Today’s episode features Danielle Fanfair, a pastor turned certified Enneagram trainer and Director of Integrated Well-Being. Danielle shares with Nicole her unique journey to finding her self-worth after overriding her intuition for years as a pastor. To do so, she made some radical changes to her life so she could deepen her understanding of self, while distinguishing the energetic differences between prioritizing self-worth and being selfish along the way.
Wanna know exactly how to open life up to more opportunities? Danielle talks about how your personality type and joy brings you exactly that to live an expansive and abundant life.
Danielle Fanfair is a writer, a teacher, and a Director of Integrated Well- Being. She guides high-functioning professionals through her curriculum, Confusion To Clarity: a journey of self-mastery, Empathy, and professional development. She engages in Science, wellness practices, behavioral psychology, and has mastered personality study. She teaches us to name, know, and leverage our unique superpowers.
“The cost of the things that you’re doing is so high, compared to the benefits of what you’re receiving, so there’s always this debt, this internal deficit.”
“And so, I ended up kind of burning up into an expanded way of living that really matches my energy naturally.”
“I learned from a study that it takes a hundred times to learn how to do something, but if you do it while playing, it only takes 17 times.”
“There’s a collaborative energy and positive intention that comes with self-worth versus selfishness. ‘I don’t care what you say or what you do or how it’s going to affect you. I’m going to do what I want to do.’ To me, that’s two different energies. I have two different frequencies in my body when I talk about self-worth versus selfishness. Self-worth is regenerative. Selfishness is decaying. Self-worth increases your capacity to be present. Selfishness destroys all your relationships and destroys all your other sources because you’re constantly feeding yourself with no regard to how you’re affecting your ecosystem. Self-worth is, ‘I’m worthy enough to put myself in a position to positively contribute to my ecosystem.’ Selfishness says, ‘I am the ecosystem.’”
“So, I would just look around at my life and say, ‘Are there any spaces in which there’s no room for me to need time and space to take care of myself?’ Because if that is the system that you’re in, it’s time to start reevaluating how much your concept of self-worth is being exchanged for the way other folks think you’re showing up and sacrificing enough.”
“When you start tracing patterns, then you start noticing triggers. When you start noticing triggers, you can start to remove triggers. When you start to remove the triggers, you can replace them with positive triggers. The next thing you know, you’ve looked up and your home space, your work life, your social life looks more like this harmonious ecosystem where everything is pouring into and nourishing itself, versus this very harmful ecosystem where your nutrients are being sapped at every level and something is coming into the ecosystem and benefiting from the nutrients, but not putting anything back in. You know, self-worth helps you to feel okay with stopping that sapping behavior.”
“Hard parts bring us to the part of contention where the joy makes so much sense.”
“I found myself noticing that I would be more spontaneous and joyful [on vacation]. My vacation style is different. My vacation voice is different. I found myself tracing that pattern, and I created more vacation-like moments in my normal life so that that part of me could get some air and resurface.”
“My Enneagram experience, took me into this place of being really authentic and original and no longer needing the security of those patterns, and being able to figure out what was right for me for the day or for the period or season of my life. Unapologetically pursuing and knowing that it was all working perfectly in this big story.”
“It’s just been really beautiful to see how when you allow yourself, and you esteem yourself, then the world starts to reflect the overflow of how you feel about yourself. People start to treat you in ways that are aligned with how you’re treating yourself. My friends, my family, my husband, my daughter, a lot of us are navigating more expansive ways to be in each other’s lives, and it’s because I set the tone for my own sense of self-worth and then everybody else follows suit.”
“There’s this other thing that happens when you start to grow your self-worth – the world begins to provide opportunities. You also confirm your self-worth in watching yourself positively steward your own opportunities”
Hello, welcome back to another episode of School of Self-Worth. One of the goals of this podcast is to share the story behind the story from women who have defined success on their own terms. I absolutely would count Danielle Fanfair among them. She’s a former pastor turned speaker, Enneagram teacher, and Director of Integrated Well-Being who has consulted with NASA among others. I’ve been privileged to train under her, and I love tapping into her wisdom whenever I can to understand myself better and also the people that I love. Are you a high achieving woman ready to understand and know yourself at the deepest level? This conversation is for you.
Here we go! All right everyone, I am so happy to welcome Danielle Fanfair to School of Self-Worth. Welcome, Danielle.
I love the School of Self-Worth. Thank you. It’s an honor to be here.
So, Danielle and I know each other through a mutual friend who introduced us a couple of years back. I’ve really loved our interactions and collaboration since then. I’m actually currently taking her Enneagram certification course and learning all about the Enneagram. That’s been a really cool journey. What I’d say I love about you, Danielle, is what you speak to and your way of really dissecting what we’re talking about as you’re teaching or as you’re talking about it, whether it’s in back and forth conversation or in a place where you might be learning from you. So thank you, I love that about you and I’m so excited to dive into this conversation because, really, right before we started, you had mentioned that this has been on your mind.
