Confidence is such a funny thing; you can have it in one area in your life and not in another. You can also have confidence at certain times in your life and then lose it. But one thing is for sure, confidence can be elusive at the times when you need it most. That moment for me was when I was fired from my C-suite position.
After 14 years climbing the corporate ladder at the same company, I had broken the glass ceiling, was recognized as one of the most influential women in radio, headlined countless conferences and had been promoted numerous times. To say that I was in shock the day another woman looked me in the eye and told me my position was eliminated is an understatement. At that moment, I really needed my confidence, but sadly it wasn't there. What was there, thankfully, is a lifetime of experience learning how to build my confidence muscle back up when it had been depleted. I got to work quickly on my 30-day plan to rebuild my confidence in order to put myself in a position to handle this new challenge with the right mindset.
Heather Monahan's book cover for "Confidence Creator"
Over those 30 days, I saw amazing support from my loved ones and network of contacts. I reached out to others for help, and they showed up. I saw terrific opportunities present themselves to me. I had started to rebuild my confidence and shift my perspective. As that change occurred, it became clear to me that I wanted to write a book. Now that may not seem like a big deal to you, but it certainly was to me. While I have always been a public speaker, a mentor and a leader in business I have never been nor have I been viewed as an “author." That seismic shift to be willing to see myself in different areas and not in the one box I had always been in was scary. Would I be good at it? Would I even be able to get it done? To start something new, you need to be willing to be a beginner and take the risk associated with doing something new which can be petrifying. So many ideas flood your mind, but the biggest is what if I fail. To push beyond that feeling and get started, I needed to remember all that I had accomplished in my life, past challenges I had overcome and how I had been a beginner at everything at one point and figured it out. I decided I was going to figure this one out too. That is when I decided I was going to write my book.
Once you decide to take a risk and try something new, you need to figure out how to do it. I had no idea how to write a book so in my standard operating procedure, I googled it. I really did. I googled how to write a book and found an outline and a webinar. The basic takeaway for me was to just start writing. To stop overthinking and worrying about what I was going to write about or what I would call the book or if anyone would like it and instead I set up space at my desk, cleared everything else off and just started writing. Since the thing on the top of my mind was getting fired, I decided to start there. Each day I would sit and write whatever it was that came to my mind. Over the next two weeks, it became clear that I was writing a book about my life, my experiences and how each one of them taught me how to build confidence. Again, I did not know this when I started but through the process of doing it, I figured this out. This strategy has worked with so many different experiences and I am always reminded that taking action and taking steps will help you to figure out where you are supposed to be going.
After writing for a couple of months, I realized I was going to need to tap a professional to let me know if what I had was good enough, needed to be modified or needed to be trashed. With no experience in writing a book, I didn't have a benchmark to compare it to. That is when I started surfing the net looking for an editor. As always the simple process of taking action led me to one. When I told my fiancé how much the editor was, he called a friend in the book business who recommended someone else, that is when I found my editor. While I wasn't entirely sure that he was the right editor for me, I felt we had a fair agreement, and he really seemed to care, I sent him everything that I had written.
Heather Monahan interview with BOLD.
Photo Courtesy of BOLD
Having an expert on board was a game changer. He immediately taught me the need to re-organize and categorize my stories and always take in different ways to benefit the reader. He showed me where I was redundant and where I need to fill out more detail.
Working with an expert allows you to leapfrog the process and this was a wise investment. We are working together back and forth on email and before I knew it things were beginning to look like a book. I will never forget the first time he emailed me over a rough draft manuscript of my book. We had been going back and forth on word docs with each chapter. Unbeknownst to me, my editor had put each document into a rough draft manuscript and the first time I saw it I cried.
Even though I had been working on this for months that was the moment I realized I was really going to be publishing a book. Every step forward takes you closer to reaching and realizing your goal, and each of those steps helps you to overcome the fear. This doesn't mean that the fear of failing or not finishing or anything else wasn't there because it was, it just means that the further you go and the more milestones you reach the closer you get to the train has already left the station so I better just let go of second guessing myself.
