Self-Limiting Beliefs

Self-Limiting Beliefs

Self-Limiting Beliefs

The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast with Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Music Credits: “Gaga” by Julian St. Nightmare

How to Overcome Your Limiting Beliefs

What you believe about yourself holds so much power. But it's easy to get tricked into believing the devil inside — your self-limiting beliefs. Self-limiting beliefs are so dangerous because they often masquerade as “truth.” But buying into them only creates pain, and damages your self-esteem, your career, and your relationships. On this episode of the podcast, I'm teaching you how to identify your limiting beliefs and overcome them.

The Devil Inside — Self-Limiting Beliefs

As a Denver therapist and online life coach, I work with clients to overcome their limiting beliefs and tap into new and healthier beliefs that support the lifestyle they actually want to live. And I know that this work isn’t easy. Our beliefs hold so much power. Beyond our external circumstances, which we sometimes have no control over, what we think and believe can dictate the paths we take. We have so much freedom and control over our choices, and we can make decisions that will help us grow and thrive in every area of our lives.

However, we may forget the power we hold because of the insidious little devil inside us: telling us that something’s impossible by virtue of us not being good enough. Alternatively, we may have these personal rules that govern our everyday lives. While functional, they may not really be serving our highest good. It’s time to reexamine these self-limiting beliefs and open yourself up to the possibilities outside of the space you’ve boxed yourself into.

In this episode, we’ll be unpacking self-limiting beliefs and their effects on our lives. We’ll start by highlighting why it’s important to be aware of these oftentimes unconscious beliefs. Then, we’ll give several examples of self-limiting beliefs. Finally, we’ll map out the steps to identify, examine, and shift these beliefs so that you can live a happy and fulfilling life.

If you want to learn how you can grow and affect positive change in your life, then tune in to this episode! 

In This Episode: Self-Limiting Beliefs, You Will…

  • Discover the power of your thoughts and beliefs and how they contribute to positive change and growth.
  • Uncover the reasons why your thoughts and beliefs can hold you back.
  • Learn what self-limiting beliefs are and how they impact your self-esteem.
  • Understand that self-limiting beliefs can be challenged and shifted. 
  • Find out why emotional safety is necessary for growth.
  • Identify examples of self-limiting behavior.
  • Learn how you can overcome your self-limiting beliefs.

Self-Limiting Beliefs

The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast with Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

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Self-Limiting Beliefs: Episode Highlights

Why It’s Important to Be Aware of Your Self-Limiting Beliefs

While external circumstances in our lives can prove challenging to our journey towards personal growth and positive change, we often struggle more with the subconscious limiting beliefs we hold. These devils inside of us bombard us with a toxic inner narrative. They tell us that we’re not good enough, why something won’t work, or why we can’t do something.

Although these self-limiting beliefs don’t have a basis in truth, they can still hold you back. They keep us from thriving and growing into what we were meant to be. Because of these self-critical thoughts, we can think that there is no path forward. Now, don’t be discouraged. It may take work, but you are entirely capable of recognizing and challenging your limiting beliefs. Once you shift your limiting beliefs or incorporate new beliefs, you’ll find that there actually is a path forward.

What Are Limiting Beliefs?

Can you think back over your life and pinpoint a time where you could have done something that you were genuinely interested in and might have always wanted to do – but you didn’t? Chances are, a big part of why you didn’t take the chance is because you mentally set yourself on fire. You identified many reasons why that amazing opportunity wouldn’t work out for you… and that caused paralysis. This negative stream of self-talk and self-criticism held you back from even trying.

However, the “could-haves” aren’t even the worst of it: limiting beliefs can even burrow themselves into our day-to-day lives. They come in the form of expectations of how we should be and how we compare ourselves to others. The narrative can look a lot like the following: 

  • I need to be perfect.
  • I need to have friends, success, and certain personality traits.
  • I didn’t get the results I wanted; therefore, I’m a failure.

Here, we can see that self-limiting beliefs are tied to self-esteem. At the core of low self-esteem are these highly negative self-limiting beliefs about who you are and how that compares to what those self-limiting beliefs tell you you should be. Can you relate? We’ve all experienced self-limiting beliefs holding us back from time to time. It’s time to change that. 

Overcoming Limiting Beliefs

In essence, self-limiting beliefs tell you that you’re not good enough now and that you can be better. This may sound like a positive thing. But don’t be fooled. Beating yourself up and criticizing yourself isn’t helping you. It’s actually limiting your growth.

Instead of being overly self-critical, try creating a space for emotional safety through self-compassion. This can look like: 

  • Supporting yourself in difficult moments.
  • Having compassionate understanding for why you do the things you do.
  • Honoring your feelings, needs, and rights.

As you learn to hold space for emotional safety, you also foster a growth mindset. You learn how to love yourself even if you sometimes experience non-ideal outcomes.

The Power of Belief

Aside from impeding our growth, self-limiting beliefs also impact how we connect with others. If you feel as if you’re not worthy of love, you can end up being hyper-vigilant in your relationships. You may also tend to reject others before they can reject you. After all, you believe that they’ll do so eventually.

We’re all vulnerable to self-limiting beliefs. We all have these rules about what should happen and what needs to happen. And once you have set an idea of what’s possible and what’s not, it’s difficult to veer away from those beliefs. That’s why it’s important to build relationships with others that can help you see things more clearly. As friends, family, and coworkers challenge your beliefs, you may begin to realize that your “truths” aren’t necessarily the same truth for others. It's also for this reason that life coaching is valuable – working with a really good life coach can provide you impeccable insight into your self-limiting beliefs and what you can do to overcome them. At some point, we need to have a mirror held up to us so that we can take a look. This mirror allows us to rethink our beliefs and challenge the belief’s truthfulness.

How to Overcome Your Limiting Beliefs

The first step to overcoming limiting beliefs is being aware of their existence. 

Step two is understanding the self-limiting belief’s function. These self-limiting beliefs may seem ridiculous as you examine them. However, if you want to overcome your limiting beliefs, it won’t do you any good to dismiss them or get mad at them. Acknowledging that these beliefs have a function and uncovering what that role may be can help you overcome them. Oftentimes, these self-limiting beliefs serve a protective function. 

Identifying Your Limiting Beliefs

Say someone gives you advice about something you’ve been complaining about. You may be inclined to argue or become indignant. Instead of insisting on your idea, take the feedback in and think about your reaction to others’ advice. Your reaction may be because you have a limiting core belief that was put in the spotlight. Others may see the possibilities that you either don’t see or that you feel is impossible. 

Another indication that you have a limiting belief is when a thought or idea leads to: 

  • Inhibition
  • Paralysis
  • Inaction
  • Feeling trapped
  • Feeling like you can’t move forward

When we are in this space, we actively think about the impossibilities or the negative outcomes that may come about. A common example of this is saying that you don’t have time to exercise regularly because of your circumstances. However, we all have 1440 minutes in a day to do as we wish, and when you realize that the choices you make and what you prioritize play a role in your circumstances, you can start to make real, lasting change.

The dynamic then shifts from “I can’t” to “I am making different choices.” At the end of this reflection, you may still choose not to exercise. What’s important here is the choice. You bring back power and personal responsibility to yourself.

Finally, any idea that makes you feel bad about yourself is a powerful core belief that leads to an emotional spiral. If you understand the driver of this negative internal dialogue, you can create space for a kinder, more helpful one. 

It’s important to note that it takes hard work to unpack your core beliefs, figure out their functions, and find a way to shift them. This is where a good therapist or coach can help support you traverse paths that were previously blocked.

Resources for Self-Limiting Beliefs

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[Intro music: Gaga by Julian St. Nightmare]

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: That is Julian St. Nightmare with Gaga, kinda reminds me of old Bauhaus, but better. I like it. I love to do a Halloween-themed episode every year, not just because it gives me an excuse to resurrect old gothy music or new gothy music. But because, I don't know this time of year, it's just like an invitation for you and I to dive in to some deeper, even darker, aspects of the human psyche together. 

Today, we're talking about something incredibly important for all of us, which is the devil inside. Yes, friends, self-limiting beliefs, and the havoc they can wreak on our lives, and how to manage them successfully so that they are no longer obstacles in your way. That's what we're doing together on today's episode of the podcast. I'm so excited to talk about this because unchallenged self-limiting beliefs are a major problem for a lot of people. So my hope is that by the end of today's show, you'll get some clarity, perhaps even some insight into your own self-limiting beliefs and also some strategies for how to work with them. 

If this is your first time listening to the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast, I'm so glad you're here. I am Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby. I am the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling & Coaching, which is a group practice with all kinds of extremely cool people. We have so much fun together. We do marriage counseling, relationship coaching, individual therapy, life coaching, and career coaching. Hence, Love, Happiness and Success. 

Every week I'm here in your ear, talking about hopefully helpful ideas and tips and strategies that can help you, support you rather, I should say, on the path of creating love, happiness, and success in your life. So I always want to talk about you and what is important to you. If you have questions for me or topic ideas for the show, please get in touch. You can track me down at growingself.com, on Instagram at drlisamariebobby. You can even send an old-fashioned email. You can even call us on the phone. Heck, we do answer the phone. So get in touch, let me know what's going on and what you'd like to hear about on the podcast. And thank you for being here today. 

Why It’s Important to Be Aware of Your Self-Limiting Beliefs

Let's dive into this juicy topic of self-limiting beliefs. First of all, we need to talk about why it is so important to be aware of your self-limiting beliefs. I've been a therapist for a long time, a coach, I have also been a human, and like seeing this at work in my own life, and what I have seen time and time again, is that the number one biggest obstacle for people that they really struggle to overcome on their path of personal growth or positive change or improving their relationship or pivoting in their career are not their external circumstances. 

Although things going on in our lives can be objectively challenging and very real, a much bigger issue for most people are the beliefs that they carry in the sight of themselves about who they are, and what is possible for them. And if the beliefs they're carrying are negative, or pessimistic, or tell themselves that they can't do it, or it isn't going to work if they try, or these are all the reasons why it's not gonna work out, they will never experiment. They won't take risks. They won't try to create positive change because they don't believe it's possible. Because of that, they remain very, very stuck in these old ways of being that are no longer serving them and also can feel like they are just surrounded by obstacles just hemmed in by a fence on all sides, not because they always are in reality, but because their self-limiting beliefs tell them they are. So that is what they experience. 

A lot of the work that I find myself doing with clients over and over and over again is helping them identify these self-limiting beliefs. Just even knowing that they're there is work because they feel true, right? These ideas that we're all carrying around like the world and us they just, they feel like the truth. But so to realize them, and then also learn how to understand them, and then work with them a little bit differently. It is challenging work. But when people are able to set aside or kind of shift some of those beliefs or incorporate new beliefs, all of a sudden, things that felt so hard, feel much easier than when it had felt like there's walls and obstacles all around you. All of a sudden, there's a path forward. And it's really amazing to watch that happen. 

That is my hope for you because the alternative is just so awful. If we do not believe that we can create better outcomes, or if we have all of the list of reasons why things won't work, we don't try. Instead, we just feel paralyzed. We feel stuck. Things feel hard. There is no path forward. And again, not because there is truly, literally no path forward but because of that devil inside, the story, we're telling ourselves and the self-limiting beliefs that go unchallenged. So it's a very real issue. And if you're on the path of growth, it has to be dealt with, sooner or later. We all carry these things. 

I'm glad we're here together today. I wanted to subtitle this episode, “the devil inside” because that is often, not like you're actually possessed by a demon, but that's kind of what it feels like when people first start becoming aware of self-limiting beliefs and this internal dialogue in their mind. Sometimes, I've had clients who are almost horrified when they're able to really understand the way that they have been talking to themselves, this inner narrative is quite toxic. It's mean to them. It's telling them about all of the reasons why things won't work, or why they're not good enough, or that they can't trust people, or bad things always happen. And it really can be very damaging. 

Again, it's a beautiful thing when people can understand what is happening because it is often subconscious. It is unconscious. Again, if we don't fully understand when something is happening, we do not have any opportunity to change it because you don't know it's there. It makes you feel bad. It influences your behaviors, but it's like this invisible force in our lives. Understanding what our filter is, what our personal narrative is, what that voice is, is really like three-quarters of the battle.

On the bright side, it is a battle that is winnable, not sure if that's a word, but you can be victorious over self-limiting ideas and beliefs and self-criticism when you are able to shift into a more supportive relationship with yourself and very intentionally create a more helpful and supportive inner narrative, a more personal narrative that has hope, an inner dialogue that is more positive or more helpful, but again, like more compassionate towards you. 

I don't want to lead you to believe that the opposite of self-limiting beliefs or difficult inner critic is swapping that out with a bunch of positive thoughts because that's not always helpful. What is always helpful is having a different kind of relationship with yourself, a relationship that's based on honesty, but also authenticity, and compassion, and compassionate support, but also reality-based support. We have to start being a little bit skeptical of our thoughts to make this happen. 

What Are Limiting Beliefs?

Let’s go into this a little bit more deeply. What are limiting beliefs? What does this look like in someone's life? I think that it can be helpful to think about… I think it's easier to see in other people sometimes than it is in ourselves. An example, and you might know somebody like this in your own life, but I know a person, mid-career creative type who had an opportunity to take a year away from their full-time job and focus entirely on their art. It's amazing. Maybe they could start a new business or do some freelance artwork. They actually had been doing some freelance design work that they had already had some success with. So, not outside the realm of possibility, but really this opportunity to live this, lifetime dream of living as an artist, and just being able to make art every day. That's like the holy grail for a lot of creatives. Right? 

They were given this opportunity and lined everything up, financially. They would be okay, objectively. Everything was alright, and they finally had time and space to pursue their art and just see what happened. And then, mentally, basically set themselves on fire, just torturing themselves with these self-limiting beliefs around, “I can't do this. I'm not talented enough. I don't have the right skills. This is a super competitive industry. There are so many people just like me. They're probably more talented than I am. I'm mediocre.”

Also, telling themselves stories about how difficult it is to get this kind of freelance work: “I'll be rejected. Oh, these people don't want to hear from me. They have hundreds of pitches all the time. I'm just another person bothering them.” But also going into: “I ruined my life. What did I do by taking this time off? This was terrible. My former coworkers are going to hate me. What was I thinking that I could even do this? I just ruined my career for nothing.” 

It's really bad, just this monologue of just really negative self-limiting beliefs, negative self-talk, self-criticism to the point where it paralyzed this person. They had this really cool opportunity to live the dream, but so bound up by what they are telling themselves about the situation, that not only can they not do any creative work, but it's just totally stuck of like, “Should I go back to my job? Should I try?” Just feeling so bad, not even being able to try to take some time and see what might be possible. I mean, it's just awful. 

I think on some level, we can all relate to that, maybe not in such a clear and dramatic example, but moments in our own lives when we've had chances or looking back could have done something, and we didn't. That’s often why is because of what we were telling ourselves about this situation. It is very inhibiting. It creates paralysis. We don't take action when we have that going on. 

Self-limiting ideas can show up in a lot of other ways. Certainly, when we have opportunities to try things or take chances, that's when self-limiting ideas can be activated, but even day-to-day, around our expectations for who we should be and how we compare to others. It's often some variation of this quite subconscious, but the narrative is, “I need to be perfect. I need to not make mistakes. I need to have all of these friends, or successes, or things going on in my life, or personality, just like, all of these things.” And any kind of anything, almost, can be interpreted as a failure or not quite good enough. “Somebody else is doing it better. I didn't get the results that I wanted; therefore, I suck.” 

When you go into the core of self-esteem, which we have talked about on other podcasts, you can go back in my feed and look at look for some of the self-esteem-related podcasts that I've put together for you. But really, that is at the core of low self-esteem are these highly negative self-limiting beliefs about who you are and how that compares to what those self-limiting beliefs tell you you should be. And it's so tricky. This is what really messes people up is that in these situations, self-limiting beliefs that tell you that you should be different, you should be better, you should be more, you should be… At the core of it, the message is, “Cuz you're not good enough the way you are now.” Right? But they're sort of this frenemy. 

You have this voice in your head that's telling you that you should be better or that you could be better. It’s like this weird mean-girl thing because it almost sounds good. It sounds like somebody is encouraging you to be better, to grow, to work on self-improvement, to attain these personal goals, right? It's easy to get tricked into believing that it's helpful to you, that it's motivating you in some ways. Sometimes, that is also one of the very sneaky, self-limiting beliefs that people are carrying without even realizing it is this idea that “Me beating myself up and criticizing myself is actually helping me. If I stop doing that, I'll stop moving forward. I won't be motivated. I won't even try if I stopped screaming at myself on the inside. I have to do this or otherwise, I will definitely be a failure.” It's like having this “friend” that’s super mean to you. But it's like your only friend. And somehow you've gotten tricked into believing that it's here to help you. 

Overcoming Limiting Beliefs

I am here to tell you that it isn't helping you. It is actually impairing growth. Because being self-critical, it's like having this bully, this abusive thing that lives in your mind. It's always putting you down. It's beating you up for not making mistakes or making mistakes. It tells you that you're wrong when you're too vulnerable. It tells you that you're wrong when you're not vulnerable enough. Anything you try, it's wrong. Other people are better than you. You don't know what you're doing. It's never gonna work out. If you've ever listened to other podcasts of mine, you'll know that this kind of internal hostility is essentially the opposite of what is necessary for growth, which is emotional safety

Growth is fertilized, it is cultivated through the opposite of self-criticism, which is self-compassion, and being able to support yourself in difficult moments, and understand compassionately why you do the things that you do, and honor your feelings, and your needs, and your rights. That kind of internal emotional safety fosters a growth mindset that allows you to try things, and take chances, and get up and dust yourself off, and say, “Okay, what did I learn from that? I'm going to try this again.” It’s like having this internal supportive coach, or a parent, or a real friend that is able to love you, and care about you, and encourage you, even if you make mistakes along the way. 

It's the voice that reminds you that that is actually how people learn, is by trying things and putting yourself out there. “What happened when I did this, and what can I learn? How do I support my growth, instead of beating myself up and feeling terrible every time I put my little head out and try something different, or feeling like I should already know this? Therefore, I'm not going to read a book or listen to a podcast. Because what's wrong with me that I don't know how to do this already, everybody else knows how to do this?” It's really just not helpful. 

