How to Overcome Fear and Find Beauty in the Darkness

episode 71 cover art showing michelle kuei on Changes Big and Small

Michelle is a certified confidence coach who coaches people to confidently tell their stories, that get them seen, heard, hired, and change lives along the way. She’s the author of a memoir, Perfectly Normal: An Immigrant’s Story of Making it in America, an inspirational journey of overcoming adversity after an automobile accident that changed her life’s trajectory. 

Michelle was born in Taiwan and grew up in New York, but today she lives in Los Angeles. Michelle enjoys a nice cup of coffee and meaningful conversations with friends. Her favorite food is Hawaiian pizza.

Michelle has such fantastic energy and her story is so inspiring, learning how she made a switch at some point in her mindset and in terms of her action so that she could actually be living the life that she wants. There are so many great suggestions in this episode from Michelle of things that you can do to find out who you are, to develop self acceptance, to dance with and befriend your fear. 

We recorded this episode on April 2, 2021.

There’s no chance that you’re going to see what is at the end of the tunnel, but as you keep trusting and having that inner sense of knowing that it’s going to lead you somewhere, you continue to walk that path in the tunnel. No matter how dark it is right now, you continue to trust you’re walking on that path. At some point, that aha moment is going to show up and you’re going to see how beautiful even the darkest hours of your life is. There’s so much beauty within that darkness. So, are you enjoying that moment where you are, or are you resisting that darkness? The more that you resist it, the stronger it has on you and you’re just standing still, you’re not moving.

Michelle Kuei, Certified Confidence Coach

Your Challenge Invitation

Do something brave. Do something courageous, even if it means just getting out of your bed or getting in your car and going for a drive. You don’t have to let this be a stressful exercise. If you’re stuck, ask “What is the smallest thing that I can do for myself right now that requires me to be brave?”

Whatever you decide to do, if you post about it on social media, you can use the tag #cbas4life so that Damianne and Michelle will see the post or mention @changesbigandsmall.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Michelle Kuei | Mindset Coach (@elevatelifecoach)

Visit Michelle to learn more about her work and connect with her by going to You can also follow her on Facebook, Instagram or Linkedin.

You can connect with Damianne on the Changes BIG and small website, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube. You’re also invited to join the Changes BIG and small Facebook community.

You are not your fear but your fear is part of you.

Related Episodes

Timeline of the Chat

Michelle pointing out Tipsy Daisy on her self.

03:32 – Becoming disabled at age 11
07:21 – Struggling with mental health 
10:53 – Changing mindset and travelling the Inca Trail
20:43 – Change your mindset to change your life
21:56 – How to trust your path and overcome fear
25:35 – Using the The Inner Critic Project to Manage Your Fears
29:16 – Defining acceptance
31:19 – Facing negative self talk – Judgment journal
34:18: Feng Shui and The Five Archetypes
36:30- Awareness as the first step to change
38:53 – The Four Elements to Live the Life that You Want
42:28 – Invitation/Challenge
43:48 – Perfectly Normal
44:23 – Fast Five

When you’re inside the tunnel, all you see is darkness.

Quick Links

You have a story that brought you here and your story, your struggle is just as significant as mine.

Transcript of the Episode

Becoming disabled at age 11 [03:32]

Damianne President: [03:32] Let’s re-direct. As people heard in your bio, you have a disability that started as a result of a hit and run accident and that happened when you were 11. What stays with you from that time?

Michelle Kuei: [03:49] I grew up in Taiwan so we had a lot of rice fields, open field that you can run and chase each other. And I was really just being a typical kid, nothing special about me. I didn’t come from a very wealthy family. My parents were in the middle class. So there’s a lot of things that I was experiencing prior to the accident, just like a regular normal kids, who enjoys the outdoors and hanging out with friends. 

But what really stood out differently for me is after the accident first of all, I didn’t have to wear shoes anymore for a very long period of time. My legs were always up in a wheelchair, moving around and going around a wheelchair was something that’s normal; it was becoming my new norm. So going around and being different was something that I enjoyed initially because you’re getting all the attention from all the people around you. Oh, you had a car accident, let me give you some empathy, let me show you my kindness, my heart. And I was enjoying that attention initially as a kid. 

I loved not going to the school. I loved being the center of the universe for my family member, but then slowly as I grew into my teenage year after my recovery, I was given a pair of really ugly metal braces to wear because the doctor said you supposed to wear these so that your body weight doesn’t weigh down on your leg to cause deformity.