Heather Monahan #Bossinheels - Behind the Scenes.
Photo Courtesy of Heather Monahan
During this time I was working with my editor, I began to have conversations with others with experience in the book business, and everyone told me I needed a publisher. My fiancé knew a book agent, so I called the guy to get the inside scoop.
He said to me that without being a previously published author or without having a significant social media following or another type of large reach, platforms like tv shows or movies, there really wasn't much of a shot of getting a publisher to take me on. His suggestion was to write a book proposal and start cold calling publishers and pitching my concept. I worked on this for about a week until I realized that book proposals are a lot of work and I was basically finished with my book, and then the final straw, which was finding out the publishers would want 12-18 months to bring my book to life. That was it for me, the pivot began, and I started working on self-publishing. One thing I was clear on was I wanted my book to come out now. The timing was really important to me, and I wasn't going to risk waiting.
As per my usual, I began googling self-publishing and setting up calls with companies that guide you to self-publish. I quickly found a number of different solutions based upon the investment you wanted to make. I found a company that was willing to offer me products a la carte and I chose them since I already had my manuscript finished and edited. From that point, you would think things would move quickly but they didn't.
There is the typesetting, the fonts, the copyright and everything else that moves painfully slow in the publishing process. Even though I selected the name Confidence Creator and the cover image before I even went to the self-publishing company, we still had to go through different iterations on the cover before we found the final version. The process was much longer than I would have liked and like anything there were times that deadlines were missed and I was frustrated. There were also lots of mind-blowing moments like the day I picked my final cover and the day the final locked PDF manuscript was sent to me or the day I held my first proof copy. This week I received cases of my book to my house and I stood over them and cried. The act of holding something that was just an idea months ago is beyond surreal and gratifying. The feeling of pride and accomplishment that goes along with taking a risk and doing something new is overwhelming once the task is completed. Still not knowing what the world will think of my book, I stand here today realizing that no matter what anyone else thinks I love my book and this is already a major win for me. My confidence is at an all-time high and my ability to take risks on has never been greater. Now, I am a proud author who will no longer be put in a box. I have successfully torn down the walls that I had previously allowed to limit me. Standing here now there is only one thing I can think of and that is what I will create next!
For decades, women have been unknowingly suffering from PSD and intergenerational trauma, but now Dr. Valerie Rein wants women to reclaim their power through mind, body and healing tools.
As women, no matter how many accomplishments we have or how successful we look on the outside, we all occasionally hear that nagging internal voice telling us to do more. We criticize ourselves more than anyone else and then throw ourselves into the never-ending cycle of self-care, all in effort to save ourselves from crashing into this invisible internal wall. According to psychologist, entrepreneur and author, Dr. Valerie Rein, these feelings are not your fault and there is nothing wrong with you— but chances are you definitely suffering from Patriarchy Stress Disorder.
Patriarchy Stress Disorder (PSD) is defined as the collective inherited trauma of oppression that forms an invisible inner barrier to women's happiness and fulfillment. The term was coined by Rein who discovered a missing link between trauma and the effects that patriarchal power structures have had on certain groups of people all throughout history up until the present day. Her life experience, in addition to research, have led Rein to develop a deeper understanding of the ways in which men and women are experiencing symptoms of trauma and stress that have been genetically passed down from previously oppressed generations.
What makes the discovery of this disorder significant is that it provides women with an answer to the stresses and trauma we feel but cannot explain or overcome. After being admitted to the ER with stroke-like symptoms one afternoon, when Rein noticed the left side of her body and face going numb, she was baffled to learn from her doctors that the results of her tests revealed that her stroke-like symptoms were caused by stress. Rein was then left to figure out what exactly she did for her clients in order for them to be able to step into the fullness of themselves that she was unable to do for herself. "What started seeping through the tears was the realization that I checked all the boxes that society told me I needed to feel happy and fulfilled, but I didn't feel happy or fulfilled and I didn't feel unhappy either. I didn't feel much of anything at all, not even stress," she stated.
