Power Women: Jenna Volpe On How To Successfully Navigate Work, Love and Life As A Powerful Woman

An Interview With Ming Zhao

Ming S. Zhao
Authority Magazine

--

Be very clear on your “why”! Lots of my coaches have taught me that when the “why” is powerful enough, the “how” will always appear. A strong conviction is the foundation that will help you to follow through, finish what you started, and get back on track, even things feel challenging or inconvenient.

How does a successful, strong, and powerful woman navigate work, employee relationships, love, and life in a world that still feels uncomfortable with strong women? In this interview series, called “Power Women” we are talking to accomplished women leaders who share their stories and experiences navigating work, love and life as a powerful woman.

As a part of this series I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Jenna Volpe.

Jenna Volpe is a holistic registered dietitian, herbalist, and energy healing practitioner who helps people to resolve chronic health issues via a multi-dimensional, root-cause approach. Jenna’s journey navigating life early on as an empath, old soul, and “wounded healer” forced her to go against the grain, follow her heart and intuition, take paths less traveled, and do life in ways that many would consider unconventional. Each challenge that Jenna endured along the way has played a key role in her transformation and success in becoming an empowered female entrepreneur, clinician, writer, and leader in her field.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood “backstory”?

I grew up as a square peg who tried desperately for many years to fit into the round hole — inevitably failing every single time. But ironically, the challenges I navigated growing up as a serial “people-pleaser” provided me with the contrast I needed in order to eventually shift away from disempowerment, towards becoming more empowered. (I believe contrast can serve as a great catalyst to help us to grow, evolve, transform, aspire, and ascend more rapidly in life!)

To set a precedence, I’ve been blessed and privileged with a loving family who raised me in a beautiful home, in a safe town with a good school system. The challenges I’ve navigated are “first world problems”, and I’m very grateful for that!

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been highly sensitive, empathic, more on the serious side, and socially awkward — an “old soul”, to say the least. As far back as elementary school, I’d find myself frequently tapping into deep levels of awareness. I’d constantly absorb the energies and emotions of people around me like a sponge (not by choice), to the point where I sometimes forgot that I was still in the room. It was bizarre.

I didn’t have much to talk about with lots of my classmates. I was always more artsy, creative, intellectual, introspective, and very low-key while many of my peers were more loud, sarcastic, and rowdy. When I was in groups of people, I’d often just shut down and get quiet. It took too much energy to try to act like someone I wasn’t. I’d feel like I was there, but not really there. (I’ve since reconnected with many of them. We get along much better as adults!)

As a result of not fitting in with the people I was spending most of my time with, I concluded something must have been inherently “wrong” with me. I developed a deep sense of shame and even felt like I might have been born into this world by mistake. To overcompensate, at one point I decided I should at least be the “nice one” so that people would have a reason to like me.

After the above paradigms took root, they spiraled into many years of people-pleasing… saying “yes” to things I really didn’t want to do, saying “it’s okay” when something really wasn’t okay, bending over backwards to appease others, and inevitably harboring lots of resentment– even though I was enabling these things.

The worst part was at the end of the day, people didn’t seem to like me any more for any of it! They just took advantage of the nice girl. Without realizing it, I had trained people to come to me only when they had an agenda or wanted something. It wasn’t just classmates– this also happened with some friends.

I hid the above issues for many years by keeping quiet, staying well-behaved, doing my homework, getting good grades, and smiling often –so no one had a clue what was going on, and they wouldn’t be burdened by me. There were times when I felt very stuck and hopeless. Being in that school matrix and trying to fit into the “round hole” as a square peg was sort of eating away at my soul. Going through the motions felt like a pointless façade.

The existential depression, social anxiety, and subsequent “miss congeniality” complex consumed me until age 16, when things started shifting internally for the better. A serendipitous encounter triggered my first “lightbulb moment”: I discovered an empowering “food as medicine” philosophy, which led me to shift my perspective, find purpose, gain confidence, and get out of the funk! That awakening also unlocked the doors of my entire career path.

Can you tell us the story about what led you to this particular career path?

It’s a long story with a few twists along the way, but it’s all very relevant! As I mentioned earlier, my career path began when I was 16 years old.

