#58 The Journey to Clarity and Self-Worth

Today's Guest: Ray Bourcier

Today, I interview Ray Bourcier who was five when he experienced the beginnings of what would become a major conflict within his family. Aunts and uncles in disagreement with his own parents led to a complete falling out by the time he’d reached age eight. Ray was excluded from activities with his cousins based on the adults disliking each other, and so began the inner turmoil and lack of self-worth for such a little guy.

What’s more, a troubling mental health diagnosis for his mother led to no peace for Ray. The discord and resentment continued in the family, and Ray says he spent the next two decades basically “in survival mode”. He didn’t feel safe. He didn’t feel like he fit in anywhere. And he didn’t have a true sense of his own identity. He had no motivation in school, was bullied, and felt very left behind. He ended up giving up on college to care for his mother.

Eventually, he decided to give life one more try. He re-enrolled in hopes of studying Environmental Science. Then, a shocking incident would change his life forever. A SWAT team burst into his apartment in full force and scared the life out of him. Officers left after realizing they’d hit the wrong apartment, but Ray was terrified and completely paralyzed by the whole event. He failed his exams and lost focus.

But he later realized that he had the opportunity to view life with a different perspective. He challenged the odds and completed his degree. But it was time to reevaluate his struggling marriage and make a change before his child was to be born. He made a conscious choice to heal from his past and to prevent the same toxicity from impacting his child’s life.

He made it to the other side and now uses his company and his podcast to encourage other people (his heart is for parents & kids) to embrace change, have an open mind, build their strength, and never give up.


From the age of five and for the next 20-plus years, Ray struggled through severe anxiety and depression before starting his journey of overcoming his struggles. Ray is now a father, author, podcaster, and mentor. His goal is to help transform the lives and impact the worlds of 11 million parents by helping them to break the cycle so it doesn’t get passed on to their kids, their relationships, and their dreams. Captivate featured his podcast “From Surviving To Thriving” only six weeks after its launching.

Find Ray here:

Watch the episode:

Connect with Ray Bourcier

Transcript of Interview

Find Your Voice, Change Your Life Podcast 

Podcast Host: Dr. Doreen Downing

Free Guide to Fearless Speaking: Doreen7steps.com

Episode #58 Raymond Bourcier

“The Journey to Clarity and Self-Worth”

(0:35) Dr. Doreen Downing

Hi, I’m Dr. Doreen Downing. And what I love about doing this podcast is that I get to interview amazing people who have such wonderful stories about struggle and about finding their voice. And oftentimes, it’s early in life, because we come into this environment called life and we’re surrounded by families, by parents, who sometimes don’t really mirror back to us the kind of brilliance that we are gifted with as soon as we enter into this world. Today, I get to interview, and you’ll have to tell me how to pronounce your last name, Ray?

(1:18) Ray Bourcier


(1:20) Dr. Doreen Downing

Ray Bourcier. Isn’t that wonderful? And is that a French name?

(1:25) Ray Bourcier

It is. Yes.

(1:27) Dr. Doreen Downing

And you’re from Canada?

(1:28) Ray Bourcier

I am. Northern Ontario.

(1:30) Dr. Doreen Downing

So, welcome today. And let me just tell the audience a little bit about you that you gave me. Some information. From the age of five and for the next 20 plus years, Ray struggled through severe anxiety and depression before starting his journey of overcoming his struggles. And Ray is now a father, an author, a podcaster, and a mentor. That has got to be a story, Ray. I can’t wait to get into the details here. His goal is to help transform the lives and impact the worlds of 11 million people. You have a goal of 11 million people. Well, with podcasting, and authoring and, teaching children, I just feel like the ripples are going to be going out and out. So, let me finish this up. He primarily works with parents or soon to be parents. Captivate featured his podcast, “From Surviving to Thriving,” only six weeks after launching. You just must have stepped into the world of possibility. And the potential within just exploded is what it feels like. But that’s for later in our podcast. Hello, Ray.

(2:54) Ray Bourcier

Hi. I’m honored and grateful to be here. Thank you for allowing me to share space with you.

(2:59) Dr. Doreen Downing

Yes. Well, as I mentioned in the beginning today, oftentimes, we arrive into the world and it’s not the best of circumstances. And I think that has something to do with your early experience in trying to find your voice. Can we start there?

