Rising Through Resilience: Author Danielle Dufayet On The Five Things You Can Do To Become More Resilient

An Interview With Savio P. Clemente

Savio P. Clemente
Authority Magazine

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Reach out to your family and or friends. Have at least one person you trust that you can confide in. I’m a very private person, but luckily, I have one friend who I can talk to without being judged and who is always supportive. It’s important to feel like someone cares deeply about you. Don’t be afraid to reach out and don’t stuff your feelings.

Resilience has been described as the ability to withstand adversity and bounce back from difficult life events. Times are not easy now. How do we develop greater resilience to withstand the challenges that keep being thrown at us? In this interview series, we are talking to mental health experts, authors, resilience experts, coaches, and business leaders who can talk about how we can develop greater resilience to improve our lives.

As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Danielle Dufayet.

Danielle Dufayet is the author of two self-empowering children’s books, a certified nutrition and lifestyle counselor and teaches English and self-empowering classes, K-12. She has a B.A in English and a M.S. in Psychology. Danielle is also an award-winning fine art artist.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?

I am the daughter of two French artists. I was born in New York. My parents divorced when I was six. My mother, brother and I moved to California when I was seven. My father stayed in New York. Growing up without my dad was very hard on me. I missed him terribly. My mother was not verbally expressive. I had to figure things out on my own. I think that’s one of the reasons I think it’s so important to talk to kids and be completely honest. Luckily, I was interested in writing and drawing which I immersed myself in. I was outside all day, playing, running, riding bikes, and climbing trees. Being creative and having lots of opportunities to be in nature were two important factors that kept me centered and able to process my difficult emotions. Kids don’t need fidget toys; they need to physically move as much as possible. I never knew I’d end up writing social/emotional books for kids, but it doesn’t surprise me considering how important I think emotional intelligence is.

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

One interesting story is when I submitted to the Google Self-Driving Art Project contest in 2015. Google was looking for 10 artists whose art would be printed on their self-driving cars. The theme was “community”. I submitted one of my paintings…and won! You can see it on my website. Then, shortly afterwards, there was a newspaper article about the Google self-driving car and how it was pulled over for going too slow! My winning painting was on that car! My take-away from that experience was: You never know if you don’t try. I was convinced my painting wouldn’t win, but I tried anyway and ended up being one of the winners.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

I believe my books stand out because they’re about self-empowerment. I believe people can’t be happy if they are servants to their emotions. I truly believe you must first learn to be strong, then happy. My book, You Are Your Strong, is about managing your difficult emotions. I teach this in my self-empowerment classes for kids. Once, I had a student in one of my classes who had very low self-esteem. We talked a lot about how we talk to ourselves. She realized you was constantly putting herself down. We worked on rephrasing her self-talk so that it was more positive and uplifting. After she took my class, she became more confident and started believing in herself. Many of my kids learn to speak more encouragingly to themselves — which is so gratifying for me because it can change their lives.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

My English teacher in college helped me believe in myself as a writer. She said I had a gift for writing about my father with objectivity. She nudged me to pursue writing as a career. That’s when I wrote my first children’s picture book — an original Japanese folktale about karma. I think the most help I got along the way were the self-help books I read. I remember reading Edgar Cayce’s, Story of Attitudes and Emotions, which was a turning point in my life. It helped me understand myself and my feelings for the first time and it also helped me manage them which led to feelings of self-empowerment. Visiting my dad was always so emotional. This book helped me tremendously.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?

Resilience is the ability to bounce back after (or during) a difficult situation. It’s the ability to push forward, believing that you are strong and capable, even if you don’t feel like it. I believe the most important characteristic of resilient people is first and foremost NOT feeling like a victim. As soon as one feels like a victim, they’ve lost the battle because it depletes one of personal power. Resilient people can look at a challenge more objectively. They can take their emotions out of it, to a certain extent, and focus on solutions. Saying to yourself, “Life is hard” comes from a victim mentality whereas “Life is challenging” reflects a more self-empowered perspective. Words are so important!

Courage is often likened to resilience. In your opinion how is courage both similar and different to resilience?

Courage is a part of being resilient. It’s like resilience because bouncing back or moving forward requires a kind of boldness and faith that things will get better, even when it feels like there are no guarantees. It takes courage to do what you must do to make things better. You must be pro-active and that takes courage. Courage is different to resilience in that resilience is a state of determination, whether it requires courage or not. Resilience is an inner knowing that you can and will make it through something difficult, no matter what.