If growth, I'd like you to imagine it's like this little, little leaf unfurling itself in the sun, right? It has roots in fertile soil. It requires warmth, and sunlight, and support, and hope. This kind of inner hatred, this mean-girl self-limiting belief thing is exactly the opposite of that. It's like walking up to that little leaf and just spraying it with bleach, or round up, or some kind of toxic, whatever horrible chemical kills plants. That’s the internal effect of really negative self-limiting beliefs on growth. It impedes growth. Because of that, that is why our self-limiting beliefs make it really impossible to move forward or to grow while they're active. 

Because when you have this list of really powerful, unchallenged, or subconscious, self-limiting beliefs, you will, A, feel like you're incapable of doing anything anyway. So what's the point? Or you will talk yourself out of everything. You will have all of these reasons why things won't work. “Oh, I tried that before that didn't work. I can't do that. It's going to be futile to try. Or it isn't going to end well. Or these are all the rules I have in my head about what needs to be happening for X, Y, Z to happen.” 

Sometimes, you might have non-ideal outcomes. That is a thing. When you have self-limiting beliefs, you will never find out what might have happened because you already know that it won't work. “Why bother trying? I'm not good enough. I can't do that.” And so these beliefs will just create so many obstacles, and hurdles, and rules, and complications, and things just feel so darn hard that people give up. They just feel so painted into a corner. “I guess this is my life.” Even though they want more, it's this inner experience that is just truly, truly limiting. 

The Power of Belief

The other piece here, though, that's important is that these kinds of ideas do not just make us feel badly about ourselves or destroy our ability to grow or create change. They also impact our relationships. When we have self-limiting beliefs, they are terrible for relationships because these beliefs will tell us that we are not worthy or lovable, which can make us feel very anxious about whether or not we're being loved and hyper-vigilant about what our partner is doing or not doing and what that means about us and their relationship with us. Or it can make us do other kinds of weird things, like reject other people before they reject us because they're going to. We've all seen that play out in people's lives. 

These self-fulfilling beliefs about ourselves, and what to expect in relationships can really become a self-fulfilling prophecy. We either wind up getting super reactive and strangling relationships to death, or we reject people and are so self-protective and avoidant that we don't even give people a chance. More on the subject, if you'd like to cruise back and listen to a podcast that I did a while ago about trust issues, and what to do with trust issues and relationships. It's a lot about that. In that podcast, though, I'm talking about the outcome of these self-limiting beliefs. Sometimes, to be fair, people have had legitimately traumatizing life experiences, or past experiences in relationships were really hurtful. So, that is definitely a thing that needs to be to be worked through. 

Many times though, these early experiences have become these beliefs about what I can expect from humans. And what is true about me that we can carry with us for many, many years into the future, and unexamined, unexplored, unchallenged. So we then act as if these things are true, these things that we are telling ourselves, the things that we believe are true, with sometimes devastating consequences to our relationships. So it's very important to examine our self-limiting beliefs in the context of our relationships in order to be able to ferret some of this out, especially if your goal is to have healthy relationships. 

I also just want to add, I'm going to out myself here, but we are all vulnerable to self-limiting beliefs. We all carry them. I am not talking about other people's self-limiting beliefs, right now. I am talking about your self-limiting beliefs. I'm talking about my self-limiting beliefs because we literally all have them. It was so interesting. I participate in a coaching group. I love coaching. I can't get enough of it. But I thought I'd do a group coaching thing for people who have businesses like me. In this one group event, we all… There's like five or six of us we’re sitting in a circle, a virtual circle. This was by Zoom but still was a circle. We took turns talking about a business issue, like a stressor or a pain point that we were having. 

We talk about the issue, and then everybody had the opportunity to get feedback from the group. This is a group of really, quite successful business people, people who really had a lot of good ideas and good guidance. And it was so interesting. Because every single person, I was one of the last ones, but I watched every single person talk about a problem they were facing, and the things they tried, and all these things that didn't work. And then, the group gave feedback. Every single person was like, “Yeah, but here's why that won't work.” Or, “Well, but with our system, here's what we do.” It was so interesting because they were all getting really good advice. And I just sat there watching this process. 

It was like every person actively repelling really good advice. And I realized, it was because they were clinging to these ideas about the way things should be, ideas about what was possible, and what was not possible. They had already pre-decided the outcomes of trying different things and had all these reasons why they didn't work. It was just fascinating. 

For one person, it was like, “Well, this is what we look for in an employee.” After, he'd been spending quite a bit of time telling us about the struggles that he was having hiring people, by the way. “So this is what we're looking for.” And so, ideas about maybe different kinds of people, or different personality traits, or different characteristics. He's like, “No, these are the kinds of people that work well in our business,” after he had just told us that it wasn't working well in his business. So, over and over again, and it was, for all of them, rules around, “This is what it should look like. I already know what it should look like. And so this is what I've been trying to do. It's not working. But this is how it should work according to my, my rules.” Right? These self-limiting ideas. 

Then the group, made its way around to me, and I told them all about my most stressful business situation, and they gave me advice. And I couldn't even help myself. I was giving them all the reasons why that wouldn't work in my situation. “No, my business is different. Let me tell you why.” I was like, “Ah, dang.” Could all of a sudden see it. It's like, “I, too, had all these rules that I was carrying in me about what should be happening and what needed to happen.” They were this kind, intelligent group was trying to pry these self-limiting beliefs away from me, and I could feel myself clinging to them, even though I, on some level, knew what was happening. But thankfully, after that group, which was so interesting, I was able to take some time and journal and be like, “Yeah, they're right.” But having those ideas challenged is difficult, but it's important. And that's the way it is, right? 

We all have these ideas that are just so deeply ingrained. They are baked in, and they feel so true that we can't even see them. We're like little fishes swimming around in tanks full of water that we have no idea is even there because it's the water that we swim in, right? It just feels like the truth. We're so close to these ideas that we cannot even tell that they are our truth, our specific, unique truth that is not actually true for a lot of other people. Other people can look at us and see that we're doing something that is not in our best interests. But we're just wrapped around these ideas. We’re intertwined with them without even realizing it. This is the power of self-limiting beliefs. I just wanted to share that because this, again, is true for everyone. We all have them. I wanted to come clean about mine, just so we can all be authentic. 

Let's talk about this, then. Because the problem with self-limiting beliefs is that we cannot see them very easily ourselves. Figuring out how to ferret them out, like coaxing a little animal out of the cave. Who are you? That's, again, a lot of the work. I think that that is one of the benefits of doing a group experience where you have people challenging you or having relationships with people who love you enough to be honest with you. 

Also, what can be very helpful about sometimes being in therapy, or I think, more commonly, life coaching with people like me, who have a more active approach, I don't think it's super helpful to just sit there and free associate to somebody who agrees with everything that you say because you don't get that feedback. You have to have a relationship with a therapist or a coach who cares about you enough and is active enough to challenge you and say, “Really?” Not like a checked-out one who just lets you go on and on, but a good therapist, a good coach will challenge you, and sometimes, that feels uncomfortable. 

I have been in that situation. I'm like, “What do you mean I'm not 100% right about everything? How dare you?” So I know, I know. But at some point, it's like we have to have this mirror held up to us so that we can take a look and really see what we are telling ourselves about particular situations, what we are telling ourselves about ourselves, and then have the opportunity just to think through whether or not these things are actually, factually true. I do this all the time with clients, just to help them gain that self-awareness around the beliefs that they're holding on to because you have to know they're there. 

Let's talk about examples of self-limiting core beliefs. And here's some examples of things that I have heard people say to me with absolute sincerity and straight faces. I have said some of these things, and I'm sure that you have, too. Things like, “I don't have enough time. I can't possibly do that.” Or “I cannot advance in my career unless I go back to school and get this very expensive degree. Impossible. There's no other way.” “There aren't opportunities for me to fill in the blank, meet someone, get a job, buy a house, whatever it is, in the town that I live in. Impossible. It cannot be done.” “All the good partners are taken.” Does that one resonate with any of you out there? “All the good ones are already gone. I can't trust anyone.” There's another good one. 

Here's one that can sneakily mess people up: “If I find the perfect person, then I will not have a disappointing relationship.” Or “If I had the perfect job, I wouldn't feel this way anymore.” Or “If I lived in this different place, then I would have all these different results. Everything that is not happening the way that I want it to is because of these circumstances. And if I change these circumstances, which I can't, because let me tell you all the reasons why. But if I could, then everything would be different for me. I would feel happier.” 

If you think back to the Love Your Body podcast I did a while ago with my colleague, Stephanie, we talked a lot about that really insidious, self-limiting belief that a lot of people carry around, “I will be happy when I am a certain weight, or a certain clothing size, or when I look a certain way, or when this thing happens in my life, or when I have a partner or what. Whatever it is, then I will be happy. But until that happens, I cannot be happy.” These are really difficult beliefs to get out. And they can be big beliefs, like the ones that I shared. They can also be small beliefs that are just creating garden variety annoyances, but enough of them that it can start to feel stifling. 

I've talked to people, “I can't cook if all of the dishes aren't done and put away, and my kitchen is perfectly clean. Therefore, I never cook. Therefore, I eat microwaved burritos pretty much every day of the week.” It's like the beliefs that are attached to why they can or can't do things like the rules. Really, really interesting. It may be worth if you wanted to, pausing me for a second and just taking a second to scribble down any thoughts that have just popped up to you, as I've been sharing some of my self-limiting beliefs or some of the things that I've had people say. There are many, many more. We can come up with hundreds of them if we had the time. But if any come to mind, just make a note. 

How to Overcome Your Limiting Beliefs

Sometimes, many times, again, it's not that easy to be aware of them. And that is the first step in overcoming self-limiting beliefs is that you do have to be aware of them. Step one is, “I am aware of you. I see you, self-limiting belief.” Then, that's step two, is understanding their function. And that can be really interesting because oftentimes, these self-limiting beliefs, they seem like they're just ridiculous when we look at them, when we can get them out in the open in the cold light of day. It's like, “That is not true.” 

Do not underestimate the power of a self-limiting belief because they are often very, very functional. They are serving a purpose in your life that you don't even know about yet. And that takes some exploration in order to figure out too, and not try to shut them down with some positive pep talk. But let's say, “Okay, let's get to know you. Why are you here? How do you make sense? Where did you come from?” Like really having a relationship with it. Because that is actually like the first step in practicing having a different kind of relationship with yourself is not being mad at yourself for having self-limiting beliefs, not being mad at that belief. 

It's like just this much more compassionate like, “Okay, I see you. I know you're there. How do you make sense?” It's just like this totally different way of approaching yourself and just having respect for the fact that they have been serving a purpose. Oftentimes, they're very protective, to be completely honest with you. So we have to do some of that work. 

Once it is making sense, then it becomes much more easy to shift into a different way of being with yourself, one that is potentially more open, more reality-based, and more empowering, moving towards that self-compassionate growth mindset that really helps you feel comfortable enough to take risks or take chances and helps you grow and develop instead of beating yourself up for it. Also, I think that really helps make you feel much more secure in relationships, which then, when you have a secure relationship that is reinforced that you are having secure relationships, and that tends to build on itself, too. 

Identifying Your Limiting Beliefs

So let's talk first, just a little bit about that step one. How do you know they’re there?  Because it is really like luring a wild animal out of a game. So here are just a few tips to help you, like the rustle in the bushes. Like, “Oh, there's a self-limiting belief over there.” Because again, they can be so, so easy to miss. But first of all, and this is one for me that I'm like, “Okay, self-limiting belief just got poked.” If you find yourself arguing with or getting defensive with someone who you haven't just been complaining to about something, and they have given you advice, or “What about this? Or try to approach it this way?” And you're like, “No, that won't work. Here are all the reasons why that won't work.” 

They have just poked you in a self-limiting belief of some kind. They see possibilities for you that either you can't see or that feel impossible for you. Because why? And this is the work of figuring out what that is like, asking yourself, “What is the reason that I am so passionately convinced that this won't work?” And I'm not saying that you have to take everybody else's advice. Maybe it's bad advice. Maybe it actually won't work. But if this is a pattern for you, this is just evidence that it may be a self-limiting belief at the core. 

For me, like my business group, I shared that my problem, this pain point was just a super slow progress on this huge project that we've been working on internally that has taken the better part of a year. This has just been a monster. And I've been frustrated with it. Some of the feedback I got from my coaching group was around, maybe my standards are too high. Maybe I am trying to do too much. Maybe I'm not delegating enough, and so, took that in. But I was like, “No, it has to be really good. And let me tell you why it really, really actually needs to be really good. And let me tell you why we're doing it this way. Because these are all the reasons why this makes sense.”

What I had so much trouble taking in was this idea that they were trying to share with me that maybe it's not bad to have high standards. I am a recovering perfectionist. So believe it or not, I am attached to my high standards. But that, maybe all of these negative outcomes that I had been envisioning, if it wasn't really good, if it wasn't perfect, maybe those weren't all realistic fears. And maybe there actually was a way to do this a little bit faster, or to do it in stages, or to kind of prioritize more important parts of the work just to get this out there, and then go back and continue working on it over time in an organized way. 

That's what I needed to journal through because I have this core idea, this self-limiting belief that things really do have to be like to some, very, very high standard, and that it's actually not okay for me to be slack about things or not do my very best. This would always happen to me in school. I would over-study. I would over-prepare. I would work too hard on papers. And then, I finally had to be like, “No, I am a B student. It is perfectly acceptable to get a B. I can get a B and be just fine. Lots of people get Bs.” And it helped me actually step back enough that not only did I feel less stressed out, and I got more done, I did what I thought was B-level work on my papers, and I still got A's.

That was the thing that I had to be reminded of by this group is that when I feel like I'm doing 80, or 90% of a good job, it is actually a good job. But my core belief tells me that it is not good enough. And that makes me do extra stuff and get obsessive about things that maybe I don't need to be doing. So that is what I needed to hear. But the initial reaction to that was a lot of like, “No, you don't understand. Let me tell you.” 

If you notice that happening inside of you, I would just like you to note it, and then just spend some time being like, “What ideas am I so passionately defending right now? And are those actually true? What would it mean if they weren't true, if I could actually get this project out the door much more easily than I have been telling myself is possible?” Or like the artist that I was telling you about, like, if she were to tell you about the struggles that she has, and you are to say, “You know what, this is a great opportunity. Use this time. Build up your portfolio. See about getting representation. Do some networking. Get listed on some freelancer sites,” like this is all very reasonable advice, right? 

But I imagine that she would say, “No, that will never work because I don't know some of these new digital design programs. And that is what they're looking for. So I am never going to get one of these jobs. So I have to go back to school and get a second master's degree in graphic design. And that's going to cost 10s and 1000s of dollars and several years. So thanks for the advice, but no.” That's what she would say. When we really unpack this and look at like, okay, so, the core belief is that the way you are operating now isn't good enough, and you need to do extensive additional education to make anything happen, this person has been quite successful without any of that, and many people in her field have been quite successful without those things. So it's possible that success is in the realm of possibility, right? Possible possibilities.

Let's just take a look about function for a second. Because if that were true, if she could actually just start making her art, and putting herself out there, and seeing what would happen, that would be incredibly vulnerable. I think me overdoing things is also managing my anxiety about not quite being good enough, right? If I put something major out the door that I feel is like 80 or 90% good enough, I have all this anxiety about, “Oh, it's not good enough.” So, me, like, “No, it has to be better,” I am protecting myself in those moments. I am obstructing all possible progress, but I am making myself feel better. 

There's an emotional function for these things. It's often around vulnerability, anxiety. There's this very protective function to a lot of our self-limiting internal beliefs. So that's one thing to pay attention to, like, “Who are you fighting with and why?” So there's that. 

Another indication that you have a powerful self-limiting belief in your life is any thought or idea that leads to inhibition, paralysis, inaction, feeling trapped, feeling like you can't move forward. Because when we feel that way, when we're not trying things, or we feel like we can't make a decision, when we crack that open, there are often all these reasons why, why I can’t, why this won't work. When we are in that space of paralysis and inaction, we're often actively talking ourselves out of doing things or narrating to ourselves all of the negative outcomes or all the reasons why it won't work.

Here's an example that I think, again, we can all relate to, the not taking action category of, “I can't exercise regularly because I don't have enough time. I can't do it. I'm too busy. Cannot do it. So I don't. I would like to, but it's impossible just by virtue of my circumstances.” So we are not taking positive action. And this is a simple example. But who hasn't said that to themselves, right? But when we look at what that's doing for us, and we also look at a more reality-based idea, which is, here's a new one, that when I actually first heard this idea, it was like, “Oh, my God, I felt struck by lightning, actually.” 

Because the idea is, the truth is that you and me and everybody else on this entire planet, including the most insanely productive, disruptive people in the history of the world, like Elon Musk, writers, musicians, inspirational leaders, everyone has, ready? 1440 minutes a day to do with as they will. We all have exactly the same number of minutes allotted to us on a day. And the only difference is that we are making different choices about how we spend that time. Sometimes, we are in circumstances that have been shaped by choices that we made a while ago that are now impacting how we are spending our time. But 1440 minutes are all of ours.

I read somewhere that Vladimir Putin, who I am guessing is a fairly productive person, for better or for worse, spends something like three hours a day exercising, like every day. So, how you choose to spend that time may be different. But what would change for you if you just begin challenging that idea of “I don't have enough time,” with this new idea, which is actually, “I have exactly as much time as literally everyone else in the world, including Vlad, and I am prioritizing spending my time doing other things besides exercising.” When you do that, it's an interesting dynamic. Because the power totally shifts when you change that language from, “I can't,” to, “I am making different choices. And here are the reasons why.” 

You could still totally decide not to exercise. “I would actually rather not exercise. I do not feel like exercising. I don't enjoy exercising. I don't want to. I would rather do something different.” But when we shift away from that self-limiting idea that tells us we cannot, “It is literally impossible, you cannot do that,” into a new idea, “You could if you wanted to.” All of a sudden, the spotlight of personal responsibility is back on ‘lil old us. And that is anxiety-provoking because you're like, “Crap, I guess I could exercise if I wanted to. And I don't want to. So, what does that mean about me?” So again, that's the function of all these rules and limitations, right? It's protecting ourselves in some way from the reality of our own freedom, which is not always comfortable. It isn’t. Empowering, but not comfortable. So that's a big one. 

Lastly, one other ringer that you have just stumbled upon a really strong, juicy self-limiting core belief that is doing all kinds of things in your life is pretty much any idea that makes you feel really bad about yourself. If you were just listening to what I was describing above, around: “Yeah, I actually don't want to exercise.” If, for you, that turned into this, “Oh my god, I'm not exercising. I could be. I should be. I have as much time as anybody else. What's wrong with me that I'm not doing that? Other people exercise. And clearly, they are superior humans because I'm not doing that. I should make it a priority. I'm terrible.” 

