Today, five years later, students like Tammy Robertson—the blond 19-year-old having a quick snack at the table next to Holly—are proof her school is on track. “I feel as if it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made,” Robertson says smiling at her teacher. Aside from the fact that Holly helped her fall in love with hairdressing, Robertson is inspired by the way a business can touch the community through events like this Sunday’s charity run. “Holly is a celebrity in North Vancouver,” Robertson says. “It’s great that she uses her popularity for a good cause.”
The idea for this event popped up when Holly heard that aneighbourhood woman needed a van that could accommodate her child’s wheelchair. Holly realized that if she encouraged the salon’s 200-odd clients to participate in a charity run, they’d have that money in no time. She was right. More than 500 runners turned up that first year—they raised $16,000. “In the end, that van gave the woman her life back,” Holly says. That’s when she decided to make the race annual.
Right now, however, coffee time is up and Holly scoots back into the salon to rejoin her students. She immediately spots a young woman struggling with her blow-dryer because the client’s gorgeous silver hair just won’t do what it should. “Hang on a second,” Holly says, stepping in and demonstrating how to make it look smooth and chic in a few easy motions. The student nods and studies her technique. Soon enough she’ll be able to get the job done on her own.
And the same goes for Holly’s staff in the salon next door. The plan at the moment, she says, is to make her business as healthy as possible and able to sustain itself. Then she will sell it to her stylists. Not only would this give Holly an opportunity to tackle some of her other big dreams—such as working with the local chamber of commerce to promote small business—but also it’s the perfect opportunity to coach her team into pushing themselves into a new challenge. Because, she says smiling, if she can get out there and accomplish the big things, everyone can.
8 expert tips
When Holly Back decided to give the boot to hard times, explains Liana Renwick-Palmerio, psychotherapist and director of The Wellness Counselling Group in Oakville, Ont., what she did was choose a different way of thinking. With her body and mind screaming that she was fed up with the state of her life, says Julie Pegg, a counsellor and naturopathic doctor from Toronto, she reached inside and found the personal power she’d had all along. When you want to tap into your own power reservoir—and more importantly, grow it—Renwick-Palmerio and Pegg have some suggestions for you.
Do some homework. Whether it’s your job, your financial situation or your in-laws that are causing the stress in your life, knowledge about your options will empower you to change things. “Get on the Internet, go to a counsellor, collect as much information as you can,” Renwick-Palmerio says. “Information helps people to feel in control of their life.”
Say No. And do it often too: Renwick-Palmerio suggests once a day. “You have more choice than you think you do,” she says. And when you say no—to a colleague who’s passed off a project to you or a neighbour who wants you to take their dog for the weekend—you’re choosing to put yourself first instead of pleasing everyone else. “Women need to start learning to assert themselves and stop doing things that they don’t want to do,” Pegg says.
Skip the tears—get mad. “Women frequently mislabel anger as sadness and they cry when they’re angry,” Pegg explains. And crying is not going to purge anger from the body. Build your “you” power this way: go for a run or brisk walk and with each step say to yourself, “I’m releasing my anger through this physical activity right now.”
Celebrate woman power. Pick up a book about inspiring women; stand in front of a full-length mirror and say something nice about every part of your body; or simply sit beside a soothing scented candle and rhyme off your favourite qualities, suggests Pegg. Consciously remind yourself of what you and the women around you—your ancestors too—have achieved: they’ve evicted plenty of hard times.
Get fed up “Understand that you have choices,” says Renwick-Palmerio. “Get angry and give permission to yourself to make some of those choices instead of just thinking that life happens to you.”
Write your life story Sit down with a pen and notebook, Pegg suggests, and imagine you are a friend or loved one writing about you. What are your strengths? How did you develop these wonderful qualities? “A lot of people don’t recognize the gifts they have,” she says.
Do something scary If you’re shy, force yourself to talk to someone in an elevator. If you’re afraid of displeasing people, say “Let me think about it and get back to you,” instead of “Yes.” Renwick-Palmerio says that doing something you wouldn’t normally do proves that you can do anything you set your mind to.
Get physical Challenge yourself to move some heavy boxes around in your basement, turn over your garden or even lift weights, suggests Pegg. Tough physical work such as this will connect you with more than just your brain power. “It’s very transformative,” Pegg says, of realizing just how strong your body—and your soul—really can be.