A Place to be Cherished. Being in your confidence feels lonely at times. I mentioned before how Powerful Women run the risk of being paraded through the media and picked apart. That feels pretty terrifying. Having support in speaking your truth makes it much more attainable. Sure, there is the certainty of having your own back and being there for yourself and all that, but we are wired for being part of the pack.
How does a successful, strong, and powerful woman navigate work, employee relationships, love, and life in a world that still feels uncomfortable with strong women? In this interview series, called “Power Women” we are talking to accomplished women leaders who share their stories and experiences navigating work, love and life as a powerful woman.
As a part of this series I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Allison Krawiec-Thayer.
Allison Krawiec-Thayer is a spiritually-minded human sunbeam turned certified energy leadership coach. She helps empathic leaders find their backbone in business by healing their self-sabotage, reclaiming their wild, and unlocking their innate magic. She is Midwestern-bred, San Francisco-loving, and Denver-based with her spouse and their 2 rescue dogs.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood “backstory”?
Sure thing! I have always had a certain… what some may call “extraness”? According to my mom (who was there, so I believe her), I was the baby the doctor had to make cry so they could tell if I was breathing because I was just looking around the room at everyone and smiling.
I started speaking in full sentences by the time I was 1 year old and always had a streak of confidence. My older brother was much shyer, and I very happily stepped in as spokesperson for the Krawiec children.
In contrast to my extroversion, I was a very sensitive child; frequently running across the hall to my parents’ room in the middle of the night with deep emotional questions. I remember one such night, during a particularly brutal midwestern thunderstorm, having a long conversation with my mom about what homeless people and animals do during when it’s downpouring.
Once alone with my thoughts at bedtime, I panicked. I decided very early on that as long as I didn’t feel any weirdness with myself when I laid down for bed, then life would be pretty good. That was it. Probably 9 years old. Key to life? Be in alignment by bedtime. Done and dusted.
Then, like most children socialized as girls, around 10 years old I started hearing the narrative that something was wrong with me. My wild childhood confidence felt like too much. I was too talkative. Boys wouldn’t like me. I needed to be cooler. I was too weird, too loud, too wrong.
So, naturally this internal discomfort of needing to feel at peace with myself, while also feeling like I needed to change everything about me, led to some sleepless nights. I wasn’t consciously making the decision to “become” a people-pleaser… but it was definitely born in me then. I learned to deny my needs to keep others happy. I figured out how to ignore conflict by making people laugh. I learned to make myself earn things. I learned how to present the perfect image to the whole world.
This manifested as being a great student who was super involved in extracurriculars and church. It also looked like eventually getting on medication for anxiety after a series of panic attacks in high school.
My entire life has been remembering who I was as a child, who I am in that purest, truest state. Before the world cloaked its limiting beliefs on me. Before I learned how to act. Who am I directly from the Divine?
Can you tell us the story about what led you to this particular career path?
As I mentioned above, I had the core belief early on that as long as I was at peace with myself, I was on the right path. This, plus my late-night paranoia and run-ins with mental health, left me incredibly interested in psychology. I attended a pretty idyllic liberal arts college in the midwest which allowed me to focus my studies with a minor in conflict transformation.
Still entirely uninterested in ever getting anywhere near conflict with another person, I chose to focus even deeper on self-conflict and self-alignment. Not wanting further schooling to go clinical or research (the only two options I saw at the time), I volunteered for awhile, and eventually found my way into the pearls and high heels of a corporate 9–5. I spent a few years there as a receptionist and administrative assistant and felt my soul slowly leaving my body as I melted into spreadsheets and weekly stand-ups.
Then, as a bittersweet turn of events occurring in a barely 4-week span between June and July of 2016, my father passed away at 56 years old, life coaching came into my life, I fell in love with a program, found out I couldn’t afford it, received money from my father’s passing, paid for the program in full, and attended my first weekend of certification training.
