Interview with Vanessa Lee from Smile Inside

The following is an interview with Vanessa Lee, owner of Smile Inside, a personal development organization that advocates for the wellbeing and personal development of youth.

Vanessa Lee graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in Education from Ohio University and was selected for an advanced program that provided extensive experience and training in innovative methods of teaching. She has over 300 hours of professional development along with additional training that has contributed to her knowledge in the field of personal development. 

Ms. Lee developed and co-facilitated a mentoring program and developed and facilitated a grade 7 girls program at Debney Park Secondary College. She also worked with students and groups at The Grange Primary, Newport Gardens Primary, and Derrimut Primary and continued working for Mackillop Family Services on a freelance basis with individuals on social, emotional, and academic levels.

Vanessa’s experiences inspired her to develop and provide resources for professionals who work with youth as well as for parents and their children ages 5-12. Visit Smile Inside to learn more. 

Interview Questions

 1. How did you come up with the idea for Smile Inside? What was the inspiration for it? 

I started out teaching in Kansas City, Missouri and saw how social problems affected families which had an impact on learning in the classroom. I wanted to contribute to the world and thought if young people had all the tools they needed to deal with life then the social problems wouldn’t be so bad, families wouldn’t fall apart as much, and kids would embrace learning and follow their dreams. I believed that an ideal way to do this is through education in schools, but was disappointed when I learned over the years that the things I thought should be considered priorities were shoved to the side to make way for test preparation. How can a child be expected to learn if they are struggling emotionally? Another huge hindrance is that teachers just don’t have enough time, support or resources to manage to the best of their ability.

I was really inspired by the courses and camps that taught me about myself and made such a huge difference in my life in middle school and high school. I was disappointed to learn that these sorts of experiences weren’t accessible to everyone and that it just wasn’t a priority in the school curriculum. I feel it is in everyone’s best interest to have access to these types of programs and activities.

Smile Inside is about advocating for personal development in schools and providing the services and resources that schools’ and those who work with youth deserve and need.

2. What do you think about the increase in bullying among today’s youth? Does Smile Inside educate youth about bullying? What about educating parents and educators about the short and long term effects of bullying? How can bullying be avoided in the future?

I find bullying heartbreaking, especially among young people. I was a student welfare coordinator in a 7-12 high school in Australia for 3 years (similar to a counselor) which gave me a greater insight on how bullying affects lives. Victims need support and coping strategies which is a part of Smile Inside’s method, but this is only a band-aid approach. There is a disturbing lack of empathy in bullies, but there are also emotional issues which cause their behavior. One of my intentions in developing the Smile Inside programs and resources was to eliminate bullying behaviors. There are a number of reasons why bullies act out and they, along with everyone else, can benefit from support, guidance and positive attention. Some of the activities emphasize that everyone deserves respect by focusing on the development of empathy. Participants are also given the opportunity to express themselves, explore their self-talk, and learn coping skills. Other activities give individuals the confidence they need to battle insecurity which is often a cause of bullying.

I would hope that all parents and educators understand the importance of dealing with the bullying issue, but this is not always the case. In schools, most teachers do their best to stamp it out but again, lack of time, support and resources work against them. Parents sometimes get involved but they can go about it in the wrong way. Smile Inside’s main aim is to educate youth, but the anti-bullying strategies are communicated to teachers, and parents in most cases.

I think a reasonable way to abolish bullying is through focused detection and intervention efforts using a Restorative Justice approach. I also think a prevention/intervention effort using a “heal the bully” approach is effective. These kids are hurting so much on the inside that causing others suffering is one way they cope with what’s going on internally. One activity I do with youth is called, “The Problem with Villains”. It gets participants working out how to rationalize bullies’ behaviors and brainstorming solutions to solve the problem in a group situation where bullies are present, but not targeted. Once bullies realize their behavior may be coming from a problem in their life they are more likely to soften and be open to help and healing. This indirect approach is more effective than the confrontational, negative attention they receive when they ‘get in trouble.’ Schools need more support and resources to tackle this issue properly. This could be done with more government funding and by creating strong partnerships with organizations that specialize in this area.