(3:19) Ray Bourcier

Sure. It’s the reason I’m here. My journey started about five years old, when I first experienced my PTSD moment. It was a really rough time. From then on, by the age of eight, I had experienced more trauma within the family, more abuse, more struggles. And my journey was cemented at that point for the next 20 some years. So, it was a long, tough time of just living in survival mode, struggling to the next day hoping things would get better. From there, it took a SWAT team busting down the wrong apartment door to really wake me up at age 25 to be able to realize that I was sick and tired of going through these struggles, always waiting for change to come, change never coming, and that something had to happen in order for me to be able to get more out of this life. And that’s the moment that things really started to change.

(4:17) Dr. Doreen Downing

Great. Well, until we get to that moment, I want listeners to understand a little bit more. You mentioned five. What exactly did you experience at five?

(4:29) Ray Bourcier

So, at five years old, there was an incident at my grandfather’s camp. My mother and my father, and my grandfather’s or my father’s side of the family, we would always congregate to the camp during the summers to you hang out, go swimming, that stuff. There was an incident there where my mother caused a scene. And basically, from that point on, we left that camp and my family was never the same. My father got exiled from his family because he stuck by my mother. And there were a lot of struggles, a lot of really bad things just happened from there. A lot of hatred, a lot of, I don’t like to say abuse, but there was a lot of problems going on from there. I felt I was treated differently after that. At eight years old, the one incident that really solidified it all was my cousin’s birthday. He had about six or seven other boys over there and I was there. Then I found out while I was there that they were having a sleepover and I wasn’t allowed. So, I went to ask my aunt, who is my aunt by marriage not through the family, why I wasn’t sleeping over. And basically, her hatred for my mother rolled into me and that’s why I wasn’t allowed to stay over. So, I left crying, walked home, 10 to 15 minutes, nothing but tears, told my mother this. And she called on my aunt, and my aunt came over, basically, they’ve gone to a pushing match. My uncle came over, he starts to pound on my father. So, it just goes to show you that throughout the family, I had a lot of struggles. Having to deal with both sides of the family, trying to be able to overcome what was going on, I felt a lot of responsibility to it. Even though I know at this point, it wasn’t my fault, but at that point, I felt that I was kind of stuck in the middle, being friendly fire. And this was going on, as long as everything else going in my life, abuse at school from the hands of other kids, teachers, and a lot of other different things. So, it was a rough time. It was just basically a game, survival mode every single day

(6:52) Dr. Doreen Downing

There’s what you referred to. What did your mother do at that camp

(6:59) Ray Bourcier

So, they were I can remember this clear, visually, I can recall everything the camp had, we use the generator, because it was in the middle of nowhere, the TV only had two stations, because it was just kind of grabbing airs. And the ladies were inside, cooking because, being from a French family, that’s kind of what the ladies did. My mother decided to put on a TV show that she wanted to watch. The gentleman came in after spending time outside and they wanted to watch the baseball game. And my mother switched it back to what she was watching, and it just kind of boiled over from there. So, it was kind of a boundary-stepping issue which my mother did struggle with for much of her life. I found out, unfortunately the hard way later on, that she struggled with BPD, Borderline Personality Disorder. But at that time, we didn’t know. And it really makes a lot of sense when you look back at the struggles that she had in her life. She struggled with mental health issues. But Borderline Personality Disorder, we didn’t know anything about it back then. As I found that out, I started to really kind of put the pieces together. It makes a lot of sense, what happened with her, the relationships she had in her life.

(8:19) Dr. Doreen Downing

Isn’t that something, that incident, as you described, that feels so innocuous. And that in some ways, it feels like, that’s pretty bold, that’s pretty courageous to stand up for what you want as a woman in that society or that culture at that moment, or whatever the time of life that was for her. But what came out of that is, what I hear you saying was that there was this black mark on her, on your family, and you became kind of scapegoats or something?

(8:54) Ray Bourcier

Yes, pretty much. I mean, there was no weirder feeling than having Christmas with your mom and dad in the morning. And then an hour later, going over to your grandmother’s and having Christmas with them without your parents with you. I really struggled with it. There were a lot of words that were said that I would overhear throughout my life at that point, a lot of things I would take personally, which as a little kid, you don’t really know any better. But yes, it was really a struggle for someone who’s just coming into this world, and being thrown into this toxic environment and not being able to understand what’s going on and why it revolves around you.

