Your family of origin, genetic wiring, life experiences, the people you spend time with along the way, and many other aspects of your life impact who you are and how you view yourself and the world around you. Reflecting on your life is a powerful way to put it in perspective and to pull forward the lessons that you have learned along the way... so I share my story.
The Tip of the Iceberg
Sometimes what you see is only a small piece of the bigger picture, so I will start on the surface by sharing a few life highlights, with the disclaimer that sometimes things aren't as they appear. The first half of my adult life was full of rich experiences and many lessons which have influenced what I do today. I started working for Pace Communication (a magazine publishing company in Greensboro, NC) when I graduated from college, which afforded me the opportunity to live in 22 cities over a 5 year period of time. I was in charge of featuring cities in Piedmont Airlines inflight magazine. After five years on the road, I was promoted and became part of the launch team for Elegant Bride Magazine which took me to New York often. After 3 years of working with the magazine, I found myself lured to the Big Apple, and at age 31 I decided to move to Manhattan where I worked for Vogue Magazine during the era that inspired the movie The Devil Wears Prada. While in New York I met the person I thought I would spend the rest of my life with, John Lennon. I know the name, the irony. That didn't last, but while we were married John got recruited to work in Charlotte which afforded me the opportunity to move back to the South which is where my roots are planted and much of my life was spent. As fate would have it I landed a job with the NFL Carolina Panthers where I was part of the launch team and have many fond memories of my time there. Since being in Charlotte I launched 2 health advocacy companies and held executive positions at two health management organizations, all of which required a deeper dive into the world of corporate wellness, behavioral health, and organizational change. In my spare time along the way I trained, competed, and won some fun competitions. I am a three-time National Sport-aerobics Champion, I was an ambassador on the first White House National Physical Fitness Day team, co-stared in a kickboxing video with boxing legend Sugar Ray Leonard, and was an on-air host for News 14 promoting health and well-being for over 5 years. I have taught some type of organized group exercise as a side hustle since I was 16. I have always joked that teaching group fitness does not pay the mortgage, but it feeds my soul - something that money can't buy. My last big accomplishment was winning "Dancing With the Stars," in Charlotte which reignited my passion for dance. Something that I have loved since I was a little girl. Dancing always takes me to my happy place. As I reflect on what I just shared I am grateful but this is only a shallow snapshot of my life and a fraction of my story.
Take a Deeper Dive
So, what motivated me to dedicate my life to empowering people to thrive, and what was the catalyst that inspired me to launch Empower Health America (EHA) in 2015? I invite you to dive a little deeper as I expose what was going on under the surface of my life. I could credit my decision to launch (EHA) to the research I have conducted in and around behavioral health, personal empowerment, and how the mind and body function. But, the true motivation came from the challenges I have faced in life rather than my research and achievements. I have learned more from my adversities than I have from my successes. At first glance, you might ask "what adversity?" The first paragraph I just read sounded pretty good to me. However, somewhere early on I found myself lost and unable to navigate to a place of normalcy. I was the oldest of 5 children with 3 half-brothers and 1 half-sister, my parents were married at age 18 and 19 and were still children themselves. They divorced when I was 3 and went on to marry 3 more times each. Needless to say, being part of a fractured family, moving constantly, attending 7 different schools growing up, and living in environments that provided little emotional support or stability was challenging. As a kid, it felt like my life was built on a foundation of quicksand which triggered most of my decisions to be made from a place of fear. Fear that motivated fierce independence, accompanied by hyper-responsibility, perfectionism, and self-critical tendencies. By default, I played the role of caretaker and peacemaker. A toxic combination, which led to low self-esteem and a hard-fought 15 year battle with an eating disorder. I did not feel comfortable in my skin or at peace with my life for a long time. I found myself numbing out and stuck in behavioral patterns that were not ideal. On two positive notes, I am happy to report that today my family is still fractured, but we are not broken. We are rather an eclectic group of people who found strength in our differences and stand united by the most powerful force on the planet... love! I am also proud and grateful that my eating disorder is in the rearview mirror. I get challenged from time to time, but I am happy to report that I have developed healthy coping skills when I get triggered.
Yoga and Mindfulness Helped me Pause
My story may pale in comparison to yours, but I bet we have one thing in common: we have dealt with adversity. Adversity showed up for me when I was young and unfortunately, I didn't have the tools to navigate around it or through it. This feeling of hopelessness kept me stuck in a behavioral loop of sadness, disappointment, and pain for a long time. It was not until I was 18 that I found something that gave me relief, and that relief came in the form of exercise. Two things took me to my happy place at that time, exercise and dance. Both seemed to quiet the noise in my head which gave me temporary relief from my negative thoughts. Counseling also helped, but the deeper healing didn’t begin until I got divorced at age 36 and was introduced to yoga and meditation. They both changed the trajectory of my life. I learned that there is power in the pause, and I affectionately refer to this as giving myself permission to "check out in order to check in." I have come to realize that I have to feel to heal and that facing my fears is the only way to the other side of them. Yoga and meditation helped me with both. I now understand that things are not always as they appear, and I have learned to reframe my thinking in order to broaden my perspective of myself, others, and the world around me. Yoga and meditation helped me find my intrinsic "heart-motivated" why and reminded me that I am responsible for creating the life I want to live. I believe you can only achieve in your life what you can envision in your mind, and for the first time, I saw a bright future. This newfound awareness helped me see a positive path forward and I began to take personal ownership of my life.