3. According to the website, “Smile Inside trains Educators, Student Welfare Coordinators, Youth Workers, Camp Counselors, Secondary School Nurses, and Chaplains to increase their effectiveness when working with groups of youth via peer observation.” What benefits have youth received as a result from Smile Inside working with people in the above fields?

Professional development is a never-ending process to become the best we can be in our field. Gaining inspiration and new ideas from fresh approaches helps these professionals to hone their skills and try new things. The youth benefit because the ones they trust are enhancing the style of their interactions with them. A new tactic just may work with a child who before, they had problems reaching.

4. How does Smile Inside help young people be true to themselves when parents, peers, society, etc. want them to be something they’re not? 

The Smile Inside philosophy maintains that an individual with an authentic sense of self, social skills, and resilience will be well-equipped to face life’s challenges and find success in all aspects of life. In other words, if they know and feel confident in who they are, they can remain true to their convictions and stand up to adversity when it comes their way whether that be in the form of a parent, a peer or an employer.

The soon to be independently-published resource, Smile Inside: Experiential Activities for Self-Awareness, Ages 14-15 specifically gives youth the space to develop their sense of self. It helps them to explore their mind, needs, values, morals, perception of self, emotions, abilities, interactions with others and interests through activities, reflection, and discussion.

5. Is it easier for youths to master their behaviors and minds versus adults? What can adults learn from today’s youth in this area?

This is a difficult question to answer as everyone is unique. I am not so sure that age is a factor; some are more ready than others depending on many conditions. I do believe if young people are given access to techniques that will support their ability to master their behaviors and minds they have a definite advantage in succeeding in life.

Adults can learn so much in all areas from youth if they are willing to listen. Young people have a lot to offer and there is much to gain from their perspective. As far as learning to slow down, focus and follow our hearts, let’s hope we can be inspired by whoever is doing so, child, teen or adult.

6. What is your ‘personal philosophy’ for life? 

Love, peace, and happiness. 🙂

7. Anything you’d like to add? 

I am very excited to finally be publishing two resources that I have been working on since the age of 14. I have been collecting all the activities that have made a positive impact on me and have been testing, revising and creating even more since. They are in the form of handbooks for those who work with youth titled, Smile Inside: Experiential Activities for Self-Awareness Ages 12-14 and Smile Inside: Experiential Activities for Self-Awareness Ages 14-15. I am also in the process of trialing a resource for parents which is a positive reinforcement system for children, ages 5-12.

How Can Vanessa Lee and Smile Inside Help?

I’m a kid coach: In primary schools I get to see them in action in the classroom and work with them in and outside of the classroom on academics, social skills and self awareness. In the past, I have also worked with middle school aged students in relatively the same manner. At the present, I am also being contracted to work with individuals, mostly young people who are having academic, social, and emotional difficulties. Quite a few of them are in foster care or residential units.

Counseling: When I work one-on-one with young people in an academic setting whether it be at a school or private tutoring, I find that part of the job is counseling. I like to empower young people with skills that help them become who they truly want to be. If their goal is negative, I strive to steer them towards a more positive outcome through a variety of methods. Having individuals looking at their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual (if appropriate) levels of self is a wonderful base to help them realize their potential.

Meditation and Yoga: I trained as a yoga instructor and I use what I have learned to help others. Silencing the mind, using a mantra to focus, slowing the breath, creative visualization and using balancing poses to focus are all techniques that I incorporate into helping youth to learn self-awareness.

Visit Smile Inside to learn more about Vanessa Lee and her organization.


Enhanced by Zemanta

How to Connect with the Right People

The logo used by Apple to represent Podcasting

Image via Wikipedia

I was listening to Joel Osteen‘s podcast #470 Connecting with the Right People and it resonated with me. Here are a few excerpts from the podcast:

Everyone cannot go where God is taking you. Get away from the wrong people and surround yourself with people that appreciate your uniqueness. Connect with people who understand your destiny, not people who are always pushing you down, telling you what you can’t become. Life is too short to drag people along. If you will get the wrong people out of your life, God (or whatever term you use) will bring the right people into your life.