I’d love for you to even start to go into where did you start to think about self-worth or bring it up for yourself as a topic. It might even be something where you were aware of it but didn’t have that particular verbiage for it. But just were starting to become aware of it and I’d love to hear about the beginning of your journey.
Yeah, so in 2016 I had a crisis of faith and identity. I was a burnt-out, exhausted pastor of a small, very progressive Christian movement in Houston, Texas. I loved the work that we were doing and the transformation that we were seeing. However, I was completely out of alignment with myself while I was doing that work. I was over-identified in religion, gender roles, and my professional role as a pastor, and felt limited by all of it. Up until that point, my self-esteem and my concept of my self-worth were deeply and incorrectly connected to how well I performed at those roles.
So how good of a Christian was I? How often did I avoid the 7 deadly sins? How much did I live this life that was really connected to putting everybody else first, glamorizing suffering as holiness, and disconnecting completely from my body, my desires, my dreams, and pleasure? How well did I do that, because how well I did that was my kind of rubric for whether or not God was pleased with me, and whether or not the religious authorities that I had trusted were pleased with me. So how I overrode my own intuition, how I dismissed and completely gaslit my own emotions, and how I ignored my own intellectual development was the way that I was making everybody else happy.
Okay, then as for gender roles, being a woman, being ladylike, being this good girl, how well I did that was a parallel of how well I squelched my own deep yearnings and longings and desires. Because the desires that I had to produce and to attract opportunities and to be a leader, all of those things that I saw myself doing were completely in opposition to the indoctrination of what it meant to be a ladylike Christian woman. And then finally, my role as a pastor in Houston.
In Texas, Houston is a democratic city. I always say Houston is purple, right? We have a lot of progressive political leanings. However, we’re still in the red state in the Bible Belt, you know what I’m saying? And so the role of a pastor, I don’t know how many people really understand how much you have to deny yourself to be a good pastor. You’re the only one. What did Tim or Eric, two of our cohort members, call it? You have to be the non-anxious presence in everybody’s life.
And so that non-anxious presence looks like you don’t have any emotions, unless you’re happy, unless you have the joy of the Lord. You don’t get angry. You don’t get sad. You do not get anxious. “Be anxious for nothing,” is what the scripture says. You don’t have bad days. You don’t have low moments. You certainly don’t have disordered mental health as a pastor. No way. Because you’ve got Jesus, all you need to do is read a scripture and pray and worship and you’ll be fine, which is again how you start to override your own intelligence.
A friend of mine named Hannah McMahon, gave me the term she coined – ‘She burnt up’. She didn’t burn out, she burnt up. And I did the same thing. I had a baby and I looked down at this perfect little baby girl and I said, “Hey, I will not pass on to you the same suffering that I’m willingly experiencing.”
So I decided to radically change my life, and in the process, I went to a doctor. Her name is Dr. Ferrell McLain and she is what’s called a bioenergetic pharmacist. It’s a very little-known area of science where a bioenergetic doctor will hook you up to a machine. The sensors will use radio frequency to test the energy of different systems in your body, organs, and systems. How your body echoes back the radio frequency, the degree of intensity to which your body echoes back is recorded by the machine. Then a bioenergetic doctor is able to say, “Hey, your kidneys are functioning at low energy,” or “Your liver is functioning this way,” or “Your heart can even pre-screen you for growth of harmful substances that can later become cancerous.” The machine could not even pick me up. My energy was so low. She tried everything, but said the machine was not even reading my body and that I was in crisis if I continued at this pace and rate.
Other things were happening in my life. I was running out of gas on the freeway. I was bumping and cutting myself around the house. I mean, I was having neck spasms that rivaled childbirth pains. I had what I thought was a stomach virus and was constantly in all kinds of turmoil in my digestive system and my entire body. I was having migraines that made me close one eye to be able to see. When she said that I was in crisis, “Either you take care of yourself or you’re going to end up in the emergency room,” all of it together was a huge wake-up call. When I asked her what to do, she said, “The only thing that I can prescribe for you that will immediately change your energy is going and doing things that bring you joy.” She gave me some alkaline water and some minerals. She was like, “Drink these minerals, drink this water, go get in bed and when you wake up, go do things that bring you joy. That is the only thing that’s going to raise the level of energy in your body. And then come back and we can actually test your organs.” She said my energy was so low that they couldn’t even test what was going on with me.
To be honest, it scared me and it pissed me off because here I am just pouring out, pouring out, following all the rules that I was given. I would learn people’s individual rules like the little nuanced things that they liked. I was following the laws. I was following the church’s rules. I was following all of society’s rules around modesty and femininity. All of that stuff, I was following all the rules and it was exhausting me, because at the same time I was following all those rules, I was using my reserve of energy to suppress my own desires, and to suppress my own wants, and suppress the things that I liked and was interested in, because that was sinful.