While volunteering at a local hospital coffee shop after school, an elderly man ordered a cup of green tea, and we began chatting. Before I knew it, I was being educated by my customer on the many benefits his earthy, bitter-tasting green beverage had to offer. From longevity and anti-aging to cancer prevention, I was almost in disbelief until I got home on the internet to see for myself!

Low and behold, according to PubMed, green tea does have LOTS of powerful potential packed into those leaves! But if it was truly so great, why was no one talking about it? Why was I just hearing about green tea’s cancer prevention properties for the first time? (I had lost a few family members to cancer, and until that point, I had previously believed/feared that cancer was something that just happened to everybody when they got old.)

Intrigued, I continued my investigation and learned that green tea’s benefits come from its “antioxidants”. I also noticed that pretty much all fruits and vegetables have antioxidants, too! From there I was led to dark chocolate, wild salmon, and then whole grains. Oh my!

Suddenly, it hit me like a ton of bricks: there’s a plethora of powerful, under-tapped resources that could make our lives exponentially better. It was all provided for us by Mother Nature, accessible and available in abundance. The answers to so many modern-day problems were hiding in plain sight. It was all right at our fingertips– but we just weren’t looking in the right places.

When a solution exists at the level of prevention (preventing a problem before it occurs), or even from a root-cause standpoint, that solution is essentially invisible to the naked eye. Certain answers can only be found by those who are seeking them from a deeper, more holistic level of thinking. And it occurred to me that humans are not hard-wired or taught to think that way. (Lightbulb moment!)

The masses didn’t seem to care about how their day-to-day choices would impact them long-term — but I did! And I had just cracked some kind of “antioxidant code” that would allow me to harness and leverage the power of antioxidant-rich foods for the rest of my life. I envisioned the degree of positive impact that so many new, healthier choices could have over time, and how the “fruits” of my labor would likely compound in the coming decades. The sky was the limit! (This mindset shift that I experienced at age 16 is what I now know to be called “delayed gratification”.)

I also knew that what I had just discovered was only the tip of the iceberg. There was still SO much to learn. I’ve been a student of life ever since, and never looked back!

Getting a bachelor’s degree in nutrition and becoming a registered dietitian as next steps in my career were no-brainers for me. I absolutely loved every minute of the journey to becoming a dietitian, until I started developing some new, sudden-onset food allergies and digestive issues during my senior year of college (despite being the “picture of health” externally). I was a young, ambitious nutrition student and professional, practicing what I preached, already coaching some clients, and following my passion. I was also in the best shape of my life, teaching multiple workout classes a week. But something was very off.

IBS, chronic heartburn, nausea, oral allergy syndrome, and eventually a web of scar tissue in my esophagus made it very difficult for me to eat lots of my usual “healthy” foods, which actually seemed to make everything worse. While I remained ambitious and successful in my career, I still felt like an imposter.

As time passed, the solutions offered to me by my doctors (Prilosec, Lactaid, Tums, Zyrtec, and even an annual endoscope with dilation for my esophagus) did very little to help. I was treading water in a seemingly endless sea of “symptom management”. To boot, none of my clinical nutrition knowledge, books, or even my beloved green tea could save me from this; I felt defeated and embarrassed.

I was eventually introduced to a holistic nutritionist that specialized in everything I seemed to be going through — IBS, allergies, autoimmunity, and “leaky gut” (which no one on my medical team seemed to know much about)! Finally, someone who might be able to help me.

Out of desperation and against the advice of my family and colleagues, I went down the nutrition rabbit hole with her. We worked together for over a year, completely overhauling my diet in ways that could be considered “unorthodox” and “unconventional” in my traditional dietetics field. I had to endure a good amount of resistance and pushback from peers, but I stuck to everything because I had exhausted all other options. (I was still maintaining a balanced, nutrient-dense diet the entire time, applying what I already knew as a dietitian along the way. The new holistic components of my lifestyle were added to fill in the gaps and resolve my gut issues at the cellular level.)

