Let yourself be seen and loved. Allowing myself to be seen, even a little, in a way that I still felt safe, is what allowed my college professor to provide the support that helped to change the trajectory of my college experience and arguably of my life. If I had not let her see me and take her advice and know that she gave it from a place of genuine care, I most likely would have failed out of the program and my life would be on a very different path, not necessarily bad but certainly different.


Resilience has been described as the ability to withstand adversity and bounce back from difficult life events. Times are not easy now. How do we develop greater resilience to withstand the challenges that keep being thrown at us? In this interview series, we are talking to mental health experts, authors, resilience experts, coaches, and business leaders who can talk about how we can develop greater resilience to improve our lives.

As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Shana Francesca.

Shana Francesca is a speaker, writer, founder and lead designer at Concinnate, a multi-discipline interior design and life design firm working with clients around the world. Shana was born into a traumatic family life but sought out ways to forge a new path for herself. She believes our present and future are transformed when we infuse our lives with intention; we design our lives and accept our role as the author of our story.


Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?

I was born into a dark place in my parent’s lives. They were young and ill equipped for being whole and healthy people, let alone parents. I was the child who was expected to be obedient but I always questioned why I did not have a say in my own life. I was defiant because the rules were stacked against me. I was loud because those around me sought to steal my voice. I never stopped moving, afraid of getting too comfortable in the cage my life was fastening around me.

My eariliest memory is of sexual trauma and the first 25 years of my life were often marked by trauma. My life was certainly not all bad, fortunately I remember good times as well. Those were moments when I saw my parents as they were meant to be who they had the potential to become, if they had the tools. Regardless of their life choices, I had no intention of allowing my life to stay as it was, dominated by fear. I knew in the deepest parts of me that even if something outside of myself was not assigning me a greater purpose, I was assigning it to myself. I was not going to live my life asking for permission-because who would I ask for permission anyway? And who gave them authority? The answer was me and I wasn’t giving anyone a voice louder than mine in my life again. I instead dedicated myself to healing and moving forward, staying curious, making messes and asking for help and forgiveness along the way.

In my youth, I instinctually began covering my bedroom walls with powerful quotes, my bookshelves with amazing stories and the back of my door with images of what my future life would look like. I was seeking counsel from the only available sources-they became my advisors, my guides. Their words became critical practices for leading myself to a more powerful and centered version of myself. My intuitive understanding of the power of space to shape our lives and to be a vision board for our life, eventually led to me going to college and receiving a BS in Interior Design.

Five years ago I founded my company, Concinnate. Concinnate is a interior design and life design firm, leading people to take up space intentionally, beautifully and authentically. We spend time getting to know our clients, learn what lights up their life and lean into the story they want their life to tell. We design spaces that become the stage from which they tell that story, spaces that are authentically connected to who they are at their core, who they are becoming, who they were always meant to be.

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

Building a business is one of the most difficult things a person can choose to do. There are so many times where you have no idea how you are going to make it to the next moment, the money runs out or you feel like your ability to strategize through another difficult moment has knocked the wind out of you for the final time. And then, somehow, you decide that you are going to find a way forward because the goal still matters. The ‘how’ you get there is changing again but the purpose has remained.

One of these moments came a few months after taking the business full time. It was about 3 years in, someone offered me a wonderful opportunity to take over as general manager of their business. It took my breath away. They wanted me to take over running their business. Up until that moment I had wondered if I was bat crap crazy, was I unnecessarily torturing myself for some imaginary dream that was never going to happen…But this is the moment I knew I was a business owner and that was not going to change any time soon. My first thought was, if I can run their business, I can run mine. It was the first time someone offered me to run their company but not the last. It became a moment for me to remember that perhaps I need to trust myself just a bit more, maybe more like this person offering me this opportunity. They see something in me that I have lost sight of and need to tap back into. I imagine growing a business yourself, from nothing feels much like a parent does raising a child. There are moments you are not sure that you are cut out to be this child’s parent, you are not sure how to keep going, and then you do and you figure it out.

Growing a business is ultimately all about growing yourself; stretching into new areas of possibility, creating new muscle around new things, learning how to hand things off and how to duplicate yourself. It is a beautiful cycle, but a constantly painful one. One that requires a great amount of resilience.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

The word Concinnate means; to arrange or blend together skillfully, as parts or elements; put together in a harmonious, precisely appropriate, or elegant manner (Dictionary.com). It is a perfect way to describe who we are as a company and what we do. We work with people to become exceptionally intentional about their lives and their homes. I believe our homes and physical environments are in many ways reflections of ourselves and our beliefs about ourselves. When you give yourself permission to take up space in this world, and not just take it up, but take it up beautifully, you step into a level of power within yourself that is unmatched. Because you now recognize the power in your individuality and in your connection to everything in the multiverse.

