How Are You Defined?

How do you measure your worth? Is it your job success?

This week I got an unexpected call notifying me I would need to find another job.

I put so much of my effort into work that at times in my life I have let how well I do at my job define my overall worth. This isn’t the first time that despite my efforts job changes needed to occur without it being my choice.

The first time I was caught by surprise was during a company buyout in 2010.  After the shock, I allowed anger to overtake my happiness and my ability to move on. The lack of control and feeling that all the hard work was not worth it infuriated me. I had taken it as a blow to my worth as a person because I had let my career success define me.

Fortunately, that anger did pass and I was able to find an amazing job with amazing coworkers and learn an incredible amount. I had grown due to those changes and ended up better off in the long run.

Now after growing in self-awareness, realizing my worth isn’t only defined by where I work, I have more faith that sometime in the future I will learn that this change and current uncertainty will be good for me as well.

You see, since 2010 I have been working on me as a whole person. I have searched more for significance than success and realized that no job, income or failure can define who I am or my worth.

What I have also learned is when we do work hard and choose to do what is right despite the possible outcomes, others do notice. All we can control are our efforts. Rather than letting rejection stop us, we need to say to ourselves, “this must mean I have so much more to offer somewhere else.”

If you have defined yourself by any one part of you instead of your whole value, then start listing all the incredible reason’s why you exist and begin living out all that you are on your life journey.

To begin your journey of self-discovery, visit The Growth Institute Courses


Have you been afraid to make a change? How self aware are you? What are your full capabilities?

This past year I left my job of seven years.  It was a position I had loved for the first 5 years. However the past two years I struggled to keep the same passion for the work. I wasn’t sure if it would be a huge mistake leaving or if I could indeed excel in the new role I was offered. Going from a position where I had many close work friends and knew what I was doing, I had been torn on leaving.   Yet, I fought my fear and took a position that I knew would require me to grow in a large way.  I just didn’t realize how much.

After taking the leap and going into my first initiative I found myself falling in love with getting to know all the people I was able to meet and hearing their stories. Getting to connect with complete strangers all over the country who were open to being vulnerable has brought me the most joy this year. Also, the more I was able to connect, the more I wanted to do for them.

Alternatively, there have been other people I have met who were very guarded. At times, I would even get stuck in my own head and worried about not being good enough. I then became afraid of sharing too much of the real me in fear of revealing the imposter feeling I had.

As a result, someone told me what I needed to hear, “Melanie you need to be more of who you really are. We loved you when you shared things such as your daughter joined the fishing club.  It helped us get to know you. But then at times in front of certain people, you became inflexible and rigid.”

Those rigid times were when my insecurities and need for control would get the best of me in my mind. When I didn’t get what I wanted from the questions I asked to get them to open up, my desire to control a better outcome led me to withdraw to the inner negative voice saying “I am not good enough.”  Inside I became frustrated.  I then stopped listening for the feelings in the other people which is what I really needed to hear.

On a recent trip, I was greeted with smiles and hugs from everyone but one person. That one person made me think, “why does she not like me?”

As time went on. I witnessed other’s reactions around her as well. I realized others also didn’t know how to take her strong personality. To work with her better, I began to personality profile her to the numbers in the enneagram. I had decided she was an eight, a Challenger, based on her intense desire to work and get things accomplished and was not afraid to tell people exactly what she thought. As she grew tired she moved into the unhealthy 8 being more unfriendly with her comments.  Knowing that 8’s respect those who are strong enough to stand their ground, I became stronger and louder. Yet, inside I was becoming more insecure.

Unfortunately, I had forgotten to actively listen to the valid opinion she had and show I could be open to the advice. The next day I saw how I could have approached the situation entirely different. My meeting with her would have been better had I said, “I hear the points you are making and they are very good. Let me think about how I can approach this by utilizing your feedback.”

The next day I confessed to her how I had given all of the feedback more thought and how incorporating the ideas made it better. I admitted that I was growing in better handling criticism.

She had replied with wisdom saying, “I wasn’t being critical. You also made some valid points and the goal was learning from the experience we all had combined.”

After that conversation, we both grew a new respect for each other. She taught me strength doesn’t always have to be standing firm in my opinion. Strength is being open to receiving new ideas without diminishing the value of yourself.

