5 Personal Development Coaches on How Sharing Knowledge Can Be Healing

Exchanging knowledge with your community is a form of self-care.

woman sky


Many people took up personal development—new hobbies, habits, or areas of study—due to the stress of the pandemic lockdown. As a psychotherapist, I viewed this phenomenon as an indication of coping and resilience. Perhaps more than ever, social media proved to be a place where people could find things to do or learn.

Upon exploring the online self-help landscape to find additional resources for my patients, I discovered an intriguing trend: numerous original, accessible curriculums. From historians to career coaches to dance teachers, some of the most creative personalities on the app were DIY-ing learning journeys for their followers. The recent uptick in digital curriculums provides an empowering reminder: You don’t need to be enrolled in a formal school setting to continue learning. And you don’t need to be an official professor to share what you know.

I spoke with five experts who have developed their own online courses. All of them told me about the personal fulfillment they feel in helping others, a dynamic that is proven by science by way of the "protégée effect." When we share our knowledge about a concept, we understand the concept more deeply, and our own confidence develops too.

Then I realized: every one of us is knowledgeable about something, large or small. Do you have a passion for creative expression? Is there some handiwork you’ve mastered? Teach your friends.

This article could be viewed as a revelation about the mental health benefits of learning new things. But, conversely, it might also be an opportunity to consider what you know that others might want to learn. In either case, exchanging knowledge with your community can be a creative form of self-care and provide meaningful personal growth. Ahead, hear from the five experts on how developing their courses has developed their sense of wellbeing.

Brandi Richard Thompson, operation growth coach at Operation Growth Institute

Brandi Richard Thompson is a wellness expert who developed an online course called Black Girl Magic School, which helps Black girls find their magic through history lessons. According to the website, the course "begins with a survey of Black women in antiquity and ends with a recognition of the inherent magic each Black woman possesses."

What made you decide to build your own course?

I believe Black women need training to build resilience and self-love. This a training that I did not see in the marketplace. Black women need targeted listening with an ear to help them identify patterns that need to be discarded to attain their full potential. I’ve learned from and coached people of all races and backgrounds.  However, creating a safe space for Black women to become the best versions of themselves is my passion.

What is your favorite module or aspect of your course?

I love the part of the course that helps Black women address "daddy issues," which impact how we engage in our personal and professional relationships with men. Some other great modules include: My Body Is A Sacred Temple, The History of Black Women, Generational Healing, My Black is Beautiful, Ain't I A Woman, and I Found My Magic.

How has being a coach enhanced your own sense of well-being?

Helping others has a way of helping you. We teach what we most need to learn. Through teaching, coaching, and mentoring Black women, I grow as a Black woman.

Ginger Valentine, creator of Strip School

Ginger Valentine

Ginger Valentine

Ginger Valentine is a sensuality coach, roller-skater, performer, and dance teacher whose online curriculum Strip School —movement, music, and confidence-focused — became a sensation during the lockdown. She’s currently writing a book with her childhood best friend about the intersection between sensuality and spirituality.

What made you want to create a course?

I think dance is important for us all, but I understand it can be scary and feel downright humiliating and exclusive sometimes. I think so many people don't give themselves a chance because of misconceptions about dance and dancers. And that tricky, unreliable narrator we all have in our head. I want to bring dance and sensual movement to as many female-identifying people as possible—especially the shy ones because I am shy too.

I can be technical and bring in a lot of my professional classical training to my classes, but overriding that, I hope to create a safe and sexy virtual playground where we can explore and play with sensual movement together. No expectations or judgments—just grown-up play.

What is it like developing your courses?

Building and dreaming up the modules is my favorite part of the production process. I like to think I mix it up and can appeal to a wide audience. But at the same time, I'm not doing anything just because there is a demand or it's trendy. If I don't feel a personal sense of inspiration, I'm not going to teach it. As for the order, I try to change it up each month with themes, mood, and props. There isn't any reason behind the progression—people can jump in at any time.

Can you share a lesson learned from your teaching experiences?

Teaching gives me purpose and a sense of belonging differently from my performance career. As a performer, I feel like I'm saying, look at me. But as a teacher, I'm saying look at you. Being able to watch these women progress and change is truly inspiring.

I've always wanted to do something like Strip School but probably wouldn't have had it not been for the pandemic. I think the biggest thing I've learned is that if you have an idea that really, really excites you, go for it with all your heart. Don't listen to your inner critic; they definitely don't have your best interests in mind.