Within a year on this path, allergies disappeared, digestive issues resolved, mood improved, scar tissue in the esophagus cleared up, and I was feeling healthier and more energized than I knew was possible. More awakenings and “lightbulb moments” were experienced, to say the least. (Conversations for another time, perhaps!)

While my alternative, aligned lifestyle habits seemed to trigger or inconvenience some people’s egos, I stopped worrying about that stuff and was able to finally put the people-pleasing aside for a greater cause. I no longer cared if someone thought I was a “weird eater.” They could get over it.

I also got a unique opportunity to expand my knowledge and continuing education as a functional dietitian and clinical herbalist, so I now get to learn and practice on both sides of the coin: clinical nutrition and holistic living. It’s truly the best of both worlds!

Again, the challenges I endured had happened FOR me. I was forced to learn and master new ways of living and being, that I otherwise never would have sought out or discovered had I not gotten sick! The silver lining of that journey was very apparent, purposeful, and empowering.

Going through those experiences inspired me to start my private holistic nutrition practice, “Whole-istic Living”, in 2014. To this day (8 years later), my practice continues to grow and evolve with me. I’m grateful my business allows me to support myself while simultaneously pursuing my life’s mission, which is to help as many people as possible to heal themselves by harnessing and leveraging the powers of food and herbs!

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

It was 2017 when the entire trajectory of my life changed (again, for the better!)! It was yet another serendipitous encounter which ended up shaking my entire foundation and ripping the rug out from under my life as I knew it…

I had a very stable life in Boston at that time, with a booming brick-and-mortar nutrition practice. I was surrounded by close friends in the area. I was also engaged to someone I had been dating for 4 years. (For a bit of context: We did argue a lot, and I had almost called off the wedding at one point. But we still loved each other, and we were trying to make it work.)

On paper I was doing all the things that a 28-year-old “should” be doing. My life checked all the boxes. But something was missing. In efforts to fill a void and escape the mundaneness I experienced in day-to-day life, I enrolled in classes and programs which served as an outlet for me to learn, grow, and tap more into my spiritual and creative side.

Fast-forward to May 2017: I went to Toronto for a 5-day program. Throughout the course of this week, I filled my cup with new knowledge and tools to bring home and incorporate into my healing practice. I met some wonderful people. Everyone was very kind, empathic, and easygoing.

There was a guy named Michael in the class who seemed like he might be interested in me. He didn’t say anything flirtatious or try anything inappropriate, but I sensed this solely based on the way he looked at me when we were introduced and when we made eye contact.

I was NOT there to meet guys. I just wanted to learn! So I made sure to sit on the opposite end of the room from Michael the entire week, and I also did my best to avoid making any eye contact with him. I didn’t want to give any wrong impressions. (Was this all in my head? I wasn’t sure, but I wanted to be extra cautious. Something about him just made me SO nervous. I felt like a teenager. How embarrassing!)

Despite my efforts to avoid him, Michael and I somehow ended up sitting across from each other at a group dinner with our new mutual friends towards the end of the week. I was actually relieved because during our conversation, I got the opportunity to tell Michael all about my fiancé and the upcoming wedding. It was as if we had known each other for many years and were just catching up on lost time.

After finally breaking the ice and establishing an appropriate, platonic friendship, I didn’t feel so awkward around Michael anymore. And I no longer felt myself turning red if we made eye contact! (Thank goodness.)

I didn’t want to leave Toronto– I was feeling rejuvenated and having so much fun beating to my own drum all week with my new friends! But it was time to go back to reality. When everyone from class was saying goodbye to one another and going our separate ways, my new friend Michael did something big and bold — something that changed everything.

Michael left me with an extensive heartfelt note, acknowledging our special connection and boldly expressing strong feelings towards me. And how he felt like he had known me forever. Then he wished me the best and said he hoped our paths would cross again someday. Say what?!

My stomach flipped, my heart fluttered, and my jaw dropped to the floor. I was astonished. Tears of unspoken truth streamed down my face at the airport as I tried to process what had just happened. Against my will, my guard went down, and all the walls I had put up the entire week to remain aloof and platonic towards Michael suddenly melted away. The floodgates opened from a channel deep within my heart that I never knew was there to begin with. A sudden intangible knowing told me Michael was “The One”. It was as if I was waking up and remembering something consciously for the first time that my soul had known all along to be true.