Throughout the year I have been learning how to handle criticism.  I have also learned it is okay to learn more than teach even when you are supposed to be the teacher.  Sometimes being the expert requires being okay with accepting the fact that no one knows everything.

I also realize there are certain people who bring out the insecurities in me. Yet, as I reflect on those people, they were the ones that others struggled with too. In reality,  it wasn’t about me and me needing to be good enough. Instead, everyone has a story. 

The more vulnerable we are, the more we connect.   Connecting brings joy!

The more we learn to handle criticism, the more we grow.  Growing is tough, yet we find wisdom and become more of all we really are!

To learn more about yourself and the various personality types in the Enneagram visit: The Growth Institute Courses

For personal coaching to grow, email:

Are You a Workaholic?

-Do you prefer working and feel guilty when you aren’t?

-Do you feel you are only as good as what you get done?

-Do you delay fun until all your jobs are done?

-Do you prioritize work over: exercise, eating, getting at least eight hours of recommended sleep?

If you answered yes to all of the above, you may be a workaholic.

While we blame our work for not getting time for everything we say we want in life, truth is we are addicted to our to-do list. Some of us only feel worthy if we are getting things done and feel lost when we no longer have to-do items.

If you were forced to stop working, would you still feel worthy?

What would you do with your time?

In reality, if you are a person who thrives on doing and a sense of accomplishment and you quit your job for more free time, you will find other things to do or you may feel lost.

So many people are in a rush through life to tackle the next task. However, Continue reading “Are You a Workaholic?”

Growth from Human Bulldozers

Have you ever been bullied in life?

When we hear of bullies, we think of Junior High.   However even at forty-six, I run into people in business who I consider, “human bulldozers”  which are people who try to force their power over other people.  An example of a human bulldozer I recently encountered said sarcastically, “she will do it or I will hold a gun to her head.”  Most of the time, the exertion of control is not quite that obvious; however, it does make an obvious point.

I have a hard time liking people who are willing to hurt someone for their own gain in such a self-promotional way.    Interestingly,  while I disagree with the bulldozer approach, my recent studies of the Enneagram have helped me gain strength and compassion for such people.  When we understand the psychology of other people the better we can respond in a healthy way without retaliation knowing it is their problem and not ours.

You may have heard, hurting people hurt people.  If you run into someone who is excessively aggressive, it could be a sign that at their core they are overcompensating for past unhealed pain.  Many people who are bullies have a deep inner hurt. In the Enneagram that dominating personality type is typically an unhealthy eight.  Also known as the challenger or protector.

When you first face them, unhealthy eights may try to exert their power over you and show aggressive behavior with little concern for other’s feelings. They do not want to be controlled so they over control others and don’t want to show vulnerability. Yet they do have a soft inside.  In their healthy state, they also protect the weak.  They can be courageous and show you how to push your limits.

People who challenge us make us stronger.  After we get over the feeling of being knocked down when someone tries to bulldoze us, doesn’t it ignite a whole new explosive energy within us to show them what we are truly made of? Sometimes setbacks can give us the energy we really need to show people not to doubt us. It can bring out a strength in us to call upon a higher power for confidence and show us we are not weak.

If you have difficulty relating to the Challenger type personality, here are some tips shared on relating to eights by “Enneagrams at Work.”

To create rapport: Make direct contact; be assertive and don’t back down in the face of their strength

Try to avoid: Controlling them without their agreement, making them sit still for long, or being disrespectful

Join them: Getting things moving in work or play

To handle conflict: Stand up to them and confront them directly (in your own style). Accept their angry energy while challenging them to not go off the deep end. Be tough on destructive or threatening behavior, empathetic to underlying hurt feelings.

To support their growth:  Support them in using their energy in constructive ways. Confront them on unconscious aggression or their use of anger as a comfortable habit. Help them get in touch with their vulnerability. Assume that they need love and care even when they don’t show it.

When you look at people who challenge you as those who can make you grow stronger, you will rise up and gain respect.  Remember to tap into your compassion and look deeper at possible causes for the person’s actions.

All personality types have unhealthy and healthy versions.  The more you understand people, the faster you will be able to respond rather than react.  Those who learn to grow and tap into their own healthy versions are truly the more powerful people.