Yoga and meditation taught me how to pause, to suspend judgment, to remain present in the moment, to drop out of my head and into my body, to be curious and to have compassion, and to stay still long enough to feel and process. Life is full of change and disruption but rather than fear I pause. It is in that place of stillness that I find the FAITH and courage to pivot in the direction that is in alignment with the life I want to live.
Life is Perfectly Imperfect
I lost my mom who was my best friend on Feb. 4th, 2020, and my brother Braxton a year later. A challenging period in my life and a painful reminder that life is not always smooth sailing. But, I took the time to feel in order to heal, I trusted myself, the process, and I called in the Calvary. My life remains perfectly imperfect and beautifully messy all at the same time, but I am grateful I have the tools to get through life's storms.
Empowerment is an Inside Job
Changing behavior isn't easy but we all have the capacity to get unstuck from unhealthy patterns of thinking and behavior. It took a long time for me to give myself permission to pause long enough to process through the pain, to figure out what was important to me, and to have the courage to make the changes I needed to make. Today I stand in my power because I know my truth, and I make intentional decisions that align with my values. I choose hope instead of fear, love instead of hate, and faith rather than self-reliance. I choose to live from a place of abundance instead of deficit, to be curious and non-judgmental, to test my assumptions, to make decisions by trusting my heart, mind, and body, and to lean into gratitude. My own experiences and challenges have helped me realize that there are many dimensions of my life that impact my health and happiness, and it is my job to stay in tune with the desires of my heart.
I choose to live life with greater purpose and intention, so I can make a positive impact on the world while I am here. A teacher said to me about 3 years ago, that I would never be Brene Brown. I was hurt by the less than supportive comment, but today I would say, I don't want to be Berne, I am happy just being me.
Why I do what I do
My path has been dark and unclear at times, and I still find myself back there, but I have the tools to figured out how to navigate to the other side of obstacles. This is the catalyst that motivates my life's work, and fuels my passion to help others. I asked myself in 2015, how can align my purpose with my passion, and it was then that I decided to launch Empower Health America (EHA). EHA is a research and education-based consulting company whose vision is “To transform lives, communities, organizations, and the world by encouraging self-study and empowering mindful action.” Not a modest vision, but one worthy of pursuit. My company provides consulting, coaching, and training focused on empowering organizations, leaders, teams, and employees to THRIVE, which allows me to do what I love: making a difference in the world. I often share this quote when I do empowerment sessions. "Light up the world not by doing a job, but making a difference, and you will never work a day in your life."
Be a Life-Long Learner
My mom taught me there is always more to learn about yourself and the world around you. Life has been a great educator, checkered with victories and failures, but I decided in 2018 to go back to school. I have taken my time, and I am happy to report I am one project away from earning my MSOD (master of science in organization development) from Queens University. It has been an extraordinary journey of personal and professional discovery and growth, and I have enjoyed every minute. Learning is such a gift, but it is super-sized when you share what you have learned with others. Next stop on my journey, do I pursue my doctorate in organizational psychology? I am going to pause and ponder this one for a while.
Curiosity, Research, and Innovation
The research I have done over the past two decades has been fueled by curiosity and the desire to help individuals, teams, leaders, and organizations THRIVE. Below is a reflection of some of my work.
The 5P Change Model™ – Pause, Process, Plan, Pivot, and Proceed guides individuals, teams, and organizations through the change process.
The holistic well-being model, Ideal Being®, and life inventory assessment tool, Train For Life™ help guide self-reflection and expand personal awareness.
Individual, team and organizational behavior fascinate me, so I am dedicated to continuing my research around psychological capital, self-regulation, emotional intelligence, motivation, goal-setting, decision making, human performance, resiliency, team building, behavioral health, and readiness to change.
Ground in Gratitude
I was fortunate to have some amazing people who showed me grace, believed in me, and helped me become the person I am today. Thank you, Oran Perry, Jim Clark, Ben Derrick, Lynn Evans, Pam Hawthorne, Don Addison, Suzanne Bergen, my grandmother Faith who was my rock, and my one-of-a-kind mom Billie who has always challenged the status quo and loved life with childlike abandon.
I am often asked, what do you want your legacy to be? I don't have children, so the work I do in the world and giving back to make a positive difference is my legacy.
Words are Powerful so use them Wisely
Three poems I wrote and wanted to share. The first one, Dare to go Deeper is how I aspire to live life, the second is entitled Change, and the last one is (no surprise) Power in the Pause.
Dare To Go Deeper
“Dare to go deeper because you can, see your potential because it is possible, and believe in yourself because you are powerful. Practice self-care daily and take intentional pauses throughout the day to connect with your thoughts and feelings. Show yourself and others compassion through your words and actions and learn from the lessons life teaches you. Practice the art of letting go, live boldly, laugh often…and always be true to yourself. Keep a playful spirit so you can embrace new things freely, an open mind so the doorway to possibilities is always wide and an open heart so you don’t miss an opportunity to love yourself and others. Live intentionally from a place of gratitude, don’t judge, be curious, align your purpose with your passion, and pause often to celebrate this sometimes messy and beautiful journey called life.” – Terrie Reeves
“Embracing change requires being open-minded and awake to new possibilities. To have the capacity to see beyond the obvious and the desire and courage to walk into the unknown. Change requires letting go of the familiar, stepping beyond what is comfortable, and trusting yourself and the process.” – Terrie Reeves
Power in the Pause
“Pause before you react. Pause before assuming. Pause before accusing or defending. Pause to take a breath and seek the truth. Let the pause be the bridge between thought, emotion, and action.” – Terrie Reeves
Learn how EHA is empowering individuals, leaders, teams, and organizations to THRIVE.