On a Facebook Group page I belong to for Deaf Women in my area, we were recently asked:
“Who is your DEAF WOMAN role model and why?”
The group was wanting to “spotlight” Deaf, female humanitarians, artists and trailblazers in education, advocacy, and business. We were encouraged to nominate big role models in smaller aspects that we may normally overlook, as well as the Deaf, female “gems” out there that don’t usually get recognized. We were invited to “chime in!”
First let me say, I love being a part of this Facebook group and I love the idea of lifting people and shining a light their way. I had some questions at first, but I thought this was a fun idea and I was eager to participate!
But try as I may, I found it hard to select just one or two Deaf Women Role Models, and even more challenging to be concise about “why” they were role models to me, or to limit them to my area. There are so many other Deaf Women I admire out there who are making a difference in this world, bit by bit, out in the trenches or behind the scenes. How does one pick the loveliest flowers in a field scattered with such dynamic color, beauty and fragrance?
So I sat and pondered for a few days…. Soon, another Deaf Woman I admire in our group wrote:
“Wouldn’t it be nice if we, the Deaf women, see OURSELVES as our own role models?! I, for one, have learned over the years to see myself as a role model without having to appear as conceited.”
Wow! ‘Seeing ourselves as our own role models’ really got me thinking… We are all beautiful and worthy of recognition. Yet, I had not thought to look in my own mirror and consider myself my own role model. I certainly hope I might be a role model to someone else in the world, but to be my own role model was a new call to adventure!
Here is what I know for sure:
We are all trailblazers on our own journeys. Every Deaf woman I know has been involved in her own, or her family’s advocacy, education, business, artistic creations and humanitarian efforts. We are out there surviving, striving, creating, encouraging, cheering, pounding and marching to the drumbeat of our own and collective Deaf hearts.
Some of my Deaf Women Role Models pave the way for other Deaf women, men and children and find this to be our true life purpose. We are the protectors of our own language, culture, access and appropriate education, and we see that these are promoted as the inalienable birthrights of Deaf children and adults. We are passionate about injustice, inequality and intolerance. As women, we are capable of deep compassion when it matters most. We each make a difference on this planet, whether we do soft education and advocacy or rock the system with a visually-loud bang!
Some of us have incredible courage to just make it through another day of battling with the systemic oppression prevalent in the medical field, as we try to advocate for communication access so that we, or our families, can stay involved and informed and receive appropriate health care. Some of us move mountains while parenting and advocating for our children’s physical and mental health and wellness. Some of us push harder than we ever thought we could to take care of an older parent or an ill spouse or partner. We, Deaf Women, learn to lean on each other for support and mentor each other at times like these.
Some of us work several jobs in several towns and battle the public transportation system daily without having communication access to changes in routes, or knowledge of why our vehicle has stopped. And we belt out our barbaric “YAWP!” through our blogs or vlogs and call attention and allies to support the things that need to change in our world!
We, Deaf Women, are all hero’s and survivors in our own stories, and we don’t just live in the San Francisco Bay Area. We are everywhere! We are all making a difference just because it is what we do and it’s why we are here. Some of us Deaf Woman continue to be role models and make a difference posthumously – even after they have passed on.
While the idea of recognizing our Deaf Women Role Models is always a wonderful invitation, I think we can also do as the other group member suggested and look in the mirror to see the reflection of our own amazing selves. To recognize yourself as your own role model is not about self-centeredness or conceit. It’s about self-honor and self-respect. So I’m giving this a go…
* I think of myself as my own role model every day when I get up in the early morning to do ‘the mom thing’ when I’d prefer to hibernate in bed, or when I patiently and successfully get my teenage son off to school on time without a battle. Those are the days when I receive the out-of-the-blue, unexpected pleasure of my son’s arms around me before he heads out the door saying, “Thanks Mom.” His gratitude and love reminds me that I’m doing something right and it’s rubbing off on him in a good way.
* I am my own role model for breaking the cycle of self-neglect and self-deprivation. I made a conscious choice to leave an unrealistically heavy, high status, well-paying management job that kept me out of alignment with my mind, body and soul and kept me living in my head. I chose to leave the job that squeezed me to the bones, so that I could breathe again, re-evaluate my priorities and live a more authentic, meaningful life. I no longer believe I have to put my self-care needs on the back burner or choose between taking care of myself or someone else. I have learned that I can do both! By taking care of me, I become more aligned, present and full of energy so that I can be available and help with the support and care of others.
* I am my own role model because I believe in myself and my dreams. I chose to start, build and market my own coaching and retreat business. I admire myself for clarifying my purpose, following my passions and becoming a Deaf female soloprenuer.
* I am my own role model when I take the time and make the effort to support my girlfriends when they need a shoulder, or when I work with and support the women I see weekly for personal life coaching or those who attend my retreats. These are women making time for themselves, women deeply invested in their personal growth and empowerment, women I respect and admire deeply!
* I am my own role model for having the courage to make hard, hard choices, and prune away relationships that were not healthy for my growth. I admire and respect myself for trusting my inner-wisdom, for speaking my truth, for acknowledging my flaws and for treating myself with compassion.
But while I am my own role model, I am no different than my Deaf girlfriends who I admire immensely — like the one who has battled and survived breast cancer; or the one who diligently and single-handedly cares for her frail, aging mother everyday, sandwiched between her family and demanding job; or the one who finally valued herself enough to leave an abusive relationship – ending the cycle of self-hate and trading it in for self-love; or the one who chose to branch out on her own after a divorce and the death of a parent, and is rebuilding her life and community in a new town. These are my everyday role models whom I admire for their courage, tenacity, fortitude, compassion and wisdom.
We are all role models by virtue of being Deaf and/or by being Women. I nominate us all!
(Disclaimer: This topic focused on Deaf Women as Role Models. However, I know you will agree there are just as many Deaf and non-Deaf Female and Male Role Models out there inspiring us all! Aspire to be one!)