As soon as coaching came into my world, it was blessed. It is both who I have always been as the sunshine-y cheerleader and the late-night emotionally-minded questioner.
After graduating from coach training school, I was like a fish out of water though. My spouse and I had just up-rooted from a beautiful community in Madison, WI to the middle of downtown San Francisco where we knew not a single soul. This move gave me a natural end date for my time with the corporate world. So, as we settled into our SoMa highrise, I settled into being a full-time entrepreneur.
Like so many people (especially those around me at the time in Silicon Valley), I dove headfirst into strategy. Teach me how to write emails and make a funnel. Help me convert after events with this evergreen freebie/lead magnet strategy. I was a B-Schooler (shouts out to Marie Forleo) and I wanted a coach to tell me the exact order to do things in.
After trying these techniques and never following through or seeing the success that was promised, I found myself wondering if I was actually cut out for this. Maybe I was wrong about my life’s purpose. Maybe it wasn’t blessed…
Long story short, my mental health acted up again (as she does when I need to back up and remember who I am). This time it was enough of a tizzy that I checked into in-patient mental health care and started a gradual journey of finally getting comfortable being alone with myself and my thoughts.
This made me realize 1. Starting a business and standing for something is no freaking joke and 2. I didn’t want anybody to feel as alone and hopeless as I did in the mindset work.
So, now my work with PoppyLead focuses on helping empathic leaders who are hiding their magic from the world because they are scared about what happens when they believe in themselves and impact the world the way they’re meant to. Showing up for people in that fear, and bringing some of my trademark joy, is truly my life’s purpose manifested.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
The most interesting thing looking back is gradually shifting through phases of being a new entrepreneur. I did a lot of virtual networking in 2020 (attending well over a hundred events) and looking back can notice a real change in myself. Initially (like many new entrepreneurs), I was hesitant to really state what I did. I used a lot of random buzzwords and didn’t have a clear direction.
As I attended events though, in introducing myself to the room, I found my flow. I noticed what landed with people and what didn’t; when I lost them and when I had them raising their hands saying, “that’s me!”. I started to see myself as that entrepreneur. My whole self-image shifted to seeing myself not as a newbie, but instead as a really powerful coach who knew a thing or two. And then the wildest thing is, I would see new people come in and introduce themselves exactly like I had when I started. So, even though I can’t tie it to a direct day, the growth over time is clearly there.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
- The certainty I feel because of my spiritual practice. I struggled to find my footing as a new entrepreneur because I didn’t believe in myself. I didn’t envision myself as a multi-6/7-figure-business owner yet. I didn’t make decisions from that place. I allowed self-doubt and perfectionism to creep in. I let people-pleasing and conflict-avoiding keep me from making offers or talking about my business.
Once I connected to my business in a deeper way, once I saw it as a way to heal and help those around me, once I noticed the Divine gifts and experiences I was given… I couldn’t hold back.
There is a vein of confidence that flows through me, especially in my self-image as an entrepreneur. I don’t get derailed by the imposter syndrome and fears of before. I believe in my purpose, and I believe that I’m the one to make it happen.
- My self-trust and figure-it-out-iveness. I spoke of my certainty above, and along with that comes a trust that if something challenging crosses my path, I will figure it out. I trust in my ability to find resources (friends, family, articles, coaches) and not abandon myself in the hardship. Early on it was easy for me to get thrown off if something didn’t go to plan. I gave up easily and took it as evidence that I wasn’t cut out for this path. Then, as my self-image healed, I began to see my capabilities. I remembered how clever I was as a kid. I remembered my confidence and desire to make my voice heard. I started remembering who I am and why I’m here. I now celebrate being well-resourced and asking for support when necessary,
- My curiosity and intention with energy. I am also incredibly curious and very intentional about energy in the world. Part of what my clients celebrate about me as a coach is that I ask the questions they don’t think to. I ask them about their feelings and why they believe what they do. When someone is talking, I listen to their story, but also to the energy with which they are saying it. In group settings, I am very attuned to who is talking and how much. I feel the energies of everyone very deeply. I used to believe this was a bad thing. The world says that “emotions and feelings aren’t meant for the business world”. I’m “too sensitive” and “too touchy feely”. In my experience though, showing up fully, being curious and asking uncomfortable questions, thinking about the energy and how everyone is feeling, have all benefited me and are definitely involved in my success.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. The premise of this series assumes that our society still feels uncomfortable with strong women. Why do you think this is so?