By the time I got home and walked in the front door, I ended up having complete clarity on what I needed to do — there was no way I could go back to the life I had with my now-ex-fiancé at this point. I could barely look at him when I got back. I ended up calling off the wedding within a few days of coming home from Toronto, and then moving out in less than a week after that.

The breakup with my ex was painful and devastating, but at the same time to me it felt like a no-brainer given what I had just experienced. A huge weight was lifted off my chest that I hadn’t realized was there for probably at least a few years. I was listening to and following my heart, and nothing ever felt so right.

My family and friends had a difficult time accepting the break-up, for obvious reasons. Most of them were not aware of all the fighting that had gone on behind the scenes for a long time with my ex. So of course, they were surprised. They were also convinced that I must have been brainwashed by “this older man” who I “met in a random city by myself” (we have a significant age gap between us). They told me I was being impulsive, irrational, and naive. I understood why they would feel this way as outsiders looking in, but I stood my ground.

I honestly saw no other option. Regardless of how thing played out with Michael, I was grateful that he had just helped me to get out of a situation that was clearly very out of alignment for me. I reached back out to Michael just to tell him about what had happened, and I thanked him for being my “catalyst”, with no expectations of how this might or might not unfold.

That summer, Michael and I started talking every day for hours on end. We dove head-first into a long-distance relationship and fell in love very fast. I know this is not considered “normal” after a recent breakup, but I couldn’t help how I felt!

The love I found with Michael is mature, simple, unconditional, pure, and timeless — unlike anything else I had ever experienced prior. No games and no BS. No control or manipulation or jealousy or anything like that. Just love and connection and mutual respect. Had I not stood my ground and followed my heart I would not have found this kind of love.

In 2018, I decided to take a leap of faith; I uprooted my stable life in Boston to start a brand-new life with Michael and his daughter in Austin, Texas. My only non-negotiable was to keep my private practice and open a new location in Austin!

Fast forward to today and we are happily engaged, currently renovating an old house, building a homestead, and raising a chocolate lab! My private practice is fulltime again, and I’m now scaling it online so I can help exponentially more people all around the country. Life is pretty good. I’m excited to see how it continues to unfold.

To this day, Michael and I are still counting our lucky stars that we both decided to go on that impromptu trip to Toronto!

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

  1. As Confucius once said, “Choose a job you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.” This rings very true for me, and I believe it stems from passion! Of course, passion alone isn’t enough to sustain a business, but at the same time, I don’t think I would be a successful business leader without it. Passion aligns us with our greater sense of purpose, helps spark new ideas, and it can make talking about the same thing multiple times a day, week, and year feel borderline effortless. When people are truly passionate about what they’re doing, they are more likely to stick with it — with ease and flow. When we are passionate as leaders, other people can also sense that on some level. Passion allows us to organically attract more clients and customers who are in alignment with our greater mission and vision.
  2. I don’t think I would be where I am today without tenacity. Tenacity is the practice of showing up consistently with determination to keep moving the needle forward, even when it’s not easy or convenient. Being tenacious means making sacrifices like working nights or weekends as needed, even while your friends are doing a happy hour or Sunday Funday. Tenacity is also about trusting the process and staying plugged into your greater mission and vision (the “forest”), not letting the inevitable day-to-day challenges or distractions (the “weeds” and “trees”) derail you. It can feel a lot like pushing a boulder up a hill or tending to a new garden. We must stay in it for the long game and trust that our efforts will eventually compound if we keep moving forward with honest effort. The last thing to grow on the fruit tree is the fruit! Tenacity is an ongoing delayed gratification practice which I’m continuously honing.
  3. My conviction for what I’m doing and why has been instrumental for me as a leader. Conviction stems from passion, and it also serves as a driving force of tenacity. I’ve found I often get pulled in a million different directions from clients, colleagues, family, and friends who all want me to do things a certain way, and my conviction is what allows me to get re-centered and grounded in my choices each time this happens. It’s been said that when we stand for nothing, we fall for everything. Conviction helps us to get crystal clear on what we stand for and what we don’t. Honoring your conviction as a leader can be challenging in the beginning and it takes practice, with some stumbling along the way. Ultimately, leading with conviction means saying “yes” only to opportunities that are in alignment with our core philosophy, brand, values, and integrity, and saying “no” to everything else.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. The premise of this series assumes that our society still feels uncomfortable with strong women. Why do you think this is so?

