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Empowering Women To Embrace Their Desires – Exclusive Interview With Julie Vander Meulen

Julie Vander Meulen, a beacon of empowerment for ambitious women, is the founder of Own Your Life Academy, the premier coaching platform where personal and professional development converge. With a multidisciplinary background, including four Master's degrees and ongoing Ph.D. research, Julie is at the forefront of exploring how personal development can liberate women from the 'good girl syndrome' and inspire them to embrace their true desires.


Over the years, Julie has transitioned from academia to becoming an influential figure in the world of empowerment coaching. Her innovative strategies and profound insights have transformed the lives of countless women, guiding them to assert their worth and navigate life's challenges with confidence. With a clientele that spans across the globe, her work reshapes the narrative around women's empowerment, challenging societal expectations and fostering a community of bold, self-assured women.


In her groundbreaking work, Julie combines scientific rigor with empathetic coaching to create a transformative experience for her clients. Her famous newsletter, her articles, and PhD research, have not only reached a wide audience online but have also been instrumental in creating a dialogue around the importance of personal development in women's lives. Her mission is clear: to empower women to overcome internalized limitations and step into their power, becoming the architects of their own lives.


Regularly featured for her pioneering approach to coaching and personal development, Julie's insights have found a home in various prestigious forums and publications. As she continues her research and coaching practice, she remains committed to her vision of a world where every woman can boldly claim her space and pursue her deepest ambitions without restraint.


Her mission: Empower every woman to own her life.


Julie Vander Meulen in Blue

Julie Vander Meulen, Empowerment Coach for Ambitious Women


In a world brimming with 'shoulds' directed at women, how do you navigate and challenge these expectations in your coaching, and what advice do you have for women wrestling with societal 'shoulds' versus personal 'wants'?


In my journey and through the Own Your Life Academy, I've seen firsthand the weight of 'shoulds' that society places on women's shoulders. These 'shoulds' often stem from deep-seated societal norms and expectations that dictate how women should act, feel, and prioritize their lives. My approach starts with helping women identify these external pressures and distinguish them from their genuine desires and ambitions. It's about creating a safe space for introspection and dialogue, where women can explore and articulate what truly matters to them, beyond societal expectations.


One powerful strategy I employ involves guided visualization exercises combined with journaling sessions, allowing women to envision a life free from these 'shoulds.' We delve into the realms of 'what if'—what if you lived by your wants, and what if you honored your desires as much as societal expectations? This process often reveals that many limitations are self-imposed, absorbed from the outside world but not inherently part of one's true self.


For women wrestling with 'shoulds' versus 'wants,' my advice is to start small. Begin by identifying one 'should' that doesn't align with your true desires and actively challenge it. Replace it with a 'want' that resonates with your authentic self. This practice, although seemingly simple, can be profoundly liberating and is often the first step towards living a life filled with 'wants.'


Your journey from academia to coaching marks a significant transition from living a life led by ‘shoulds’ to one filled with ‘wants.’ Can you share a moment of realization that sparked this shift, and how it has influenced your approach to coaching?


The moment of realization came to me amidst the academic accolades and research projects. By then, I had accumulated four Master's degrees and was immersed in scientific research doing really well according to external standards – on paper, my life and professional ascension looked amazing. But on the inside, I constantly felt out of place, like there was a disconnect between my achievements and my sense of fulfillment, and I couldn’t figure out why I just couldn’t feel happy about the choices I had made. I knew I loved research, and I loved teaching – so why didn’t it feel right?


It wasn't until I found myself in a seminar led by one of my inspirations, Gabby Bernstein, that the pieces started to fall into place. She spoke about living a life aligned with one's true desires, and it was as if she was speaking directly to me. I realized that while I do love research, I was researching the wrong thing for the wrong reasons, and had lost myself trying to please everyone around me, constantly trying to measure my success against what I thought others expected of me – hum, a recipe for major unfulfillment I now know. It’s that Gabby Bernstein seminar that ignited a passion in me to explore personal development not just as a way of life, but as something I’d love to have as my mission in life.


This epiphany propelled me to shift my focus towards what I genuinely wanted—to empower women to break free from societal expectations and embrace their true selves. My academic background now serves as a foundation for my coaching practice, allowing me to incorporate evidence-based strategies with empathetic understanding, and I’ve since re-started the whole PhD journey all over again, studying what I really love for the simple joy of diving deeper into it. And in the end, I truly think that this detour I made a few years ago has given me a unique blend of science and soul that I believe sets my coaching apart, enabling me to connect with women on a deeper level and guide them through their transformation. “Obstacles are detours in the right direction” – as Gabby Bernstein famously says.


Your coaching practice focuses on empowering ambitious women to recognize and discard external limitations. Can you share some insights or a particular strategy that has been effective in helping women overcome these imposed barriers and embrace what they truly want and need?


One pivotal aspect of my coaching practice is the initial 90-minute 'Deep Dive' session, a profound journey of self-discovery and alignment that often serves as a turning point for my clients. This session begins with an hour dedicated to a carefully designed questionnaire, tailored specifically for the ambitious woman grappling with 'good girl' tendencies. It's an invitation to delve deeply into their true desires, wants, and needs, encouraging them to explore these aspects as if no one is watching, as if societal expectations hold no sway over their choices.