As a teenager, I wanted to look pretty. I wanted to look like a regular normal 16 year old young lady. And I didn’t have that luxury of looking like everyone else. I was short. I’m 4 feet 4 inches tall and that’s the same height I was and same height I am now, and I had to wear this ugly metal shoes, a pair of braces that I have to carry everywhere and it weighed about a pound or two. So during the summer’s day, even it’s hot outside, steamy hot, I have to wear this pair and I’m just sweating profusely and I couldn’t do anything about it. And oftentimes I wore a skirt, just so that I can cover it up. And the reason why I was covering it up is because I don’t want people to notice. I don’t want people to see me very differently, but how can they not?

When I walk, I walked differently. I walk with crutches. I can’t walk without the crutches’ assistance. And no matter where I go, I have to wear this chunky, ugly boots. So it was a lot of self judgment, a lot of body shaming. 

When I look into the mirror, I don’t see a typical women. I see someone who is short, whose legs are crooked. There’s not a single pair of pens that I own in my drawer that I have not altered. When I wear shoes, I can’t just wear any other shoes. I have to bring it to the shoe repairmen and have them put an inch and a half on my left feet so it makes it even; otherwise I walk like a penguin. So it was just a lot of body shaming, blaming.

I was angry. I was really angry about the way I look, about how the accident happened, and I was really angry about all these people who seemed to have a perfect life. I go onto social media, I scroll through all these beautiful women. They’re so pretty and when I look into the mirror, I’m comparing myself to all these beautiful women I see. And I don’t have that. So I was angry with the universe. I was angry with God.

Struggling with mental health [07:21]

Damianne President: [07:21] How long did that last and where are you in that journey?

Michelle Kuei: [07:26] It lasted from 11 years old to when I was 40, so that’s 29 years of my entire life. That was the mentality and the mindset I was living in. Every day I would wake up, I would go through school. Luckily my parents were really into making sure that you go through proper education, you find a job, you have school skills that you can sustain yourself. So they put me through my graduate school degree. So I have a doctorate degree in pharmacy. I’m a clinical pharmacist. I still practice clinical pharmacists in the hospital. I went through all that but every day I wake up and there’s moment where I’m having a good day and I’m having a bad day. And I’m having these bad days more often than not. And those bad days are waking up in the middle of the night, I’m crying and I’m pinching myself so hard that I wish I can chop off my legs or I can install a new pair because this is not the body I had asked for it. And if I can ask for a different body, I would.

Sometimes I really imagine this alien who traveled from outer space and somehow I’m trapped in the wrong body and that’s how much I hated my body. So I would wake up and those bad days would be, I don’t want to be in this planet anymore. I don’t want to be here so nothing motivates me. I don’t want to do any activity. I don’t want to be actively participating. I just want people to leave me alone. And many times I would just push people away. I don’t want to talk to anyone. I’m perfectly fine not talking to anyone for 30 days and I have no problem with that.

That’s how I was. I was really angry and so resentful to the rest of the world and to myself. So 29 years living like that, it’s not the perfect solution. It doesn’t feel very motivated. It doesn’t feel very inspiring. And you know, when you have that suicidal ideation from time to time, it’s just not the way to live.

Damianne President: [09:26] That sounds very, very difficult. 

Michelle Kuei: [09:29] It was extremely difficult, but it’s real. And I know a lot of people are experiencing the same thing especially during the pandemic. People are feeling more isolated than ever. And those of us who already have some underlying challenge that we’re trying to go through before the pandemic, now we’re spending a lot of time with ourselves and those problems, those challenges are being highlighted more than ever. And it becomes really, really tough to bear that weight on our shoulder.

I kind of imagine all these are challenges that we’re putting into a bag and that we’re carrying on our shoulder is really weighing us down and how can we be motivated? We can’t. So it makes perfect sense why some of us, we’re really having trouble connecting with the people around us and also connecting with ourselves.

What really got me start thinking about what can I do very differently was one day I woke up and I was just basically telling myself, okay, enough is enough. You need to do something different. You need to change. And it was that moment I realized that I don’t want to wake up having bruises on my leg and, and thinking that this body is just so hideous and shameful; I don’t want to be here thinking that. I want you feel and think differently.

Changing mindset and travelling the Inca Trail [10:53]

Damianne President: [10:53] What made that switch for you? What inspired this switch in mindset or perspective?

