Ruth Rathblott: Embracing My Disability And The Power Of Inclusivity

Ruth Rathblott
Ruth Rathblott

"I was given a gift with my hand, that it was a tool to start to get people talking about what they're hiding and to share my journey of unhiding, so that wherever people found themselves on this continuum of hiding and unhiding, they could say, wow, she did it." - Ruth Rathblott

Uncover the unexpected truth about embracing differences and the power of unhiding. Join Ruth Rathblott as she shares her journey of self-acceptance and authenticity, challenging the norms of diversity and inclusion. Ruth unveils the surprising impact of embracing differences and fostering inclusive environments. Ruth was born with a limb difference and is passionate about expanding the definition of diversity to embrace visible and invisible differences.  She shares solutions to help you achieve this result. Get ready to uncover the power of authenticity and foster a sense of belonging for yourself and those around you.

My special guest is Ruth Rathblott

Ruth Rathblott is a leader and expert in the field of diversity and inclusion, with over 25 years of experience. As someone born with a limb difference, Ruth is passionate about expanding the definition of diversity to embrace visible and invisible differences, fostering inclusive environments. She has a BA in Psychology from Goucher College and a Master of Social Work degree from Boston University. She was honored as the youngest alum ever awarded the Goucher College Excellence in Public Service Award. Her journey of self-acceptance and authenticity has equipped her with valuable insights into the challenges individuals face when embracing their differences. Ruth’s story and expertise offer an inspiring perspective on navigating personal growth and embracing authenticity, making her a valuable and relatable voice for those seeking to foster inclusive environments.

We often define invisible diversity as those differences that cannot be readily seen, such as religion, sexual orientation, military experience, socioeconomic background, and more. However, in the conversation on Diversity, there is rarely consistent guidance on inclusion for people with disabilities. Disabilities, such as a limb difference may be visible or invisible, such as mental health and neurodiversity. Ruth Rathblott

In this episode, you will be able to:

  •  Embrace Ruth Rathblott’s inspiring journey of self-acceptance and inclusivity, and discover the transformative role it can play in your own life.
  •  Relate to the challenges of self-acceptance and societal pressure to conform, and learn to embrace your uniqueness with confidence.
  •  Consider the conversation on Diversity, there is rarely consistent guidance on inclusion for people with disabilities.
  •  Learn the art of embracing differences and fostering inclusive environments to create authenticity and acceptance in your life and community.
  • Disabilities, such as a limb difference may be visible or invisible, such as mental health and neurodiversity.

The resources mentioned in this episode are:

  •  Visit Ruth Rathblott’s website to learn more about her speaking engagements, books, and journey of unhiding.
  •  Check out Ruth Rathblott’s first book Single Handedly to explore her personal journey of hiding and unhiding.
  •  Stay tuned for Ruth Rathblott’s upcoming second book focusing on connection, loneliness, belonging, and leadership.
  • Explore opportunities to connect with communities and groups that resonate with your own journey of hiding and unhiding.

 

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Transcription

00:00:02

 

Welcome, everyone. This is Emy Digrappa, your host of what’s your why? Learning and listening about people’s inspiring journeys and the human experience. This podcast is brought to you by Wyoming humanities. And my special guest is Ruth Rathblott.

00:00:18

 

She helps organizations expand their definition of diversity so they can make it fully and inclusive to include people with visible and invisible differences. Ruth was born with a limb difference and has over 25 year’s experience as a leader and expert on the issues of inclusion and diversity. Welcome, Ruth. Emy, I am so excited to have this conversation with you and to start to dig into what’s your why. I love this idea.

00:00:48

 

Oh, thank you. And that is the why, because I love hearing your story and your journey and how your limb difference has opened a path for you to share with others. So let’s start there. And the first thing I want you to do is to describe to the audience what a limb difference is. Sure.

00:01:09

 

So, a limb difference. And it took me a while to even understand the term myself. So I can imagine for your audience, the visual is going to be important in terms of what does it actually look like and what does it mean. And so my hand is, I was born missing my left hand. And some might even correct that, Emy, and say, actually, you have a hand.

00:01:29

 

It’s not fully formed, so it’s basically a nub with five little nubs to it. That would be the place of fingers. And the little thumb actually has a little tiny nail on it. And so it’s almost shaped like a little mitt, if you can imagine. And picture a baseball mitt, that’s what it kind of looks like.

00:01:51

 

And that’s what my limb difference is. I was born with something called amniotic band syndrome. And so I was born missing my fully formed left hand. Do you know what causes that by any chance? Do they know that?

