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This month for the #DrawYourOwnLifeMap feature I talked with Mandy Burnett, founder of The ReFIND Network. I had wanted this piece to focus just a bit on Mandy and how she came to be drawing her own map, but mostly focus on The reFIND Network. I think it is an amazing resource for women who are trying to live their most authentic lives, and wanted to share that.
However, Mandy’s whole story was incredibly inspirational to me, and this article wound up focusing 99% on her life story and not leaving much room for the focus I wanted to put on The reFIND Network. So I decided to split this month’s #DYOLM into two articles.
Here you can read the inspiring story of a woman who began life being worried about how people saw her. So much so, that she made life decisions based on other people’s opinions. Who then became a woman who feels so passionately about finding and showing your most authentic self, that she founded a group to help other women do just that.
When she was growing up, Mandy Burnett only had one dream; to be a mom. You see her mother had, what Mandy calls, a “booming personality.” She broke all of the rules and was a successful female entrepreneur. Having grown up Mormon, Mandy saw how others in her small religious community reacted to this and didn’t like it at all. So she decided she wanted to be the polar opposite. She would grow up following the rules, follow the expected path, and be a mom.
She married at 19, had her first baby at 20 and followed that up with another baby at 22. She did go to college, but mostly “just to be able to say I had a degree.” In fact, at one point she and her husband transferred to a school that her husband wanted to go to, and Mandy wound up in psychology because “it was the only thing they had that interested me.”
Really, she says, she just kind of “floated along.”
After graduating, she and her husband used some seed money they had from her mom’s business to open a Cold Stone Creamery franchise. While she loved the staff they hired, she hated working with the inflexible corporate structure. So they closed and she wound up taking a job with her mom, who had started a production company at this point.
During this time Mandy also started teaching teens at church before school, and started speaking at women’s church events. In the Mormon church, she had been taught public speaking from the age of 12, and she really took to it. She was good at it and enjoyed it.
She really started to make a name for herself as a speaker. While this was happening and she was thriving outside of the home, inside her marriage things were falling apart. The more she tried to fix it, to fix the addiction her husband was struggling with, the worse it got. However, to everyone in her community, things looked like they were going great.
Around this time, she went on a trip with her mother to Africa. As she puts it, it blew her mind. She went from her small community, her sheltered and controlled life, to seeing and experiencing the world.
“It was as if I was in a snowglobe. Like someone picked it up and shook it, and when they put it down, nothing settled the same way.”
She realized there were cracks in her faith that she had been ignoring, and huge cracks in her marriage. Upon coming back she decided she didn’t want to live like that anymore.
Have you ever had a moment when someone was telling you a story from their life and you think to yourself, “this sounds like it could be a movie.” That was this moment in our interview.
She just left. EVERYTHING. The church, her marriage, the job she had with her mom, her tangled family setting, even the town she lived in. Just left. With her 3 kids, she moved from San Francisco to Los Angeles.
I italicize this, and want to bring a ton of focus on this point for a reason. Mandy described this as messy, and in the moment I am absolutely sure that’s exactly how it felt. It was also insanely brave. It was a huge step towards becoming herself and was the first step off of everyone else’s map and on to her own.
How often do we stay with things that are not fulfilling, or that may even be hurting us- emotionally, mentally, even physically- just because it’s scary to leave? How often do we keep our heads down and just follow the path we originally set out on, because well, its the path we chose. Each of us, I’m sure, has had a time in our past when we looked at a piece of our lives, or maybe even our whole life and thought, “I don’t want this anymore”.
Maybe you even have an area of your life you think that way of now.
Deciding to make the change that needs to be made is scary. Then, actually getting up and doing it is even scarier. I think a lot of times we don’t do it because we are waiting to feel brave. But, brave isn’t something that you are just going to wake up feeling one day. Brave is doing something even though you’re scared.
Over the next several years, Mandy bounced around a bit, job wise.
She would find things to pay the bills that she could do while her children were in school, as she couldn’t afford childcare or a babysitter. Eventually she found a job with a small business, running the construction company’s office. During this period of time, she also remarried.
Then, in March 2016, everything changed. Again. This time, changes were forced upon her. Within that month her father died unexpectedly, they were kicked out of their house because the landlord decided they wanted to move back in, and she was laid off.
That Voice Inside is Who You Are
It was then, after moving to a town where she knew no one, that she came across a direct sales clothing company that was really starting to boom. She thought to herself, “If nothing else, I think I can do this for a little bit while I figure some things out.”
Sure enough, she did really well. She was selling a lot, she was building a team, from the outside it looked great. On the inside, she realized she was selling a lot, but not making any money. And, she started to feel like she did before she left the church. The company itself seemed to be having issues, and after one incredibly fumbled seasonal launch, Mandy had enough and left that company.
From there, she started with another direct sales clothing company. This one was awesome, she loved the company and the clothes. Her online shopping community was doing well. It was good.