If it turns into that for you, that is a really powerful core belief of, I think, the worst kind, these self-limiting core beliefs that tell us about who we are and that who we are is not as worthy, or capable, or able to do things. That's the worst. Because when it turns into calling yourself names, and, “I'm a failure. I'm miserable. I have no motivation. I have no willpower, and I never will.” It just turns into this spiral of just bad feelings. Can you down the drain of just, there's so much to unpack here. 

One thing that I work with my clients around a lot is identifying these kinds of thoughts that lead to this emotional spiral that just makes people feel like collapsing, right, when you're in the grips of that internal dialogue, just laying on the floor. To understand really consciously the inner narrative that is driving that, then they have the opportunity to intentionally and deliberately learn how to treat themselves with more kindness, like more of a friend. It takes energy. 

To actively create a more helpful internal dialogue, which is, “Maybe there are reasons why I am not exercising. Part of me believes that I want to and that I should but, I know, from listening to Dr. Lisa's podcasts that we have many different parts of ourselves, and there are such things as overt goals that we are aware of. And there are also covert goals that we are not aware of, and just maybe, I have actually been achieving a covert goal through not exercising, which is actually the fact that I feel tired. I feel like I need to rest, sometimes. I feel like I just need to stop and just rest. Maybe I actually do need to be compassionate with myself for my need for nurturing, and quiet time, and rest. Maybe that's valid. Maybe there's a different relationship that I can have with that need, where maybe some of these things can coexist. Maybe I can get that rest, and comfort, and nurturing, and relaxation and just feeling calm for once, and also find a way to take care of my body, which needs me to move around a little bit sometimes.” 

Again, there is so, so much to unpack here. This is a huge topic. These ideas go very deep. Sometimes, highly entrenched, self-limiting beliefs can have roots in our earliest childhood experiences. And sometimes not. Sometimes, they are actually much easier to change than you would think they are once you know that they're there, and you have some new skills and strategies for working with them differently, and managing them differently. 

Just want to challenge one core belief that may be may be percolating inside of you, which is that, “Okay, now I have listened to this podcast, and I should be able to know how to do this from this day forward.” I would just like to say very, very authentically, that that is not how this works. People can and do often spend quite a bit of time in therapy and life coaching unpacking this, developing the self-awareness, these core beliefs, figuring out their functions, figuring out how to deal with them differently, and it's not easy work. 

It is very, very valuable work. Because once you really identify those and figure out what to do with them a little bit differently, so many things can open up for you. I've seen people really just feel like they break free from paralysis. They see it, doors that are open to them that they literally did not see before, or if they did see would never have dared walk through. And they can really begin to try things and start learning and growing, and as a result, have new experiences that confirm these new ideas and prove against those old core beliefs that they had been harboring. 

So once you get these juices flowing and start growing again, it's very common to have all kinds of new evidence that support the new, more reality-based, more compassionate ideas. Because when you try things, you'll find that is often the case is that things actually do work out, and they're not as hard as you thought they would be. And you can do so many things. 

We're going to glide to a halt, park this conversation. Thank you for staying with me, and I hope that these ideas were helpful to you. I hope that they gave you some direction and maybe even some things to continue thinking about or journaling about until we meet again next week for another episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast. Until then, here's more Nightmare St. Julian. I like these guys.

[Outro song: Gaga by Julian St. Nightmare]


Mind-Body Connection

Mind-Body Connection

Mind-Body Connection

The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast with Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Music Credits: “Darkest Days” by Fake Names

Mind-Body Connection

UNDERSTANDING MIND-BODY CONNECTION: Therapy is fantastic for helping you understand yourself and life coaching helps you achieve your goals, but if you’re on a path of personal growth it’s important to view your mental, emotional, and physical wellness holistically. For example, have you ever considered how your thoughts, feelings, and emotions affect your body? Conversely, have you ever observed how your physical health can sometimes impact how you're feeling, or even the way you think? 

Most people are under the impression that physical and mental well-being are separate things to handle. However, your body and mind are interconnected like cogs in a well-oiled machine — they inform and influence each other. When we’re feeling anxious, our breathing and heart rate speeds up, and our muscles get tense. On the other hand, when we're down with a cold, we tend to feel hopeless, helpless, and pessimistic. These effects show a mind-body connection.

In this episode, we'll define the mind-body connection, how it works, and why it's important. By understanding the mind-body connection, you can make remarkable changes to increase your overall wellness. 

If you want to know how to take control of your life and sustain a sound mind and body, then tune in to this episode! 

In This Mind-Body Connection Podcast Episode, You Will… 

  • Understand the mind-body connection and its importance.
  • Find out why what you eat affects your mental well-being.
  • Discover how your thoughts and emotions can affect your physical health.
  • Uncover what happens to your body when you’re thinking negative thoughts.
  • Identify how stress affects your mental and emotional health.
  • Learn things you can do to bounce back when you are feeling low and stressed out.
  • Find out actionable ways to achieve physical and mental wellness.
  • Figure out when you can help yourself feel better through changing your diet or behaviors, or whether cognitive-behavioral therapy or coaching can help.

Thanks for tuning in today. I hope that this episode helps you get clarity and understanding around the way that your mind, emotions, and body all interconnect, and how to use this self-awareness to help yourself stay well and balanced.

Mind-Body Connection

The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast with Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

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Mind-Body Connection: Show Notes & Episode Highlights

What Is the Mind-Body Connection?

How do your mind, body, and mood affect each other? 

As we expand our understanding of the human mind, we start to realize how much our emotions and feelings affect our bodies and vice-versa. 

An example of the mind-body connection is that as we approach the winter months, many people experience winter blues. As our bodies react to the cold and lack of sunlight, we may feel exceedingly melancholy. We're also less likely to exercise and get much-needed vitamin D, which in turn, can contribute to how we feel.

You have more control over what you think and feel emotionally and physically than you think. When you figure out how the mind-body connection works, you can expect remarkable results that will surprise you in many ways. 

The Mind-Body Problem 

While mental-oriented strategies you get from therapy are helpful, they do not always translate to dramatic changes

I learned this lesson about ten years ago when I had a client who was dealing with anxiety. We had been working together to address this problem and had tried different methods, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy techniques, mindfulness skills training, and self-care activities. However, nothing seemed to work until he went camping.

He felt less stressed and more organized. He was also able to practice mindfulness — he even went so far as to assume that he was cured. After a while, he went back to feeling bad. 

It was then that he shared how he goes through a six-pack of Diet Coke a day. And so, I thought about having a little experiment. He swapped out Diet Coke for something decaf and not artificially sweetened. The week after the experiment, he came back feeling better. 

Mind-Body Wellness

There is a physical component to our experiences. It’s easy to spend a lot of time, energy, and money trying to resolve what we think are mental health issues through talk therapy. However, my experience taught me that the way people think and feel have multifaceted causes. Unless we address the underlying issues in a person’s lifestyle that may be contributing to not feeling well mentally and emotionally, therapy may not be effective.

At present, I ask questions about the physical stuff that we can experiment on, especially when working with a new client who has mood symptoms. These changes have the possibility of creating a dramatic impact on their mood.

Conversely, a person's very real physical symptoms can sometimes be due to the following: 

  • What the person is feeling emotionally
  • What they are thinking
  • What they have previously experienced

Unless these people do deep work in therapy to think differently, manage their emotions, or resolve their historical trauma, the physical symptoms may not disappear.

Improving Mind-Body Wellness

The solution to making ourselves feel better can, therefore, be different than what we think it is. 

Whenever you are feeling low, tired, or stressed out, try out these simple tips in my shortlist: 

  • Consider having a physical check-up 
  • Assess your vitamin levels
  • Take care of your gut health
  • Stay hydrated

These tips can help you feel better — research shows that what you put into your body can boost your mood. For example, depressed mice had their intestinal flora altered. Just this simple change in their gut health made these mice happier!

Body Health and Mind

Note that if you are dealing with physical symptoms, it’s best to consult your doctor. However, if these symptoms come with anxiety, depression, and other related chronic illnesses, you may also consider talking to your therapist.

Now, you may go to your therapist because you think you have ADHD or depression. These conditions are real and valid. However, what you experience may sometimes point to other factors. For example, the medication in an asthma inhaler can create ADHD-like symptoms. Meanwhile, when you feel sick or are injured, your body’s natural response is to keep you in the house. You’ll feel tired, hopeless, and helpless. Are you starting to see the ties to your mind-body connection?

How Does Mental Health Affect Physical Health

Evolutionary adaptation has taught our bodies to be aware of threats around us. When we feel anxious, our bodies interpret this to mean that a threat is approaching. However, the older, emotional part of our brains cannot differentiate between real and perceived danger. So, when we feel anxious, our bodies let out a stress response. 

Furthermore, an interesting study shows that the bodies of people who worry more and experience more stress heal less quickly than those who don't. People who have traumatic childhood experiences also have several long-term health conditions. Our experiences, thoughts, and feelings do indeed change how the systems in our bodies work.

Healthy Mind and Body 

Over the years, I have discovered there are three things that have a huge impact on someone mentally and physically. These are: 

For me, sleep plays the biggest role in this equation. When you lack sleep, you go through physiological changes in your body that increase depressive and anxious thoughts.

Another thing you must consider is exercise. People usually work out to feel healthy, but some do it to change the way they look. I think we must veer away from this kind of thinking — love our body, regardless of its shape.

Another problem is that some people cut back on working out because they are too tired or busy. However, getting into 20 or 30 minutes of brisk physical activity a day can have significant beneficial effects. You’ll be more relaxed, have more energy, and improve the kind of thoughts you are having.  

Lastly, as much as sleep and moving your body are important, what you eat and drink are also big factors in your overall health. You can consult your doctor to see whether you are getting good nutrition, drinking enough water, and taking the proper medicine to help aid in your mind-body connection. 

Sound Mind in a Sound Body

Do not underestimate the power of the mind in changing the way you feel. The way we think creates our emotional reaction to everything. Nothing means anything until you decide what it means. And when you have control over how you're going to interpret whatever is happening in your life, you automatically have enormous control over the way you feel. 

Figuring out what’s in your mind is easier said than done. I suggest you try cognitive behavioral therapy or cognitive-behavioral coaching

Cognitive-behavioral therapy allows you to understand: 

  • How am I thinking? 
  • What are my core beliefs? 
  • What am I telling myself?
  • How do I intentionally shift that to feel better? 

Meanwhile, cognitive-behavioral coaching is best for people who don’t have any mental health diagnosis and just want to improve their mind-body connection. This is not focused on symptom reduction but on helping you figure out the different elements that influence what you are thinking and how you are feeling. It allows you to assess: 

  • How you are thinking and feeling,
  • How your mood state impacts your thoughts, 
  • What happens to your physical process when you’re thinking and feeling.

Resources

  • Subscribe to our website and other platforms to get updates on our latest episodes.
  • Check out the Love Your Body podcast episode with Stephanie Oliver.

Enjoy the Podcast?

Did you enjoy the podcast? What did you learn about the mind-body connection? How do you think these insights can help you take care of your physical and mental health better? Tell us by commenting on this episode. Subscribe to us now to discover more episodes on living a life full of love, happiness and success.

[Intro music: Darkest Days by Fake Names]

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: We are heading into the winter season, which can be a really hard time of year for a lot of people, particularly when it comes to the way you feel physically and emotionally. 

I know that you're listening to this podcast because you care about love, happiness, and success, right? If your goal is to feel happy, healthy, energized, to have good relationships, and feel generally content with your life, we need to talk about something very important and that is your mind-body connection. 

I know that that term has gotten kind of a bad rap over the years as being in the realm of questionable holistic healer people, no opinions there, but it is also very, very true that there is an undeniable relationship between the way you think and your physical wellness and the way you feel emotionally. That all impacts the way you behave. And they also all impact each other. 

The way you think impacts the way you behave. The way you behave impacts the way you think and feel. There's this very real interplay that is not understood well by many people, and then to make things even more exciting, there is a very real relationship between your physical health and what's going on inside your body and the way that you feel day-to-day in terms of your mood. Likewise, the way that you feel emotionally can have very, very real physical impacts on the way your body functions, so there is a lot here to talk about. 

Today, we are talking about mind-body connection and more importantly, how you can use the understanding that hopefully, you achieve through this podcast today to create actual, substantial, positive changes in the way you feel and as well as your physical wellness. We have much to discuss on today's episode, and I'm so glad you're here to join me. 

If this is your first time listening to the show, welcome. I am Lisa Marie Bobby, I'm the founder and Clinical Director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. My background, I'm a licensed psychologist, I'm also a licensed marriage and family therapist and I am a board-certified life coach, and I draw from all of those different realms to bring you hopefully helpful information every single week to support your quest for love, happiness, and success, and this show is all about you. 

If you have questions or topics that you would like to hear more about, don't ever hesitate to get in touch with me: hello@growingself.com. You can track me down on Instagram: @drlisamariebobby or heck, you can even call us on the phone. We do that too so growingself.com if you ever want to get in touch. Hey, special thanks also to my regular listeners. I was on iTunes the other day and I noticed that there were a lot of really nice new comments about the show, so thank you so much for leaving those and for reviewing the show not just to make me feel good, although I like that too. When you rate and review the show, it helps other people find this information more easily. You are supporting other people in their journey of love, happiness, and success, so thank you for reviewing it and for sharing these episodes to people in your life who could benefit from the same information that you receive so thank you. 

What Is the Mind-Body Connection?

Okay, so let's dive into our topic today: the mind-body connection, why this is so fundamentally important, and how you can change the way this whole thing works. You have so much control over the way that you think and the way you feel emotionally and physically that you might not realize. When you can figure out some of these mechanics almost, it's a bunch of gear cogs working together, it can really create remarkable results but in surprising ways, surprising ways that you might not expect. 

Again, it's essential that we're talking about this now. I'm recording this podcast as we are lighting into October, and this time of year, seasonal affective disorder is a very real thing for people in the northern hemisphere especially. I think there are a number of different reasons for this but not the least of which is that our physical body changes when it's cold. We might not go out to exercise the same way, we might not get enough sunlight which can impact your vitamin D levels. This can have a surprisingly profound impact on not just your emotional state, but the way that you think. I really wanted to give you some ideas and actionable resources to kind of arm you going into this so that you can feel good all winter long. 

The Mind-Body Connection Problem

I also wanted to share that the information that you might hear on this podcast today could be a little bit different than that which you may hear other therapists or people in my industry talk about. I have to tell you, I came about this understanding kind of the hard way, the humbling way, after more than a few years of practice.

I'll tell you what happened that helped me truly grasp the power of the mind-body connection and create a very just clear example of how, as a therapist, I had really been seeking to help people through the ways that I knew how so therapy and talking about things and then just had some experiences with clients that were like, “Oh, I really need to be paying more attention to these other aspects of life that are so dramatically important.” 

I think in my own career, there's been this, looking back, this progressive evolution in the way that I seek to help people. When I first went into practice, I was very excited about psychodynamic stuff and experiential techniques. I had clients in my office, screaming at therapy pillows in the chair and crying cathartically, which was all great. We had a fantastic time there, magical moments in the therapy room, but I realized that while sometimes that led to change with clients, it really didn't always. It was interesting and they're like, “Wow, I never realized that my father's criticism was so impactful.” They'd walk out but come back next week and things had not really substantially changed for them. 

I found myself going back to the drawing board, and being like, “Okay, so the things that I was taught in counseling school aren't always translating into actionable results for my clients and what can I do differently?” Over the years kind of evolved into more of a cognitive-behavioral lens, which has a ton of evidence-based really solid research to support its efficacy. But even then, I think that's really what kind of led me in the direction of coaching, is how do we move away from talking about this stuff to actually doing it and helping people move forward? That has been my kind of just progression and my own way of thinking about how to be helpful to people throughout the years. 

Something really important changed for me, this is probably 10 years ago. I had been working with a client, who I'm sure would not mind me telling you the story. He's fantastic. We were together for quite a while because he came in, and he had pretty serious anxiety. All the symptoms: very irritable, snapping at people, being kind of reactive in relationships, having a really hard time sleeping, would stay up half the night worrying about stuff, really worried about work, in particular, a lot of future thinking, a lot of what-ifs, a lot of catastrophic thoughts: “If I do this, then this terrible thing will happen.” 

Really, it was very rea,l and he felt very stressed out a lot, that cognitively super problem-focused. His relationship was suffering because of it. We worked for a long time on this, reviewing family history stuff or doing a lot of cognitive therapy techniques, cognitive behavioral therapy techniques, which again, have been shown by research to work beautifully. Mindfulness skills training, looking at helpful thoughts versus unhelpful thoughts, shifting into a growth mindset, some strategies to help unhook his mind from problem-focused thinking, ways to sort of self-soothe, self-care activities

We did all of it, and it helped a little bit, right? But not dramatically, and I was thinking, “Okay, well, maybe this is just an organically based mental health thing.” I'm not sure if he was on medication or not. I would need to look at my notes but thinking like, “Wow, this is very entrenched.” Anyway, we're seeing each other week to week and then one week, he came bounding back into my office and he was so excited. Actually, I hadn't seen him for a week. He had gone on a camping trip. I think it had been two weeks and he came bouncing back into the office and he was like, “Lisa, I feel so good. Everything is so good.” 

He was telling me, he's like, “You know, I had the best time on this camping trip. I slept through the night, I found myself just being able to kind of relax and hang out with my wife and have a nice time and nothing felt like it was that big of a deal. I really unplugged from work, and I climbed a mountain. It was so great.” He was just so happy. It had been a couple of days since he's been back and he's like, “Ever since I got back, at work even, I'm able to kind of keep myself organized and not overthink and I'm feeling less stressed out and I'm not feeling grumpy and angry at everybody.” He's like, “I am cured.” 

We were both excited and high-fived each other, all of these things that we had been working on just fell into place. He was like, “It's so much easier now. I can do those things that you've been teaching me how to do, like shift into better, more helpful thoughts and not catastrophize and remind myself, my mindfulness skills, and all these things.” It was so good so anyway, we were both so happy and it was like, “Success!” Then, he left the office and came back, and I think it was a week or two later and I was fully prepared, to be like, “Maybe we're done. It worked, great. The answer is all these skills and maybe taking camping trips more often, right?” 