Michelle Kuei: [11:01] I was going through that period where I was looking for love. I was seeking to be loved. I had experienced multiple rejections from the people that I dated, from the men that I dated, and all of them turned around and say, you’re so smart, you’re so beautiful but let’s just be friends. 

What I was internalizing was their message telling me they want to be my friend because of my appearance. That’s how I interpreted their rejection. They rejected me because they don’t like how I look. And if I don’t like how I look, how can anybody possibly like how I look. 

 Damianne President: [11:39] You saw it as a confirmation of what you thought, but your thoughts also influenced the way that you saw it.

Michelle Kuei: [11:45] Right. And so at that point, I thought, well, if you don’t like me, fine, I’m going to have to stand up for myself. And it was in that moment, I realized I don’t need to prove to anybody I’m worthy of your love. I just need to prove myself that I am worthy of my love. So how do I love myself? It was funny cause the universe, somehow just working in our favor, a lot of these signals and patterns, it used to kind of show up altogether.

I remember one day I was driving my car and I was sitting behind the wheel and I noticed this mark on my t-shirt. For the longest time, I couldn’t figure out where the mark came from. And then one day I looked down and I noticed my steering wheel was bumping into my stomach. Every time I turn it was bumping against my stomach, which was really extended. I was gaining 10 pounds ever since I decided, Oh, this is not very motivated. I started eating a lot, stress eating.

I finally realized that I need to do something about the muffin top I had in front of me. So the way that I’m going to love myself is I’m going to start consciously picking what I choose to eat. That was the very first step I did to show myself, to prove to myself that I am capable of loving myself and I don’t need anyone else. That was the initial moment where things started to open and change. I don’t need anyone else to show they love me. I just need to prove to myself that I’m worthy of my own love and that I can be perfectly fine, even though I may not be in a relationship. It was that feeling of being resilient. 

Damianne President: [13:24] So after you made that first step and you made some progress because you kept taking other steps, what else did you notice change in your life?

Michelle Kuei: [13:33] A lot of things changed. First of all, I lost my weight. I lost the 10 pounds that I carried. And before I know it, I’m standing in front of a private gym. I went to a gym because I have this fear of going to a bigger gym where there’s a lot of people working out and me walking in is going to trigger that turning around and judging eyes, all on me.

So I went to a smaller gym and I walked in, I spoke to a personal trainer and I said, listen, I need you to help me to train my body. So we start working together and slowly, I’m able to know how to walk the treadmill. Even though I use two crutches, now I’m using just one arm crutch. That was a big improvement for me because I never used a treadmill before. And that was the first time I was like, yes, I can do this. He’d show me how to use the treadmill, we started working out and the following year in 2016, I decided I’m going to take it to the next level.

 During that time, my friends were coming back from the transformational journey of their life. They were all talking about how amazing it is to hike through the Inca trail in Machu Pichu. I keep hearing it’s very spiritual and if you go there and you go through the hike, it’s really fun, you meet a lot of people. I wanted to be part of that conversation. And part of being loved is to be able to have that sense of belonging.

When you belong, when you feel that you belong somewhere, you feel love. And that was what I was looking for. I was looking for that sense of belonging to be in a conversation where I can participate and tell them, yeah, I went to Machu Pichu and this is what I saw in Peru.

So I decided in 2016, I’m going to be part of that conversation. I booked myself a ticket. I flew myself to Cusco, Peru, and I hiked through 26 miles of Inca trail with my two pink crutches to Machu Pichu. The highest point in Machu Pichu is at 14,000 feet above sea level. It’s all ascending; there’s a lot of stairs and you hike through the trail every day about eight to 10 hours. For most people, even that in itself is a lot. For me, you got to imagine going uphill and these are big stairs. So the height of the stairs, the stone is about the same length of my leg. So the way I had to climb up the stairs is I will lay my crutches on the next stair, get onto my knees, and climb up and pick up my crutches. And then I repeat that, again and again. After four days, I reached the Machu Pichu ruin. 

 The last day of the trip, I was looking at the last 50 steps and they call it the OMG step. It’s like you look up and, Oh my God. So that’s why the Peruvians call it OMG steps; you look up and the immediate reaction is, Oh my God. And that was my reaction too. It was, Oh my God, I can’t believe I made it here.

I posted an Instagram story of me standing on top of the the stairs and I was doing a victory pose because that’s what it feels like. It’s like my whole entire life I was waiting for that moment to be able to say to myself and to the rest of the world that I belong here.