(9:39) Dr. Doreen Downing

Yes, I think you’ve just said a couple of things that are really, really important. Being young and not knowing, not understanding, because our brains aren’t, we aren’t grown up yet. We don’t understand the world and all we are is in this little world called family. And the word that you just used also, is toxic. And we don’t know that it’s toxic, yet the toxins are taking their toll early on our development. Because we’re like little plants, growing, and we need the nourishment, and the “Oh, you’re wonderful,” and the kind of applause, you might say, in the mirroring back of people loving us. And another thing you just said a little bit ago was about being in the middle of that conflict. It just feels like the sky wasn’t clear for you. There is just a lot of turmoil. Thank you for being willing to express it so clearly. And before we go into what happened at 25 where you referred to some knock on the door, but any bullying through probably high school, trying to hide yourself, but find yourself at the same time?

(11:03) Ray Bourcier

Yes, I kept trying to fit in. My life felt pretty much out of control from the earliest I can remember. I never felt that safe at home. I never felt safe at school and never felt safe walking around town, just trying to find myself, trying to fit in with others. Because after that incident, my mother began her journey down her mental health struggles. She would end up in the hospital a number of times. My father, who was going through his own struggles, wasn’t there for my mother, the way that a spouse should be in theory. So my mother relied on me for her support. And I mean, six-year-old me, seven-year-old me, that’s a lot to take on. And when I wasn’t able to provide her the support that she needed, it really ate away at me because she would end up in the hospital. I would feel that I wasn’t enough. I would come to my school. I was never really a good student. I never put any time and effort into schoolwork. I’m the person who skated by with 50% grades and everything and there was no extra effort given. None of the teachers would ever really care to find out what’s going on, never really wanted to help me. They always just labeled me as a troublemaker, constantly getting picked on and abused by other kids. And it was really just trying to connect with people in maybe the wrong ways. But no one ever kind of went out of their way. I was one of those kids who was kind of forgotten, left to be, stranded, left behind, so to speak.

(12:43) Dr. Doreen Downing

Very, very powerful descriptions. It gives a good background to the next part of your story. I’m sure that, obviously, who you are now, there’s been a journey. So, what happened? What was the wake up?

(13:04) Ray Bourcier

So, after going through a lot of these struggles with my mother in and out of the hospital for years, I decided that at the age of 25, after just kind of meandering through life, that I wanted to go give it one more shot, go back to school. I always had a passion for environmental science. Originally, I was in college, which no one ever believed I would be able to do that. And I dropped out back when I was 21 because of my mother being ill. So, I decided I want to make one last-ditch effort to try and do something, because I was tired of everything. I started college and I was doing pretty good. I was living in this basement that had two separate apartments. And one evening while I was studying for two critical exams for the next morning, I’m just sitting on my couch studying away, all of a sudden, you hear what sounds like elephants coming down the stairs through the hallway. And I’m like, ‘that’s a little bit weird.’ Then seconds later, all I see is the door swinging wide open and six SWAT team members with the lasers pointed directly in my eyes, coming in, screaming to my ears, telling me to get down on the ground, and I’m just absolutely shocked. I’m like, ‘what is going on?’ They throw me down on the ground, jam their knee into my back in what felt like hours. It was probably about 10 minutes later that I found out that they hit the wrong apartment. They were after my neighbor who was a drug dealer, so they demolished my apartment looking for him. And then when they realized that they hit the wrong place, they’re like, “Oh, well, sorry.” So, needless to say, I didn’t sleep that night. And what I felt was the universe telling me that I don’t deserve anything better, this is what I always get. It just was a really rough time for me. It really made my anxiety and depression the worst that’s ever been. I failed the exams the next morning. Surprise, surprise. It took a couple of weeks for me to just kind of sit and stew in that. Then I realized that, there was like a little spark that came into me that I never had before. And I like to use an analogy, like a fish perspective, because again, my background is environmental science. So, a fish spends their entire life in water. They only ever see everything from one perspective until one day while swimming along, the fish comes along, see something in the water, takes a bite at it, and then gets yanked out of the water. And then they open their eyes to a whole new perspective, a whole new world that they never knew existed, because they spent their entire life swimming in water. And for me, it was kind of like that moment where I spent my entire life swimming in a sea of garbage and this was just yet more garbage on the pile. But there was a clarity, in that when I finally saw that, you know what, I don’t deserve this. I want better than this. And nothing’s going to stop me from getting through this, overcoming this, because I already know what failing feels like. I want to see what happens if I don’t stop pushing. So, that was kind of like my fish-out-of-water moment.