When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

There are many people who come to mind: Nick Vujicic, a man born with no arms or legs — one of the greatest motivational speakers, Lizzie Velasquez, a woman with a rare disease, labeled as ugliest girl alive, another fantastic inspirational speaker, J.K Rowling, divorced, depressed, and penniless to one of the richest, best-loved authors in the world. The list goes on and on. But, if I had to pick one person, I would say my mother. My mother was so strong, emotionally. She came to New York with my father after they were married in France. They hardly spoke English -didn’t know anyone. When my mother and father split, my mother moved to California and raised my brother and I with no financial help. A true artist, she worked at jobs she hated, but never showed us any of her stress. She was a loving, devoted mother who sacrificed for her kids. I could feel she was struggling with feelings of loneliness and discontent, but she always put on a brave face. I could feel her inner strength, quiet and subtle. Her dedication and self-discipline had a profound effect on me. She was determined to be a successful artist, which she was and still is since I continue to produce and sell her bronze sculptures.

Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?

No, I don’t recall anyone ever telling me something was impossible, but becoming a published author felt impossible at times, considering it took me 35 years! I started writing in college and continued off and on for 35 years. I got so many rejections. It felt like I was never going to get there. I took courses, seminars, went to conferences and kept writing and revising. I felt like giving up so many times, but I knew it would happen if I just kept at it. Landing my dream agent was one of the happiest days of my life — and the manuscript that landed me a contract with her was all about… waiting!

Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?

I have had a few setbacks in my life, for sure, just like everyone else. I think the biggest was a few years ago when I decided to end my toxic marriage. It was a real turning point for me. It felt like my whole life was turning upside down. Somedays I felt like falling apart, but I had to be very intentional to stay strong, focused, and positive to get through it. I remember a close friend asked me how I stay so strong. Then, shortly after, I saw the movie, Room, with Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay where they are held captive for 7 years in a room by a sociopath. At one point Brie wants to cut her son’s, Jack’s, (Jacob) hair. He tells her no because he says, “My hair is my strong”. That got me thinking…what is my strong? This started my journey for my first picture book, You Are Your Strong. I was fascinated by the different things that helped people stay strong. For some, it is their religion, for others it might be their pet, or their kids — anything that helps them focus on staying positive. For Jack, it was his hair. It gave him a sense of inner power and control. Ultimately, I believe it doesn’t really matter what the external thing is. Inner strength is already there, inside each and every one of us. So, not only did I bounce back from my difficult situation, I got my first book contract…then my second book soon followed, Fantastic You (about self-love) -again, that resulted from my setback.

How have you cultivated resilience throughout your life? Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?

I think all of us experience challenges and hardships all the time throughout our lives. I am no exception. I’m from a divorced household, have been divorced twice, have lost loved ones, etc., etc. As a child, my emotions sometimes felt like tidal waves -so overpowering. Luckily, instead of turning to drugs, I turned to books that helped me understand myself (and life) better. As I got older, I was drawn to self-help books like: The Power of Your Subconscious Mind, by Joseph Murphey, As a Man Thinkith, by James Allen, and Feeling Good, by David D. Burns, among others. All these books gave me an “aha moment” — Oh, that’s why I feel the way I do, and Now I see why I did that, or Now I understand why they acted like that towards me. Growing up, my father was so preoccupied with his upbringing. When he would call occasionally, to say hello, the conversation would almost always end up about how he grew up in a dysfunctional family dynamic. Even as a young child, I could see he was obsessed and bitter, always blaming his parents. I think this contributed to my resiliency in a round-about way because he was tormented, and I thought it was so unnecessary. I would ask myself, why doesn’t he let this go? It taught me to deal with situations in a way that would allow me to eventually let them go. We all have scars from childhood. It’s good to make peace with them, otherwise they haunt you throughout your life, making you unhappy and unhealthy.

Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.

