Believe — You must believe that resilience can be developed over time, and you must believe in yourself and your ability to become the very person you most desire to be. The reason I am enjoying a successful, thriving life today, is that it began with my belief that I could build the life I had always craved.
Inthis interview series, we are exploring the subject of resilience among successful business leaders. Resilience is one characteristic that many successful leaders share in common, and in many cases it is the most important trait necessary to survive and thrive in today’s complex market.
I had the pleasure of interviewing René Michele, founder and CEO of Renemichele.com
René is a passionate, solopreneur, and a stand-out transformational recovery coach for female survivors of child abuse, gender violence and sexual assault. She embodies her brand in every way possible, openly sharing her own intimate and dark stories of a life that spiraled out of control as a result of experiencing twenty-six years of sexual, physical and psychological abuse, commencing in childhood.
From addictions, suicide attempts, bankruptcy and failed marriages, René fought her way back from the brink to become a published author, global speaker, consultant and highly sought-after coach for professional women, CEO’s and lady bosses who themselves have experienced abuse. René’s unique and powerful depth of vulnerable transparency has earned her admiration and respect from professional peers around the world and led to her 2019 appointment as Australian Ambassador for National Association Adult Survivors Child Abuse (NAASCA).
René’s mission is clear. “I want to save lives; survivors of abuse and trauma need to know they are not alone, through community and connection, we can heal and live from victim to victory.”
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?
Growing up in small country towns throughout New South Wales Australia, life was simple. I spent the majority of my days riding horses, playing with my three older sisters, bouncing on our outback trampoline and reading Enid Blyton’s, The Faraway Tree. Little did I know, that at the tender age of ten, my entire world would implode. Within the blink of an eye my father whom I adored left our home under a cloud of improper and unfounded accusation. As a result of his sudden absence, my mother developed a significant alcohol problem and before long, was drinking heavily on a regular basis. Unfortunately, the result of my mother’s drinking led to her make very poor choices, including bringing strange men into our home. It was not long before these men began to abuse me, physically, verbally and sexually. My sisters and I were not close in relationship or in age, and I feared, even as a young child, that my mother would be unable to emotionally cope with what I was going through, therefore I kept the abuse a secret.
As you can imagine, to be a child and feel as though you have to hide the most painful and terrifying thing you have ever experienced, wreaks havoc on your emotional and mental health. I lived in constant fear and self-loathing. I blamed myself for the abuse that I suffered, I felt naughty, shameful, and broken and this led me to merely exist day to day, rather than truly live.
For many years I struggled to cope — attempting to take my life on three separate occasions, the earliest at age ten. I felt utterly hopeless and destined to fail. The turning point in my life came at age twenty-six when I fell pregnant with my first child Cassidy. When she was born, I vowed to never allow her life to mirror mine, and to this day, I have kept my promise. The vow I made to my daughter ignited an inner fierceness within me that was unlike anything I had ever experienced, and it enabled me to embark upon a personal journey of self-discovery, transformation and healing. It also unleashed my true purpose, to help fellow survivors of abuse shed their limiting beliefs, overcome shame and rebuild their identity to become a person of confidence, value and limitless potential.
Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
In 2019, my memoir Battle Scars Are Beautiful from Victim to Victory was released and has now reached four out of seven continents around the world. To write a book and become a published author is a dream come true for me, as books were a large part of my coping strategy during my childhood. They provided me with a safe and alternate reality where I could immerse myself into a world of make believe. A world where the monsters that haunted me at night disappeared, and the folk of the faraway tree whisked me away to land of magic and fairies.
Writing my book was the first time I had ever put together all the details of what I endured, delving deep into my innermost thoughts and emotions during what were some of the darkest times of my life. The outcome however surprised me and my publishing team who cautioned me that I may hit a proverbial, emotional wall of sorts during the writing process, however the exact opposite occurred.
What I learned, or what was confirmed for me should I say, was that there is an undeniable strength in vulnerability. As humans, we are all fallible, no one is perfect or immune from making mistakes. Therefore, when we share our faults, our weaknesses, our truth with one another, we break down barriers to exclusion and disconnection, to inequality and bias. The greatest lesson learned through sharing my story with the world is that in sharing the lessons learned through experiencing and overcoming our greatest pains and tragedy, when done so in servanthood and love; true and lasting hope, inspiration and transformation can occur.
The journey of becoming an author added yet another layer of profound healing to my recovery journey. It was a beautifully cathartic and releasing process that allowed me to truly appreciate exactly what I had achieved throughout my life, and for person I have become.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Renémichele.com is the only coaching service in Australia solely dedicated to helping professional women, lady bosses and CEO’s who have experienced abuse, rebuild their lives and live free, healed and whole. My unique point of difference continues, through my person centered, trauma informed coaching model which provides a bespoke experience for each client.
