Overcoming fears of perfectionism as one pursues a dream with Sue Ruhe


October 1, 2021


Sue speaks about her journey from dancing at a young age, while competing in Highland dancing to becoming an RMT (Registered Massage Therapist). She also talks about overcoming fears and life’s expectations that cause a sense of perfectionism as one pursues a dream or career. She emphasizes the importance of tapping into one’s higher self and listening to one’s intuition or soul, while on such a journey.

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Overcoming fears of perfectionism as one pursues a dream

Who is Sue Ruhe?

Susan Ruhe is a BA and an RMT. She is an intuitive, myofascial release therapist, who taps into the physical and emotional traumas that lie deep within ourselves. She has been evolving her practice for over 15 years, helping her clients shift restricted areas found within the fascial matrix, to create more fluidity and alignment with the body. In doing so, she has been able to help her clients overcome the anxiety and trauma that they unknowingly hang on to, so that they can move beyond it. In 2020, when she was locked out of her beloved career, she transitioned into a virtual space, where she now teaches and guides clients on how to access their fascia system using their own hands.

Sue lives in London, Ontario in Canada, with her partner Jarrett and their daughter Avalina. She was recently published in a book called ‘The Great Canadian Woman She is strong and free’. She is the co-host of the Everybody holds a story podcasts and the collaborative book project. Ultimately, her mission is to help guide the next generation of humans in understanding and loving their bodies.


Susan Ruhe’s story.

Dancing was a huge part of my life; 20 years growing up. First of all, I was a competitive Highland dancer and I’m not even Scottish. That’s where we wear the kilts and dance over swords in the hot sun. They are very rigid and controlled movements in every dance like the Fling and Sword of truth. They all have their own set steps in a book, whereby you learn and perfect them. We would compete in the summer at the Highland games.  I grew up in Ontario and there were a number of Highland games that happened throughout the summer, usually on a Saturday, with bagpipes, caber toss, and all of those fun events as well. I started when my mom threw me in to dance with my cousins who were a bit older than me. When we were three, it was just an extracurricular and I just sort of gravitated towards Highland, throughout my younger years.

I was with my cousins who were doing it too, so it was sort of like little Susan literally following in their footsteps. By the time I was six or seven, my dance instructor who was great, knew that I could be really great at it. She was more of the performance side of things; less competitive, let’s perform, have fun and nothing has to be very perfect. I started competing around seven and by nine, I was at the highest category to compete. The categories are primary beginners, novice, intermediate and open.  I was in the open category at nine years old, just stayed and eventually started making money at 15. Every couple of Saturdays in the summer, I would be competing on stage in the hot sun with many other beautiful dancers alongside me. For those who don’t know what Highland dancing is, it’s a very symmetrical dance; arms are strong, legs and leaps are very controlled.

Looking back, I feel like that type of structured dance, physiologically in my body, helped me to stay strong and symmetrical. Now that I’m playing golf, it’s like my body wasn’t meant to whip around like that. My instructor gave us very many opportunities. We went to Scotland and competed around the whole country for about two weeks. I did that when I was 21 and I’m glad I did it later in life, so I could appreciate more of the land and that culture. Even though I’m not Scottish, I’m Dutch and Irish, we still did an Irish jig, which I now know how to do. We also performed at Disney World. I loved that performance side versus the competitive side, as well. It kind of was a good balance grant.


Outcomes of being in a highly competitive environment

I think expectations are a big one, where I had held a lot of expectations for myself. Looking back at my dancing career, if I didn’t win even a bronze medal in a competition, I would be very upset and disappointed in myself. There was a lot of negative self-talk growing up, so moving through that and at least having that fun performance side, helps to balance that for me. It could have gone a totally different way. As I became an adult and living on my own, those sorts of expectations in terms of school and jobs, now in my career that high expectation of myself and what I’m capable of, come through me a lot. I have had to do a lot of practice with giving myself some grace and realizing that there isn’t that perfection.


Journey of a recovering perfectionist.

It is said how; when we open ourselves up to possibilities of other things, instead of staying in that narrow lane, opportunities come to us that we aren’t expecting. A lot of my self-talk has played a role in my recovering perfectionism in terms of allowing myself to let things go. There is also letting things that I can’t control, slide and whatever that may be, in my parenting or my work. There’s a lot of power in resting and listening to our bodies. I don’t think I did that, or I was taught that, growing up yet it’s a very important skill which is always evolving and growing. I think that’s where I’m at right now. When So you think you can dance and those TV dance shows came out, I think I was in my twenties. When that show came out, I wished that this show existed when I was growing up, because I would have loved to audition. I would have loved to express my body in different ways because Highland dancing was very rigid.