Some of you, the only thing that’s holding you back is your inner circle. The people that are closest to you, i.e., family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc. are with you, but they’re not for you. You spend too much time trying to convince them to get on board; you spend too much time persuading them that you’re okay. You spend too much time trying to get people to understand your destiny.

How many of you can relate to the excerpts above? If you’re nodding your head or saying, “Yep, that’s me,” it’s time to change your inner circle. It may not be easy at first but once you get the wrong people out of your life, new people can finally come into your life and help you get to where you’re supposed to be. Stop spending time trying to convince people of your plans — you’re wasting precious time and oxygen. You don’t need their approval or permission. The only approval and permission you need is yours!

Some people you have to love from a distance. ~ Joel Osteen

True friends won’t question who you are — they’ll support you. True friends will connect you with people who can assist you. Surround yourself with people who believe in you; however, you must believe in you first. Your time is too valuable to spend it with people who don’t support your 100 percent. It’s about the quality of people not the quantity.

It’s scary to drift away from people, especially if you’ve known them for 10 or more years. However, if you have a ‘gut instinct’ that tells you it’s time to drift, go ahead and drift away. You need people who’ll have faith in you not people who’ll give you a laundry list of ‘why’ you can’t do something. Surround yourself with ‘wise people’ and seek council when you need it. It’s important to have people close to you who understand your destiny — who have faith. Weed out people who constantly pull you down. It’s alright to show them door!


Related articles

Enhanced by Zemanta

Which Do You Love More? Your Spouse, Life Partner, or Work


Image by Stijn Vogels via Flickr

Does the following sound like you?

  • You work all of hours of the night.
  • You speed eat — basically inhale your food.
  • You hold your breath throughout the day.
  • It’s always ‘five more’ minutes.
  • You check your Blackberry, Droid, iPhone, etc. every five minutes because it’s glued to your hand.
  • You miss important dates such as birthday, anniversary, date night, kids’ events, etc. because of work.
  • You constantly check your email and social media pages.
  • You’ll always be there in 20 minutes.
  • Your spouse and or life partner is fed up and ready to walk.

What can you do to save your relationship?

If you’re willing to look at yourself from the inside out, ask yourself these and other questions, “Why am I a workaholic? What am I getting from it? What does my career or business represent? Why and how does it ‘fill’ me up? What am I avoiding? Am I afraid of intimacy? Do I have control issues? Do I have a fear of failure? Who am I trying to please? Does being a workaholic make me a better person? Am I trying to achieve a certain status? Am I still trying to prove myself to my parents?” You can also do the following:

  • Schedule date nights and stick to them.
  • Schedule vacations and take them. Leave your iPad, laptop, etc. at home. Okay, you may take your cell or mobile.
  • Turn-off your Blackberry, iPhone, Droid, etc. at a certain time.
  • Stop reading your email and social media websites at a certain hour.
  • Be flexible.
  • Acknowledge your spouse and or life partner more than you already do. Thank them for being supportive and loving you.
  • Listen more to your spouse, life partner, and kids. Don’t blow them off.
  • Spend time with your kids’ by doing something fun.
  • Take a breath once in a while; deep breaths are calming.
  • Mediate 15 minutes per day — it will center you.


Is your relationship/love in jeopardy because you’re a workaholic? It’s something to think about.

Enhanced by Zemanta

New Career: What do Recruiters Really Look For?

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - MAY 28: Recruiter Caren J....

Image by Getty Images via @daylife

Question: Help! I need and want to change careers. What do recruiters look for? How can I land my dream job?

Answer: The keys are passion and inspired experience.

Perhaps you have no desire to ‘makeover’ your career but prefer to transition into a new and exciting career — one that you’re enthusiastic and passionate about. If you need to send your resume to recruiters, you may be curious as to what they look for. You may be surprised to know the number of positions you’ve held, your knowledge base, or the number of degrees you have may not be the number one criteria for landing your dream job. The secret to landing your dream job could be your passion for your work. Remember, it’s not hard work when you love what you do.

