Inspiration is undeniably one of the best ways to kick our desires into the next gear. There’s nothing like hearing from relatable women who have been through a reinvention journey in their own lives and are now, on the other side, a more happy and fulfilled person.
That’s why I was beyond thrilled to speak with Dr. Renai on my live Instagram installments of Rock Your Reinvention. She dropped some serious wisdom on us during this live chat that we can all apply to our own reinvention journey.
I hope you can find something in this recap of our conversation that will inspire and challenge you to start taking action to reinvent your life.
Would you rather watch the interview? You can watch it here!
Introducing Dr. Renai Ellison
Karin: I have been looking forward to this interview for a month now, and people might not know this, but I was introduced to you through my former business partner Nikki Stapp Craumer, who coached with you for years. She put us in touch with each other during the pandemic. I remember being in awe of you, your presence, your calmness, and just this assuredness you had of yourself. And that is the whole point of your book, From Fake to Phenomenal.
Until I read the book, I had no idea you were going through a divorce. You were having significant challenges at work. You were thinking, what is this life I was given, and what do I want to do next? It’s this tendency that we all have to show up every day and go, “I’m fine. Everything is okay. I’m not going to tell anybody what’s really going on.” And I want to normalize that, because so many of us have been doing that for so long. But there is a better way; you will tell us all about that today.
Before we get into it, I’d love for you to introduce yourself to our audience today.
Dr. Renai: Thank you so much, Karin! My name is Renai Ellison, or Dr. Renai, as some like to call me. I am the CEO and founder of Embrace Life Enterprises, a training, coaching, speaking, and consulting company I launched in 2015 after earning my second coaching certification in Life and Leadership Coaching. I am also the author of the book you mentioned – From Fake to Phenomenal, my first book. I am just delighted to have this opportunity to talk to you, my first stop on my media book tour.
A Story Of Reinvention
Karin: Great! I was lucky enough to get an advanced reader copy of From Fake to Phenomenal. I know from your story that you have actually reinvented yourself several times. So, this is more than just one reinvention and done, which I also want to normalize. We can make as many reinventions as we want or need based on the seasons of our lives.
Dr. Renai: Absolutely.
Karin: So I would love to know what was happening for you. What was life like when you just had this moment where you knew this most recent time?
Dr. Renai: Well, what’s interesting is that I started writing the book in February. And I went through some significant life changes the year or two before that. And, as you said, I didn’t even stop to pay attention to the pressure I was under. We were going through a global pandemic. I was also studying for my doctorate and writing my dissertation at that time. Furthermore, I had decided that I needed to get a divorce all at the same time. So I’m defending my dissertation on November 30th, and then on December 15th, my divorce was final.
Dr. Renai: Plus, the global pandemic was still happening. I realized now that I was an emotional wreck. But I was so trained and used to just barreling through it, sucking it up, being a strong black woman, and it was chaos. Fast forward, I got an excellent opportunity to consult for a non-profit. Then, I became the interim executive director, which was terrific work. But, out of the blue, something catastrophic happened, which I discuss in the book. They fired me. Now, I won’t say I’ve never been fired, but it was never like that. It was horrible. But it was a wonderful way to start redirecting my energies, and that’s what I did.
Karin: Isn’t it amazing how these catastrophic things happen to us, and at the time, they seem to be the end of the world? And yet, after the fact, we can look back and say well, if that had never happened, I wouldn’t be where I am right now. I wouldn’t have been able to write this beautiful book that you wrote because you wouldn’t have all these stories that I know will be so relatable to so many people who will read it. So, you know it’s never fun to go through it and never wish that on anyone, but there is an opportunity to look back, find that silver lining, and better ourselves as a result.
Dr. Renai: I love the way you put that. That’s the perfect way to look at catastrophic experiences in life. They are never fun, but you know they are learning opportunities.
2 Ways To Avoid The Extreme Highs And Lows In Daily Life
Karin: Yes. One of the things I loved about your book is that in chapter one, you come out of the gates swinging, and you say, “Because work has always been your world, you had such extreme highs and lows.” That hit me. I was like, that’s me! That’s why I was always such an emotional rollercoaster. So what do you do now? How do you regulate that today so you don’t get on that daily rollercoaster and feel those highs and lows to such extremes?
Dr. Renai: You know, it’s so funny that you asked me that question because it’s a practice. So, number one, which I talk about in the book, is that God is my center. I spoke specifically, not just about God and the universe, but I talked about the God of the bible. I talk about my relationship with Christ as I had tried my whole life not to lock into that relationship and to run from it, but I have understood that I need that. I need that daily practice and connection, not just with any God but with that particular God. And I do it through prayer, meditation, and behavioral cognitive therapy, which has been my saving grace. Understanding my triggers, what really is getting me to the place of overwhelm, and what’s getting me to feel like I am not worthy, while the world is falling around me. Before I get there, I center my energy to the point where I am anchored back to what God says about me.
Karin: I love it! And I love that you are brave enough to talk about your faith. The other thing that I loved, and we talked about a little right at the beginning, is the desire to pretend everything is okay. And I think you’ve said that you mastered the art of the facade. What I took away from that is that you were faking your way through life, relationships, financial situations, and every aspect of your life. You knew what people wanted to hear from you, how they wanted you to show up, and that’s what you did. So, the whole point of your book is to stop faking it and tap into that true, authentic self. How do you actually do that?
