This week’s guest is Rebecca Hall Gruyter.
Rebecca suffered abuse as a child and learned quickly to live in the background, become invisible and hide behind a shy smile.
This is a story of survival, overcoming and discovering her own voice so she could help others learn to share theirs.
Rebecca tells us how she learned to become visible. In that process, she discovered her life purpose. It’s an inspiring story.
or read the transcript of our conversation below:
Upside Down to Right Side Up: Tips for the Transition
Hello, and welcome to from Upside Down to Right Side Up. This is a show that was formerly known as Tips for the Transition. We’re not changing what we do here; we’re still going to share tips for the transition.
I am María Tomas-Keegan, your host, and this is my continuing interview series in which I chat with strong, resilient women who have inspiring stories of transformation to tell and are courageous enough to share them here with us. Today my guest is Rebecca Hall-Gruyter who suffered abuse as a young child and learned to be invisible and hide behind a smile. This is a story of survival, overcoming, and becoming a voice to help others share their voice. The title of this segment is Choose to be Visible and Shine. Hello, Rebecca.
Rebecca: Hello, I’m honored to be here today.
~María: Welcome, welcome! I am so honored to have you as my guest today. Abuse is a difficult subject and one many women can’t find the courage to tell. Would you please share your story and tell us why visibility is so important to you?
~R: Absolutely, thank you for the opportunity and you’re right, it isn’t something that a lot of us are comfortable talking about. And actually, I was very resistant to start sharing my story when I was called to start doing so. Here’s just a little bit of my journey.
I was a young girl, about five, five-and-a-half years old, my parents got divorced and that changed the world that I lived in. Suddenly, I was put into an environment that was unsafe, I experienced all kinds of things a little girl shouldn’t know about, much less experience and when I cried out for help as a little girl, it’s not always understood what you’re asking for the help that you need.
It wasn’t believed; it wasn’t understood. And I was put back in the environment, and it became more and more severe. So I decided I must not matter. I’m not okay. There’s something horribly wrong with me that’s causing this. It must be my fault; I’m not lovable. And it was absolutely not safe to be seen or heard in any way, shape, or form.
So, I strove to be invisible, hoping that would help me survive, and get through. I was that little girl that smiled really big, but I had those sad eyes, if you looked a little bit more closely. I never wanted to call home, I tried to stay at school for any extra credit bonus, anything I could do. I would cling to that environment. Eventually, the truth did come out and I was rescued for which I’m very, very grateful. My birth father and my stepmom are heroes in my life and rescued me and I was moved into this new environment where I got to go on a healing journey. And some of what I discovered is that I actually mattered, that I had great value. I came at great cost to them; I must have great value. They loved me so I discovered I’m lovable, and it actually wasn’t my fault, and that I was safe to be seen and heard.
But I can tell you that was the longest and hardest part of my journey, because it’s one thing to know things intellectually. I feel like we know a lot of things intellectually. We have all kinds of certifications, and things that we know.
It’s very different to live it, to believe it on a cellular level, and have it become part of you.
And that’s been the part of my journey that has been most challenging and stretching and rewarding for me. If we kind of fast forward, I have an opportunity to be a voice so other voices can come forward and share, impact people. Because when I look around the world, I look out into it, I see men and women that are still believing those lies that they don’t matter, that they’re not okay, that there’s something wrong with them. And it’s not safe and it spurs me on and encourages me to add my voice and encourage others too, so that we can step into truth and stop believing those lies.
~M: Wow, that’s so powerful. I love what you just said: there are so many people still out there who are believing lies, that they are not worthy, that they’re not lovable. And I find the same thing. I think it’s why you and I do what we do for a living, and I am so happy that you shared that piece especially. The journey you went on … thank God you were rescued.
I’m so happy that that happened for you. It doesn’t happen for everyone.
~R: No it doesn’t.
~M: And that may be why they still feel the need to believe the lies.
It is a compelling story, Rebecca. I would like to ask you in our next segment to go a little bit further into the emotions that you felt on that journey, and how they affected you in that healing process and how they helped you to choose visibility going forward.
~M: Welcome to Part Two of my chat with Rebecca Hall-Gruyter, who shared her story of abuse as a child and how it led her to move from being an invisible victim to being visible and shining.
