Today, I interview Renee Bauer who shared her journey from a childhood shadowed by economic hardships to a life of significant achievement. She spent her formative years in an environment where family finances were a constant concern. Her parents tirelessly juggled nighttime jobs, including taking on cleaning medical facilities to ensure stability.
Renee, even as a teenager, pitched in with the cleaning efforts, often at the cost of her social life. This part of her life was marred by a deep-seated sense of shame and the need for secrecy; she constructed elaborate tales to her friends about visiting relatives, all to mask the reality of her family’s struggles.
Renee realized that her issues with money and worthiness, which were deeply ingrained from her childhood, significantly impacted her adult decisions and relationships. Her second marriage was particularly toxic, and she almost stayed in it due to fears about how others would perceive her.
Despite the personal challenges, Renee became a successful divorce attorney, dedicating over two decades to her profession.
Renee’s story is a testament to overcoming early life struggles, breaking cycles of financial and emotional hardship, and achieving professional success while forging a path to help others do the same.
Renee Bauer has been a divorce attorney for 20 years. She is the Founder and Managing Attorney of Happy Even After Family Law located in Connecticut. Renee is also a co-Founder to a platform for Tarot Card Readers called The Tarot Bridge.
Renee is an international speaker and author. She’s just released She Who Wins: Ditch Your Inner “Good Girl, Overcome Uncertainty, and Win at Your Life. She has also published Divorce in Connecticut, The Ultimate Guide to Solo and Small Firm Success, and the children’s book Percy’s Imperfectly Perfect Family.
Rene hosts the annual She Who Wins Summit, a live event created to inspire, motivate and challenge women to move forward bravely in their personal and business lives. Her impact has been recognized by Success Magazine where she was nominated as a Woman of Influence and with awards such as Litigator of the Year, Women-Owned Business of the Year, and New Leaders in the Law. She has been featured in multiple media outlets such as the International Business Times, Comment Central, AP News, NBC, FOX, and iHeart Radio.
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Transcript of Interview
Transcript of Interview
Find Your Voice, Change Your Life Podcast
Podcast Host: Dr. Doreen Downing
Free Guide to Fearless Speaking: Doreen7steps.com
Episode #122 Renee Bauer
“Beyond the Good Girl: Unleashing True Strength”
(00:35) Doreen Downing: Hi, I’m Dr. Doreen Downing and I’m host of the Find Your Voice, Change Your Life podcast, and what we do here is to invite guests who have a story about finding their voice.
And today I’m so excited about introducing you to somebody that I’m just meeting for the first time today, Renee Bauer. Hi, Renee.
(00:58) Renee Bauer: Hi, we’re going to be good friends by the end of this time together.
(01:01) Doreen Downing: That’s actually something that the listeners enjoy because it’s so engaging, you and I just develop a friendship. Sometimes I fall in love. It is so amazing to have people who have struggled and then have found their way out and then can teach those who are still struggling. So that’s what today is about.
You sent a bio, and because you’re an award winner, I want to read it. Renee has been a divorce attorney for 20 years. She is the founder and managing attorney of Happy Even After Family Law, located in Connecticut. Renee is also a co-founder to a platform for Tarot card readers called the Tarot Bridge.
Renee Bauer is an international speaker, author of three books—and I might as well just say what they are because people could find them—”Divorce in Connecticut,” “The Ultimate Guide to Solo and Small Firm Success,” and the children’s book, “Percy’s Imperfectly Perfect Family.” What a range that you’ve got.
One other thing, you host the annual She Who Wins Summit, a life event created to inspire, motivate, and challenge women to move forward bravely—I love that word, bravely—in their personal and business lives. Her impact has been recognized by Success Magazine, where she was nominated as a Woman of Influence, and with awards such as Litigator of the Year, Woman-Owned Business of the Year, and New Leaders in the Law. How does that feel to hear all that back?