00:02:05

 

They don’t. And what amniotic band syndrome relates to is that apparently in utero, there was a protein band that wrapped around the growth of my hand, so it prevented it from growing fully. And I think it’s either one in 3000 births have amniotic band syndrome or limb differences, or one in 1500. I’ve even heard the statistics. So it sounds like it’s something that a lot of people don’t know about.

00:02:36

 

But the truth is there is a whole community of people out there who have limb differences, whether it’s through their hands or it can be their feet, it can be different parts of the body. And so they don’t know what causes it yet that I found. But it is not as rare as people think, right? It isn’t as rare as people think. I’ve met several people, actually, with limb difference.

00:03:04

 

Yeah. No, on this journey, I definitely have, too. I can say for a long time, I didn’t want to meet people who had limb differences or hands like mine because I didn’t accept that part of myself. And so it took me a while to kind of start to see, and the blinders were on. I didn’t want to connect with people who looked like me for a long time or associate because I didn’t accept that about myself.

00:03:28

 

So how did your family deal with that? How did you feel so insecure? What did that feel like? Yeah, I was really fortunate. Interesting is that when I go back and look at kind of the journey of this hiding, because I hid my hand for 25 years of my life, when I go back to my origin story of how did I start hiding?

00:03:51

 

And even before that, what did that look like to your question? I was born in the days before sonograms, and so my limb difference was a surprise when I was born. And luckily for my parents, they had a nurse in the hospital who saw them kind of struggling and bewildered, like, how did this happen? What did we do? What can we do?

00:04:16

 

Is she going to be okay? And asking all the questions that I think most parents wonder about when their babies are born and when you have a limb difference or something different, I think parents worry just a little bit more. And luckily for them, this nurse came in and noticed that and took me over to them and said, you’re going to take this little girl home. You’re going to love her and treat her as you would any other child. And Emmy, that is exactly what they did.

00:04:44

 

And they encouraged me to try everything I did, every sport. I sailed, I water skied. I skied. And yet what I think about is, how did we talk about it in my family of origin? And we didn’t.

00:05:02

 

And so I think that was a missing piece of the message I got about Ruth. Handle everything, do everything, and yet we are not going to create space for they. I don’t think they even knew that I needed space for it. And it was only started to hit me when I became a teenager and started a new school. Emmy, I was off to a new school, and I’m sure we’ll get into that.

00:05:30

 

But that’s when I started hiding it. And they noticed I was hiding. My parents noticed I was hiding it. Like a lot of parents who notice their teenagers are going through things, right? And the teenager’s usual response is, everything’s fine, everything’s okay.

00:05:46

 

And yet, if they had dug a little bit deeper and I had been a little bit more forthcoming, we probably would have gotten some different answers and different insecure. The insecurities would have raised to the top. But that space, I didn’t feel I had that space. And I think about just being a mom. You don’t want to raise your kid like they’re different.

00:06:07

 

You want them to feel normal and feel like they fit in. And they probably. That was the healthiest way for you to not feel like something was wrong with you. Right. And yet even just saying that, we all are, like, how do we start to celebrate those differences?

00:06:29

 

Because that’s what’s actually cool about us. We’re not robots. We don’t look the same. I can’t go to the Apple store or some store and buy one of, like, I’m unique. Each of us has a uniqueness and a difference.

00:06:41

 

The challenge becomes just like you’re saying, when we become adolescents and we want to fit in, that’s our total desire, is to fit in and to be like everyone else, and it’s actually part of healthy development. We want to fit in with our peers and individuate from our parents. So, yeah, your message, and the message is right on. Like, we want to fit in, and yet, how do we create space for the conversations about difference and how we may be feeling different? Because I have worked with teenagers my entire career, and I think what has bonded us over time is this idea that I have felt different, and I know they’re feeling different, and yet there has to be almost sometimes a facade of everything’s okay or I’m fitting in.

00:07:29

 

And yet, what’s behind all of that? How do we really fit in? And how do we also celebrate our differences at the same time? Well, that right there is just its own huge topic, because you’re right. Teenagers go through that whether they have a limb difference or not.

00:07:49

 

They don’t like their nose or their. Weight or their weight or their clothes or their family background or their finances, their financial backgrounds, like, or their religion. And what’s amazing, Emmy, it doesn’t stop in adolescence. We keep wanting to fit in. Over time, we keep wanting to fit into our communities where we move to fit into the colleges we go to fit into the neighborhoods, fit into our workplaces, because we get the message that you’re part of a team.

00:08:26

 

We want you to be a good culture fit. That message doesn’t go away. It just gets heightened and almost introduced intensely in adolescents and in teenagers. So that brings me to my next question. In going through that and realizing that you needed to accept you for you, how did you make that journey?