I’m Maria Tomas-Keegan, your host for From Upside Down to Right Side Up. I’m honored to share inspiring stories like Rebecca’s. Stories of reaching out and rising up, because they help us to know that we are not alone as our world turns upside down.
Thank you, Rebecca for sharing your story
~R: My pleasure, I’m honored to be here today.
~M: As we ended the first segment we promised to talk more about the emotional struggles who went through and how they led to you making the choice to stop being invisible and I understand that there is a turning point for you. Would you share that with this?
~R: I would be thrilled to… One thing I’ve discovered about a healing journey, and maybe some of you have as well, it’s a continual journey. There’s not just some moment that you arrive, and you don’t continue to grow and stretch and feel, as you discover new layers, new levels, new ways that you can be hiding, that we can be shrinking back instead of leaning in.
And if I go back to those years of intense healing, I used to have conversations with God. I used to say, “Okay God, I shouldn’t have to do these next steps. To tell the truth, to stand in this place, to step forward in this way. That felt vulnerable and scary and stretching to me because I felt like I had suffered enough.
I shouldn’t have to do these things. And, I would wrestle, and I would go back to God and I said, “Okay, I will do this mean, hard, horrible thing I really don’t think I should have to do if I can make a difference for another little girl. I will do this because I had learned to care more for others than for myself. And that would help move me forward. It took a little while longer to start loving myself too. And so every step of the journey, that was the conversation I would have; and every step I took, I survived, and I became a little bit more courageous, and I built those muscles.
But just to give an idea of how severe this was that I could barely stand up in front of people–two or more people and say my name, much less answer a question–before I would start to shake and my ears would ring, I’d turned purple, I would start to shut down on a cellular level like it remembered what happened before, and it was like my body was protecting me. It was pretty severe, and it was so scary to even stand up in that space, and that’s what college and beyond was like for me.
Eventually I did go to college, I pushed myself and I learned a secret. So, everyone can lean in. I learned you can actually hide in the public. I discovered that smile, hiding behind that smile, I could use that, I could put on my uniform or my outfit, look a certain way and she was in everything, and that gave me courage to step forward and then eventually, I grew into that place of being and I became more courageous and I was able to take away layers of hiding.
So sometimes I feel like there is this bridge that we need to start doing that. But that was something that helped me. I stepped forward and frequently was put in a leadership position and speaking in HR and finance. I ended up in the world of finance for the later part of my career, and was empowering people around money was stepping into that public eye, more and more, and it was very meaningful work and then I felt like I was being called to start telling my story, like my real story, and I was hesitant, I felt like I shouldn’t have to.
That’s not what financial advisors talk about. It’s going to be weird; it’s going to make people uncomfortable. There are so many other people that are way more qualified than me to be able to do this and make a difference. And I wrestled and had lots of reasons why I shouldn’t, but the part that pulled me forward was inside, I still had that desire. If it can make a difference for one little girl, if it can make a difference for one person, if what I had to say would help, I was willing to be scared. I was willing to be vulnerable. I was willing to be uncomfortable and stretched. And, as I wrestled, feeling that calling on my heart, I talked with God. Same kind of conversation. I shouldn’t have to. I don’t believe I’m the best qualified for this. Lots of reasons why. And I will step forward if it can make a difference for another, but I don’t want to do anything on a radio. Nothing on television. No cameras, no filming, no recording, no books. I don’t want to speak to more than 50 people at a time, because I can’t make an impact. I had all these contingencies and boundaries.
And the thing is, nobody was actually asking me to do any of those things at that time. They were just the scariest things I could think of to help me say no and have a reason not to. But, when I tapped in the reason to, which was if it can make a difference for another, that pulled me forward. And so, I told God, “Okay I will do this, and I give them all my contingencies. And there was silence and I felt like He came back to me and said, Rebecca, this is yes or no. Period.
Will you go where I call you to go and share what I call you to share it or not? It is your choice. Yes, period or no period.