(03:00) Renee Bauer: It’s crazy, right? Because I almost feel like every stage was like, none of it was a big deal. But then when you put it all together—and I don’t think we take enough time just individually to look at our lives—it’d be like, “Wow, I did a lot,” and actually appreciate that because we’re so busy, “What’s the next thing?” Or, “I didn’t get everything I wanted.” So hearing that, it gives me a moment just to be present and just to take it in.
(03:30) Doreen Downing: Great. I’m glad I read it and that people, my listeners, are hearing what you bring today to all of that experience but what we usually do is, we don’t start there. In fact, that’s pretty much true, right? Our past is, and I think that’s one of your perspectives and some of your messages is that the past is what shapes us today. We just don’t want to get stuck in it. And I want to mention the book that’s being launched recently. I want to say that before we dive in. Your book is, “She Who Wins: Ditch Your Inner Good Girl, Overcome Uncertainty, and Win at Your Life.”
Renee, such a powerful message and I know in all the interviews I’ve done with people that when they finally get to writing something so powerful for others, other people to change, help them change their lives, that it comes from a deep struggle.
So let’s start there. Usually, I like to do that and then roll into the journey about how you found your voice. But let’s just first focus on, well, what was some of that struggle early on? Where were you born?
(04:52) Renee Bauer: I was born right outside of Boston, Massachusetts, so if you hear the accent, that’s where that comes from.
But it’s funny. When I started writing this book, I thought that the struggle came from—I’m twice divorced, right? And I had a lot of shame around that, and that is what I talk about, and I thought that that’s where it started. Then as you sit down and you write and you start peeling the layers back, you realize that the struggle goes back so much further.
I love this question because if I really think about what was the start of this before I got to the point of being married twice and being divorced twice. It was like, “What was happening?” And I share in the book, and it was the first time I’ve actually ever spoken about this, was I had so much shame because my parents had money struggles when I was younger, and my mother started cleaning houses.
My parents took on a job cleaning medical buildings at night and I was a teenager and before I could go out with my friends, before I could meet up with them, we all had to go to this medical building and we had to clean the building on a Friday night. I did the barrels, or I vacuumed, and I never talked about it because I was embarrassed. I would show up late and I’d see my friends and I’d be like, “Oh, yeah. I’m visiting my grandparents,” and never told them what was actually going on.
And into my adulthood, when I started my own business, I realized I was holding on to that because I was then cleaning my own office because I’m like, “I’m not spending the money to hire a cleaner,” because it was such a scarcity mindset around money. It was always like, “What if I run out? What if there’s not enough?”
And I realized, “Oh, I have a lot of work to do around my own money stories that go back to that time.” That shame about worry, about not having enough, which once I changed that, then my business started to do really well. I hired more people. That wasn’t like I had to hold on so tight because I knew it would flow and I knew it was energy, but I really had to grapple with that.
So, when I was writing that story, I was like, “You know what. It’s time to talk about that and share that part that I just sort of tucked away and never…it doesn’t come up for me anymore, so I never thought about it, but now’s the time to put it down and talk about it.
(06:59) Doreen Downing: Good. Already, there are a couple of points that I think people can relate to. One is the hiding that you did in order to not feel like you were… well, to expose the truth of what was really going on, you had to hide. So that was one thing.
But the other was the whole idea about money and how we are valued and it’s our worth. Isn’t that a strange word when it comes to money and our self-perception? So that’s pretty amazing and thank you for opening and unzipping that moment. I think that’s the kind of thing that reaches people and says, “Wow, she really had a moment in her life where she was struggling to come out and be comfortable with herself and her family.”
(07:50) Renee Bauer: Yeah, and as I look into my adulthood and the decisions I made in my own marriages, and almost staying in a marriage—a second marriage—that was not great at all. It was toxic and almost staying because of this concept of: One, what will people think, which goes right back to that time of like, “I don’t want my friends to think of me any differently.” Then having, again, that attachment to, “What does my money situation look like if I walk away from this?”
