116: Embracing Your Perfectly Imperfect Self with Sarah Herron | Tanya Dalton
Sarah Heron podcast interview on The Intentional Advantage
April 2, 2019   |   Episode #:

116: Embracing Your Perfectly Imperfect Self with Sarah Herron

In This Episode:

Today, I’m so excited to introduce you to Sarah Herron, the Executive Director of SheLift, a female-focused community encouraging women to cultivate confidence and self-acceptance through adventure and authenticity. A Colorado native, Sarah first gained notoriety on ABC’s The Bachelor for being the first contestant with a physical disability. With nearly 10 years experience in marketing and advertising, and five years as a social influencer, it is Sarah’s personal mission today to ensure SheLift is the platform women turn to for inclusive, body positivity visibility, and inspiration. Today, Sarah shares her story and her experiences in finding courage and power through her differences.

Show Transcript:

The Big Idea

There’s magic in owning what makes you unique.

Questions I Answer

  • How can I stop trying to fit in?
  • What can I do to be more authentically myself?
  • How do I step out of my comfort zone?

Key Topics in the Show

  • How to find courage and conviction in the pursuit of goals

  • Not letting other people’s perceptions shape us

  • Finding power in standing out and stepping outside your comfort zone

  • Sarah on using her platform to help women and girls through SheLift and her Confidence Courses

Resources and Links

Show Transcript

Welcome to season nine of Productivity Paradox with Tanya Dalton, a podcast  focused on using productivity, not just to do more, but to achieve what’s most  important to you. Join Tanya has she kicks off the New Year with a special season  titled, New Year True You.  To get her free checklist, Five Minutes To Peak Productivity, simply go to  inkWELLpress.com/podcast.  

And now here’s your host Tanya Dalton. 

Tanya: Hello, hello everyone, welcome to Productivity Paradox. I’m your  host, Tanya Dalton, and this is episode 116, and have I got a show  for you today. I am so excited about today’s guest, but before I  introduce her let me give a quick shout out to today’s sponsor.  

 Gusto offers HR support as well as easy to run payroll services for  small businesses around the country just like mine. Later on in  today’s episode, I’ll be sharing how you can get three months free,  so be sure to stay tuned for details in just a little bit.  

 Let’s go ahead and get started with today’s guest, because I am so  excited to introduce you to Sarah Herron. She is the Executive  Director of SheLift, a female-focused community encouraging  women to cultivate confidence and self-acceptance through  adventure and authenticity. This Colorado native gained her  notoriety on ABC’s The Bachelor for being the first contestant with  a physical disability. With nearly 10 years experience in marketing  and advertising, and five years as a social influencer, it’s Sarah’s  personal mission today to ensure SheLift is the platform women  turn to for inclusive, body positivity visibility, and inspiration.  Sarah’s been featured on E News, Entertainment Tonight, Bustle,  Pop Sugar, and Refinery 29. Let me introduce you to Sarah.  

 Sarah, I’m so excited to have you on the show today.  Sarah: Thank you, I’m so excited to be on as well.  

Tanya: Well, I cannot wait to share your story, because I think it is such a  strong and powerful one. Because I know a lot of people know you  from The Bachelor, but you’re also a very active rock climber, a  skier, double black diamond skis. You’re an all around adventurist,  and you take on challenges that most people would find incredibly  daunting. You were born with Amniotic Band Syndrome, correct?  

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Sarah: Yeah, mm-hmm (affirmative).  

Tanya: So can you explain to my listeners what that means?  

Sarah: Yeah. So Amniotic Band Syndrome is a congenital birth defect that  basically just is … I guess the short way of explaining it is in the  uterus there are fibers floating around in the sac, and they’re just  these little fibers that attach themselves to babies arms or legs, or  fingers and toes, and essentially stop development of limbs, or can  sometimes even amputate full limbs. And so, that’s what happened  to me, and I ended up losing my arm, I guess, in utero, before I was  born. I came out perfectly healthy and totally kicking and  

screaming and ready for life, and was born without my arm. It  hasn’t stopped me from much since then, which I’m always so  happy to share that story and the ways that I haven’t let that birth  defect affect my life.  

