How to Transform Your Trauma and Glow Through What You Go Through

Katie DePaola
Mar 5 · 6 min read

As the founder and CEO of my own company, Inner Glow Circle, I feel proud to share that since our launch in 2015, we’ve gone from being a self-funded startup to becoming a million-dollar business.

Even more importantly, my team and I have helped thousands of women entrepreneurs find their purpose, live it and get paid. To me, there is no greater feeling. While Inner Glow Circle has been an incredible success story, that doesn’t change the fact that my early business years were full of challenges. Challenges that almost completely took the wind out of my sails.

My entrepreneurial journey truly began when I locked myself in my office’s bathroom stall and called my dad crying. “Is this all there is? Is this what my life is going to be like?” Needless to say, I was working a job I had totally fallen out of love with — and I was not happy. Like really not happy. And I wanted to be happy! I wanted to love my work.

I decided to move from NYC to D.C. and at the age of 24, I started my first business, an organic spray tanning company.

With Whole Glow, I could make $60 in a 20-minute session. At my age, that felt exciting and expansive! But there was more…

You know how they say hairstylists have all the secrets in the world? Well, I think spray tan artists have even more secrets, because we get clients totally stripped down…literally, and as it turns out, figuratively too.

My clients would share everything with me — family issues, breakups, fertility challenges — you name it. It was then that I discovered my true passion and gift: having people open up to me and helping them through challenging times.

Since my clients were being so open, I knew I needed some sort of professional training to be able to support them. I set my vision on life coaching and was able to build Whole Glow into a double business venture: “outer glow” services with the spray tanning and “inner glow” with the life coaching. You may find those two things to be an odd pairing, but because I had such a loyal customer base who trusted me, it took off. People loved the mix between the inner and outer glow!

As my path with life coaching evolved, I decided to launch Inner Glow Circle, a coaching and training company for women entrepreneurs that offered support from many coaches and experts, not just me! I started to realize it was my calling to help people build successful lives and businesses, and with that came a sense of tremendous pride. It felt like a rebirth, like there was so much on the horizon to look forward to.

But very soon, my personal life came crashing down.

One morning the phone rang. A typical morning transformed into the worst day of my life as I was told my youngest brother had died from an accidental overdose. Bo was only 20 years old. His death turned my world upside down. I started to question everything.

But just in case the grief wasn’t enough to take on, I was also battling Lyme disease. After 10 years of misdiagnosis, I lost feeling in half of my body. I kept working through the pain, but it took a toll. The Lyme was getting worse, and I started to really worry that I didn’t have much time left. Even though I was in treatment, I lived in fear the paralysis would return, and I’d have to spend the rest of my life in a wheelchair.

Now, because I’m a coach, I know that we create our lives. One day, still in so much pain, I asked myself, “What part of me is accepting this level of pain, grief and sadness, day after day, year after year? Why am I not getting better?” I’ll never forget the response I received: “You haven’t decided.”

That’s right, I had one of those Wait, is that you, God? moments that we only see in books and movies.

I knew what it meant though. Even though I had visions for my future, my business and my own family, I hadn’t decided that it would all happen. I was still living life with one foot in and one foot out.

I said out loud, “I’m not done.” And what I meant was, I wasn’t done with this life. In fact, I was just getting started.

I decided right then and there that I was going to keep building my company, finish writing my book, have a beautiful marriage and family and keep traveling the world. And I decided that just because Bo died didn’t mean I had to. I decided to live my life because he couldn’t.

Once I decided, the miracles started to pour in.

I didn’t create the hard things that happened in my life. I didn’t design them. But they were there, and I had to decide what I was going to do with them. I started to ask myself daily how I could take my biggest challenges and turn them into my greatest opportunities.

Today, I teach women how to glow through what they go through, and part of that means I’m always rebranding resilience. Resilience isn’t just about getting up when you fall down. It’s about using the fall, creating something beautiful from it and using your pain to make magic with your life.

My job is to show people that there is life and creation and often a book or a business, great love or a baby, even after the worst parts of our lives—especially after the worst parts of our lives.

For the aspiring entrepreneurs, those of you who have just started your own business or those who want to simply turn their biggest obstacles into great opportunities, here are the main takeaways I want you to take from my journey:

  • Mindset is everything. Whatever you want, glow after it. Challenges can hold you back, but they don’t have to. You can take the bad stuff that life has thrown at you and let it fuel you to become the glow in the dark. Create the very thing you wish existed when you were still stuck in the dark.
  • Glow through what you go through. Make your problems into opportunities. When I talk about rebranding resilience, I mean you can look at what seems to be a “problem” and ask yourself, “How is this an opportunity?” Ask yourself again and again until you get an answer. This is a big mindset shift and sometimes, it takes time!
  • Get into your Glow Zone and fail forward. Your Glow Zone is the area that lights you up the most, it’s the work that’s easiest for you, that’s most fun. As I zoom more into my Glow Zone, I’m more in my purpose and I’m also taking a lot more risks. Figure out what you love to do and then take risks daily.
  • Lean on others to speed your glow up! When you’re going through hell, be open and lean on others. During these tough times I had to delegate and encourage my colleagues to step up. I leaned on my business partner, Liv Chapman, and as a result the business not only survived but thrived. I was open and vulnerable and it led to people all over the world wanting to interview me and hear my story. Now I’m publishing my first book, At Least You Look Good, this year. Don’t do it alone. Create a team you trust and lean on them!

To find out more about Inner Glow Circle, visit https://innerglowcircle.com/

Launch Pad

Katie DePaola

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Katie DePaola is the founder and CEO of Inner Glow Circle, a company that helps women who want to work for themselves, not by themselves as an entrepreneur.

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