So, it was this theme, this through line, and you start to unpack that stuff and look at it from like, almost remove yourself like it’s not my experience. I’m going to look at it as if I don’t even know this person and you can see it so clearly, but when you’re in it, you can’t. You’re so close to it that you’re holding on to that fear.
And I love how you talk about worthiness, because I think that worthiness applies to so many. Women have worthiness issues about love and about money and about confidence and about having a life that they love.
(08:47) Doreen Downing: And what you’re linking or what we are linking together is that fact that some of these questions about how valuable I am are related to earlier life experience and you’ve just really put a highlight to that so that folks can…That’s one of the things. “Hey, listeners, look back. If you’re struggling now, look for roots in your own life.”
(09:14) Renee Bauer: Yes, and we see when people don’t do that. I’m sure you see it all the time. You see the cycle repeats itself. And it’s just, it’s on, it’s like press and play on that button. And we have an opportunity to break that story and change that story.
But we also have an opportunity to stay stuck in that and live that same pattern that our parents lived in, their grandparents lived. And it’s our power. We must be proactive about it. Don’t just be like, “Well, it just happened to me. This is just the way things are.”
Yes, you have had things happen to you, but now you get to decide differently, and you get to not make that be the story that carries through to your entire life that you pass on to your own children and grandchildren.
(10:03) Doreen Downing: I’m laughing and smiling and just feeling so energized already by you because of the power of what you’re saying. This image I have is of wearing like this suit, this armor, I guess is the idea, and we do call that in psychology, our personal armor, but the armor doesn’t free you up to expand and open your arms and open your heart and let yourself out, your voice, because that’s actually what we’re talking about today: Find Your Voice, Change Your Life.
So, what you pointed to us today is, hey, maybe that powerful voice is tucked way back when and we’ve got to go help her—release her.
(10:45) Renee Bauer: I love what you just said too is that concept of armor because I’ve never actually looked at it that way, but I’ve always felt like I had to show up suited up and protected all over. It wasn’t until I started to slowly drop those pieces of metal and be vulnerable in a really real way that things changed.
I’m currently married for a third time and my husband called me out in the best way possible and said, “You’re not being truly vulnerable,” and I knew he was right because I was still protecting myself.
It was like, listen, what if this doesn’t work out? If it doesn’t work out, I need to be protected. I have to protect my heart. I have to protect my wallet. I have to protect everything. And it was like, “Wow, I am not allowing myself to actually fully show up to this relationship because I’m so afraid of having a repeat performance of the first two.”
That changed everything. Our relationship, our ability to communicate, to deal with conflict. It was like, when you show up vulnerably, it allows yourself to heal, to be the best partner, to love fully. That was a lesson it took until I’m in my forties. It took until this decade to really understand that and get that down.
(12:02) Doreen Downing: Oh, I’m so touched. My heart is opening up to you and I feel a little misty and teary. So you talk about dropping the armor and do you have some story that you might show us about—? Well, I know that moment you talked about with your partner saying, “Hey, you aren’t being vulnerable,” but what does vulnerable mean?
How does that armor begin to crack or at least drop down? I just realized there was this image I have about this quote about the light within and in the cracks is where you see the light.
(12:34) Renee Bauer: Yes, I love that quote.
(12:36) Doreen Downing: Yes, any personal story you might have around the experience of dropping your armor or piece of it.
(12:43) Renee Bauer: Yes, so going into my late thirties, early forties, I was hyper independent and I, because it was like, I need to financially support myself now that I’m a single mom and I need to—I’m going to protect myself, and my son, and my everything, my bank account, like everything. That was sort of how I showed up. I was like 75 percent there.
I don’t think I really understood that I was doing that until I was truly with a partner who was safe. And, you know, it was, I can’t say there was a one moment, but it was trusting the relationship and watching it unfold and seeing how safe it was to have conflict, to have disagreements, to speak, and say, “I have something to talk about,” and not have those words twisted and just to be heard.
