Meet the woman who will strip away your inhibitions and give you the confidence to deal with life’s problems
Chen Clarke was bullied at school and work. Now the Belfast life coach tells Maureen Coleman how burlesque can help women turn their lives around.
Chen Clarke has come a long way from a shy, lonely school girl who didn't fit in and who was plagued by self-doubt and depression.
The little confidence she did possess was slowly stripped away when she came up against bullies in the workplace, who undermined her every move and made her feel worthless.
These days, she says, it would take a lot to knock her off her stride, having long overcome her self-consciousness and her tendency to put herself down. And now she's on a mission to help other women stop judging themselves and to encourage them to embrace their “fun, flirty and feminine side”.
Drogheda-born Chen (46), turned her life around with the help of life coaching and after years of working with women all over the world, believes she can make a huge difference in a short space of time.
“It's actually easy to turn things around once you know how, and to be that super confident woman you've always wanted to be,” she says.
“What I teach women is that they are perfect the way they are, that they must stop being swayed by other opinions and that they have to stop apologising for themselves.
“Women always put themselves last. Families come first, partners come first, anything and everyone but themselves. I believe in female empowerment.
“Many of us live and work in a male dominated environment, where we feel the need to take on the boys in order to get on.
“Somewhere along the line, we've lost that softer, feminine side. I think that's sad. Men and women are different for a reason and women should be proud of who they are.”
Growing up in Drogheda, Chen said she was painfully shy and lacking in confidence.
“I was a loner at school, the girl who was on the outside looking in. I was unbelievably shy and kept myself to myself,” she says.
“After school I set up an interior design business. I loved my job but it was a very stressful environment.
“I worked quite a bit in other countries and then in 1999 went off travelling, to Hong Kong, Thailand and Bali. When I came home I moved to Dublin and did some temping work for various companies. But there was an incident where I came up against a boss who was incredibly demanding.
“Nothing I did was ever good enough. It was overwhelming and wore me down. Basically I started to doubt my own abilities,” she adds.
“Yet when I left that job, they took on two people to replace me. The whole experience was so stressful. I learned to accept that it wasn't my fault, the woman who bullied me was a high flier, but she wasn't cut out for managing people.”
During that period Chen says she spent much of her time in tears. “I went to the doctor and was told I had depression,” she says. “I had no idea, I just knew I was crying all the time. I was given anti-depressants but only took them for three months. I didn't like them.
“I've always been a believer in the natural approach and was fascinated by energy therapies, like meditation, breathing, yoga, that type of thing.
“It was around this time I went along to a life coach. It made such an incredible difference.
“Life coaching can turn things around fairly quickly. They are impartial and sometimes it's hard to see things with clarity when you are stuck in the middle of a situation yourself.”
Chen says her own experiences and personal journey have helped arm her with the necessary skills to help other women.
She became interested in life coaching and has been doing it now for 15 years.
Her modality is called Access Consciousness, which encourages non-judgement and the ability to succeed.
“We explore why women feel the need to judge themselves, their bodies, their lives, their age, whether they're single or married.
“It breaks my heart to see so many beautiful, smart and talented women put themselves down, lack confidence, hide their abilities and apologise for being who they are. It has to stop, particularly since its so easy to turn these situations around, fast”.
After residing in Italy for a while, Chen, who is single, now lives in Holywood, Co Down. Although she has worked with men in the past, these days concentrates solely on helping women.
She has clients at home and abroad, as far away as San Francisco and New York. She organised a seminar for local business women called Be The Superstar You Are and is now bringing her new Vibrant Sexy Woman Roadshow to Belfast's Malmaison Hotel tomorrow.
Chen, who describes herself as an ‘international success and empowerment coach’, says the day is designed for women to finally leave behind all their doubts and criticism and to have “unshakable belief and confidence in themselves”.
The highlight of the roadshow will be a Burlesque dance lesson with a professional burlesque diva. The women attending will learn how to strut and pose and play with their fun, flirty, side.
Chen explained: “I was at a gig at the Errigle Inn and between the bands playing a group of Burlesque girls got up to perform. They were simply stunning.
“Next to me were a couple of women in the audience who were saying things like ‘I could never get up and dance like that in my underwear' and ‘who do they think they are?'.
“It just made me sad to think that these beautiful, elegant and graceful dancers were prompting such negative comments. All I could see was something that was visually beautiful and I realised then that I really had come a long way. Let's clear those judgments and limiting beliefs.
“Women shouldn't apologise for who they are.
“It doesn't matter if your idea of success is having a husband and children, a high powered job or a weekend job, as long as you are
being true to yourself. Other people's views are not important, it's what you think of yourself.”
Chen says she was approached by one local woman who had been worn down by an employer, to the point where she had no self-belief.
“This boss was dumping everything on her, making her feel like she wasn't worthy of anything at all,” she said.
“We turned things round pretty quickly. Once you know how to, it's amazing how quickly things can happen.
“She got head-hunted for her dream job and walked into a managerial role.”
Another woman came to see her, who was so wracked with self-doubt she told Chen she had no achievements to speak of.
“I asked her to write down a list of the things she was proud of and she said she had nothing at all,” she says.
“I told her to just do it. She came back with a list that included competition wins and two degrees.
“Yet for some reason, she believed she'd achieved nothing in her life.”
Chen is encouraged by a comment by the Dalai Lama, who said the Western world will be saved by women.
“He's right,” she said. “Don't get me wrong, I love men. But they haven't done too great a job so far.”
The Vibrant Sexy Roadshow takes place at Malmaison Hotel, Belfast, tomorrow, 9.30am-5pm. For more information tel: 07775 379422 or log onto www.vibrantsexywoman.com Tickets £97 per person or £147 if you bring a friend
A woman is really in control when she ...
- Never apologises for who she is, what she wears, what she desires and for what she does or what she doesn’t like.
- Says what she means even if it annoys people.
- Lives her life with compassion but doesn’t sacrifice her happiness for others.
- Has very clear boundaries
- Is very clear with when she says YES and when she says NO
- Lives free from guilt, self-criticism, and gossip
- Asks for what she needs — without hesitation.
- Knows when she indulges in spa treatments or shopping, she doesn’t have to hide it from her loved ones.
- Is surrounded by friends that support and challenge her to be her best.
- Makes decisions without the need to justify them.
- Spends quality time with her children and loved ones, free from distraction.
- Thrives on contribution.
- Knows exactly when she needs rest.
- Seeks all things wonderful.
- Doesn’t waste time in drama and chaos
- Has decided to no longer waste time with body image issue; rather set her life up to love her body and support it.
- Invests in herself and life without hesitation or guilt.
- Continuously adds more colour in to her life.
- Allows herself to connect to her sensual energy.
- Lives in love not in fear.
- No longer pretends everything is OK when it’s not. She stopped pretending and telling herself it will get better. She finally gives herself the gift of a powerful coach.
- Allows dreams; she is curious; she desires the best for herself, family, animals and community.