This months “Kick-Ass Woman” is author, speaker and life coach Debbie Reber. I met Debbie in 2010 at an event for the Actionist (TM) Network, a special group of women whose efforts inspire and empower women and girls to live confidently and change the world around them. I had heard about Debbie and admittedly was a little star struck when I met her! Make sure to leave a comment telling us what your favorite part of the interview was, or anything else you'd like to leave. One lucky person will win a copy of one of Debbie's books: “Chill: Stress Reducing Techniques for a More Balanced, Peaceful You“. Here's more:
Debbie is a writer, life coach, speaker, teen advocate, editorial consultant, media maker, creative consultant, wife, mother, daughter, sister, runner, wannabe Broadway singer, dog lover, and friend. She lives in Seattle, where spends way too much time discussing the weather, eating gelato, and exercising with her friends. Her passion is supporting teens, twenty-somethings, and creatives in doing their thing with clarity and awesomeness through her coaching and writing. Visit her online at www.debbiereber.com to find out more. And sign up for her newsletter while you’re at it to grab a copy of her new (free) ebook, “What Smart Girls Know: 10 Truths for Discovering You.”
I just read your “About Debbie” page and all I can say is “wow”! Your career has spanned from working corporately for Cartoon Network, author of 12 books and more. At the end of your life, what do you want to be most known for and why?
More than any one thing I did in my career, I want to be known for doing what I could, in my own way, to empower and support others in finding more fulfillment, happiness, peace and clarity in their lives. If I achieve this in any small way and for no other reason than I modeled a way of following one’s passion, relying on values and intuition, and reflecting on and examining one’s life choices, that would be pretty awesome.
You work a lot with teen girls. What are your best tips for mothers who might be having a hard time communicating with their daughters?
Parenting girls can be tricky, especially for moms who are super clued in to their own personal story and want to spare their daughters from the pain they went through as teens. Consequently, sometimes moms focus on being their daughter’s best friend, which can make the typical (and important) teen rebellion phase especially difficult. The key is to set up a respectful and trusting dynamic that goes both ways so girls feel safe to talk with mom about every thing, big and small. Be clear and consistent and calm in your communication – don’t doubt yourself. Know that your daughters are watching everything you do, so model healthy social and emotional behaviors, problem solving, communication, and body-image language. When communication does happen, listen and empathize, and at moments when they’re in a listening mood, don’t be afraid to share with them stories of your teen baggage (yes, even the really horrid stuff). They’ll feel less alone and you’ll also bond over your shared experience of angst. And lastly, know that your daughters are supposed to push you away, so give them the room to do so, don’t take it personally, and be solid and consistent with your love, guidance, and boundaries.
Show us your human side- what scares you?
I don’t see myself as someone who is afraid of too many things. One thing I wish I had the courage to do is go skydiving, but the thought of actually doing it scares the crap out of me. Also…snakes. And bears. Come to think of it, wildlife encounters in general. (Hmmm…perhaps this question deserves further exploration…)
With that said, the fear I struggle with in a very real sense is fear that my 7-year-old son, who has some special needs, will have a difficult life. Most of the time this fear doesn’t come up—I know he is exactly as he should be for his personal journey and that my job as his mom is to love him and be at peace with his path. But when he, and consequently we as a family, go through difficult stuff with schools and society in general that stem from my son’s issues, my fear creeps in and I worry for his future. So I have to do the work to remind myself everything is unfolding the way it’s supposed to, trust that we are on this journey together for a purpose, and appreciate that he gives me lots of opportunities to work on my own stuff.
What is something you've overcome in your life that has made you a stronger woman?
A turning point in my life was when I was cheated on and consequently dumped by my fiancé in my twenties. He was my college boyfriend and we’d lived together for a number of years after school. I was twenty-six years old when things blew up, three months before our wedding date. Suddenly I had to figure a lot of things out – who I was without this person? Why had I stayed in a relationship for so long that I knew in my gut wasn’t healthy? Why didn’t I value myself more? What did I actually want in my life? (And the biggie – how was I going to afford rent in Manhattan on my own?) Anyone who’s gone through a terrible breakup surely knows that pain…the feeling that what you’re going through may not actually be survivable. But something within me, even in the midst of the most horrible moments of that breakup, felt light and free. I remember questioning that feeling at first…the liberation. But then I stopped questioning it and went with it, and decided I was going to work on myself, figure out my responsibility and role in what had gone down, and move on however I could. Getting through that whole period of my life not only made me a stronger woman—it undeniably set me on my path of working toward empowering others to live their best lives.
You seem to have a very busy life. How do you stay grounded?
Simply put: self-care. I know what I need in my life to keep me happy and emotionally centered and grounded—for me it’s running or exercising pretty much every day, spending quality time with my girlfriends, plenty of alone time, indulging in creative bursts that might involve playing guitar or piano or singing along to the soundtrack from Rent or Spring Awakening from start to finish, guilt-free naps, and a steady dose of reality TV. I am clear and open about my needs for these things and I prioritize them, especially exercise. I am unapologetic about asking for what I need because I know it enables me to better show up in all areas of my life.
With all of your accomplishments, what has touched you the most in your career?
I’ve had many moments that have moved me incredibly, especially when I receive emails from girls who bear their soul to me because they feel I’m a safe audience for their pain and heartache. But the thing that most comes to mind with this question is an image of a little Somali boy I met when I was 23 years old. I was working for the relief organization CARE and went to Somalia in 1993 to film a documentary about the humanitarian crisis there. That whole trip was a life changer for me in so many ways, but I’ll never forget one day in a small village outside Baidoa. This lovely boy, probably around 10 or 11, dressed in a simple plaid piece of cloth, no meat on his bones, came and stood next to me and looked at me with happy, sparkling eyes. I remember his hands as he reached to grab mine – they were the big, worn, wrinkled hands of an old man. And as we looked at each other, no way of verbally communicating, I felt a wordless connection with him that moved me profoundly. And even now, nearly twenty years later, I still remember that boy’s hands and his smile and that connection. The memory reminds me to be grateful and graceful in the face of challenge and hardship. And it reminds me that love is at the heart of everything.
Where did you find the courage to go after your dreams?
I don’t think of it as courage so much as a relentless knowing. Since I was a little girl, I’ve always wanted to make an impact and change the world…I always felt strongly about any cause where groups or individuals or animals were being treated unjustly. I had this undeniable urge to do something. That strong sense of purpose has kept me moving forward, especially in those times when I found myself in jobs where this essential-self purpose was being ignored. In those situations, I would get such clear messages from my body and gut that I’d know I had to make a change to get back on track. I didn’t feel like I had a choice. So while there have definitely been times when it was scary to take those leaps and leave stability for the unknown, I felt like it was something I just had to do. The great thing about taking those leaps is they get easier and easier the more you jump…
What is your biggest wish for the next generation of girls?
First, I must say that this new generation of girls is made up of some serious ass-kickers. Many of them have such a strong sense of who they are and what they’re passionate about, and they feel empowered to go after it. It’s a very cool thing to see. So I guess my biggest wish for them would be that they become the kind of leaders and changemakers that truly revolutionize the country, and the world, and that they are unstoppable in their commitment and efforts to rock their lives. Oh, and that they don’t waste time in their teens, twenties, and thirties being insecure and not realizing their amazing worth. I think that’s doable, don’t you?
To enter the book giveaway contest, please leave a comment below answering what your favortite part of the interview was, or a question for Debbie, or anything you'd like! (Contest ends at 8 pm PST on Monday, January 23rd, 2012. Winner will be notified by email.)