I said yes. And within three months, I was on a stage, live stream 300 people in the room, and there were more than 300 people that were watching in. It felt like an endless audience. Seven minutes to share my story. I was shaking. I had two book deals in the works, several radio interviews, a television show interview that I felt particularly tricked to do. But again, I knew I can make a difference. I don’t even know what I said; I was out of my body, and I shared my story. I was shaking, I cried, but I knew in my heart there was someone in the room that needed what I had to say. Got a standing ovation I never saw because I was out of my body, and when I got off the stage, there were a lineup of men and women that looked endless to me, and the first one came to me. They go, Rebecca, thank you for sharing. I was the one, and then the next person said the same thing, and the next and the next and then they started to shift what they were saying. Rebecca, I could tell you were scared as if I could hide it no matter can how cool I was trying to be, I denied it and they said… But you cared enough about me to do it anyway. Thank you, that gives me courage, I’m inspired by that. In fact, I’m going to go do this. And on and on. It was very overwhelming and powerful to take in and here’s what I learned, I learned that I didn’t have to be perfect.
What freedom there is in that, I didn’t have to be perfect. Just willing… And that gave me courage. and part of, if I just flash back to being on that stage, because we were talking about emotions a little bit, and I was scared and I was facing some of my greatest fears in that moment, and I felt a little bit like I had to, and I decided if I needed to walk off stage to keep myself safe I would and I actually looked at the easiest pathway to get off gracefully and exit, and I gave myself full permission… without judgment, but love and support if I needed that, I had that.
So, every 30 seconds, I stayed on that stage, I was choosing to be there and that became very personally empowering to me and moving that I could stand even in my fear and share and make a difference.
~M: That’s so important to hear, Rebecca, that when you choose to tell your story for a purpose that is bigger than you, there’s some power within you, there’s power around you, whatever you believe is your motivation and your strength, your foundation that allows you to do that even though you’re scared you can still do it when you focus on on the power within. So I like to think about fear, I get it all the time when I was speaking in front of a group of people, turning that fear into something else; turning it into excitement, turning it into, in your case, that understanding that there is one person out there in that audience who needs to hear what you have to say, and that spurs you on. I love that, that’s just powerful and I love what you said about choosing to be imperfect, and allowing that to be the case, I look forward to hearing what you will share in our last segment.
This is when you get to tell us more of those lessons and be able to share those so women can know that they are not alone, and they have choices. We always have choices.
~M: Welcome to the wrap-up of my chat with Rebecca Hall-Gruyter. She is an influencer and empowerment leader who specializes in helping experts reach more people around the world through her multi-platform, multi-media approach.
She helps people to be heard, seen and share their message and expertise effectively and powerfully.
Now, if you listened to the last segment, and you heard about her conversation with God about all the things she would not do, I want you to know she’s doing them all now. And this is no accident.
I’m María Tomas-Keegan, and this is part of my continuing series of interviews with brilliant resilient women who have inspiring stories to tell and who are role models for the rest of us when it comes to learning to thrive. Rebecca has shared her story of being abused as a child, and who hid behind her smile, feeling like he matter and how it led her to understand the importance of visibility and voice. Hi Rebecca, thanks for coming back.
~R: thank you, glad to be back.
~M: It is so interesting to me to see how your story of invisibility, led to you to define your purpose and help others establish their visibility, So they can shine like you are shining.
So I have a two-part question for you.
Would you share more of the lessons that you’ve learned and how they have helped you in the work you do now?
And share what resources you’ve discovered, or perhaps created, that we can tap into when we need to move forward.
~R: Sure, absolutely, I’d be happy to answer both questions. So, thank you.
Thinking about some of the lessons that I’ve learned. Here’s a really powerful one that also shifted another pivotal point, and kind of shifted my perspective around visibility, around being seen authentically and perfect in our imperfections, really embracing that and stepping forward in that. What I’ve discovered visibility is about. it’s not about the lights, it’s not about the camera, it’s not about sometimes the glamor of what we can think about someone on stage or in print, or some of those things.
What it really is about, is that when people are hurting out there, they are just trying to breathe, they’re trying to take a step, it’s like this big thick piece of fog comes down around them, they can’t hear the voices, they’re muffled that are trying to help, they can’t remember who to reach out to when those moments happen. And it’s not if, it’s when. We all face those moments.
And the only thing I know that cuts through darkness is light. And what I believe visibility is about is being able to shine. We’re able to shine so brightly that in those dark places our light cuts through the darkness and they can actually see your hand outstretched.
