Earlier today, I sat in the cafeteria for my usual noon lunch. Between sips of Mountain Dew, I began scrolling through social media and noticed someone had tagged me in one of their posts. She was sharing one of my CNN pieces and in her post, she called me a “disability advocate.”
Me? A disability advocate?
I know no one ever believes celebrities when they get all humble-braggy (and, YES, I’m admittedly cringing as I type this!), but I’m being 100 percent honest when I say that I’ve never thought of myself as a disability advocate. I mean, I’m disabled (obviously!), but to be called an advocate is pretty massive. I’m not so sure I’m deserving of that title in the grand scheme of things because there are SO many amazing people in the disability community who are making a positive impact every day.
A fellow writer interviewed me recently for an article she was writing on incorporating your disability into your personal brand. Such an interesting subject, don’t you think? Honestly, I’m not really sure that I ever made a conscious choice to have my disability be part of my personal brand. My disability is such a part of who I am, so I think it’s only natural that it would be a part of my writing and brand too. My life with a disability and disability issues are two of the main things I write about, in addition to relationships and pop culture. But at the same time, the those three areas (relationships, disabilities and pop culture) are all intertwined because I’ve written relationship pieces that looked at the disability angle and pop culture pieces that looked at disability issues within pop culture. So basically, my disability does permeate many aspects of my life, so the fact that it’s a huge part of my brand isn’t surprising at all.
From the beginning, it was really important for me to find my niche as a writer. I’ve also blogged for almost 10 years and I’ve blogged extensively about my life with a disability. Being so open and vulnerable in sharing my story has helped me grow an audience. I’ve gotten emails from readers who told me that I helped them see things in a different way or let them know they’re not alone. And I’ve even connected with companies who are doing great things for the disability community and it was an honor to be able to write about those companies on my blog and raise awareness when it comes to disability issues that are often overlooked.
My disability is a part of my identity — there’s no denying that or getting around it. I can’t pretend that it doesn’t exist — for one thing, my red wheelchair gives me away right away! So if I can represent the disability community, it’s really important to me that I be a positive voice. There are so many negative stereotypes about people with disabilities and I hope I can shatter even just some of those stereotypes through my writing.
It’s actually incredibly cathartic to write so much about my disability. As much as I write for other people, writing about my disability has also helped me process so much and come to terms with my disability and the role it plays in my life. I also hope people with disabilities see my story and think “if she can do it, I can do it!”
My advice? Everyone has to do what they feel comfortable doing. The important thing is to be yourself; that’s really what branding is all about, so I think it’s important to inject some part of your identity into your brand. Don’t try to pretend to be someone you’re not because people will pick up on that right away. Be authentic and genuine — that’s really what people are drawn to at the end of the day. I think that’s part of the reason people identify and relate to my blog so much. You can’t go wrong when you’re just being yourself!
There’s power in sharing a piece of yourself, and that’s been one of the most rewarding parts of my writing journey over the years! xoxo
[Photos via Unsplash]