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Woman of the Month

Woman Of The Month - Angela Irwin

I met Angela Irwin in Monaco at one of the many events organised by the Professional Women's Network. From the beginning it was very clear that I had met someone who was passionate about her role as a Life Coach. It was a pleasure listening to Angela and hearing how she embraced life to the full. I felt very humbled when Angela told me of how she empowered situations in her own personal life and who now shares her experiences to help others overcome their fears and obstacles.

The Professional Women's Network is a sharing organisation that exists to motivate and help women. Angela leads the monthly lunch in Nice where women are welcomed to attend the lunch and join in an inspirational and lively discussion. See event updates HERE

This is Angela's story

"My (Australian) husband and I first moved to Paris in the summer of 2010. I was working for a medical device company in marketing and clinical education, in Denver, CO when a role became available for my company’s European region. Despite only having been to France once (for a few days!), speaking zero French, and having no connections in Europe, we jumped at the opportunity to live, work and travel around Europe.

Three years later we came to Nice for a long weekend and fell in love with it. By the end of the weekend, we decided to relocate. I was traveling so much that my boss said that as long as I was near a major airport, I could live anywhere. By August of that year, we had bought an apartment and moved in. Growing up in a landlocked state with extremely cold, harsh winters, I had always dreamed of living in a place with palm trees and the sea.

But for much of my childhood into adulthood, I had no idea if any of my dreams would ever be realized.

I was born and raised on a farm in a tiny community of 1300 in northeast South Dakota. In first grade, my annual hearing test turned up a mild hearing loss. My stunned parents took me to an ENT who confirmed this diagnosis. Usually, a child is born with hearing loss or has an illness (high fever) that causes it. I didn’t have either. They knew I had to have heard normally for my speech to have developed normally. To this day, no cause has been identified.

Over the next 15 years, I steadily lost more hearing until the point of clinical deafness at the age of 22. Basically, this meant that I could no longer understand what was being said without lip-reading; something I had taught myself to do. Most of the time, I could hear when someone was speaking, but it sounded like mumbling. No longer being able to use the phone was extremely frustrating and isolating.

During those years, my parents had been told I wouldn’t graduate from high school, I graduated with high honors. They were also told not to encourage me to apply to colleges as my hearing would be too bad and I would flunk out. I graduated college in 4 years, while working nearly full-time and cheerleading, despite not being able to hear the dance music.

When someone loses their hearing, their speech also become affected. I was made fun of for the way I sounded. And up until I got the cochlear implant, when meeting people for the first time, most would ask “why do you talk funny?”.

I never talked about what was happening with anyone. Looking back, I think that was a coping mechanism. If I didn’t talk about it, I could pretend it wasn’t really happening. The down side was, I carried an immense fear of what sort of future I would have (if any), shame and a sense of isolation all on my own for decades.

May 20, 1997. The day I got a second lease on life. The day I had surgery to receive my first cochlear implant (CI). At that time, they were still considered a bit “experimental”. As scared as I was to do it, I knew I had to. There were no other options for me if I wanted to remain part of the hearing world. I will be forever grateful to Cochlear ® for the technology. It literally gave me my life back.

In 2015, I was made redundant/laid off. It didn’t feel like it at the time, but it ended up being a blessing in disguise. After 14 years in the corporate world, I knew I didn’t want to look for a similar job. In my gut, it felt like there was something more I was meant to be doing. Although I had absolutely no idea what that was (scary!).

Through the life-changing experience of working with a life coach, I realized that’s what I wanted to do. To help others the way that I had been helped. So, I went through a year-long life coaching certification program. In simplest terms, I see life coaching as a way to help people become the very best versions of themselves.

Over time, my specialty area has evolved to self-confidence. Self-confidence and how we feel about ourselves affects every aspect of our lives: relationships, work, our mood, decision making. It’s the thing that keeps us “stuck”. When we can improve this, all aspects of our lives improve. It’s ironic that the thing I struggled with my whole life, is now the thing I can best help others with. I think I can relate so well with my clients because I have been there myself. I don’t want a single person to feel the way I have felt about myself.

I feel like I’ve come full circle. I spent most of my life trying to suppress and conceal how I really felt. Putting on a brave face and trying to appear like everyone else. I’m now fully embracing my differences and experiences. It’s from the most difficult aspects of my life and most painful emotional experiences, I am better equipped to help others. To see people blossom, step up their confidence, and be more bold in their lives is an amazing thing to be a part of."


We asked Angela our 5 famous questions and this is how she replied:

1. What makes you smile?
Palm trees, the sea, champagne, brightening someone else’s day

2) What or who inspires you?
People who keep going in a positive way regardless of what challenges and circumstances they have faced. Also, people who help and encourage others. Ellen DeGeneres’ simple message: “be kind to one another”. It’s such an easy thing to be more kind and compassionate towards others.

3) Do you believe in gut instincts?
Absolutely! I’ve proven a lot of people wrong throughout my life by following mine.

4) Your three essential things if you were stuck on a desert island would be what?
A hammock, a good book (a biography or mystery), my husband. He’s an engineer, so he’d be able to fashion up all sorts of contraptions.

5) If you are planning a day/night out, what do you enjoy doing the most?
I love an afternoon at the beach, or an occasional “fancy dress” night out with my husband, But, there’s nothing better than time with family and friends talking and laughing.

Thursday, 1 February 2018    Section: Woman of the Month
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