-Where You Are, Moana Soundtrack
You may hear a voice inside
And if the voice starts to whisper
To follow the farthest star
Moana, that voice inside is
Who you are
But, she started to have thoughts and ideas and whispers in her mind, pointing her towards something else.
At this time, Mandy was in a mastermind group with some other female entrepreneurs and social media marketers. Talking with these women had Mandy thinking a bit more outside the box, and feeling a bit more creative while looking at her business and her community.
She started to realize that her Monday morning motivational chat with her online community is what she really loved. And it’s what her community loved. The clothes were just kind of “extra”.
Just Start Doing It
In April of 2018, Mandy went to a conference with Elizabeth Gilbert and Martha Beck. At 42 years old, it was the first time she had ever gone anywhere by herself. The whole experience was life-changing.
(If you ever have the opportunity, ask her for the story about her question, in which Elizabeth Gilbert replied, “just start doing it.” I won’t retell the whole story here, as the way Mandy tells it is hilarious and perfect, and I will certainly butcher it.)
This conference, Mandy says, broke something in her. She found that she was no longer afraid to do the things that she wanted to do anymore.
I came home with sort of an F-You attitude to anyone who had something contrary to say. I was just done. I’m not going to be who you want me to be anymore, I’m not going to do what you want me to do anymore.
This conference allowed Mandy to realize that she had been hiding herself, for pretty much her whole life, so she could be what others expected of her. She started to understand that she was not being her authentic self.
“This is who I am & I’m sorry I didn’t show it to you before.”
She started going to therapy and doing a lot of personal development to work on herself. Mandy decided it was time to show up as Mandy. To show up as herself.
Going from being who everyone else wants you to be to being yourself, can be a really difficult transition. Not only for you as you try to navigate who you really are, but for your family and friends who are used to you being who they want you to be.
Mandy realized that her husband may not even like her. She was no longer the person she was at the beginning of their marriage. And it did turn out to be a difficult time for the two of them while he came to terms with the changes in Mandy.
I was happy we talked about this, as I believe it gets skipped a lot when talking about personal development. When we talk about ‘finding ourselves’ or ‘living authentically’. That is, the way it affects others, and the affect it can have on our relationships.
It is not always easy for others, especially significant others, to accept the changes in you as you grow or start to embrace your true self.
Many times, you will find yourself working on yourself and your relationship at the same time for this reason. This can be intimidating, and may make you feel like you don’t want to bother. But, it’s so important to live your life as you.
I won’t say “If they love you they will get over it”, because the truth is, someone may very well love the person you have shown them all of this time, and not so much the person you have been hiding. However, it’s important that you embrace who you are whether they love it or not. There is no way to have a whole-hearted, fulfilled, and joyful life, if you are hiding away and actively being who you are not.
Authenticity makes it easier
Mandy emphasized that it has not been easy. However, knowing she was been her authentic self helped. It have her something to lean into, to know she was being who she is at her core.
Because of that, she has actually been able to show up better for her husband, as a mom, a partner and a co-parent than she ever could’ve before. When she was spending all of her energy just trying to figure out who everyone needed her to be.
Knowing she was being authentic made it easier for her to deal with the times when her family and husband didn’t understand, or was confused about things she was doing, or the path she was taking.
If I Can’t Find It, I’ll Build It
As she was becoming more connected with who she really is, she found herself having more and more conversations with other women who felt the same way. At the same time, she realized, she had no real way to meet people who she could connect to, who would understand, outside of business or religious connections.
She wanted a place, a way, for women to connect while also refocusing on ourselves. And to say, it’s ok to spend time figuring ourselves out, learning who we are so we can be authentic. Even if it’s only an hour a week that is dedicated to us, we will still be like a million time better.
Allowing ourselves to show up for ourselves, helps us show up even better for the other people in our lives. But, many of us don’t give ourselves permission to do that.
And so came The reFIND Network.
The reFIND Network is Mandy’s current “passion project”. It is what she created when she put together her love of speaking, of motivating other women and her journey to start living as herself, 100% authentically.
I will be writing more about The reFIND Network next week, because I think it deserves it’s own highlight. Mandy has big things planned for it, and is currently working on an announcement coming April 8th. I highly encourage you to check it out at mandyburnett.com
It would especially be helpful if you are trying to find yourself, live more authentically, or even just trying to figure out what your own authenticity looks like. You can also benefit from the reFIND network if you need time for yourself monthly to focus on you, on self-compassion, on your own creativity, or even if you are just looking for a group of girlfriends to be yourself around.
The Path From A to B is Never a Straight Line
When you are figuring out and drawing your own path, your own map, the path from A to B is never a straight line. Sometimes you even realize halfway there, that B isn’t even where you want to go anymore.
The truth of the matter is, that the journey is never really over. Even if you do go to B, that’s not the end of the map. There is always more to explore, more turns to make and more about yourself to discover.
Taking the step off of your expected path to do that exploring usually takes a certain amount of bravery. But it can also lead you into your best, most authentic life. Just remember, it’s a journey not an overnight trip.