#116 Discover Your Brilliance & Embrace Quiet Leadership

Today's Guest: Tamara Herl

Today, I interview Tamara Herl whose getting up in front of a group of people to speak has always been hard for her. Tamara shares her compelling story of navigating through the challenges of finding her voice amidst family turmoil, societal expectations, and personal inhibitions.

Tamara sheds light on the transformative potential of embracing one’s unique brilliance, tapping into the language of nature, and using creativity as a powerful means of self-expression and empowerment.

Tamara can now stand in front of an audience and speak about her passion. She has found that what works best for her is doing experiential processes with her audience, such as leading them in a guided meditation. That is where she really shines.


Tamara Herl is a licensed professional counselor and registered board-certified art therapist. She shows socially conscious entrepreneurs how to use art and nature to get Divine guidance when they feel stuck or confused so that they can make the kind of impact they are meant to.


Watch the episode:

Connect with Tamara Herl

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 #116 Tamara Herl

“Discover Your Brilliance & Embrace Quiet Leadership

(00:35) Doreen Downing:
Hi, I am Dr. Doreen Downing, host of the Find Your Voice, Change Your Life Podcast. I love doing this podcast because what happens here is I get to invite people I want to know more about. I get curious, and as a psychologist, I’m always wondering what happened when they didn’t have a voice or they lost their voice, and I know that change is possible. What we also do here on the podcast is give people an opportunity to share their journeys to whatever it is that they now do. And usually what they do now is something that we can learn from. So today I get to interview Tamara Herl. Hi Tamara.

Tamara Herl:
Hi Doreen. 

Doreen Downing:
You sent a bio, so it’s a couple of sentences and I’d like to read that right away. Tamara Hurl is a licensed professional counselor and registered board-certified art therapist. She shows socially conscious entrepreneurs how to use art and nature to get divine guidance when they feel stuck or confused so that they can make the kind of impact they are meant to. Oh, I like that. I like that they are meant to. 

(02:03) Tamara Herl:
Thanks. Yes. It’s because I think most people do want to make a difference, but sometimes they end up playing small and they don’t make the difference that they’re meant to.

(02:17) Doreen Downing:
I have done that in my own experience, being a psychologist in my little one-person office and keeping myself small. And here we are years later, and I’m doing a podcast with over a hundred episodes. 

(02:32) Tamara Herl:
That’s awesome.

(02:33) Doreen Downing:
And so I’m really happy you took time out of your wonderful life to share your own story. So that’s what we do. We start with where were you born and what was your early life experience that you felt maybe you didn’t have a voice?

(02:51) Tamara Herl:
I was born in WaKeeney Kansas, and my parents had some issues, as many parents do. They didn’t get along and there was a lot of fighting and drinking, so I learned at a very young age two that I could get attention by being good and being quiet and not causing problems. And I think that’s where the root of it all started by just believing the way to get what I need is to just be good and be quiet.

(03:21) Doreen Downing:
Right, exactly. And this whole first entering into the world time of us, at a young age is like, whoa, where do I belong and who listens to me and how do I survive? 

(03:36) Tamara Herl:
Exactly right. I survived by being the good child, the quiet child that didn’t cause any problems for the family and that worked okay when I was a child.

And then I think the second thing that impacted me the most, I remember being in the second grade and, no, I think it was actually the fourth grade, and my teacher said that we should give a presentation in front of the class. I don’t even remember what topic I had chosen, but it was funny because by then I was confident and I thought, I can do this.

This’ll be okay, and I don’t need to make any notes. And she had told us to make notes, but I thought, no, I know I can do this. But I got up in front of the class and my mind went blank. I couldn’t remember anything that I had planned to say, and my teacher said, “See, this is why you need to make notes.”

And I felt humiliated. I remember I just got really hot and flushed and I just felt really awful. So I think that’s when I really started struggling with public speaking and with speaking my voice. 

(04:47) Doreen Downing:
Standing up with all eyes on you is one thing. I think it is, especially for our little bodies and we aren’t naturally speakers, to actually have yourself be in this center of attention and then have it be so negative, or have the consequence be so negative in the way you describe it.

And the consequence of it feels a little, I know it’s a big word, but it does feel traumatic. 

(05:16) Tamara Herl:
I think it was traumatic, because I remember, I just felt humiliated. And I don’t know if this is just my own perception, but I felt like the teacher wanted me to feel that way because I hadn’t done what she said I should do.

Doreen Downing:
Ooh, punishment. 

Tamara Herl:
Yes. Shame on you. Exactly. I think there was a lot of shame. And so after that, I just avoided public speaking at all costs. And we had a chance to take speech class in high school and I’m like, no way. I’m not doing that. I’m not going through that again.

