Carmen Manea | Member Spotlight
Updated: May 13
Ambassador of WomenH2H, Founder of CM-CAMP Coaching & Mindfulness, Women Leadership Coach, Mindfulness, Emotional Balance & Self-compassion Facilitator, Diversity & Inclusion Expert, Public Speaker
I’ve started my career as a 15-year-old reporter at a local radio in Romania, interviewing students who were Olympic medalists. What is really funny is that I totally forgot about this experience until recently.
I love making fun of myself in a kind way, and thank God I moved from being self-judgmental to being self-compassionate. As fun and humor are an essential part of my life, there are quite a few stories here!
I love mountains and there is where I feel at home, with no worries but full of joy.
In 2008 I wasn’t even able to run 50 meters, but I was dreaming of hiking. So I’ve started running to become stronger! Ten months later, I finished my first marathon - Budapest Marathon (2009) and then Amsterdam (2015) and the Berlin Marathons (2019) The latter was very special to me because I ran to raise money for people suffering from MS, as a year before I had lived with the fear of being diagnosed, which thankfully was not the case.
In 2009, a friend invited me to climb Mont Blanc (4910m) and I said “YES”. I’m not sure that I was aware of what I’ve said yes to, but I was determined and I made it! In 2010, I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro (5885m) and only after 3 days of relaxation in Zanzibar I called my guide and we climbed Mt. Meru (4565m). Since then, there have been a few more adventures!
In 2011, I moved to Denmark and since there aren’t mountains here, I turned to water sports. I learned to kayak and dive. What’s crazy about it? I had an incredible fear of water - I am still a bit afraid - and motion sickness. A few years back I was throwing up 4m under the water. Yet, I was determined to learn, and now I am a deep diver, being able to go -40m.
What’s really funny about all these stories is that I’ve always been very sensitive, not strong physically. I learned though, that the power of mind can do wonders! And I’ve always said: “If I can do all these, everyone can do it!” A bit of the impostor syndrome here, but I believe that it’s all in our mind and mindset.
I am a real paradox – I love to be very active (as you can see) and have people around sometimes, and very still and on my own, at other times.
And a last fun fact about being still, this time: in 2014, I took my first 10-day silent meditation retreat – not allowed to read, write, speak, do sports… Just meditate. I was craving for a written page to read, and finally, my prayers have been heard! One day, being in the restroom, I found a package of toilet paper. I was so fascinated to read its label in 10 different languages :D
Carmen is an empathic and compassionate listener, aiming to create trustful relationships and a safe space for people to be themselves. She is inspiring and empowering the ones she is coming in contact with, through her skill of taking out the best in every person.
Carmen coaches leaders from global organizations, including the United Nations and The International Committee of the Red Cross, women (and sometimes men) who want to succeed authentically, to be resonant leaders and make a change in the world by becoming the change they want to see. Carmen also teaches mindfulness, emotional balance and (self-)compassion in organizations, from corporations to refugee centers. Her goals are to support people in reducing stress, be more (self-) aware, (self-)kind and (self-)compassionate, trust and stand up for themselves in order to move into the direction they want, live their dreams and achieve their purpose.
As a presence based authentic leadership coach and mindfulness trainer, Carmen works with organizations on diversity topics, allowing diverse groups and individuals to show up authentically and grow together. She therefore supports organizations to dial-up their value. Through a mindful approach to values, mission, vision, people, and stakeholders, she supports her clients to create a great workplace, where performance, well-being and meaningful relationships complement each other.
In a nutshell, Carmen is a leadership, mindfulness, EI, inclusion and diversity coach, trainer and facilitator, and a public speaker. Since 2015, she has been coaching people from more than 30 countries on four continents and spoke at different international events. After gaining 15+ years of business experience within companies as Coca-Cola, BricoDepot and LEGO Group, in sales, HR and Global Mobility, and a MA in Organization and Leadership, in 2015, she founded her own company, CM-CAMP (www.cm-camp.com), combining her business background with her mindfulness and coaching experience. She is certified by Co-Active Training Institute, ICF, Center for Mindfulness from UMass and Santa Barbara Institute.
As a recognition for her work and contribution, she has been conferred by Women Economic Forum the award of Exceptional Women of Excellence.