Recruiters receive a plethora of resumes from college graduates and seasoned workers responding to open positions within organizations. However, most recruiters aren’t impressed with the number of college degrees you have. Let’s face it; most candidates have one or more degrees. Here are few tips for you:

  • College graduates need to show internships on their resume and how they really made a difference at companies. Passion sells!
  • Seasoned workers need to show their passion and commitment to organizations and projects. Sell your enthusiasm!
  • Showing is better than telling. I know I have repeated this, but I’m trying to make a point. Showing is much better than telling.

Tip: Consider hiring a career coach to help you find the ‘right’ career for you.

Social media is the ‘new’ way to connect and network with people who can help you find and land your dream job. Keep your social media profiles clean. You may have to ‘hide’ some folks who are displaying pictures of themselves partying to their heart’s content or posting status updates such as, “Puked my guts out from drinking too much this weekend.” You may even want to decline friend requests. Unfortunately, you are judged by the company you keep. To quote Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Show me who a man’s (or woman’s) friends are and I will tell you who he (she) is.” You may not agree with this but with so many candidates looking for jobs, the ones that seem more professional will get the interview and job.

College grads and seasoned workers may want to speak to recruiters and ask them what they look for in candidates. Everyone could use a direction and guidance. Also, peruse the websites of the companies you’d like to for and make sure you really want to work for them. You may discover their values and your values aren’t a match. It’s better to know this up front before you submit a resume, receive an interview and job offer.

If you intuitively know that it’s time to move on from your current employer and or career, have the courage to do so. You can find new employment as long you don’t have any ‘fear’ around it. It will behoove you to only speak about your bold move with people who love and support you. Naysayers will fill your head with their fears and talk you out of pursuing your dream career. If you want to work for yourself, start part-time while you work your day job. You can quit after you’ve built a strong client base and savings account.

Good luck!


Enhanced by Zemanta

7 Ways to Kick the Co-Dependency Habit

An L-kick

Image via Wikipedia

Is co-dependency wreaking havoc on your life? I never realized how many co-dependent people were in my family. This doesn’t sit well with me because I’m a strong, independent woman who enjoys doing things for me. Before I ask for help, I research a problem and exhaust all resources. After I’m convinced that I need help, I seek it out. I don’t automatically ask for help without trying to figure something out on my own. Besides, I love a good challenge and wouldn’t want to miss out on an opportunity to learn something new. I set goals because they suit me not to please others. I also don’t expect people to ‘guess’ what I need — I tell them. One of my favorite quotes is, “What others think of me is none of my business.” Adopting this into your life could set you free.

Most people ask for help without seeking solutions to their problems. Their co-dependent ways can be a turn-off and irritate the people around them. Think about the people in your life. Do they turn to you every time they have a problem? How do they react when you ask them, “Did you try this or that?” Do they get mad or upset? Do they play the ‘poor me, victim, or I’m helpless” card? On the flip side, if you attract co-dependent people into your life, you may want to examine “why” this happens. Perhaps, you have a tendency to ‘save’ (rescue archetype) everyone who crosses your path. What are you getting out of this? How is it serving you? How is it serving others? Perhaps, you attract these people because you want to feel needed and love. There’s a big difference between wanting to help because you want to versus needing to help because you get something out it.

7 Ways to Kick the Codependency Habit

1. Journal your thoughts and feelings about co-dependency. Examine where you tend to be co-dependent in your life. What is your self-worth?

2. What are you afraid of? Being independent? Not hurting another person’s feelings? What’s stopping you from kicking the co-dependency habit?

3. Before you ask others for help, try to solve your own problems.

4. Stop believing and feeling you’re responsible for ‘fixing’ the problems of the people in your life.

5. Examine if you set goals based on what people will think of you. Do you seek their approval?

6. Stop manipulating others with your moods. For example, “I’m unhappy; therefore, you should stop what you’re doing and take care of me.”

7. Start telling people what you need instead of leaving them to guess.

If you want to improve your relationships, you may want to break the ‘co-dependency’ habit. Controlling others won’t work and can push them right out of your life. Stop telling people what to do — it’s not your job. They need to find their own path and figure it out. If they need your help, they’ll ask for it. It’s too exhausting and unhealthy for the people in your life to have to guess what you want and for you to set goals based on gaining their approval. Your goals are your goals; others may not understand ‘why’ you want to set and reach them. They don’t have to.