(05:47) Doreen Downing:
Isn’t that something that early learning? Before we move on, I do want to point out something else I picked up as you talked about your family life being more dysfunctional is the word sometimes people use. The fighting and the alcoholism. And you then accommodate to survive in that negative environment.

But school sometimes is a place where you can find yourself or be able to feel confident. And that’s what I heard is that there seemed to be more confidence in the school arena.

(06:21) Tamara Herl:
Yes, there was for a while what I felt, I remember in the second grade talking to my teacher, she was so sweet, and I just remember sitting, she had taken me aside and we were sitting at this little table away from the other students and I was crying and she was asking me what was wrong, and I told her that I felt different.

It was because my parents had divorced. That was earlier, I think that happened when I was maybe in kindergarten or first grade. But I felt different than all the other students and I thought that was bad. And she was saying, you’re not different. It’s okay. She was trying to reassure me.

(06:57) Doreen Downing:
I love those voices that we remember that help us find our strength.

I know that there are a lot of people that report either grandmas or aunties or teachers, or some kind of early influencers that help guide us with their voices, I think inside of us or become our voices you can depend on. Difference isn’t a bad thing. 

(07:20) Tamara Herl:
It’s a good thing.

(07:23) Doreen Downing:
Exactly. Nice. Here you are a young little one who moves on into life finding being quiet is quite comfortable, and it becomes a habit.

(07:35) Tamara Herl:
And I’ve also read, I think Malcolm Gladwell wrote a book, I can’t remember what the title of it, but it’s something about being quiet.

And when I was in school, the teachers, not just the teachers, but the whole education system, had this belief that all students should be outgoing and that it really wasn’t good to be quiet. So then there was that dissonance, that conflict, an internal conflict where they were always trying to get us to all be outgoing.

And so that, I think, influenced me as well. 

(08:06) Doreen Downing:
I could see that you and I grew up probably somewhat in the same kind of society that does applaud those who are more extroverted. And I think you and I value introversion. I know. You’ve talked about that and isn’t there a book called Quiet? How to do something in a noisy world or something like that?

(08:30) Tamara Herl:
That’s the one that I’m talking about. I’m not sure who the author was, but yes. And I was happy when I read that because it validated that there is a place for quiet people, and there is a need for both extroverts and introverts.

So that was very affirming to hear that. 

(08:47) Doreen Downing:
Yes. That may stem from not only being what you came into this life with a kind of natural sensitivity, a deeper way of experiencing life and processing it. But then the family, also the external, reinforces that it was better to be quiet, but no matter what it just seems that what we’re doing, what you are doing in your work, and what I’m doing in my work is saying there’s room for all of us. And let’s put value, it’s what that teacher told you or that whoever that was, just said, we do have value, whether we have lots of words or we don’t have that many words.

(09:30) Tamara Herl:
And I can remember, fast forwarding to when I began my career as an art therapist, and I ended up getting a job as director of a department, the expressive therapies department in a mental health center. There was some kind of conflict that came up. I believe they were going to, we had a separate building, it was really a neat setup. So the expressive therapies department had a separate building and they were going to take it over and turn it into something else. So I called together my staff and we talked about it and I said, even if we don’t win, I think we need to speak up and tell them why they shouldn’t do that.

Tell them why we should be allowed to keep our building. And I remember, another person that was on the management team later told me, he said something like, “You’re the kind of leader I admire, a quiet leader.” So I thought that was really neat the way he framed that.

(10:30) Doreen Downing:
Oh yes. That’s wonderful to hear that vignette where you are applauded for being not only a leader but doing it in your own style.

And that’s what we’re talking about today, finding your voice and something like that. Sounds like you did have a conviction inside and, in order for you to make something happen that you believe needed to happen, you had to put a voice to that.

(11:01) Tamara Herl:
Exactly, and I think that is what I mean.

I still struggle with public speaking, to be quite honest. It’s harder for me when I’m in front of a bunch of people. Virtual speaking is not an issue, and what I found though is that when I focus on my conviction, focus on my passion, I love using speaking opportunities as a way to tell stories about the success of my clients.

Or back when I was focused more on art therapy, I would do case studies and talk about the breakthroughs that people had. So that conviction, you’re right, it’s when that conviction, there’s something that needs to be spoken about. Something just won’t leave me alone. So I have to speak up about it.

(11:50) Doreen Downing:
Oh, I like the way you just said that it’s a new way of thinking about expressing yourself… it just won’t leave you alone. There’s something else that you said about being an art therapist, and I think that when we talk about voice isn’t just words, right? Of course, there’s verbal and non-verbal language, but music is a voice, and art is a voice.

Say something about that.

(12:15) Tamara Herl:
Definitely, the field of music therapy is very powerful. And in terms of art, there have been many instances where I have used art as a way to protest things or a way to speak up about things. When I was working in the community mental health, there were so many changes that were happening and people were really having a hard time adjusting.

