At a very young age, my life took an irreversible turn. As a result of a car accident at ten years old, I lost the use of my legs and control of my bladder. Facing incontinence and losing the use of my legs wasn't an easy task and still remains difficult today. However, upon finally gaining the courage to share the truth about my condition, I have been able to grow the confidence necessary to take control of my symptoms and make a difference for myself and others bound by their disabilities.
Living In Fear
As a child in elementary school, I was terrified of wetting my pants, but a lack of bladder control didn't really work in my favor. I was trapped behind a wall of shame that kept growing taller, brick by brick, as the fear of my classmates and friends teasing me grew stronger.
Their eyes were already on me as the little girl who went from doing flips on the monkey bars to being stuck to her wheelchair. I shyly smiled to help my classmates feel comfortable around me, despite the discomfort I felt inside.
I would have frequent accidents forcing me to leave school and go home to change clothes and get more supplies. My mom, who was my rock throughout the entirety of this readjustment phase, would always take time off work to come to pick me up even though she could hardly afford to take that time off.
Honestly, incontinence felt like a curse that was much worse than the loss of my ability to move my legs. It created anxiety, and I let it control my life. Incontinence chose where I would and wouldn't go. It stopped me from going to friends' houses and from participating in fun events countless times.
This fear lasted into my twenties and even throughout college. I wouldn't even tell people I dated about my incontinence concerns. If an incident occurred during a date, it was much easier to cover it up by making up stories like spilling a drink on my dress and needing to change.
Though my journey has been long, finally opening up about the struggles I've faced with incontinence has helped me bust through the wall of shame that had bound me for years.
One accident, in particular, changed the way I thought about my life.
During one of my physical therapy sessions, I had an accident on a treadmill in front of multiple people. I couldn't breathe—the embarrassment was overwhelming. But then someone said, "It's just pee." And that comment made something click. What was the big deal? It is only pee.
To my surprise, once I started to talk openly about incontinence, people were extremely understanding, even my boyfriend! People even shared their own amazing stories that showed me how much our own perceptions shape our lives, even when they aren't true.
Because I'm no longer trapped or bound by my wall of shame created by incontinence, I feel free. I'm learning to leave my comfort zone with new experiences every day.
With help from Aeroflow Healthcare, I was able to easily acquire incontinence supplies through insurance such as pullups, chux, wet wipes, and more. This has enabled me to take leaps I never thought possible such as studying abroad, going rock climbing, jumping out of an airplane (yes, skydiving!), competing in wheelchair pageants, and much more.
On that note, I'm extremely excited to be competing for Miss North Carolina USA on November 8th and 9th, where I'll have the opportunity to display my ability while communicating my goals and ambitions. I'm thrilled to use this platform to educate and spread awareness about living with disabilities.
Helping People Live Boundless
Upon gaining more self-confidence, I discovered that my true passion in life is helping and inspiring others to help them live boundlessly and regain control of their lives.
That's why I launched my nonprofit organization, Live Boundless. Through education, empowerment, and equipping others with the tools needed to thrive, they can be released from fear.
Currently, the Live Boundless goal is to help distribute wheelchairs across the world to those in need. Around 90% of people who need wheelchairs in developing countries do not have access to one.
The sorrow upon hearing this statistic helped me realize that providing mobility equipment had to be the first goal of the organization. We actually just returned from the Philippines, where we had our largest distribution so far. We were able to deliver almost 300 wheelchairs to people who previously hadn't been able to move around freely due to their disabilities.
There is a visible change in a person once they receive the wheelchair that they so desperately need. Their eyes light up with the endless amount of possibilities in front of them as soon as they recognize the opportunity to now live their life without holding back.
By traveling from coast to coast to participate in activities that represent "fear-chasers," I hope to inspire others by proving that it's possible to live a bold, joyful, and fearless life even with the challenges or disabilities life throws at us.
It's my hope that Live Boundless will help people access activities that would typically be seen as unattainable, like surfing or even skydiving, and will serve as a challenge for others to reach a higher potential for their lives. Which, in turn, will help challenge them to live free of their incontinence issues or other disabilities.
