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Life Lessons from an Inner Leadership Mentor

Embracing my way


In the end, we all need to find our own way, but as a small child it helps to have some sort of stable home base. Literally: as a child, your home is your base.


I was born and raised in The Netherlands. From a very young age, I lived in two completely opposite homes, as my parents divorced when I was only 6 months old.


They both loved me, but they did not get on well and didn’t harmonize or synchronize their parenting. They each did things their way. This went from daily life stuff, that may seem small and insignificant differences, but for a small child are so confusing, to big stuff: their different world views meant they had different opinions about more or less all aspects of life.


With my mum, I lived in social housing until I was 8; with my dad I lived in a detached house with big garden. With my mum I went on camping holidays in my own country, in a tent and only basic facilities; with my dad I went on luxury summer holidays in Spain and skiing in Austria. “Think about what is most sensible”, my dad would say. “Follow your heart”, my mum would urge. And I couldn’t make out what I thought was most sensible or what I felt what my heart wanted.


I learned to adapt, switching between this way and that way. It often felt like I was living in two different worlds, with no real connection between them, but me.


What I realize now is that I struggled to find my path because I was always trying to please others. Growing up, I just wanted to get it right for my parents, I wanted what every child wants, acceptance and love. Although I received these in abundance, because of the split I was always conscious of fitting in every time I moved from parent to parent.


And in my adult life, for many years I continued trying to please and fit in. To some, my adaptability seemed a strength, but for me it just reflected my inability to know my way. I thought I needed to figure out exactly what


My greatest discovery has been to learn how to connect to and trust my inner wisdom, and to embrace all aspects of who I am. The understanding that I have the answers within, and I can know my path and yet it can go many different ways, brings me peace and joy.


Now, my ability to adapt has indeed become a strength. I can feel comfortable at home almost everywhere and in any situation. This also helps me in my work to help others to (re)connect to their true selves; I am as comfortable within a corporate setting as a spiritual fair, and I can put myself in other people’s shoes, truly feel their world, so they feel understood and heard.


But wherever and with whomever I am, I now always listen to my inner wisdom, that inner voice that tells me whether I am true to my way.

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In this episode:

HER Influence

Tessa van Keeken specializes in bringing people together, building bridges, and holding space, so people from all walks of life can feel seen, heard, and loved.


She believes in giving people the opportunity to shine authentically without fear or anxiety, and cultivate meaningful, relationships, with themselves and others.


Tessa is an experienced Coach, Mediator, NLP Practitioner, Healer, and Meditation Teacher, with a background in social science, international relations, and conflict studies, and no stranger to helping people deal with challenges.


As an Inner Leadership Mentor, she guides conscious leaders and changemakers on a healing transformational journey of self-discovery and personal, professional, and spiritual growth. She helps them to (re)connect to their inner wisdom, strengths, and potential, so they can take ownership, live & lead with presence, and feel calm and connected – even in challenging times.


Tessa is the founder of the Embrace movement, bringing those supporting others together, which she considers paramount for making the world a better place. The global community offers a safe space to tend to your own healing and growth, which is essential to practice inner leadership and serve others best.


After having lived in Ireland for 15 years, Tessa has returned to her home country, The Netherlands, where she shares a home in Amstelveen with her partner and two feline rascals.


Her motto is: A happy you is the best gift you can give those around you. Embrace (Your) Life Now

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HER Passion

I have always been able to tune in to other people’s feelings, their moods, their energy.


When I was little, this totally overwhelmed me; and to be honest, for a long time as an adult, too. I often ended up banging my head against the wall, trying to stop the thoughts swirling through my head, all the hurt, pain, anger, and despair I felt. They were not mine; they were everything that’s out in the world. Of course, the world wasn’t only bad, but it seemed it was especially all the suffering that I could feel with every fibre my body, deep in my soul.


At the time I was simply labeled ‘too sensitive’. Now there are names for it: I’m an empath and HSP (highly sensitive person). I now know I’m not alone.


For years I tried to not feel, to close myself of, protect myself – avoid any (news) stories about bad things happening in the world. But this made me feel disconnected – not just from others and the world, but myself too.

So, I tried to stay open and allow myself to feel. I went from opening up to closing myself off, resigned to the idea that I just had to live with feeling fear and pain most of the time.


In my late teens and twenties, I did do a lot of personal and spiritual development work. I tried positive thinking, affirmations, NLP. This helped a little, but it always felt more like managing and coping.


Until I had a profound experience. It came from the realisation it wasn’t the mind(set) I needed to change, but about transforming my way of being.

That self-love was not about making it all ok, or being ok with feeling bad.


I had heard the Buddhist wisdom before: “pain is inevitable, suffering is optional”, but had interpreted that as it being my job to stop suffering by choosing not to, as so many self-help books and gurus spoke about it being your own choice to be happy. I realised, however, the answer wasn’t self-love but LOVE. Not for me OR others, but simply true compassion. Not giving compassion, but being it.


Now, a few decades since last banging my head against the wall, I still am incredibly sensitive to the pain and suffering in the world. Sometimes I feel sad or anxious. But it no longer consumes or overwhelms me.


I can finally hold the little girl within me with full compassion so she can feel the pain without suffering. I’m so grateful to having had the strength to continue on my healing path, and for the support from those who helped me.

HER Vision for YOU

I now help people to move beyond mindset and beliefs, to actually truly experiencing inner peace. I can’t take people’s pain away, and I don’t have to. I help people to no longer suffer. I hold space so they can take ownership and face their shadows, feel their feelings - to be able to truly accept and be their true self, not the ego mask. And to truly embrace life, and feel calm and connected, even in challenging times.

I guide them on a transformational healing journey so they can live and lead with true presence and compassion.


Each moment, you can choose to be the ancestor of your future happiness. Don’t wait until for the right time to come, for the conditions to be right. There will always be challenges.

Embrace Your Life Now. Face what is here now, within and around you. Accept what is present in this moment, accept yourself as you are now. And then take action to make changes, if you wish.


And always remember: you are not alone. Asking for help can be difficult, and accepting help even more so. But allowing yourself to be supported is an action of courage and strength, not a weakness. When you allow yourself to get the support you need, not only will you be tending to your own healing, you also give a gift to the world by becoming your highest and happiest self. Then you, in turn, can hold space for others: be there for your loved ones, your clients, and yourself.



This is why I have created the EMBRACE movement. It is my mission to ensure those who support others do not neglect their own needs. I believe bringing conscious leaders and changemakers together is paramount for contributing to a better, more compassionate world.

Tending to your won healing and growth is essential to be able to serve others best AND feel fulfilled.

The exchange of giving and receiving, being held and holding space, of the collective is what elevates the collective healing in the world.


Does this resonate?


You are welcome to join the Embrace membership community.

Tessa van Keeken guest speaks on Her Version to share her story.

In this episode:

1. Tessa talks about reactionary depression.

2. The steps she has taken to heal.

3. The difference between being a victim and hiding behind a victim.

4. The one thing that will change your life.

5. Guidance she gives to the youth.

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