Tanya: No, absolutely. You really haven’t, you really live life at full throttle.  You’re such an outdoorist, and just … the way that you take on  adventures I think is so encouraging.  

Sarah: Thank you.  

Tanya: Actually, last week, we talked about finding courage and managing  our fears, and I know that you had to overcome some of this fear  and doubt that maybe you had when you had to learn to ski and  climb mountains amongst other physically taxing things.  

Sarah: Yeah.  

Tanya: How do you find the courage to tackle things that you didn’t think  you could do?  

Sarah: Well, I was actually gonna say, I wasn’t always this courageous and  I didn’t always have this mindset of not letting my arm stop me  from doing things. Because certainly growing up, and especially in  my early 20s and college years, I was full of self limiting belief and  self limiting doubt, and just didn’t really believe that I was capable  or deserving or strong enough to do a lot of the activities and  recreation that I had grown up watching my peers do.  

 And it’s so interesting how those things begin to set in when we’re  in high school and college years, versus when we’re kids, because  when we’re kids we’re just so fearless and curious. It’s hard to tell a  little kid they can’t do something because so often they’re like,  “Well, if you tell me I can’t then I’m going to. I’m gonna do it.” And  that’s how I was … And that’s how I was as a kid, and, as I said, it  

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wasn’t until my young adult years when I started to become full of  all this self limiting fear.  

 It really took some soul searching and getting honest with myself  right around the age of 25, and realizing I was just sick of feeling  sorry for myself, and I wanted to get back into the things that I  loved doing and I wanted to be my true authentic self, and I was  tired of just creating this story in my head. So I decided to do  something risky and step outside of my comfort zone in order to  get back in alignment with who I knew I truly was and the  

experiences that I wanted to have in life.  

Tanya: I love what you said there about being your authentic self, because  this season really is … we’re calling it New Year True You. It’s not  about changing who you are, it is about becoming the best version  of yourself, of becoming that true and authentic you that’s maybe  even hidden away because of things that have happened to you, or  just because life happens you lose some of your identity of who  you are, and it’s really this rediscovery of, for you, that girl who was  once fearless and you lost your way a little bit, and then you found  her again.  

Sarah: Right. Well, it’s interesting that you touch on that because I’m  definitely doing more work in that arena, of figuring out what this  story is that we create in our head that we believe to be true and  changing that plot. I think because I was hurt, or maybe because  there were experiences that hurt me or triggered me or made me  put up walls or close down, I started to believe those experiences. I  started to believe that this was my reality, “I’m not capable or  deserving of going rock climbing or skiing because I only have one  arm,” and I began to believe that to be so true about myself, even  though in my heart I wasn’t … I always knew, I’m like, “No, I know I  wanna do those things, I just have to get over this hurdle of what  other people are gonna think of me.”  

 And so, I’m trying to help inspire not only my followers, but the  girls and participants of SheLift and some of my courses, that this  story we create in our head and this story that we allow other  people perceptions to shape us, isn’t the story that we actually  own. And so getting more in alignment with that story and the  way you want to live live, versus the way people have shaped your  life to be.  

Tanya: I think that’s so true, it really is. I feel like you touched on  something really powerful there. When we talk about … We live our  lives with these “shoulds”, “Oh, I should be doing this because  

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people have these expectations of me,” or, “I don’t want people  looking at me,” or, “I don’t want people thinking that I’m different.”  

 And what I love about you is that you used to worry about  blending in, and now you intentionally don’t blend it.  

Sarah: Yeah. It’s … The story I love giving, or I guess the anecdote, is that  the truth of it is, when I started to ski, which wasn’t until I was in  my early 20s, initially I was so worried about what people would  think I looked like on the mountain because I only use one pole,  and sometimes I’ll even ski with my sleeve hanging down or  pushed all the way up, and I was just so worried about what  people would think when they saw me and I just wanted to blend  in.  