Photo Courtesy of Dr. Valerie Rein
This raised the question for Rein as to what sort of hidden traumas women are suppressing without having any awareness of its presence. In her evaluation of her healing methodology, Rein realized that she was using mind, body and trauma healing tools with her clients because, while they had never experienced a traumatic event, they were showing the tell-tale symptoms of trauma which are described as a disconnect from parts of ourselves, body and emotions. In addition to her personal evaluation, research at the time had revealed that traumatic experiences are, in fact, passed down genetically throughout generations. This was Rein's lightbulb moment. The answer to a very real problem that she, and all women, have been experiencing is intergenerational trauma as a result of oppression formed under the patriarchy.
Although Rein's discovery would undoubtably change the way women experience and understand stress, it was crucial that she first broaden the definition of trauma not with the intention of catering to PSD, but to better identify the ways in which trauma presents itself in the current generation. When studying psychology from the books and diagnostic manuals written exclusively by white men, trauma was narrowly defined as a life-threatening experience. By that definition, not many people fit the bill despite showing trauma-like symptoms such as disconnections from parts of their body, emotions and self-expression. However, as the field of psychology has expanded, more voices have been joining the conversations and expanding the definition of trauma based on their lived experience. "I have broadened the definition to say that any experience that makes us feel unsafe psychically or emotionally can be traumatic," stated Rein. By redefining trauma, people across the gender spectrum are able to find validation in their experiences and begin their journey to healing these traumas not just for ourselves, but for future generations.
While PSD is not experienced by one particular gender, as women who have been one of the most historically disadvantaged and oppressed groups, we have inherited survival instructions that express themselves differently for different women. For some women, this means their nervous systems freeze when faced with something that has been historically dangerous for women such as stepping into their power, speaking out, being visible or making a lot of money. Then there are women who go into fight or flight mode. Although they are able to stand in the spotlight, they pay a high price for it when their nervous system begins to work in a constant state of hyper vigilance in order to keep them safe. These women often find themselves having trouble with anxiety, intimacy, sleeping or relaxing without a glass of wine or a pill. Because of this, adrenaline fatigue has become an epidemic among high achieving women that is resulting in heightened levels of stress and anxiety.
"For the first time, it makes sense that we are not broken or making this up, and we have gained this understanding by looking through the lens of a shared trauma. All of these things have been either forbidden or impossible for women. A woman's power has always been a punishable offense throughout history," stated Rein.
Although the idea of having a disorder may be scary to some and even potentially contribute to a victim mentality, Rein wants people to be empowered by PSD and to see it as a diagnosis meant to validate your experience by giving it a name, making it real and giving you a means to heal yourself. "There are still experiences in our lives that are triggering PSD and the more layers we heal, the more power we claim, the more resilience we have and more ability we have in staying plugged into our power and happiness. These triggers affect us less and less the more we heal," emphasized Rein. While the task of breaking intergenerational transmission of trauma seems intimidating, the author has flipped the negative approach to the healing journey from a game of survival to the game of how good can it get.
In her new book, Patriarchy Stress Disorder: The Invisible Barrier to Women's Happiness and Fulfillment, Rein details an easy system for healing that includes the necessary tools she has sourced over 20 years on her healing exploration with the pioneers of mind, body and trauma resolution. Her 5-step system serves to help "Jailbreakers" escape the inner prison of PSD and other hidden trauma through the process of Waking Up in Prison, Meeting the Prison Guards, Turning the Prison Guards into Body Guards, Digging the Tunnel to Freedom and Savoring Freedom. Readers can also find free tools on Rein's website to help aid in their healing journey and exploration.
"I think of the book coming out as the birth of a movement. Healing is not women against men– it's women, men and people across the gender spectrum, coming together in a shared understanding that we all have trauma and we can all heal."