Aranivah, creator of Dance Culture by Aranivah

Arinivah is an immigrant from El Salvador based in NYC. On her popular Instagram account, she teaches and showcases "dances linked to subcultures, and vintage styles specializing on the 1960s (ska, reggae, rocksteady, cumbias, boogaloo, northern soul)." Before she teaches the moves, she always educates students on the history related to the dance.

Can you share a story that describes what makes you feel passionate about this work?

Every time someone leaves a comment telling me they never learned to dance but now are learning and reconnecting with their culture is a moment of success. Every time somebody tells me my video changed their mood positively, I feel successful.

How did you go about developing your courses?

It was a little challenging because I never actually took a dance course online myself. I try to put myself in the position of not knowing anything. The first thing I would like to know is "Where does the dance come from?" So I start my courses with a historical introduction to the cultural background of the dance.

I think of the tutorials that helped me online. They did not have any distractions, so I try to record in empty rooms with minimal decoration. I liked videos that gave me different perspectives on camera; that’s why I like recording by showing the back view and areal views.

How has being a teacher enhanced your own sense of well-being?

The more I teach others, the more that I learn about myself. I get a boost of energy when I teach a class online or in-person. It makes me more confident in my art and the knowledge I carry. When people join my course, it makes me feel like my art and interests are worthy, not just romantic and nostalgic.

Nobody was talking about these dances, and sometimes I felt alone in the niche. But creating a community interested in dance validated my work. Being an educator has made me very open to inclusion practices and kinder ways to approach people. It has made me so patient with so much work online. I was never internet savvy. Knowing my passion has given my life shape and structure. 

Sam DeMase, creator of A Power Mood 

Career coach Sam DeMase’s incredibly popular TikTok leads followers to her expansive courses about navigating the workplace.

What made you decide to build your own courses?

I’ve experienced many challenges in my career that fueled me to build my courses—from gender-based discrimination to microaggressions to harassment. I have privilege as a white woman, and I know women of color are going through the same things plus much harder challenges. After 10+ years in a corporate role, I know the growth systems for employees are not set up to promote anyone other than white men. I teach the things that are not only not taught in school but are actively hidden from the majority of those who need this information most.

What is your favorite module of your course?

My favorite course to teach is Nailing the Negosh. All my courses are results-getting and impact-driven. I like to pack them with simple directives that are immediately actionable.  Lack of confidence in negotiation prevents my students from asking for what they're worth, so we build confidence through preparation and shared community.

How has being a teacher enhanced your own sense of well-being?

Hearing success stories gives me momentum. Seeing women take credit for their work and advocate for themselves inspires me every day. Hearing their stories and watching them achieve stellar results keeps me motivated. Whenever people reach out to me and say they used what they learned in my course and crushed their interview or negotiated the salary they wanted, I feel proud and truly thrilled to see it.

Crafting the courses, teaching, and connecting with students has been incredibly uplifting and restorative while I’ve been staying inside for the past year or so. Carving this path and finding this community has been getting me through challenging times.       

Tiffany James, creator of Modern Blk Girl: Wealth Building for Women of Color

Tiffany James is a financial literacy expert who teaches women about investments and money management. James aims to grow Modern Blk Girl into a household name that changes the way women think about money forever.

What makes you feel passionate about sharing knowledge?

I grew up with many strong women influencers in my life and knew the power of women sticking together and being financially free. One of my top students is Wende. She has been in MBG since the beginning; all our girls know Ms. Wende. Wende is a little person and has found such a safe space with us at MBG. She has truly been such a light to not only me but all the Modern Girls in our community. Anytime I feel overwhelmed, I remember the mission and why I do what I do.

What made you decide to build your course? How did you go about developing it?

When building my course and brand, I understood finance is one of the most intimidating topics second to medicine. When you go online, little-to-no finance groups are simply breaking down the market. In addition to the lack of content, there are not many groups led by women. Therefore, I wanted to make sure that the information in our courses was digestible so that any age can understand the content.

What is your favorite module or aspect of your course?

One of my favorite modules is the first course you would take if you would like to learn how to invest in the stock market. It's called "Think or Swim Set Up." When people first see the Think or Swim brokerage, they get weary—it is an extremely intricate platform. However, MBG has been able to break it down so simply, and it's one of our most-watched videos. We walk viewers through the platform step by step and cheer them on the whole way through.

Related Stories