Each project Concinnate works on has its own tempo, its own cadence and we honor and respect that. It is a journey for the owner as much as it is for the space itself. One of the clients we are currently working with on their full home renovation project paints a particularly powerful picture of what we do. This particular client and his late husband had lived in this home together for 15 years before his husband passed in 2021. It was a very painful relationship, especially at the end. There is a lot of trauma to unpack there and the client is working through all of this through therapy, as we are working through the renovation.

These are things that, especially in this case, need to be working in tandem together. He works with his therapist, and we work with him and his home. He is an exceptional human and does incredible work in this world and yet his husband had tried to kill him in this home. We had to start with a complete edit of the entire home before we could even think about beginning renovation. We recently completed renovating one of the three bathrooms in the home. It is currently the largest bathroom (that is until we get our hands on the master suite). When the homeowner came in to see the completed bathroom renovation, he hugged me and cried. It is the first space in the home that he, that we, have completed. It is a reflection of the life he is creating for himself. It is a powerful thing to see your personal growth reflected in your physical environment. I see the transformation of clients’ homes energize them in a really beautiful way.

I think it can be easy to forget how powerful our homes are in our lives. They are the stage from which we tell our life story, they are a vision board for our lives. It is an immersive experience that reflects our beliefs about ourselves. When we transform that physical space intentionally to align with the most powerful version of ourselves, we change our lives. It is a way of acknowledging ourselves out loud, of allowing ourselves to take up space beautifully in this world. In this case, it also acknowledges that we can change the energy of a space, we can transmute that negative energy and redirect it for good but we have to be willing to sit with and process the difficult moments to truly appreciate and experience our lives from a place of JOY. To know that we are worth the work, worth the effort and then make the effort.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

Ms. Lovett, my 4th Grade teacher. Back then I did not have many friends. I just couldn’t, there was too much going on at home, emotionally other kids just could not understand me and I did not understand them. I was literally just trying to survive and they were worried about cooties. I was also very bullied. I think Ms. Lovett must have felt my pain in some way because she let me hang around. During recess, at lunch, I sat with her. I talked and she listened. She may be the first person who I saw being truly and authentically herself and I wanted to be like her. One time, as a class, we were a bit out of hand all day and I remember her picking up the chalk and scribbling large and small, chaotic wavy lines, overlapping and filling the two side by side chalkboards. We all at some point fell silent. We had no idea what she was doing but I think we felt it, I felt it. When she was done she turned around and said it was her heart beat and then she sat down.

I had never seen anyone express themselves that way. I remember it so clearly to this day. I do not really know why but it felt like one of the most authentic expressions of emotion I had seen from an adult woman in my life up to that point and it stuck with me. I knew I wanted to be like that, I still want to be like that, help people to feel like that. To understand how powerful they are, without a single word. In large part it contributed to my gravitation toward the visual arts as a profession, founding my firm, taking up all the space I was meant to. For a long time I did not have the words to express what I understood of the world. Much like Ms Lovett I was writing my heart beat for my clients, all over their spaces, and still do. Being a designer led me to see that being a creator had helped me to find my voice, and that I had something powerful to say and so do my clients — and we can be more powerful when we work together.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?

If people are familiar with resilience, I think they mostly associate it with getting back up when we fall or bouncing back. I look at it a bit differently. I see it as something that happens when we are willing to sit present with the fall. There is a lesson to be learned and perhaps it is not something we need to bounce back from at all, but simply something that was no longer meant for us and it left so we can begin something new. Whether it is a goal, a person, money, friendship, the ‘perfect’ employee…it applies to every aspect of our lives. We do not need to take the end of something as a failure to bounce back from, but instead look to see how this ending creates a foundation for a new beginning.

I think the characteristics and traits I see in people who are resilient are curiosity, intentionality, courage and Joy (feeling into the true nature of something without the constructs we put on it). Often resilience is marked by a change whether in reality or perception of reality. A catalyst for change is curiosity, to wonder what is possible and be willing to meander in that wondering. Intentionality; it is not so much choosing where we are going to go and exactly how we are going to get there as much as it is creating an idea of where we are going and then aligning our actions and thoughts with that idea. Intentionality is like a compass guiding us toward our true north.

