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 life experiences and lessons that influence what I do today. I went to UNC-G on a dance scholarship and I graduated with a degree in communications. In my spare time, you could find me running and teaching high-impact aerobics. I have taught some type of organized group exercise as a side hustle since I was 16 and I have always joked that teaching group fitness does not pay the mortgage, but it feeds my soul - something that money can't buy.
I was in the Miss North Carolina Pageant when I was 18 and I competed in aerobic competitions for 6 years in my 20's. Dale, my partner, and I are three-time National Sport-Aerobics Champions and were invited to perform at the White House as part of the first National Physical Fitness Day.
When I arrived in Charlotte I landed a job with the NFL Carolina Panthers where I was part of the launch team. My mom and I are big football fans so this was a dream job for me at the time. Since being in Charlotte I launched two 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. I love advocating for mental health and well-being and was fortunate to work with News 14, where I was the on-air host for a health and well-being segment for 5 years called, Train For Life. I also had an opportunity to produce 3 Kick Boxing videos with Jefferson Pilot Sports, and I co-starred in a boxing video with boxing legend Sugar Ray Leonard.
My first job out of college was working for Pace Communication (a magazine publishing company in Greensboro, NC), which afforded me the opportunity to live in 22 cities (8 weeks at a time) over a 5 year period. I was in charge of producing city editorial features for Piedmont Airlines inflight magazine. After five years on the road, I was promoted and became part of the launch team for Elegant Bride Magazine. This opportunity required me to travel to Manhattan 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. In contradiction to the Beatles lyrics, Strawberry Hills does NOT last forever, but while we were married John got recruited to work in Charlotte. This twist of faith afforded me the opportunity to move back to the South which is where my roots are planted and much of my life has been spent.
Dancing for a Cause
I had the honor to raise money and awareness for Carolina Breast Friends (CBF) by competing in "Dancing With The Stars" of Charlotte in 2018. The competition reignited my passion for dance and inspired me to get involved with the organization on a deeper level. I won DWTS and now serve on the CBF board as Vice President. As I reflect on everything 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 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? What I have read so far sounds 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 the positive side of things, I am happy to report that today my family is still fractured, but we are not broken. Rather, we are 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 have developed healthy coping skills that serve me well.
Yoga and Mindfulness Helped me Pause
My challenges 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, 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.
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, suspend judgment, remain present in the moment, drop out of my head and into my body, be curious, 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 little over 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, my faith, and the process. I could not have made it through without the love and support of my family and friends, and for that, I will be forever grateful. My life remains perfectly imperfect and beautifully messy all at the same time, and I feel blessed that I have what it takes to get through the storms. Losing my mom and brother reminded me that life is short and that it is important to do the things you love with the people you love.
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, figure out what was important to me, and 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. About 3 years ago a teacher said to me, that I would never be Brene Brown. It was rather unexpected and a less than supportive comment, but today I would say; I don't want to be Brene, 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 figure 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 I 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 by making a difference, and you will never work a day in your life."
Be a Lifelong Learner
Life has been a great educator, checkered with victories and failures, and I have learned that the portal to growth is curiosity. My mom was a lifelong learner, held 2 master's degrees, and taught me through her actions that there is always more to learn about yourself and the world around you. I followed in her footsteps and when back to school in 2018, and I am happy to report I now hold a Master of Science in Organization and Talent Development from Queens University.
Unbeknownst to me, I was the first girl to graduate from college in my family. Not that graduating from college defines me, but it was an extraordinary journey of personal and professional discovery and growth, and I enjoyed every minute. Learning and gaining knowledge is such a gift, and it is super-sized when you share what you have learned with others; something I hope to do for the rest of my life. 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 the life inventory assessment tool, Train For Life™, help guide self-reflection and expand personal awareness.
I remain dedicated to researching and developing programs, training and tools that support mindful action and intentional 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 sister Adriane, 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 a childlike abandon.
I am often asked, what do you want your legacy to be? I don't have children, so the work I do to make a positive impact in the world is my legacy.
As Gandhi says, be the change you want to see in the world. "Change is inevitable, growth is optional." - Terrie
Words are Powerful so use them Wisely
Three poems I wrote and wanted to share. The first one is entitled Change, the second is Dare to go Deeper which is how I aspire to live life, and the last one is (no surprise) Power in the Pause.
“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
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
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