To learn more about the Enneagram 8 and other various personality types as well as how to become the healthier version of you, visit:

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Message for Enneagram 8

Fighting Despair

What do you do during those moments where you realize those you love are not invincible?  Don’t you want to grab ahold of them in hopes that you can save them from pain?

Most people say you have to give the fears to God during those times that you can’t control an outcome.  It just doesn’t seem to be enough though does it?

No words seem to be enough.

Yet,  asking for help from above, showing our love through support and reminding ourselves to not let our mind downward spiral into the worst-case scenario is all we CAN do when the fear of losing someone dear is ever so present.  When someone stands by us in our pain and holds on to us through life’s greatest fears,  that love can prevent us from falling into darkness.   That love and compassion help us hold onto hope.

Where there is hope, there is light. In time, that light helps us heal and fight off despair.  God, please help us keep holding onto hope.

Overcoming Criticism

How well do you handle criticism?  If you are like many people, someone could share all kinds of great things, and one little not so great thing, and all you hear is that one negative.  It can derail all the self-esteem you thought you had built up in yourself.

You may be struggling with how you can ever succeed when all you can focus on is how much better you are hearing you still need to be.  First, remember everyone has a different perspective. Not everyone is going to be your number one fan.  Focus on your fans and remember no matter how hard you try, you won’t please everyone and no one is perfect.

What’s next?

-Keep a “yay me” collection. Tuck away notes to yourself for when you are not feeling so confident.  Your future self may very well thank you for the note you once left yourself or that you saved from someone else who thought you were pretty special once.

-Keep a daily gratitude journal.  When you start feeling lost in your inner critic head, reframing your mind for what you have to be thankful for will get your mind off the negative voice that tried carrying you down a rabbit hole. Learn to be thankful for the ability to learn from your mistakes. Not everyone gets constructive feedback.

-Write down and “I am…” list of all of your positive characteristics.  Work to memorize it or repeat it to yourself in the mirror daily or as often as needed to reprogram your mind. Go to it when you are not feeling confident.

-If it was warranted, use the criticism to create a plan of action to do better next time.  Use it as motivation to keep growing.  Remember growing is tough! Success is the result of many failures!

Most importantly, if you were able to thank the person for the feedback, you are already a step ahead of the majority.  Many people only react with anger even when constructive criticism is warranted.  So stand tall.  Find your inner peace.  You are healthier at handling criticism than you think.

Have a story to share or tips on what has helped you?  Email me at

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Find Your Direction

“Happiness is like a butterfly, the more you chase it, the more it will elude you. But if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder.”

In our journey of life, it can be so hard to resist chasing more money, more things, more doing or more of anything to be “happy.”   Yet, when is the last time you examined where you were headed?  We are all moving toward something.

While goals can give our life purpose, goals without our purpose in mind can leave us lost when we reach them.   “Wanting” can lead to greed and emptiness.  “Doing” can be a way of numbing and finding self-worth.  If the chase doesn’t include enjoying the creation, discovery, and keeping the meaning of the mission alive, we can start feeling a sense of emptiness.

Have you noticed times in your life when you were chasing a goal, yet in the process people you valued were ignored?  Or did you even embrace the act, in and of itself?

In the times of my life where I have reached a point of burnout,  it was because I got caught up in the doing and no longer felt I was fulfilling my purpose.  I became someone just going through the motions not knowing where I was headed.  I became lost with feelings of emptiness.   At first, I thought my desire for a sense of accomplishment was to blame. However, when I decided to stop doing so much, I was still lost.  Then I realized I just needed to have the courage to operate by my true beliefs with meaningful doing in order to feel whole and alive again. It took doing some self-reflecting and gaining self-awareness and re-evaluating what I really wanted and what I didn’t want in life.

In my career, I have been fortunate to work in a company where the leader would say, “do what is right by the client.” The company’s values and mission were clear and the passion and energy were everywhere. Hence, turnover was extremely low and everyone was happy accomplishing the company’s goals for years.

Alternatively, many articles have been written about high turnover and burnout in companies that lack purpose. Simon Sinek in “Start with Why” tells many stories to prove most people want to feel good about their work at the end of the day. Without the “Why” companies fail. In Man’s Search for Meaning, Victor Frank shares how most of the people who survived the Holocaust had a strong sense of purpose.  Yet, I am hearing of more and more companies and coaches taking away the purpose out of the work and making it all about the money.  No matter where you are feeling lost,  don’t stay stuck.

