Choose love: In every moment, you have a choice. You can choose love, or choose hate. When you harness the power of choice, it becomes so much easier to be the leader and creator of your life and relationships, rather than the victim or passer-by. I used to be reactive to my conditions, and now, I know I can choose how I respond and keep designing the life I desire to live.
As a part of our series about “How To Learn To Finally Love Yourself” I had the pleasure to interview Brienne (Bree-EHN) Hennessy.
Brienne Hennessy is a Vocal Empowerment Coach, Corporate Trainer and Published Writer. As certified and licensed Speech-Voice Pathologist with 13 years of clinical experience and 40+ public speaking appearances, she empowers executives, entrepreneurs and speakers to communicate with more purpose, speak frequently without fatigue and listen to their inner voice. Prior to becoming the owner of Your Vocal Vitality, LLC she received awards and held leadership positions within the speech pathology field including, Outstanding Leadership award from NSDA, Appreciation award from ASHA and served as Chapter President of University of Iowa’s student speech pathology association.
Brienne received her B.Sc. in Linguistics from University of Victoria and M.A. in Speech-Language Pathology from University of Iowa. Brienne enjoys receiving the “dictionary word of the day” and can often be heard vocalizing in quirky and absurd ways that *usually* brings laughter to herself and others.
Thank you so much for joining us! I’d love to begin by asking you to give us the backstory as to what brought you to this specific career path.
I didn’t know what Speech Pathology was until I got to college, where I had intended to study marine biology. I was taking a linguistics course as an elective and realized that was the major I wanted to pursue. During an Acoustics research lab, I saw a pamphlet that advertised the Summer Vocology Institute in Colorado. The presenters had the titles of Speech Pathologist and they were discussing multiple aspects about voice and voice production. I felt immediately lit up and I knew that was a spark to pay attention to…especially since during that Acoustics class, I had chosen to study voice vibrato for my research project. I became laser focused on getting into graduate school and was able to get into one of the top schools not only for a Master’s in Speech Pathology but also one that had a voice focus and dedicated voice research faculty. I also had an interaction that further fueled my desire to specialize in voice. I knew I wanted to work at the best voice clinics in the country and work with voice as much as possible, often picturing myself as the ‘supporter in the wings’ of the person ‘on stage’ (speaking or singing). I sat in a graduate professor’s office and told her this dream. She promptly said “You can’t do just voice.” While I didn’t say it aloud, my immediate internal response was “Watch me!” I went on to be selected as the first graduate extern at Emory Voice Center, and work at Vanderbilt and UWHC-Madison Voice clinics during which I gained a depth and breadth of clinical expertise that I am extremely proud of and grateful for, while also infusing it into my current vision. During that time, I also developed a passion for preventative voice wellness. By the time folks came to the clinic, they had already been experiencing chronic voice changes and issues impacting their communication and jobs. I love speaking to people about how to proactively care for their voice, to ensure they are heard, as many of them would often vulnerably share that they did not feel seen and heard for who they were, and they didn’t know how to change that. By Nov 2019, I had decided to start my own business to expand the reach of who I could serve, and since then, it’s continued to be an amazing journey from the academic clinical healthcare setting into entrepreneurship.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you hope that they might help people along their path to self-understanding or a better sense of wellbeing in their relationships?
Yes! I believe the voice is a pathway to wellness, and I view each person from a holistic approach. One of my visions has been to have a comprehensive preventative health model of voice care, that collaborates with a variety of specialists who help enhance the aspects that go into what can elevate or hinder voice health, voice and communication and the metaphoric voice — the mission and message we are each here to uniquely share. Many people, unfortunately, tell me they dislike the sound of their own voice, even going as far to use the word ‘hate’. I say, how can you hate something that you use to express and connect with the world? If there is hate for the voice, as one is sharing their message, that creates dissonance. I believe that the more each one of us taps into our inner voice (intuition), aligns with that truest self, and courageously speaks it out, not only will their physical voice carry that message on the sound waves and resonance occurs, but their intra- and inter-personal relationships will thrive.
Do you have a personal story that you can share with our readers about your struggles or successes along your journey of self-understanding and self-love? Was there ever a tipping point that triggered a change regarding your feelings of self acceptance?
Prior to 2013, I was married, working a great new job, had a baby daughter and was living in a new city. Everything externally appeared as if all was going wonderfully. Internally though, I was numb. I would never ever wish that sensation on anyone. I had been experiencing anxiety and depression, and the internal self-critical mind chatter was getting louder by the day. I used to be so acutely aware of what I was saying and simultaneously judge myself or question why I said it. Additionally, people would often tell me to ‘watch my tone’ and for years I had no idea why, since I thought the words I were saying were adequate, and I would become frustrated for being misunderstood. By the end of 2013, I was at the lowest point, my partner at the time filed for divorce, I had to find a new house, and navigate how to show up to work with all this heaviness, to the point that even my boss at the time said she didn’t know how to support a staff member in this situation since it hadn’t happened before. In January 2014, while I don’t recall how I came to obtain the book, I read “Notes from Over The Edge” by Jim Palmer. In those pages, so many truths resonated with me. And like a flash, a true transformation, I regained my self-worth. I had been so incredibly disconnected from it for so long, that as soon as I acknowledged that and saw more clearly, the numbness began to fade. I don’t use the word transformation lightly, and to me, that is exactly what that was for me. I have been prioritizing my self-growth, increasing my self-love and stepping into my mission even more ever since then. No one has told me to “watch my tone” once since then and I am incredibly grateful for my sincere pursuit of continued expansion and allowance of the journey to unfold.
