Spring/Summer 2021 | A conversation with Susanne Puerschel
In this episode, Susanne opens up about how she moved out of her mother’s home at the age of 10, lost everything, and hit rock bottom at 30, but gained the confidence and courage to pick herself up again. She talks of where she’s headed with her mission and purpose, in building a community and a performance coaching system and practice, designed to support and empower dancers and artists alike.
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A conversation with Susanne Puerschel
Today’s Exclusive Guest.
Who is Susanne?
Susanne Puerschel is the Founder of R.I.S.E Media which operates Pointe To Rise, an empowerment society for dancers and other artists. She is a wellness entrepreneur, podcast host, former international ballerina, and experienced Principal Chief Executive Officer who had the privilege of growing up behind the Iron Curtain in Berlin, Germany. She’s now dedicated her time after working in corporate America and running her own businesses, to building a community among dancers and artists, providing mindset and high-performance coaching, and building a media company that will be the springboard to revitalizing the arts.
I grew up in a very sophisticated family where failure was literally seen as death. My parents weren’t really married, so I struggled to find love. My father wasn’t always present and he passed away when I was six, so there were a lot of daddy issues going on. But the real essence of it is that I never felt secure in love. Leaving home at 10 and completely being on my own, surrounded by other 10- and 11-year olds and they can be so mean, reinforced the feeling of not being safe.
Going through the strong, hard training of becoming a professional ballet dancer, and when I left and had all my dreams in my pocket, I thought, now I’m done learning, now I have to be perfect. I entered the professional ballet and dance industry with the attitude of, I don’t know how to love myself. I am far more unworthy than everybody else thinks I am, and I have to fight for my existence, whatever that looks like. I also can’t screw up. I just have to be perfect. That is a perfect cocktail for all sorts of dilemmas.
Everybody else but me
Looking back on how that felt, there was a part of me that always wanted to rise, that always knew the higher self was so much stronger, though I had put in so many things that would numb it. I remember that just trying to numb all of these feelings of unworthiness, then coming through, was definitely a space where I found rescue in. I managed to bring all of this working really hard, knowing what that looks and feels like into any other project that I was doing. When I stopped dancing, when I started raising my kids, when I started my career in corporate America, I knew 100% how to really put my head down and work, work, work, survive, thrive in the need of being seen and thriving in the need of being perfect, never getting there and doing everything for everybody else but for me.
The first aha moment I had was when I was at Bliss Project in March 2018. We had to talk about our superpower. What is a superpower? I don’t even know I have a superpower. Everybody has one, I just don’t. And that’s when everything started to unravel. Beautifully like a sweater that was hand-knitted, I was just pulling the strings out and I’m just remaking it now.
The failure at 30
The path is always the way you can connect the dots backward. I was sometimes wondering, I’m probably the only one that has to go through all of these failures and learn all of these things, even though I thought I was perfect at 18. I had a really big failure in my early 30s, where my husband and I lost everything. I’m talking about every single piece of clothing. I was pregnant, and my own mother literally had the guts to disown us. That was the gut-punch that I needed at that point to really say, you know what, I am my own true self, I can do this by myself. I just did not have enough tools at that point. There was a lot of anger coming out at that point. But it was at least the right step. I never want to raise my children that way. I never want to have that relationship with my children. I don’t want them to be afraid to fall down and to come to me and say, Hey, I messed up, I need your help. Because for me, that was never an option.
I will never forget the moment where we were sitting on the second day at Bliss Project and Lori Harder said, “Write down three things that either have to leave your life or you need to do differently moving on forward.” That question that I haven’t figured out till today triggered in me, this groundbreaking thought and that was oh, my goodness, in my entire career as a dancer I only gave 60 or a maximum of 70% because I was afraid to be seen because I didn’t feel worthy of being seen. It was something around setting boundaries. I realized, oh my gosh, I had no boundaries whatsoever. Everybody could do whatever they wanted to do with me, and I was in charge of setting those boundaries, nobody else, yet I was the one blaming everybody else for my downfalls. That was really interesting for me how that came together, and it started to fall in the process. Oh, goodness, we are in charge of our own paths.
