The mask of cheerfulness

“On the outside, I had a wonderful life,” recalls Heidi Michaels. After marrying a man with two children and then having three more, she was the quintessential SuperMom, devoting all her time and energy to managing a large household.

Soon she discovered what it’s like to get ‘lost’ deep in the woods of motherhood.

“One day it dawned on me that I couldn’t remember the last time anyone had introduced me as Heidi. I was always being referred to as someone’s mom or wife. I was someone’s something.

Soon she began to question if her children knew that she had more to give the world than clean laundry, carpools, dinners, and help with homework. There were two nagging questions, “Who am I” and “What will I be when I grow up?” The busy routine of family life made it easy to ignore such tough questions, and it was easier to complain that there was no time to do anything about it.

“My confidence had taken a gradual turn for the worse. Cheerfulness began to feel like a mask that I was wearing.”


Her moment of desperation came one day when she stopped and looked in the mirror and asked, “Who am I in all of this? Why am I no longer excited about life? Where is my life going?”

In truth, she was sick of hearing herself complain and realized that this was the cost of neglecting her own aspirations. It was time to do things differently. She knew she had to do something, anything, but had no clue where to start. Then on a whim, she picked up the phone and called a personal trainer.

“Spending time and money on myself was completely out of character, but it was someplace to start, and a lot healthier than other options for ‘escape’.”

Two years later, Heidi was still working out and loving it. “I learned new skills, discovered hidden talents and developed both physical and mental strength. My confidence and self-esteem increased. And naturally, all my complaining had stopped. It felt good. The day I walked into the gym and someone I did not know, said, “Hello, Heidi” reminded me that I had regained my sense of identity, my first name.”

Having increased her confidence it dawned on her that maybe it was time for a new challenge.

“I realized that the times I felt best all involved trying something new, expanding my limits and pushing the boundaries. You don’t need to be a daredevil, but I think we thrive when we are stretching ourselves.”

That’s when she decided to take her new-found physical abilities to another level and compete in triathlons – and confront a mental obstacle.

Using goals to beat fear

“The problem was that I was absolutely phobic about swimming in open water,” Heidi recounts. As a child she had numerous bad experiences in water. One event included being attacked by jellyfish. These memories and images meant she could hardly breathe and became frozen with fear in the water.

The value of mental training and overcoming obstacles in pursuit of her triathlon goals quickly became evident for her.

“This was the first big goal I had ever set for myself. I found a training plan and went to work. I bought a bike and had to learn how to ride in cleats and shift gears. I took swimming lessons in a pool, at first only able to swim 50 yards. I cheered the day I could run one mile. After six months of hard training, my first race was around the corner.”

However, her fear of water kept her out of that first race. “I was overcome by anxiety and fear. But I looked back at how much I had already changed from being that unhappy housewife, and I didn’t want this to be the end of my progress. I knew there was a champion inside of me that I couldn’t turn my back on.”

With continued training Heidi soon was able to enter the open water by focusing on one stroke at a time, and completed her next triathlon, followed by many more.

“I stopped letting fear hold me back. In fact, whenever I became fearful I would do it anyway, because I knew the rich rewards that always wait on the other side.”

Her Inner Champion had emerged.

The Inner Champion in others

With those accomplishments in place, Heidi revisited one of her original questions, “What will I be when I grow up?”

“I set some life goals for myself, and soon explored The Coach Training Institute where I enrolled and became a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach (CPCC).”

Heidi’s experiences have made her highly relatable to women struggling to find their place in the world, athletes of all ages, and anyone who wants more out of life.

“Life Coaching allows me to help others discover what THEIR inner champion is capable of and not let fears and negative chatter block their way. The most important thing is to start. The surest way to change your life is to set yourself in motion. Do SOMETHING. You can’t steer a boat that’s not moving!”

Heidi Michaels is a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach and resides in Westchester County, New York.


  • Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing from the University of Bridgeport (1985)
  • Masters Degree in Motherhood (pending)
  • Certified Professional Co-Active Coach (CPCC) – The Coach Training Institute (2007)
  • Accredited Certified Coach (ACC) – Pending from International Coaching Federation (ICF)
  • Mental Game Certified Professional – MGCP – Peak Performance Sports
  • Placed 2nd in her age group: Sprint Triathlon
  • Secretary for Toastmasters Group – Cross Westchester NY
  • Vice President of Public Relations – Cross Westchester Toastmasters
  • Contributor of a regular newspaper column in “The Examiner”