Damianne President: [16:52] I watched your documentary and I don’t know how you motivated yourself to have so much energy, even though I could tell it was hard. I could tell you were putting in a lot of effort, but your energy was just so captivating at the same time.

Michelle Kuei: [17:09] I really attribute a lot of this energy to the people around me. I don’t believe I could have done this all by myself. And you know, as I’m talking to you right now, I’m getting a little teary because I’m looking back to all my journey in this life. I didn’t come this far doing it alone. There’s people along the way who kept pushing me hard, they kept showing me Michelle, you can do do this. Michelle, you’re inspiring, you got this. Michelle, you are so talented. So there’s a lot of encouragement and opportunity. Like right now, I’m having a conversation with you. This is a great opportunity to me, to really step out of my own comfort zone, my own fear, of stop shaming myself, show myself more love because I deserve it. I deserve this. And I think coming along, if I didn’t have all these people around me, who gave me the opportunity, who showed me and who led me the way, who were there to hold my hand and really support me along the way, I would never, ever have made it this far.

I’m getting really teary right now because the community, all these people in my life, friends, family, even the stranger who gave me a smile on the street, those are the people who make imprints in my life. You never know how much it can impact someone else’s life. And so along the trail, I remember as I’m walking by, people would turn or they will stop and give me a thumbs up. Those are my motivation. And I think that’s what kept me going. I didn’t do it alone; I did it with the help of others.

Damianne President: [19:02] As you’re talking, what’s striking to me is that such a simple act of generosity can make a difference in somebody’s life. We can open our eyes to be able to find those opportunities where we can be generous with people whether we are close to them or they are strangers that we meet along the way.

Michelle Kuei: [19:20] I think that the most important thing nowadays is to be able to practice our empathy, to see each other, to have that understanding, and to share that moment where you have gone through a similar journey. You have a story that brought you here and your story, your struggle is just as significant as mine.

Damianne President: [19:43] Often if we took a moment, we would realize everybody’s doing their best. To a large extent, people are doing their best as they go through this world.

Michelle Kuei: [19:53] Absolutely. And I believe vulnerability is our superpower that allows you to knock down your defense and knock down your wall so that other people can show you what they’re about. So each one of those has that big heart and we all want to give to others but if you have a wall that you build up, or if you’re being defensive, then chances are you’re not giving me the opportunities to show you how much I care about you. So if I were to have this defensive wall up, thinking that everyone that who sees me is judging me the whole time, I’m not allowing them to show me that they are capable of sharing their love, I’m being selfish. I need to give people that opportunity so that they have their chance to show me their love for me.

Impact of changing your mindset [20:43]

Damianne President: [20:43] Since you’ve made this mindset switch, what’s surprised you in terms of the experiences you’ve had or the opportunities you’ve recognized?

Michelle Kuei: [20:54] I think what’s surprised me is really how rich, how wealthy I am in this world. For a very long time, I thought I was just here alone. I don’t belong here. And once I made that shift, it was so much abundance. I have friends from all over the world. I have connections I’m making every single day, I’m building lots of relationship and not just limited to I want to get into a relationship with this man or intimate relationships.

I open up my door to opportunity to allow sisterhood to come in. I allow the bonding between me and my family [to be] stronger. There’s so much abundance that starts to flow in which really surprises me. And all I have to do is just a little change of mindset.

Damianne President: [21:47] You say a little change, but did it feel little to you at the time.

How to trust your path and overcome fear [21:56]

Michelle Kuei: [21:56] It was huge. If I were to go back 10 years, I would never have believed that I have this opportunity to talk about this. I would never have believed that this is something that’s possible because I was still, they call it inside the tunnel. When you’re inside the tunnel, all you see is darkness. There’s no chance that you’re going to see what is at the end of the tunnel, but as you keep trusting and having that inner sense of knowing that it’s going to lead you somewhere, you continue to walk that path in the tunnel. No matter how dark it is right now, you continue to trust you’re walking on that path. At some point, that aha moment is going to show up and you’re going to see how beautiful even the darkest hours of your life is. There’s so much beauty within that darkness so, are you enjoying that moment where you are, or are you resisting that darkness? The more that you resist it, the stronger it has on you and you’re just standing still, you’re not moving.

Damianne President: [22:59] Well, I can imagine that as you resist darkness, for example, it’s easier to get lost because you start getting disoriented and you don’t even know where you should be heading anymore.