Women from all over the globe, including France, Spain, Russia, America, Canada, New Zealand and of course Australia, have sought me out specifically for my personal lived experience of overcoming prolific abuse, coupled with formal qualifications in applied social science, complex trauma and counselling.
One particularly powerful and moving moment for me was receiving an email from a gentleman who had been consuming my LinkedIn content and videos for months. He finally summed up the courage to contact me and shared with me the tragic story of his wife who had passed away the year before, having never worked through the pain of the years of child abuse she endured, also in secret. He believed she died of a broken heart. His message ended by thanking me for sharing so openly on social media not only my story, but the keys to my healing and lessons learned along the way.
He explained that it was refreshing to see me discuss such a sensitive and often taboo topic, with sincerity, honesty and passion, and for making help so accessible to people. He ended his email by telling me he wished his wife had found me while she was alive which brought tears to my eyes yet reaffirmed to me my purpose. It is messages like this that continue to motivate me beyond words to continue to speak out and never doubt myself or the importance of my mission.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
As cliché as this may be, I am truly grateful to my partner of six years, Ash. Our paths crossed when I was at one of the most fragile stages in my adult life. I had just escaped an incredibly destructive marriage and was desperately trying to recover emotionally, in addition to supporting my children as they struggled to understand why their parents were no longer together. I felt weak and consumed by self-doubt.
As a friend, he reminded me to look inward and once again utilise my strength and resilience which at that point in time I struggled to identify. Since that time, he has become my fiancé and has cheered me on every step of my entrepreneurial journey. He continues to applaud my courage and independence and keeps me accountable by kicking me up the butt when needed. He is incredibly humble and one of the most resilient people I know. Ash was the person who told me I had what it takes to go into business in the first place, and then took it one step further by insisting on financially supporting both my solo business venture and the publication of my book. I owe this man not only my heart, gratitude and love, but a level of thanks that I cannot articulate but will spend the rest of my life demonstrating.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
Resilience to me, is defined by the unquenchable desire, strength of mind and resourcefulness to face, tackle and overcome adversity. Resilient people are problem solvers and are willing to look for creative ways to make the best of a bad situation, to look for the silver lining if you will. They also possess a growth mindset, the humility to accept responsibility for their actions, and are not afraid to ask for help when they need it. Resilience doesn’t always come naturally and is most definitely a skill that can be developed over time. With the right mindset and commitment to personal growth, anyone can develop resilience to become a person who learns from every setback and refuses to give up on themselves.
When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?
Nelson Mandela endured incomprehensible suffering yet rose above them all to become president of South Africa. To me, his life is the epitome of resilience, and he undoubtedly remains one of the most influential leaders of our time. Advocating against apartheid in South Africa, Mandela was fiercely opposed to racial segregation and supremacy and would not change his views or back down from what he believed to be right, no matter the physical and personal threats he received from opposed political forces.
Eventually, he was Imprisoned for his stance and actions to oppose the white minority government and spent eighteen years in prison on Robben Island and a further nine years under house arrest in South Africa.
When I was a young woman, Mandela’s plight to never back down for what he believed, no matter the cost, brought to my attention for the firs time, the power of purpose; as fuel for unwavering commitment to fight for a cause greater than ourselves.
Imprisoned in a cement cell with no bed or plumbing, and forced to do hard labor, Mandela’s resolve held fast and he refused to give in. In 1990, he was finally released from prison and eventually led the negotiations to end apartheid, the very mission he had set out to achieve from the beginning.
Three years later in 1993, Mandela received the Nobel Peace Prize and in 1994 was elected president of South Africa. Mandela never stopped fighting for what he believed in which was global peace and social justice, right up until his death in 2013 — he was ninety-five years old.
I will forever admire his resolve and consider thoughtfully what so many people have given up throughout history so that we and the generations to come may enjoy a better world.
Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?
I was told since childhood that I would amount to nothing by the men who abused me. They told me I was stupid, unlovable, and unwanted, that no one would ever care what I had to say and that my thoughts and feelings didn’t matter. Today, my voice, thoughts and ideas around effective healing and abuse prevention, intervention and support strategies are sought out by specialist recovery services, community agencies, charity organizations, advocates, and media all over the world.
By refusing to be limited or defined by negative mindsets and words, my story has shone the light on the truth, that resilience is born out of life’s greatest trials and challenges.
Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?