If we were to look at her passions, mountains are also a metaphor for Carmen’s life. She feels she is on a lifetime journey, trying to achieve her goals and dreams, going through ups and downs, heights and valleys, and never giving up to support herself and those she meets to live a fulfilled life. This is also one of the reasons her company logo incorporates mountains, valleys and the moon.
When it comes to the role of women at work today, what inspires you and what keeps you up at night?
I am really inspired by the fact that women have had an essential role in the success of our society since old times, yet they have been the ones “behind the curtain”. Men were more visible, while women were always making an impact without taking pride in it.
What keeps me up at night sometimes is that we can see this today as well. Women are making an impact in all industries, yet they are not as visible as men. This may be due to several reasons:
1. Men support each other more - there is still an unconscious bias that drives men to “vote” and support each other, as this is what is familiar for them, what they know, what they have been growing up with.
From old times, men have been seen mostly as leaders as they have been the ones fighting in wars and having the right to vote (even until recently), or being in leadership roles in different businesses, especially politics and religion.
As humanity is divided into male and female, it seems like it’s us, the women, and them, the men. We compare ourselves with them, we want to be equal and as good as they are. So we do all we can to demonstrate that. Sometimes even giving up to who we really are, just to be accepted or perceived as one of them.
2. Women are not supporting each other enough – unfortunately this apparent superiority of men, at least in leading roles, starts in the family. Mothers are the first ones who are teaching their girls to be quiet, sweet, not to stand up in front of their male members of the family, to “behave”, not to speak up, please everyone, play a role since they wake up till they go to bed. Unfortunately, this already creates a mindset of “I am not equal to men”, on one side, and on the other side strengthens the feeling that other women, who supposedly want the best for us, are actually not on our side.
In her research, Deepa Narayan heard many women saying: “I know only one woman trustworthy, and that’s me!” I have been speaking with a lot of women, most of them very accomplished professionals, and they said that along the way they were more discriminated against by women than by men. I am sure this is not because we have bad intentions, but because we see it as a way to protect each other, on one hand, and on the other hand, to compete with each other. This comparison comes from our own insecurities and self-doubt.
3. Ourselves – we could and should be our best friend, yet in so many cases we are our worst enemy. We are very tough on ourselves, try to be perfect because we are too afraid of not being enough, of not being accepted, liked, loved. We feel like an impostor and blame ourselves for all kinds of mistakes and failures. Maybe not many of us recognize it, but deep inside, we feel it many times. Most great women have been doubting themselves, even when they had great achievements.
Many women also give up on who they are to prove they are better than men. I’ve met many women who started to micromanage, being too afraid they will fail. Or adopting a male behaviour in the hope that in this way they will be seen as equal. They lose themselves, their values, their purpose in this quest of being better than men. Did it ever happen to you? For sure it happened to me. I had a few moments in my life when I asked myself “who are you?”
What’s your goal around that and why is it important to you? Why is that a priority for you right now?
Almost for my entire career, I have been working in male-dominated environments, and I felt like a fish in the water in those environments. Yet, at the end of the day, I am a woman, and I felt a strong call to support women to have the lives they deserve, to be themselves, to be recognized and appreciated to their true value, to be happy!
If we want to be respected and appreciated, if we want to succeed, if we want to be happy and fulfilled, we need to have the same respect and appreciation for ourselves. As Brene Brown was saying in “Raising Strong”: “How can we expect people to put value on our work when we don’t value ourselves enough to set and hold uncomfortable boundaries?” The strongest people are the most compassionate ones, those who accept their weaknesses while respecting themselves as a whole and setting their own boundaries and standing up for themselves.
My goal is to support as many women as possible to find their inner strength, stand up for themselves, speak up, set their boundaries, trust themselves, accept themselves the way they are, follow their passions, goals, dreams, live aligned with their values.
Women represent around half of the Earth's population and they play an essential role in the growth and development of future generations, both personally and professionally. We can’t afford to play small any longer. We deserve to stand tall and at the same time it is our responsibility to stand tall and to bring our skills and gifts to serve the world.
In addition, when men would see strong and valuable partners in front of them, women who don’t doubt themselves, who are not afraid of speaking up even if, at first, they might be met with rejection or judgment, they would start to shift their perspective. Men themselves would come and look for partnering with us. Men would be inspired!
What are the biggest challenges you’ve personally had as a woman at work? How did you try to overcome them?