00:08:55

 

What was the most difficult part of that journey? To just accept? I don’t have a hand. I’m super smart. I’m just different than you.

00:09:08

 

No. And thank you for sharing it and framing it as a journey, because that’s absolutely what it’s been. This journey of hiding to unhiding is a continuum. It is not an overnight process. And trust me, I tried it many times.

00:09:25

 

As I said, I started hiding when I was 13 and going to a new high school, and I just hid on a bus, like going to school, because somebody stared too long thinking, oh, well, I’ll just hide it until I get to school, and then it’ll be fine. And then I kept hiding it and hiding it. And there were so many times, Emmy, that, and I imagine you and your listeners can relate to this, where we try to talk ourselves out of something or say, you know what? Tomorrow will be different. When I start a new school, it will be different.

00:09:55

 

When I get a new job, I’m going to be someone different. And yet sometimes the stories that we’ve told ourselves about the thing that’s different about us or that thing where we hold shame, it sticks with us, and it almost becomes worse than the thing itself. And so it isn’t an overnight process, or I’m going to journal about it and wake up tomorrow and be different. I’m going to stop hiding my hand for me because I tried many times to say that to myself, and then it became almost punitive because I wouldn’t stop hiding, and I would keep hiding, and it just felt safer to hide and more certain. And so the journey was the first step for me was about getting to a place that I had to acknowledge that I wasn’t thriving, I wasn’t building relationships that had depth.

00:10:45

 

I was always worried that if someone found out about my hand, they wouldn’t like me, they wouldn’t date me. And that was, I think, the relationship piece of my life was suffering a lot because it was constantly putting up walls so that someone couldn’t get close. Even when they found out, I still put up walls. And so it took me going to therapy and starting to have the conversation about, why am I not thriving in relationship? Why am I not connecting fully?

00:11:20

 

And as I started to get clarity about that, I invited someone in to help me, to help me and think about in a dating relationship, to think about why am I hiding? How to look at my hand differently, how to start to love that part of myself that really and truly I deemed unlovable for so long. It took someone else and inviting someone else in to help me with that piece. And I share that because I think sometimes we believe we have to do this all by ourselves. We have to do this single handedly.

00:11:58

 

And the truth is, whatever you’re hiding, or whatever your listeners are hiding as part of themselves, we don’t have to do it alone. And so that second step for me is about inviting someone in so that they can help with the path and that journey. What have you discovered in this journey? What has stood out that people hide most? It is a range of things.

00:12:23

 

I don’t even think there is a most. It’s funny. What I think has struck me is how many people are hiding. That hiding is universal, that most of us, even if we look like we have it all together on social media, our Facebook pages are showing those breaming smiles or whatever the word is, like this huge smiles and the happy life. Even if our Instagram is filled with exotic pictures of travels, there are still places in our lives where we have felt like we had to fit in for people to accept us or for the fear of judgment or for the fear of rejection.

00:13:00

 

So I think the universality of hiding is huge. The beauty of the work that I do now is, I say when I meet someone, I help leaders and organizations get their employees to unhide so that they feel like they can thrive and belong. And I have to tell you, Emy, immediately when people hear that, they start to think about what they’re hiding, right? Like there’s that connection to that piece. And then they start to share, because I share what I have hidden.

00:13:34

 

And I think that’s one of the pieces, too, is just one of the steps, is the idea of when I share my story with you, you’re more willing to unhide yourself and think about what you’re hiding. It is everything from disabilities, for sure, that people are hiding their feelings about having a disability, the challenge and the successes, mental health, neurodiversity. But I will say people hide things like their financial backgrounds, their family backgrounds, their religion, the dirty word of politics. People hide. People are afraid to say.

00:14:09

 

So it runs the spectrum. I mean, I have had people share feelings, even about their spouse or the way they left their last job or their education backgrounds, people hide. And I think the piece to it that’s really fascinating is not only is hiding universal, I’ve also found that most of us who are hiding feel exhausted and we feel lonely, like we’re the only ones that are hiding something. Well, that is amazing that you can work with people to help them uncover their own insecurity of what they’re hiding and why they’re hiding it. And the why is huge for me because it is about how the world sees us, how we rate ourselves in the world.

00:15:00

 

Are we a one? Are we a ten? Are we just so invisible that we probably do want to hide because we don’t like where we are in life? Even if you had a dream and you never reached that goal in your dream, you probably hide behind regret or anger or things that stopped you from having a big dream. Absolutely.

00:15:26

 

And I think it comes from fear, right? Let me say it comes from fear, and it comes from a fear of judgment, a fear of rejection, a fear of abandonment. I mean, those fears are real for many of us. I will say it’s interesting. I had a woman recently say to me, well, your hiding was self inflicted.