Break the co-dependency habit today, and live a happier, stress free life tomorrow!


Enhanced by Zemanta

Are You a Life Coach or Baby Sitter?

I attended a webinar for Bob Proctor’s Life Consultant program. I think Bob puts his money where his mouth is and I’m considering his program. Bob made an interesting point about life coaches — he said they’re baby sitters. I was taken aback by his comment but in a way, he could be right. He said the life coaches have conversations with their clients either face-to-face or over the phone. He went onto to explain the process which is the coach meets with client, they discuss what the client can do to move his/her life forward, the coach assigns “homework” to the client, and they agree to meet again where the coach will find out if the client did the homework assignment. Bob said this isn’t coaching it is babysitting!

Is life coaching like babysitting? What do you think? Share your thoughts.


Employers Conduct Sloppy Interviews

I expect the best that’s just how it is. I won’t apologize for expecting the best customer service, the best companies and people to work with, or the best places to live. I know who I am which probably scares most people because they don’t know who they are.

Recently, I had an interview and it was a disaster. It was snowing, and I was stuck on the highway. I’m still amazed that Ohioans “freak out” even though most of them have lived in Ohio all of their lives. Snow happens in Ohio — get over it. I had a “gut feeling” that this opportunity wasn’t right for me, and I was right.

Since I was crawling on the highway, I did the right thing and called the person who was supposed to be interviewing me and left a message. Traffic started moving for whatever reason (there wasn’t an accident), and I continued on my way into Downtown Cleveland. My phone rang, and I thought it was the person who was supposed to interview me. Wrong! It was the receptionist (not very personable or upbeat) telling me the person I was meeting was out on medical leave. What? Then the receptionist proceeded to tell me I’d be interviewing with two other people. What? I didn’t know I was interviewing with two other people. You’d think the person interviewing me would have had the courtesy to email or leave me a voice message telling me she wouldn’t there. You’d think I would have been informed that I would be interviewing with a total of three people. To me, this is sloppy business and communication. No matter what you circumstance is you hand the ball over to someone else so it doesn’t get lost in the shuffle.

Employers expect “the best of the best” to work for them but they may want to reevaluate their current staff because they may not be the best. When you interview people, make sure you’ll be there for the interview. If not, send a quick email or phone call and explain that someone else is conducting the interview. This way the candidate won’t be surprised when they arrive at your office.

Sloppy communications is one of my pet peeves but that’s just me. Even if I was in the hospital or half way around the world, I would make sure that systems were in place to handle business. My employees would be the best of the best and they’d make sure day-to-day operations ran like clockwork — this includes a simple task such as interviewing. There are no excuses for sloppy interviews. Get your act together or the person you’re supposed to interview could become your competition and “lure” your clients away from you. I bet you didn’t think about that!



People have lost their jobs and are looking for employment. You may need to earn a living but please don’t be desperate and take the first offer that comes along. Chances are you’re probably smarter than the people who are interviewing you. You may consider opening your own business before working for someone else again.

Have you ever experienced a sloppy interview? Share.

How to Lose a Job in 10 Seconds or Less

Social media has taken the world by storm. Unfortunately, many people use Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and countless other sites to VENT their frustrations about their employers, co-workers, and bosses. This is NOT a smart thing to do since employees scan these sites for employee activity. Right or wrong, one Tweet can cost you employment.

According to an article on, employees that vented or insulted their employers were fired! It’s true. Employers don’t want unhappy employees working for them

Employees may scream the 1st Amendment (freedom of Speech), but employers will have a different viewpoint. They’re paying you a salary and benefits which is something that many people would like to have. Employers can easily replace dissatisfied employees. If you’re unhappy, do something about it.

Social Media_Savvy

Employers will not tolerate employees that “slam” the company. You’d think that in times of a tough economy, employees would be grateful for their jobs. Guess not. Even though unemployment rises in times of economic uncertainty, employees aren’t holding back. They let their feelings known via social media outlets.

Social media is a great way to stay connected with family and friends or to grow your business. If you’re going to make a snide comment about a co-worker or boss, you may want to hold off. You never know who is looking at social media sites. This is why they tell you NOT to send emails or surf the internet on company time. You can best believe that you’re time on the computer is monitored.

