Everyone has an opinion and you can’t please everyone! This always makes me think of the forward-thinking inventors ridiculed by their peers and thought to be crazy! When faced with harsh criticism and doubt, innovators like Henry Ford, the Wright Brothers, Thomas Edison, and even Elon Musk reaffirmed their WHY and kept pressing on. Teaching this lesson to my daughter brings me hope that she will journey through life unburdened by others’ expectations and wishes, including my own.
Many successful people reinvented themselves in a later period in their life. Jeff Bezos worked in Wall Street before he reinvented himself and started Amazon. Sara Blakely sold office supplies before she started Spanx. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was a WWE wrestler before he became a successful actor and filmmaker. Arnold Schwarzenegger went from a bodybuilder, to an actor to a Governor. McDonald’s founder Ray Croc was a milkshake-device salesman before starting the McDonalds franchise in his 50’s.
How does one reinvent themselves? What hurdles have to be overcome to take life in a new direction? How do you overcome those challenges? How do you ignore the naysayers? How do you push through the paralyzing fear?
In this series called “Second Chapters; How I Reinvented Myself In The Second Chapter Of My Life “ we are interviewing successful people who reinvented themselves in a second chapter in life, to share their story and help empower others.
As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Annie Henderson.
Annie M Henderson is a Certified Professional Life Coach specializing as a Coming Out Coach for the LGBTQIA community and helps people-pleasers that avoid conflict, over apologize, and struggle to say no, start living authentically and find the peace they have been missing.
After going from an unfulfilled existence checking all the boxes of perceived “success,” to breaking into an intentional, abundant life, she now uses her experiences and professional background as a teacher, counselor, and life coach, to teach and mentor others. In working with her diverse clientele to discover unapologetic joy, including the LGBTQIA community and people-pleasers, her teachings focus on releasing self-doubt, embracing the power in setting boundaries, and removing the habit of staying in our comfort zones.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I grew up in a smaller town in north Texas. I was the youngest of three and had two older brothers. My brother, Brent and I were close in age, so we played on the same soccer team for years. I’m not sure how he felt about it, but I loved it! Back in the 80s, there weren’t a lot of girls’ teams in my small town, so I ended up playing co-ed sports, which pretty much meant me and sometimes one other girl on a team of boys. I was the pitcher on my All-Star Little League team, played soccer, basketball, and volleyball and loved it all!
At some point, I started to lose my confidence and like many young women, began to people-please, putting others’ wishes and opinions above my own. This impeded me really getting to know myself. This behavior continued into middle and high school and shaped the way I dated — saying ‘yes’ to almost any boy that asked me out. Eventually, I put my dreams of going away to college aside, enrolled in a wonderful local college, and married at the age of 19. Wow is right.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“A ship in harbor is safe — but that is not what ships are built for.” — John A. Shedd.
Fear is the number one response I get from clients when asked about what holds them back, and the same was true for me. Fear is our brain’s natural response to going outside of our comfort zone. We must realize that just because a fear response has triggered, it doesn’t mean it is the best thing to react to. If I‘d remained stagnant due to fear, the course of my life would be different! I wouldn’t be in a position to help people daily. I would have modeled people-pleasing year after year, potentially setting a poor example for my daughter.
You have been blessed with much success. In your opinion, what are the top three qualities that you possess that have helped you accomplish so much? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
- Patience has helped me in so many ways. Whether in parenting, teaching, being a counselor, a coach, or anything that comes my way, patience has consistently helped me remain calm and react appropriately in various situations.
- Growth mindset has been crucial in my evolution. I recall my past obsession with continually asking friends and family for feedback, positive and negative. The difference I’ve made along the way is that I used to ignore the positive and use the constructive feedback as proof of what was wrong with me. Since then, I’ve shifted to using all the input and always asking myself how to grow. I don’t take it personally and simply view feedback as guidance from people who might be noticing areas that could use improvement. Knowing that as I accept this feedback, I can use it to be a better mom, partner, and life coach makes it so much easier to hear.
- Courage is all about feeling the fear and taking that next step, no matter how small. One of my wonderful coworkers gave me a special rock with the word “COURAGE” written on it when I left my job as a school counselor. That courage probably looked a little crazy and nonsensical to most people, but she could see something that most didn’t. There was a purpose and mission behind my madness, and I’m so glad I took that leap of faith. As much as I loved that career, surrounded by beloved colleagues and helping children, I couldn’t have stayed there along with accomplishing my life’s purpose.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about ‘Second Chapters’. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before your Second Chapter?