Because my goal is never to keep people in therapy their whole lives. We are here for a reason, we're here to help you solve a problem and then go be happy. So when I saw him again, I thought it might be the last time or he would cut back substantially. He came in and he was like, “Oh, I feel so bad.” He was telling me about what a jerk his boss was being and all this stuff that he was all stressed out about and he was angry and couldn't stop thinking about this and had been up for three nights in a row. It was just like he had fallen right back into it. It was such a dramatic change. 

I was like, “Okay, wait a second. What in the heck happened?” Because it wasn't just work, right? Also, we can't stay camping forever so it's like, “What is happening?” Instead of just kind of doing the same old thing, I was like, “This is so dramatic. There is something else here, and let's just investigate this.” We spent pretty much the entire session talking about: “Okay, what was different when you went camping and immediately after coming back?” We ran through all of it. He had been getting more exercise on his trip, certainly, and had been with friends and unplugged from work, all these are good things, but he gets exercise anyway. 

This is a person who exercised, he had an active social life so it wasn't that different. He had taken vacations before and did not experience this kind of benefit over the course of our work. He'd actually taken a couple of vacations, and he and his wife had gone to a resort and a tropical paradise kind of deal so we're like, “What is going on?” Anyway, so to cut to the point, one of the things that were actually a little bit different is the Diet Coke situation. I was like, “I'm sorry, the what?” He shared a detail about his life that I had not known before because it never occurred to me to ask, it never occurred for him to tell me. 

He's like, “Yeah, usually, I drink a lot of Diet Coke. I will easily go through a six-pack a day. I have them at work while I'm working. I have one with dinner but, obviously, on a backpacking camping trip, I am not going to trundle a case of diet coke with me into the woods.” He was like, “Do you think that could have something to do with the anxiety thing?” And I was like, “I don't know. Let's find out.” 

Actually, I did share that I'm such a nerd. I was a biology major in college, and at one point, I had actually written a whole paper on the impact of aspartame, which is a sweetener that's used in Diet Coke and other drinks, or at least it was. I don't know if it's still around anymore, but it has pronounced stimulating effects on people's nervous systems that look similar to caffeine, actually. Aspartame, for some people, not all people, people have different kinds of just reactions to different chemicals and additives based on their own body chemistry. I have a sensitivity to aspartame, and also a related food additive, MSG, which isn't a lot of things, but if I have too much of it, I'll get a headache, honestly and it'll actually impact my sleeping. That's why I was interested in writing a paper on it in college. 

Anyway, when he told me this, I was like, “Very interesting. Let's have an experiment.” The experiment was no Diet Coke. It's very stimulating between the aspartame and also the caffeine and caffeinated beverages. He was like, “Well, that's easy enough.” He swapped that out for something decaf and not artificially sweetened. Wouldn't you know it, he came back into my office the next week, and he was like, “We figured it out.” That whole experience was really incredibly interesting to me but also very humbling because here I was, and I can't beat myself up too much about this because we only know what we know at the time, but we had been working on anxiety together in therapy for quite a while. 

He was coming in every week, I was taking his money to help him figure this out and was really working very hard to teach him all these cognitive-behavioral strategies that I thought should work. But there was a physical component to his experience that was really creating a lot of these anxious thoughts, anxious feelings, anxiety physical symptoms that were consistent with anxiety: sleeplessness, racing heart, breathlessness, all the things. Until we removed that physically-based variable, he wasn't going to feel better no matter what we did in therapy. 

Mind-Body Wellness

I wanted to share that story with you to illustrate the point and the importance of really understanding the mind-body connection in a different way. Because it is very easy to spend a lot of time and energy and money trying to resolve what we think are mental health issues, completely overlooking all of these physical components of our lives that can have a huge impact on the way we think and feel. Until we address the physical components, all the therapy in the world isn't going to change it that much. That is a hard fact for card-carrying therapists like me to acknowledge. Again, it's humbling, but it's also so true. Since this client, I have seen that be true time and time again. 

Now, when I am working with a new client particularly, a new client who has any kind of mood symptoms, I start with the physical stuff and ask a lot of questions to see if there are any easy stuff we can experiment with. It might have dramatic impacts on the way they're feeling and that don't involve coming into therapy with me for six months every week because that would be fantastic. Not that I'm not super interesting and fun to talk to, just kidding, but really, we're here for a reason. 

That has been an important lesson, and what has also been an equally important and humbling lesson are people that I have worked with over the years who have very, very real chronic health conditions that are not in their heads. They are very real, they are actual physical symptoms that do require treatment. When we unpack this, the reason why they are having those physical symptoms is often, at least in part, due to the way they are thinking and the way they are feeling emotionally and also because of things that they have experienced in their lives like historical trauma. It comes out in the body in very interesting ways years later. 

They have been working with all these medical professionals to resolve all these physical symptoms that again, are real. They are not making them up. They are real things that are happening and yet, it's only when they do this deeper work in therapy to figure out some of their internal processes, and learn how to think differently, learn how to manage their emotions in a different way or process their trauma, these physical symptoms will melt away. Again, sometimes, in very dramatic ways. 

Being able to understand this interplay, I think, is incredibly important for everyone to understand because sometimes, the most direct route for helping ourselves feel better, both emotionally or physically, can be really different than what we think is the answer. Like my client: “I have anxiety; therefore, I should go to therapy.” Makes perfect sense, when the answer was actually something completely different. Here are some of the highlights that I'm going to share with you, things that I have learned over the years. 

Improving Mind-Body Connection Wellness

I just made a little, shortlist for you, especially heading into the winter, things that I would like for you to be thinking about and experimenting with, if you notice that you are starting to feel low, or tired, or stressed out, or even a little bit more anxious. Or even if you have been feeling that way even before winter happened, Lord knows there are all kinds of things for all of us to be stressed out and low about these days in the world. If you were my client coming in being like, “Lisa, I don't feel good,” I would be wanting to know a few things. 

First of all, and this is a real easy one, when was the last time you just had a physical, just a basic physical and your doctor does a blood panel and also maybe even does an assessment of your vitamin levels? We know that being low in certain vitamins and nutrients like iron, if you are low in iron or anemic, you will feel depressed. You will be exhausted and foggy and like, “Ugh, I can't.” Wouldn't it be simple to take an iron supplement or eat more spinach and feel 10x better without coming in talking to a therapist for six months? Sometimes, these things are just super easy. Iron is one of them, vitamin D is one of them. 

As I was mentioning at the top of this episode, particularly if you are like me, I sit in an office all day, basically like a little mushroom festering in my dark office. I need to be sure that I take a vitamin D supplement and make it a point to: “Yes, I wear sunscreen, but also get outside.” Your body creates vitamin D, it synthesizes vitamin D through your skin, so when you get sunlight, a substantial amount of sunlight, it changes your vitamin D levels. That is one of the hypotheses around seasonal affective disorder, is that people in the northern hemisphere, their vitamin D levels drop and this is true for everyone. 

There's also fascinating research on the impact of your gut health and your mood. Fascinatingly, your digestive tract is the second-largest manufacturer of serotonin in your body. Depending on your microflora, so probiotics, prebiotics, it can really have a substantial impact on the way that you're feeling. I don't know if this has been conducted on humans, but in mice, this is kind of gross, but researchers took happy mice as evidenced by being energetic and kind of curious and licking each other and running around their cages, and unhappy mice that were sort of just sitting there and not wanting to run around the maze or interact with other mice, the depressed mice. 

When they took some fecal materials or poop from the happy mice and seeded the intestinal tract of the depressed mice with the bacteria from the happy mice, the depressed mice became happier because of no other reason than the flora of their intestines. Again, very, very interesting to consider these implications and taking a probiotic every day is pretty easy to do for most people. Again, please don't start doing or taking supplements or things that might not be a good idea for you specifically based on my advice. I am not your doctor, but go get some blood tests, see if there's anything there. Vitamin D, iron, B vitamins, magnesium, if you are deficient in magnesium, you will feel anxious. It's just a sort of straight line of magnesium and anxiety symptoms. 

Those are all really easily modified things. It is as easy as taking a vitamin every morning or getting more sunlight. Talk to your doctor about that if you think that it might be a thing for you, or if you don't have any known reason to not take a good vitamin supplement, especially during the winter, it's something you might want to consider. Also, there's some evidence that fish oil supplements can have an impact on mood and that can be another just super easy thing. 

Another thing that many people do not know about, I did not know about this, is the dramatic impact that even mild levels of dehydration can have on the way that you feel cognitively and emotionally. If you are stressed out at work, there are lots of things that you could do, but try drinking a big glass of water. It's so interesting, even if you are not even aware that you are thirsty, there have been so many studies. People who are just the tiniest bit dehydrated will experience more subjective stress, they will perceive things as being more difficult and complicated than they do after as compared to when they're well hydrated. They have this brain fog kind of experience so it's super real, and it's super easy, so drink more water. 

Body Health and Mind

Then also, there can be other things that are a little bit sneakier to sort of ferret out. For example, if I have somebody come in and say, “You know what? I think I have ADHD.” First of all, ADHD is so real and it is underdiagnosed for a lot of people, particularly women. When somebody shows up and is like, “I want to talk about this,” I first asked them about how they're sleeping and have on more than one occasion, referred somebody out for a sleep apnea test and they have come back and said, “Yeah, I had sleep apnea, and I didn't even realize it.” They got their sleep apnea symptoms treated and then “ADHD” was no longer a thing. 

There are also some interesting, and I won't go through all of them, but if you use an asthma inhaler, that can create ADHD-like symptoms because of the effects of the medication. If you have recently been ill, or have gone through surgery, or broken a leg, or something like that, your body will, by default, create an actual, essentially a depressive episode to protect you while you're healing. There's something called the sickness response. 

Your body is an incredible machine that has over hundreds of thousands of years evolved to keep you alive. That's the number one priority. And it has many interesting ways of doing that and one of them is that when you get sick or when you have been injured, your body will make you feel very, very low, emotionally. It will change the way you think. You will become more pessimistic. You'll feel more hopeless and helpless. You will not want to go anywhere. You will not want to do anything. You will feel tired. That is all of the criteria for major depressive disorder. 

It is your body's highly adaptive evolutionary response to keep you in your house, not circulating amongst people that might give you additional germs or to protect you from risking injuring your body again while you're in the process of healing. I've had so many clients come to me after an illness or a surgery and like, “I don't know what's wrong with me.” It's been three weeks or a month later and they have done quite a bit towards healing but they were genuinely surprised to learn that this was a thing. 

They thought it was depression with a capital D, and I think it just helped them to understand like, “No, you can expect that and it's a good thing that this happens. Your body is keeping you alive; it's doing its job.” The period after having a child, the postpartum period, is similar to that, so there are all kinds of interesting physically-based changes in your body and some of them are vitamin deficiencies but also based on your circumstances and your overall health, that can really dramatically change your emotional state and the way that you think.

It is also true, again, that people will commonly experience very, very real physical symptoms that are, again, I want to say, this not in your head. I think that people who hear that physical symptoms, there is a relationship with what is going on inside of them psychologically, it feels very invalidating. It feels like they're being told that they're just making it up or that it's not real; it's all in your head. I just want to say very clearly, that is not true. There are physical symptoms. Anybody who has ever had IBS, shingles, or high blood pressure, or God forbid, a heart attack will tell you that these are actual physical conditions that require treatment, and that they benefit from being treated. There are medications and things that help with this. 

How Does Mental Health Affect Physical Health

What I think is not as well-realized is the impact of the way we feel day-to-day and what that does to all of our sort of physical systems. I think what is also not well-understood is the impact of the way that we think on our emotions and then the impact of our mood state on the way that we think. It's very circular. For example, going back to is the example of anxiety, when we begin to feel anxious, as we often do, being humans, again, we're created to survive in this world and part of that is being vigilant for danger, we're not often in actual physical danger most of the time. 

We are relatively safe: we are sitting in our offices, making podcasts, talking to people, eating our breakfast, driving a car, nothing bad is happening. Because we are so smart and creative, we have these gigantic human brains that are so good at going into the future or replaying events of the past and thinking if this, then that. We are solving potential problems. We are paying attention to what is coming down the pipeline. And we need to finish that assignment by this day so I can do x, y, z. Our brains are always working on stuff and trying to anticipate problems or kind of think: what could be a problem. 

Truly, the problem is that because you are so intelligent and creative, and this is actually worse for people who are exceptionally intelligent and creative, you're good at envisioning things. Particularly if you are a visual thinker, you won't just think about the impact of missing a work assignment sort of generally. You will see your boss's face and see this little mental movie of the consequences of x, y, z or visualize your car skidding off the road into a ditch. 

The issue is that the part of our brains that feel emotions, your brain is built in layers, there's a thinking part of your brain, and then there's a totally different part of your brain that generates emotions based on what's going on in the world around you. That older emotional part of your brain cannot tell the difference between things that you're thinking about and things that are actually happening. 

When you play a mental movie of your car flying off a cliff or your car is actually flying off a cliff, the part of your brain that feels will experience those things similarly. What happens is that the part of your brain that feels emotions will just be like, “Oh my gosh, my car is going off a cliff!” And will squeeze out all these adaptive survival-based hormones, your endocrine system, squirts out adrenaline, cortisol, your breathing speeds up, your heart rate speeds up, your muscles tense. You're preparing for impact. 

You just had a thought in your head, right? You're not actually going off a cliff but your body is like, “No, we're here. We're going to survive this.” Your body is having all these reactions. It changes many things in your body. It changes the way you digest food. It changes the way your immune system works. It changes your circulatory system. You're all awash in adrenaline now. Your body is in a totally different space, and this impacts many physical systems in your body: your digestive process, it impacts what is happening in terms of your blood pressure or your cardiovascular health, migraines, all these things are totally related. 

A fascinating study that came a while ago was conducted on two groups of people, as the best research studies are. A control group had a small, superficial skin injury put on their arm. They basically scuffed the surface of their arm, went down a layer or two of skin, put a bandaid on, and sent them home. The second group of people was identified as being chronically stressed. I think that they may have been caregivers, primary caregivers to people or partners, or possibly parents with dementia, hard stuff, but same deal. They scuffed up their skin, put a bandaid on them, sent them home, and then brought them back to measure how quickly their body was healing. 

You might imagine that people who were living in that day-to-day stress all the time had a lot of stuff to worry about, their bodies literally healed more slowly than those of people who weren't bathing in that stressful broth every single day. The impacts of this stuff are somewhat facetiously, but as real as a heart attack. 

Even in the 1950s and 1960s when this stuff was sort of first being explored, cardiologists would notice that they had to change the upholstery on the chairs in their waiting room a lot more often than the pediatrist next door because they had their type-A high-risk cardiac patients who were super stressed out about things. They were worrying. They were fidgety. They were like, “My appointment was supposed to start five minutes ago,” going up and demanding to be seen at the reception desk. 

That's sort of the stereotypical personality of somebody who has a more increased chance of having a heart attack, and it's because of the way they think, the way they feel, the way they relate to others, and the long term chronic impact that this has on what is happening in their body. This is true for all kinds of things. There's a well-researched assessment, it's called the ACE, which explores adverse childhood experiences, aka childhood trauma. 

If you have a high score on the ACE, so you've lived through really difficult scary things as a child, it is strongly associated with all kinds of long-term health consequences. Some of the thinking behind it is that when people experience serious trauma in childhood, it changes the way they're wired physiologically to a degree: being more vigilant, anticipating something bad happening. 

There's a good reason for that but it also shows up in health, and often, it's not until that earlier trauma is addressed and resolved that people can heal from things like chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia. These disorders are strongly associated with early childhood trauma. All this stuff is just so real and worth not just thinking about but working on. 

If you are dealing with physical symptoms and you are seeing a doctor and maybe you're getting what you need out of that, fantastic, just consider though that if it's along the lines of anxiety, or depression, or some of these chronic illnesses that show up in your intestinal tract, cardiovascular stuff, whole body kinds of issues, it may be worth talking to a psychologist just to see. You might just wander in and be like, “Here's what's going on,” and they give you an assessment, you walk back out again, nothing changes, that's fine, but what if there is something that is worth talking about? 

You can keep seeing medical doctors and keep doing the treatment and you should, and if you're not getting the results that you want, just consider that there could be other things to investigate, I guess, is what I want to say. 

Healthy Mind and Body

These things are all real and they're also very circular in nature. For example, one of the things that I've noticed in my own life and with a lot of clients is the impact of three things, in particular, both mentally and physically. Probably the biggest one is sleep, I would say. When you don't get enough sleep, your body changes in response to this. Again, everything that happens in your body pretty much is either to keep you alive or to procreate. When it gets very down to the basics, that's why we're here. 

When you consider that if your body is physically stressed, like not getting enough sleep, your body, when it is elevated, it physiologically changes the way you think for you without being asked. It is not in your direct control but when your body is like, “Oh, there's something's going on; there is a threat,” your mind goes into almost vigilance response. Your mind starts looking around for possible problems and scanning your environment for: “What are the bad things that could happen? What should I be worried about? What is going to be really hard? What is just not going to work out?” That problem-focused possible threats, you are designed to do that, it is not your fault. 

Everybody's body disorder does this automatically when they are physically stressed but the problem is that because you are so smart and creative, you will always find something that could be a threat, or could be a problem, or could be a thing to worry about. Since your mind is kind of primed to do that thinking, you will think about that a lot. As a consequence, it will reinforce this physiological, elevated state that will then make your mind even more hyper-focused on the problems and the threats and the things that aren't working out, that aren't going to work out: “This is what's going to happen and it's going to be so bad.” 

When you have that kind of inner thought loop happening in your mind, that is strongly associated with depression and with anxiety. When people experience a major depressive disorder or a depressive episode, that is what is happening. Depression changes the way that your brain works. It changes the way that you think. You have a different internal dialogue happening in your mind when you are struggling with symptoms of depression or anxiety. 

There is this interplay between those thoughts, what you're telling yourself, what you're envisioning, and blah, blah, blah, and then, the very real impact that has on your body so now you can't sleep. You're up until three o'clock in the morning worrying about all these things and running through the stuff in your head. That reinforces this physical threat, this physical like, “Oh, no, we're in trouble” physiological response in your body that then cranks up the knob on the depressive thoughts and the anxiety thoughts. 

That's what happens. Another thing that also happens oftentimes with these is when we feel tired, when we feel low, and we don't have any energy, when we're like, “Oh, no, I can't. I don't have time. I'm so stressed. I have to do all these things for work.” What happens when that goes on in your life? What happens in my life is one of the easiest things for me to cut is exercise. Like, “I don't have time or I don't have energy or it's too cold,” all these things so we don't. 