Courage and Joy. Courage for me is being willing to lean into fear and know that fear is our wanting to control or sneak a peek at the outcome-our attachment to the construct of control. Courage is a request for growth, like a spiritual memo that we have outgrown our current self. It is time to go where we have never been before. There will never be any guarantee of what comes next, so we move forward knowing that what we want to happen may not happen. When we try to control outcomes we can no longer experience joy. Joy is the acceptance of what is, no longer struggling trying to make what is, what we want it to be, or trying to make it fit into our narrow understanding of the world. When we release attachment and reach for connection instead, we find joy. I think courage is a huge part of that.

Courage is often likened to resilience. In your opinion how is courage both similar and different to resilience?

Courage is a trait that is excessively helpful when it comes to resilience. I do not see a way to be resilient without courage but they are not the same. I mentioned in my previous answer that I see “Courage as a request for growth, like a spiritual memo that we have outgrown our current self.” When we are authentically connected to who we are and understand how powerful that is, I think we begin to be fortified with courage. We see that growth is a near constant and necessary for us to achieve our purpose, whatever it may be. Resilience and courage are attached at the hip for me, I cannot see one without looking through the lens of the other.

When we accept what is and have courage to move through life knowing that we are every moment, when living our lives from a place of intention, moving closer to fulfilling our purpose, to being our highest selves, we are in a resilient state, and our foundation is joy. We can accept life as it comes no longer judging it because we are no longer attached to what we wanted it to be and what we made it mean. We release meaning and are present. This does not mean we do not take action, quite the opposite, we move forward aligning our action with intention and purpose and lean into courage. This is my experience, from my current perspective.

When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

Helen Keller. So many times she has been defined by her ‘dis-ability’ but I do not see it that way. We all have something to overcome, there is no such thing as a ‘normal’ human experience, not that I have ever seen. What is normal is to struggle, then to learn to stop struggling and to realize that struggle is our pushing against what is meant to be, struggle is our attachment to control. When we release that we find courage-we embrace our power.

Helen Keller could not see or hear, so she used that to help others to see. She was the co-founder of the American Civil Liberties Union and an early supporter of the NAACP. She was able to teach us to see without our eyes, to see with our souls, with our humanity, to know what unites us instead of divides us…but to also see that all categories are constructs, they are not real unless we say they are, they hold no power we do not give them.

Yes, she could not see or hear, but she used that as her strength to become her superpower, she used it to climb up on the national stage and be heard in a completely unique way. She is the embodiment of what is possible when we stop seeing ourselves or others as dis-abled and instead see that what sets us apart is what is meant to be, not as a bump in the road but a stepping stone or perhaps it has to be both for us to grow into who we need to be, to use what makes us different as a foundation, a platform, a stepping stone to our highest potential.

I chose Helen Keller as I was myself labeled disabled as a child. I have ADHD, I was diagnosed at the age of 5. Back then I was seen as handicapped someone to be tolerated more than understood. I chose to see my neurodivergence as super powers instead of disadvantages, it has served me well.

Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?

Being told it is impossible is the story of my life. I am neurodivergent and have spent the last 13 year of my life working through complex PTSD. If this was an outline, we are only hitting roman numerals here. That doesnt even begin to define all that I was told would keep me from doing anything worthwhile with my life. My whole life has been about finding my voice and not letting others or the trauma I was subjected to as a young person define me or hold me back.

A long time ago, for reasons that will become more apparent as you read on, my hyper independence (a trauma response) protected me in many ways, from holding onto other people’s thoughts and beliefs about me, past my mid 20’s. That is when I began turning off the path that was decided for me and started forging my own. I grew up rather conservative evangelical Christian, my life was literally constructed by no. Living the life I wanted for myself was impossible for a litany of reasons — which I no longer give my power to. So really the answer to this question is the length of a book and a fascinating one at that but for now, I make it a habit of addressing the ‘energy’ of impossible, right there in the moment. I want to make sure I do not allow the energy of anyones words, even my own, to go unanswered, to take up any space in my life because fear of the impossible took up way too much of my life already.

Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?

One that comes to mind is design school. I knew I wanted to be an interior designer. I knew it was part of my purpose. I had spent my childhood and youth, imagining myself and designing my way into a new reality, even if it only existed inside the walls of my bedroom. My first two semesters in design school it quickly became clear I was behind. I did not go to a prep school that prepared me in any way for being an interior designer. To save money I had gone to a really incredible local county college and then transferred to Philadelphia University (now part of Thomas Jefferson University) in what was my 4th semester of college but was my first semester of design school. So things felt a bit out of order and I was playing catch up from the beginning both as a young adult person and finding my way through college having transferred mid year. Being hyper independent, not knowing any other reality, I nearly failed out of one of my core design classes, design three. I took design three my second semester at design school having taken design one in the spring and two over the summer. I was getting a C- and you had to get a C+ to be considered to be passing the class.