It is impossible to begin this conversation without first acknowledging the larger society we all exist in. This society is driven by colonialism, white supremacy, male supremacy, and privilege connected to religion, appearance, education, class, ability, region of origin, family structure, gender identity, sexual orientation, housing status, and countless other tools of division we use. Somewhere along the way humans got hooked on comparison. This has now led to a society structure that reinforces these ideas over time. Little comments and representations here and there become the way we view each other and the lifestyle we reinforce for each other.
Speaking from the perspective of a girl who was raised in the midwestern United States in the 1990s and 2000s, I received a lot of messages from the media, society, and my peers about what was wrong with me. I had certain privileges, but others I did not, and that made me less than. This completely shattered a lot of my childhood confidence and I began the 15+ year process of tucking my tail between my legs and toning it down. Over time my self-image suffered and I began to forget my worthiness.
There were times with close friends and family that I could let my goofiness out, but I learned to have a polished public appearance. Being an attractive, reserved, docile, straight, Christian woman supports the structure I mentioned before, so I’m guessing I’m not the only one who relates to the feeling of having their wings clipped to fit the boxes.
When women step outside of this they are publicly paraded through the media and demonized. Powerful Women are caricatured and picked apart. They are shamed back into hiding. (One look at the #MeToo movement tells us that there are more unshared stories than we know.)
I also don’t think we know the half of how powerful women are because a Powerful Woman isn’t convenient to the powers-that-be. So, starting from childhood, girls are stripped of their magic to reinforce this.
Without saying any names, can you share a story from your own experience that illustrates this idea?
Actually just recently something pretty gross happened in my life that I guarantee isn’t happening to my white-male-presenting spouse who is also an entrepreneur.
I am a confident business woman who puts herself out to the world. My corner of entrepreneurship loves Instagram, so I post there pretty unabashedly. I post joyful images of my face and body and share who I am.
The other day I opened the app and was excited to see a ton of new likes, comments, and messages. Then I started reading them. It was all from this one guy and the comments were vulgar and disgusting. A picture of me kicking my leg up suddenly became the jumping off point for a story in my messages that I wasn’t about to read.
To me this said: “You are a woman. You are here for my enjoyment. Be grateful for this attention.” And that makes me want to simultaneously throw up and punch something. My sovereignty and personhood are not even a consideration to this person.
I reported them, deleted their nastiness, and went about my day. However, I’d be lying if I said this didn’t bother me or make me question all sorts of things as a Powerful Woman putting herself out to the world. So, yeah… I suppose that’s something I deal with.
What should a powerful woman do in a context where she feels that people are uneasy around her?
This is where I tap into who I truly am. Admittedly, I take a fairly dissociated view of myself from time to time, often seeing my Highest Self and my ego self. If I feel I am making someone uncomfortable, my ego self wants to have a field day and squeeze into people-pleasing. (You know what I’m talking about, the “Nevermind! I didn’t mean that! You’re right!” complacency). However, my Highest Self is able to see with much more perspective.
The main thing I ask myself is, “did this person ask to be triggered?” If they are a client of mine who has asked me to hold their Highest Vision, well… that might come with some discomfort. As a coach, it is literally my job to hold that uncomfortable space for their growth and transformation.
However, if this person is made uncomfortable by my presence, and didn’t enter the situation looking to be challenged, my Highest Self realizes it’s not a good idea to keep prodding. I don’t have to give into people-pleasing, but I also don’t have to defensively prove my point to stoke my own ego. I can excuse myself, change the subject, or follow their lead.