Think of times in your life where you have been happy.  When have you felt whole?  Are you being true to yourself?   Is what you are saying and doing matching what you truly believe?

Create goals based on what gives your life meaning.  Then keep your purpose in mind all along your journey. When distractions come at you, go back to your why and let it guide you in your decisions and actions.  Be a leader.  Bring your purpose to your work and see if you can inspire change in yourself and inspire others. When you show courage to hold true to your “why” then you won’t get lost.

“People who can articulate their purpose live an average of 8 years longer.” Jay Shetty Podcast Ikky Guy

To gain a better self-understanding, take the Enneagram course through the Growth Institute Courses. If you are still struggling after this exercise, write to me at  I may not have all your answers. However, it is the writing alone and sharing your story with someone interested that may be the very therapy you need.

Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

Crisis text: 741741

If you live in the Dayton, Ohio area, schedule free counseling by email:

To share inspiring stories or be referred to a Professional Counselor email:

For more resources:

Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Action by Simon Sinek

Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frank

Women, You Do Not Have a Shelf Life!

“Women have a shelf life.” Said the instructor.

While in my mid-thirties in a sales career, I took a class I had purchased to learn about stocks and how to invest on my own. When it came time for the instructor to sell his next class, he used fear in his sales approach saying, “my sister is a newscaster and I tell her she has a shelf life. To the career women in the room, if you are in the public eye,  you have a shelflife.  You need a fallback!”

Instantly I felt anger towards him and fear of aging at the same time as I knew how society views models and famous women who were defined by beauty and then age.  While being a salesperson myself, his approach instantly turned me off as I am sure it did for many other women in the room.  I still wonder if those words of fear still linger in the minds of the other women in the room that day.

In sales, you hear, “shine your shoes”, “wear your best suit”, “if you really want to get in the door look your very best every day” and “put the time in your appearance given so much is judged by the first impression.”   While respect for how you look matters and so does a proper dress code to gain credibility, being judged for appearance many times went beyond that.  It was not uncommon as a sales rep to hear the gatekeeper get asked over the phone,  “Is she good looking?” as a basis as to whether or not the person would take the meeting or not.  This may have happened with men too.

Now in my mid-forties, aging is more of a reality than a fear.  Long gone are the turning of heads.   This morning I listened to Oprah’s podcast where she interviews models and female actresses who admit how they realize their beauty got them in the door in their younger years.  Yet, as they aged they realized they had been defined by their beauty and had to find new ways to find self-worth.

During her podcast, Oprah talks about how in her 25 years of doing interviews very few people have spoken of what it felt like to be valued by their looks.  Her guests talk about how they handled the transition from being the one to turn heads to then no longer being able to use their looks to get in the door. They go on to tell their story of how they were able to grab ahold of another way of finding their value.  They tell their true age and don’t rely on plastic surgeons or beauty treatments to maintain their youthful appearance. They share how going through the transition is a freeing experience.

For some of you reading this, you may be thinking, looks are not required to succeed in most careers.  You are obviously correct.  However, there are certain fields where some people have defined themselves by how good they look,  just like some people define themselves by how good they are at their career or being a mom.

I have recently gone through this journey and am working on that very transformation myself and finding joy in new aspects of who I am by utilizing the practices of writing, being grateful, ways to motivate myself to exercise and being more aware of how I am defining myself.   Oprah’s Podcast reminded me I am not alone.

So no matter how you have defined yourself, either by beauty, as a mom, how great you are at your career, all of those things come to an end or at a crossroads.  There comes a time where you will need to find a new way to value yourself. When you recognize how you have been valued and how you have defined yourself is no longer working for you, life is not over.

In reality, living life fully could just be beginning.  You may just need to redefine how you value yourself.  Discover something new, create something, practice gratitude, exercise, and most importantly, admit your struggles because you will realize others feel the same way as you and a whole new life will begin to develop.  A life where you can embrace all that you really are and where you find people who will love you for it!


Listen to Aging Well With Cybill Shepherd, Bo Derek and Beverly Johnson from Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations in Podcasts.

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Photo taken at Strouds Run State Park near Athens, Ohio