So my journey to self-worth literally was a last resort before an even deeper health crisis. When I began to esteem what I naturally liked as worthy of my time, attention, and energy, when I began to esteem those things, I esteemed myself, and my life began to change and take shape. I began to not only cultivate an environment that supported my true self, but also began to attract opportunities, relationships and income that were in alignment with the value that I had, and was constantly contributing.
Well, there are so many things I have questions about in that whole story, Danielle.
Can I ask a question because I’m so curious? Well, first off, what I really observe from you sharing is that you were locked in a system and that was part of the real challenges. It’s interesting because for me, faith is a really big part of my life, and it was really this church system that had locked you in the pastor system. It’s interesting, because I have never been in those systems myself, personally, but I’ve been in other systems – like journalism – which also did the same thing and locked you into this pathway, and there’s only one way to go.
So first, thank you for sharing that because I feel like it’s illuminating for all of us, for myself personally, and I’m sure for the listeners, around how these systems exist in so many places and in so many ways, and then the cost of it to your health, that you described so well. And that health journey, I know for many people listening, it has been present. Like you feel it in your body first, like that’s the first place it comes out.
I just want to say that the cost of the things that you’re doing is so high, compared to the benefits of what you’re receiving. So there’s always this debt, this internal deficit.
Yeah, absolutely, and that you know you weren’t even hitting that test. Like they couldn’t even tell what your energy was like. I was so curious because she said go do something that brings you joy, and I wanted to know first what that was?
Yes, so I went home and went to sleep immediately, because my husband and I are always throwing out ideas for inventions. He goes, “Do you realize that all your inventions are around sleep?” And I’m like, “Yeah, because I’m tired, so I’m trying to invent ways to go lay down.”
I gave myself the rest that I needed. My daughter is just a real bundle of joy. She just emanates fun. She’s funny. She’s smart. She approaches the world with wonder, curiosity, and gentle kindness. So spending time with her was one thing that I did. I also took a forty-day sabbatical and went to go stay in LA with my family for forty days. My body loves California. Like it’s the more I dig into the history of California and my family history of California, I’m like, “Oh, this is epigenetic.” Like my pores and my mitochondria at the cellular level operate differently in California, right?
I just started making decisions to skip stuff and say no. I love to dance. If I wanted to be a professional dancer, I probably could, but I feel like that would take the joy out of it. So I started dancing more often because again, my religious indoctrination said, “Don’t you dance. That’s suggestive. That’s calling too much attention to your body. Your body is a bag of sin,” right? And so, I started to dance. I started to engage in intimacy with my husband more often. Not to please my husband and save my marriage, but because I actually wanted to become intimate in a more frequent and intense way. And I also grew my hair out. I love my hair. And for a long time, I had a very low hairstyle. I had a low, low haircut and it was mostly out of convenience and budgetary constraints. So I grew my hair out and decided that I loved my hair, and was going to take care of it.
I just did a bunch of things that I had been putting off for a long time, and saw that I was able to really see myself returning from what felt like a very long journey of being hidden away. Additionally, I left the church. I retired from my position, and I also retired from religion in the way that I was practicing it as this dutiful, sacrificial thing. I entered into a much more expansive spiritual practice that is characterized by hopeful expectation and community with a divine source, that means me, right? That is genderless and even nameless. And maybe even a collection of several spirits that are working together for my good. So when I slowed down my pace and changed my work – I’m also a lifelong learner – I went crazy on certifications and did some professional Enneagram training. I did some 200 and 300-hour yoga teacher training certifications.
I took a lot of classes. I took the Science of Well-Being at Yale University, the recorded course. I didn’t do it all with Yale, but I took the recorded course with Dr. Julie Santos. I just took a lot of courses around my interests, you know, and began to integrate what I was learning into my curriculum, which is called Confusion to Clarity. And every time I looked up, I was receiving opportunities to come and teach and speak and share.
So COVID-19 quarantine was a great reset for me. I actually was able to take a year to really develop my curriculum and get the kind of rest that I needed. I manifested a layoff. As I had moved on from the church and became the executive director of the Hines Center for Spirituality and Prayer, everything we were doing was in person. It was a lot of breathing. It was very close proximity. So the board voted unanimously. They indefinitely closed the doors until we could figure out the pandemic. And that was actually something that I kind of secretly wanted, because a lot of my speaking opportunities, and my teaching opportunities, and my coaching opportunities, were competing with my full-time job. I was able to fully pivot during the pandemic and I’ve been going since then.