00:15:50

 

And took a moment, not that long, and I said back to her, I said, it actually wasn’t totally self inflicted. And she said, what do you mean? I said, well, the messages I got about beauty, the messages I got about what a whole person looked like from media, and the messages even from my own family and from friends, it wasn’t self inflicted. This idea of what it looks like to be beautiful and what it looks like to be whole, it actually came from outside too. It wasn’t just me.

00:16:27

 

Because the truth is, as a child and even still as an adult, I haven’t really seen myself on the COVID of a magazine, someone with one hand, I haven’t seen myself in media and tv and messages. So while, yes, the actions were self inflicted in terms of me hiding and putting my hand in my pocket, and like your audience, I imagine those who are hiding, they’ll know that feeling of, yes, we do find ways to adjust and accommodate so that people don’t find out our secrets. And yet we’ve also gotten messages that the reason that we’re hiding is okay. I will also say, while it was self inflicted in the sense of I did it, there’s another consequence to this. I also made what I believed other people comfortable.

00:17:22

 

Because when we hide part of ourselves, we allow for others not to have to deal with it either. Without, they don’t have to deal with my disability if I hide it, they don’t have to deal with my financial background. If I hide it, my education, like those things that might make people uncomfortable when we hide it. We allow for them to stay comfortable and not have to be curious or question or be uncomfortable. When people describe people with a disability, what are the correct terms?

00:17:53

 

Do you think? They are always changing. And yet, what is amazing is that there is a resonance right now and a real push to actually use the word disability, which I wish I had a dollar for everyone every time someone me said, oh, I don’t like the word disability. It has that dissonant, that negative side. And I said, okay, a couple of things.

00:18:22

 

One is, do you feel that way about the words distinguish? Do you feel like that about the word discussion? And there’s a few others. And so that pauses people. And then the other piece is when you say that to someone with a disability, and when you say it even out loud, what you do is you take away from someone’s identity, and you take away from the community that they’ve built, that shared experience, that ability to feel less alone.

00:18:49

 

And so disability is not a bad word. It’s actually a word that signifies to me and to many others, community. It also is about strength and it’s also about challenge. So it allows for part of an identity. So right now, in this time, there is a definite movement toward embracing the word disability.

00:19:14

 

Not differently abled, not special needs. I mean, people still use those. And yet within the disability community, there is a strong advocacy for the word disability. And it’s okay to say it. It’s not a bad word.

00:19:29

 

Okay. I’m so glad to hear you say that, because my daughter has her master’s in disability studies, actually. Yeah. And it’s a strong, powerful world of disability. It’s an amazing, there’s a lot of great stuff.

00:19:42

 

And I think it’s funny, I was also in a conversation recently with someone who said, who’s in the disability community? And they actually even said to me, well, maybe stop saying limb difference. Like, why are you using limb difference and disability? And I said, what do you mean? And they said, well, when you use limb difference, it takes away from the cohesiveness of the disability community.

00:20:09

 

And my argument back, Emy, was, don’t tell somebody who has a disability how to define themselves or how to identify. Allow them to have the choice and have the agency around how they choose to identify. Don’t put restrictions on it, because it took some of us a long time to get to the disability community, and yet we also have pieces of ourselves that we are still grappling with and still trying to understand. And so, yeah, I share the message of disability is not a bad word. And I also allow for let someone with a disability decide and frame how they want to own their disability.

00:20:54

 

It’s a journey. I agree with that 1000%. I think you’re one of the first people I heard use the term limb difference. Yeah, I can imagine that. And it’s a community.

00:21:10

 

There is a growing community of people with limb differences. Again, I didn’t even know that word existed in my vocabulary until probably six years ago. I had kind of just always said, oh, my little hand, or my hand. I had never known that there was. First of all, I hadn’t known there was a group of people like me.

00:21:31

 

I didn’t know that there was also collective language around it either. Exactly. And I think that is the community. So if you’re not in that community, a lot of times terms and definitions are foreign to you. Well, and people get afraid to ask.

00:21:49

 

Right. They get afraid because they’re going to either get in trouble, they’re going to say something wrong. And so how do we allow for curiosity, and I say it often, curiosity with kindness. How do we allow for the space to be able to ask questions when we don’t know something? So being able, just like you said, what is the right term?