Michelle Kuei: [23:12] And you get scared. When you’re in the dark, chances are you’re very scared. When you’re scared, where we do? We actually protect ourselves. So fear has a great purpose to protect ourselves. When you’re lost, when you’re in the tunnel, when you can’t see anything, chances are you’re holding on tight and you’re holding onto something that is really holding you back, whatever that fear may be.

So you’re standing still, you’re not doing anything. You’re probably putting your arms over your head and you just want to protect yourself, which is perfectly fine. But the longer that you spend in that period, you’re giving away all these opportunity of what is possible for you, to be seen, to be loved, to belong, to have that freedom, to have more time, to have more money. Everything is at the end of the tunnel as you continue to walk your path.

So no matter how scary it is, can you put down your fear for one second at all, and really look at what is true and what is going on around you. And can you have enough courage to stand up and just take one little tiny baby step? Again, little, just one little tiny step. That’s all we’re asking.

 Can you take one little step that you can do today, or sometime this week, right? What would that look like for you to get closer to the end of the tunnel?

Damianne President: [24:36] As you said, fear has a purpose in our life. It gets us to pause and think, but it doesn’t have to be a full stop. It could be a comma in terms of stop and think, and then figure out what’s that next step that you can take with courage, with love, whichever of those emotions that can help you overcome or traverse through that fear.

Michelle Kuei: [25:03] You can actually invite fear. This is something that I encourage my clients to do is that you invite your fear to a tea party. You’re going to sit your fear down, we’re going to have a conversation with the fear and you’re going to hash it out because you are not your fear but your fear is part of you. So you want to be gentle, be kind to your fear and invite your fear to a party. I actually have a Barbie doll and that is my fear, that is my inner critics. That is the imposter that I had in my life. 

Using the The Inner Critic Project to Manage Your Fears [25:35]

It’s a Barbie doll because when you think about Barbie doll, it’s perfect, right, long hair, beautiful body, any outfit that you want the Barbie to wear, long, skinny hands and arms, very beautiful. This Barbie doll is also having a lot of message for me like I’m not good enough, I’m not pretty enough, I’m not worthy of anybody’s love, I’m not smart enough. All these not enough is what’s coming out from this Barbie doll. And so one of the projects that I encourage people to do is actually work on the inner critic project.

So what do you do with the inner critic project? Have a picture of this inner critic. What does it look like? Maybe it looks like a Barbie doll like mine, or maybe it looks like someone who is like big nose, or big head as someone who is thinking a lot. You can create a different image of what this inner critic looks like. And once you create that image, give it a name. 

My Barbie doll, my inner critic, her name is Daisy. Daisy is a little tipsy because Barbie doll doesn’t eat much and it’s always skinny so chances are some days she would just tip over. So I call her Daisy that’s a little tipsy. So you name your inner critic and what you essentially do is you bring that fear into light, and now you can visualize it. You can see your inner critic. You can have a conversation with your inner critic and what you can do every time the fear shows up or my Daisy shows up, I can tell her, hey, Daisy, listen, I’m about to start something really big and something that’s really new and I’m really excited about it. I know you’re going to have a lot to say about this, but I’m going to invite you to sit next to me and just watch me going.

 So you can start having a conversation with this little friend of yours, and you can just invite this person to stay in the background while I’m doing something big and adventurous.

Damianne President: [27:35] I love this idea. I haven’t heard it presented in quite this way before. I’ve heard in the IFS system where they talk about visiting your little self in terms of visualization. But I think for a lot of people, having this character that has some sort of presence in the physical space could be very helpful as well.

Michelle Kuei: [28:01] It’s not a bad thing to have fear. So I would encourage people to, when you look at your inner critic project, don’t give it a name that’s after a person that you really hate, because you don’t want that. You want it to give it a neutral name, someone that every time you think about your inner critic, what does it sound like? Maybe it’s a tree, a daffodil or something that you think about right away. Don’t create it so that you have resistance to it. It’s not something that’s bad. The idea is it’s part of you. Fear, again, has a purpose, but you’re giving it a way to manage it, to diminish its power over you. Now you can visualize it. You’ll know every time she show up in my head, I know this is Daisy talking; this is not Michelle talking. Michelle wouldn’t talk this way; Daisy would talk that way.