One of the easiest things that any of us can do to combat all of this, both mentally and physiologically, is getting even 20 or 30 minutes of brisk physical activity a day. Walking is just fine. You don't have to go to a gym, you do not have to do anything heroic. You can seriously just jump around with a YouTube exercise video for 20 minutes a day. It has this really significant relaxing effect on your body. When your body relaxes, it starts to relax your mind and make it much easier to shift out of those threat-focused or problem-focused thoughts. It improves your sleep, which then also improves the kind of thoughts that you're having, and your energy levels, which makes it easier to get up like, “Yes, let's do more exercise because I have more energy.” And then, you can think more clearly. You can focus more easily. 

When your brain is working better, the things that felt really stressful problems, you're like, “Oh, I'll just make this phone call. It's not that big of a deal.” All of a sudden, you feel so much better because there isn't this looming thing you've been putting off. When you are taking care of your physical health in these really simple ways, there is this interplay that is huge, hugely impactful much more than that the isolated thing. 

We think about exercising as being good for our health or sometimes, people exercise to change the way that they look. If that is true for you, I will refer you back to the Love Your Body podcast episode that I did with my colleague Stephanie a while ago. We need to move away from that, but physical exercise has a huge impact on your energy levels and the way that your brain works. 

There's also a lot of evidence that getting regular exercise changes the way that your mind works in terms of not just reducing anxiety and depression, although there have been studies that indicate that getting about 30 minutes of exercise a day is around as effective as taking antidepressant medication for reduction of those symptoms. That's something to think about. Also, I just want to say that it is also true that for many people being on medications: antidepressant medications, anti-anxiety medications, or other mood-stabilizing kinds of medications, is a very, very important foundational piece of your overall kind of wellness plan. 

I don't want you to hear me say this and think like, “Oh, I should get off my medications because Dr. Lisa said that I could just walk instead.” Don't do that but you might want to consider adding a nice walk to your daily routine. It will help you feel better, it will help you think better, it will give you more energy, it will help you feel more able to solve solvable problems, and you will get a better night's sleep, all of which have this self-supporting positive impact on your wellness on all of these different levels. 

Sleep and exercise are hugely important, as is nutrition. Visit with your doctor, see if there's anything easy you could try to make sure that you're getting good nutrition, drinking enough water, keeping an eye on whether or not you're taking supplements that are messing up your kind of low-key stimulating things. 

I had another client who could not sleep and it was impacting her so tremendously. Super healthy person, super healthy lifestyle, was not a Diet Coke drinker, no obvious causes, and it took us months to figure out that she was drinking either a shake or it was a supplement, but it had maca. I'm not sure exactly what it was but there was some additive, it was like an herb that for many people probably didn't have any impact at all but for her, it was keeping her up half the night. 

One time, gosh, it's been a while ago but I experimented once with taking St. John's wort, which kept me up all night. I had the weirdest reaction to it. Just look around like, “Are there any herbal supplements or things that I'm taking?” Easy thing to experiment with. If you're having trouble sleeping or if you're struggling with anxiety and you are taking a supplement, what happens if you don't take the supplement for a week? Like that camping trip: “Here's how I feel when I do it. Here's how I feel when I don't.” Then we can have an ABA test. “Now, I'm going to start taking it again and now, what do I notice?” It's okay to have little experiments with yourself. 

Sound Mind in a Sound Body

Also, do not underestimate the power of your mind to change the way that you feel. Very well established that the way we think creates our emotional reaction to everything. Nothing means anything until you decide what it means and when you have control over how you're going to interpret whatever's happening in your life, you automatically have an enormous amount of control over the way that you feel. When you're in control over the way you feel, it has a positive impact, not just on your physical health, but also on your behaviors. 

When we have certain feelings, for example, when you feel worried about something or scared about something, the behavior associated with that is to avoid it, which makes perfect sense if it is an actual threat. But if it is a project assignment that you need to get done for work, and the way that you are thinking about it makes it feel really intense and stressful and overwhelming emotionally, the response will be to avoid that and procrastinate, which will not just make you feel more stressed, but it may actually lead to adverse consequences in your life if you start missing deadlines. Then, you feel really bad. 

Being able to figure out, “How am I thinking?” And I say that like it's very easy to do like we should all be able to sort that out, but the method of doing that is through either cognitive behavioral therapy. The cognitive part being operative here, which helps you understand, “How am I thinking? What are my core beliefs? What am I telling myself? And how do I intentionally shift that in order to feel better and to get better results in my life?” 

There's cognitive behavioral therapy, there's also such a thing as cognitive-behavioral coaching, which is where therapy is the diagnosis and treatment of mental health conditions. If you have arrived in a space where you actually do have major depressive disorder or generalized anxiety disorder that is quite entrenched, and it's impacting your ability to function, you need cognitive-behavioral therapy. 

If you're resonating with what I'm saying today and don't have an actual mental health diagnosis but want to make improvements in these areas, I would suggest cognitive-behavioral coaching, which is not focused so much on symptom reduction, but it's really helping you figure out just all of these different elements. “Holistically, what is the interplay between how I am thinking and how I am feeling, and how does my mood state impact my thoughts? And then, what happens to my physical process when I'm thinking and feeling this way? And then, when I'm in this physical state, what is the impact that is having on my mind and my body?” Hugely interesting and I think very useful and very productive for most of us. 

When I personally start not feeling so great, I've learned this over the years, “Okay, what's changed? What am I doing? What am I telling myself? Am I exercising? No, I'm not exercising. Yeah, I need to go do that.” Very reliably, usually within a short amount of time, it really changes the way that I feel. I've seen this work so many times for my clients, and I think it can work for you too. 

I really hope that this episode, this time we spent together today has given you some ideas for how to support yourself on every level, particularly heading into winter. I hope you experiment with them and see what kind of impact they have, and I would always love to hear about your outcomes or any follow-up questions that you have for me. If you want to leave comments, the post for this podcast is going to be growingself.com/mind-body-connection. 

You can cruise on over, leave comments for me, or get in touch through Instagram, or email on hello@growingself.com, or Instagram: @drlisamariebobby. Leave your follow-up questions or comments so I can address them and thank you, again, for spending this time with me today. I will be back in touch next week with more love, happiness, and success advice for you, and here's more Fake Names with Darkest Days.

[Outro song: Darkest Days by Fake Names]


Love Your Body

Love Your Body

Love Your Body

The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast with Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Music Credits: “Thaw” by Bnny

Love Your Body

How to love your body? It sounds like it should be the simplest thing in the world: to have gratitude and appreciation for the miracle of your physical body. It automatically and without any input or direction from you… keeps your heart beating, keeps breathing while you sleep, makes you sweat when you’re too hot, digests your food, and locomotes you from one place to another. It can even participate in making another human. It is truly a miracle and whether or not it’s in good working order is the undeniable foundation of everything else in your whole life.

When it comes to your body, there is so much to love! 

Why Do I Hate My Body??

I’m well aware from many years as a therapist and fellow human that’s not always the way we feel about our bodies, is it? Even though it’s a fantastic engine of life that supports everything you do, it’s easy to get kinda judgy about the way your body looks or whether or not it’s as “good” or worthy of love and respect as someone else’s body, and through this weird emotional logic that tells us that certain bodies are better than other bodies, that the people in possession of enviable bodies are more intrinsically valuable humans.

It sounds so insane when you put it all down on paper like that but… that’s what we are often socialized to do: judge bodies by the ever-changing scoring rubric of the current zeitgeist. (Lisa pauses typing to double-check her reflection, and yes, the hair is parted down the center and not to the left. Giving myself a point!)

Hairstyles are one thing, but when it comes to how our bodies actually look — their shape, proportions, fat-to-height ratio, and how these shapes, proportions, and ratios compare to those of a difficult to attain cultural “ideal…” that’s when we can start slipping sideways into something yucky. 

Being unhappy with your body because it doesn’t look like one of the “good” ones. Being angry with your body for not responding to your efforts to diet, restrict, or exercise it into physical compliance. Worse yet, you might even start hating your body and being consumed with worry and thoughts related to what you’re eating or how much you’re exercising. 

Sometimes I’ll have online life coaching clients come to me with these kinds of goals for themselves, and it always makes me uncomfortable. When self-worth is tied to body image… that never ends well. [Read: “Advice From a Body Positivity Coach” for more on that subject]

Body Image and Low Self Esteem

When it gets really bad, people can even start to feel really down on themselves, struggling with low self-esteem, and finding it difficult to accept themselves or feel happy — all because their bodies (which work perfectly well, by the way) don’t look a certain way. 

This is a trap, folks. One that lots of people, particularly women, stumble into. Sometimes even before middle school is over, they’ve been indoctrinated into believing that people with different bodies have different levels of status and respect in this world, and that, in order to have love, happiness or success, they darn well better look like they’re “supposed to” (or kill themselves trying). Let’s not!

Loving Your Body: It Can Start Today

In the words of the late, great Monty Python: “And now for something completely different!” 

Enter my guest on today’s episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast: My Growing Self colleague Stephanie O. Stephanie is a therapist on the team who specializes in relationships — the ones we have with other people, but also the kind of relationship that you have with yourself. She helps many clients with things like self-esteem and how to have healthy partnerships, but she has special insight into helping people with body image and how to love themselves. 

Health at Any Size

Stephanie practices “Health at Any Size” ideas in therapy, and walks with her clients step by step through the process of examining beliefs about bodies, learning how to reject unhelpful cultural ideas about the value of our bodies, and then move towards body image acceptance. Over time, she can help her clients have genuine gratitude and appreciation for their amazing bodies, and even learn how to love their bodies too. 

She is joining me on today’s episode of the podcast to share her empowering “how to love your body” ideas with you. If you sometimes feel like you hate your body, I hope that you listen. Grab a pen — Stephanie’s sharing a ton of ideas that I hope you write down and start using today!

You can listen to this episode right here on growingself.com or access it through Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or anywhere you listen to podcasts. Don’t forget to subscribe to the show while you’re there! If you have follow-up questions or comments for Stephanie on this topic, please let us know in the comments below so Stephanie or I can respond. Show notes and episode transcript are below. 

Thanks for tuning in!

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Love Your Body

The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast with Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

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Love Your Body Podcast: Show Notes & Episode Highlights

Stephanie’s Journey to Health at Every Size

Many people are obsessed with their body weight and size. Some obsessive tendencies can manifest in extreme diets or passive thoughts. But some might even bleed into other aspects of their lives, such as low self-esteem and sexuality.

When she was a college freshman, Stephanie learned about eating disorders in her Psych 101 class. She was shocked to find that signs of anorexia applied to her and almost all the women she knew. That’s why she thought it would be interesting to work with people with eating disorders in grad school. 

During that time, she was introduced to the concept of Health at Every Size. Since then, Stephanie has sought to incorporate this in her work as a therapist and life coach.

Why Do I Hate My Body?

Most of us now know that it’s no longer cool to hate our bodies. Body acceptance is in! However, we still tend to think negatively about our bodies, often in overt ways. It starts off with seemingly benign thoughts like, “I should eat healthier.”

But then, this may turn into an obsession with cutting down on calories. Stephanie explains: “Underneath it, the goal underneath is really to actually be thinner because we equate so much of health and size together.” In addition, we tend to conflate health and morality. 

Because of the sneaky way we obsessively think of our bodies, many of us also treat our ideal bodies as the prerequisite to happiness. You’ve probably had these beliefs at one point in your life:

  • When I hit my ideal weight, I can finally get my crush to notice me.
  • If I become thinner, then I can wear the clothes I want. 
  • Once I get my body goals, I’ll finally be happier.

We become so engrossed in “that day.” But Cheri Huber reminds us: That day does not exist, and it only exists in your mind. Its reason is to torture you.”

The misconception that you’ll be happy in the future when you achieve the “perfect body” holds you back from living the life you want. The truth is, you can’t be happy in the future if you aren’t happy now. So, learn how to love yourself now.

The Path to Radical Self-Acceptance

If you are struggling with loving your body, practice self-compassion. It’s not a “you” problem. Rather, it’s a larger societal problem.

Society has perpetuated unrealistic beauty standards through the media and beauty industry. It has become so pervasive that it’s rare for someone to be completely satisfied with their body. In our society, we are conditioned to think we’re doing bad when we aren’t a “normal” weight. Thus, we should constantly try to work toward that unattainable standard.

Stephanie usually starts the process of body acceptance by encouraging them to consume more size-inclusive media. These can come in the form of:

  • Instagram accounts to follow,
  • podcasts to listen to, and
  • television shows to watch.

She shares, “Because if we do this work, and we continue to just see all the same input all the time, it's almost impossible to challenge that.”

From there, they would work on challenging societal norms and standards by paying attention to how much value we put on size and weight.

It’s also important to deconstruct the messages we’ve been given. For so long, we’ve been led to believe that being fat is unhealthy and being thin is good. However, there is no significant correlation between health and size. Learning to question these beliefs is crucial to radical self-acceptance.

How to Accept Your Body

Finding the reason why you want to change your mindset and body perceptions is an important part of loving your body. Whether you want to stop counting your calorie intake or you just want to feel better in your skin, determining this gives you a purpose.

Another good way to start your journey is to get rid of your scale. Thinking rationally, it serves no real purpose. It’s just there. But it doesn’t need to be.

Body neutrality can also be a powerful thing. Stephanie describes it as:

  • Not loving or hating your body.
  • Not valuing your body using terms such as “fat” or “thin.”
  • Simply acknowledging what you look like.

Some people are resistant to this idea because they feel like they’ll let themselves go. If you ever feel that nagging fear about getting fat, then ask yourself, “What does getting fat mean to me?” 

Perhaps, you’re unconsciously linking being fat to lovability and worthiness. In that case, you have to remember that fat ≠ bad. Many people have harmed their bodies by trying to fight their natural state.

Health at Every Size

Society tends to attribute health and wellness as a personal responsibility. In reality, it’s widespread problems, such as marginalization and racism, that are huge health hazards. By sweeping these under the rug and blaming it on people’s laziness, we allow the unjust components of our society to proliferate.

Thus, the best way to improve our population’s health is to create a fair world without inequity. Just as Stephanie says, “We know that different cultures and ethnicities have different sizes. People come in all different shapes and sizes.”

Yet, research on obesity in white people is being applied as a worldwide standard. Moreover, most of this research does not factor in fitness, further spreading misinformation that weight and health are intricately linked.

Love Your Body Now

If you’re struggling to love your body, the key is not losing weight. It’s appreciating your body for the things it does for you. Try saying these phrases to yourself and see what comes up:

  • I love my legs because they take me to new places.
  • I love my ears because they allow me to hear beautiful music.
  • I love my tummy because it protects my vital organs.

For Stephanie, loving your body simply means taking care of it. Alongside body acceptance, some other ways to love your body are intuitive eating and joyful movement. 

“So that's the home run message. How can you live the life you want right now in the body you have right now, given your current situation, not that invisible finish, not that imaginary future day. But how can I be the healthiest I can right now in the body that I have right now?

Remember that your body is worth loving and taking care of. Always was, always will be.

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Did you enjoy the podcast? What did you learn about body image and acceptance? How do you think these insights can help you love your body and give it the care it deserves? Tell us by commenting on this episode. Subscribe to us now to discover more episodes on living a life full of love, happiness, and success.

[Intro song: Thaw by Bnny]

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: This is Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby, and you're listening to The Love, Happiness, and Success Podcast. The band is Bnny with the song Thaw. It's a haunting song with a raw message, and that is intentional because we're going there today. Today, we're talking about you and your relationship with your body. 

It can be hard to love your body. How do you feel about your body? If you're like a lot of people, especially women, you don't like what you see in the mirror. You wish your body looked different, and a lot of people, especially women, get tricked into believing that if only you could attain this physical ideal of beauty that is unrealistic for like 99.999% of all humans. But if you could, then finally, you would get the love, the happiness, and success that you always wanted. 

This is a trap. We need to talk about it. Too many of us are socialized into basing our worth on the way we look. We spend way too much time thinking about how we can force our body to be different and get super vigilant about what we're eating or weighing ourselves. Or even taking this “healthy lifestyle” to an extreme that is not actually good for anyone, especially mentally and emotionally or physically, for that matter. 

If any of what I'm saying is feeling familiar and on point for you, I want you to get ready for a breath of fresh air. Today, I'm so pleased to be visiting with my colleague here at Growing Self, Stephanie O. She is a marriage and family therapist but she also has a real passion for helping people, especially women, liberate themselves from these really destructive and toxic ideas about self-worth, and particularly, self-worth based on the way you should look. 

Stephanie is here today to talk with us about how to practice health at any size, how to shift away from self-hatred and towards self-acceptance, and maybe even into loving your body the way it deserves to be loved. Thank you, Stephanie, for being here with me today. 

Stephanie Oliver: Thank you so much, Lisa, for having me. I'm really excited to talk about this and share this with people and curious what other people think and have to say as well. 

Stephanie’s Journey to Health at Every Size

Dr. Lisa: Yes. Well, we're going to have a good talk, and I'm just happy to be here because I like talking to you anyway. This is a particularly important topic because I think so many people, and I do not want to gender stereotype because I think a lot of different people struggle with this, feel a lot of shame, anxiety, discomfort around their body, the way their body looks, lots of messages like what kind of body they should have, their body is different. 

Then, we also get these messages like love your body, and that's pretty much when people just feel like laying down and taking a very long nap. 

Stephanie: Yeah, and I think the moral of that is that we spend way too much time thinking about our bodies in general, whether it's complete shame and self-hate of our bodies to just wanting to change it in some way, or wishing that it was different, or even more passive thoughts throughout the day like, “Should I or shouldn't I eat this? Or should I or shouldn't I look differently?” It just takes up way too much of our time and our brain power. 

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. You've been working with clients around this for a while. Can I ask you? I'm curious to know. How did you get interested in this, I think, fascinating subset of our profession? 

Stephanie: Yeah, so I think I can pin it back to actually when I was 18. I was a freshman in college, I was in Psych 101, and we were learning about eating disorders. I saw the diagnostic criteria for anorexia. It was restricting calorie intake, dissatisfied with the way that you look, fear of becoming fat. I was like, “Wait, isn't that everybody?” 

I hadn't really known any woman to not possess some of those characteristics, including me. I thought, “Well, this is a classified mental illness, so there's got to be more to the story than this, that it gives so many people experiences.” I just kind of filed it away in the back of my mind until I went to grad school and thought, “Oh, maybe I'll work with people with eating disorders. That could be quite interesting.” 

