The Philly Happening Women Series is a reoccurring feature that highlights inspirational female personalities, entrepreneurs, and women making a difference in the City of Brotherly Love!
When Michelle Dunk found her joy, she made it her mission to help others find theirs
On the surface, Michelle Dunk had the perfect life. She left her corporate job to be a stay-at-home mom to her two beautiful daughters. She was a soccer mom, a Girl Scout mom, and volunteer for every activity and non-profit imaginable. Dunk helped her husband build his career and helped everyone else succeed—except herself. Underneath the happy façade, Dunk was experiencing a great deal of anxiety, stress, and sadness.
“I lost my mother less than a year before I had my first daughter (who is now 13). I was grieving hard and two years later, my second daughter was born. I put the grieving on the backburner so I could take care of them,” Dunk says. “I was throwing myself into everything and everyone to try to find joy and to find out who I was. Along the way I completely disconnected to who I really was.”
To try to understand why she was experiencing this disconnect, Dunk, who holds a sociology degree, went back to her sociology roots and studied all the things that she loved to try to figure out what she believed in and what would bring her joy.
“I realized that I hadn’t been honest with myself as to what I was passionate about. I invited women into my home to tell them about what I was relearning about self-love to see if anyone else was interested. I heard people say, ‘I wish I knew this earlier and I wish my children knew this.’ It dawned on me to teach this to young girls who have not figured out who they were yet and to help them stay connected to who they are and how to take all the tools and guidance they were born with and use it to fulfill their own greatest potential,” says Dunk, who is a certified coach. “During the “tween” years is when we start to conform and lose that. My mission is to help girls find their own path and purpose.”
Dunk’s company, In BeTWEEN Girls is an organization dedicated to empowering the lives of pre-teen girls by teaching them self-worth, self-confidence, boundaries, and to love and accept themselves.
In working with tweens, Dunk realized that their parents and other adults benefitted just as much from the messages, so she also founded Visionary Mentoring Group, in which she coaches adult women.
Visionary Mentoring Group seeks to help women claim their power, connect with their inner spark and turn their challenges into purpose, passion and prosperity. The Web site says, “Bring your personal vision to life.”
Philly Happening Editor Susan Field caught up with Dunk over the phone to discuss her two mentoring groups, the importance of random acts of kindness, and how to move close to your true self.
Tell us more about In BeTWEEN Girls.
It’s a non-profit organization that is a mentoring and scholarship program. I match tween girls, ages 8-12 with mentors ages 13-19. The matches are made based on common interests.
I started this when my daughters were 7 and 9 (they are about to turn 14 and 12). I wanted to give them some role models to help them navigate the “tween” years so that they could navigate the competitiveness and the highlight reels that we are seeing on social media. I wanted to match them up with people who have navigated this in a beautiful way, in a way that would come from the same values and morals. It has a bigger impact when it comes from someone that they look up to and relate to.
Did forming these groups help you to figure out who you were?
Yes. I feel like I was born for this. I was so lost and disconnected before. The reason it hurt so much was because I was so far from who I was. If you are doing what you’re meant to do, it’s so easy and it energizes you.
Philly Happening first heard about you and your groups last year during Random Acts of Kindness Day and Random Acts of Kindness week. You created a RAK challenge to encourage people to do kind things every day. You were trying to spread the word about how random acts of kindness have a positive affect on health and happiness. Can you elaborate on that?
One of the coaches I had years ago talked about how the most successful people in the world were studied to find out they did differently than anyone else. What it turned out to be is that they were consistent. They did small things every single day that moved them toward their goals consistently. I decided to create a RAK challenge that we can do consistently every day because that indeed changes your life. A reward comes back to you when you give kindness. You do it not expecting anything in return, but what you get back is a greater.
We often run through our days without even thinking. I wanted to bring the focus back on the human connection that is missing in our lives. we are raising generations of people who sit in rooms together on their phones and instead of talking to each other, we text each other. I want to bring back eye contact and writing a handwritten note, or going and sitting with someone at a retirement home. Other simple things people can do is to compliment someone, hold the door for someone, make a phone call to someone, write a letter. These things don’t take a lot of time and don’t cost any money!
