Take 5: The value of being you

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Erin Latimer, a Canadian Paralympian, recently held an Ascend Café Office Hour where she shared her journey in the sports and corporate world. The following are her five rules to live by, in her own words.

By Erin Latimer

In both the sports and the corporate world, we have very specific ideas of what success looks like and the path we need to follow to get there. It’s important to have role models and build certain habits and practices that help you be successful whether you’re on the field or in the office. But in trying to fit ourselves into these models or identities, we often lose one of the key ingredients to our success… our individuality!

As someone who grew up with a limb difference and who put their school and career on hold for years to train full time for the Paralympic Winter Games, there were plenty of times in my life and my sport career that I just wanted to be like everyone else, or felt like my path was putting me ‘behind’. Over the years, and especially when I retired from sport and transitioned into the “real world”, I began to realize that my unique path and lived experiences were actually my greatest assets.

I was able to reframe my differences as something that helped me rather than hindered me, and instead of trying to downplay them, I began to embrace them. This allowed me the freedom to show up as my authentic self and be comfortable bringing all of myself and my lived experiences to everything that I do. Easier said than done though, right? It doesn’t happen overnight, but the more we each begin to show up as or authentic selves, the more others will feel like they can do the same. And not only will this allow us to begin rewriting toxic stereotypes and myths about what success looks like, it will also create room and space for innovation and creativity.

Here are five tips to help you bring yourself to whatever you do:

  1. Make time and space for yourself
    With so much information, distraction and noise in our personal and professional lives, it is easy to become disconnected from ourselves. Whether it’s a formal meditation process or simply spending a couple hours away from your smartphone everyday, make it a habit to make time and space to turn inward and truly get to know yourself.

  2. Treat yourself as you would a friend
    Begin relating to yourself as you would a friend. Be intentional about the way you speak to yourself and bring an attitude of curiosity and non-judgement to your personal and professional life. This will allow you to learn about the things that motivate you, inspire you and vice versa. In doing this, we can shift our energy and focus away from the things we’re doing ‘wrong’ to the ways that we can learn how to champion ourselves and (hopefully) even begin to find value in the things that make us ‘different’.

    Note: being proud of and supporting ourselves doesn’t mean that we can’t also hold ourselves accountable and know that we have room to grow.

  3. Don’t ‘should’ yourself
    Focus on the ‘have to’s’ and the ‘want to’s’. Trust that you know yourself better than anyone else, and try your best not to get caught up in what you think you ‘should be’ doing to be successful. This will give you the freedom and confidence to commit to your own way of doing things and move you from the passenger seat to the driver’s seat of your life!

  4. Look beyond your resume
    While technical training and on the job experience are important, in an ever competitive world, it is the things beyond resume that make us stand out. What parts of your identity or lived experiences give you a unique and valuable perspective? Maybe it’s your cultural background or a mental health challenge that you dealt with. It’s often the things that challenge us that turn out to be our greatest assets.

  5. Make an effort to surround yourself with different people
    We often surround ourselves with people who are like us, which is great, but also often ends up leaving us in a bubble. When you begin to surround yourself with different people and occupy various spaces, you begin to realize that everyone has their own journey and that there are many definitions and paths to success. This is very helpful in expanding our own perspectives and begin to own who we are.