I got exposed to this concept of Health at Every Size, which some people will be familiar with. It's basically an entirely new way of thinking about health, and size, and body acceptance, and the way that we think about weight and health in our society. It made so much sense to me, and I just went from there. I thought, “How can I incorporate this as a marriage and family therapist? How could I not perpetuate weight and size stigma, but instead, continue to challenge it since this is such a common presenting problem as a therapist? A lot of people come seeking help with weight, and size, and body image issues.” 

Why Do I Hate My Body?

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. Well it impacts so many different parts of life too and relationships and sexuality, there are so many different things attached. I'm wondering, for somebody listening to this who's like, “I'm really glad I'm listening to this podcast right now. I'm ready to learn,” what are some things that you would imagine might be true for them that maybe you've heard from some of your clients previously around? What starts to happen when people are thinking about their bodies a lot? 

Stephanie: Well, I think, this day and age, it can actually be quite sneaky. I think before maybe when we were growing up, it was a lot more overt like, “Oh, I wish I had thinner legs, or bigger boobs, or a flatter stomach.” Now, I think it can sneak in a variety of ways because a lot of us would like to consider ourselves very… We know it's not cool anymore to hate your body, right? Body acceptance is in. 

I think that sometimes it sneaks in. It starts out as a pursuit of health. “I want to be healthier,” and then, you start thinking like, “Okay. Well, I want to be healthier. I've got to burn more calories.” It just kind of spirals from there, right? Underneath it, the goal underneath is really to actually be thinner because we equate so much of health and size together, right? 

I think that it can sneak in in a bunch of different ways. I think with all of the images that we're exposed to online in terms of clean and healthy eating, and vegan diets, and gluten-free diets, and things like that, which can be really helpful for people and can be really important for people, can also turn into starting to obsess a little bit too much about what we're eating and how we're eating. 

Dr. Lisa: Like good food, bad food. That kind of thing. 

Stephanie: The other thing I think people will be familiar with is just conflating health and morality, right? Like what you were just saying, “I'm a good person because I keep healthy,” or “I'm a bad person because I didn't exercise today,” or even judging that in others. I think, too, not just oneself but making judgments on other people. 

I think, to just having this sense, and this is for all of my clients, I think, having this sense that there's a magical day in the future where everything is going to be exactly the way that they want it, “I'm going to be the exact weight that I want. My life is going to be the exact way that I want.” That day does not exist, first of all. 

Dr. Lisa: Do you have to say it out loud? Come on! No, I'm just kidding. It's like, “When I attain this thing, then all these other good things will happen.” 

Stephanie: “When I'm this weight, I will have the partner that I want. I'll be able to wear the clothes I want. I'll be happy.” My favorite quote from one of my favorite authors, Cheri Huber, who's a Buddhist writer, she says, “That day does not exist, and it only exists in your mind. Its reason is to torture you.” Right? 

Dr. Lisa: What an awesome quote.

Stephanie: I won't talk about solutions yet, but I feel like that day does exist in so many people's minds. It prevents us from accepting who we are now, living the life we want now because we think, “Oh, one day, I'll be this way.” 

I think another thing too is thinking that “At one point, when I was a different weight, or when I looked differently, I was happy.” I think that's a big myth that people carry with them. I have my clients find a picture of themselves at a time when they thought, “Okay, I like the way I am and this picture.” I have them look at the picture, and I say, “Well, were you happy, and were you pleased with your body at that point?” 

Most everyone always says, “I wasn't really happy then either. I also hated my body then, even though I'm looking back at it now, and I think I look good now looking back on it. But at the time, I still was so self-critical and still wasn't happy and comfortable with my body at that point.” I think those are things that most people can relate to. 

The Path to Radical Self-Acceptance

Dr. Lisa: Yeah, and that's huge. This is just so interesting. It's like there's this, I don't know, maybe it's conscious, maybe it's subconscious, this very powerful association. That “I need to make my body look a certain way or become this…” There's character, and morals, and virtue all tied up in it. “And if only I can do these things, then all these doors will open. I will feel good, and people will like me. I will feel loved. I will feel confident. All of these things.” 

This makes a lot of sense to me. This turns into almost this motivation to really being focused on your body because it's a vehicle. It's sort of like a symbol for all of these other things. That if we could only torture it into submission.

Stephanie: Yeah, it's the one you can only control, which you really can't that much. But we think we can. I think it's important for people to realize too that it's not really their fault if they think this way, right? We think this way, it's not a personal problem. It's a larger societal problem that was really put on us by unrealistic expectations by the beauty industry, by so many different things we were exposed to. Then, we continue to perpetuate it. 

There are estimates but I think 85% of women are dissatisfied with their bodies, and I'm sure it's more. I haven't really met somebody in my life that hasn't, at one point, brought up some type of dissatisfaction with the way that they look. It's very pervasive. 

Dr. Lisa: Well, can we just talk a little bit more? You mentioned, what I heard in there is we're taught to believe these things about ourselves that aren't true, and you just kind of alluded to culture. If you had to articulate what you think women and men are taught, and sometimes it's about men and their own bodies. I think that men are also taught about women's bodies and what that is. How would you articulate the messages that we inherit from these larger systems and take on board sometimes without even realizing it? 

Stephanie: I think the messages are, “You better be a ‘normal' weight, and if you're not, then you sure as heck better be trying to achieve a normal weight. It's not okay to just be complacent or be okay with the way you look. You need to be trying to achieve that norm.” I think that's broad enough to apply to men and women.

Dr. Lisa: If you don't look like this fairly unattainable representation of physical humanity, which is hard, you need to feel bad about that and guilty and be working really hard to make that be different, or you're a bad person. 

Stephanie: Yes. Yeah. Lindy West, who's a famous fat activist says, “Okay, you're fat, but you better be a fat person that's trying to be thin. That's sort of like okay, but it's not okay to just be okay with it.” 

Dr. Lisa: Wow, but I bet you have a different idea that maybe it is okay. 

Stephanie: I do. 

Dr. Lisa: Tell me more about that part. What's the alternate? Well, I shouldn't say because I love doing these podcasts and kind of talking about ideas and things that would be helpful for people, but I always feel so cautious and feel myself saying this over and over again. 

There is a process. There is an arc of growth from coming in and talking with somebody like Stephanie, and that's where you are. It's like with these messages and these things still very true and that there is a process that builds over time to be able to incorporate different ideas and stories. 

That's what I'm asking you about, is different ideas and stories. But my disclaimer is that it takes a while to get there. Because it's like another thing for people to judge themselves about, right? If they're like, “Stephanie dropped some great ideas.” Like, “Here's a better way to think,” and you're like, “I can't do that yet. I just want to make that.” 

Stephanie: …and the shame cycle is just… 

Dr. Lisa: Right? Okay, so with that in mind, where do you gently move people towards instead and I'm wondering what the process looks like in your work with clients? 

Stephanie: Well, I tend to start by exposing people to other types of input than the input that they're getting. I recommend people to more size-acceptance types of media, people they can follow on Instagram, or podcasts that they can listen to, or TV shows that they can even watch. That's my first approach to it because if we do this work, and we continue to just see all the same input all the time, it's almost impossible to challenge that. 

Then, the other thing I do, which feels pretty safe to people, is work on the way that they view others first, challenging societal norms around this, so questioning things. I always tell people, “Just start to pay attention to how many of your conversations with your friends are around size and weight, positive or negative,” because I'm pretty radical. I don't think we should compliment each other on our bodies either, but just how much value is put on the way someone looks, your conversations with your family. 

People are pretty surprised to just slow down that awareness and realize, “Oh, it's a lot.” It's a lot. We talk about our looks a lot. The other thing I slide in is starting to understand that the relationship between health and size is not what we think it is. We think fat is unhealthy, thin is healthy. We have to start understanding that that has been fed to us over a long period of time, and it's not the whole story. There's science, there's research to back this up as well. It's not just an opinion, right? 

Getting people to start to deconstruct the messages that we've been given and how true they actually are can give people, give all of us a sense of purpose in terms of “Oh, I'm going to challenge this. I'm not just going to believe what I've been told about my weight and size. I went to the doctor, and the doctor said I was overweight. That doesn't feel like… I don't understand. How could that be?” Right? And not just accepting that right away and understanding that there's a bigger story around all sorts of things, and I don't know how much we want to get into it but that there's more to it than that, and we can really challenge it. 

One of my clients was saying that she complimented a friend and said, “Oh, you're looking so thin,” and the friend was like, “I actually got diagnosed with cancer a year ago, and I'm sick.” That was her wake-up call. “Oh my God, I was just assuming that this was a positive thing. She had lost weight but she was sick.” Things like that that we can work on, just rethinking our common narrative can be really liberating for people because it's harder to just turn inward and then live by that. But it's easier to start questioning society itself, which is where the problem comes from anyway. 

Dr. Lisa: Yeah, I could see that. It feels helpful and, in some ways, easier to see that narrative and be able to challenge it around “Wow, I am complimenting people on their looks, assuming positive things about others by virtue of the way they look that may or may not be true,” and just really being exposed to different ideas, different kinds of information that shape our perceptions of reality. 

How to Accept Your Body

Stephanie: Absolutely. Some other things to start thinking about in terms of change, I'm really interested in people not wasting any more of their lives, in general, on whatever the thing it is, that thing they have, maybe. We waste an awful lot of our time on this. I know I don't want to be on my deathbed thinking about how I wasted time about my weight or the way I looked and things like that. Finding that reason why you want to start changing your thinking is really important for a lot of my clients. 

For some people, it's like, “I want to be able to look in the mirror again,” or for some people, it's “I want to stop obsessing. I want to stop counting calories and weighing myself all the time. It's exhausting.” By the way, that's another thing you can do, is get rid of your scale immediately. There's no reason why we need to have scales in our house. I tell people they can bury it in the backyard because you can always dig it back up again if you feel like you need it. But I do have clients that have literally buried their scales because it doesn't need to be there. 

It's a question, “Why is that there? Why am I tracking every pound?” Really questioning how much time is this taking. In that vein, I think working on this idea of body neutrality can be really powerful for people. “I'm not going to love my body; I'm not going to hate it. I'm just going to accept. I'm going to look in the mirror and be like, ‘Okay, this is what I look like.'” And trying not to value it at all in terms of “I look great, or I look fat, or I look thin, or there's a bulge here or whatever.” Just acknowledging it as a fact almost like, “This is what I look like.” People could start there themselves. That could be a really interesting process as well. 

Dr. Lisa: Yeah, and this idea that you need to jump into this, “I love and appreciate my body exactly as it is.” It feels like too big of a step and just to experiment with “This is my body.” You're almost describing it as like a very mindful way without interpretation, or judgment, or values. It is just what it is.

Stephanie: This is extremely scary for people. That isn't easy. When we have a belief system over time that tells us, “No, if I do that, I'm going to let myself slip. I need to constantly be pushing myself, and I can't let go. I can't let myself slip. That's a really scary thing because if I'm okay with my body, then what if I get fat? What if I gain weight?” for some people, that fear is all-encompassing. 

Dr. Lisa: What do you do with that? “Stephanie, I can't. If I don't hate myself, if I don't judge myself, if I don't yell at myself every time I look in the mirror, then I'm going to stop trying, and then I will be fat and what does that mean?” 

Stephanie: What would happen if you were fat? What would happen if you gained weight? There's an assumption that fat is bad, right? It's not necessarily. A lot of people are fighting their body's natural state quite intensely to prevent it from being at the weight it wants to be. A lot of clients that I have have gotten to a point where they're like, “What if I just let myself be fat? There's a good chance that I'm never going to look any different than I have my whole life. So maybe it's time to just be okay with it, right?” 

I think that weight fluctuation, too, has really been linked to a lot of health problems so the more we diet, and we know diets don't work. 99% of people gain back all or more of the weight after two years of losing it on a diet, right? They're unsustainable, and they're unattainable. So that weight fluctuation can actually be really harmful for health. Pointing things out like that to them can sometimes be useful. But I think questioning like, “Well, okay, so you'd be fat, and? What does that mean to you?” Then, we can pull out some of people's own stigma and biases. 

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. What does it mean? Our virtue? Lovability? Worthiness? Yeah. I want to go back to a point that you said. It was actually on my mind earlier today, and I'll tell you why. You mentioned a minute ago that people are often fighting viciously with themselves to try to not be the weight that their body naturally wants to be. I might have even, was it just last night? It might have been.

Health at Every Size

I came across this article that I read because I was thinking, “I'm going to be talking to Stephanie about body image and weight.” I have to share the link with you. It was a new article from a science journalist who's going through a lot of the research. The punchline is that there has always been, even among medical professionals, this theory about what creates obesity, but I've certainly heard before, which is calories in calories out. 

If you are consuming more calories than you burn, it gets stored as fat. It's sort of like thermodynamics, right? It sounds very reasonable. That is actually not true and that genetic variations, there have been experiments with mice, that a mouse with a certain genetic imprint, their bodies do different things with insulin production. In experiments, you can actually feed one of these mice half as much as a sort of standard-issue mouse diet, whatever that is, and they will still gain weight. 

Their body just simply does different things with energy and energy storage and that there's a high degree of just natural variability in humans. The discussion is that people who do maybe struggle with obesity or overweight are not eating more than regular people. They're not doing anything bad to create this. It's just their bodies. 

Stephanie: Yes. We have never been able to find any evidence that shows that fat people eat more than thin people. We've never. People try to prove it all the time, and it doesn't work. That article that you're citing right now is actually a pretty famous piece of research. It's not new. Maybe this one is new. 

Dr. Lisa: The article came out, or at least I saw it recently. 

Stephanie: The research is older, and people went through a lot of efforts to keep that message from the public because still, this moral sense of “We can't let people know because then, they'll think it's okay, right?”

Dr. Lisa: “They'll bury their scales in their backyard. The anarchy.” 

Stephanie: Yes, yes. Just so much of it is not at all our nutrition, what we put in our bodies. So much of weight is based on genes, genetics, socioeconomic status, our relationships, our friendships, our fitness. Fitness is the biggest personal predictor, the biggest thing you can control to keep your health up. 

Nutrition plays an important but very, very small part in it. It doesn't surprise me when I read things like this. Actually, we can't find that fat people eat any differently than thin people. There are thin people who eat tons of junk food. There are fat people that eat tons of junk food. There are fat people who eat very healthy and exercise a ton. There are thin people who eat very healthily and exercise a ton. We can't really find a difference in the… 

Dr. Lisa: Behavior, yeah.

Stephanie: A strong causality. 

Dr. Lisa: Yeah, and just to support what you're saying, I will totally share this article with you. But citing research from a hundred years ago, stuff going on in World War II that this was coming out and just never gained traction. In agriculture, it was known that certain kinds of cows or other livestock just metabolized food differently, but it just never translated to humans. 

That's so important because it goes back to that idea of morality, of virtue, of good and bad, the sense that, “I should look different, and I should make myself look different. If I can't, that means something bad about me.” This anxiety that comes along with that, and what I'm hearing from you is like, “Just get off that bus!” 

Stephanie: Well, that's, I think, one of the key components of Health at Every Size, is that the best way to improve the health of a population is to work towards creating a more fair and just world and reducing inequity. We have studies that show increased heart disease in immigrant populations. 

We were able to sort of prove or research was able to show that the only contributing factor here is the stress on this minority population. But we're going to tell them, the information that we're going to give them from the health organizations is that they need to eat less butter, right? 

It's putting a personal responsibility on someone when it's actually things like racism, and size stigma, and any type of marginalization are huge health hazards. As long as we keep it in this sphere of “It's what you eat, and how much you exercise, and if you can't maintain a weight, you're lazy,” then we kind of ignore all of these other unjust components of our society. 

Dr. Lisa: Yeah, and how we're all, in some way, personally responsible for creating that or maintaining that. I'm so glad that you're bringing this up because there's I think a positive way that it seems like, at least, in some ways, there has been some progress. Racism is still very much a thing, internalized racism, and the amount of stress that it creates for people of color, immigrants. 

I think it could be argued that discrimination of overweight people or fat-shaming is still widely accepted in a lot of ways. I think that people internalize, like we were talking about before, internalize that shame. They may experience hostility, or nasty comments, or lost opportunities, maybe assumptions made about them being a certain way that aren't true. The level of stress, and anxiety, and pain that causes, that's the real health consequence. 

Stephanie: Absolutely, and we know that different cultures and ethnicities have different sizes. People come in all different shapes and sizes. All this research that we have on obesity and all this stuff, it's all on white people. All of the subjects in these tests are mostly for white populations. So everything is messed up, basically, is what I'm saying. 

In so many of these studies that link health problems to obesity, this is an important point people should know, fitness level was not accounted for in those studies. When fitness is accounted for, there's virtually no link between weight and health. There's a lot of misinformation. People are interested in publishing things that go along with what we already believe, and it's very hard to challenge those belief systems, I think, because of how this has become such a moral issue. 

Love Your Body Now

Dr. Lisa: I hear you. Okay, so if I were to synthesize very complex and nuanced ideas into a few chunks, I'm hearing you say that step one is getting familiar and understanding the stories that we are telling ourselves, stories that we've inherited just as an observer, right? Then, that second piece is really beginning to challenge them with different kinds of information. Then, the next phase really is trying to move into a practice of acceptance, of self-acceptance. 

Then finally, just to ask, in your work with people, have you worked with people over the arc of this process where they are able to change their relationships with their bodies to the degree that they can say, “You know what? I love my body. I am so grateful for this body I have,” and have it be a positive thing? 

Stephanie: I think that my clients who experienced success become people who some days, they love their body, some days, they don't think about it at all, some days, they may have an issue with their body creep back in again. But it's much more along just the normal experience of our relationships with our bodies and not being obsessed with it. 

I think that success to me in this field is taking care of your body. That success, just taking care of it. There are a few other things that we work on like intuitive eating, and joyful movement, and along with the body acceptance piece. But I think that success in the end is like, “I've got this body. I have it. It is what it is, and here's how I'm going to take care of it.”

Dr. Lisa: Yeah, and then, I would attach maybe to that too is, it's worth taking care of, maybe potentially disconnect a little bit from the way it looks and to what it does. Because what I'm thinking about right now, having gone through two pregnancies, this experience of my body just starting to do all of these things automatically for me and for this baby that were in no way connected to me looking good, but to more like very useful in terms of: “I could do all this stuff!” Just being able to transport you from here to there. The physicality of movement is appreciating your body for breathing, and digesting food, and doing things. Yeah, it's amazing. 