Damianne President: [28:50] The other thing that I am thinking about as you present it this way is that often when we feel fear, we try to put it aside. We try to overcome, and I even used that word earlier, but I think something that’s very helpful to people is to recognize it, to allow it, to befriend it, to nurture it, all of those things.

Defining acceptance [29:16]

As we connect back to self acceptance, it’s the same idea of if you’re in tension, in struggle within yourself, within different parts of yourself, then you’re spending so much energy there as opposed to making progress, making changes, taking the steps that you want to take in your life.

Michelle Kuei: [29:36] Acceptance is about taking things for what is. We’re not attaching any labels. We’re not calling it good or bad. It is just the way it is. So if I look at a cup, it’s not a good cup or bad cup, it just a cup. And so same thing with ourselves. I’m looking at my body. It’s not a good body, or it’s not a bad body. It’s just a body. It’s a vehicle that I carry so that I can serve my purpose. 

So, what is the bigger picture with the vehicle that you want to use? How do you want to use your vehicle? And that’s all it is. Acceptance is not about fighting anything or resisting anything. It’s about accepting without the judgment that we have or the urge or the desire to put a label on something and to justify it for being good or bad, because when you do that there’s a lot of internal messages that start to show up.

 What determines good, what is bad? Whose standard is it to be good, whose standard it is to be a bad person? So there’s a lot of judgment that’s involved. And I think in order to move forward in our individual life as well as the world overall is that we need you start to come into terms and to be able to heal ourselves and be accepting to what is. 

Damianne President: [30:58] Yes. I like that. I tend to think that if we could change many of our judgments to curiosities, to explorations instead, that could really help us learn some more about ourselves and remove some of those barriers that we built up within and for ourselves. 

Facing negative self talk – Judgment journal [31:19]

So what do you do now when you encounter negative self-talk?

Michelle Kuei: [31:26] So nowadays, when I encounter negative self talk, which I still do every single day and especially now I’m in my business. There’s just a lot of negative self-talk going on there. Can I do this? I don’t think I can launch a course. I don’t think I can do this.

What I do is I have this exercise where you can do a judgment journal. So I know a lot of times, we do a gratitude journal that we keep every day. What I recommend is people to keep a judgement journal as well, to look at how many things you’re judging throughout your day. For everything that you judge whether it’s good or bad, so all these judgment that you have, write it down. And once you write it down, think of two different ways that you can rephrase. So how can you approach the same thing with a more neutral tone of how you’re talking to yourself, or how can you use a more affirmative way of talking to yourself? Write down two different way of how you can talk to yourself based on that judgemental journal. 

I recommend keeping both gratitude and also judgement because it helps you to create that awareness, to know where your pattern of thinking is. It also makes you think about how you want to choose the next time you have this type of judgment. Do you want to have a different view or perspective of looking at the same thing? So it provides you with really an option of looking at things.

Damianne President: [32:51] That’s very useful. I recently took a 30 day meditation course around food and eating, and a lot of what she had us do was write what our thought processes are without self filtering, and thinking about what would your kind self say, what would your judgmental self say, what would your hedonic self say? They’re all components of ourselves, but looking at how can they co-exist and how could they live in harmony by getting to know the different aspects in more depth. I found that very useful.

Michelle Kuei: [33:36] Yeah, it’s a great way to really get to an understanding of who we are. Ultimately the more that you know about yourself, the more that you will understand what is best for you. And so you start to choose more consciously and the idea is so that you have the ability to choose consciously what is best for me in this moment at a time.

That initial stage of understanding why we do things the way that we do is maybe challenging and difficult, because we don’t know where to start. So, what I do is I give people an assessment and personality test where they can understand which personality archetype they are.

Feng Shui and The Five Archetypes [34:18]

There are five different archetype that we all possess and we all have in combination. This came from ancient Chinese medicine, where if you’re familiar with Feng Shui, then when you walk Into a Feng Shui environment, does it feel good? Does it align with our values?

What kind of environment do you feel more comfortable, feel more in a harmony? Each one of us is a combination of all five different elements: water, wood metal, earth and fire. There’s some that’s more predominant versus others are kind of just secondary, and some elements are completely missing. Perhaps this is a reason why a lot of times when we’re in a conflicting situation with someone, we don’t feel that we’re quite getting along because maybe the fire in the wood just doesn’t go together.