According to a recent study cited in Cosmopolitan, in the US, only about 28 percent of men and 26 percent of women are “very satisfied with their appearance.” Could you talk about what some of the causes might be, as well as the consequences?
Worthiness is at the heart of so many issues. When we lose touch with that deepest knowing in ourselves, it can show up in so many dysfunctional ways, including appearance and how we show up for ourselves. When you are choosing more things to criticize than to praise about yourself, the negative outcomes persist.
I also believe societal and cultural pressures, traditions and biases perpetuate many of the negative messages. It takes commitment, perseverance, and faith to rise above that, to be heard through the noise. If not, we become so attached to external ideas of who we ‘should’ be. I always say, “don’t should all over yourself.” “Should” look this way, “should” be this way, “should” say this, all imply a state of lack and scarcity. As if something that is missing is “out there” when, in actuality, we are abundant creative beings that are whole and worthy just as we are, an endless source of well-being.
To some, the concept of learning to truly understand and “love yourself,” may seem like a cheesy or trite concept. But it is not. Can you share with our readers a few reasons why learning to love yourself it’s truly so important?
I can see why that might be, because many folks expect the outside world and others to ‘fill their cup’ of love and belonging. Without love towards yourself, there is numbness. Without love towards yourself, there is criticism and judgement. Without love towards yourself, there is disconnect from others even in the very moment you crave to be seen and heard as your truest self. When we can trust in ourselves, gift ourselves acts and words of loving-kindness each day, and tap into our worthiness that is our birthright, then nothing can defeat us.
Why do you think people stay in mediocre relationships? What advice would you give to our readers regarding this?
When I didn’t feel worthy of more, I couldn’t see the possibilities. I also didn’t trust that this person truly loved me…”if only he knew the real me, then he wouldn’t want to be with me.” We underestimate what we think we can have, create, pursue. Yet, once we recognize and embody our worthiness, we know we are meant for relationships that bring additional joy and love to our lives. Note too, I said “additional”. Relationships with others are not here to ‘complete’ us or ‘fulfill a need.’ We must tune into our infinite source of wellbeing and self-love for that and bring our whole selves. Putting that expectation on someone else is unfair and leads to disruption. It took me far too long and much heartache in life to learn that lesson.
When I talk about self-love and understanding I don’t necessarily mean blindly loving and accepting ourselves the way we are. Many times self-understanding requires us to reflect and ask ourselves the tough questions, to realize perhaps where we need to make changes in ourselves to be better not only for ourselves but our relationships. What are some of those tough questions that will cut through the safe space of comfort we like to maintain, that our readers might want to ask themselves? Can you share an example of a time that you had to reflect and realize how you needed to make changes?
This is such a great point, and I am a full believer in continued self-growth and expansion. One way to do that is always be curious and gentle with yourself through the wins, and the learns (perceived failures). This may mean addressing times that you have been reactive, versus responsive. That was a huge area of growth for me. My baseline was reactive, usually with a hefty dose of sass, and in that, it degraded relationships. I had to take a hard look at the role I played in those interactions, the energy I brought to it, and recognize where I could become more responsible in my communication. I also think it is fantastic to uncover limiting beliefs — we all have them — and to question them with non-judgement and curiosity. My limiting belief of “not worthy” showed up throughout my 20s and early 30s as described previously. The amazing thing about limiting beliefs is they aren’t one sided. If there is a limiting belief of “not worthy” then there is a polar opposite of “worthy.” You can’t have one without the other. It’s a matter of choice and then commitment to feel into the one that is true and propels you forward.
So many don’t really know how to be alone, or are afraid of it. How important is it for us to have, and practice, that capacity to truly be with ourselves and be alone (literally or metaphorically)?
Alone time is how I replenish! As an introvert with outgoing tendencies, I crave my alone time. However, there was a period after my divorce and a couple subsequent relationships where it was completely lonely. But feeling lonely is not the same as being alone. Knowing the difference is crucial. You can be alone and feel complete ease, joy, peace, fun, love, etc. Feeling lonely is a temporary emotion that to me, is rooted in scarcity and sadness. Cherishing your alone time means you have more opportunity to cultivate what you love, what lights you up and replenish.