Before my second chapter, I taught first-grade at a title one school. I just received my first master’s degree in elementary education and adored working with kids. Children can teach us so much if we just let them. At this point in my life, I was still a full-time people-pleaser, married, and ended up being a first-grade teacher for over a decade.
And how did you “reinvent yourself” in your Second Chapter?
Reinventing myself came as more of an awakening. Pre-second chapter, I was content with being a follower, hiding in my corner. I’d checked all the boxes and achieved all the things I thought I should. Then, something shifted in me — I was ready to live authentically and start living up to my full potential. I finally came out of the closet and divorced my husband of seven years -which was not on the checklist. It was amazing to finally choose myself first! However, my mistake in this was assuming that these few actions would magically change everything.
Can you tell us about the specific trigger that made you decide that you were going to “take the plunge” and make your huge transition?
I remember thinking of my daughter and pondering what most moms do when it comes to divorce and happiness: “Maybe I can just wait until she graduates. I’ve been married for seven years. I’m sure I can tough it out.”
Then I realized that divorce wasn’t a selfish act. If I wanted to be a strong role model for my daughter, I could not put my happiness and worth on hold for two decades. My ex also deserved someone that loved him completely. I knew we all had a chance to be truly happy if I could take this step out of my comfort zone and confront my fears.
What did you do to discover that you had a new skill set inside of you that you haven’t been maximizing? How did you find that and how did you ultimately overcome the barriers to help manifest those powers?
This might be the most significant part of my transformation for my former bosses and fellow school teachers! As they know well, I’d avoid being on school announcements or speaking to large groups. I’d successfully convinced myself that I was timid and suffered from some social anxiety. I’d work myself up to physical illness just preparing to speak in front of a room full of parents. I can recall being in an online group where the challenge was to make a daily video to share. The quote “feel the fear and do it anyway” comes to mind and rings true in this situation. Was it uncomfortable? Yes! Did I receive feedback? Of course, that’s how we grow. Did I get better and develop a skill set that has allowed me to help and reach tens of thousands? Most definitely!
How are things going with this new initiative? We would love to hear some specific examples or stories.
My new initiative has taken me to heights that I could have never imagined. I’ve had the opportunity to reach countless people, many of which I credit to the power of social media.
TikTok is a perfect example of a fantastic platform where you can connect with people all over the world. In using TikTok and being vulnerable in sharing my story and truth, women of all walks of life have resonated and reached out for coaching. These women feel heard and share in the comfort that I was once in their shoes. This creates a foundation to start our coaching relationship without the stigma or fear of judgment that often comes when seeking help. I’ve been able to support and guide women who have been people-pleasing for decades, successfully implement tools to build confidence and feel empowered in just a few months’ work. In time, these women begin showing up differently in all their roles: moms, spouses, and employees. It’s such a beautiful thing when you can focus on a single area of your life, and the ripple effects positively impact your whole life.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
It’s tough to single out one person, but I’m going to have to go with my significant other, Sam. Sam met the shy version of myself about 10 years ago. At the time, I was still teaching first-grade and just graduating to a “recovering” people-pleaser. Sam has been incredibly supportive as I raised my 4-year-old, now 14, finished my graduate degrees in counseling, and became a school counselor. Sam was steadfast when I quit it all to follow my passion for helping others differently. Her love and support have made every step of this adventure easier, and she continues to encourage me in every way.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
The most interesting and memorable part of my journey was when I accepted the ask to be a gestational carrier for my brother’s family. This was within the first month that Sam and I met! Ha! The first year of our relationship involved me being pregnant with someone else’s twins. Talk about a great time in both of our lives to truly practice our communication skills, patience, and continue on my path to being a recovering people-pleaser!
Did you ever struggle with believing in yourself? If so, how did you overcome that limiting belief about yourself? Can you share a story or example?
Believing in oneself is something I genuinely think we all struggle with at times. In my late teens and 20s, I constantly struggled to believe in myself and this limiting belief kept me stuck playing small for years. Ironically, even now, the moments when I grapple with this most are after I’ve worked meticulously toward a goal. For example, my imposter syndrome will kick in after successfully helping new clients reach untapped levels of peace and confidence. It’s natural to experience some degree of imposter syndrome when trying something new, but it should never overshadow your successes. A tool I use myself and suggest to clients during times of doubt, fear, and ruminating thoughts is EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique), often called tapping. It’s a holistic way to calm your nervous system, create new pathways in your brain, and release some of the trapped thoughts and emotions in your body. The EFT technique is a powerful way to quickly address some of these doubts that will pop up on occasion.