That was October of 2016 that all that started happening. I had had my child in October of 2015. I was a year into motherhood when I had that big crisis. I really think motherhood triggered everything. Postpartum depression actually did me a huge favor, because I could not ignore or deny everything around me that was just completely out of alignment with who I was and who I am today. I made that pivot and started integrating those joyful things. My husband just bought me a pair of skates because I skate every chance I get. He’s like, “You need your own skates. You need to start riding these skates.” So they travel around with me in my trunk, so I can skate whenever I want, whenever I spot a safe space to do so. So my life is filled with a lot more playfulness. A lot more affection. My friend group has completely transformed and I’m friends with peers who want to see me do well, and who are not intimidated by seeing me in the news or on TV or in a magazine, because that happens, right? And so, I ended up kind of burning up into an expanded way of living that really matches my energy naturally.
That’s beautiful. I love all your ways of playing because I feel like play is such a secret to joy. Like you want to get joy, you’ve got to get out there and play. Like parents at the playground, I’m like, “Go hang on those monkey bars with your kids. That’ll bring you joy,” right? Like start doing all that stuff with them.
Yes, and I learned from a study that it takes a hundred times to learn how to do something, to be able to figure it out. But if you do it while playing, it only takes 17 times.
That is a great stat. I Love that.
Yeah, so that’s actually how I got through college. I just made up songs for everything. Like all my geographical studies, or when I had to learn a map, I remember how I did it. I can’t remember the whole song now, but if you put a map of South America in front of me, I can probably remember the song. But I made up a song about all the countries and the only part I can remember is going “Paraguay, Uruguay” because they were right next to each other. I taught the song to my other classmates, so you could see us taking the test like singing the song in our heads to finish the test! So play is really helpful with learning things faster.
That’s awesome. Well to shift it a little bit. This is something you and I chatted about before we started defining self-worth, and for you, you had been saying recently you’d been unpacking it from selfishness. I’m wondering if you could share a little bit more about that, because I feel like that is something where we start to take care of ourselves or put ourselves ahead of other people and we start to be like, “Am I being selfish? Do I feel guilty for choosing myself over my kids or my family or other people who might need something from me?”
That actually came out of being accused of being selfish, by people that I really trusted. The words “I chose myself” being thrown at me as some kind of evidence that I was lacking in character. So I had to know, as I was being accused of being selfish, that the boundaries that I put in place for my well-being and the results that I was seeing about my well-being, made it so that I had to define selfishness versus self-worth. Okay, so I do this a lot with different concepts as I’m dismantling my internalized patriarchal, white supremacy, Christian narcissism. All of what I’ve internalized, I’m still teasing that apart, right? I’m still teasing apart this idea that there’s only one way and this idea that certain words only have one meaning.
Anyway, with self-worth versus selfishness, self-worth is an intention to esteem yourself adequately in the way that your creator, whomever that is, your source, in the way that your creator has communicated to and through you with your intelligent design. Right? So my self-worth has me assess my super-intelligent design and then make decisions that support the expansion and functioning of that beautiful design. That’s self-worth. Self-worth is, “I’m going to give myself enough sleep and I’m going to say no to the activities that prevent me from sleeping adequately because I know that when I go to sleep the next day, I have fewer sinus problems. I’m clearer in my thought. My body’s working better. I’m not as sluggish. I can go run my three miles, or walk my dog, or play with my daughter when she gets home from school.” You know what I mean? I have enough energy reserves to do that. So my self-worth, knowing that 8 hours of sleep is putting my body in a position to perform at its optimal function and I’m worthy of that, helps me to have time boundaries and say, “I’m done. If you email me at 8:30, see you tomorrow,” Because 8:30 is my initial descent into sleepy time.
Selfishness is different. Selfishness says, “I am going to impose my will. I’m going to impose what I think I need over everybody else’s needs.” I’m going to literally look and see how me doing what I want to do diminishes and subtracts from everybody else’s needs. And I’m like, “I’m not going to figure it out. Find a workaround. I’m going to just do what I want to do anyway.” I’m not going to consider the impact that I’m having on others. I’m not going to take responsibility for that impact. I certainly am not going to apologize for that impact. Selfishness says, “I’m going to do what I want to do, regardless of the impact.” Those are two different things, because my time boundaries and the way that I create an environment for my sleep, takes planning and forethought. And usually, can become harmonized with everybody else’s needs. What that means is, “I’m going to get your work done. I’m going to get what you need done. I’m going to respond to you and create a plan that allows me to be active in my community, before I begin my initial descent.”
There’s a collaborative energy and positive intention that comes with self-worth versus selfishness. “I don’t care what you say or what you do or how it’s going to affect you. I’m going to do what I want to do.” To me, that’s two different energies. I have two different frequencies in my body when I talk about self-worth versus selfishness. And then self-worth is regenerative. Selfishness is decaying. Self-worth increases your capacity to be present. Selfishness destroys all your relationships and destroys all your other sources, because you’re constantly feeding yourself with no regard to how you’re affecting your ecosystem. Self-worth is, “I’m worthy enough to put myself in a position to positively contribute to my ecosystem.” Selfishness says, “I am the ecosystem.”
