In your journey to self-discovery: know that your voice matters and that the world needs you to shine bright. So shine like you are meant to be. Start by setting boundaries!

Sarah Udoh-Grossfuthner interviews Danielle Baker (Canadian) — “a mother, a wife, a student, an educator, a coach, a hard worker.”

Daniel Baker. Photo credit by Daniel Baker

Sarah: Thank you for having this heart-to-heart with me today, Danielle. I always say that a true self-discovery journey is a community effort; it is my pleasure to become a part of your tribe today.

Danielle: It is a pleasure to be having this heart-to-heart with you, Sarah. Thank you for hosting me. You are absolutely right! A true self-discovery journey is a community effort. And for that reason, it is essential to find that tribe that will support you every step of the way. I am so grateful to be part of your tribe, too, Sarah.

Sarah: Thank you, Danielle. Now, before delving into your share, what is self-discovery (or self-knowing) to you? What would you say is your subjective interpretation of the phrase, self-discovery?

Danielle: Self-discovery, to me, is the life-long process of finding my True Self as I evolve as a human being.

Sarah: Beautiful! Could not have defined it better. Can you tell us why taking the journey to self-discovery is necessary? In other words, what would you say are the benefits of self-discovery?

Danielle: Well, for one, self-discovery allows me to shed the numerous masks I’ve had to create to get through life. I would say that is a big plus. By removing these masks through self-development and self-growth, I can now see who I truly am and who I am meant to be. Furthermore, self-discovery brings freedom to the individuals who are ready to release the person the world expects them to be and become the true version of themselves.

Sarah: Beautifully put! So you would say that the first step to self-empowerment is through self-discovery, right?

Danielle: Absolutely!

Sarah: How has your interpretation factored in the way you live or have lived your life?

Danielle: I have spent the majority of my life being the person everyone expected me to be: the quiet child, the good student, the hard worker, the caring wife and mother.

Sarah: You used the very interesting phrase, “I have spent the majority of my life being…” Are you no longer this person? Don’t you play the roles you mentioned anymore?

Danielle: Yes, I do. However, even though I am still in all of these roles, it is different now from what it was in the past.

Sarah: Really? How so?

Danielle: Well, for a start, in the past, I was showing up in a way that would make others comfortable and happy. I would hold back, keep quiet and put aside my needs to please others. It was only when I decided to take the road to self-discovery later on in my life that I realized I was doing the world a disservice by not showing up authentically, by not being ME.

Sarah: “Authentic.” Another important word in the self-discovery process, Danielle. Please, go on.

Danielle: Thank you, Sarah. Yes, authenticity is vital in “self-knowing”, as you tend to call it. Authenticity was how I began my self-awareness journey, finding myself again, setting the appropriate boundaries…

Sarah: “Setting appropriate boundaries!” Sorry for the interruption, Danielle but goodness, you are hitting all the important notes!

Danielle: Again, Sarah, thanks; it’s because I have been on this self-discovery road for a while now. Regarding appropriate boundaries, when I started making decisions based on who I truly am and not who people want me to be that I discovered who the entity, Danielle Baker, indeed was. As a result, my interpretation of self-discovery has led me to a massive breakthrough in my life’s purpose. It has not been an easy journey, but I would not change it for the world!

Sarah: And why would you! You are a writer; this we have learnt. What do you write about? What are the subject matters you focused on mainly?

Danielle: I’ve always known that I was here to help children, and I have worked most of my life doing just that. While working with children and their families, I realized that parents, teachers and all other adults who cared for children were in dire need of support and additional resources. As an author, educator and coach, my subject matter naturally gravitated towards early childhood education, child development, and education in general. I write my books to allow my readers to use them as a guide to support their children.

Sarah: When you say you are an educator, coach, “working with children and their families,” and so on, does that mean you are a teacher, a child psychologist, a social worker, or what?

Danielle: I am an Early Childhood Educator, and I practice Rapid Transformational Therapy. I am also a college professor in the Early Childhood Development program. I am currently working at a French college here in Ottawa called La Cité Collégiale.

Sarah: More and more these days…and mainly because of COVID-19…many people have taken their businesses online. Are you one of these people, and if yes, how do you “work with children and their families” online?