The 5 steps to more resiliency are:

  1. Having a victor mindset — never feeling like a victim. Instead of saying “Why is this happening to me?” you say, “What is this trying to teach me?” It’s accepting whatever’s happening and figuring out how to move forward in the gentlest and most positive way possible. When I was terminating my marriage, I refused to feel like a victim. I knew no one was going to rescue me. I took full responsibility by taking ownership of my life.
  2. Watching your self-talk. It’s astounding how many times we talk to ourselves in a way that is deprecating. We need to talk to ourselves as if we are our own best friend. How can we feel powerful and capable if we are putting ourselves down? Again, during my divorce, I’d catch myself partaking in cognitive errors (read Feeling Good by David Burns) like, I’ll never get through this, or, I can’t handle this. I would consciously change my narrative to I will get through this and Things will get better.
  3. Practicing self-love and self-care. It’s important to take extra good care of yourself when going through something difficult. Take your B vitamins, get good, quality sleep, listen to uplifting music, watch uplifting or funny movies, take walks in nature, minimize your sugar intake, eat healthy meals. Stay away from drugs and alcohol -they are NOT going to help you cope because numbing your feelings does not help you move forward. Instead, choose healthy escape activities: drawing, hiking, dancing, etc. During my divorce, I took good care of myself. I even started a gratitude journal. All these things led me to write my second book, Fantastic You — about self-care and self-compassion.
  4. Reach out to your family and or friends. Have at least one person you trust that you can confide in. I’m a very private person, but luckily, I have one friend who I can talk to without being judged and who is always supportive. It’s important to feel like someone cares deeply about you. Don’t be afraid to reach out and don’t stuff your feelings.
  5. Surround yourself with positivity. Read positive books (especially those that feature people who’ve turned their lives around for the better), write positive quotes on sticky notes, and put them around your house. Fill your mind with inspiring, positive affirmations. Again, during my divorce, I would literally change the lyrics to a song I was listening to if they were negative. For example, if the song, Never Gonna Fall in Love Again, by Eric Carmen, came on, I’d change the lyrics to: Yes, I’m Gonna fall in love again — and apparently it worked!

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

I think we should be teaching our kids psychology. We need to understand ourselves better — how our minds work. This will help us understand our emotions because thoughts precede our emotions. We can’t have peace if we don’t understand each other. We need to learn about the conscious and subconscious mind. I think social/emotional intelligence is more important than cognitive intelligence. Learning how to manage difficult emotions (meaning, not letting them control us) is crucial to success and happiness. We need to label emotions as things — they are not who we are. In French, we say “I have hunger”, not “I am hungry”. We need to refer to our emotions in a similar way. “I have sadness”, not “I am sad”. This reminds us that emotions are temporary. This gives us our power back. I would want to inspire a movement where every school includes a curriculum that emphasizes emotional intelligence. This would include things like stress management, positive self-talk, healthy boundaries, and other healthy lifestyle habits.

We are blessed that some very prominent leaders 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, especially if we tag them :-)

There are so many amazing people who have struggled and overcome; Oprah Winfrey, Steve Harvey, Gandhi, Helen Keller…the list goes on and on. I’d love to meet anyone of them, but I’d especially like to meet Malala Yousafzai. She stands up for human rights and is about empowering women and children through education. She survived a gunshot from a Taliban gunman and fearlessly follows her passion for making a positive change in the world.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Books website: https://www.danielledufayetbooks.com

Art Website: https://www.danielledufayet.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/danielledufayet

Twitter: https://twitter.com/danielledufayet

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ddaniwriter/

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

Thank you!

About The Interviewer: Savio P. Clemente helps cancer survivors overcome the confusion and gain the clarity needed to get busy living in mind, body, and spirit. He inspires health and wellness seekers to find meaning in the “why” and to cultivate resilience in their mindset. Savio is a Board Certified wellness coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), stage 3 cancer survivor, podcaster, writer, and founder of The Human Resolve LLC.

Savio pens a weekly newsletter at thehumanresolve.com where he delves into secrets from living smarter to feeding your “three brains” — head 🧠, heart 💓, and gut 🤰 — in hopes of connecting the dots to those sticky parts in our nature that matter.

He has been featured on Fox News, and has collaborated with Food Network, WW, Bloomberg, Amazon, and Facebook. His mission is to offer clients, listeners, and viewers alike tangible takeaways in living a truly healthy, wealthy, and wise lifestyle.

Savio lives in the suburbs of Westchester County, New York and continues to follow his boundless curiosity. He hopes to one day live out a childhood fantasy and explore outer space.

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Savio P. Clemente
Authority Magazine

TEDx Speaker, Media Journalist, Board Certified Wellness Coach, Best-Selling Author & Cancer Survivor