The story of that semester goes like this: the day before classes started that semester, my first love died following complications from a motorcycle accident. A month later, from grief and exhaustion, I had nearly cut my thumb off with a table saw and had to undergo multiple surgeries to repair it. To say that this moment, to be hyper independent was in no way going to get me through is an understatement. I was falling apart at the seams. I somehow pulled a rabbit out of my hat, redid two of my design projects in two weeks over winter break and passed the class but I was still falling apart and behind in certain skills and I had no idea how to find the knowledge I was lacking, to absorb and implement it.

The next semester I had a different design teacher, Lisa Phillips, she saw me struggling, I do not know that she knew the whole story but she did not have to. She pulled me aside and gave me advice and told me I could do it. It was the first time I truly felt like someone cared the way I needed and was supporting me when I really needed it and in the way I needed it. I felt seen and it changed everything. I had her as my design teacher many times over the following semesters and in my Thesis Design class. At my final critique she stood up and made a point of saying that she was incredibly proud of me that I had gone from someone who struggled immensely to someone who was now top of the class. It was her support and her caring that really gave me the strength I needed to make it through and to come out on top. There are untold depths inside of us, sometimes we just need someone to hold up a mirror to remind us and to hold our hand while we find our way to those depths. Lisa was that mirror. Resilience comes from inside and it is bolstered by the people who we surround ourselves with.

How have you cultivated resilience throughout your life? Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?

As I mentioned above my childhood was in many ways defined by trauma. My hyper independence became a reality at three because that is when I suffered my first sexual trauma at the hands of my babysitter’s son. It is my earliest memory. He was living inside his own abusive household, his father was an alcoholic, much like mine. Like energy attracts like energy and my parents surrounded themselves with people who were like them.

My second sexual trauma was suffered at the hands of my father at the age of 15. He sexually molested me, I was able to get away and locked myself in my room with the cordless phone until my mother came home. I did not tell her for three years. I was told I would be responsible for the end of their marriage if I told my mother and Biblically divorce was not an option.

I was 18 and in my first semester of college when I told my mother. She believed me and confronted him but she did not leave, she did not believe that she could. She reached out to our church at the time for help and assistance and they told her that she needed to submit to her husband. And she had tried to leave him before. Her parents had refused to help and she had worn out her welcome staying with friends to get away from him when we were kids. To make matters worse, she had been the financial backing of our family for most of their marriage and an attorney had told her she would have to pay him a substantial amount of alimony because it was his word against hers and mine about the abuse and since it could not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt in court, the court would not consider it if she left him. He did eventually leave when I was 24 and she did end up having to pay him alimony until he remarried several years later.

There have been many other difficult moments in my life. Going through these moments and so many others was constant pressure…there were times where I begged and cried for God to release me that I was being crushed under the weight of the darkness in my life. Somehow I found a way to the bright spots that kept me going — but not everyone does. I think a huge part of what saved my life was protecting my siblings. I could not leave them to have to take on this world by themselves so I convinced myself it was my job and in many ways it saved my life. Sometimes we have to hold onto what little we can for dear life.

When there are difficult moments in my life now, which in no way look like my early life, I remember what I have already come through. I have overcome so very much and the strength, beauty and wisdom I found along the way has forever shaped me into who I am today. For me I have come to recognize that life is painful — and that is not a bad thing it reminds me I am alive, grounds me in joy and signals growth. I also realize that just because life is painful does not mean it has to be a struggle and we do not have to do it alone. Struggle comes in when we refuse to accept what is, when we are attached to our life fitting another narrative. It is not until we accept our life as it is, that we can truly choose a different path and design a different future for ourselves, and more often than not we cannot do it alone. For me it is not about smiling through the pain but leaning into what the pain can teach me, how I can grow through it and become more courageous and resilient through it. So I choose my life every day and design an ever more beautiful life along the way.

Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.

Let yourself be seen and loved. Allowing myself to be seen, even a little, in a way that I still felt safe, is what allowed my college professor to provide the support that helped to change the trajectory of my college experience and arguably of my life. If I had not let her see me and take her advice and know that she gave it from a place of genuine care, I most likely would have failed out of the program and my life would be on a very different path, not necessarily bad but certainly different.