Given that most of humanity has spent thousands of years in a patriarchal society, I think some people are still fazing out of those old, outdated paradigms. As a society I do believe we’ve come a LONG way in the grand scheme of things! But there’s still more work to do, and that’s par for the course.

In the media, powerful women seem to be idolized nowadays — which is awesome! (Diana from Wonder Woman, Daenerys Stormborn from Game of Thrones, Claire from Outlander, and Lagertha from Vikings come to mind!) However, when women embody that same “strong woman” archetype in real-life, people don’t always take it well…

A strong woman might challenge you, trigger you, or push your buttons. A strong woman will hold you accountable and hold you to higher standards. You can’t hide from these types of woman; they will see the real you, and call you out for better or worse. You will be forced to change and up-level — and that’s uncomfortable!

Referring to strong, awakened women in relationships, Sophie Bashford states: “Once you begin to love a woman of this nature, you must accept total responsibility for the life-changes that will then ensue. Your life will not be sleepily comfortable all the time. Your life will not allow you to stay stuck in old ruts and stagnant routines… Take this risk on yourself, or step back, stay with the normal girl and accept a different, safer, more comfortable and somewhat calmer life…”

Strong women often provide people with constructive feedback and tough love, whether they’re ready for it or not. There are no qualms about calling people out when a strong woman sees something happening that isn’t in alignment with her values and morals.

But while strong women may have the best of intentions, people don’t always want to own up to or come to terms with their mistakes or shortcomings. Instead of appreciating direct feedback, many people in society or in relationships may instead feel attacked, triggered, defensive, or uncomfortable, or they might even respond back with gaslighting.

Without saying any names, can you share a story from your own experience that illustrates this idea?

In two of my past relationships, the exes liked to be the one in control, to call the shots and to have the upper hand. One had a tendency to flirt with other women a lot (to the point where it became pretty inappropriate). The other had a tendency to lose his temper easily; if I did something he didn’t like, things would escalate fast verbally.

(Hindsight is 20/20; while I was IN those relationships, the red flags were sprinkled in with love, laughs, connection, and fun, which made things difficult to navigate. No relationship is perfect, but it’s important to know where to draw the line when something feels off.)

Looking back, I recall feeling disrespected and hurt intermittently between all the good times. When things reached a certain point, I started channeling my inner Diana, speaking up more and standing up for myself. I even gave both of them a heads-up a few different times that if their patterns continued, I was going to have to break up with them.

Needless to say, my directness and transparency didn’t bode well. I have memories of getting called “too sensitive”, “dramatic”, or “too emotional” for pointing out certain behaviors that were clearly crossing a line and not okay. The way those guys responded could probably be considered gaslighting and emotional manipulation.

But what it really came down to was their egos were hurt, and they weren’t ready to take ownership or responsibility. They didn’t know how to handle me as a strong woman, and that’s okay — to each their own!

Don’t get me wrong — I’m VERY sensitive and emotional. Cancer crab represent! But I think I’m also pretty reasonable and intelligent, with a strong intuition and a good head on my shoulders. Respect and honor (among other non-negotiables) should be a given in any relationship, and they should go both ways. Those things will never be too much to ask, and women (or men) should not be made to feel guilty for speaking up when they don’t feel they are being respected or honored.

If a person can’t handle your honesty (provided you’re speaking from the heart and coming from a place of sincerity), it doesn’t mean you are “too much” or “too sensitive” or “dramatic”. It doesn’t mean you lower your standards and “toughen up”. It means that relationship is out of alignment, and it’s time to move on. When you stay in situations with people who doesn’t respect you, you’re enabling unhealthy patterns to continue, and it’s doing everyone a disservice. Stay strong!