Danielle: It still feels strange to say this, but Covid-19 helped me leap what I’ve always wanted to do: have a broader communication with children and their families. In that regard, the Covid-19 pandemic has undoubtedly helped me take my business online, as everyone was open to working in a virtual setting. The world is now entirely accessible, meaning that I can help so many more families. I work online with children and their families through video conferencing mainly. It is very easy to meet with parents and teachers and address their individual needs online. I can share tools and resources quickly. Since I no longer have to factor in travel time, I can also spend more time with them and reach more people than I would if I were not online.

Sarah: Regarding the Covid-19 pandemic and how it has impacted modern working methods, what you have just said seems to be the case with lots of people I have spoken with recently. There is always something to be gotten from any situation — it all depends on how you choose to view that situation, like a cup half-full or half-empty, right?

Danielle: You’ve touched on something there, Sarah. It is all about perception. You can see the glass as half-full or as half-empty. Regardless, it is the same glass. The choice is yours! It is simply a choice. With my self-discovery journey, I choose to see the glass as refillable (smile).

Sarah: “Refillable.”Mmmmh, I like the sound of that, Danielle — permission to re-use.

Danielle: Permission granted, with pleasure (smile).

Sarah: In my upcoming book (From Fearful to Fierce: discover who you are and live a life of no regrets), I said that our journey to self-discovery begins the moment we are born. But that beginning is, of course, on the subconscious level — meaning we are embarking on the journey without actually realizing that we are. Now, from the conscious point of view, what was the pivotal moment of your self-discovery journey?

Danielle: I love how you explain the journey, Sarah! It is very much on a subconscious level in our early years. I also find that self-discovery is not taught to us as children, and so, even when we reach the conscious level, we are blind to it; or unaware that we hold the key to this “life of no regrets.” The pivotal moment of my self-discovery journey was sadly, like so many of us, at a time in my life where I found myself at my lowest — physically, mentally and spiritually. I was living the life that everyone expected me to be living. On the outside, it looked like I had everything going for me.

Sarah: Such as?

Danielle: Well, married, children, a reasonably-okay living standard, family, friends, job, the works. While all was seemingly perfect on the inside on the inside, I felt like I was slowly dying. My health was deteriorating, it was a struggle for me every morning to get up for work, and while there, I felt like an empty shell. I was unhappy and had absolutely no reason to be. I thought there was something wrong with me in every way and could not understand why. I knew I needed to make a change but could not see any reason to change my “smooth sailing” life. It took the day that I was rushed to the emergency to wake me up to the fact that I needed to make a change NOW. That was when I dove right into my self-discovery journey. I worked on rediscovering myself, redefining my core values and removing everything and everyone in my life that was not serving my purpose. It is not an easy thing to do at all, but I would not change it for the world!

Sarah: There you go again with that phrase, “I would not change it for the world!” And, again, I add…why would you? (Smile). I know this is veering into the very private, but would you mind sharing with us why you were “rushed to the emergency”?

Danielle: Burnt out! Or not to put it so glamorously, acute depression. I was depressed. But since I was convinced there was no reason for me to feel so unhappy with my life, I ignored all the signs of an inevitable burnout/depression. I kept telling myself to “snap out of it”, so my body decided to send me signals, which I also ignored. I was gaining more weight; my blood pressure started to get out of control. I simply blamed all these symptoms on my family’s health history. The symptoms worsened, and I started getting constant chest pains. I woke up one morning, and my vision was blurred. I brushed it off and went to work, thinking it would go away. It did not go away! My family has an impressive history of heart disease, and I had almost just lost my mother to a massive heart attack, so I started to worry. I went to a clinic to get checked, and they rushed me to the hospital. They ran tests for the heart, and the brain and everything came up clear! That was my wake up call that if I was not going to make a change in my life, it was literarily going to kill me.

Sarah: You said something about not failing to change your “smooth sailing life.” That is quite a vital remark and, if I may add, the reason why most of us remain in an intolerable situation. The great COMFORT zone, as most of us, know it. It is one of the most significant barriers, isn’t it? A gilded cage, but a cage nonetheless. What has been the biggest lesson you have learned where gilded barriers are concerned. By the way, gilded often refers to financial comfort.