The beauty of pain in the process
I thought that the process was going to be easy. Being able to see it as a journey, even for me, was healing in itself. Because for somebody that was such a high achiever, every show we had to put on had to be perfect. So with every show that came, another standard was set. You were always chasing something that you were never capable of reaching. That gave me anxiety. But with this kind of journey, it’s completely different because you are getting something out of every single step. It’s not about arriving, it’s not about getting there, it’s about the progress that really gives you the happiness that you’re looking for.
When the pain that you go through pushes you to keep going, that’s when you find this deep inner alignment, and the actual healing will occur. It doesn’t always stay, it goes away and comes back. I learned that either way, I’m stepping forward. Either way, I am worthy and enough, and either way, I am no longer denying any of that because it’s all part of the process. That’s the important thing, to just let it in. I was never allowed to feel anything, any kind of feeling was always pushed down and told, ‘You’re not in pain, you’re not tired, you’re not sad, you’re not unhappy. You are rainbows and the sun shines. You have endless energy to give, and therefore, you need to act upon that.’ When you do that over a period of years, when you release that top, the pressure inside is so built up that whatever comes out, it comes out in a wrong way. It’s a full explosion.
My entire life, whenever I went through stress or any kind of emotional strain, I would lose weight really quickly. But for the first time in my life I gained weight three months back. Last year, I gained about 15 pounds because I couldn’t move, maybe I was depressed. I was okay with it when I looked back at it as the process.
I wasn’t even able to keep any kind of relationships, because I didn’t know how to handle myself. I call myself so lucky that I have a wonderful husband who literally stuck it out. We have learned to communicate in a completely different way with each other. We combined effort that we are not going to be what our parents were or how they were raising us or what they showcased in their relationships. That was a big motivator to change something, although we didn’t do that in our first 11, 12 years of our relationship. We have been together for 21 years and married for 19 years. Just like now, we’re always going through phases where we grow on different spectra and find an alignment. Being okay with that is definitely an opportunity for me to be okay with where the other person is, versus, ‘Hey, you, come on along. I’m over here. You got to come faster.’ It doesn’t work that way.
Harmonyum at a distance
When we first started just before the New Year, I didn’t know whether I’d do this as I didn’t know what it looked like. I had a backup plan, like a boat that was still in the harbor, definitely anchored and ready to be released whenever I was ready to jump off the island again and go back to what I knew. I remember the first session we had was such a deep settling session for me. The ones that followed completely rearranged my “mice spirits.” I felt the realignment on what I was capable of and how I could move forward and what that could look like. It’s not a conscious process. It’s not something that we consciously ignite. It is something that we’re open to, that we are calling in, and then let happen. That alone – not being in control was definitely something that is a journey for me, because you want to be in control of everything.
Once I made the decision, everything fell into place. It is such a beautiful thing to watch. I was like, why is this so easy? Because I am now open to receive and ready to step into that next journey. Since there has been even more healing happening on my old self, all of the wounds that I thought I needed to keep open, I believe they’re stitched up.
Not taking time for yourself
I was the expert on deflecting my needs onto others, especially as a model I was great at just giving in, and not in a good way. ‘I have to give because that’s my job,’ because not giving meant guilty. Hearing of the understanding that putting myself first and knowing when that’s necessary in order to help others because I can’t give somebody something if I don’t have it myself, I just couldn’t keep giving anymore. I lived in that space and I expected that I would be capable of doing so, for way too far.
I remember one session where I just saw numbers consistently popping up. It was not just during the session where I also fell asleep but it was the day after, and they came from everywhere, out of every single corner. The numbers are just so prevalent in my sphere right now.
I also had the experience of dreaming very clearly, almost to the point that when I woke up in the morning, feeling like, Oh my gosh, did I just go through this, or was that a dream? It was an experience of my father’s death. But that was in a very beautiful way and very strange surroundings. And it was also being pregnant again and having that feeling of giving life to something. I cannot give birth to another child, I can give birth, but I cannot go through the sleepless nights and the first 10 years of helicopter parenting. I’m not willing to give up that freedom.