All of that said, I have no regrets. I’m grateful for my past relationships. We still had a lot of fun, we learned a lot from each other, and the challenges forced me to practice stepping into my “strong woman” archetype sooner in life. They also helped prepare me for my current partner, who happens to love being with a strong woman. 😉

What should a powerful woman do in a context where she feels that people are uneasy around her?

There could be lots of different reasons for why someone feels uneasy. I’ve been on both sides of this equation before. I think it totally depends on the context. Is this a client? A boss? A first date? Someone else? Is the “powerful woman” doing or saying something that might trigger people?

It’s important to tune into the person and the situation individually. But generally speaking, when this happens, rapport-building by finding some common ground, giving a compliment or cracking a joke can go a long way!

I also believe everyone is equally powerful, and it’s just a matter of tapping into their powerful archetype. People are most powerful when they feel safe, connected, and in their element. So when someone is shy or uneasy with me, I aim to find and connect with the more authentic and powerful version of him/her during our interaction.

What do we need to do as a society to change the unease around powerful women?

It’s inspiring and refreshing to see more archetypes of powerful women being featured and promoted in the media, more often. But as I mentioned earlier, in real life, I think we need to do a lot more to shift the societal unease around powerful women!

I believe the most impactful changes on a macro, societal level must first start on the micro, individual level, and then trickle out to the masses over time.

That said, if each woman can meet herself where she’s at, decide which areas of life she can practice asserting herself or stepping more into her power, and then start making small, incremental changes each time she encounters an opportunity to do so, that movement will eventually make waves and create a “ripple effect” on the societal level over time.

It’s parallel to the “vote with your dollar”, supply-and-demand concept. If each of us keeps progressing individually, society will eventually have to adapt and become more accepting of strong women.

In my own experience, I have observed that often women have to endure ridiculous or uncomfortable situations to achieve success that men don’t have to endure. Do you have a story like this from your own experience? Can you share it with us?

I’m very lucky to say I haven’t experienced anything too bad, compared to some other stories I’ve heard.

But I was once alone in my office with a past client who walked over to where I was sitting and tried to kiss me at the end of our meeting. I had to push him away from me. I was extremely caught off-guard, and it was pretty uncomfortable. Fortunately he was receptive, and he left when I asked him to leave.

This incident was a lesson that I need to keep my guard up — not everyone’s agendas are pure, and as a woman running a brick-and-mortar practice I realized it was time to take some extra safety precautions.

Now my business is mostly telehealth (since the pandemic), but either way, female entrepreneurs should be able to work in a brick-and-mortar setting without having to worry about these types of things!

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women leaders that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?

I often witness more boundary-setting challenges among women leaders, specifically with finances and time.

An example of financial boundaries being pushed would be people not paying invoices, not paying on time, or people trying to negotiate lower rates. Women seem to have a more difficult time charging for our services due to feelings of “imposter syndrome” or low self-worth. But it doesn’t take long to realize we need to charge certain rates in order to stay in business! And if we’re not in business, we are definitely not being of service.

Time boundaries being pushed can show up as people wanting meetings to go over the scheduled amount of time, or people trying to get extra consultation in between meetings, or people reaching out all hours of the day/night and expecting a response outside of normal business hours. The challenge is that when it goes on for too long, it leads to burnout.

I know for a fact that the above challenges can also be faced by men. I think we’ve got a collective modern-day “hustle culture” problem, which is another conversation for another time!

Let’s now shift our discussion to a slightly different direction. This is a question that nearly everyone with a job has to contend with. Was it difficult to fit your personal and family life into your business and career? For the benefit of our readers, can you articulate precisely what the struggle was?

My initial challenge was trying to maintain a “normal” social life as a 26-year-old living with friends, while being a serious relationship, going to weddings/showers, and attending bachelorette getaway weekends and also getting my business off the ground.

It was a bit of a whirlwind! But it was “figureoutable” (as Marie Forleo likes to say). Moving home to live with my parents during the first year of business actually made things much easier, and I know I’m lucky I was able to do this.

When I moved to Austin to start over, keeping my business was the one non-negotiable that I had established with my partner Michael. Financially it was difficult in the beginning. I took out a bank loan and work 3 jobs again until 2020 when the business really took off and went full-time.

For readers, I think being transparent and setting certain expectations up front with family and friends is necessary. If your loved ones know in advance that you’re going to need to cut down your spending budget or put in time on some nights and weekends to pursue your passion and follow your dreams, they’ll be less likely to feel caught off-guard when that time comes.

Ultimately I believe it all comes down to choosing, prioritizing, and establishing boundaries over and over again with your time, energy, and money. Again, in order to do these things, it will require passion, conviction, and tenacity!

What was a tipping point that helped you achieve a greater balance or greater equilibrium between your work life and personal life? What did you do to reach this equilibrium?

Ironically, getting burnt out in 2020–2021 was my “tipping point”! When the pandemic hit, insurances started covering telehealth services (which I’m very grateful for to this day). At first, it was wonderful! I got to reconnect with people from my past, make lots more connections locally, and leave my other part-time side hustles to go full-time in the business. I thought I was getting everything I wanted and that my life would be complete.

My practice filled up fast because I was in-network as a healthcare provider with eight different health insurance companies in multiple states. While it was great for my clients and for filling my practice, taking eight different insurances turned out to be soul-sucking for me!

I would have to spend hours each day behind the scenes, between meetings, on the phone with insurance reps. It felt like I was jumping through hoops, dancing in circles, and doing cartwheels (metaphorically speaking), just to try and get reimbursed for my work.

Since not all insurances and clients were paying what they owed me, I would have to then see extra clients every week beyond my energetic capacity to support myself financially through this business model. I found myself working 6–7 days a week for 10–12 hours a day doing a lot of things that I really wasn’t enjoying, just to stay afloat. I was pouring from an empty cup, and resentment built up for obvious reasons…

My family and friends were getting what was left of me at the end of each day — a shell of a person. This was certainly not the sacred life that I dreamed of living when my nutrition practice hit full-time! I knew there must be a better alternative way to make this work.

I realized that I needed to redefine what it meant to be successful in life and in business. “Success” is so much more than just a full practice, a stable income, or high client satisfaction/success rates.

In order to truly succeed, my business would need to align with all components that make up a truly “rich”, sacred life: health and wellbeing, a wonderful relationship, quality time with family and friends, location freedom/travel, and “time/energy freedom” to name a few…

Needless to say, I was ready to pivot. So in the spring of 2021, after Whole-istic Living had already hit capacity and the 1:1 client waiting list continued to grow, I held my breath and put a big spoke in the health insurance wheel!

With help from multiple amazing coaches, I have since been able to terminate with most of the insurance companies! I also stopped offering one-off consultations (which barely cover the tip of the iceberg), and I now only enroll new clients who are committed and ready to go on a gut-healing journey with me. This new lower-turnover, higher commitment model allows me to create greater impact, because I now have the time and energy to provide more support, guidance, and accountability for my clients.

I’m also focusing now on leveraging new ways to serve more people via my online group program, online course, nutrition handouts, and free content on my blog. These offerings fill my “creativity cup” while giving more people easier access to my expertise at a lower price point — without requiring me to deal with any health insurances! It’s win-win.

Work-life balance is not a static, fixed state, but rather an ever-changing dynamic. There may be phases or seasons of life where we need to focus more on one area versus the other, or vice versa — but the key is to live and practice in ways that are sustainable and in alignment with what YOU consider to be a sacred life! This should also include choosing a supportive partner and friends who are on board with your greater mission and vision.

I work in the beauty tech industry, so I am very interested to hear your philosophy or perspective about beauty. In your role as a powerful woman and leader, how much of an emphasis do you place on your appearance? Do you see beauty as something that is superficial, or is it something that has inherent value for a leader in a public context? Can you explain what you mean?

It’s funny because as a teenager and all the way into my early 20s, I’d straighten my hair and wear makeup almost every day. Now I can probably count on my hands the number of days each year that I do those things! I’m sure this has to do with feeling more confident as an adult.

