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Interview with author, Robin Hesselgesser

Finally, a book that calls out how much women disdain being called MA’AM, and, well, bitch, from a provocative writer, Robin Hesselgesser, who knows a thing or two about being empowered and empowering women. Miss To Bitch To MA’AM features women who share their stories of loss, fear, uncertainty, and pain and holds the secrets that will inspire women to ask for and expect what they want in their life. The book evolved from a group of entrepreneurs Robin has been coaching over the last decade. What she discovered were resounding themes and relatable stories amongst women at different stages of their lives. Though the circumstances were different, the steps Robin helped them take to get from where they were to where they wanted to be were the same, a testament to her personal and professional belief in taking risks and overcoming defeat.

In the ma’am stage of her life, Robin is the most empowered she’s ever been, and is also helping people through her podcast, her art, motivational speaking events, and as an authenticator enriching lives and giving other women the permission to feel the same.

Exclusive Interview With Writer’s Life Magazine

I love the title, at which stage of your life (Miss, Bitch, MA’AM) did you feel the most empowered and fulfilled…the least empowered and fulfilled?

Thank you for this question. I feel the most empowered now. Some may call me a Bitch because they think I know better and MA’AM because they don’t know better. It’s hard…feeling misunderstood. What woman out there hasn’t felt that way? But, I feel the most empowered now because I decided to admit my secret and tell my story in hopes of giving other women permission to do the same. I felt the least empowered and fulfilled back in my thirties when I thought I had all the answers but wasn’t asking myself the right questions.

How did the book evolve?

Years ago, I started a group that was primarily for entrepreneurial women. That group evolved into coaching and motivational speaking. Very brave women were willing to share their stories of loss, fear, uncertainty, and pain. Diana was fired after years of service and didn’t know what to do the next morning. Jen was betrayed by her best friend and her husband. Ann was searching for meaning in her own life. Though the circumstances were different, the steps that I helped them take to get from where they were from where they wanted to be were the same. I wanted to share those stories, those steps, and their progress with other women who I know will be able to relate.

What did you discover women felt the most challenged by, what messages resonated the most?

Women…we can be our own worst enemy. We can be brutal to ourselves and one another. We can be catty, judgmental, and cruel when we judge through our own doubts and insecurities. Yet, we try to be all things to all people, struggle with saying no, hold ourselves to impossible standards and grasp guilt like it’s our last twenty-dollar bill. However, it gets even more interesting when as we age and society changes how we are regarded, we can feel legitimately disregarded, obsolete, ignored, dismissed, underutilized, patronized, sexless and about as desired as curdled milk. My message is, well I’d tell you, but then I’d be a bitch, so I’ll just say we disagree with the findings!

Did you have any strong female mentors?

My grandma was strong…opinionated…and could hold her own. I had a creative writing teacher that gave me permission to write whatever was in my heart. My daughter is also a mentor. One doesn’t have to be older than you to teach you something about yourself. But the woman I would like to have met in person, had lunch with, and just listened to her philosophy on any topic was the notorious Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

As a coach, motivational speaker, and an “authenticator” how do you feel women can best shake their doubts and or fears to better empower themselves?

I don’t know a single woman who hasn’t felt fear, doubt, or insecurity. The point isn’t not to feel those feelings. The point is what to do despite them, right? Sometimes, we will do anything to escape our feelings, especially if we feel they are associated with pain. True empowerment or fulfillment is associated with creating change and not just reacting to it. So, we must give ourselves permission to be honest about why those doubts or fears exist. And then it’s not about shaking them, it’s about understanding them and being honest about how they have served us in the past. Then, it’s about replacing old behaviors with new ones.

The book is also a great resource for entrepreneurs, how do you encourage women to take a leap and start their own business or shift gears to do what they really want to do with their lives?

Sometimes a dream gets left behind and in place we get practical or we get talked out of our dreams. Maybe we have even come to believe that we don’t deserve our dreams. That we aren’t good enough or we don’t have the right amount of talent, or connections or money. I tell women that no dream, no purpose, legacy, or destiny was put into their heart by accident. And if that is true, then they have everything they need to get it. They aren’t lacking one thing. Martin Luther King once said, “You don’t have to see the entire staircase to take that first step.” That is all a woman must do. Take that step and have faith that the next step will appear. Every entrepreneur has been in midair without a net. Have you ever seen those trapeze artists flying in the air? After they let go of one handle they are literally suspended in midair until they can reach the next handle. But they know it’s there. They let go of the handle, but they never let go of their faith and neither can you.

You’re also a very talented artist, when did you start that journey and how do you feel it ties into the messages in your book and motivational work?

Well, thank you for the compliment. My story is I was in mid-air. I had a disagreement with a partner who literally stole my business in the middle of the night, so I was feeling fear and despair. I had no idea what I was going to do next. But I had given a large piece of furniture to my parents and in its place was a huge blank spot on my living room wall. I wanted a piece of art, but I couldn’t find anything unique, cool, or that I loved for under a couple thousand dollars.

So, me being a designer, I had a lot of leftover crap in my garage. I bought a blank canvas and on one Saturday night broke some glass, gathered some rocks, mixed in some paint, and created a painting that I loved for myself.

A couple weeks later I had a group of people over and a woman wanted to know where I had purchased my painting. I told her the story and she asked how much I wanted for it! I remember just staring at her. She said, “Well, you created one for yourself, you can create another one.”

She left that night with my painting. Two weeks later I was scheduled for a home show an hour away from my home. I wanted to know if that incident was a fluke. So, I decided to create a few more paintings, take them with me and see what would happen. After all, it wasn’t in the town I lived…no one would know me in case I failed…

I sold all of them. A business was born and now I am a nationally recognized artist. I could not have known I was meant to create original artwork. And I didn’t see the entire staircase. Nor did I have money to buy expensive panels or know where to sell my artwork. But I did have the courage to take one step then another. I was not afraid to ask questions to people I met who had been at it longer and I stayed in my lane and developed amazing relationships along the way.

How has the pandemic impacted your life? Any advice for people in terms of using their quarantine time wisely?

Like a lot of people, the way I was living, the way I was working came to a screeching halt. There is fear in the unknown to be sure. This pandemic has affected me emotionally, physically, and financially. I contracted the virus, and it was scary. It’s different. It’s not like getting the cold or the flu. Although I am grateful for my recovery, it was many weeks before I felt like myself and I still struggle with being able to smell or taste properly consistently. We may all be going through this but certainly not in the same ways. Some have lost their lives. Others have lost their livelihoods. Some are dealing with depression, or a loss of a job. Sometimes we want the answers or the solutions right now. And I will admit, patience is not one of my virtues. However, I do have a deep faith that great things can come out of the unknown. I’ve witnessed it in my own lifetime and time again. I also know that we do have control over more than we like to give ourselves credit for. When you can’t change what is happening to you, you don’t give up. You look for the things you can do. From an emotional standpoint it’s important to not expect people to just know what you need. If you need support, encouragement, or help, don’t make people guess and don’t think of it as a weakness to reach out for emotional, physical, or even financial help.

Take this time to give yourself permission to ask yourself what it is you really want and then find a way to ask for it. When you feel out of control, organize a drawer. When you feel scared, call someone you know would benefit from hearing your voice. Give when you need to receive, and both will happen. Read more, watch less and be creative. Be open. And don’t let a mask stop you from smiling…people can still see it in your eyes.

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