Lana Dingwall is an Empowerment and Business Coach and the Founder of Arrow – Always Moving Forward , based in Ottawa, Canada.
Hello World, my name is Lana! There are many things I enjoy in life, but one of my favourite things to do is work with people. Particularly women who are feeling unsatisfied, stuck and potentially lost with where they are currently in life. By working together, we create a new sense of happiness and purpose, on their pursuit to rule the world and everything in-between!
We asked her to share some of her experience and how she became the confident, driven woman she is today. Here is her story.
What makes you fabulous?
Everything for which others might judge me!
When do you feel the most fabulous?
I feel the most fabulous when I do something that is far outside of my comfort zone.
How has your personal journey impacted your perception of yourself?
This is such an important question for everyone to reflect on and answer. There have been many challenging situations in my life, some of which I purposely put myself in and some I did not. Regardless, a challenge is still a challenge and I’ve come to realize that the best way (for me) to handle challenges is head on. There are three major moments that come to mind that helped shape who I am today and, most importantly, how I think about myself and the world.
The first would be the day I found out I had a learning disability. I was 19 years old and since my dyslexia was so severe the psychologist told me that he was shocked (his word) that it had gone undiagnosed for so long. I was surprised for a moment, until I thought back on my all my years in school. When I was younger I had been put in remedial English or, as my brother called it, the “class for stupid people” (he was only 8 years old at the time so he’s since been forgiven). Later on, I also switched into the remedial math class. I remember crying while my parents forced me to practice reading because I was so frustrated and embarrassed that I couldn’t read as well as my friends. It didn’t help that my younger brother was considered gifted and was placed in the advanced learning classes. Having my dyslexia go undiagnosed meant that while I was growing up I didn’t have access to any assistance or accommodations to help me learn in a traditional learning setting. However, looking back now I’m actually very thankful for that. I managed to finish high school with good grades and went off to complete university. I accomplished those things by pushing through my learning disability. This was my first big lesson in mindset. I always knew I was weaker at the traditionally high-valued school subjects but I never let that stop me from thinking I could do something I wanted. Going through my schooling without the proper support meant that I learned to be creative to overcome obstacles. Most importantly it taught me that regardless of my learning capabilities, I could accomplish anything if I worked hard enough. This has helped shaped who I am today. I am someone who works hard each day so that I am not defined by what others think I am capable of. I am the only person who can determine what I am capable of.
The second big moment, which came not too long after the first, was when I came out as a lesbian to my family and friends. I had known I was a lesbian since I was 16 years old but up until the moment I fully came out (4 years later) I had only ever told 3 people. Like most LGBTQIA people, coming out was a big, extremely terrifying moment for me; it was especially scary since, at that point in my life, I wasn’t a part of the LGBTQIA community. After years of hiding and trying to convince myself that I wasn’t a lesbian, I realized something very important: by not coming out, not allowing people to fully know me, I was telling myself that other people’s opinions of me were more important than my happiness. I was in the mindset that people would reject me, make fun of me and not want to be my friend. I thought that my family would disown me and thus I thought that hiding who I am was safer than being out. But I got to a point in my life where I realized that even if all my worst nightmares came true, it didn’t outweigh the fact that I had to have my own back. I had to love and accept myself and I didn’t need anyone else to do that. Realizing that the only acceptance that I truly needed was my own gave me the strength to come out. And it turns out that my concerns couldn’t have been further from the truth. Yes, a few people did reject me, some family members had a hard time digesting the news, and yes I was out and exposed, but it felt so liberating. It’s now been almost 8 years since I came out and I can truly say that being born a lesbian was one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever been given. It has opened me up to a type of self-love and self-acceptance that I would have never been forced to learn had I been straight and I believe it has made me a kinder, more loving and accepting person. Of course this leg of my journey isn’t over as it still continues today in the face of homophobia and hate. The difference now is that I’ve learnt that my self-love and self-acceptance is more important and powerful than the hate of others.
My third big moment came to me at age 24 while travelling through Japan. I had decided that I wanted to climb Mount Fuji, alone, at night, so that I could watch the sunrise from the top. I started my climb at 7:30 pm, giving myself enough time to reach the peak for the 4:30 am sunrise. Needless to say, I struggled…. a lot. After the first 2 hours of climbing in the dark, I started asking myself why the hell I had decided to do it. I told myself I could quit and no one would hold it against me. I told myself I still had 5 more hours before I even got to the top and that I couldn’t do it and was crazy for trying. I was already exhausted both physically and mentally. It was at that moment that I made a conscious decision. I told myself that any negative thoughts were no longer welcome. I could only speak to myself in a positive and encouraging voice. Since no one was around me I decided to speak out loud. That positive and encouraging voice is the reason I made it to the top. Without it I would have given up. This moment taught me the true significance of positive self-talk and that learning how to speak to yourself in a kind and encouraging voice (especially while in difficult situations) increases your probability of success. It builds your confidence in your abilities and helps you realize your true worth and value.
Had I gone through any of these three moments without a positive mindset I could have let it crush me. Instead I allowed those moments empower me. It’s easy to get caught up in what others tell you is possible, what they think of you, and their negativity. Every day I try to draw out the mindsets from these three experiences to keep me moving forward. So my take-away for you is: only you can determine what you are or are not capable of, self-love and self-acceptance is all you need, and you need to speak to yourself positively, the way someone who loves you would. Of course these mindsets are not switches that you can turn on and off, they have to be consciously chosen and practiced daily.
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