To recap briefly, in my previous post I discussed how we can overcome obstacles in our lives by training our mind to think positively. I’d like to add a further thought. While it’s good to have the mantra of “I am determined to defeat this obstacle (or these obstacles), I refuse to let it or them overwhelm me”, it’s equally important not to blow things out of proportion and overstate the case. Going back to what the managing partner of my previous firm’s practice group always used to say to us, things are merely a matter of perception. Remember that nothing is ever quite as bad as it seems. You can actually make things seem worse than they are in trying to overcome your obstacles, because they become a much bigger deal than they actually are! Keep things in perspective. There is a lot more to you than your handicaps, even if others don’t see you that way. So don’t let them define you completely. Learn to deal with them. It can be overwhelming at times, but remember what Dempsey said. Any disabilities you may have make you who are you. You become a deeper person with much greater substance. You have more insight and don’t look at things superficially.
Learn to make your disabilities work for rather than against you. In some ways, you can even be better off with them! Like Christel, I also suffer from diabetes, except Type 2 not Type 1. I was diagnosed a couple of years ago. I had to become quite strict about what I eat, as well as lose quite a bit of weight which I had gained, if I wanted to control the condition without medication, which I still do. As a T2 diabetic, my diet is actually better than it ever was now that I’m completely sugar free. Not that I was ever much of a drinker, but I’ve completely cut out all alcohol. In a weird way, even now at the age of 37, overall I actually feel better in terms of my physical health than I did in my 20s. This wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t have the condition as I’d succumb to the temptation to have a piece of cake or the odd glass of wine every now and then which, to be honest, I didn’t actually enjoy that much anyway. So often in life, the thought of something is much better than the reality. Remember that the next time you’re tempted to reach for a piece of chocolate.
It’s also important to go about addressing any obstacles (or perceived obstacles) in your life in a classy way, like Dempsey and Christel. Although I don’t work in the field of International Arbitration anymore, I am aware from people’s Linkedin posts that there is a pledge for equal representation for women as arbitrators. I see the issue. Historically, there was a smaller pool to draw from, because there weren’t as many females that practiced in international arbitration or in law at all for that matter. But times have changed and I wonder if such an initiative is actually necessary. I wouldn’t have signed up to it, even though I am a woman. If you work hard and build a reputation of excellence in your field, you’ll soon get noticed. Sometimes you need to just shut up and get on with the job rather than bitch about how unfair life is. Work on improving your skill set. Form relationships with people and earn their trust. Just as Dempsey says, you have to keep working. Just take me as an example. In the five years that I have been gardening, I have been warmly welcomed into garden circles, even though I was a recreational gardener and only became a business owner fairly recently. Many of the businesses in the horticultural field are tight knit family businesses that have been handed down for generations. I’m much younger than all of the other gardening business owners. I’m not a fifth generation European New Zealander and I don’t live in provincial New Zealand. Yet, these businesses all jumped on board immediately when I asked if I could be their brand ambassador. New Zealand’s leading rose and fruit tree suppliers were all delighted to supply me with stock so I could become a retailer, despite opening a very new boutique plant nursery which I run from home.
On the same token, the issue of diversity often comes up, especially as I’m in the minority in the legal profession, at least I was when I used to practice law. Obviously, I can’t help this as you don’t get to choose your skin colour, nor do I play on it to get ahead (despite what others may think). But ethnicity is normally a question on the firm’s application form and you’re expected to fill it in otherwise it might look a little strange. When it comes to the interview, they’ll soon see what you look like anyway, if they can’t tell from your name. The thing is though, you can’t just start jumping and down about diversity. It doesn’t operate in a vacuum. Remember that there is a tension between diversity and a collective entity such as a law firm which has to be unified in some way. Everyone is linked. The partners own the business jointly. Staff have to be able to co-operate and work as a team together while accommodating each other’s differences. Somehow everyone must fit in! In other words, you can be different, but not too different. This may seem unfair, but this is the reality of it and how it works in practice. My advice is to find a firm that’s a good fit, despite what you look like.