(16:21) Dr. Doreen Downing

Oh, yes. Well, you must have naturally picked environmental science for a reason. When we first started our conversation today, I didn’t remember that that was what you do. And I started talking about how we come into an environment. And so, this all fits. Something about you being in a certain kind of environment and how that affects you. And yet, which I believe in, which I’m sure you do too, there’s something inside each one of us, a spark. I think that whatever you studied in environmental science woke up that thought that you’ve just shared with us, that you’ve been in a certain kind of environment but there are other environments, we just need to pop out. I have a quick story about that too. My mom was depressed and we lived with my grandmother. And inside the house, it was dark and depressing. And my grandmother, on the outside, had a garden, flowers, gladiolus, roses, and there were birds. And so that sense of those two environments, as you just described, there’s the one inside the house and the one in the garden. And I had that sense that there’s something beautiful just on the other side of the door. Where am I going to stay? Where am I going to spend my life? And how am I going to help people go from darkness to the garden?  I think you and I have a similar kind of desire for people to be the more that they are. So, talk a little bit more about your journey, coming out and saying, ‘Oh, world, hello. A whole new world, shining, shimmering, splendid,” is what one of the Disney movies talks about.

(18:18) Ray Bourcier

Yes, definitely. It was quite the journey. It took a long time. It wasn’t obviously a race. Rome wasn’t built in a day. But I started to realize that, over time, we came into this world as a pristine environment. Our ecosystem was a blank slate, and the first people to set foot within our ecosystem were our parents. They taught us through their actions or inactions, through their words. We learned all this through osmosis. And whether it was right or wrong doesn’t mean anything. But we learned what they thought was best for us. Over time, more people kind of threw their takes on it. And that really started to build up the operating system that we run through life. For me, my operating system was, I always refer to, a sea of garbage. How can you see outside of the water if you’re never pulled out of it? And for me, it was just nothing but garbage. So, as I got that clarity, I started to see that there was more that I wanted to aim for. So I went ahead and I graduated college, which was amazing to begin with, because no one ever thought I would do that. But I wanted to take it further so I ended up going to university. I ended up completing my Bachelor’s in Environmental Science which was the biggest achievement in my life. It was one of those things where it was a big “FU”, for lack of better terms, to the people who said, “You would never amount to anything,” the people who just kind of gave up on me, never bothered. And it was a great feeling being able to achieve such an amazing thing. But I realized afterwards, it left me empty and I couldn’t understand why. Eventually, I would find out that I put so much emphasis on the result that I didn’t pay attention to the journey. Because our life has only ever lived in the journey. And when you get to a destination, there’s always going to be another destination, right? I put so much attachment to a destination that after that, it was just like, “Now what?” It left me wanting more. It left me puzzled as to why I feel so empty inside. And a lot of it, I thought, had to do with that garbage I was swimming in. It really was because that a lot of the expectations that I learned as a kid, that I went through growing up was that, if you get this, then you get that, if you reach this pinnacle, then you can be happy, if you can achieve this goal, then you can be happy. When that’s the completely wrong way to approach life. You have to be able to give yourself that satisfaction along the journey, be able to enjoy the journey rather than focus on the destination. Because the destination will always be like a moving goalpost. The only place we ever have, our life, is in the journey. So being able to grow and feel the satisfaction, feel the joy and the happiness in the growth, that can happen every single day. You don’t have to put that off until one day.

(21:23) Dr. Doreen Downing

Yes, and your explanation of it and the way that you’re talking about it, I think is way deeper than just the quote that we often see online, life is about the journey, not the destination. The way you just explained it in your own experience really makes it come alive and more believable. Thank you.

(21:49) Ray Bourcier

No problem. And again, it was a really long journey. Because I was still struggling with a lot. By the time I finished university, my marriage was really struggling. It was a toxic marriage, right? We had a lot of problems. And by this time, we found out that we were conceiving, and it was a really rough time, both for my wife and me. There was one February, cold Canadian February winter day where I had just finished university and I just finished work. I was gone all day and it was like 9 pm at night. I go to start my car in -40 degrees Celsius and it just barely started. I just sat there and I’m like, I’m going home to the same toxicity that I felt like I had to live through my entire life, and I didn’t want that for my child. I told myself when I was a kid that if I was ever to bring a kid into this world, I wouldn’t want them to go through what I went through. And no matter how much growing and healing I did to that point in my life, there was still a lot that I needed to do. On that February evening is when I really kind of took my healing journey to the next step. I realized that you know what, it’s up to me to be able to overcome and heal through the garbage that I’ve been going through. That way, I can protect her from not being able to be subjected to the same type of toxicity that I always grew up or had to limp through.