The biggest challenges I personally had as a woman at work are very much connected with what I mentioned above.
As I was saying, with men it was pretty easy to work. We had pretty good collaboration. The only challenges I had were with a couple of closed-minded managers. They were disapproving of my way of working with my stakeholders and leading my team. I have always had relationships based on trust, mutual support and growth. Sometimes this was challenging for the Romanian leadership style 15-20 years ago, but I didn’t give up, and my leadership style has always reflected my values and interest in growing people and not in making them follow me blindly.
A big challenge, yet never named, was in the last 3-4 years of my corporate career. I do not have children, and this has been judged by most of my female colleagues and managers, especially those with children. In our society, and even more in Denmark, having children feels like a must.
Being a mother is part of your identity, is something you mention first in your CV. And women who are not mothers are silently discriminated against.
Nobody cares about the reasons, nobody cares about a possible pain and grief connected to this, nobody cares about maybe some moral reasons. If you are not a mother, you are selfish, not responsible enough, not caring enough, not worth it enough. I’ve never been told this directly, it has always been nicely wrapped, and it took me a long time to understand what’s going on. After actually meeting more women without children and talking about our experiences, I could understand why I was sometimes treated differently.
To this challenge, I could add the limiting self-beliefs I had, self-doubts, pain, the feeling of not being good enough from so many perspectives. I couldn’t speak up for myself, I couldn’t stand up for myself, as I couldn’t see the enemy, I was feeling somehow broken, even if I could not understand what was wrong with me.
Thankfully, in 2008, I’ve also started my mindfulness practice. And slowly, I could see that I had a voice, that I could stand up for myself, I could be who I am without fear of being rejected, but assuming any consequences that would’ve been. I was looking at myself and I couldn’t believe it was me speaking.
Everything got even better when I started to practice self-compassion. And this was about 10 years in my mindfulness practice, that I could finally bring more naturally self-compassion and compassion in my daily life. It is not perfect yet, and it will never be. But it makes such a difference.
Who or what would have made it easier? What do you wish you would have done then?
I wish I started my mindfulness practice when I was 5 years old. And I wish I had some mentors to support me earlier in life. I had an incredible leader, a French young man, who unfortunately tragically passed away a few years ago, who believed in me and supported me to grow so much, during and after working together. I will always be grateful to him for all his support, challenges and friendship.
Many women are overwhelmed by the constant changes at work, frustrated with conflicts or disheartened by office politics, drama and draining emotions. What have you done in the past to help you get through such moments?
Mindfulness, acceptance, compassion, courage, determination, calm, love and authenticity have been guiding me along the way. Change is the only constant in life. It’s difficult to be prepared for everything that might happen. It’s difficult to have control over everything. It’s difficult to predict the future. This might be challenging, disheartening, frustrating, draining. What we can do though is to choose how we respond to such situations.
In challenging situations, I encourage everyone to stop for a second, acknowledge the difficulty of the situation, allow themselves to feel what they feel, be kind to themselves, and see how they can respond in the best possible way.
Here we need healthy boundaries, trust in ourselves and others, responsibility, compassion and self-compassion. And we need to understand that we always have a choice! We don’t need to be victims, we can choose, even if this is not easy and it comes with responsibility.
I usually say:
We don’t need to change the others around us, or the entire world! We are responsible for only one person in this world – ourselves! If each of us tries to be the best person she/he can be, the most loving, caring, compassionate, responsible person she/he can be, then, without doubt, we’ll have a better world.
Why is it important for women to be surrounded by other women and what is the role we play in each other’s lives?
As I said, women represent around 50% of the world population. Imagine how it would be to have 3,5 billion people having your back instead of competing with you! 3,5 billion people supporting you to grow and to be the best version of yourself, even if this means being imperfect, vulnerable and failing sometimes. Imagine how it’d be to start supporting each other since early childhood!
I think trusting ourselves and supporting each other are the most important roles we can play in each other’s lives.
Personally, I’m committed to support each and every woman I meet, in ways that might be visible or less visible. I will bring calm and passion, courage and vulnerability, presence and compassion, curiosity and determination, I’ll hold a safe and non-judgemental space for us, I’ll trust and encourage, I’ll be their mirror while being my authentic self.
And when I fail, I’m determined to continue on this path, and I hope you will support me in this journey. Because I believe in us.
As Marianne Williamson said:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
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