lisa kohler

Fundraising Executive + Singer/Songwriter 

what does confidence mean to you?

Being in my thirties, I find that I am growing into my true self more and more each day and I think that's the essence of confidence: Reliance on who you are, right now, because that is perfect. You are perfect. Period!

lisa'S STORY

My earliest memory of joy is performing from the living room fireplace as a young girl. I would sing Barbara Streisand's greatest hits and force my younger sister to use our Fisher-Price flashlight as a spotlight to properly light me. I felt like I was totally in my body and my truest and most authentic self. I feel blessed to have recognized at such a young age the calling on my heart.

I stopped singing and performing shortly after college because I was terrified of failing and the perfectionist in me didn't see a linear path from where I was to where I wanted to be. So. I just gave up. When people asked me about it I said I just didn't love it anymore and that I really wanted to pursue a different path, which I knew was a lie. I had armored up to protect myself against any vulnerability or perceived weakness and failure. I boxed it up, put it away and tried to be someone else.

I pursued a different career path which has been enriching and allowed me to use a different aspect of my skills and gifts, but after I turned 30 something shifted in me and I started to get extremely uncomfortable in my skin. I knew that there was a part of my heart that was untapped and crying out to be seen and heard. My therapist suggested I read Daring Greatly by Brene Brown and it has truly changed my life.

The title of the book comes from a Theodore Roosevelt quote: "It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly…" Brene's point is that the only way we can have success is to have failure and that means being vulnerable. When you choose to show up and be seen, you are going to get your ass kicked. If courage is a value you hold, this is most definitely a consequence. She talks about how people in the cheap seats will often be the loudest critics — telling us how we could do it better and maybe even mocking us for trying. That has certainly held me back. But now I consistently remind myself and others, that if you are not also in the arena getting your ass kicked, then I am not interested in your feedback.

Slowly and deliberately I opened myself up to the idea of performing, writing and recording again. When I did that, an opportunity to cantor for a church fell in my lap and has been the most amazing and gentle transition back into using my voice, quite literally, to share the truth of my heart and soul.

I'm now singing every day, working with a voice teacher to refresh and improve my technique and writing music for the first time. I record my own covers and original songs and am just waiting for the next right step. Letting go of what perfection looks like, trusting that my heart is safe and ignoring the critics in the cheap seats. It's terrifying and it's amazing.

But now I consistently remind myself and others, that if you are not also in the arena getting your ass kicked, then I am not interested in your feedback.

When is your first memory of feeling confident?

My first time performing when I was very young — probably 5 or 6. I absolutely loved telling stories, especially through song and feeling my "audience" (at the time, my parents and sister and maybe a grandparent or two) react. There is something about getting into a vulnerable place within ourselves and channeling the human experience through someone else's story, or even better, through our own story. I'll never forget that feeling. I can remember it like it was yesterday — the feeling of my ballet shoes on the carpet, my sheer pink tutu grazing my knees. My eyes bright and energy intently focused. It's my favorite feeling to this day.


My first memory of feeling insecure was in sixth grade when a classmate of mine declared that I would never have a boyfriend if I kept wearing headbands and that I needed to lose weight to be attractive. It felt like everyone knew something I didn't and no one told me until that moment. I felt small, less than and too much all at the same time. That was the day I became hyper-aware of my appearance in relation to other women. "Should I be wearing this? Would she wear that? Am I too big? Should I be embarrassed of my legs? Are headbands lame?" I lost sight of what my soul and heart were saying. It was truly the day that the veil fell and makes me so sad to think about even 20+ years later.

What makes you feel most confident now? How has this changed?

I try to take every opportunity I can to stand in integrity with myself. The more I stop apologizing for being "too much" or "not enough" the more confident I feel. I'm a sensitive, empathetic, creative, extroverted and passionate woman who craves connection. I feel and experience things more deeply than most and I wear that all on my sleeve. The less I apologize for that, the more light I feel.

My younger self, especially in my teens and twenties, was trying to fit into a mold of what a successful woman looked like. Or what I thought she looked like. Accumulating popularity, wealth, stuff, boyfriends, all determined my value in the world. I still struggle with putting my worth in external things like how I look, what car I drive, whether or not I'm in a relationship, how much money I have in the bank, etc. But as I grow, I lean less and less on those things and more and more on the value that God has put in my heart. I believe that we each bring something unique to the world to help "walk each other home," as Rumi says.

What is something you’re most proud of?

My dad recently told me that he admired me for passionately pursuing whatever I set my mind to. I had honestly never seen myself in this light and it took my dad calling it out for me to realize that it is true. When I'm committed, there is no stopping me.


Your gut is ALWAYS right. Learn to recognize the sound of her voice. She will absolutely always lead you home.

How are you using your platform to make a difference?

Working for the school that I went to from ages two to 18 has been a big heart and eye opener for me and I believe has given me a platform to model what confidence and growth look like for young women. And that absolutely nothing about success is linear.