00:22:08

 

Right. Being able to have that conversation, rather than this idea that you’re going to get in trouble if you ask or you’re going to insult somebody or you’re going to be taken into HR, because I’ve had those conversations with people, too. And so it’s allowing for space to be curious with kindness and to offer support after you have I. And also respecting someone’s boundary if they don’t want to talk about their disability, recognizing that’s okay, too. I happen to be somebody, Emmy, who loves to talk about my, like, because my hand is a tool to the broader conversation about hiding and connection and unhiding.

00:22:48

 

Well, it sounds like it really set you free in so many ways. And it’s still doing. Still. I’m still amazed at. I was recently on a travel expedition, and I went to Antarctica, which, if you’ve never been there, it’s one of the most amazing places in the world.

00:23:06

 

And I get on the boat and I’m not even thinking about my hand, and I have this amazing two and a half, almost three weeks with people. And I noticed, I’m like, so what was different about this trip, in addition to where you went, what was different about it for you, Ruth, in terms of your journey? And it was the freedom of connecting with people, because I wasn’t caught up in what I was hiding, I wasn’t caught up. I was free to just be me and to just not worry about my hand. Like, my hand wasn’t even in consideration on this one.

00:23:44

 

And so it was this idea, this total freedom to be yourself and not have to worry. If someone doesn’t like you, it’s on them this time, not you. And I think I walked around, like, again, many of us when we’re hiding, thinking someone’s not going to like this part of me and, oh, I have to worry about how I’m going to get them to like me. No, that’s on them if they don’t like you. The freedom that I get from being able to be myself now, it’s almost like a different glow that I get with unhiding.

00:24:17

 

That’s just cool. And that makes me want to ask you, what was your aha. Moment in your career that said, okay, I’m going to go out and I’m going to make my own career path that talks about this and helps people learn about me. Learn about. And because you could have gone many places in a career with your bachelor of arts in psychology and your master’s social work from Boston University, you could have done so many different other things, but this became your life path.

00:24:53

 

And why is that? Yeah, I think it’s twofold. One is it started as a path when I had had an internship, and I know I talk about this in my TEdx, and I know I spoke about it when I was in Wyoming. I had an internship at a law firm. And basically I left that law firm and decided, and I was really in the depths of hiding and even to the point where I was trying to complete pretty easy tasks, but easy tasks with two hands, and I was trying to accomplish them with one hand.

00:25:29

 

And my work was a disaster. I mean, it was definitely a disaster, but my supervisor didn’t know it. Hr didn’t know about my hand. I really tried to keep it under wraps in terms of trying to get things done, and it was a disaster. It wasn’t good.

00:25:44

 

And I remember leaving that internship after having figured out how to get the job done well, because I am an overachiever. And I remember leaving that internship and thinking, I never want to be in a professional setting and hide again. What can I do? Because I don’t want to be a lawyer and the population that probably resonated with me most. And I was really lucky in my graduate studies in social work to be placed in my first internship with kids because kids, the beauty of children is they’re curious, and then they let it go, right, like they ask, and then it’s over.

00:26:20

 

And so working with kids was my passion and passion project for 25 years, providing them opportunities for access to career and to college and mentors. And then I was in a conversation in my career when I was in a leadership position, and this is probably the second prong to my career choices. I had been, again, working with young people and providing them opportunities. And I was in a conversation about diversity a couple of years ago, and it was in the time when Black Lives Matter was reignited, and there were the death of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and several others that were starting to get highlighted. And we were in a conversation about leadership and diversity, and I asked a very naive question.

00:27:14

 

Emy. I thought I asked, do you see me as diverse as a leader and for your audience? I am a white female. I identify with she, her pronouns. I am heterosexual.

00:27:29

 

I am definitely not who you think of when you think of quote unquote, diversity. And so the question was naive, and the answer was telling. The answer was, at first, oh, well, I guess you’re a woman. That’s part of diversity, isn’t it? I said, yeah, that’s that gender checkbox that we talk about.

00:27:53

 

And I said, well, okay, that’s true. And what about my disability? What does that count for? And the answer back to that was, oh, well, we don’t see you like that. And I said, not asking to be seen as anything.

00:28:12

 

I’m asking for it to be acknowledged as part of the diversity conversation, because I think it’s something that’s different and it’s part of diversity. I left that conversation, emmy, really upset, really pissed. I’ll just say that. And I had two methods after that. I started reaching out to corporate partners in New York City, where I’d done a lot of fundraising over the years as running nonprofits and starting to ask them, how were they talking about diversity, what was coming up, and how did they think about disability?

00:28:45

 

And I wasn’t hearing a lot of people talk about disability in the diversity conversation. And so I made that kind of first entree into that world, and somebody invited me in to speak, and they said, just tell your story. And I was never planning to be a professional speaker. And I went in and I said, I don’t really have a story. And the answer back was, well, just tell them how you hid your hand for 25 years like you’ve told me that.