Having an understanding of what we are and who we are will help you to have better skills. How do you deal with conflict? How do you create that harmony? How do you have more skills to bring back and restore that balance that we all need, whether it’s the food that you eat, or the work environment where you find yourself where you’re having a lot of stress. How do we bring back that balance so that we can focus on what truly matters to us? So, yeah, that’s something that I do for my clients when they first sign up; it’s a personality type assessment.

Damianne President: [35:43] The thing that I often wonder with these types of assessment is how do people change or how does that change over time? Does it change over time and through what kind of process might that happen?

Michelle Kuei: [35:55] Let me give you a perfect example. So like the other day I was talking to a friend of mine and I keep using, I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know. I kept repeating myself, I don’t know. So my friend said, Michelle, you’ve been using a lot of, I don’t know, lately. That creates an initial awareness, so let me look into it. So the next time when I say, I don’t know, I’m going to pause a minute and really think about, is it something, I don’t know, or is it just because I don’t have any time to look into it. And if it is I don’t have enough time to look into it, that it’s not, I don’t know.

Awareness as the first step to change [36:30]

I know, but I just don’t have time to tell you right now. So you create an awareness. So no matter what type of assessment tests you take, it’s the initial step of creating that awareness. What do you do with the awareness? When you are becoming aware of something, then you start to accept and acceptance is actually the next step, following the awareness.

What is it that you need to accept after you are aware of it? So what I needed to accept after I was aware that I don’t know is to pause and think a minute. I’m just being too short, I don’t want to wait on that person and that’s not how I want to be seen among my peers. I want to be there, to be helpful.

So the next time when I find myself in that situation, I’m accepting the fact that, you know, I can be very short and short tempered on people. So I’m going to pause when I feel that I need to say, I don’t know. I’m going to take a moment. Okay, let me tell you that this is not on my to-do list right now, but when I have more time, I will share what I know with you.

And so you just decided, you just made a choice by having that awareness accepting where you need to improve or be better. And now you’re making a conscious choice to, okay, so what is my next step and how do I want to change the next time I find myself in this situation?

Damianne President: [37:58] That makes a lot of sense. It’s interesting because a lot of times with those types of services, they also tell you to ask a good friend or ask a partner, for example. I guess it’s because of those blind spots where we can only answer a questionnaire to the extent that we’re aware of ourselves. And so taking the time to investigate, observing yourself, is part of that journey as well.

Michelle Kuei: [38:24] We don’t know what we don’t know. So unless someone points out what we don’t know, we remain to be unknown. So that awareness is really important because that is essentially the first step in creating a change in making the choices and actually building on that energy or being more competent in doing the things that you were meant to do.

So that first step is so important. So it’s awareness, acceptance, and you make choices.

The Four Elements to Live the Life that You Want [38:53]

Damianne President: [38:53] What’s the most important thing for you that supports you in living the life that you want?

Michelle Kuei: [38:59] I think the biggest thing for me is there’s actually four, but I’ll start with number one. It’s authenticity. I spent a lot of my years and time just living in someone else’s shoes, living under someone else’s expectation. Growing up, I lived my parents’ expectation. They wanted me to have a degree.

They wanted me to go into healthcare so I can sustain myself and they wanted me to have a skill so that I can feed myself, bring food home. I was living under people’s expectations and that wasn’t what I truly wanted. 

I remember I got invited to a friend’s wedding one year, and she invited me to her bridal room. I walked in, there was this beautiful dress that was just hanging and the skirt was hitting the ground perfectly. And right in front of the dress, there was a pair of shoes and it’s got sparkles and everything, like the most beautiful pair I can ever imagine. And I was sitting at the ceremony and I saw her walking down the aisle and she was smiling. Her parents were happy. She was walking down the aisle with her dad. And there I was, I was crying.

I was just crying nonstop. And it wasn’t because it was a tear of joy. It wasn’t a tear of happiness. I was happy, but it was not, it was more tears of disappointment. I felt like my life was a big failure because I would never be in her shoes. I could never be in that pair, walking down the aisle, making my parents happy, making my mom proud. I could never be that.

That was a moment I realized, my whole entire life, I wasn’t being true to myself. This is not the life I wanted. So authenticity is my biggest.

Damianne President: [40:45] Since you said there were four, I clearly misphrased this question and I have to ask about the other three.

Michelle Kuei: [40:53] So I call them my ABCD. Authenticity is my number one. No matter where I show up, I want to show up being my true, authentic self. I will express. I will cry if I want to. I will fully express how I feel in that moment.