But what about when someone isn’t asking to be triggered, but the point needs to be made (i.e. experiences of denouncing the oppressive systems mentioned before)? This is where I once again come from my Highest Self. How can I explain in a way that truly comes from wanting to educate and ultimately spread light in the world, instead of the competitive headspace of “you’re wrong and I hate you.”
It is not a Powerful Woman’s job to keep others around her happy and at ease. Remember that everyone is on their own journey and it is in no way your responsibility to perform for them.
What do we need to do as a society to change the unease around powerful women?
I spoke earlier about the systemic level issues, and honestly I believe that is the only solution. Until mainstream media stops criticizing women differently, until there is equal pay and representation, until clever little girls are celebrated, we will find ourselves stuck here.
More leadership opportunities for youth who don’t fit the look you’d expect. More unexpected voices and perspectives in the conversation. More awareness of and space for energy in situations.
We need to stop dampening the spark of little kids. No more boxes and narratives. No more expectations except that you do your best. If Power is seen as something to celebrate instead of hide, then perhaps more people would come forth to share their gifts.
The next time you see a woman dressed confidently and feeling herself, don’t cut her down or gawk at her attire. The next time a woman speaks up in a meeting and the water cooler talk turns sour, challenge the narrative that a woman sharing her opinion deserves to be criticized.
Just recently, Larry Elder was given national attention as an acceptable person to be the Governor of California… even though he frequently says horrendous things about women. We must see statements like his (and so many other men who run around unchecked while messing with public opinion) as so disgusting that they completely discredit this person from leadership positions.
We can’t turn a blind eye to letting this be the narrative about women while passively hoping things change.
In my own experience, I have observed that often women have to endure ridiculous or uncomfortable situations to achieve success that men don’t have to endure. Do you have a story like this from your own experience? Can you share it with us?
My clearest memories of this happening took place in undergrad when I was a third-shift waitress at IHOP on the weekends. I knew a few guys who were servers and they confirmed that this wasn’t even something that crossed their minds.
I kept a nice looking ring in my back pocket to slip on in case a guest got too pushy about wanting to take me out. I would make up this volunteer firefighter fiance because “I’m not interested” wasn’t good enough. The worst part of all of this is that this was my work place. That means I had to maintain good spirits, keep up with other tables, and fend off creepy incessant dudes who I need to be nice to 1. so I didn’t lose my job and 2. because they now know where and when I work.
So, yeah… again, something I suppose I dealt with.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women leaders that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
The double-edged sword of scrutiny. I spoke earlier about Larry Elder. One of his major causes is discriminating against people who wish to have babies, even commenting in his book that choosing to have children means you aren’t dedicated to your work. Women are faced with a double-edged sword here though, because it’s also “a woman’s duty” to bear children. If you don’t want to be a mother you are some kind of selfish monster. There is a real “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation going on that doesn’t seem as present for the men in my life.
Also, the Zuckerberg-esque fashion sense of Boy Kings making millions of dollars while wearing sweatpants and graphic tees doesn’t feel quite as accessible to me as a woman who was once required to wear high heels for work. I can’t help but wonder how a system that condones controlling women’s attire eventually finds its way to non-male founded companies receiving far less VC-funding… but that’s a whole other conversation!
Let’s now shift our discussion to a slightly different direction. This is a question that nearly everyone with a job has to contend with. Was it difficult to fit your personal and family life into your business and career? For the benefit of our readers, can you articulate precisely what the struggle was?
As an entrepreneur working from home for the first time, there were definitely some lessons to learn! The largest of course being time management. During my early days I was the social media manager, accountant, copywriter, strategic planner, coach running sessions, among other things for my newly-born business, so it was easy to let my “wife” and “daughter” selves suffer from time to time.
I often found myself putting pressure on my “working hours” and not getting anything done, and then finally being inspired to work into the evenings during “family hours.” I also didn’t have a clear idea of what activities in my business were actually necessary but “being busy” felt good, so I kept it up.