00:29:15

 

So I went in and told them. And what was amazing, Emmy, is the feedback. After the session, people had two schools of thought. One is people thanked me for including disability, both the visible and the invisible, in the diversity conversation, because it wasn’t getting talked about, and yet it’s the largest minority group, so that seems strange. It also intersects with every other lens of diversity.

00:29:39

 

And the second piece, which has seemed to continue to resonate probably even more, is this idea of hiding and that most of us are hiding. And so I started to realize that I was given a gift with my hand, that it was a tool to start to get people talking about what they’re hiding and to share my journey of unhiding, so that wherever people found themselves on this continuum of hiding and unhiding, they could say, wow, she did it. Because I would have loved to have seen a speaker like me when I was in my depths of hiding to know there was a way out. And hey, this woman, she created these four steps to unhide there’s a way out. I don’t have to feel so alone, because when we’re hiding, we feel so alone.

00:30:29

 

That is super interesting and really eye opening. That conversation of diversity and inclusion was not including people with disabilities. How crazy is that? Sorry, I guess I have two grandchildren who have disabilities. So it’s like, what?

00:30:52

 

Yeah, and you can’t unsee it, because once you realize that disability is not part of diversity, you start to read articles on diversity, equity and inclusion, and they rarely. I think it’s like 4% of journal articles even mention disability in the conversation on diversity. And while I could get angry at some of it, what I realized was I hadn’t actually shared my journey with them. I hadn’t actually told them about. Of course they didn’t see me as having a disability because I never talked about it.

00:31:26

 

I never shared out that journey of the challenges that sometimes were hard, never the successes of even some of the things that I amazed myself at being able to do that I never talked about because I didn’t know that there was space to talk about it. And I kind of never allowed for the space to talk about it. So myself, I never allowed the space to talk about it. So of course they didn’t see it as part of diversity or even that I had a disability because I hadn’t allowed that for that. So then that’s why it’s about sharing out your story, so that other people can start to understand you and know you and see themselves in you.

00:32:07

 

Oh, absolutely. And I think that’s the beauty of what you do, is just open it all up and get it all out and accept people for who they are and love people wherever they are in their life journey. And that is such a great message that you help people. What are the four steps of unhiding? While they may feel hard, they’re really concrete in terms of there’s an action plan.

00:32:35

 

So the first step is acknowledging it, right? Starting with the awareness of what is it that’s holding me back? Where in my life am I not thriving, right? So starting to ask some of those questions and that’s what I help coach people around, and I do a lot of consulting around is this space of where do we start? How do we start to acknowledge it?

00:32:55

 

The second step is then finding your person. It’s in finding that person that I’m sure Emy with. As I say, that step to you and to your listeners, there’s a go to person, right, that snaps in your head that you think, oh, that person. And the characteristics I would look for, or I might look for are someone who’s a good listener, someone who is curious, asks questions, and can challenge you on some of the thoughts of what you may be thinking. Like, it took me having someone be like, wow, you think your hand is so ugly that you’re not willing to show it.

00:33:33

 

Let me see it, let me touch it, let me feel it, let me experience it with you to challenge that. So finding that person is important, that someone that you can connect with about it and share your secret. The third step is building your community is finding a group of people that are going through what you’re going through or have been through what you’ve been through. That shared experience, it’s the power of community. It’s the power of employee resource groups and affinity groups or meetups.

00:34:06

 

Is that space for shared experience that I didn’t invent hiding. I didn’t invent hiding in my pocket even like there were other people who have limb differences just like me, who also hid. And so knowing that and being able to have that community is so important and for your listeners and even for, as you say, I want to unhide, it’s as simple right now as the Internet. Like you can go and Google what it is and there is a group or there is a connection out there looking for you too. That’s the power of building community.

00:34:44

 

It’s available. And then the fourth step is sharing out your story. And when I say that step, it doesn’t mean getting on stage like I do or coming onto a podcast with ume. It can just mean starting with a small your community and sharing out your story so that someone else has the ability to see themselves in your story. I was working with a young woman who are connecting with her around her difference, and she said, you know, Ruth, I went to a team retreat with my office, and I told them about my anxiety, and I wanted them to know me and why sometimes I react the certain ways that I do.

00:35:29

 

And I said, okay, what happened? And she said, well, people came up to me after and thanked me for sharing and said they understood me and that it was so brave. And she said, and then one person came up and shared that thanked me, and then shared that they’re on their own journey of not knowing how to share their ADHD story. And that because I was brave enough to tell my story, that person then felt like they could start to tell their story because I cleared a path. And that’s what sharing your story does.