The employees were having a hard time adjusting. So one of the projects that I did was we created a work, and it was with the chaplain somehow or other I always made friends with the chaplains wherever I worked, and we created this weaving. We traveled around to different sites because the organization has had different branches and people could weave in.

So it was set up as weaving with the threads. I think those are the warp threads that go up and down, and then they would weave in anything they wanted to. So somebody weaved in Dictaphone tape. And back in the day when that was a thing and they wove all different kinds of things in, and then we had an all-staff dinner, I think it was like around the holidays, and everyone got to see what it looked like when it was all finished. The Chaplain read a poem called The Weaver, which was very powerful. So both the words and the image, are just a powerful way for people to speak up about how hard it was for them. So that was one instance, and then another instance years later, I did a project called Inviting Creativity and Spirituality into the Workplace.

Again, the rapid changes were still happening, and people were still struggling and I felt bad. I was in middle management, so I was torn, pulled between both ends of the spectrum. So I approached first my supervisor with the idea of implementing this pilot program, and she said, “Sure, take it to the CEO if you want to.”

So I did, and I think it was met with a moderate amount of success. The organization ended up, it was part of the reason that the organization won an international award for spirituality in the workplace because of the project. And in the project, I invited people to speak up about what was bothering them using art.

We symbolized what their struggles were. And then we also problem solved though, because I didn’t want it to just be a complaining session. So it was very constructive and we did pre and post-testing, and their scores in so many areas improved. Motivation, self-esteem, things like that really.

And it was great because we measured the changes that happened. 

(14:50) Doreen Downing:
Wow. There’s not just only the topic of spirituality in the workplace, but what you’ve given us is something, a picture of what that actually looks like. Like people coming together and doing art in such a way that they express what it’s like to be. I don’t know how the idea of spirituality goes in the workplace, unless the workplace is focused on that. Say something more about how we bring spirituality. Because that’s so important now as we all have been through this pandemic, and a lot of people have deepened their sense of what purpose and meaning and spirituality are, and then they go back into a cubicle.

(15:34) Tamara Herl:
I think what most people don’t realize, it depends on how you define spirituality. So the way that I define it, it’s much broader than religion. It’s what gives your life meaning and purpose. And a lot of times we feel like we have to leave some of those things at home.

For instance, during the project, there was a woman. Who was a very wonderful guitar player, but she felt like she couldn’t bring that part of herself to work. So she started bringing her guitar to work and using it in her sessions as a clinician, and she felt more joy and she stopped procrastinating on her paperwork.

 And I’m sure the clients loved it, so it was a win-win for everyone.

(16:16) Doreen Downing:
Oh yes. I’m certainly enjoying hearing the little snippets of how voice shows up in various aspects of our lives. Let me take a brief break and we’ll be back.

(16:35) Doreen Downing:
Hi, we’re back with Tamara Hurl, who is fascinating us with stories about voice and how voice can show up in a quiet way. Of course, it’s just as powerful being an extrovert. You were called a quiet leader, and for those of us out there that are quiet leaders, let’s feel that power. And you’ve been talking about the voice through art and spirituality.

We just looked at what spirituality is and isn’t when we talk about the workplace. What else would you like to talk about with voice coming up in your own life?

(17:15) Tamara Herl:
I think it was important for me to really tap into my brilliance. That’s one of the things that I’m really focusing on right now, is helping people tap into their brilliance.

And that happened to me, years later when I was still in the corporate world. And I was part of a system where productivity expectations were impossible for me to meet. And so I talked to other people that were in the same position and discovered that most other people that had the same role as I did, felt the same way.

And I kept saying to my supervisor that I wasn’t keeping up. And they kept saying it was okay until one day after three months of being there, all they said was they came in and said, “You have to stay here tonight until you get all your paperwork done.” I thought three months of paperwork in one night, I’ll probably be here till midnight.

I might not even be able to go home. So I cried at first, and then I got angry, and then I thought, okay, it’s time to figure this out. I tapped into my brilliance, which included my gift of creativity. Yes. Because I thought if I would see groups of people using art therapy, I could meet those productivity expectations.

And there were some other things that I worked on too. And I found out if they would let me use this new model that I came up with, that I could totally meet and exceed their expectations. However, when I showed it to them, they would not accept it. They said this has to come from us.

And I was like, what? Although I knew it was still brilliant though, because a few months later they implemented a couple of the ideas that I had proposed, but I realized then that I had spoken up, I had come up with a different way of doing it that would support my wellbeing, and still meet their expectations.

But it just still needed some tweaking. So that’s when I decided to branch out on my own. And that’s why I do what I do today because I know that there are other people who they’re not quite making the kind of impact that they’re meant to because they haven’t tapped into their full brilliance.