And that progression of that relationship as it unfolded was where I started to drop that hyper independence and I started to open myself up more. So it was really a progression of time. It wasn’t like a one moment thing. It took time for me to trust and for him to show up all the time and be like, “You can ask for help. I’m here. I want to see all parts of you and not just the strong parts, and the badass parts, and all of that. I want all of the stuff.”
And, I think just looking back at all of the relationships that hadn’t worked, marriages and boyfriends and all of that, and never actually really experiencing that was the moment, I would say, the moments of really realizing, “This was why you got divorced twice. This is what you knew was out there. You just didn’t know what it looked like.”
(14:32) Doreen Downing: Oh, Renee, I feel like I’m in a mirror. This is so amazing. The story that you’re telling about a relationship being a journey to finding more parts of you, which are the voices that were afraid, and mine was about abandonment. Every time my husband went on a business trip, I messed the house up. I didn’t do dishes. And when he came back, it was a mess, but he’d laugh about it and he’d start cleaning it up.
I so love this idea that you just shared is that it’s a process, folks. It’s a process finding your voice and being vulnerable is something that can be possible more when you find safe people and when you’re with toxic people or people that don’t bring the best out inside of you and don’t listen and aren’t there, then that’s dangerous. It’s toxic.
(15:30) Renee Bauer: Yes, and if you asked me the flip, like, “Was there a moment when you knew that someone wasn’t right?” And I was in this second marriage, and I didn’t recognize who I was. There was a moment when we were fighting in my kitchen and I picked up a fork from my kitchen table and I brought it up over my head and I brought it down on the ground as hard as I could to the point where it left like a hole in my floor, and I realized, “I don’t know who this person is,” because I don’t lose my temper. I’m just not an angry person. I don’t have anger problems. I’ve never had.
And yet I couldn’t even see myself because I was so triggered and all of this emotion bubbled. That was a moment where I realized we are not good for each other because we don’t bring out the best. It is not a safe relationship. That was an absolute defining moment where I said, “I need to change or you will not like yourself if you stay with this person,” because I turned the mirror on me. I don’t like to be, “Oh, he did this and all that.” I’m not doing that. I put the mirror on me and said, “Why did I allow this type of relationship into my life?” It’s time to evaluate and say what was going on that this was okay.
(16:37) Doreen Downing: Oh, thank you for being so honest and so forthcoming. I’m going to take a brief break and we’re going to hear more about your journey to find your voice.
(16:47) Intermission: If you want to get started right away to find your voice, download Doreen’s free 7-Step Guide to Fearless Speaking at doreen7steps. com.
(16:56) Doreen Downing: Hi, we’re back with Renee Bauer, who’s written a book, and we’re going to be talking more about that in a second. It’s “She Who Wins,” and it’s about ditching the good girl, and it’s about finding your—well, for me—it’s about finding your voice. I mean, she didn’t use that language, but it seems that we are talking about the same thing. When you find yourself, when you find your power, there’s the voice that needs to come out, and you need safe environments, you need people who are supportive of you, and this book, I think, is one of the ways in which people who are listening today might be able to get some hints.
And we get to talk to Renee and hear more specific, any more stories about finding your voice in the ways that you have, as you journey into a life that was more suited for you.
(17:49) Renee Bauer: Yes. And that’s exactly what it is. Ditching your inner good girl is finding your voice and it’s doing things your way. And it’s shunning what expectations that society and other people have on you. And it’s saying, “You know what? I don’t need to smile more. I don’t need to be a people pleaser. I can have really strong boundaries.” That’s what it means to ditch your inner good girl.
(18:14) Doreen Downing: So you say ditch, but it’s a part of us, where does the good girl go? I just got curious.
(18:28) Renee Bauer: That’s so funny because no one’s ever asked that, I don’t know, where is she? I mean, I think she’s still there, but I think you allow your authentic self to shine. You allow that internal voice, that intuition to really speak more than anyone else. And so you’re not ditching her cause she’s really is still there, but you’re just allowing her to be really authentic to who she is.