00:36:00

 

It starts to clear a path for someone else. And so it becomes almost like these four steps become this amazing flywheel or loop that helps somebody else. So you acknowledge, you invite, you build, and then you share, and that allows for someone else to get involved in the unhiding journey. So insightful. It reminds me of when you feel safe that you can share who you are and what you’re hiding, whatever or whoever in that community where this woman shared her anxiety, she suddenly felt safe.

00:36:38

 

And thank you for bringing that up, that piece, because I think there’s a couple of components to that. One is safety is absolutely critical to this process, psychological safety, feeling safe within yourself and feeling safe within those that you share with. And there may be times that you don’t get the right person that you invite in. That happens. And so what I’m here to share is that that’s okay, because that can happen.

00:37:07

 

So it’s thinking about to keep moving forward and to keep thinking about the next person that you want to share with that it may not be, I should say, as tough with the next person. And that’s why I really lead people on this space of thinking about who that go to person is. Like, what are the characteristics that you know you need? And for me, it was, again, a great listener, somebody who had empathy because they had been on a similar journey, not the exact same journey, but a similar journey of understanding themselves, and somebody who would challenge me a little bit and ask questions. And I think about creating a checklist of those pieces.

00:37:50

 

I think the other piece that I recognize, Emmy, is the privilege that I have of sharing my story because there are still groups in 2024. I mean, we are in 2024. And there are still groups where it feels and is very unsafe to share what they’re hiding for good reason, because of safety. And so I recognize the privilege in doing that. And that’s why I say it doesn’t have to be big groups that you unhide to.

00:38:20

 

Right? It can be a small group of that one person that you invite in. It can be then two or three other people. And sharing your story can be to those two or three other people as well. It doesn’t have to be, again, on stage or on a podcast or in a newsletter on LinkedIn or on social media.

00:38:37

 

It can be within, and I might even advocate that at first of just finding those safe places. Because what I know to be true is you don’t have to do it alone, and you can’t actually do it alone, because that’s not how connection and community work, and that’s not how unhiding works for connection, which we all crave. We need to be able to unhide to others. So I want to go back for just a minute, because one of the things you talked about on your journey, and I think it was your first date, it was someone you were dating that just said, be yourself. Let me appreciate you.

00:39:19

 

Let me know you. I had a few of those types of dates, too. I will say, while that feels helpful, it depends on where you are on your journey of unhiding. Because for me, I didn’t accept that. I thought it was a lie when people would say it, or I thought they were just saying it to be nice and kind, and I didn’t believe it.

00:39:48

 

It wasn’t until I started to believe it and did the work on myself on this journey of unhiding that those words made sense. Because people can tell you a lot of things. I’ve had people say, oh, you shouldn’t hide it. It’s nothing. But that takes away from my journey.

00:40:06

 

Right? Or my experience of this difference, because I think a lot of times we people that are hiding parts of themselves, again, any part of themselves, believe the story that we’ve told ourselves. And so even just someone coming in and saying, oh, it’s nothing. Well, then you’re really not listening, because I’ve told you, like damn hiding, or you’re seeing it. And so we take away from the person’s, their experience of what it is.

00:40:32

 

It is absolutely true. It is nothing. They are right. Like those people who said, oh, my God, it’s beautiful, or, you shouldn’t hide any part of yourself. It’s amazing.

00:40:41

 

You’re different. That’s so cool. Yes. And I also had to get there. I had to start to.

00:40:48

 

And it wasn’t about writing it down 100 times or hearing it 100 times from different people. I had to be on this journey. And that’s why unhiding is not overnight. It’s not like there’s a magic wand that says, oh, tomorrow you’re not going to hide anymore, or somebody’s going to say the right thing and you’re going to stop hiding. No, it’s deeper work, and that’s the beauty and the challenge.

00:41:09

 

That’s why I say it’s not easy either, because it requires you to think and to be introspective and to be curious about yourself. I guess the other way I think of it, Emmy, is it’s very self centered work. And I don’t mean it in being selfish. I mean it in centering on yourself, asking your whys, understanding. Like, why am I hiding?

00:41:31

 

What is it doing to hold me back? Why is it holding me back? Why am I not thriving? That’s the first step, understanding your whys. Oh, absolutely.

00:41:42

 

Self acceptance, forgiving yourself, all those things. Allow someone to help you with it doesn’t have to be so done alone. But that is not as easy as, oh, it’s nothing. Yeah, I can agree more with that. So where are you going?

00:42:01

 

You. What are you doing now? What’s going on with you right now that you want to share with the audience? I can tell you it was really hard to come back to real life when I’ve been in suspended reality in Antarctica. I mean, seeing these beautiful penguins, these ferocious fur seals.