Dr. Renai: That is such a big, big question. And the only answer I can give you in this short time is my secret number two, which is around the idea of knowing that when you were born into this world, you were worthy. You’re not entitled or privileged, but you are worthy. And I didn’t always know or feel that, so I didn’t always embrace that. And it had a lot to do with wanting to shift how people saw me as a result of a culture that didn’t support me. This world is not designed for large black women from marginalized communities. Not that I grew up impoverished, but I definitely wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth. My mother was a single parent. We were working-class people designed for folks like me. And to learn from a very early age how to be able to manipulate the system so that I could win. Eventually, I got to the point where winning became my identity; that was when it got dangerous for me. This is when it gets dangerous for people.
Karin: Oh yeah, because you lose all the sense of who you are, what you want, and it’s just about that thing. And for you, for me, that was the title. All I wanted was the title Director in front of my name. It was as if that would get me to a better part of heaven or I would win some big prize. No. You are just going to win more work. You will have more money, and life will be easier, but if that’s different from what you want and aligns with your purpose and values, you will be miserable. And I was.
How To Support Other Women Daily
The other thing you mentioned that was very relatable to me as a fellow woman in the business world is that the white man’s always stealing your job. And then, it was also very eye-opening for me to see what you have dealt with as a black woman, things that I didn’t fathom and didn’t know were happening. I appreciated the opportunity to read your book and put myself in your shoes for a bit to go; wow, I thought I had it bad. My point in saying that is we need to understand how we send that olive branch. How do we support each other as women and help each other out?
Dr. Renai: I often wonder that myself. We need to support each other because, as women, we can go either way. We can be friends, loving each other. Then we can be like, “Oh, you took my man,” or “Oh, you took my position.” So we really can go either way, and the only thing I can say is there has to be an understanding of abundance, which is one of my principles in my coaching practices. There is enough to go around for everybody.
Dr. Renai: If we can understand that there is enough to go around, then we don’t have to hoard our success, and we can share the spotlight. It’s also important to understand that something is going on inside you when you start feeling threatened, intimidated, or overwhelmed by someone because of their presence and success. It’s not “her” because she is just doing her thing. Something is going on inside you. And there is something that needs to be discovered. That’s why I always advocate that idea, following that journey of self-discovery and asking why I feel like this. Am I jealous or insecure? Yeah, you probably are, and that’s okay! Because we all have moments of jealousy and insecurity. But how can I overcome that? How can I face that, deal with that, and make that different?
Building A Support Network
Karin: Oh yeah! So, speaking of support and having a support network and other people around you and embracing that abundance, I would love to hear how you have built a support network around you because you mentioned in the book feeling lonely.
Dr. Renai: It’s been a long time to cultivate. I’ve had different support networks throughout my life, but they weren’t always supportive. As you grow, you can start to attract the people you can genuinely bond with for whatever season you’re in. People are in your life, sometimes for a reason and sometimes for a season, and that’s okay! I have been able to understand that idea of community. You can’t get out of life alone or do life alone. So, that has been my saving grace. You know, just putting less pressure on people and having so many expectations. If they can come along and help you and support you, be a friend and encouragement, that is a bonus! But not leaning on people and depending on them to realize your identity.
Karin: Yeah, and that validation. I’ve also learned people don’t always know how to support you, either. You have to ask them and tell them or explain to them, “Hey, it would be great if you could share this post with your network!” Or something like that. And then they can go, oh okay! Then they are always glad to.
Dr. Renai: Yeah, I love that.
A Reinvention Motto To Live By
Karin: So, do you have a motto by chance for us for how you live your life, and will you share it with us?
Dr Renai: Yes! I named my company Embrace Life, which was my motto for the longest time. But now, I’ve moved toward playing chess, not checkers. Chess is an acronym for several things that need to be centered in my life and for anyone listening. The first one is compassion – you know, being able to not just think about yourself but also demonstrate compassion for people.
The second one is humanity – words that come from my mouth should always edify and speak positivity and life to people. When we do that, we center that humanity and be able to truly love, and I know it sounds like a cliche, but genuinely love people. It makes a difference.
Third is empathy – we talked about walking in people’s shoes, and sometimes we can’t always be completely aligned with what other people are going through, but at least try. At least think beyond yourself.
The last two are sensitivity and safety – having that sensitivity that says the life I’m living can be a gift to somebody. The things I know and can share are feeling safe and offering safety to others.
So that’s why I say play chess, not checkers. Chess is more deliberate and slow, so it’s decelerating so that you can accelerate.
Karin: Right. Life is a gift to all of us today. We are so blessed to have you here.
Okay, I hope you found that conversation as empowering and inspiring as I did! If you’d like to hear more dynamic and informative interviews with women who refuse to settle for mediocrity (like you), check out my podcast Rock Your Reinvention.
You can find Dr. Renai’s book, From Fake to Phenomenal, on Amazon if you’d like to read it.
Do you know someone who could benefit from reading this blog post? Please send it to them so we can spread the unique message and nuggets of wisdom that Dr. Renai shared.