 And then, it wasn’t until I started to really come to … into my self  acceptance that I was like, “Actually, no. I wanna stand out, and I  want people to see that I am different on the mountain or on the  face of a rock.” Because what I’m doing truly is remarkable, and if  

that draws attention to myself or could inspire somebody else,  then I wanna be that image for people because I just think we have  … Life is too short to stop doing the things we love doing because  we’re worried about how we’ll look or how people will think about  us.  

Tanya: Amen to that. We do way too much worrying about what other  people think, right?  

Sarah: Oh my gosh, yeah.  

Tanya: That … I think often, honestly, that is one of our biggest obstacles.  No matter what … how it manifests itself, this obstacle, most of it  boils down to that idea of, I don’t wanna fail, I don’t wanna … I  don’t want other people to see me as being a failure or not being  perfect, of questioning who I am or what I do, and I think that’s so  powerful. Because once you’ve stepped out of that, once you’ve  stopped deciding that you wanted to blend in and you chose to  stand out, you really became such an inspiration.  

 Even what you’re doing with Tommy Hilfiger, with their adaptive  clothing line, a lot of that is pushed through because you have  stood apart. You have stood tall and shared your story loudly with  others so they can see that just because maybe you have this  obstacle, whether it’s a physical disability or something that’s in  your way mentally, or anything else, you can overcome it. But it  does take courage, you gotta dig in, right?  

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Sarah: You definitely do, and I love … I think that’s why I particularly love  blending my message with recreation and sport, because I think  that, especially in sport, it’s so competitive and the measure of  success is perfection in sport, and I just don’t think that’s the  reality. You don’t get somewhere without failing and looking silly,  and I just don’t feel that there’s enough representation of that in  sport, and especially in sport media. There really isn’t  

representation or visuals of people failing or looking silly or trying,  it’s always the person on top of the mountain who’s a mega  athlete.  

 And so, when we’re maybe starting our story of becoming an  athlete, it’s hard to relate to that person that we see in the  

magazines who’s on the side of El Capitan, ’cause it’s hard to  imagine ourselves in that space when we’re only beginning.  

 So I just really want to create a conversation around you’re never  going to be perfect right out the gates, and it’s about failing and  then failing harder, and getting back up each time and continuing  to do the things that you love regardless of how it looks.  

Tanya: So true. It’s … That’s the thing, is it’s easy to stand up when you’re  already up, it’s harder to get up when you feel like you’ve been  knocked down, right?  

Sarah: Totally, yeah.  

Tanya: That’s when you gotta dig in, you gotta have faith in yourself, and  you have to realize that you’re worthy, that … you have to love  yourself. And I know that you touched on this topic of loving  yourself, and it’s, I think, part of the reason why you initially went  on The Bachelor. Is that right?  

Sarah: Yeah. So … Yeah. Okay, let’s go back. I think I was 25-years-old, and,  as I mentioned earlier, this was the pit of me feeling sorry for  myself and me being in this slump of my life, where I just felt like I  was unlovable and I was … no one was ever gonna accept me, and I  couldn’t fit in and I had no where to belong. And as I said, I just felt  bad for myself, and I was not putting myself out there to meet  people, to date, at the same time I was really sad about that. And  so, I knew I needed to change something, and I knew before  anyone else could possibly love me I needed to love myself.  

 And that’s when I put into … just a series of personal challenges, to  get outside of my comfort zone and start doing the things that  made me love me and made me appreciate the time that I spent  with myself. I knew the more and more I got involved in some of  

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those activities and practices, it would draw love in and it would  draw in the types of relationships and experiences that I wanted in  my life.  

Tanya: Oh, I love that, I … and I wanna talk about that more in just a  minute, but let me just do a quick word from our sponsor.  

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 So Sarah, I love what you said there, about you really had to push  yourself, and you gave yourself a series of exercises to stretch out  of your comfort zone, ’cause that can be really hard to do. I think  that that’s part of what’s really inspirational about you, is that you  really took this experience and you took it in, and you allowed it to  help you to grow. You didn’t just go on The Bachelor because, “Oh,  I wanna become famous,” or, “I wanna meet a guy,” or any of those  things.  

Sarah: Oh, gosh, no.  

Tanya: You took that experience and you really, I feel like, from the stories  that I’ve heard from you, is that you walked away from that  

experience feeling a little more … I don’t wanna say you felt secure  at that time, but you were more certain that there was something  better out there for you, and that you had to make that decision to  go find that and you had to find that within yourself. Is that right?  

Sarah: Yeah. I guess … When I just said, “Oh, gosh, no,” I balked at the idea  of going on the show to become famous, because at the time I  was just like, “I don’t wanna be … I actually don’t wanna be seen by  anyone, I wanna hide,” and a friend nominated me for the show. I  was a huge fan, I’ve grown up watching the show, and I’ve always  fantasized, “Oh, it’d be so cool to go on these magical dates,” and  whatever.  

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 And so, when they called me and said, “You’ve been nominated,  we’d like to bring you in for casting,” it was just too surreal. It was  like, “Oh my gosh. This is, on one side of the coin, my dream come  true. I’ve always dreamed of going on the show.” And then on the  other side of the coin, it was like, “Oh my gosh, this is the scariest  thing that I’ve ever considered doing.” And what really, I guess,  pushed me to do it was that thought, that, “Okay, if I can push  through this, if I can show up on a national television show where  people are gonna see me and I’m inevitably going to have to talk  about my story, and I’m gonna have to face my insecurities, and  I’m gonna have to own who I am, maybe I can come out on the  other side more accepting of it.”  

 And so, yeah, meeting Sean, that’s great, of course he was a … it  was a fairy tale, it’s everything that you think it would be. But for  me personally, I knew it was going to be this experience that either  brought me out of my shell, or … I guess that was the only option. I  just knew it was gonna … I knew it was what I needed to do in  order to come out of that pain and suffering.  

Tanya: Yeah. Well, I like that for most people, getting out of their comfort  zone is like, “OH, you know what? I’m gonna try this one little  thing.” You’re like, “You know what? Let’s go ahead on national  television. If I’m gonna stretch, I’m gonna really stretch.”  

Sarah: Well, I think … I know, it’s true, but I really think it needed to be on  that scale for me.  

Tanya: Wow.  

Sarah: It really needed to be something that was gonna change my life  and that there could be no going back, because I’ve really felt that  I was hiding myself from the world, and from myself, figuratively  and literally. When I would go out to the bars with friends, I would  stand at the bar with my arm hidden behind my jacket. I would  always try and hide the fact that I had one arm, I wouldn’t post  photos of me online that showed my arm, I was hiding.  

 And so, I knew I needed to show up and I needed to be seen for  myself and for others, and so that’s why, I think, the universe  answered me in this gigantic way, and they’re like, “Okay, Sarah.  You wanna be seen? We’re gonna put you on TV. You will be seen  everywhere, whether you want to be or not.”  

Tanya: Yeah. Well I think what you … You touched on this earlier, I think,  where you said growing up you didn’t see other people that  looked like you, that had the same physical limitations, or you don’t  

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see them … you didn’t see them on social media, or you didn’t see  them in TV shows or on posters, or any of those things. And what I  think is so amazing, so incredibly amazing, is that you have  

become that person for so many people.  

 Sarah and I were at an event together, and there is Sarah, speaking  on stage. She’s gorgeous, well spoken, and there are these little  girls … I … It made me … Honestly, I was crying, because for me, I  got to see these little girls who have the same type of physical  limitations that you have, they’re able to look … They were looking  at Sarah on stage, and then going up and talking to her and  hugging her, and I thought, “What an amazing moment. What an  amazing thing, a gift, that you give to other people by allowing  yourself to be seen, by sharing your story.”  

 Because I know that can be really hard, it’s easier to hide and not  be seen, but you really have gone out there and you’ve spread  your messages and been an inspiration for so many people. You’ve  pushed the boundaries, not only for yourself but also for them, of  what they think is possible, and I think that’s really the power in  what you’re doing.  

Sarah: Thank you. I know, it’s really interesting how … I think feeling  different, anyone can relate to this and understand. When you feel  different there’s a degree of shame that comes with that, because  we’re not taught, always, that differences are good, or … I mean, I  think children are being raised to understand that better today, but  it’s kind of a new concept still. And so, when you’re different, or  you don’t have peers that you can relate to or role models,  

different feels dirty.  

 And so, I feel like there was a lot of shame, for me personally,  growing up and just feeling different and feeling like there’s no one  else that looks like me. And so to be able to connect with these  little girls who have come through SheLift, and they’re eight, nine,  ten-years-old and they’re best friends now, and they see me and  they see the other older girls in SheLift, is really amazing because I  hope it’s gonna set them up to realize that their differences are  beautiful, and that they don’t feel shame around having one arm or  one leg because it’s not a bad thing. I want them to feel accepted  and seen.  

Tanya: I think that’s a beautiful thing. I know that you have a goal of  creating a space for young women with physical differences so  that they can feel comfortable and feel seen, and I think that’s such  a great goal, it’s such a strong goal. And I know you’re also an  inspiration for young women who have challenges like you’ve had.  

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So you touched there just a minute ago on your organization  SheLift, do you mind talking a little bit about that?  

Sarah: Yeah. Right after The Bachelor, I started getting so much online  support and this was … I think Instagram came out that year. So I  was actually getting a lot of handwritten letters and emails from  people all over the world who had physical differences like me, or  just feeling like for the first time they could relate to someone on  TV who was struggling with self acceptance, and for a couple  years I didn’t really know what to do about that. I was just coming  into that phase of acceptance, and I didn’t know if I was really  prepared to become a spokesperson for it, and so I was like, “Well,  that’s great, but I don’t really know what to do with this. I’m not a  role model, I don’t even … I’m still struggling.”  

 And over the course of three years, the fan mail just didn’t stop  coming, and I continued to grow and come into my self  

acceptance, and that’s when I realized, “Okay, I’m strong enough to  do this, and I’ve been given a platform to help these girls because I  needed this when I was their age.” So how can I create something  that combines recreation, which I love and had felt limited in my  whole life, with mentorship?  

 And so I started SheLift, the non-profit organization, almost three  years … no, a little over three years ago, and it’s been tremendous  ever since. We host retreats and meet ups for girls and moms of  kiddos with differences all across the world, really. We take them  skiing and rock climbing and hiking, and just get them outside and  feeling confident in their physical ability and also just the  

connection and relationships that they can build with one another.  

Tanya: It really is a beautiful thing. Sarah has a great video that shows  some of the things that she does through her organization, so I’ll  be sure to include a link to that video in my show notes. Because it  really is pretty amazing, and to see these young girls who … It’s  already a hard stage of life that you’re in when you’re in middle  school and high school. You already feel a little awkward, you’re  not sure where you fit in, there’s a lot of confusion, and then  adding in a physical limitation to that, that really can be  

debilitating I would imagine.  

 So to have these girls see other girls that look like them and have  the same obstacles, and are overcoming those obstacles together,  I think is … it’s such a great mission.  

Sarah: Yeah.  

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Tanya: And continuing this mission through some of the courses you’re  offering, ’cause you have a course on confidence, so I’d love for  you to share a little bit about that.  

Sarah: Yeah. So meanwhile, as I’m running SheLift 

Tanya: In your spare time, right?  

Sarah: Yeah. Well, no, I actually … So I quit my full time career to fully  devote myself to SheLift for two-and-a-half years. And meanwhile,  I was getting all of this support and outreach for women who were  able bodied and were curious if there was an opportunity or an  extension of SheLift for them to participate in, and that’s when I  realized, “Wait a second, this conversation is so much bigger.” It’s  not just girls with physical differences, its girls with trauma or body  image issues or mental health issues that are seeking the same  type of support, and everyone just wants to be seen and heard.  