At one of my mentoring sessions, we made chain-reaction kindness chains and pledged that from sun-up to sun-down, we would each smile at every person that we saw.
You mentioned that people run through their days on autopilot without thinking. What tips do you have for being mindful?
Being mindful is a very personal thing. It’s all about your mindset and how you’re connected to your inner spark or your emotional intelligence. You can make a decision to move closer to who you are, which brings you closer to love and peace, or to step away from who you are and move toward anxiety, fear.
Mindfulness is a learned habit. We become addicted to stressful, overwhelming thoughts, especially when you live or work in an amped-up environment. You start training yourself to feel that amped-up energy and it’s harder to slow down and be present.
There are two ways you can interpret being in the fast-paced world: you can feel it as excitement and invigoration, or you can feel it as stress, never having enough time, always feeling overwhelmed.
We all have the ability to gauge our feelings in any given moment and to change the direction of our feelings. We were born with this guidance system, but in our fast-paced, disconnected society we are losing touch with this ability.
When you feel stressed, it’s an indicator that you’re moving further away from who you are and you’re moving closer to anxiety and fear. In that moment you have a decision to make. You have to ask yourself, ‘How do I move closer to who I am and move closer to love and peace? Or do I continue to do what I’m doing and move further away?’ You make a decision. It’s either, ‘do I take time to reset and do something soothing like read a book, breathe, or call a friend, or do I choose to panic?’
You offer master classes to help people become better versions of themselves and to find their purpose. One question a lot of people seek to clarify is the difference between a job, a calling, and a purpose. Can you shed some light on that?
So many people think that they aren’t going to be happy if they have a job that is not their passion. Either you make your side hustle your full-time gig or you can get in the state of mind where you understand that the universe is created for people to fill certain roles. There is a reason that everyone isn’t sitting around doing yoga all day—we need doctors, lawyers, teachers, etc. You have to get into the mindset of getting happy in your current situation. It’s a choice to decide to be happy right now with what you have.
My job is to make people self-aware and take ownership of where they are now. If you can feel more peaceful and joyful in your current circumstance, that’s how you can get to that immense joy that will bring you closer to what you want. If you feel better about what you’re doing every day, you will have more “space” in your life to do the things you’re passionate about on the side.
Indicators that you’re not in the right situation is if your thoughts and feelings are not aligned with what your soul knows to be true. There’s nothing you can’t change. Ask yourself, ‘how can I make myself feel good in this situation?’ We limit ourselves by thinking that we can’t change the situation. If you can’t find a way to feel good in the current situation, then maybe you need to change the situation entirely.
What are some of your favorite quotes?
My favorite quote of all time is by Marianne Williamson, who said, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, our deepest fear that we are powerful beyond measure.”
This was a life-changing quote for me. For so long, I lived in a place of fear and anxiety. I thought, ‘This is just the way it is.’ I finally understood that I was not fearing staying the same , I was fearing my own power.
That quote goes on to say : “We are all meant to shine as children do,” and “As we liberate ourselves, we liberate others.”
When I finally gave myself permission to find the joy to be who I was, I realized that every single person has the potential to do that. When I was able to do that, I was able to help others to do it, too. I was moving in a direction of love.
What’s the best part about what you do?
I get to give back and teach from my own experiences. I’ve had struggles on my journey, but now I’m standing from a place of peace and joy and happiness and calling people to have the same thing.
How can people connect with you?
I offer many ways to work with me 1:1, in groups or on-demand digital courses. Currently, I have a digital course called Anxious to Ambitious Academy, and a 6 week Group Coaching Program called JOY Seekers. You can send me a message via my website or e-mail me directly [email protected] to get more information on all of the coaching that I offer.
I’m on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter under Visionary Mentoring Group and In BeTWEEN Girls. I’m very active on the Facebook pages and I offer LIVE FREE trainings on Facebook.