In 2014, I arrived at the difficult decision to leave my then husband. For fifteen years I felt trapped within our narcissistic, abusive and highly manipulative marriage. My children were eight and twelve years old at the time and had begun to exhibit emotional behaviors that I immediately identified as the result of his increasingly erratic verbal outbursts and hostility towards me. The home was no longer a safe or nurturing environment for my children therefore I sought specialist psychological and legal support, who each consulted with police and together created an exit strategy to enable my children and I to leave the home as quickly and safely as possible.
What surprised me was the toll this decision had upon my mental health. I was overcome with guilt for breaking up our family, as my childhood came back to haunt me. In my mind I had broken my vow to my children to not allow them to have a life like mine, which included family dysfunction and divorce.
Of course, this was not the case. I was exhibiting the common emotional effects and self-blaming behaviors experienced by domestic violence victims, and in seeking help from a domestic violence specialist I worked through these flawed beliefs enabling myself to stand firm in my decision, develop greater assertiveness and move forward with my life. This experience has also equipped me with a deep understanding of the distorted perceptions experienced by domestic violence victims together with the effective processes for interpreting and overcoming them. The entire experience brought my children and I closer together and provided us with a harmonious, happy life, free from the chaos and abuse we once endured.
Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?
Most definitely — my entire childhood has contributed to building my resiliency. Every time I was abused, violated, beaten or bullied, a piece of my heart and soul was shattered. There were times I truly felt like I couldn’t go on, when I believed it would be better if I died, and on three occasions I attempted to take my own life. As I mentioned earlier, my first attempt was at age ten. The depth and gravity of pain that a ten-year-old child must feel to want to die — is inconceivable, yet the truth is, it was my reality.
To look back now on how far I have come since then, speaks volumes to the fact that anyone of us can bounce back, overcome our past and create the most beautiful, abundant, thriving life. I am living proof!
Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Believe — You must believe that resilience can be developed over time, and you must believe in yourself and your ability to become the very person you most desire to be. The reason I am enjoying a successful, thriving life today, is that it began with my belief that I could build the life I had always craved.
- Look at every perceived failing or mistake as an opportunity to learn — This is gold! I learned some of my greatest lessons from failure. When my marriage ended, I realised I had neglected my own self-care for over a decade, therefore I adopted daily routines of gratitude journaling, exercise, clean eating and consuming personal development resources via podcasts and a range of books. This perceived setback unleashed a healthier, stronger, more assertive me and was a major, positive turning point in my life.
- Identify your personal and unique strengths — This is where journaling can be an incredibly helpful tool, as well as speaking to trusted family members, friends and colleagues. Take a strengths inventory and assess what you love, what brings you joy and what you are naturally good at. This can help you to grow in confidence and identify areas that are important to you, and that may require improvement.
- Learn the art of self- forgiveness — This was hard for me as I carried a lot of deeply buried shame from my childhood abuse having carried it alone and in secret for so long. Once I learned and believed that I was not responsible for what I experienced, I had to process and let go of the past, which of course took time, and lots of repetition. Resilience is developed by letting go of what you can’t control, being accountable for what you can and for reminding yourself of this fact over and over again. Repetition is key, so be kind to yourself and keep at it.
- Admit and acknowledge your limitations — We are all human and have limits, so the sooner you learn to accept this fact, the sooner you will release unrealistic expectations of yourself to always have the answers and do everything right. We all need help throughout our lives, that is the beauty of connection and collaboration, so never be afraid to reach out for assistance if you need to.
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? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
It would be the “Sherises” movement. A global gathering of women — action takers who despite the abuse they have experienced in life, gather together via regular retreats, conferences, workshops and events with the purpose of being empowered, and empowering one another, through the sharing of tools, strategies and hacks for empowered, autonomous living beyond their past. The movement would seek to have real, crucial conversations and reduce the stigma associated with abuse, target isolation, loneliness and any other barriers to social connection, acceptance and healing for survivors. Events would include guest speakers, break-out sessions and facilitator training options for women who would love to learn how to host their own Sherises events in their hometowns.
A global movement of women rising beyond any and all limitations inflicted upon them by abuse, to become unstoppable, love filled, resilient, world changing human beings.
We are blessed that some very prominent leaders 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, especially if we tag them 🙂
Without a doubt, Lisa Nichols. I have been captivated by both her personal story and her powerful storytelling skillset since I discovered her online two years ago. I have followed her and consumed her videos, masterclasses and Mindvalley content as I am wholeheartedly committed to shaping and delivering my story to elicit the greatest change and transformational impact upon an audience as I possibly can. She is the definitely the queen of the “dip theory,” and with what I have already learned from her, I have effectively strengthened my stage presence, delivery and audience engagement tenfold.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
On Facebook — https://www.facebook.com/fromvictimtovictory
Instagram — https://www.instagram.com/_renemichele_/
LinkedIn — www.linkedin.com/in/renemichele
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!