Following their responses, I employ an analytical lens influenced by one of my mentors, Tony Robbins, and his teachings on the 6 human needs. This analysis reveals which human needs are most vital to them and which have been neglected or overshadowed by the pursuit of societal approval. The insights gleaned from this process are transformative. They provide a clear understanding of why they might feel unfulfilled and how they can proactively fulfill their true needs while diminishing the importance of societal ones that no longer serve them.


This 'Deep Dive' is not just an initial session; it's a gateway to understanding oneself on a profound level. It has changed lives forever, mirroring the transformation I experienced years ago. By giving women a new lens through which to view their lives, this session empowers them to realign their lives with their core needs. Whether they choose to continue their coaching journey with me or feel empowered to move forward on their own, the 'Deep Dive' creates a ripple effect, propelling them towards a life of fulfillment, away from the shadows of external limitations.


Personal development plays a crucial role in both your life and coaching philosophy. How has embracing personal development reshaped your vision for empowering women, and what transformation do you witness in women who engage in this journey?


Personal development, for me, is the cornerstone of true empowerment. It's a journey that began with my own quest for fulfillment beyond academic accolades and societal expectations. This path has not only reshaped my life but has fundamentally influenced my mission to empower women. By integrating personal development into my coaching, I aim to ignite a similar transformation in the women I work with. It's about moving beyond the 'good girl syndrome'—beyond living a life designed by external validations—to discovering and honoring one's genuine desires and ambitions.


The transformation I witness in women who embark on this journey of personal development is profound. They start by questioning long-held beliefs and examining the 'shoulds' that have dictated their choices. As they delve deeper, there's a shift—an awakening to their own power and potential that had been dimmed by conformity. This process is incredibly rewarding to witness. Women who once felt constrained by societal norms begin to carve out paths that are uniquely theirs, filled with purpose, passion, and a newfound zest for life. Their journeys are a testament to the transformative power of personal development, affirming my belief that when women connect deeply with their true selves, they are unstoppable.


A core aspect of your coaching involves guiding women to stop being what others expect them to be. Could you offer actionable advice for women ready to assert their worth and step into their power, especially those struggling with the 'good girl syndrome'?


The first step to stepping into your power is recognizing that your worth is not contingent on meeting others' expectations. My actionable advice for women ready to break free from the 'good girl syndrome' begins with self-awareness. Start by identifying areas where you're compromising your desires to fit into a prescribed role. Ask yourself, 'In what ways am I diminishing my light to make others comfortable?' Awareness is the catalyst for change.


From there, I encourage women to practice setting boundaries. Boundaries are not barriers to keep people out but bridges to ensure you're engaging in relationships and activities that honor your true self. It's about saying 'no' to what doesn't serve you and 'yes' to what fuels your soul.


Finally, cultivate a 'growth mindset.' See challenges not as obstacles but as opportunities for growth and learning. Each step outside your comfort zone is a step towards reclaiming your power and living authentically. Remember, you have the right to author your own life story. Let your actions reflect your true desires, not the expectations of others. This journey isn't always easy, but it's incredibly rewarding. As you begin to live in alignment with your authentic self, you'll find that you not only regain your energy and drive but also inspire those around you to embrace their true selves.


Looking forward, what impact do you hope to achieve through your work at Own Your Life Academy, and what message would you like to leave with women on the cusp of embracing their true selves and desires?


With Own Your Life Academy, my vision extends beyond the immediate horizon of personal breakthroughs. I dream of a world where every woman, regardless of her background or challenges, feels empowered to own her story, her desires, and her future. The impact I strive for is a ripple effect—a transformation that doesn't just end with the women I coach but spreads to every aspect of their lives, influencing their communities, workplaces, and families. I hope to cultivate a global community of women who not only embrace their true selves but also become beacons of empowerment for others.


The message I want to leave with women standing at the threshold of this transformation is simple yet profound:


Your desires, your dreams, and your voice matter. Do not shrink yourself to fit into the narratives written by others. Be daring, be bold, and be unapologetically you. The journey to embracing your true self might be fraught with uncertainty and fear, but it is also filled with strength, joy, and profound fulfillment. You are not alone on this path– almost every woman I’ve ever met struggles with some version of good girl syndrome. And the good news? With a little bit of self-development, you can release it bit by bit.


And if you ever feel like you need help on your journey to re-aligning your life, both me and my Own Your Life Academy are here to walk right beside you, guiding and cheering you on every step of the way. Together, we can unlock the boundless potential that lies within you, and step into a future where you are the architect of your own life.


Dive Deeper with Julie Vander Meulen


Discover more about Julie's transformative work at Own Your Life Academy.


Ready for that big transformation? Book your 'Deep Dive' session or start your coaching journey here.


Join the Own Your Life community for a weekly mindset & self-care ritual to kick off the new week every Sunday. Plus, get 15% off single coaching sessions by subscribing to the Own Your Life newsletter.


Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and visit my website for more info!

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