The second one is B, which is bravery, to have the courage to show up for yourself, to have the courage to do what you need to do, to have the courage to do and be what you were meant to be. So that’s B, bravery.

C is connection. As I mentioned earlier, I didn’t come this far by myself. I had connections. I was making connections and community of people who had helped me. And now it is my turn to give them what I can. I give back to my community. So community is also big and connection is big for me.

 My last one is D which is determination. So you have authenticity, bravery, connection, or community. And last one, you have to be determined, determined that you are showing up being your best version, every single moment, every step of the way.

And those are my four big things. My authenticity, bravery community, and determination.

Damianne President: [42:11] Those are pretty big. So yes, it seems to me that you covered yourself broadly with those four.

Michelle Kuei: [42:20] I have a tendency to go big. I may look small. I may be little, but I have a tendency to go big.

Invitation/Challenge [42:28]

Damianne President: [42:28] You’ve already been so generous in sharing suggestions and ideas with listeners. I would like to give you an opportunity if you have any other invitations or challenges for anybody who is listening that you would like to share.
Michelle Kuei: [42:42] After pandemic, a lot of us are still trying to recover from that hurt, from that journey of being afraid of the uncertainty. So what I would invite people to do is do something brave. Do something courageous, even if it means just getting out of your bed or getting the key to go to your car, even small things as that, this week after you listen to the podcast.
Do something courageous and I want to hear about it from you. So if you reach out to Damianne, I would love for her to share the feedback she has. What did you do this week that was courageous, no matter how big or small it is, do something for yourself. That’s all I’m asking.
Damianne President: [43:26] This is perfect because it lets people decide for themselves. And so there’s that whole idea of agency too, in terms of what is for you. And as you said, it could be leaving in the house or it could be planning a trip. It could be anything in between. So there’s a lot of scope for everybody to decide something for themselves.

Perfectly Normal Book and Podcast [43:48]

You have a podcast Perfectly Normal. You also have a book with that same title. Where can people listen? I will add the links to the show notes. Tell us about those two big projects of yours.

Michelle Kuei: [44:02] Yeah. So the easiest way to find me is actually just go to my website. It’s at Under the resource tab, I have a link to the podcast, to the blog, to the book. The book is located in my shop. So all the resources you can find on my website,

Damianne President: [44:22] Perfect.

Fast 5 [44:23]

For the final five, please answer with one word or maximum one sentence. Let’s see how well you’re going to play this.

Michelle Kuei: [44:31] Okay. I’m excited now. I love games

Damianne President: [44:35] So you have a high power meeting coming up. What are you doing in the 12 hours before that?

Michelle Kuei: [44:42] Sleeping.

Damianne President: [44:45] You are struggling with motivation. Do you have a phrase or a pep talk that you give to yourself?

Michelle Kuei: [44:54] I would say I don’t have a particular one, but I would go with, I got this.

Damianne President: [45:04] You live in LA and you’re having guests; they’re coming to visit. What is the first thing that you will show them or the first place that you will take them to?

Michelle Kuei: [45:15] I would like to show them my home. I wouldn’t invite them to my home

Damianne President: [45:19] What is the thing that is guaranteed to recharge you and increase your energy when you’re running low?

Michelle Kuei: [45:26] Coffee.

Damianne President: [45:27] You have been given the gift of time and you have some time affluence, a free day and you can do anything you want. What are you doing on that day? 

Michelle Kuei: [45:38] Sleeping 

Damianne President: [45:41] You play this game really well. 

We all know now what I enjoy most, eating and sleeping.

Bonus question. I can see behind you that you have a bookshelf. Tell us about one of the books on your bookshelf that you think other people should read.

Michelle Kuei: [46:02] So one of the book is actually down here. It’s Simon Sinek’s Start With Why, and it’s a great book. If you’re looking into doing more branding for your business, or you’re just looking for a way to define your purpose, I will highly recommend you read that book. And I love his Ted talk. Amazing.

Damianne President: [46:23] Well, Michelle, it’s been great chatting with you. I knew that it was going to be awesome after I watched your videos and it really has been. Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me today.

Michelle Kuei: [46:35] Thank you so much. And it’s a pleasure to meet you.

Damianne President: [46:37] Likewise. 

When you belong, when you feel that you belong somewhere, you feel love.


I kind of imagine all these are challenges that we’re putting into a bag and that we’re carrying on our shoulder is really weighing us down and how can we be motivated.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.