrong.
Leadership is having the courage to face the fear that you are not alone in the world when you receive discrimination. Brené Brown’s quote perfectly encapsulates what a leader is, and I too follow her quote as seen above. I took it upon myself to be responsible for educating those who not only wanted to be educated through reading my work but also through talking kindly to those with reperceived thoughts about my disability. I also lead myself by reminding myself that rather than being labelled as a ‘disabled woman’, I am a woman, a woman who does things their own way and in their own time. For me, I have displayed leadership to myself by turning that shame into empowering myself and others, and acknowledging that being different is okay. I personally think that there are a lot of preconceived thoughts that leadership must happen in an environment of work or learning. I truly believe that, yes it does happen in those environments, but it also happens in your day-to-day life. It happens when you rally yourself to get out of bed in the morning, it happens when you set an example for your children, it happens when you softly educate those around you about your disability. You are a leader more than you know.
You can get in touch with Breagh via LinkedIn