Stephanie: I think that the people that we know that have a more positive sense of their bodies are the people who are able to say, “Oh, I love my legs because they make me run fast,” or “I love my skin because it stretches when I am pregnant. That's amazing.” Just understanding and being grateful for the functions of their body, and if we're struggling with that, the answer is not to lose weight, right? 

The answer is to find things that we like or enjoy or in terms of movement and things like that that our bodies can do. That's kind of the home run message, is how can you live the life you want right now in the body you have right now, given your current situation? Not that invisible finish, not that imaginary future day, but: “How can I be the healthiest I can right now in the body that I have right now?” 

Dr. Lisa: Yes, radical idea that perhaps, and this is a good message for everyone, that there is a path to being perfectly happy right now with normal ebbs and flows, where it is what it is, to find a path of gratitude and appreciation that is disconnected from your physical appearance and what that means, just being happy like, “This is it.” I love it. 

Thank you so much for sharing such a positive, empowering message. I'm sure that there are a lot of people who needed to hear this. It's wonderful even for me to hear and think about. 

Just to share, the last time I was pregnant, I got a doctor who started giving me a lot of crap for gaining too much weight too quickly. I started to develop so much anxiety about what I was eating, and when do I eat, what do I eat, all that stuff, and weighing myself was not good. Then, my scale broke, and that was three years ago. I never got another scale, and it's so interesting. Just that one data point that, especially women can get very weird about, it's a non-issue. It doesn't matter. 

Stephanie: It's not even really measuring anything. I want to say too that there are many doctors, physicians, nutritionists, mental health professionals, dieticians even, who do follow this Health at Every Size approach. There are doctors that I know who have actually stopped weighing their patients altogether and just follow this paradigm shift, just shifting our thinking. 

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. Well, that's wonderful and again, I think a message of empowerment is that if this is something that you're working towards, to advocate for that, and find a doctor who is familiar with these ideas and who practice this Health at Every Size and to find that network of support for this. Wonderful. Again, thank you so much for sharing it, and I will include if you'd like to share more information about Health at Every Size in the show notes of this episode and some other resources that we can direct people to and go from there. 

Stephanie: Thank you so much, Lisa. I really enjoyed talking to you about this today. 

Dr. Lisa: Me too. This is a lot of fun. 

You can find links to the resources that Stephanie shared today during our talk on the post for this podcast, which is going to be growingself.com/love-your-body. Also, while you're there, be sure to cruise over to the blog. Stephanie has so generously written a number of articles on our blog related to self-esteem, healthy relationships. She has a particularly fantastic article about what to do if you feel like you're walking on eggshells with someone in a relationship and another article around body acceptance and Health at Any Size

It is all there for you at growingself.com. Come over, check it out, and in the meantime, I will be back in touch with you next week with another episode of The Love, Happiness, and Success Podcast, and let's go out with some more Bnny. 

By the way, you guys, this whole album is fantastic. You should definitely check it out, Bnny. Bnny. All right, that's all for today. Over and out, my friends. I will talk to you next week. Bye-bye.

[Outro music: Thaw by Bnny]


Embracing Your Cultural Identity

Embracing Your Cultural Identity

Embracing Your Cultural Identity

 

Embracing Your Cultural Identity

Feeling connected to your cultural identity can be an important part of life satisfaction for many people, and it can be a large part of one’s identity as a whole. In my work as a therapist and online life coach, I have the opportunity to sit with people who are on this journey. Knowing one’s cultural identity and embracing it is not a requirement for feeling satisfied and it does not have to be a necessary part of happiness or contentment, but the key piece here is whether that is an intentional choice for you. 

For many people living in the United States, and across the world, knowing and embracing your cultural, racial, or ethnic identity can be a complex task. For the purposes of this article, I will use ‘cultural identity’ as a broad term to include race and ethnicity (although culture and cultural identity are not limited to these 2 areas), but it is important to note these terms are different and distinct from one another. Cultural identity can also include language and location among other things, and is largely socially constructed.

Embracing Your Cultural Identity 

Why might embracing your cultural identity be important anyway? There are many answers to this question, but from a therapist and life coach’s perspective, a big factor are the emotional impacts that can arise when we don’t. 

Feelings of shame, guilt, isolation, disconnection, and emptiness may arise when we feel confused or cut off from our cultural identity, and this can be especially complex in the face of white supremacy. It would be a disservice and unrealistic not to address the role white supremacy plays on how our cultural identity forms, how culture is communicated to us, and what it can mean to us. 

Embracing your cultural identity can help you feel more satisfied, more connected to yourself, your relationship, and your loved ones and give you more confidence in who you are. 

White Supremacy and You

Connecting with your cultural identity while fighting the current of white supremacy is no easy task, and has been something our ancestors have been doing for many years whether they are conscious of this or not. As America is generally recognized as a nation of immigrants, the issue of striving to feel connected and validated in our culture while being a part of “American culture” can feel like a balancing act. 

This is particularly salient for first and second generation immigrants, and immigrant families as a whole regardless of how many generations have come forth since immigrating. Walking the tightrope of trying to assimilate into a new country and culture while holding on to your own racial and ethnic culture is no small feat, and can lead you to feel criticized or invalidated at every turn when you aren’t “American enough” or “white enough” and you also aren’t “____ enough” for your cultural group. 

Understanding this for ourselves can be challenging enough, much less in the face of colorism and microaggressions that can permeate every day life. Colorism is a way in which white supremacy can show up within racial and ethnic groups, where proximity to whiteness is met with either giving or taking away power and privilege based on the tone of one’s skin. 

Families may have learned or had the experience that embracing their cultural identity, and not hiding it in the face of white supremacy, is dangerous. For many people across the globe, embracing and embodying your cultural identity is not always safe. This is an unfortunate reality, and being able to discern when you can embrace your cultural identity and when you can’t is a critical skill. 

However, what I see as a beacon of light in these situations is that you can cultivate and embrace your cultural identity in the privacy and sanctity of your own home or living space, as well as in your mind. Now that we have been able to acknowledge the role of white supremacy, let’s talk about ways to embrace and cultivate your cultural identity even in the face of challenge so that healing can begin.

Cultivating and Connecting with Your Cultural Identity

In order to begin cultivating and connecting with your cultural identity, you first have to identify the parts that make you, you. There are many routes you can use to discover your racial, ethnic, and cultural makeup, depending on how deep you’d like to go. 

Trace Your Family Journey

If you are able to speak with family members, such as grandparents, aunts, uncles, or cousins they may be a great place to start tracing the journey your family has made across different states, countries, or cities. Depending on your relationship with them, this could be an opportunity to connect and share stories about family members and the history of your family.

Research Your Family Tree

Another great option is to complete genealogical DNA testing, or to complete some genealogical research on your own via a family tree. You could complete this yourself, or outsource to hire someone else to do this research for you. As mentioned before, culture can be broad and comprise the various parts of your identity, which may include your geographic location, the way you speak, and your personality. Regardless of how you define your cultural identity, it starts with identifying the major pieces of you that may or may not be visible. 

Explore Your Identities

Once you have started to recognize your identities, it is time to explore them and be curious about what they mean to you. This may be a little more challenging than it seems on the surface, as you will have to sort through the messages you may have received about a particular identity compared to what you actually feel or believe about it. 

This process is not always linear, clear cut, or easy, and it may be a continual process until you feel firmly rooted in what you think and feel about your identities. I also use identity in the plural sense, as we are all intersectional in that we are made up of many identities including but not limited to: gender, ability, age, race, ethnicity, and sexual identity. 

Connect with Others On a Similar Path

As you are exploring and integrating these various pieces of you, it may be helpful to engage with others who are similar to you to either share in the struggles of this work or find that you are not alone in how you feel. Many times we may feel isolated or misunderstood in who we are, but from my experience as a therapist and coach, all of us can relate to one another more than we may think. 

As you are doing this work, your emotions may range from joy, surprise, and excitement to confusion, frustration, or disbelief. At the end of the day, I encourage you to give yourself patience and permission to stand in your truth and not try to force yourself into neat and tiny boxes. People may share different opinions than you, but no one can define you or tell you who you are, only you can do that. 

Embracing Your Cultural Identity While Combating White Supremacy 

Embracing your cultural identity can be freeing and satisfying, but does not come without its own challenges, as white supremacy can be insidious in its various forms. As you are going through your own journey, doubts and inner criticism may arise as you’re exploring your emotions and beliefs about your identities. 

Paying attention to these emotions as they come up and exploring what may be beneath them can also help you better understand yourself, your fears, and anxieties about showing up in this new way. The tools you will need in your toolbox as you are embracing and understanding your cultural identity will be:

  • compassion
  • patience
  • kindness
  • curiosity

You will be using each of these tools often, so be prepared to keep them accessible to you. 

You will need to give yourself compassion as you feel conflicting emotions, patience as you feel confusion or stuck-ness, and kindness towards yourself all along the way. Curiosity will be important to combat feelings of judgement, and to explore every thought, belief, or emotion. 

Curiosity may look like, “Where did I learn this?” or “What is the origin story to this reaction or belief?” and, “Do I really believe/think/feel this, or did this come from someone else?” Feelings of shame or pain can be difficult to process, and here is where giving ourselves compassion and kindness is crucial. 

Going along with society or those in power is a survival strategy, and yourself and your family did what you had to do to get to this point and there is no shame in that. However, at any time we all have the choice to pivot and make the choices that best serve us now, which may include opening ourselves up to integrating all of who we are. 

I may make this sound easy, but please give yourself patience in understanding this, like everything else, it is a process that takes time. There is just as much value in the journey as there is arriving at the destination, and you may need to remind yourself of this often. 

When confronted with white supremacy or microaggressions, you have the power to remind yourself of your truth and who you are. You are able to reassure yourself of your identities and what they mean to you and about you, and no one can ever take that away from you. 

Embracing your cultural identity may look like not censoring yourself or contorting yourself to fit the majority, but it is important to recognize you may not always have the privilege and safety to do so. In those cases, reminding yourself of your values and identity in those moments will be important to insulate you from the effects of that. Giving yourself compassion in those moments and recognizing the strength and skill it takes to adapt and protect yourself is a huge aspect of this work, and will cultivate resilience within you. 

Embracing your cultural identity is not the path of least resistance, but is a trek worth embarking on. You can utilize these tools along with the support of friends, family, and people in your community you feel safe sharing with along the way, as social support is invaluable throughout this process as well. Please know, people across the world and all around you are working to embrace their cultural identity right along with you.

 

Warmly,

Josephine

 

 

 

Josephine M., M.S. MFTC Couples Counseling + Therapy

Josephine M., M.S., MFTC is a warm, kind, and direct therapist and couples counselor who specializes in communication, compassion and connection. She can help you reach your goals and create positive change in yourself and your relationships.

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What’s Your Problem?

What’s Your Problem?

Are You Doing More For Others Than You Should Be?

What is your problem? And what is someone else's responsibility? Learn how to set healthy boundaries with clarity and confidence.

What's Your Problem?

The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast with Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Music Credits: “O.P.P.” by Wimps

What’s Your Problem?

As a therapist and life coach, I often work with clients who are doing personal growth work because they’re struggling with feeling blamed (and even guilty!) for other people’s problems and issues because they are trying to figure out how to set healthy boundaries. Particularly hardworking, competent and conscientious people can have a hard time figuring out the line between taking appropriate personal responsibility (which is a good thing) verse being made to feel responsible for things that are actually someone else’s personal responsibility. Can you relate?

Unrealistic Expectations… of Yourself

People having unrealistic expectations of you can happen in toxic workplace environments, relationships with selfish people, when you’re enabling someone else’s problematic behaviors, in relationships where there’s gaslighting, or if you’re married to a narcissist. Those situations where people have obviously inappropriate expectations of you are more obvious to spot.

But accepting responsibility for things that are really someone else’s problem can happen much more subtly, and even subconsciously. Many people have unrealistic expectations of themselves in relationships, and feel that they should be taking on more responsibility than is actually healthy for them. 

In particular, it’s much more challenging to see that you’re taking an inappropriate level of responsibility when you have a “helping” personality. Helping others is something that you just naturally start doing and is a role that probably feels very familiar to you. This could be due to your role in your family of origin, or also just by virtue of the fact that you’re probably kind, compassionate, and competent. You see someone who needs help, you can do something to help them, so you step in.

But should you?

Here’s The Problem With Everything Being Your Problem

While being generous and helpful is not an objectively bad thing, here’s the problem with it: if you’ve been subconsciously taking responsibility or working harder than you should to solve problems for other people, or managing other people’s feelings, or doing things for others that they should really be doing for themselves, over time, it starts to create problems for you too. 

You’ll start experiencing burnout and exhaustion, feeling resentful, or start having trouble letting go of anger. You feel like you’re not getting your needs met in relationships. It’s hard to say no. You might even find yourself sliding into codependent relationship dynamics over and over again. Furthermore, it can be very difficult to change the dynamic if you’ve trained other people to expect that you’ll sacrifice yourself on their behalf.

For example, if you start setting appropriate boundaries with people you’ve been “over-serving,” they might get mad at you and tell you that you’re being mean. Or, if you allow other people to experience natural consequences for their own behavior, you might feel anxious and guilty. Emotionally, it can start to feel easier to just keep doing more than you should!

Personal Responsibility

To complicate matters further, you do have to keep your side of the street clean. Healthy adults do have responsibilities, and there are things that you do actually need to do in order to be a healthy, happy person and have positive relationships with others. It is appropriate for other people to have some expectations of you, too!

For example, it is your responsibility to be emotionally healthy, to be emotionally safe, to be self aware, to communicate productively, to work on your own emotional intelligence, and to invest in your own personal growth. It is your responsibility to learn and grow, and to be happy and healthy. It is your responsibility to follow through, to be trustworthy, to be honest with yourself, and to be honest with others.

Someone Else’s Personal Responsibility

But where do you draw the line between your responsibilities and someone else's? How do you figure out if you’re in a situation where you need to be doubling down on your emotional intelligence skills… or whether it's okay to simply say no and let someone else have their tantrum? How can you tell if you actually do need to show your partner love in a different way, or whether they have unrealistic expectations in your relationship or even trust issues? (Which would then be their problem to work on — not yours.)

It can be very, very challenging to get clarity about the line between where your sphere of responsibility stops, and where someone else’s starts. That’s the topic we’re tackling on today’s episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast I’m calling, “What is Your Problem?” 

In it, we’ll be discussing how to:

  • Differentiate what is your problem from other people’s problems. 
  • Be aware of when you need to reevaluate a responsibility issue in your life.
  • Learn how to set boundaries and have healthy relationships with others.
  • Find out what your personal responsibilities are.
  • Discover the importance of allowing others to have space to grow on their own. 

You can listen to “What is Your Problem” on Spotify or on Apple Podcasts, as well as on the player of this page. (Don’t forget to subscribe!) If this podcast is helpful to you, I hope you consider sharing it with someone else you care about so they can benefit from these ideas too. 

I have show notes for you below, as well as a full transcript of this podcast at the bottom of this post. If you have any follow up questions I hope you leave them for me in the comments. I’ll answer them!

With love and respect, 

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

What's Your Problem?

The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast with Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Music Credits: “O.P.P.” by Wimps

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What is Your Problem: Episode Highlights

Personal Responsibility vs Inappropriate Expectations

Being blamed for something outside your scope of responsibility is commonplace. You may have experienced the following with a colleague or family member: 

  • Being mad when you don’t do their job
  • Get angry when you react negatively to something they did
  • Try to make you feel bad for the consequences of their actions

When you buy into the idea that you are unworthy because you can't take care of other people's problems, you can start feeling inappropriately guilty, and may even start showing signs of low self-esteem

Setting Boundaries

Without healthy boundaries in a relationship, other people will have the space to pass their responsibilities onto you. 

“While we can be inappropriately blamed by others, it is also true that we do need to show up in the healthiest way possible.”

Thus, turn your attention to the unhealthy dynamics that allow those situations. You may need to learn how to set boundaries with your parents, friends, or co-workers.

Boundary Setting Exercise:

To help you get clarity about your boundaries, try this simple exercise:

  1. Grab a pen and piece of paper
  2. Draw two circles, one inside of the other.
  3. In the inner circle, write what you need to do to feel confident that you are doing your very best in various situations in your life. What are your responsibilities? Write them down.
  4. In the outer circle, jot down what is in the realm of others’ responsibilities that they are trying to hand to you.

You can practice this exercise in your various relationships, whether involving your work or personal life.

Unrealistic Expectations

We often tend to take over people's responsibilities because others feel that we can do them. This dilemma is especially prevalent amongst strong, intelligent, competent, compassionate, and naturally caring individuals. 

As you bear more of the burden, you’ll eventually become more resentful of others. If you feel this way, remember that your anger and resentment are valid: “When people are not treating you appropriately, it's totally normal and expected that you will be feeling angry towards them.” 

Moreover, you’d start to feel defeated, since you are unable to do all the work. When in reality, you actually can’t meet all these inappropriate expectations. You trick yourself into thinking that you're not good enough.

Take these emotions as a sign that there is a responsibility issue at the core of your life. You can also see it as a growth opportunity.

Your Personal Responsibility

It might be hard to hear, but you also have to think about how you may have contributed to this unhealthy dynamic. 

In addition, it’s much more exhausting to fight with other people about the things they need to change. After all, “When we blame other people, for the things that we are experiencing, we're giving our power away.”

Here are some of the things you need to be taking responsibility for:

1. Having Emotional Awareness

Our feelings tell us about our needs and values. We have to be self-aware of our emotions so that we can make informed decisions. 

People who have disconnected from their feelings have a lot of trouble setting boundaries. We need emotional intelligence if we want to improve our relationships.

2. Practicing Emotionally Safe Communication

You need to communicate how you feel about what you need and prefer in an emotionally safe and effective way. It is your responsibility to talk about what you're thinking and feeling in a kind and respectful manner. 

You also have to manage your reactions; avoid screaming or slamming doors! It helps to learn how to be vulnerable safely.

3. Prioritizing Your Health and Wellness

Our personal health is our responsibility. Getting enough sleep, nourishment, and movement are basic needs.

If we don’t actively pay attention to our health and wellness, we cannot be our best selves or even be functional. 

4. Being Knowledgeable and Clear About Boundaries

First, you have to know what your boundaries and limitations are before communicating them to other people. 