How does achieving a certain level of self-understanding and self-love then affect your ability to connect with and deepen your relationships with others?
When you show up as believing in your worthiness and wholeness, you aren’t placing expectations (or limitations) on yourself or others to ‘fill the gap’ in the relationship. You gain more perspective-taking abilities, show more empathy and compassion (to yourself and the other), and remain truly open-minded, which is incredibly needed these days as world is thirsting for more inclusivity and honest authentic communication.
In your experience, what should a) individuals and b) society, do to help people better understand themselves and accept themselves?
One of the 3 convictions I have in my business is “Love Your Voice, Love Yourself”. It must start with you. What part of yourself can you choose to love today? Voice is the area of my expertise and I’ve been so fortunate to bear witness to women who, in a moment of relief and recognition, say “wow, that is my voice, that is me!” That has ripple effects on society. From a societal standpoint, it is paramount to be aware of and release implicit biases, and hold more grace and space for each person, as everyone’s hard is hard, and we all have stories to tell that would break another person’s heart or bring them to tears with laughter. The more we are loving and kind to ourselves, the longer lasting the impact.
Here is the main question of our discussion. What are 5 strategies that you implement to maintain your connection with and love for yourself, that our readers might learn from? Could you please give a story or example for each?
- Trust yourself: When I wasn’t trusting myself, the critical mind-chatter would grow louder. Once I began to trust myself, I shifted into a deeper grounded sense of peace and faith that all was working out as it is meant to.
- Give yourself grace and space: I often say to folks ‘give yourself grace and space’, we must look at mistakes as learns, and honestly since implementing this I have had more chances to laugh at myself, which makes life flow so much more easily! Even to the small daily mistakes…like putting the milk back into the pantry.
- Tune inward daily — for me, this is via meditation, as it’s vital for me to tune into my intuition and have a consistent connection of groundedness. I encourage you to find what brings you replenishment and connect to the truest nature of yourself. I began meditating more regularly in 2018 and it’s been a continual source of peace, stretch, co-creation, awe and divine synchronicities!
- Gratitude: for any aspect large or small, having a daily gratitude practice is life-altering! The more you are in a state a gratitude, the better everything around and within elevates. Gratitude doesn’t mean ‘sugar coat’ everything. There is a lesson in each situation. It’s a fun exploration to look for the elements to be grateful for and consciously acknowledge that, to yourself and with others.
- Choose love: In every moment, you have a choice. You can choose love, or choose hate. When you harness the power of choice, it becomes so much easier to be the leader and creator of your life and relationships, rather than the victim or passer-by. I used to be reactive to my conditions, and now, I know I can choose how I respond and keep designing the life I desire to live.
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources for self-psychology, intimacy, or relationships? What do you love about each one and how does it resonate with you?
Notes from Over the Edge, Jim Palmer; he has a way of giving fresh perspective to who we truly are, who we are in relation to the Divine, ways Jesus’ life impacts us now, and to disrupt old worn-out societal, cultural and religious narratives that have been harmful.
How to Break the Habit of Being Yourself, by Dr. Joe Dispenza. Admittedly, this one took me awhile to read. I had received it as a ‘gift’, from…wait for it…a boyfriend at the time, and I was still vacillating between my reactive versus responsive ways of being. I took it as a judgement on myself, and shelved the book. A few years later, something drew me to it, and I was fascinated. Not only does it make quantum physics seem *somewhat* comprehensible, it taught me so much about how to deepen my meditation practice and shift my physiology to what I desired in the future, and not to be stuck in the emotions of the past. I am now reading it for the second time.
All the books written by Brené Brown! You think you know how to be vulnerable? Not until you’ve read her works. Stunning and so practical. Relationships, of all types, are my current area of my life I’m being led to up-level and I draw heavily on her approaches.
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? Maybe we’ll inspire our readers to start it…
“You and your voice are worthy” This is the tagline for my business, yet more importantly, the completely encapsulates my mission that I feel so deeply. Accessing your self-worth, connecting with your voice (physical and metaphoric) and speaking in resonance with your most authentic way of being will have ripple effects. In addition to the aforementioned conviction “Love Your Voice, Love Yourself,” the other two are “Voice is an Asset” and “Voice is a Barometer.” I encourage each and every person to reflect on, with loving-kindness, what they love about their voice, how it serves them and how they would like to care for it and create new ways their voice can serve them and the world at large going forward.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” that you use to guide yourself by?
Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life and how our readers might learn to live by it in theirs?
“You are where you are meant to be. Just Breathe” (Anonymous)
Sometimes the self-criticism can show up as “Why am I not there yet?” or “I wish I hadn’t done this” or staying stuck in the past or fretting about the future, when the most important place to be is in the present, with acceptance and ease. The quickest way to access and elevate your attention to the present moment is through breath. There is incredible power in breath practices and one of the simplest ways to start small shifts that, with consistency, will have phenomenal effects.
Thank you so much for your time and for your inspiring insights!