Thank you so much for the thought you’ve put into that and then laying it out for us, because I always think of that too. Like self-worth is so important because then that means I take care of myself. But that also means I have more capacity to contribute, because if I don’t have capacity, how could I contribute? Where selfishness is, like you said, a taking energy. It’s like, “Give it all to me,” right?
It’s a taking. “I’m going to take and take and take until there’s nothing left to take and nobody else to take from.” We often see people who are habitually selfish, end up in these very isolated lifestyles because they’ve just taken and taken. However, you see the folks who have been mindful about their participation and create this harmony between self-worth and contribution. Those are the people whose lives are continuing to expand and blossom, in ways that continue the culture of self-worth that they started.
That’s beautiful because I feel like a lot of times women have been really trained to not prioritize ourselves. I think for so many reasons, right? And then the idea of starting to take back time for yourself or to sleep, which really, I don’t know how anyone could call that selfish. But I think getting sleep and taking time for yourself over everyone else, in their own minds though, can be selfish, right? That’s the next challenge. Not only what other people might say, but then what you might feel about that. And what would you say to people around that? Like how do you unpack that for yourself?
I’ll share a story. One day, one Sunday, one of the many Sundays that I was working all day, every day in a pastoral role, I started to feel stomach pains. They weren’t connected to emotions. I needed to end a relationship that I had been in for a while that was just successful, and my body was starting to respond to me. You see, there’s a pattern here with me. My body always tells me when it’s time to burn up into something new. I told my colleagues, “Hey y’all, I have to go. My body is talking to me and I need to be somewhere quiet and calm where I can content myself.” The response I got was, “You’re quitting. You’re quitting on us today. You know, you kind of let your teammates down.” My response to that was, “If my teammates would rather me be in excruciating pain and stay than cover me while I go take care of myself for a very physical event that has never happened before, then I’m on the wrong squad.”
The difference, I think, in those two perspectives is that A) I had done everything that I was supposed to do that day so literally me being around was just the sprinkles on top of the ice cream and on top of the cupcake at that point, but B) I had a crucial human need to go meet and it was completely out of our cultural design. We had no safety net for someone to have a crucial human need and be able to meet it without causing other folks to feel like they had quit. So, I would just look around at my life and say, “Are there any spaces in which there’s no room for me to need time and space to take care of myself?” Because if that is the system that you’re in, it’s time to start reevaluating how much your concept of self-worth is being exchanged for the way other folks think you’re showing up and sacrificing enough.
Thank you for sharing that. I feel like it is so helpful to sometimes parcel up this stuff. I know it takes a moment, and you and I are both people who are big fans of settling your body, your nervous system, regulating yourself so you can start to discern these things and then you can look at the situations that you’re in.
And while it might not always be possible in that moment, upon reflection, you can start to say, “Okay, does this work for me? Does this actually work for me or am I just giving, or is someone taking from me?” Right? Like that experience, that exchange, doesn’t feel energetically equitable in whatever way.
And what are you getting from all of this self-martyring behavior? Right? What’s the payoff and be honest about that. Which is why the Enneagram for me has been so helpful, because learning the personality types, and learning the sense of wounding that each type is creating a strategy around, right? Learning the needs of each type, the fears of each type, learning how each type fixates when they are in stress and how each type feels in their emotional space when they’re in stress. Learning what each type looks like when they are in their kind of highest self, their essence, really helped me to trace the patterns of my behavior.
And when you start tracing patterns, then you start noticing triggers. And when you start noticing triggers, you can start to remove triggers. And when you start to remove the triggers, you can replace them with positive triggers. The next thing you know, you’ve looked up and your home space, your work life, your social life looks more like this harmonious ecosystem where everything is pouring into and nourishing itself, versus this very harmful ecosystem where your nutrients are being sapped at every level and something is coming into the ecosystem and benefiting from the nutrients, but not putting anything back in. You know, self-worth helps you to feel okay with stopping that sapping behavior.
Absolutely. Well, I love that you’re bringing it back to the Enneagram because I’m taking a course with Danielle and learning so much. I finally have figured out that I’m an Enneagram One. I thought I was maybe a Three, and then I was like, “No, I think I’m a Six,” and now I’m like, “Oh no, no, I’m definitely a One.” And she is, too. And I’m curious. Can you share a little bit about how that journey into understanding yourself through Enneagram One, helped you move into a place of greater self-worth?
Yes, first of all, the essence of the Type One, when the Type One feels rooted, rested, loved, and aligned, they embody a vision of perfection where they just discover how everything is working together. And that discovery of how everything is working together gives the Type One this sense of serenity and calm confidence that even the hardest chapter is making the whole book a good book. Right? And I’ve seen this in myself.