And you don’t have to show up a certain way just because you think that’s what you’re supposed to do. You get to make disrupter decisions and you get to be a little unruly and speak your truth and not worry about if people don’t like you. That’s what it’s about.
(19:10) Doreen Downing: Yes. Oh, this is so much fun. I’m bringing out more about what you believe in. So, this whole idea of the good girl and what I said just a second ago is like, “Oh, she tried, didn’t she? She really was trying to survive in a world.”
One thing you haven’t used, and I’m pretty glad that you haven’t used the term “imposter syndrome” because that’s such a popular phrase right now and I think it’s kind of overused, but in a way what you said was the same idea. Pretending to be somebody that is trying to put on an impression or an image that isn’t really true because it’s more based in fear.
(19:51) Renee Bauer: Yes. You know what? It’s funny because I don’t use that word “imposter syndrome” because I feel like it’s watered down. But I love the concept of doing things afraid. And even though you have fear, because there isn’t anything that pushes us or challenges us. There’s fear around like there is a fear of rejection around that or falling flat on our faces, and that’s why we don’t do it because we want to be safe.
Our head is telling us, “Play it safe, play it small. You won’t get hurt that way,” but you’re not actually putting yourself on the line and the flip side to that is, so what if you fall on your face? So what if you get rejected? So what if it doesn’t work out? Because what if it does? Imagine what happens if you keep going despite all of that rejection, because rejection is inevitable. Failing is inevitable, but you do it anyway, because eventually you’re going to outrun all of those rejections. Eventually you’ll outrun your fear and you’ll still see the other side of success.
The example I use is this book. I received 113 rejections from literary agents before I got the one yes. And then when I got her, we got countless rejections from publishers. But I knew that there was a place for it and people kept telling me, you need to niche down. You have to be specific. And I’m like, “No.” Because the things that women have issues with, every woman has an issue with.
You don’t have to be a CEO in order to have concerns about communication or conflict or, issues on how to show up in a society that tells you to be smaller. You can be a stay-at-home Mom, and still have those concerns. So, many women have worthiness issues or body image issues and relationship issues. The topics cover so many women that I know from those who stayed home and those who are seven-figure earners.
I refuse to accept the publisher’s… Their feedback was that I had to be really specific and one publisher said, “Yes.” And so it’s like those stories of rejection. It was like I knew. I believed in it so much. My agent believed in it and we kept going until we got that “Yes.” And it’s like, imagine if I quit when I got the 50th literary agent rejection, or when we got the fifth publisher rejection, it wouldn’t be out in the world.
And the feedback that I have is women are saying that it’s transforming their life. I’m like, “Imagine.” All of us have these big dreams that we maybe haven’t acted on because we’re afraid of what happens if we fail at it and we don’t want to like have to say we failed.
And I’m always like, “You know what? Let’s celebrate our rejections. Let’s announce them loud and proud,” and be like, “Yeah, I didn’t get the job. So what?” You put yourself out there for it. That’s the exciting stuff.
(22:33) Doreen Downing: Oh, I love that. Loud and proud. Well, I have a similar story about my approach to helping people find their voice and that often I’m kind of niched into being a public speaking coach, which means, get up on a stage, take a microphone, and do a perfect presentation. It’s more of an act. And I agree with you. You and I ought to do some programs together.
And this is so true that it’s just speaking up in a relationship, in a marriage. “Hey, I didn’t like that you left the coffee being spilled all over the counter this morning.” Or just anything that feels like a woman moving through society. I say that life is your stage and that sounds like your message too is be who you are, be loud and proud.
The question I have has to do with courage, not confidence. And that, to me, feels like what you’re also pointing to. So, what would be some Ideas, tips on how to be finding the courage within.