And to me, that is what visibility is about. I feel like so many people who want to make a difference, they’re powerful experts and leaders that have this huge heart to share, are waiting to be discovered; are hoping someone will tap into them to know what they do, know how they can help. But, in fact, that’s not how it works. We actually have to build the bridge and be that light and shine to where the people are that are hurting most. Those that are believing the lies, that they don’t matter, that there’s something wrong with them, so that exactly what you do can help them and can encourage them. Sometimes, it is as simple as reaching out brightly and shining so they can take your hand.
We have opportunities to shine every day in our life, whether it’s on stage or it’s in the grocery line, or if it’s in a shopping line somewhere. We can choose what we’re echoing out because, whether we know it or not, we are echoing things out all day long. You’re sending messages out by how we stand, how we smile. Are we making eye contact? Are we sending out positive, uplifting, energy or are we sending out frustration? What are we sending out?
We recently had our radio show picked up on the Influencer Channel, and that’s a really prestigious place to be on Voice America. And what that really taught me, as we switched into that place, is that we all have a way of stepping into our influence and fully expanding into that space. Every time I hear those intros and re-joiners in the show, and one of them says, “We don’t follow, we lead–influencers”. And I love that, because I feel like we all have that opportunity, to be that light, to shine. We need to stop waiting to be discovered because if they cannot hear us, if they cannot see us, we cannot help them. And that’s a really powerful lesson and I hope encourages you to also be willing to shine and share your gifts, because they’re needed. There is no one else just like you in the world, you are uniquely and powerfully and beautifully designed for such a time as this. The more you’re willing to share the gift of who you are, the more lives you can impact, and it always is heart by heart and life by life. And we have that opportunity every single day to choose to shine and be visible and lean in instead of contracting and stepping away.
So I encourage you to be willing to lean in and share the gift of who you are, because you’re absolutely needed.
~M: Oh, that is so beautiful. I love the metaphor you used, and it conjures such a beautiful image for me. Building a bridge and being the light that draws people over that bridge. By virtue of sharing your story; by virtue of shining your own light; by virtue of being who you are, authentically and beautifully you. That just is a powerful, powerful image for me. Thank you for sharing that. I love the bridge and the light. I’m going to use that, I’m going to steal it, shamelessly.
~R: I give it to you to share, I love that.
~M: Thank you… Is there anything else on your heart that you would like to share with us before we close?
Sure, I did want to share some of the resources that we have and if anyone wanted to connect, I’d like to let you know about some of those things. We’re in a lot of different media places. So, print… and we have magazines, books that we do, we have a television network, radio. But all of these platforms actually are built for you to be served or to reach more people. That’s why we created them, that’s what they’re about.
So if any of you are looking to get on more stages, increase your influence and make some new connections, kind of expand your spheres of influence, then I want you to know about the Speaker Talent Search.
There is no cost or investment to be part of it. It’s called TheSpeakerTalentSearch.com, you can find it online. And it’s a great way to start to build some of those connections and relationships and get on more stages. And then I’m always happy to connect in with you. Our main site is YourPurposeDrivenPractice.com. Again, that’s YourPurposeDrivenPractice.com. Because we want to help you live on purpose and with great purpose each and every day of your life.
And, if I think about what’s on my heart, I think it’s just an encouragement to share some of what I shared before, that you are beautifully and wonderfully made, and absolutely needed and I want to encourage you that, no matter what comes, you can choose your response. And you can choose to bloom where you’re planted, and shine. So I encourage you each and every day purposely choose to shine.
~M: Beautiful. That’s perfect. And the Speaker Talent Search is how I met you and I have participated in and I’m starting to reap the benefits of that already, so thank you so much for doing that. Rebecca thank you for what you do, and I appreciate how hard it is to share a story like yours. I am just so grateful that you chose to share it with us.
~R: Thank you and I love your show. And you’re creating a space for us all, to have these conversations and be able to share our stories and come together and encourage each other so thank you for the work that you do.
~M: Awww, thank you very much. And, thank you all for watching.
This series of interviews is inspired by my latest book. Upside Down to Right Side Up: Turning Transition into Triumph. It’s now available on Amazon in Kindle and paperback and its Companion Journal is now available as well. So, I invite you to look at it and share it with the women in your life so no one will ever again feel like they’re alone.
Many of us have gone through similar experiences, and we’re here to help. I believe it’s our time to thrive; will you join me?
Till next time. I’m María Tomas-Keegan.