Remember, you’re at work to do just that. You’re providing a service and getting paid for it. Perhaps a change in mind-set is what is needed. Be grateful that you have a job and steady income each month. Start blessing your job and the money you have. Affirm that you know you’ll realize another position that is more aligned with your passion. Do this and then start the job search. If you don’t clean up your JOB KARMA, you’ll just repeat the same patterns over and over again.

If you’re an employee that has Tweeted or posted anything rude on Facebook, own up to it and take responsibility for your actions. You’ll be surprised how you can turn a negative situation into a positive one. Remember that social media is can be a good thing. It’s a way to connect with “like-minded” people and network. If you’re in the market for a new job, you may have a contact that can help you. Just be discrete about it. Don’t Tweet or post a Facebook status, send an email from home!


What kinds of Tweets do you post when you’re at work?

Take advantage of corporate health and wellness programs

Corporate health and wellness is very popular. As economic uncertainty grows among Americans, so does their stress. This leads to other health issues such as headaches, heart disease, mental illness, and much more. Americans are more stressed out than ever. To keep their employees sane, employers are implementing health and wellness programs.

Employees will benefit from corporate health and wellness plans. It helps to clear the air and talk about what you’re feeling. Make a phone call and schedule an appointment to speak to someone. Get it out of your system once and for all.

The one thing that continues to rise is the stress the level of Americans. Our paychecks may not increase, but at least we can count on our government to increase our stress levels! See they’re good for something. Just kidding…

Seriously, corporate health and wellness programs are great for employees. If you’re feeling stressed out — use the corporate gym. Maybe the gym has a punching ball and bag you could beat the heck out of it. It will be a great workout and you’ll burn fat fast. It’s better to take your frustrations out on the bag because you could take it out on your body by eating a gallon of ice cream!

Many companies are implementing corporate health and wellness programs. Some programs include medical checkups, gym, mental health, books, and much more. Take advantage of these programs because they may not last.

Finally, if you’re looking for a job, keep an eye out for companies that offer corporate health and wellness programs. This is one perk you do not want to pass up. Anything companies can do to keep employees sane is a good thing. Remember that you cannot control what others do, but you can control your actions and emotions.

Who Else is Fed Up with Horrible Customer Service?

Has this ever happened to you? You are excited about shopping at your favorite store. The shelves are filled with your favorite products and they’re priced just right. Then it happens. You get to the register and the person behind it provides horrible customer service. This has happened to me numerous times at Ulta Beauty in Chandler, Arizona. The energy in the store is just “blah.” You’d think by now I would know enough to go the Ulta Beauty at Tempe Marketplace. Well, I finally learned my lesson. I’ll shop at Tempe Marketplace store, order online, or find another beauty store.

Customer service in The United States of America is less than stellar. What’s the deal with horrible customer service? Are people that unhappy with their lives? Unfortunately, the answer is a resounding “yes!” These people take their negative energy to work and spread it around faster than the speed of light.

Too bad businesses did not administer an “energy” test to employees. Some give psychological and or personality tests but those are not 100 percent reliable. Then again, most businesses are only concerned with the degree a potential employee has and how many years of experience. It does not occur to businesses that they may be hiring a “toxic” employee. Soon the entire company will be infested with an “energy disease” that can suck the life out you in less than 2.5 seconds!

Oprah had Tony Hsieh, CEO of on her September 23, 2008 show. He has taken from $1.6 million in 2000 to $840 million in 2007. Tony did this by focusing relentlessly on customer service. He knew what it was like to receive “horrible customer service” which is why excellent customer service is important at offers handbags, clothing, electronics, and much more because of their superior customer service. People who receive good customer service will be loyal customers. Tony does not have an office; he doesn’t even own a suit! Tony prefers to be accessible to all of his employees instead of being holed-up in an office.

The next time you provide or receive horrible customer service, remember these two things: 1) the person you just waited on may be a writer for a major newspaper or magazine and 2) shop at another store. With current economic conditions being a little shaky, there are plenty of stores that provide great customer service. They’ll take your money with a smile!

Have you experienced horrible customer service? What’s the story?