Ask for help. There is so much courage and vulnerability required to ask for help and the key is hopefully having access to someone who can help. What I have found, more often than not, is when I allow myself to believe that help can be found, it is, but I cannot see it until I allow myself to be vulnerable enough to let it in. There are many times where I waved off help even in small ways in my life and have been hurt because of it. Asking for help is not admitting weakness, if it were, it would be easier to ask for and accept help. Asking for what we need is a recognition to ourselves and to the world that we matter and we get to take up space in this world. Asking for help is incredibly difficult until we develop a practice around it-I am in many ways still working on this practice.

Find something to believe in. I know, in the deepest parts of me, that my faith in God and the Universe is what saved my life. I no longer am a part of religion but God is such a magnificent part of my life. To know in the deepest parts of me that we are all connected, that we are all a part of one another and a larger collective purpose is what has given me hope in some of the most difficult moments in my life. Finding your own faith is important. What has also helped me is to let go of labeling things good or bad or evil but to see each moment and each person as something or someone I can learn from, this has transformed my understanding of my connection to God, myself and others.

Know you have a purpose-your story can have a purpose. I think so often we think our purpose will strike us like lightning and it will be this transformative moment. For me it didn’t happen that way. I kept living my life and taking steps in the direction I thought was best for me to move in, with what knowledge I had at the time. Many times, I have gained more knowledge along the way and changed directions. Somewhere along the way I realized I have been heading toward my purpose without even knowing it. For me, my purpose, in its simplest form, at least at this moment in my life, is empowering people to design their lives and in so doing, find joy. What I also realized is that, I think I have chosen my purpose, I always headed in the direction that felt most connected to empowering my life story to be used for good in a way that aligns with my creativity. You can choose to give your life purpose, you can choose to allow your purpose to grow and change as you do, it is entirely up to you.

Maybe you are not strong enough but you can become strong enough. There have been too many times where I was not strong enough to move through a moment. Moments where I was nearly crushed and I think, at times, I was crushed. Somehow, someone would see just a small bit of me and come remove enough of the load that I could get back up again and gain some serious muscle along the way. Letting yourself be seen and loved, asking for help, finding something to believe in, and knowing you can give your story and your life purpose are the ways in which we build our resilience muscles so we become strong enough.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would love to inspire a movement of reconnection to boredom, curiosity and play. I think it would be great to set aside time in our lives to put aside technology, on a regular basis, lean into boredom and find a world of possibilities, of listening, learning and creativity — to learn through play. There are so many studies that have been done that relate boredom to creativity, imagination and play. We have, in many ways, relinquished our ability to tolerate boredom and to understand what beauty comes of it. I have hope that we are headed to a place where we once again make time to listen to our deeper wisdom and allow it to lead us back to curiosity and play.

We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂

Ava DuVernay, she is an amazing storyteller. I love spending time with people and their stories and I believe she does as well. Through her story telling, she has taken us to places we needed to go even though it was at times difficult. She provides a depth of understanding that only well told stories can take us to. I also love that her path to writer, producer, director, is not so linear and I believe that, perhaps, is a huge source of how she is able to relate story to us the way she does. I am curious about the places our conversation(s) would take us, where our minds would wonder.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

There are so many things that I am working on both individually and with my company, Concinnate. You can check out the website, there is a page dedicated to what I am working on personally including podcasts I have been interviewed for and articles I have written. Also, please subscribe on our website as I am working with my team to revamp the way we interact with social media and focusing more on sending out a single email each month, in an effort to limit the noise we are adding to people’s lives. You can also get the links to just everything on Linktr.ee.

https://www.concinnate.world/
https://linktr.ee/CONCINNATE

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

Author(s)

  • Savio P. Clemente

    Board Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), #1 Best-selling Author, Syndicated Columnist, Podcaster, and Stage 3 Cancer Survivor

    The Human Resolve LLC

    Savio P. Clemente coaches cancer survivors to overcome the confusion and gain the clarity needed to get busy living in mind, body, and spirit. He inspires health and wellness seekers to find meaning in the “why” and cultivate resilience in their mindset. Savio is a Board Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), #1 best-selling author, syndicated columnist, podcaster, stage 3 cancer survivor, and founder of The Human Resolve LLC. He has interviewed notable celebrities and TV personalities and has been featured on Fox News, The Wrap, and has worked with Authority Magazine, Thrive Global, BuzzFeed, Food Network, WW and Bloomberg. Savio has been invited to cover numerous industry events throughout the U.S. and abroad. His mission is to provide clients, listeners, and viewers alike with tangible takeaways on how to lead a truly healthy, wealthy, and wise lifestyle. Savio pens a weekly newsletter in which he delves into secrets to living smarter by feeding your “three brains” — head ?, heart ?, and gut ? — in the hope of connecting the dots to those sticky parts of our nature that matter to living our best life.