In my own work, I usually encourage my clients to ask for support before they embark on something new. How did you create your support system before you moved to your new chapter?
In the initial steps of my coming out, I sought out people I knew would be supportive and love me without their fears taking over. At the time, at least in my head, my brother and my aunt Jackie, who is also a counselor, were my support team. Their encouragement and unconditional love motivated me to share with my closest friends and coworkers. What I learned along the way was that there were many more in my corner than I had realized. Now I can acknowledge people’s support and love within my close circle and beyond. I am truly blessed. Coming out is a process and a support system is crucial! This is one reason why, alongside one of my AMAZING pastors, Abbey Echols, we created a worldwide Facebook group for LGBTQ+ and Allies. It’s saved lives, brought families back together, and helped people deepen their relationship with God and themselves.
Starting a new chapter usually means getting out of your comfort zone, how did you do that? Can you share a story or example of that?
As someone who once evaded public speaking and on-camera situations to the person I am today — a self-assured woman who finds delight in the spotlight, getting to a place where I embrace my faith and sexuality. Getting on camera and talking to friends and strangers alike was an enormous leap out of my comfort zone. This is where the importance of self-talk comes in. Previously, my self-talk was brutal. I would focus on why I couldn’t do something and would dedicate my brainpower to developing ways to avoid attention. I remember my principal letting me know I was nominated as teacher of the year but was only doing so to give me the opportunity to opt-out. I thanked him and immediately removed myself from the list! Talk about self-limiting thoughts and actions. Today, when fear and doubt start to pop up, I remind myself that what I am doing is for me first, not others. My goal is to impact generations and create a ripple effect and I can’t do that while hiding and playing safe.
Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
- Everyone has an opinion and you can’t please everyone! This always makes me think of the forward-thinking inventors ridiculed by their peers and thought to be crazy! When faced with harsh criticism and doubt, innovators like Henry Ford, the Wright Brothers, Thomas Edison, and even Elon Musk reaffirmed their WHY and kept pressing on. Teaching this lesson to my daughter brings me hope that she will journey through life unburdened by others’ expectations and wishes, including my own.
- Don’t take things personally. I have all of my clients read the book The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz and direct specific attention to the second agreement, which explores the importance of not taking things personally. Imagine if everyone could pursue this principle, how much more peace we would all have, particularly when we’re young and impressionable.
- It’s never too late to change. This is a hot topic that I regularly discuss on social media. Many of us feel obligated to continue with an undesirable situation, no matter the cost because we’ve already invested so much time. Take my experience for example; I was married seven years before I got a divorce. I even considered sticking it out for my daughter, at least through her high school graduation. Why? The beauty of life is that it is never too late to try something new, share your truth, and live authentically. We all get to make our own choices. In an often-cited study, elderly patients are asked on their deathbed what they regret most. The one that always sticks with me is: “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”
- Your message will find the right ears. This is something I’ve had to learn and embrace as a business owner. Not everyone out there is my ideal client. When I show up authentically, I don’t have to fret about someone not approving of my content or services. When I first started coaching, I believed I could accommodate everyone. It wasn’t until I dialed in who I could help the most and did away with agonizing over those I couldn’t, that I was able to communicate more clearly and impart lifelong impact.
- Would you rather stay comfortable or save a life? This is a question I ask myself when I sense I am starting to play it safe and small. True, when I do this I might even attract some haters. That’s okay, because they are not who I am here to serve. To be able to share my own coming out story, I had to take a massive step outside of my comfort zone and be okay with whatever was going to come my way. Having a purpose or a mission bigger than yourself can often get us out of the rut of fear of rejection, failure, and even fear of success.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
LGBTQ+ youth without family support are nearly twice as likely to attempt suicide. It would be a movement that encouraged loving your children. Period. Embracing your neighbor no matter what they look like. Imagine the countless potential of the human race if we took the time to listen, learn, and love. I’m so proud of and impressed by how far we have come as a nation, but we still have so far to go.
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. 🙂
Fellow Texan and life-changer, Brene Brown and the inspiring, Glennon Doyle are two names that inspire me as a Coming Out Coach and to embrace authenticity while being vulnerable. My clients frequently hear these two names during our sessions and how they’ve changed my own life and those whose lives I touch.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
I would love to connect with your readers at www.anniemhenderson.com where they can find my podcast, Coming Out Loved and Supported, blog, and Facebook groups, as well as, TikTok https://www.tiktok.com/@anniemhenderson
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!