One day, my husband and I moved out of our house into a rental property in order to sell our house. I got a call from him one day. I had just decided to take a day off and I was pulling the covers up with my snacks laid out and my movie was queued up to start. He called and said, “You gotta go to the other house.” And I said, “Why?” And he said, “Because a realtor is there and says that the house has been flooded.” And I said, “Okay.” And I was able to immediately reason that this out-of-the-blue, really tragic destruction of our property must mean that something good is on the other side of it, because I didn’t leave the faucet running. You know, I had not done anything to deserve a flooded house. We had done everything that we possibly could to set this experience up for seamless success. I said there must be something on the other side of this.
So, I put on my Beyonce Homecoming album, which had just come out, and I got in that car and bopped all over to that house. And when I got there, it was a mess. A realtor had left my pot filler, which is a spout over the stove, running for some days. And my house is a three-story house, so the second floor with my custom bamboo hardwood floors and the first floor was completely soaked in water. The story is very complex and beautiful, but to make a long story short, we actually ended up receiving an insurance settlement that took care of all the damages. And while the contractors were fixing the damages, they were finding other things in the house to fix. Essentially, the flood ended up renovating the house. The deal fell through, we moved back in, and we renovated the house for ourselves.
Amazing I Love that.
And so, I was like, “I knew it.” You know, until I saw that perfection, that serenity, that vision of like, “Okay, hard parts bring us to the part of contention where the joy makes so much sense.” I had seen that. And then I was able to trace the patterns of that. The Type One has a felt sense of childhood wounding where they just never felt good enough. They always felt heavily criticized. And that is my childhood to a T. Born to young parents, raised by my older godparents, lived a very nomadic life. Went to probably three or four different houses a month because I was visiting my mom, visiting my dad, visiting my other family. Constantly having to be responsible for my own things and my own self and then know all the rules at each household. You know, one house liked their cups upside down after they washed them, the other house liked them to be right side up, and another house didn’t have a dishwasher at all. You know what I mean? And so it was like, “Okay, now I’m having to learn and categorize what it means to be a good girl in all of these places.” And then when I do mess up and when I do make a mistake, when I have a perfectly natural for my development childhood moment, I would feel like everybody was just coming down on me because I was the first grandchild. Nobody knew what they were doing in the 80s. They were smoking cigarettes, and I’m like, “You shouldn’t be doing that, and you’re smoking cigarettes anyway”.
So that led me to have a lot of anger and resentment and to do things spitefully on my own to compensate for the deep anger and resentment I had and the powerlessness I felt, because all of these folks were adults. They were in control of me. I didn’t have a sense of personal power. And then finally, the points of growth and stress for the Type One. When Type Ones feel like they’re making mistakes, they’re not a good person, they’re completely out of integrity, they move into this sad, withdrawn, pitiful space. I had that. I found myself going from angry to super, super, sad, and depressed, making myself wrong for that, and then cycling through anger and depression, anger and depression, resentment, resentment.
So learning the character structure of the Enneagram Type One, I began to allow myself to go to that space knowing that it was a temporary space. The growth point of the Type One is to the spontaneous, joyful, fun-loving Type Seven. And that’s me on vacation. Like my husband always says, “You’re Mother Teresa at home and you are a comedian on vacation.” I found myself noticing that I would be more spontaneous and joyful. My vacation style is different. My vacation voice is different. And I found myself tracing that pattern, so I created more vacation-like moments in my normal life so that that part of me could get some air and resurface.
When I was able to trace those patterns, I was also able to slowly change my environment to meet the needs that I felt were going unmet for so long, to really see myself more in growth, more often. More expansion, more often. Then the Enneagram, my Enneagram experience, took me into this place of being really authentic and original and no longer needing the security of those patterns, and being able to figure out what was right for me for the day or for the period or season of my life. Unapologetically pursuing that, knowing that it was all working perfectly in this big story. And so then here comes that serenity I was telling you about earlier where I have a calm confidence and even a psychic-like intuition because now I’m more in touch with my body. I know what my gut is telling me. I honor my feelings. I trust my experience and the intellectual capacity of my experiences. I trust the information that I’ve learned and that I can recall my information at any point and integrate it and use it in application. So I feel better about myself. I feel that I’m more worthy of the experiences and more deserving of the desires that I had been longing for. And then I found myself in positions where I could opt into those experiences, and I could actualize those desires.
And then comes all of the things that I really wished for and longed for as a kid. You know, a happy, loving family where we really enjoy each other. A family vacation to Disneyland, which is something I would have never allowed myself as a pastor. Are you kidding me? People are struggling in this world, people are starving, and you’re at Disneyland? Like, there’s no way in the world I would have allowed that for myself back in those days.