Beginning R.I.S.E Media
With the pandemic happening last year, it was my permission to once and for all stop doing what other people expected of me or even what I expected of myself and truly step into, ‘What do you really want to do? This is a universal gift, use it wisely. This only comes around once in a lifetime. So what do you really want to do?’ I don’t believe that at that point, I was actually able to put it into words, it was just a feeling of what I didn’t have. I was a dancer, that was the purpose that was given to me. I needed to be on stage.
I started talking about the age of 2 and there was nothing stopping me. I moved out of my mother’s home at the age of 10. I had to grow up and be self-sufficient at the age of 10. That really speaks to my conviction and my tenacity at that point. I was always afraid of the day where I had to stop living in that dream because I didn’t think I would find anything else that could compare to it. I didn’t want to compare, I wanted the same thrill.
So with that set, I found myself going back to my roots. I started building a community for ballet dancers because the things that have risen up and that I was exposed to, were still the same problems I experienced when I was in the industry 20 years back. It showed me through the business experience I had that we have yet to evolve in the arts themselves, to the extent that they could actually be self-sufficient in some way or another. Why are we still treating the artists the way that they have to live a ‘starving artists’ kind of life?
So with that, I thought I’m just going to go into coaching, I’m just going to do what everybody else is doing. I want to be a high-performance and mindset coach. And that didn’t feel right. I love helping people and having conversations but something didn’t feel right. I had the choice at that moment and I asked myself, am I going to go into something that doesn’t feel right, right now because I am already in tune or am I going to give myself the grace to be open to something else to come in? So I chose number two because I was tired of chasing the same ball.
In October, out of a conversation with a wonderful human being, Rise Media was born. This will become a media agency that is completely dedicated to reforming the arts in itself and that’s by helping performing artists, particularly dancers, because that’s my specialty, in educating them, inspiring them, giving them the hub that they need to go to, to become what they’re really capable of, versus what is expected of them or they think they can do. It’s also building the bridge between the arts and business, and understanding that this non-for-profit model has worked until 2020, and it’s now time to rewrite history and to make it a sustainable business that people can relate to.
When I think about when I leave the legacy of Rise Media, I am coming to the conclusion, if not me then who else? Somebody else can do it, but nobody else walked my path. I want to collaborate and make this space something like home to everybody, where everybody feels they’re held and seen and heard, versus the knife in between the shoulders that I have felt my entire career as a dancer. Yes, I felt rescued coming to the theater and sitting there, but these were never really true relationships, it was just a numbing out. That was something that I missed, a safe place
Tips on moving forward
My number one tip, get in a room with people that have already walked a few steps along the path that you want to take. Even though you may not know what your path is going to look like, find the people that are challenging you, questioning everything about you in a loving way. That for me made the biggest difference. I was in a circle of people that were driven by fear and lack and that’s how I lived my life. After I started listening to Lori Harder’s podcast, which opened up the world to me to go to an event of 500 women which scared the living daylights out of me, because I frankly didn’t have great relationships with women at all. Like they scared me. And it led me into a mastermind, in which everything or everybody that I knew three years ago is no longer on my island. That’s a huge testament to what your surroundings will do to you. The five closest people to you, show who you really are, and if you want to become somebody else, you need to choose different people surrounding you.
My number two tip is consistency. You cannot heal by just doing it one day out of the week. Healing is a journey in every possible sense of the word or the meaning of the word. Healing has so many different layers. It’s not just putting a band-aid on it, it’s not just taking a painkiller. True healing truly comes from the inside.
I always assumed that everything that I wanted was coming from other people. If they weren’t giving it to me, that’s their fault, not mine. The biggest transformation in my personal healing process was that I found out it had everything to do with me. Everything, every thought that I had, everything that I took in, every person that I chose to surround myself, it was all in my hands. It’s my choice. It’s my powerful decision. And nobody else can take that away from me.
Biggest aha moment
When I found out how simple it actually is and how complicated I made it. I was like, wow, why did my mother not tell me these things? Because life seemed so complicated. I had the hardest time maneuvering myself around all these expectations and things that I thought I should be and have to have, and need to do, that when I figured out, no, no, no, all of this is me. I get to decide. That was the biggest aha moment for me.
Pointe To Rise links below:
- SMS Pointe To Rise – +1 (310) 349-3873
- Pointe To Rise – Clothing store for items that empower you to remind you of how great you are.
Harmonyum LA Links: