Hermien is a passionate, inspiring, witty, authentic and engaging speaker, host and MC who is currently studying Psychology through the South African College of Applied Psychology in her pursuit to specialise in Narrative Therapy – Healing through Story. She made time to tell us about Her Story.
You’ve had quite an interesting childhood. Do you mind sharing that with us?
I was born in Katutura Hospital on the 17th of February 1983, I turned 40 this year.
My parents are both generational cycle breakers who wanted me and my siblings to have a better education than they did, they sent me to boarding school in Cape Town, a school named St. Cyprian’s at the foot of Table Mountain, an all girls private school.
I will always be grateful for the opportunity that was afforded to me, that education helped me in my chosen career as a Professional Speaker and an Inclusion Consultant, but it did not come without its challenges. It created wounds that I am still healing from today.
What did you ‘overcome’ from your childhood?
Being sent to boarding school at such a young age, in a foreign country, having little command of the English language was deeply challenging for me. I had to overcome the childhood wounds and trauma of the fear of rejection and abandonment which opened up further wounds and led to struggles with emotional and binge eating which I have spent over 30 years trying to overcome.
I have openly shared this journey of overcoming with my community on social media for 10 years and I have tried to be as real and as authentic as possible.
Overcoming these wounds led me to the stage where I speak on overcoming limiting beliefs, wellness, and inclusion because I have made it my mission and my life’s work to leave this world a lot more inclusive than I found it. I use my voice to make a difference and to impact change.
On a lighter note, the thing that confuses people about you is your accent. They can’t put a face to the voice. Do you get that a lot?
I get that all the time. I have lived in Windhoek and Cape Town for most of my life, in Oshiwambo, they call me a Mbwiti meaning a city girl who was not raised in the village. There is nothing that I can do about the way that I speak and my accent, it is a result of my education, my upbringing and the places that I have lived. But yes, some say that I must be South African, and when I answer the phone, I get asked if I am white because I “speak white.”
The one thing that I can’t get over is being asked, “Why do you speak like that?” Rest assured, I am a black, Omuwambo, Namibian woman born in Katutura Hospital, buttered in Cape Town and bred in Windhoek.
You are an advocate for story telling. Why?
I love this question. I am a fierce advocate for storytelling. I believe that our stories connect and heal us, and stories told vulnerably can change the world. In the words of two great women, “The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they aren’t true, but they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.” These are Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie words in her TED talk about the danger of a single story. We have to tell our stories so that we can create narratives that create the kind of world that we want to live in and leave behind.
Brene Brown said, “We’re wired for story. In a culture of scarcity and perfectionism, there’s a surprisingly simple reason we want to own, integrate, and share our stories of struggle. We do this because we feel the most alive when we’re connecting with others and being brave with our stories – it’s in our biology.”
We are hardwired for stories, think about our ancestors sitting around the fireplace, sharing their stories and passing down great wisdom and knowledge that we still tap into today. Stories are magic!
You are always smiling and radiating positivity. What does a smile mean to you?
Joy is my superpower! No matter what I have encountered and the obstacles that I face, joy has carried me and given me the strength to keep on going. I call myself a Phoenix and I actually have a tattoo of a Phoenix rising on my arm which I absolutely adore, the Phoenix teaches me that no matter how many times I may fall, I will always be able to rise and I would like to believe that I rise on the wings of joy.
You immerse yourself in helping people find the light they seek. What drove you to that?
My battles with abandonment and the fear of rejection have demanded that I add my voice to helping others overcome their own fears and limiting beliefs.
That is why I chose a career in Professional Speaking, to lend my story to others and to conversations that make a difference to those who may be facing similar struggles. We are all facing something, I want to help people empty their pain. Ram Dass said, “We are all just walking each other home.”
The notion of being a victor and not a victim seem central to your purpose, what informs that?
I could choose to fixate on my limitations or I can choose to be victorious and focus on the things that I get right. I choose the latter.
I use all my experiences as lessons, stepping stones. The obstacle is the way.
Talk to us about healing?
The first thing about healing is that it is a journey. It is not linear, it is circular and lifelong.
We are all healing from something and I think that for the duration of our time spent on this earth, we will be on a healing journey.
Healing is about facing our demons and learning to sit in the darkness, it’s embracing our flaws and weaknesses and choosing to turn them into strength and power.
You’ve shared the ‘journey of your body’ on social media. Why was that important to you?
I was borderline obese when I started my journey, I took to social media to find inspiration and stories of others who had faced similar battles with their weight to those that I was facing, and I could not find a Namibian story that resonated with me. A story that spoke about the messy parts, about binge and emotional, that was raw and didn’t hide behind aesthetics. I struggled to find that story, so I started sharing my own. And by sharing my story, I found my people, my tribe, and created a community.
You are currently busy with multiple projects, please share those with us?
My greatest love is healing through storytelling and using my voice to make a difference.
I currently facilitate Race & Identity workshops in Namibia and South Africa as an Inclusion Consultant, I am the current president of the Professional Speakers Association and we will be hosting a Convention on the 21st and 22nd of April 2023.
I am also hoping to work with Lazarus Jacobs on a project called: Healing Circles.
A group of people sitting around a fireplace, telling their stories and healing through sharing. I hope that this happens in the Winter, on a farm.
Until then, I will continue to use my voice to create a more inclusive world.