When it comes to starting a successful business, there is no source of inspiration more powerful than our own personal challenges. Though it can be a vulnerable place to start, when we overcome a challenge or obstacle, we are taught valuable lessons that can be worth sharing. The ability to persevere and emerge from the trying time in a positive way connects us to the problem in a meaningful way and creates an authentic and enduring passion for finding a solution.
My mother, Amelia Kirchoff, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003. It was devastating news, but I remember thinking at the time that there had to be a reason that this was happening to our family – and that some good would come out of it. Rather than move forward with the doctor-recommended five-year regimen of Tamoxifen – and its potentially harmful side effects, my mother opted for an all-natural remedy. She chose to make the lifestyle switch to a macrobiotic diet featuring healthy, whole foods grown mostly on her farm in Wisconsin. I joined her in solidarity and, eventually, the diet helped her achieve recovery. We chose to remain committed to the macrobiotic diet, but began incorporating special, macrobiotic cookies and bars that my mother homemade. One day my husband suggested that we sell them and that was the moment it clicked – this was the good that would come from our struggle.
I joined her in solidarity and, eventually, the diet helped her achieve recovery.
At the time, I was living my dream designing and implementing a Latin program for grade school children in Chicago. I would have never imagined willfully walking away from the career I had worked so hard to achieve. The thought of walking away from my schoolroom had never crossed my mind. With a bachelor’s degree in classical languages and a master’s degree in education, I took a chance on taking the homemade macrobiotic snacks to a local health food store. That store became GoMacro’s first retail customer!
Today, more than 13 years later, my mother and I are co-founders of GoMacro, a 100 percent privately-owned and funded, clean nutrition bar company. We have successfully expanded to more than 20,000 health food stores, grocery chains and fitness centers both in the U.S. and internationally. Along the way, we have seen first-hand how powerful a diet full of plant-based, wholesome nutrition can be and have worked tirelessly to bring those benefits to more people through our bars. Our goal is to ensure that we make the nutritional benefits accessible for everyone to experience what we are so thankful to have discovered. As female business leaders, we want to encourage all women to think about their own struggles or challenges, what they have learned along the way and how they can use those lessons to bring something good into the world. While this is easier said than done, I’ve outlined a few helpful reminders that help keep me grounded and focused on along the journey.
You are not what happens to you
When faced with a setback in life – a sick parent, financial loss, personal rejection, career disappointments, and so on– it can be easy to let what happened to you start to define who you are or detract from your self-worth. It’s important not to fall into the trap of feeling like we are a victim of our circumstance! Keep these things separate and constantly remind yourself that you are valuable and have a lot to offer. If we let outside voices drown out our own, it can be impossible to listen to that voice telling you what can be gained from this experience.
Take time to meditate
One way to quiet those voice is through meditation, which both my mother and I practice regularly – both through stillness and the meditative exercise of yoga. Whichever method is most beneficial to you, try to carve out at least 10 minutes each day to focus on breathing, being still and noticing your thoughts without judgement. It will help you recenter yourself so you can direct your energy toward positive growth and keep your focus on your ultimate goal. It’s so easy to become distracted by internal battles and external disruptions in today’s world. A brief moment to realign can make all the difference in making the most of the remaining hours in any given day. Again, each of our experiences have vested us with the knowledge and power we need, meditation just helps us tap into the everything garnered along the way.
Meditation will help you recenter yourself so you can direct your energy toward positive growth and keep your focus on your ultimate goal.
Stay focused on helping others
Once you discern how you can best utilize what you have learned to create a solution for others facing similar challenges, it’s important not to lose sight of the gift you can now pay forward. Human beings are social creatures and it comes naturally for most of us to want to help out in our community. If we lose sight of that goal as our careers grow increasingly more demanding, we will lose sight of what we need to be truly successful – and equally fulfilled. With a foundation the rose from adversity, we understand the impact positivity can have on lives. For us, it remains of utmost importance to remember our root as we grow to affect change in an increasing number of lives. At GoMacro, in addition to creating better access to clean, plant-based nutrition for more people, we remain committed to donating proceeds of our various “Give Back” MacroBars to certain philanthropic organizations we believe in. In 2017, we were fortunate enough to raise $53,000 for a variety of charitable causes and we hope to continue to increase that number in the years to come.
In my experience, remembering these simple guidelines has helped me turn a negative moment into a lifetime of positivity. It has been a life altering change that neither of us could have predicted – and a profitable one at that! Businesses born from struggles and setbacks are the ones most able to connect with consumers on a human level and create real solutions to real problems that can affect our world.
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."