(23:20) Dr. Doreen Downing

Oh, the spirit of protection, and guidance, and mentoring feels like it’s just been woken up in that moment. It’s interesting how children motivate us to go further in what we can offer them. So, in moving forward then. Whatever, however, you’ve become the coach. I see in the background there, Empowered Up? Tell us about that.

(23:52) Ray Bourcier

So, after I made it through my journey, it’s a really interesting story where I decided I wanted to help people. I have always had a passion throughout my entire life, helping others. I helped my mother and that really started with her, throughout my entire childhood. I’ve always wanted to be able to assist others but I never knew how. After I finally made it through all my garbage, and I finally made it through the anxiety and depression, the low self-esteem, self-worth, self-validation, I wanted to give back, because I knew there were others out there like me who had gone through their life swimming in that sea of garbage, and may or may not have had the support that they needed when they were kids or when they were teens that I need. So, I decided that the best way to do it was through a webcomic based on anxiety and depression. I came up with a story and characters and everything. It was great. The biggest problem was that I couldn’t draw my way out of a wet paper bag. I had zero artistic skills, never put any effort into it. I like to joke that I failed finger painting in kindergarten. That’s how bad my skills were. I was really upset as I went through this, because my art skill wasn’t matching the story that I wanted to tell, to be able to help others. And after 29 strips of the comic, I decided to just give up on it. But the important lesson here that I learned that I want to share is that it doesn’t matter if you give up on something and pivot, because what you don’t give up on is the dream and the dream of helping others. And that’s what I never gave up on. Just because the webcomic wasn’t working for me, I decided I wanted to do something different. That’s where my program came from. That’s where my podcast came from. Everything that I’m doing now is because I didn’t give up on the dream. It doesn’t mean you can’t give up on something that’s not working, especially when it comes to relationships, if you’re in a bad relationship, if you’re in an abusive relationship, there’s nothing wrong with getting out, you’re not giving up on the relationship. What you’re not giving up on is the dream of having a relationship that provides you what you need. That’s where all this came from. It all started from a really horrible art-filled webcomic that I drew.

(26:08) Dr. Doreen Downing

Well, that to me, what you’ve just said is the most powerful message that I think people can take with you today, or with them, with us, with me. I’m taking it also. It’s the image of you falling apart but that you still had you. You mentioned to me, not today, but I read it, the North Star. That sense of what you just described as the dream is the North Star. And it feels like, in you, there’s this radar that connects you to your North Star and you just keep going, you just keep going, you just keep going, just keep going. What you just said a few seconds ago to people who are listening is that’s where the power, that’s where the magic is. As we’re coming to a close today, I want to be able to give you some airtime to tell people how to get a hold of you with anything, what your services are, and what more they can get from you.

(27:19) Ray Bourcier

Sure. My podcast is available on Apple and Spotify, that’s, “From Surviving To Thriving for Parents.” Anyone can access that, be able to get the support that they need along their journey. I want to take a quick moment to say that your show is absolutely amazing. And the fact that what you do here is so impactful to others. I want to thank you for that. I can also be reached on Instagram, @myempowerup, Twitter, @EmpowerUp, and also on Facebook, @EmpowerUp. So those are the places where you can reach out to me if you want support along your journey. I’m here to help any parent. I focus mainly on parents with kids 0 to 12. But really, everything I do is to serve others. That’s my main goal in life, to be able to serve others. And that’s why my goal is to serve 11 million people because if you aim for the moon and miss, you still find yourself amongst the stars. The more impact that I can make in this world by reaching closer to 11 million people through the different circles everyone belongs to, the better this world will be, and the better this world will be for my daughter.

(28:31) Dr. Doreen Downing

Lovely. Since this podcast that I do is about finding your voice, I think when I look back on our conversation today, that it is a journey to find your voice but your voice is really based on who you are. And then it’s about, once you find who you are and you become motivated then to speak up about it, and that feels like what you’ve done today on my podcast. Thank you so much, Ray.

(29:01) Ray Bourcier

Thank you very much.

Also listen on…

7 STEP GUIDE TO FEARLESS SPEAKINGPodcast host, Dr. Doreen Downing, helps people find their voice so they can overcome anxiety, be confident, and speak without fear.

Get started now on your journey to your authentic voice by downloading my Free 7 Step Guide to Fearless Speakingdoreen7steps.com.

7 STEP GUIDE TO FEARLESS SPEAKINGPodcast host, Dr. Doreen Downing, helps people find their voice so they can overcome anxiety, be confident, and speak without fear.

Get started now on your journey to your authentic voice by downloading my Free 7 Step Guide to Fearless Speakingdoreen7steps.com.