I think about how much I missed growing up, just being very driven in this competitive Highland dancing. In grade eight, I asked my mom if I could try another style of dance, like jazz or ballet and she said no. At the time, I was mad but I think it was a financial thing for them and that was the reason they refused. I look back and I’m not mad at it. I remember being like I wanted to try more things, so I just wonder how that would have shifted. I am raising my daughter and she has been in dance, gymnastics, golf, basketball and all the things. I’m just encouraging her to try and it’s good for her. New things can really just show you different paths that you don’t necessarily know, especially when very young and learning a lot quickly.

Fear drives so much of everything that’s happening and even growing up. It is important to tap into our higher self or just start listening to what you can call intuition or soul and really feeling what is right for you because it’s different for everyone. Dropping that fear and just going for it, like look at you and your company right now. I would not have brought a massage therapy business, virtual last year because I would have been too afraid. However, when we begin to tap into that higher self, not the noise, fear or wrong path, we sort of run away from it.


Becoming an RMT

 I was sitting at a bank at a call center searching for a career. I have a degree in politics and I decided that I didn’t want to get involved. I knew that that wasn’t my path and I just wanted to learn about the world. I originally came to the university to be a math teacher but failed calculus. I was sitting at this bank and this is right when Google came out. I remember it was way before zoom, Facebook, and all those things. I knew I needed to shift and did not want to work for a bank for the rest of my life. What was Sue going to do? Massage therapy school just kept coming up and I wondered “What is this?” I have always been, even with my dancing career, stretching my body, always wanting to be active and strong. I, therefore, believe that that entire journey brought me toward massage therapy school because I just wanted to help others feel good in their bodies. I had never even had a massage before but I said yes and did the prep course. I didn’t have a science background so I had to take the prep course, which I loved. My physiology teacher that taught there, was so influential in this path that I will still hear her voice in my head. It was a two-year college degree and the school was right down the street from my house, so it was meant to be. I graduated in 2008, so I started in 2006 for that.

How facial massage releases trauma

I’ll start by explaining what fascia is. There’s that difference between facial-like face or fascia, which is something that nobody knows. I always feel like the weirdo because I’m the one meant to talk about it. Every single cell in our body, 37.2 trillion of them, is wrapped in the fascia. If you think about Saran wrap, like the glad cling wrap, which is really thin, it is connective tissue and mostly collagen, mostly water elastic. It connects every single cell in our body together; It’s the glue that holds us together from up into our brain cells, all the way down to our abdomen, feet, and everything. This system connects to every other system that we have; digestive, nervous system, cardiovascular and everything because it’s connected to every single step.

I didn’t learn this in school, but we had to take continuing education credits and I found John Barnes. He’s out of Arizona and he is like the guru, who would travel to different cities. Toronto, in 2008 July, I went to Toronto to learn myofascial release therapy. I was in a room with physios and chiros. I was just like a lone massage therapist and we learned this technique. If you’ve been for massage, normally they will have lotion or oil on their hands. This does not, so my hands connect directly to your fascia cells, which then connect to every single system in your body. Somehow I was guided to the abdomen through women’s C-section scars, those types of gallbladder surgeries, and stuff like that.

When I would access those areas, where scar tissue is just cement fascia, it would let go in other areas. Therefore, neck and shoulder pain, headaches, low back pain, hips, and feet are all connected to the abdomen. The majority of our fascia is housed in our abdomen so that it can keep our organs in. Those are very important to keep, plus we also make humans in there. As a dancer, our core is also very strong in there. We can also release emotions that we’ve held there, breathing is a big part of how our bodies feel good and a lot of us hold our breath. When we can let go of that fascia or diaphragm, the energy, the decrease in pain and all of those things are very systemic and all connected. Having this kind of treatment available to me when competing, would have helped decrease some of the pain. There was a pain in our calf muscles and I would often have that compartment syndrome or shin splints.

