Chester County’s Annemarie Kelly had to overcome plenty in her own life—including weight issues and family alcoholism—before devoting herself to helping others with the challenges they face. The professional speaker, educator and author is the founder of SkillBuilder Systems, a company that helps men and women improve their interpersonal communication skills and enhance their performance both on the job and in life.
MLT: What is it about swapping personal tales that makes people—particularly women—feel validated?
AMK: There are so many things women keep inside. When they hear others’ stories, it makes them feel more courageous and less alone, even when circumstances are not the same.
MLT: What are the most common ways women incapacitate themselves when trying to move their lives forward?
AMK: One is by following the “victim” script that reads, “No matter what I do, no matter how hard I try, nothing ever works out for me.” In reality, it’s more about the choices she’s made—friends, lifestyle, the way she takes care of her house or performs at work. The only way out is an elevated consciousness of what choices are being made each and every day.
MLT: What about those women who you refer to as surviving life, rather than living it?
AMK: I would say that there are about 80-85 percent of women who fit this description—who settle on things they want, who accommodate everyone else’s needs and desires before their own, and exist in a holding pattern, waiting for others to tell them what to do, rather than choosing to be the leaders in their lives. Ultimately, these women are running on someone else’s agenda, and failing to establish one of their own.
MLT: What are some things that hold women back from “doing”?
AMK: We spend an inordinate amount of time focused on our looks. I’m not saying that how we present ourselves to the outside world, and how we feel about our appearance, is not important. It’s the way women obsess—about the outfit, the hair. There’s a point where being healthy and fit—looking good—becomes a full-time job. It takes the focus off our goals.
MLT: What can people get out of your seminars and workshops?
AMK: Hopefully, women—and men—will start to hone in on their values and their vision for themselves, and start to think about the ways they can bring their current lives closer to that vision. Ultimately, though, I can’t make anyone do anything. I can only influence their thinking. You have to be ready for what I have to say, and to do the work necessary to achieve your goals.
MLT: What is the most meaningful lesson you’ve learned over the years?
AMK: To be who you really are. If you enter into relationships suppressing that—trying to be what your parents, significant other, friend or employer want you to be—you’re going to exhaust yourself trying to maintain that faÃ§ade. It’s also important to recognize that saying “no” is OK. We never check out how we really feel when asked to give our time and energy for someone else. Sure, it feels good when we do for others, but not when we put our needs last.