So, I went to Disneyland, and I cried because of the beauty, I mean, there are artists that are working in that park. It inspired me in such a way that I went home and infused that artistic industry energy into my own industry. And you know, it’s just been really beautiful to see how when you allow yourself, and you esteem yourself, then the world starts to reflect the overflow of how you feel about yourself. And people start to treat you in ways that are aligned with how you’re treating yourself. So, you know, my friends, my family, my husband, my daughter, a lot of us are navigating more expansive ways to be in each other’s lives. And it’s because I set the tone for my own sense of self-worth and then everybody else follows suit. And the folks who don’t follow suit? It’s an immediate deal-breaker. So that’s information about who needs to be kind of further out in those boundaries and who has the ability to be closer in.
I love what you’re saying about how when you esteem yourself and have more worth, really what you’re saying is that you have more abundance in your life and more comes in. And sometimes, I think people are like, “Oh, it’s selfish.” But it’s not selfish because when you really have your own self-worth, you start to see the world in a much more expansive way. And obviously, I’m a Type One talking too. It’s important for me to have that perspective all the time. It’s like, how do you ground yourself? And it comes from being grounded in who you are and your self-worth. And then you can see that expansion.
I got a grant to participate in an arts organization in Houston, called Project Row Houses. They give grants to artists to turn these old, refurbished, dilapidated row houses into big canvases for artists to create an exhibition. These houses are actually renovated versions of the houses that the first-ever emancipated Black folks lived in, in Houston, Texas. They’re called shotgun houses because you can shoot a shotgun through the front door and out of the back door. So, I got my grant to do that, and I would say probably half of the money went on supplies and installation. With the other half, I contracted so many different people to play a part in the house, the programming, the installation, the design. I mean, I made $5,000 go so far. Right?
There’s this other thing that happens when you start to grow your self-worth – the world begins to provide opportunities. You also confirm your self-worth in watching yourself positively steward your own opportunities. I was like, “Oh when I get it, I do give it. When I get opportunities, I steward those opportunities.” And I really am leaving this earth better than I found it. Right? And so then you begin to not only esteem yourself and accept yourself and trust yourself, but you also begin to love yourself. And when you begin to love yourself, how you treat yourself becomes the standard for how you treat other people. And the energy, attention, and experiences that you create for other people is now the overflow of your own self-worth. So now you’re esteeming everybody and teaching them how to upgrade their self-worth, because when you treat other people well, it has an effect on them where it’s like, “I want to continue this. I want to chase this neurological cascade of dopamine and oxytocin that’s flowing, by continuing this treatment in my own life.” So, just by the very nature of your presence, you’re making the world a better, more harmonious place.
That was so beautifully said. Thank you so much for that, Danielle. What would you say to someone who’s starting on this journey? They’re at the beginning of it and they’re really wanting to bring in a practice of self-worth for themselves. What tip would you give them?
I would say start with your crucial human needs and look up Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. That was a really good place for me to start. If you look up Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the bottom rung of the pyramid is physiological, or your basic needs. A good way to start is to ask yourself, “What are my basic needs? How do I need to sleep? How do I need to eat? What should I be drinking? What kind of way should I be nourishing my body with hydration? What physical things do I need to put on my body because of the climate that I live in?” Look around at your home life. Is my home life supporting my physiological needs? Is my physical environment supporting my physiological needs?
Once you start to shift those things, the feeling that you get from taking care of yourself begins to overflow. And then here comes the next level, which is safety. How am I keeping my body and my person safe? Do I have safe people around me? Do I live in a safe area? Is my car safe? So then you start making small changes within your current power and capacity. And every time you make a positive change, that energy will overflow into the next place of change. You see? And then you just go higher and higher up.
The next thing after physiological and safety is love and belonging. So, do I have people in my life where our relationship is a mutual exchange of love and belonging? And if I do, how can I turn that up, dial that up? And if I notice that there are relationships that are not characterized by love and belonging, is it time to start shedding those down? How can I create distance and create space in my life for the relationships that I want, beginning with how I love and take care of myself? And then you go further up. Now we’re at esteem, where you do things to build and boost your self-confidence. I would say dig into the things that you did well as a kid. For me, skating, dancing, reading, speaking, writing – those are all things I’ve been doing since before I was 10 years old. Return to those things that you like to do, that bring you back to a sense of who you really are, who you were before a sense of wounding and panic began to influence the decisions that we make, particularly social experiences.
The top of the pyramid is self-actualization. And that is putting yourself in the position to actually learn how to do the thing that you feel like you were put on earth to do. So Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a beginning point. And then learn your Enneagram type. Learn about your personality type. And the Enneagram is not the only typing system that’s out there. My teacher, Claudio Naranjo, says all models are incomplete and some are helpful for transformation. So find one that you like. I’m currently into Human Design and Gene Keys. Those are two new systems that are fascinating to me because they’re so accurate and spot-on. I’m in that self-actualization part where I’m just figuring out more information about myself and how to leverage that information to determine what superpowers I can contribute in the world, and how my talents and superpowers can go and protect me, prepare a space for me, and provide things for me. I would say start with your crucial human needs and work your way up.