(23:42) Renee Bauer: I love that, especially in the context that you help people who want to be public speakers, because that is something that I’ve always wanted to do as well. But I also have this fear of public speaking, so go figure. But I just knew. I was so called to it, and it’s funny because it’s like when you go on stage and now that I started doing it, I don’t always have the confidence, but I do say I have the courage and sometimes you just put one foot in front of the other and do it anyway.
What I do is right before I step on stage, I take a lot of deep breaths. I do a little affirmation mantra to myself as to like asking to carry my message the way that it’s meant for as using me as like a channel for it, so that it can touch somebody because it’s not about me, it’s not about ego. Usually that’s what does the trick in order to switch that over to a little bit of confidence of being like, “This isn’t about me. It’s about touching even one person out there who needs to hear this.”
It’s things like that, and then just rinse and repeat in doing it and practice, I think, builds confidence and courage because it gets a little bit easier every time. I would be lying if I said that I still didn’t shake before I went on. Of course, I do. But as soon as I step on, something else takes over and it’s like that courage speaks through my words and it’s no longer like I’m not afraid anymore about what is someone thinking about me or am I going to say an “um,” or forget where I am. No, I know my material. I know what I have to say, so now it’s just having the courage of putting that mic on and going out there and doing it.
(25:25) Doreen Downing: Oh, that’s a wonderful image of the courage that lifts you up so that you become the channel of your passion, in that your passion races through you, arises, and reaches the listeners.
Well, we’re coming to an end, but before we do, I want you to give us some more, anything else about your book that you could encourage people to, say, “Let’s go buy it because what she has in it can help me.” So anything that you want to say about your book?
(25:58) Renee Bauer: So it’s kind of like the anti self-help book because I’ve read a lot and what I found missing in self-help books was storytelling. I wanted to write something that would move someone to tears, move them to laugh, move them to action. So, it’s filled with stories I have heard. They have made people cry. I have heard that they’ve made people laugh. I throw myself on the line with the stories that I share. I just lay it all out there and say, “Hey, this is my story. I bet you have something similar.” But I do teach a framework in there to help you get really clear on what you want and be able to take action.
And it’s something so simple that you can take with you and apply every single time you come up against a decision or a crossroad, and you’re trying to figure out what’s next. You can apply this three-step framework every step of the way and to really, really get clear on what you want and how to move through the excuses and then put that into action.
(27:01) Doreen Downing: You know I’m going to ask this. I’m not going to ask all three because I want people to read it but give us a hint on one: the first step.
(27:09) Renee Bauer: Yeah, one doesn’t make sense without the three, so I’ll do it really quickly. The high level is every decision you ever make, you can stop, drop, and roll through it. Everyone knows what stop, drop, and roll means and it was meant to extinguish or put out fire and we’re twisting it up and we’re using it to light up your life.
So, every time you have a decision, you’re going to stop and assess and make sure you’re being guided by your heart and your intuition and not your head or ego. You’re going to drop your excuses because those are the things that will hold you back and then you’re going to roll into action and that’s doing the next small thing, and you’re going to state with clarity and specificity what that action is to create the momentum.
And when you stop, drop and roll through every decision, you will always win because no matter what, even if it doesn’t look like what you want on the other side of that, you’ve moved past stagnation and you’ve put things into motion.
(28:03) Doreen Downing: Oh, I’m so glad I asked. And I’m glad we didn’t just get the stop. Because I understand how it all makes sense. Thank you so much. I was going to ask one last word from you, but stop, drop, and roll seems like that’s a good ending for us all.
(28:24) Renee Bauer: Thank you so much for having me. This was fun. You asked some hard questions, so this was really fun.
(28:29) Doreen Downing: Oh, good. Yes. Well, I enjoy you. Thank you so much.
Also listen on…
Get started now on your journey to your authentic voice by downloading my Free 7 Step Guide to Fearless Speaking: doreen7steps.com.
Get started now on your journey to your authentic voice by downloading my Free 7 Step Guide to Fearless Speaking: doreen7steps.com.