Now, I think of myself as a Well-Boundaried Woman. I am very intentional with my daily schedule and feel like finding balance has been much easier. I’ve also tuned into my own rhythms and flows. For example, I need Mondays to get back into it, so I don’t take calls till Tuesday. I don’t give clients my personal cell phone number to text me. When I unplug, I unplug.
What was a tipping point that helped you achieve a greater balance or greater equilibrium between your work life and personal life? What did you do to reach this equilibrium?
Early 2020, I started noticing myself not having fun anymore. I felt the “I didn’t think it’d be like this” kind of thoughts creeping in. I felt disconnected from my business and I had to do something about it.
At that point, I was still consulting for a training center in the Bay Area and splitting my attention between two growing companies got to be too much.
On the outside it was great. I was working from home, largely creating my own role, I had a huge budget, and creative freedom….but I had deep time scarcity. I always had one foot in something else mentally.
I remember trying to write content for my audience about living this fulfilled and joyful life, while holding all this frustration inside. It didn’t work any more.
I stepped away from the consulting gig and went full time into my own business and never looked back.
I work in the beauty tech industry, so I am very interested to hear your philosophy or perspective about beauty. In your role as a powerful woman and leader, how much of an emphasis do you place on your appearance? Do you see beauty as something that is superficial, or is it something that has inherent value for a leader in a public context? Can you explain what you mean?
This is a fascinating question. I recall Glennon Doyle sharing this story about Alicia Keys in Untamed. Apparently Alicia once said that she doesn’t wear make-up. Then this time while she was getting ready, she put on lipstick and Adam Levine said, “what happened to ‘Alicia Keys doesn’t wear make-up’.” The story goes that she replies: “I do whatever the f — — I want.” That is the energy I carry when it comes to beauty for the Powerful Woman.
Although, I’ll be the first to admit that I do work with a stylist for photoshoots and even invested in her group program to learn how to dress as a business leader. So, I think appearance is unfortunately extremely important for leaders in the public eye. And, since I’ve mentioned that good old tendency to scrutinize the Powerful Woman, her appearance has to be way more strategic than you probably realize.
I do love using my personal style to make a statement and start a conversation, so I wouldn’t say I think it’s superficial. However, I wish it didn’t matter from a success perspective. But, since we’re all living in the systems I shared at the beginning of this interview, appearance happens to be one of the first tools we grab when it comes to drawing conclusions about each other.
How is this similar or different for men?
I believe that men benefit from similar privileges here. The athletic, handsome, able-bodied, well-dressed business man receives immediate respect that his colleagues who don’t fit this bill might not get.
However, I believe there is a lot more room for men to be who they are. Steve Jobs was praised for the “innovation” of his simplistic black turtleneck, yet when Elizabeth Holmes mimics the style, it is called “severe.” Regardless of how you feel about her, there is clearly a difference in the message despite it literally being the same article of clothing.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your opinion and experience, what are the “Five Things You Need To Thrive and Succeed as a Powerful Woman?” (Please share a story or example for each.)
- A Confident Backbone. I spoke before about how little girls are stripped of their power and made to fit into the boxes society requires. Turns out a backbone can’t really grow in a box. When my spouse and I packed up and moved from Madison, WI to San Francisco in 2018 I had no idea what I was doing starting a business. I’d gotten certified as a coach, but I didn’t have the first clue how to make money. At this time, I let everything throw me off. I lacked clarity and certainty. I felt like the classic “three kids in a trenchcoat” trying to play “business”. It wasn’t till I figured out how my business connected to my purpose, and why I was the exact person to make this all happen, that I started remembering what that backbone level confidence feels like. Now, I am able to write and share my Truths with the world because at the core, I literally have my own back. I believe in myself, and recognize that other people’s reactions are information I can take in, but don’t have to stop everything for. Without a confident backbone, people will walk all over your niceness. When that backbone is in place, you teach them that you won’t stand to be a doormat.