Beautiful! I mean really sometimes I think we underestimate how important those are, so I love that.
Are you ready for the rapid-fire questions? What was the last thing you watched on TV?
The last thing I watched on TV was the reboot of House Party, where these two guys threw a party in LeBron James’s house. It was so wildly impossible and the whole time I was like, “This is not reality. This would not be happening. These people would be in jail the moment they stepped on the property.” But it was just so fun to step into that realm of just Hollywood, like so many plot holes that once you get past a certain threshold of “this would not happen,” the movie just becomes fun. It’s just like a theme park. I wish it was something smarter though. I watched a collection of Toni Morrison interviews – but my Tony Morrison interviews were not the last thing I watched.
Awesome, I love it. Okay, what’s on your nightstand?
What is on my nightstand is an essential oil diffuser, a salt lamp, a note that my daughter has given me that says I’m the best mom ever. (I’m looking at it because I work in one part of my room and then I sleep in another part). A surprise Valentine’s Day gift from my husband, an electric candle warmer, and a hand-carved owl from Oaxaca, an artisan in Mexico. Then some luxurious body lotion from Lush and, because I haven’t taken them today, some echinacea pills that a naturopathic pharmacist made for me.
That sounds like a lot, but it’s not as cluttered as you think. Oh, and my phone charger is somewhere around there, but I try to keep my phone farther away.
When was the last time you tried something new and what was it?
I went to a new restaurant in Houston called ‘The Ginger Mule’, on Saturday. It was a restaurant soft opening and I tell you, I wanted to go into the kitchen and tongue kiss everybody who had made my food. I have a wheat allergy.
Oh wow. Well, next time I’m in Houston, I’ll be like, “You’ve got to take me to that place, Danielle.”
I will take you to The Ginger Mule and we will order all the things. I’m going to be like, “Don’t even worry about it. Let’s just get everything because everything is good!”
Okay, last question. What are your top three most used emojis on your phone?
Let’s go to emojis. Frequently used: the crying laughing emoji, the big eyes looking to the left, and the brown thumbs up.
The brown thumbs up. Nice! Well, Danielle, thank you so much for being on. Where can people find you and more about what you do and what you’re up to?
Yeah, so I have a little website. It’s called confusiontoclarity.life. So you go to www.confusiontoclarity.life, like the life you want to live, and there you will be able to catch a lot of my offerings. I have a store where you can go in and if you want to dip your little pinky toe into the Enneagram, there’s a workbook that I created that I wish I had when I was stumbling through my own Enneagram journey.
I’m also a professional coaching consultant and I teach integrated well-being, which is basically my way of guiding people through ways to both intellectually understand something, emotionally connect to it, and then integrate what they understand, what they emotionally feel, and what they intuit from their gut intuition space into a personal and professional culture that sets them up for whatever their version of success looks like. So you can find that there.
I also teach an empathy-driven approach to diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility, and ways that we can expand our empathy to go from being aware of what people are experiencing, especially those who are part of the historically excluded global majority, developing empathy for folks that we don’t normally have empathy for – who don’t look like us or with whom we don’t normally identify, and then identifying what acts of compassion we can begin to leverage. And lastly, how can we value and appreciate folks from different cultures and folks who have invaluable contributions to make? All of that’s there. I also love when I hear from clients that are like, “I love everything you’re doing, but I have a unique request,” and we co-create ways to show up at boards, churches, tech companies, and law firms. I like to say I have my tech clients, and I taught NASA a lot last year. So, we go from cyberspace to outer space. You know?
The curriculum is really industry-agnostic, meaning that empathy can be plugged in anywhere. Compassion can be plugged in anywhere. And appreciation, esteeming, and valuing others as worthy, can really be plugged into any industry. And as we can see, we sure need it.
Well, Danielle, I love being around you, and in your space, and I cannot recommend you more. I’m in her current certification for Enneagram training and she’s just a beautiful soul doing really big things in the world. Make sure you check it out. We’ll be linking all that stuff in the show notes as well. I am just so grateful to be in your sphere and in your world. Thank you so much for being on School of Self-Worth.
Thank you for having School of Self-Worth, Nicole. I just want to echo back to you how being connected to you in various ways has continued to expand me. When I do my little Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and I look at my community of love and belonging, I can check off that our relationship is one that is expanding me in every way that we choose to engage. Thank you for being an expansive person and helping me to not only know my worth, but to expand my offerings to command what I am worthy of. So thank you! This was fun.