 So I decided to start a new series of workshops, and they’re called  A Course in Confidence, and it’s a monthly workshop that I host in  different cities, and I’m also really excited to be announcing  

retreats that go along with the same curriculum. So Yeah. The  workshop is a one-day class, and it’s a very deep dive, group  setting, where we tackle our insecurities and those self limiting  beliefs that I was talking about. And then we learn how to change  to mindset, we learn how to turn our self limiting belief into a self  affirming belie, and we support the entire day-long workshop with  a body positive photo shoot at the end. The photo shoot is  

designed to help show the women how beautiful I know them to  be, how beautiful other women know them to be, and to give them  that platform and that opportunity to be seen and to feel beautiful  and hopefully wanna share those photos of them in full self  

acceptance.  

 So as I said, the course goes to a different city every month, and  I’m gonna be doing some retreat versions of them that are a little  bit more intensive and they’re international destinations. So we  have Tulum, Sayulita, Mexico, and even Bali, on the calendar, so I’m  really excited. The workshops are also coming to Chicago and New  York City, I just released tickets for those. So everyone can learn  more about that at SarahHerron.com.  

 It’s just an awesome way to … If you just need a kickstart in  confidence, it’s the best investment you can make in yourself.  

Tanya: Nice. And of course, I’ll have the link to that also in my show notes,  so if you’re interested in finding out more information on that, I will  

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definitely have that in my show notes. Because really, Sarah is such  an inspiration, as you said, not just to people with physical  

limitations, but able bodied people as well. We all could work a  little bit more on our confidence and our self esteem. I think that’s  what I love about this season, calling it New Year True You and  really helping listeners find their true selves.  

 So before we close out, I wanna ask you, do you have any advice  on how listeners can find their true self?  

Sarah: Yeah, and this is something I’m doing for myself right now, so I’m  glad you asked this because I think we can always use a reminder.  Even if I’m the person teaching a course in confidence, or I’m the  person joining your podcast right now, doesn’t mean that I always  have it figured out myself. And so, right now what I’m working on  is really aligning with the values that make me me and owning  those unapologetically, and then also identifying the ways that I  want to feel. Because I think a lot of times we feel selfish or greedy  if we outright say, “I want to feel loved, and I wanna feel beautiful,”  because no one wants to just come out and say, “I wanna feel  beautiful.” It could be seen as selfish or vain.  

 I think that there’s magic in owning the way you actually want to  feel, and being open to the opportunities and experiences that  come into your life when you fully accept that. And so I think it’s  just about … I say it over and over, but just being unapologetically  authentic, just say what you want, and as soon as you can put that  out there, how you truly wanna be and feel and be seen in this  world, it’s going to find you.  

 So I guess that would be my advice, is just own the way you feel.  Yeah.  

Tanya: I love that, unapologetically, ’cause I think … And we touched about  … on this a little bit in the podcast, but we do way too much  apologizing, right?  

Sarah: Yeah.  

Tanya: And so I love that, I think that is great advice.  

 Sarah, thank you so much for being on the show. I really appreciate  you coming and sharing your story, and inspiring my listeners.  

Sarah: Thank you for having me, Tanya. It’s always so great to chat with  you, and I am so grateful for the opportunity.  

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Sarah: I know.  

Tanya: It’s so fun for us to do this on the podcast. Yay!  

Sarah: I know, definitely.  

Tanya: Isn’t Sarah’s story inspiring? I think hearing everything that she’s  overcome and everything that she’s continuing to build today truly  encourages me personally to be my best self, to be my true self, so  I hope that today’s episode really encouraged you as well.  

 And next week is our final episode of this season of New Year True  You, we are going to be talking about how to ask for what you  really want, so be sure to tune in for that. In the meantime, I would  love to see you in my Facebook group, it’s a private community full  of women just like you who want to live more productive lives. Just  go to inkWELLpress.com/group to get details on how to join.  

 All right, until next time, have a beautiful and productive week.  

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