I've been there, at rock bottom, as a shy girl almost too nervous to smile for my friends. I never imagined becoming Miss Wheelchair USA with a passion for public speaking and helping others.
I want others to know that your disability, fear, or anxiety don't control you. You can achieve goals you've never imagined. Maybe your mantra is a little better than "it's just pee," but whatever it is, remember to always live boundlessly.
We are living in a time when women are rising to new heights which means they are regularly being confronted with the fear of being "too much". For women in business this is pervasive and costly.
A few ways women can be perceived as "too much" are:
Speaking up about their successes and achievements.
Sharing one too many photos of their cute kids.
Telling one too many people about that date night.
Looking a little too good in that swimsuit.
These can lead to being publicly attacked on social media or privately slandered which in turn leads to women dimming their light and walking on egg shells in hopes of avoiding conflict and judgement.
The minute a woman feels it's unsafe to shine she will begin to overthink, worry, and fear how she shows up in the world.
Forgetting to announce the book is done and the interview is live.
Choosing to focus on what's still on the to-do list rather than what's been checked off.
Many female entrepreneurs are subconsciously altering their behavior in an attempt to not attract too much attention to themselves, rather than focusing on allowing authenticity and magnetism to attract their ideal clients and community.
Women are afraid of being criticized, ostracized, and abandoned by other women for simply being who they are. This leads to quite the quantum when being who you are is simplest way to accelerate the growth of your business.
New research shows men are far more comfortable with self promotion than women are. Researchers found that men rate their own performance 33 percent higher than equally performing women. What we know is that self promotion pays off and this is where women are missing the boat.
The world needs more women to step into leadership roles and no longer be intimidated about creating six and seven figure careers.
Here are five ways to release the fear of being "too much":
1. Approve of yourself.
While it feels good to receive outside validation it will never be enough if you don't first appreciate yourself. The key to having a healthy support system is to make sure you are part of it. Being your biggest critic is what your mother's generation did. It's now time to be your biggest cheerleader. Becoming aware of self talk will reveal what belief is ready to be re-wired. Create a simply mantra that affirms how incredible capable you are.
2. Connect deeply to those you serve.
One powerful way to shift out of people pleasing behavior is to get clear on who actually matters to the wellbeing and success of your life and business. Leadership is not about being the most popular, instead it's a decision to be brave for those who can't be. Take a few minutes each day to visualize and meditate on those your business serves and supports. See your future clients moving toward you every time you choose to stand in your power and use your authentic voice.
3. Remember the legacy you wish to leave.
Having your life purpose and legacy in writing is one of the most transformational exercises you can do. Reading this often will keep you focused on what matters. Knowing what you wish to leave in the hearts of those you love most is incredibly grounding. You didn't come here to keep your mouth shut, dilute your truth, or dim your light-you came here to make a difference.
4. Forgive those who have been unsupportive in the past.
The past has a way of informing the future in a negative way when there is unresolved pain. Take a few minutes to get quiet and ask yourself who you have unforgiveness towards or maybe their name came to mind as you read this article. Listening to a forgiveness meditation or writing a letter to the person you are ready to forgive are both simple and effective ways to process and heal.
5. Be part a community of bright, successful women.
Meaningful relationships with others who have similar aspirations is what will keep you out of isolation and playing small. These connections can happen in a networking group, online community or a local Meetup. Thriving in every area of life is depend on you knowing where you belong and being celebrated there. Don't wait to be invited, go actively seek out people and places that support your dreams and desires.
6. Accept you can have it all.
Women have been fed a lie for generations that says, you can have love or money. Decide you can have it all and allow it to flow to you. You can have a successful career and an amazing mother. You can balance motherhood and loving marriage. Don't let anyone write the rules for you. This is the time to create the life you desire on your terms.
7. Celebrate everything!
The fastest way to leave the haters in the dust is to celebrate everything! At the end of each day lay in bed and recall the best moments. At the end of each week, publicly acknowledge and celebrate what's good in your life. Once a month, have a celebration dinner and share it with those who have helped you in the journey. If there's something good happening, talk about it with everyone who will listen!
May you be a woman who chooses to shine so that others may be reminded of all they can be and do.