I am super fortunate because I’ve been someone who hasn’t had a lot of physical pain. Other than my emergency C-section, which was only nine years ago, I hadn’t even had surgery before. As I look back at my dancing friends, they would have low back pain, chronic headaches, and all of these things. Therefore, knowing that type of treatment, if that were to exist, would have helped a lot of people. In North America, fascia hadn’t been studied until 1991 autopsies. They would just scrape it away as if it wasn’t even a system. We could find it in Europe, Austria, and Germany because they began really studying it in the sixties. I’ve definitely read a lot from the early stages of the knowledge of it, but even right now, we’re just discovering the technology that we can see it. You can’t see fascia in an x-ray or an ultrasound, but only in an MRI and it’s not even perfectly clear. I think there is a disconnect in our education system because we don’t learn about our bodies unless we choose to. In high school, I didn’t even take an anatomy class, but I look back and we should’ve had a human body class. When we’re not faced with something that’s important that we should learn, we don’t really know that it exists.

My mom was 17, my dad, 19, and they were in a horrific motorcycle accident. They got hit by a drunk driver. My dad lost his leg from the knee down on his left side because his ankle was shattered and this was in the seventies. My mom spent a year in a body cast, shattered her pelvis, femur and all these things. They’ve never gone for a massage. I grew up watching my parents stretch on the living room floor because they had to, in order for them to feel good and exercise. They don’t really know what I do and they’ve never had my hands on them. That just goes to show that that mentality, like my parents, are now mid-sixties and didn’t grow up with these types of treatments, have access to it, not shown the importance of it or how they could feel. There’s way more, that goes along with that story with my mom and how much scar tissue in her body. I wish I knew what I knew when I lived at home and I didn’t, which is okay. It just wasn’t available and it still isn’t where they live. It is kind of a small town and friends that still live there, ask for recommendations. I can recommend a person, but inform them that they don’t do fascia work and it’s just a regular massage.

I’m very passionate about it because there’s just so much work that needs to get out there and people need to learn it, find a therapist that they love. Now that I’m virtual, I teach people how to do it with their own hands. We all, have hands actually, most of us. I had a client the other day and she’s a quadriplegic and I was like, “Rose, let me just see if you can do this!” She doesn’t have full function and she could, so even the quadriplegic client can do this. Because we can all access our abdomens with our own hands, for most of us, it’s a very guided, slow, and gentle practice because that’s what this work is. As humans, we think that deep tissue requires force and all these things, yet less is always more.

We now have these group spaces where we all meditate together and it’s just becoming fun to watch. It hasn’t even been a year since I started that business. When we can connect to our fascia, we can actually listen to our bodies, intuition, and soul a little bit clearer. The visions that come through are insane; we hold space after the practice and listening to the results and experiences that these humans are having during practice, blows my mind every time. Some shed tears, some laugh, some will have these crazy movies going on in their minds. I never thought that this would be what I’m doing now, but it’s amazing and I love it.


Advice to younger self

Listen to yourself, ignore some of the noise because that influences your decisions and movement. It doesn’t have to look a particular way. Movement and listening to what feels right with your body in terms of that movement is key. I wish I knew that earlier and it’s something that I work on now, when it’s my own sort of routine, whether that’s fitness or not. It’s not always running half marathons or bench pressing 150 pounds. Move the way that feels good and makes you happy.


Where to find Sue

 Instagram and then I’ll have my links in my bio. Everybody holds a story is a podcast I host with my wonderful business partner, Marsha Vanwynsberghe. That is now a collaborative book series. We are working on releasing a few books this year and for the hands-on virtual work and space, I have called it Grounding Foundations. I just had to or that kept tapping me because I kept wondering what this Grounding Foundations was. That’s my course, but that’s where everyone starts in learning how to tap into their own fascia. We have the global grounding community, which is open to you after you learn just the basics of the technique. Then I have a vision of 500 humans in a zoom room and that’s on the agenda this year.


Resources for Sue Ruhe

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There is a better way to pursue ballet at the professional level. Instead of dancers pushing beyond their body’s limits, there is a healthier way to train your body, your mind and your spirit to soar. To become the best at your craft, you must be healthy. The mentality of surviving to make a performance perfect is an old paradigm that needs to change. As athletes, dancers must thrive in order to shine and connect with their audience. This new approach, leads to fulfillment, strength and longevity. It allows you to give more of your heart and soul on stage, creating an unforgettable experience that moves your audience. And that’s the whole pointe.