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WIL Talk: From Obstacles to Assets

Updated: Feb 16, 2020

On the first official WIL talk of the semester, three speakers were invited to the Leiden University College auditorium to talk about how to overcome personal obstacles and turn them into assets in the personal and professional life.

The evening kicked off with some words from WIL members who stated that the term “disability” in itself is misleading since there are always methods to deal with personal challenges.

The first speaker, was Margrite, a corporate coach that managed to overcome her obstacles with determination and without losing her lively character. She started by saying that a mix of confidence and nerves is always good when speaking in public.

Her advice to the young women and men present was that if you are insecure about something, to always make sure that you have people you can talk about it to with, you do not have to convince anyone, but it’s always good to unburden yourself.

When faced with challenges, one must always try different strategies. Most of the time if someone is rude to you about something that you were born with or can’t change, their attitude says something about themselves rather than about you. Your insecurities or disabilities are not the only things that you are, and you should focus on your talent rather than the things that make you feel like less.

Margrite also said that whenever someone asks you something relating to your obstacles, such as a disability, have the guts to say “I’m sorry I’m not going to answer that” and try to keep the conversation as practical as possible.

Margrite has a physical disability that has however helped her develop a strong character: “I don’t take no for an answer because I have heard many ´nos´ before” her different perspective on the world has also made her less judgmental, she understands know that you never really know what a person is going through and that judging based on first impressions does not do any good.

The second speaker was Helen Claus, she is an educational consultant and specializes with children with different needs. She works in inclusive education and tries to debunk some of the stigmas around people with disabilities.

She talked about how kids with special needs are often excluded from educational institutions because of physical barriers or social taboos, many schools do not want to be known as 'the school that takes in students with disabilities'.

However many of these kids, in fact, possess very valuable assets, such as outdoing diagnoses, having the opportunity to eliminate stigmas, developing meaningful social relations, becoming peer leaders and models as well as developing their talents. This last point resonates very well with what Margrite said about focusing on your talents rather than your disabilities.

The last speaker was Lisette van Putten, the new study adviser at LUC, who said that the challenges are what makes life interesting and overcoming them is what makes it meaningful. Challenges mould you into yourself and they can empower you to overcome the most difficult situations.

The biggest competition you have is yourself, find your strategies and things to make it work, sometimes just knowing that you have a little margin of error (such as extra time in an exam) gives you that extra bit of confidence that allows you to perform better.

The evening concluded with an important message for the audience: “take charge by owning your challenge” even with a disability you can achieve your goals.

Blog post by: Alexia Ramos

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