Danielle: That Comfort Zone is tough to step out of, isn’t it! Having had an unstable childhood, I held on to that COMFORT zone with an iron grip! I even had amazing people who came into my life to open up that cage and offer to set me free, with opportunities to start living my purpose, but I chose to stay in that cage because everything was going well. Why fix something that isn’t broken, right? I grew up in a time where every grown-up would tell you to work to get to that comfort zone. The biggest lesson these gilded barriers taught me is that we are meant to be in a constant flow of growth. We are designed to expand/aspire to greater things. We need our lives to be like a free-flowing river where the water is always clear and full of life. If we stop that water from flowing, it becomes

murky and can no longer sustain life. I now see my time in that gilded cage as trying to live in a swamp.

Sarah: And nothing beautiful grows in swamps, does it?

Danielle: Nothing pretty at all (smile).

Sarah: What did you learn about yourself when you made the conscious decision to know yourself?

Danielle: I learned that everything I was looking for in others I already had in me. I realized that by living the way I was expected to live, I was entirely relying on others to make decisions because it was not my life to live. By choosing to show up in the world as my authentic self, I now had to make decisions that aligned with my path, and it was terrifying to know that I was the only one who could make those decisions! I went through a period where I kept second-guessing myself, afraid of the consequences of making the wrong decision. Becoming the true version of yourself takes time and a lot of practice! You have to keep exercising that “muscle” until it becomes second nature. Once I was able to go within to find my answers naturally, the journey became much easier.

Sarah: I love EVERYTHING I am hearing, Danielle! What have been the pros of learning about yourself? While we are on that, any cons?

Danielle: The pros for me are that by showing up as my authentic self, I can help so many more people! I come in much more confident, and that motivates others to do the same. I can also finally say that I am grateful for everything life throws at me. At my lowest, all I could see was what was wrong in my life. Now, although I still have struggles, I focus on what I do have and how much joy and happiness that brings me. Happiness is a choice! Now that I am finding the road to self-discovery a little easier, it is more difficult for me to identify the cons. I would have to say that the biggest con for me was to let go of the things and the people that were not serving the true version of myself. Being willing to let go of what you deem the dearest to you is heartbreaking at times. But once you realize that those things or those people were weighing you down, letting it all go turns is the most freeing experience of your life. I now look at it as making room for greater and better things.

Sarah: Self-knowing does set you free in the truest sense of the word, doesn’t it?

Danielle: It really does! What I love the most about it is that there is always something new to discover about ourselves. Once you discover something about your True Self, you realize there is more to discover. The journey of self-knowing truly is the most amazing adventure!

Sarah: Indeed it can be! It is not called a “journey to self-discovery” for nothing, right?

Danielle: Right! And by the way, the cons I mentioned earlier turned out to not really be cons after all (smile). Now that I think of it, one con, for me, was that once you choose to show up as your authentic self, there is no turning back. You will not be able to tolerate things you used to tolerate before, which will irritate some people. The upside to that is that the people who get irritated are most likely those who cannot support your true self. You will quickly realize that you no longer need those people in your life.

Sarah: Hallelujah! Keep preaching, Danielle; I hear that one loud and clear.

Danielle: Hahaha!

Sarah: If you had to do your life again, Danielle, what is the first intentional decision you would make concerning your life journey?

Danielle: That first decision would be to fill my cup first. I spent the first 40 years of my life ignoring my needs to help others, which left me with nothing. I can be of more help when my battery is fully charged, and I feel great to tackle any challenges that will come my way. My first intentional decision would be, without a doubt, to make sure I am not helping others at the expense of my wellbeing.

Sarah: That deserved another hallelujah, Danielle! And, on that note, we have come to the end of our interview. It’s been an absolute pleasure to host you today, Danielle. I have learned so much, as will my readers, I am in no doubt. Thank you very much for sharing your thoughts with us.

Danielle: Thank you so much, Sarah, for having me today. It is always a pleasure to share my thoughts with you. Your insights on your upcoming book, From Fearful to Fierce, have inspired me to stay on track with my self-discovery journey. I am genuinely thankful for this time.

Sarah: One more thing, please, before we wrap up. If you had one piece of advice that could change someone’s life out there for the better, what would it be?

Danielle: My one piece of advice for anyone out there, and this is one of the first things I say to the children, parents and teachers I work with, is to remember that there is absolutely nothing wrong with you! When you feel different, when something does not feel right to you, when you find yourself not fitting in with the crowd, there is nothing wrong with you! Everyone feels (or will feel) the same way you do at one point or another in their life. What you feel does not mean something is wrong with you as a person, just that a situation around you is not working in your favour. Finally, your opinion matters, your voice matters and the world need you to shine bright! So shine like you are meant to be!

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