But as leaders, whether we like it or not, the way we choose to show up will probably reflect our personal brand on some level. All of that said, I aspire to live and show up in ways that are true reflections of the real me. I’m not a very fancy person. I value naturalness and simplicity, so I don’t really wear much makeup. I get most of my clothes at Kohls and Target, but I do enjoy wearing outfits that express my own unique style!

In my specific line of work, unfortunately I think there’s a bit of pressure for all of us to look a certain way as nutrition professionals (whether male or female). I don’t buy into it. The way someone looks has nothing to do with how qualified they are to help you. I choose to eat healthy and workout regularly, because those things are fun, enjoyable core values for me. Not because my industry expects it.

I’m sure there’s also something to be said about the “dress for success” principle. I’ve noticed that when I’m wearing more professional looking clothes, I definitely get treated with more respect than when I’m in loungewear or workout clothes! And it makes sense. But I still don’t dress up all the time; only when I feel like it. If I were to push myself to be prim and polished all the time, that wouldn’t be an authentic expression of me!

How is this similar or different for men?

Aside from in the nutrition/ fitness industries and the “dress for success” concept, I don’t think men otherwise seem to have as much pressure to look a certain way to the same degree as women in other industries.

Either way, I don’t really give it much energy or thought. I just focus on doing my own thing and expressing myself the way I want to. I think the more we all just focus on being ourselves and being helpful and authentic in our content/messaging, the less people will worry about feeling like they need to look a certain way!

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your opinion and experience, what are the “Five Things You Need To Thrive and Succeed as a Powerful Woman?” (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Be very clear on your “why”! Lots of my coaches have taught me that when the “why” is powerful enough, the “how” will always appear. A strong conviction is the foundation that will help you to follow through, finish what you started, and get back on track, even things feel challenging or inconvenient.
  2. Your time and energy are two of your most important assets; protect them with your life! Time and energy are sacred, valuable, and also very finite. Be mindful and intentional about how you spend your time and energy. Prioritize them. Say no more than you say yes. If you don’t set and honor strong boundaries around your time and energy, they will get taken from you and slip away every time!
  3. Decide where to draw the line and know the difference between honest effort and perfectionism. Honest effort means you know in your heart that you did the best you could, based on what knowledge and tools you have to work with in a given timeframe. I know this sounds cliché, but success comes from progress, not perfection. Perfectionism is an impossible, unrealistic standard which makes us feel like we’re never good enough. I’ve seen way too many very talented people let their perfectionism stop them from taking action. (There’s also a fine line difference between imperfect action and complacency, so it’s important to stay mindful of this.) I’ve walked both of these lines first-hand. At the end of the day, imperfect action is always better than no action, and imperfect action should still be accompanied by honest effort.
  4. Whatever you’re working towards, be consistent! Taking consistent, imperfect action (while continuously adapting and honing your approach as you learn more along the way) is what will move the needle forward, eventually compounding and building momentum over time. The path to progress and success is never one big leap; it’s paved with thousands and thousands of baby steps taken with some element of consistency! What most people also don’t realize is that progress and success are never linear; the journey can sometimes feel like two steps forward and one step back or falling and getting back up countless times along the way. If you stay consistent and keep going, despite the obstacles and detours, you WILL eventually get to where you want to go — it’s just a matter of time.
  5. Invest in mentors who have gone before you! Mentors are there to help pave the way for you and make your journey exponentially more streamlined. It’s also okay to invest in more than one mentor, if you feel called to do that. Choose mentors whose core values, philosophies and offerings align with your goals. Choose to work with people who are doing what you aspire to do someday. I’ve probably worked with close to 100 different mentors in the last decade, for one reason or another. Some are 1:1, some lead group in-person classes, and others are virtual coaches who shared their expertise with me via their online courses/masterminds. Each of my mentors and guides has played a significant role in my life path, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without them!

We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

This may come as a surprise, but I would absolutely love to have a scotch with Joe Rogan someday! (Not just because we live in the same city.) 😉 I’m sure we’d cover lots of eclectic topics and go down some very interesting rabbit holes.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

--

--

Ming S. Zhao
Authority Magazine

Co-founder and CEO of PROVEN Skincare. Ming is an entrepreneur, business strategist, investor and podcast host.