(19:29) Doreen Downing:
Oh, that is absolute brilliance, that we have something that we’re meant to be offering this world and it’s our brilliance. And to me, it seems like we’re overlapping spirituality in the way that you’ve already talked about it and creativity and expression and voice all at once.

But the whole idea is to first, tap into. So let’s talk more about how to tap into our brilliance. 

(20:05) Tamara Herl:
That’s a wonderful question. And there are different ways. Of course, meditation is a wonderful way and some people don’t like to just sit still and meditate. So a lot of times, one of the main tools that I use is nature.

So inviting people to go out in nature and get fully present. And you can even actually spend time in nature, I believe in having a living breathing Oracle card where you can tap into divine guidance because the universe sees a bigger picture of us than we see of ourselves. The consciousness of the universe knows all the breadth and depth of what we’re capable of and will help us see that.

(20:50) Doreen Downing:
What you just made me realize in terms of the universe, being present with, and then I also got the sense of listening. And so that the universe must have a language that speaks.

(21:04) Tamara Herl:
Yes, it does and it speaks in the language of metaphor, which I think that’s why I like it so much because that’s what I learned in art therapy, how to understand the metaphors of colors and shapes and things.

And so nature also uses metaphors of watching the animals and how they move and how they interact and knowing what the baseline is, what is normal for, if you have a favorite spot where you sit paying attention to what is normal, and then noticing when something’s off. 

The other day I was at my sit spot. I’ve been going to this place for a year, and I’ve never seen this before, but there was a mushroom that was a really interesting mushroom, and I was trying to protect it, and my dog was sat down over there, so I was trying to get her to move, and I noticed there was a snake sitting right beside me.

And usually, I freak out when I see snakes, even though I try to be a nature lover and all that. But it wasn’t moving, so I just sat there and watched it. But it’s a long story, so I won’t tell you the whole thing, but I believe the universe was using that snake. The metaphor of my interaction with the snake and fear and all those things just helped me learn a deeper lesson.

(22:14) Doreen Downing:
Nice. I love the idea of being open to using life and life moments as lessons. I was in nature once at a workshop where we were asked to go out into the meadow and just find like a spot, and just listen. Stop and listen. And I found a little stream, a little creek and just sat there and watched the water that kind of rolled over the rocks.

And I had been struggling with writing and what I realized in that moment is, oh, water that’s the flow. It could be my writing could be like going over rocks easily rather than getting damned up. So later in one of the meetings afterward, we found out that the spirit of writers, and authors, speaks through the water.

(23:05) Tamara Herl:
Wow. I didn’t know that. That’s beautiful.

(23:09) Doreen Downing:
Yes. So I totally am on the same page with you about involving yourself deeply in nature so that you listen and learn. 

(23:21) Tamara Herl:
And grow. Yes, definitely. 

(23:24) Doreen Downing:
So we’re coming to the end, I want to make sure that people know how to find you, what you offer, individuals or groups or workshops. What’s up?

(23:33) Tamara Herl:
I always have things happening. So my website is WildDivine.us and if you go there, you can see the different offerings that I have. One of the fun things is a quiz so that you can see if you’re blocking your brilliance. And if you just click on that link, it’ll take you to the quiz and then I’ll send you the results.

And if a person needs help if they are blocking their brilliance. Then I also send a tip sheet. I have a blog. I’m always writing about things. I love doing team buildings with organizations, especially those that are wanting to make a difference in the world. And then I do retreats and in the summer months, they’re on site.

In the winter though, they’re virtual, so anyone from around the world can attend. And I also have a Facebook group called Spiritually Anchored Visionaries. And, again the link to join is at the top of my website and I have a podcast called “Be the Change Conversations with Visionaries”, which I believe you’re going to be a guest on that later this year, Dr. Doreen. So I’m really excited about that.

(24:42) Doreen Downing:
Yes. I’m also part of your Facebook group. And I like what you’re talking about right now in terms of visionaries, that helping people see beyond what’s right in front of them, but also what you’re talking about with nature and with total immersion into an experience where you learn something, but then you also have something new that comes through and that’s part of visioning, I think.

(25:13) Tamara Herl:
Yes, definitely. 

(25:16) Doreen Downing:
Before we end, I’d like to give people one last opportunity to share some nuggets, something you’ve learned, something you’d like to pass on to listeners today. 

(25:28) Tamara Herl:
Okay, great. I like to say, pay attention to the things around you in the world, and if you’re bothered by them, there’s a reason.

It’s a message from the universe. Don’t just complain. You were born to help these things change and you don’t have to do it alone. The universe is there to support you so that we can all work together and make the world a better place.

(25:53) Doreen Downing:
Oh, wonderful. So much learning from you, Tamara. Thank you. 

(25:56) Tamara Herl:
Thank you for the opportunity and for the work that you’re doing.

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.