00:42:21

 

I mean, the icebergs the size of the tallest buildings in Manhattan. I mean, we saw an iceberg that was 15 miles long. We didn’t see a 23, but we saw one close. And, I mean, the glaciers, it’s just an amazing part of the world. And the people who travel there are a breed of people themselves, right?

00:42:44

 

You have to want adventure. You have to want to see stuff. And so it continues. That love of adventure and travel continues to be ignited and trying to figure out, how do I continue to build that out in my speaking world? Because there’s so many people on a global scale that have shared with me parts that they’re hiding.

00:43:03

 

And so how do we create this movement around unhiding as a global movement? So that we create those safe places for connection. We create those safe places to value difference and be in different experiences and different perspectives. And so that’s what I’m building out here. I’m starting to work on my second book.

00:43:24

 

My first book is “Singlehandedly”, and that was my journey of hiding and unhiding and learning to unhide and embrace connection. And the second book focuses right now on the concepts, and it’s still a work in progress because I’m writing a lot and I’m trying to find the threads, but it’s focused, Emy, on this idea of connection, the idea of loneliness, the idea of belonging, and the idea of leadership. Like, how do those kind of four quadrants come into play? And how does travel, for me, continue to pour in? Because, yeah, I want to trek with the guerrillas in Uganda and Rwanda.

00:44:06

 

I want to go to the Arctic Circle now that I’ve been to the South Pole, I want to go to the North Pole and see the polar bears. I want to see the northern lights in Iceland and in Alaska. I mean, just being with nature, I think, has been transformative. Wow. And people always say that about nature.

00:44:26

 

I was reading something just the other day, know, just to open up your mind. If you feel stuck in your life, get out and walk and be with nature and look at the stars and just get out of your four walls. Well, even where you are, like, flying into Jackson and flying into a national park with those snow covered Tetons and just being able to see the landscape and see the animals and see just the fresh air, I mean, that was an impetus to. That was the kickoff to my Antarctica trip, was. It was one of my last speaking gigs, and I was lucky enough to do it in Jackson with you all that ability to.

00:45:09

 

And I definitely want to go back to Jackson. I mean, I want to see that mama bear. Is it bear 99? What’s her name? Bear 399?

00:45:18

 

Yeah. I’ve got to see her and her cubs.

00:45:24

 

Her cubs, I guess. Are they still cubs? Well, they’re cubs, and then they become young adults, and that’s another name. And about that time is when their mom kicks them out of the den, where she just chases them away. Okay.

00:45:42

 

It’s really like parenthood. Yeah, it’s exactly like parenthood. Like, go away now. Okay. Yeah.

00:45:49

 

So, anyway, it’s been great talking to you, Ruth. I really enjoyed this conversation with you, and I look forward to seeing you in Jackson again. I am looking forward to it, too, Emmy. And thank you so much for making the space for this journey of unhiding and just allowing for the conversation around hiding, because, again, it’s universal and it’s exhausting and it’s lonely. And if I can do anything to help someone in that space where they are right now, that they feel like they’re hiding and they want to stop.

00:46:20

 

That’s my journey, and I use my hand as the tool to get us there to start that conversation. And I love that attitude that it’s one day at a time. It’s one person at a time, and every person you touch touches ten other people. It’s exponential. Absolutely.

00:46:39

 

And I think everyone’s story needs to be told in terms of their journey. So that’s the space. That’s great. And good luck on your second book. That sounds amazing.

00:46:51

 

Yeah, it’s a lot of writing. If you had told me when I was writing the first one that there would be even an idea for a second one, I would have said there’s no way because this first one is hard enough. It’s like climbing a mountain. But I think probably, and this may resonate with you, once you get to a top of a mountain, you kind of want to see the next one. So that’s the space.

00:47:11

 

Good. That’s excellent that you look at it like that. Yeah, I mean, I definitely took the moment to pause with the first mountain for sure, to say, okay, what did I just accomplish here? What is the reaction? How is it resonating with people?

00:47:27

 

And then how do you move to the next mountain so that you can keep? Because your ideas and your thoughts keep. And I’m sure it’s happened with your podcast. It keeps expanding. Right?

00:47:35

 

You keep thinking about the ideas, and you take them to the next level. And that’s what the mountain metaphor is about, is taking it to its next level. Yeah. Good for you. Thank you so much for sharing that.

00:47:47

 

And thank you for sharing your story. And circle back around to me when you have your second book. I’m excited to hear about it. I absolutely will. Thank you again.

00:47:56

 

All right, you take care. You too. Bye.

00:48:04

 

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