- Connection to Divine and intuition. The reason I am so confident in my life is because I am capital-C Certain that I am on the right path. I realize that this business goes beyond me in this lifetime and feel supported in showing up for that. I meditate and pray, and I have a beautifully holistic connection with God and the Divine. To get biblical for a second, “no weapon formed against me shall prosper.” I take this to mean that I am more supported than I know. I don’t believe God creates extra people or “secondary characters.” We are each created to star in the saga of our lives. When we connect to the Divine and receive the direction for us, we are waking up to our purpose. Without connection to Divine and your intuition, life may feel lonely and directionless. Through this connection though, you open yourself up to more support than you can even comprehend.
- Backbone-Level Boundaries. When I first started getting clients in my business, some of my good old people-pleasing tendencies showed up. I’d be on a discovery call with someone and they’d hesitate. Immediately I’d drop the price or change up the program. Or, I’d have friends reach out to me with referrals (except they only kind of knew what I did) so these people were never the right fit but I’d still do a bunch of free coaching with them anyway. When I did end up signing a few clients, I’d often find myself being available all the time and feeling the need to do more for them. I was always texting them, making extra workbooks, recording extra meditations, going above and beyond. Customer service is a slippery slope for heart-centered leaders with people-pleasing proclivities. Now, I exist as, and teach my clients to be, Well-Boundaried Business Women. Boundaries teach people how to treat you, which in turn amplifies your self-image, which then reinforces the boundaries, which reinforce the self-image… So you see, without backbone-level boundaries, you find yourself over-extending to keep everyone happy. You might wake up one day and find yourself far from what you were expecting. By having boundaries, you stand up for yourself and what you want from life.
- A Place to be Cherished. Being in your confidence feels lonely at times. I mentioned before how Powerful Women run the risk of being paraded through the media and picked apart. That feels pretty terrifying. Having support in speaking your truth makes it much more attainable. Sure, there is the certainty of having your own back and being there for yourself and all that, but we are wired for being part of the pack. Stepping into my Power directly related to who I surrounded myself with. I noticed where I was being challenged, where I was being silenced, where I was being pacified. I followed the discomfort because along with it came a community where I could be myself fully. These people (my business friends, my family, the masterminds I am in, the communities with which I associate) all celebrate me. The world outside this group of people may have all sorts of things to say about me, but I feel cherished within my community. Without this space in my life, I would easily slip back into my disempowered, tail-tucked self. By having this place to be cherished, and these people to pick me up, dust me off, and remind me of my greatness and literal destiny, I can be the powerful wild woman I came here to be.
- A Wildish Streak. I love punchy things. Bold hair colors, unexpected flavors, clashing patterns that somehow go together. I believe a Powerful Woman embodies this punch. She surprises you and makes you feel something. I was milling about a conference hall a few years ago in the Bay Area. I’d just finished speaking at a women’s conference about the mindset aspects of self-defense, when I was approached by an older Filipino woman who took my hands in her own. Looking me in the eye, she said, barely louder than a whisper: “Your confidence gives me permission to be braver.” Her Wild heard the call of mine from the stage. As I shared my story of taking up space in the world, and her right to defend herself, something in her stirred. This is a gift of the Powerful Woman. Within her there is the power to remind you who you are. Sure, you can float through life unaware, ignoring the everyday miracles around you… or you can breathe, connect, and remember. Without this wildish streak, you are disconnected and cut off from your wisdom. When it rips through you though, you have this insatiability for spreading light in the world. You are magnetic and people want to know more and follow along.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
I have to admit, one of my favorite “unplugging” activities is watching competitive cooking tv shows. Naturally, I am a huge fan of Guy Fieri (and actually worked at a Triple D joint in undergrad). Most of all, I admire his massively philanthropic heart to support those in the food service industry. He just seems like such a genuine and happy person. Connecting to Guy Fieri to offer some kind of confidence coaching for folks opening restaurants? Dare I say *chef’s kiss*?
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.