Once you make these clear, you can then learn to turn down requests that don't serve your best interests. 

Remember: “Just because you can do something doesn't mean that you should.” It is our responsibility to protect ourselves from people who harm us and disregard our needs. 

Similarly, it falls on us to figure out what makes us happy and pursue opportunities for happiness. You have to find what fills your cup so that you can serve the people around you. “You can't look to other people to do this for you. It is not their job. It's your job.”

5. Defining Your Obligations 

Another thing that falls under the realm of our personal responsibility is knowing what we need to do to hold up our end of the bargain. These can include your roles in your family or even at work. 

It is particularly helpful to sit down and write these responsibilities down. Then, communicate these with your partner or colleagues so that they can respond appropriately.

6. Having Empathy and Compassion

We are interdependent to those around us, from the way we respond to each other's actions. So being empathetic and compassionate with others should also be our responsibility.

What is Your Problem

Ultimately, finding out what is your problem boils down to control how you show up in the world. We need to live our lives with integrity to ourselves and to others. 

We don't need to do this perfectly. However, we do have to make a sincere effort to be considerate of others. This process takes time and effort. 

Other People’s Problems

Once you become clear about what is your problem, you can determine what other people’s problems are. 

Even if you set your values and priorities straight, other people can still be upset with you. And that should not be your problem

Others may think badly of you for setting healthy boundaries, but that's okay. You don't need to think about their opinions of you anymore because you know that you are a good person.

If another person becomes abusive in response, don’t think for a second that you need to change their reactions. At this point, resolving what is your problem requires keeping yourself safe and leaving. In cases of domestic violence, reach out to thehotline.org immediately.

Giving Space for Others to Grow

The foundation of a mutually healthy relationship is healthy boundaries on both sides.

Keep in mind that other people's personal growth is not part of your problem. It's best to allow them to experience the pain and discomfort of the consequences of their actions. 

Clearing the path for them can even hamper their progress. That’s because, in the absence of dissatisfaction and frustration, people won’t grow.

To help other people, you can share resources (like this podcast!) and even help them get a life coach to help them in their journey. 

[Intro song: O.P.P. by The Wimps]

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: This is Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby and you're listening to The Love, Happiness, and Success Podcast. That’s The Wimps. The song is O.P.P. In this case, O.P.P. stands for Other People's Pizza. But I still wanted to use the song, first of all, because I love this band. Second of all, today, we're talking about: “What is your problem?” What is your problem, specifically, compared to what is somebody else's problem? I have a whole category of things in my mind that are other people's problems: OPPs. Hence, the relevance of this song. And a nice intro into what we're going to be talking about on today's show which is figuring out what is actually your problem, and what is someone else's problem, and getting clarity and confidence to set boundaries between those things so that you don't get pushed around by other people. So that you are actually taking personal responsibility around the things that you do actually need to do in your relationships, and yourself, in your life. 

Good stuff in store for us today. And I'm glad you're here. If this is your first time listening to the show, I would to formally welcome you. I am Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby. I'm the founder and clinical director of Growing Self counseling and coaching. I am a licensed marriage and family therapist, so I specialize in relationships, but I'm also a licensed psychologist. I do have some insight into the quirks of humanity and the way people are. I am also though a board-certified coach, which I am quite proud of. 

I feel that coaching is a profession that has gotten kind of a bad rap in recent years. Honestly, in some ways, rightfully so, there are a lot of dubious characters out there running around offering all kinds of coaching with no training or real experience, for that matter, which is always kind of scary. But there's also a lot of very responsible, ethical, and highly-trained coaches who I think take the best of the principles of therapy and counseling. But turn it into transformational change, which is very worthwhile, and that is part of my orientation. 

I think every one of these episodes that I make for you on the podcast are with that spirit: not just talking about ideas but talking about ideas and then turning them into, hopefully, something that you can do something with. I do a lot of different kinds of experiential growth activities on the show. I have one for you today, and I have a lot of fun doing it. I hope you have fun listening. 

Very lastly, thank you so much if you're one of my regular listeners for the kinds of reviews. Oh, my goodness. I had the opportunity to look at The Love, Happiness, and Success Podcast on iTunes lately and I was just floored by all of the reviews and the nice things that you guys had to say. Thank you so much for the reviews, and also for your questions. I know you guys get in touch from time to time with questions, and I read those. I consider all of them, and then I think about how do I answer that question in an upcoming topic, an upcoming episode of the podcast. 

While I certainly can't be like, “Okay, Stephanie. Here's what you should do.” Because I'm not your therapist and it would be inappropriate for me to give you highly specific advice for your life. I can absolutely talk about the things that are important to you and create growth activities that would be genuinely helpful to you. Because here's also the secret: I have a lot of people who asked me for specific advice like, “Okay, this is what my husband said. What do you think I should do?” I always am like, “Mmm.” 

The truth is that any good counselor or coach is not going to tell you specifically what to do. None of this is informational in nature. I have ideas, and I can make suggestions but those suggestions are around growth experiences. They're not specific, “Do this and then this will happen.” It is, “Let's hand in hand walk into this growth experience together. I will be your guide. Here are some things that would help you develop in such a way that you would know how to handle this situation. It would be congruent with you. You might even have a different perception of the whole experience in and of itself.” 

When people ask for advice, it's like this little head of a pin. It's the very tip of the arrow, but behind that is all of this opportunity for growth, like real meaningful growth, which is never an event. It is always a process. I don't want to deprive you of that process. I'm not going to cheapen this by even suggesting that there are black and white easy answers. “Do this and your life will be perfect.” If there are any other podcast hosts, self-proclaimed life coaches who are telling you that, either they don't know what they're talking about, or they're lying to you. I would never do that. 

Here today, we're going to have yet another growth experience together. This is going to be a good one. And we're talking about how to differentiate between what is your problem, and how to take effective personal responsibility for yourself in your life, and how to differentiate that from what is somebody else's problem. So that you can get really clear about setting boundaries and expectations and not allowing yourself to be inappropriately blamed or used or made responsible for things that you really shouldn't be. 

I think that's an important topic, and I know it's a pain point for you. It's a pain point for many of the clients that we see here in Growing Self. I've also gotten a number of questions about this very topic. And that's why we're talking about this today because as always, it's all for you. Let's jump in. 

Have you ever had someone say to you, “What is your problem?” In an accusatory way? How many times have you had somebody tried to blame you for something that is one, not your fault, and two, not your responsibility? It’s not in the sphere of things that should be your problem. It happens all the time. Examples of this would be somebody making you feel guilty when you don't want to do something that they want you to do. Or when somebody is being a jerk to you and then surprised when you have an appropriately negative reaction to them. 

“What's your problem?” Well, let me tell you, or what about this. This is very common. It happens all the time in couples counseling: Someone blaming you for how they feel and that you need to modify your behavior so that they can feel differently on the inside. Somebody's being mad at you for not covering for them or cleaning up their messes. That can happen. Oftentimes, in professional situations, if you're working on a team and you have a co-worker who's kind of slack, and you're doing all these things to try to make the project successful anyway. One day you can't, and then they get mad at you for not doing what should have been their job anyway. This is also super common is somebody making you or trying to make you feel responsible for the consequences of their own actions, what they're choosing to do or not do. 

Inappropriate Responsibilities

On the show, in service of healthy relationships and how to have them, we talk a lot about boundaries. When we have podcast topics about personal growth, which is also hugely important, we talk about self-esteem. But today, we're really going to be getting under the hood to talk about the unhealthy dynamics that you do have control over that actually create those situations. When boundaries aren't healthy, there's often this inappropriate responsibility thing going on. When people do have low self-esteem or struggle to feel confident, it's often because they are feeling blamed or believing these messages from other people. That, “You're not quite good enough.” Or “You're not doing this well enough to make me feel better about it.” 

When you buy into those things, that's when people start to feel bad about themselves. This is really kind of getting into the nitty-gritty of how do we assess, with confidence, what is actually my problem and my responsibility? What do I have control over? What should I have control over? Compared to what is on the other side of this line that not only am I not going to be responsible for that, but I'm also not going to feel bad about not being responsible for it? I'm not going to feel bad when I hand this one right back to you because you're its rightful owner. This is a conversation, again, that comes up all the time in many, many areas of life. 

Setting Boundaries

To sort of illustrate this, I would for you to either imagine or you could have an experiential growth moment with me right now. Pause this for a second, go get a piece of paper, notebook, whatever you got, and draw two concentric circles. One medium-ish sized circle on the inside and then around that circle, draw a larger circle. You have two circles, one inside the other. The inside circle is actually you and the things that you are in charge of. We're going to be talking about what those things really are and what they should be. 

While we can be inappropriately blamed by others, it is also true that we do need to show up in the healthiest way possible. We do need to conduct ourselves well enough in order to feel authentically good about ourselves and to feel confident. That, “You know what, I am actually being appropriate right now. I'm doing the very best job that I can do, and I know that because I've done this work.” Right? We don't just get it. We have to earn it and that's what this is. That's what goes into the inside circle. 

The outside circle is what is actually in the realm of somebody else's sphere of responsibility? That maybe they're trying to hand to you or make you be responsible for, but you're not really. With those two circles in mind, I want you to now think about how that shows up in different situations in your life. For example, it can come up in interpersonal relationships, certainly, where we're getting blamed for other people's feelings or when other people can't control us in the way that they like to. They get mad at us and like that. There's all kinds of things. 

Unrealistic Expectations

Even at work, it can happen especially if you are a strong, smart, and naturally competent, and also a naturally caring person, this is going to be relatively common for you. Because strong, smart, capable, competent, compassionate people can wind up accepting more and more stuff from others because they can do it. There's a part of them that’s like, “Well, it would be nice if I did do this for them.” And since they’re caring they’re, “Okay.” But what happens is that over time, all this stuff just gets heaped on and on and on. They feel like they're staggering under the weight of it all because it is actually too much. 

Predictably, what you can expect to happen if you are taking on more than you can or should legitimately bear is that you will start to feel resentful of others. You will start to feel angry, you will probably feel very tired, and also this defeated feeling because you can't actually do it all. When there's this voice in your head that's like, “Oh, but I should be able to do this all.” You'll start to feel bad about yourself because you actually can't, right? It's like you have inappropriate expectations for yourself at that point. 

Also, in relationships, this can lead to a lot of really negative emotions. If both you and your partner are colluding around this idea that you are actually responsible for the way they feel. And you're starting to walk on eggshells, and being super careful with everything that you say and do so that they don't go flying off the handle, it can make you feel really withdrawn, disengaged from the relationship to the point where you're not talking about how you're feeling anymore, what you're thinking. It's kind of this checked-out, burnt-out feeling. And it can happen in relationships. It can happen on the job. Really, anywhere where you have spheres of responsibility, this can happen. That's, again, why I wanted to talk about it today. 

Before we jump into the circles, why don't you just actually check-in with yourself for a second and ask yourself whether any of the things that I just mentioned resonate with you. Do you find yourself feeling guilty frequently? Or do you feel like you're running yourself ragged and just doing everything for everyone and it never ends? Here's the ringer: feeling resentful when other people, when you look around and other people aren't killing themselves the same way you are, and you're like, “Why aren't they?” Because you're so overwhelmed and exhausted and starting to feel kind of angry. 

Also, on that note, people will very predictably and rightfully feel angry when their boundaries are being violated. When you aren't getting what you need or when people are not treating you appropriately, it's totally normal and expected that you will be feeling angry towards them. That can be a sign that the locus of responsibility is kind of feeling out of balance when you're having that experience. 

Lastly, in addition to that resentment and guilt and hostility, depletion, there are also often feelings of self-doubt. It gets mixed up with that. “Oh, if I were just better or if I were more organized, I could do more.” “If I exercised every day, I would have more energy to do all these things.” Also, this feeling of low self-esteem, like you're feeling like you've failed because you can't. No matter what you do, this other person in your life is always going to have a negative reaction, or it's never quite going to be good enough. Low self-esteem is internalizing those messages and getting tricked into believing that you're not good enough, that you're not doing a good enough job, that somebody else would get better results. 

I know that this is probably a little hard to think about, but these, to me, are all the signs and symptoms that there may be a responsibility issue in the core of your life that is worth examining as a growth opportunity for you. And again, I am not going to give you trite advice about: “Do this instead.” This is actually a real invitation to take this bigger picture look at what is really going on and not just what other people are doing. But here's the hard part you guys: how you might currently be contributing to this dynamic that you don't want to participate in anymore. 

I know that is hard to hear, and it can be challenging because I think many times, people are stuck in a situation, and I felt this way too. When I've been stuck in this situation, it feels we're sort of being lowkey victimized by people in our lives, right? “Well, they just keep asking me to do stuff.” Or, “If I don't do this, then it won't happen, and we're going to have piles of laundry around the house for three weeks.” Those things might be true, but when we blame other people for the things that we are experiencing, we're giving our power away. It's just not helpful. A: It doesn't change anything And B: If everything is really someone else's fault, how can you possibly be empowered to change it

Your Personal Responsibility

You have to have responsibility. You have to have power in order to really take action and change your circumstances because other people can't do this for you. Particularly, in your relationships, if you're spending a lot of time and energy fighting with other people about how to get them to do things differently, again, that's an opportunity to shift this mirror around and look back at yourself. Because it's so much energy, and it's so exhausting to be fighting with other people about the things that they need to change. It is much more useful and honestly effective when we can think about: “Okay, what do I need to do to make this be different? What can I do to make this be different?” Then, focus all of your energy on that, specifically, because that will move the needle. 

Again, this is why when people ask me for relationship advice and like, “Well, let's crack into this.” It's really a discussion and it's a growth opportunity because I think people hope that I'm going to say, “If you say this to your wife, then she'll be different.” My friend, the actual process is so much more complicated than that. But it's okay. It's good. It's authentic. And that is what this is about. It’s authentic growth, right? 

With that in mind, now, let's go back and let's take a closer look at those circles of responsibility that I got you to write down on your paper. When we look at what is your problem, your personal responsibility is the way that you show up in the world. I'm just going to tick through some of these big ones. Some of them might be things that you're already doing, some of them might be growth opportunities for you, some of them, you might not have any idea what I'm talking about yet. That is also completely okay. These are just things that I have learned over the years on through my own personal growth work. 

Having Emotional Awareness

This is what actually matters when it comes to the things that we truly do need to take responsibility for. One of the big ones is emotional awareness. It is your responsibility. When I say “your,” I mean “our.” It is all of our responsibilities to be able to stay connected to our own feelings well enough to take guidance from them, to be able to listen to yourself to say, “I am feeling resentful. I am feeling depleted. I am feeling hurt.” 

We have to be connected to our own feelings so that we can A: advocate for ourselves and also take informed action from our feelings. Our feelings tell us about our needs. They tell us about our values. And if you're disconnected from your feelings, you don't have access to any of that. It's like if your whole body went numb and you didn't realize that you just cut yourself with a knife. Like “Oh, that is… I hurt myself. That is damaged. I have to stop. I have to go get a band-aid.” 

When we're disconnected with our emotions, we don't have that. You can't say, “Ouch. This is a relationship dynamic that is unhealthy for me.” Or, “No, I actually can't do that work project because I'm already feeling like I'm about to die.” People who are disconnected from their feelings have a lot of trouble setting boundaries between where they stop and someone else starts. That is a primary responsibility.

Practicing Emotionally Safe Communication

From that stems clarity about who you are, what you want, what you need, what is important to you so that you can do the next thing that is your responsibility, which is communicate in a really, not just clear, but emotionally safe way about how you're feeling, about what you need, about what you like: effective communication about possible problem-solving kinds of things. It is, again, emotionally safe communication that creates an emotionally safe environment for the people that you're interacting with. It is our responsibility to talk about what we're thinking and what we're feeling in a kind and respectful way. 

Also, with that is to manage our own reactions. Not screaming at people, not slamming doors, not saying snide, snarky, mean things when we're not feeling good. It's our responsibility to be emotionally vulnerable and kind and give other people the benefit of the doubt and manage the way that we are coming across. That is, if you listen to the emotional intelligence podcast I put together a while ago for you, that is one of the pillars of emotional intelligence. Two, really. It's how do I feel and then how do I manage my relationships with others? Meaning how am I being very deliberate and intentional about how I am coming across, how I am communicating, and making sure that I'm doing that in a respectful way that other people can hear? 

As we've talked about in other previous podcasts, when we lash out, when we withdraw, when we criticize, when we stomp around or sulk, there are predictably negative reactions from others in response to us. We need to take responsibility for that. 

Prioritizing Your Health and Wellness

Another very important thing for all of us to be taking responsibility for is our health and our wellness. Are we getting enough sleep? Eating well? Drinking enough water? Getting exercise? Going to the doctor? Taking care of health issues that need to be taken care of? Noticing when maybe we're getting depleted or we're not getting enough sleep we're not getting enough exercise? 

If we're not really actively paying attention to that and meeting our own needs and providing ourselves with self-care and downtime, we are going to get depleted, and not going to be able to be our best selves in relationships, or be functional, for that matter, at work, or as parents, or in our other important life roles. It is our responsibility to be meeting our basic needs for things like nourishment and rest. 

Being Knowledgeable and Clear About Boundaries

It is also our responsibility, along those lines, to be both knowledgeable and clear about our own limitations and our own boundaries. If you can imagine building up from the bottom, that emotional awareness leads to clarity, leads to being able to communicate, leads to self-care. It's being able to say to yourself first but then, also to other people, “Actually I can't do that.” Or “I don't want to do that.” That is also completely legitimate. It's like, “What are my boundaries? What are my limitations? What is okay with me? What is not okay with me?” You have to know that in yourself first so that you can then say that to somebody else. 

It is similarly our responsibility to say no to inappropriate requests and also to say no to things that are not congruent with the best use of our time and energy and life satisfaction goals. Just because you can do something, doesn't mean that you should. That is an idea that really trips up a lot of very competent, smart, compassionate people. Because they think, “Well, it's not that big of a deal. Yes, I'll do the thing.” When it would have actually been healthier, not just for them, but for everybody else for them to say, “Respectfully, no. There's a part of me that would like to but it's just not realistic for me right now.” It's completely okay, and it is your job to do that. 

It is also 100% your responsibility to protect yourself from other people who would either literally hurt you or disregard your healthy boundaries, disregard your needs. It is similarly your job to protect your children and other vulnerable people around you from others who may have the potential to harm them in subtle or very dramatic ways. It is also our responsibility to figure out what makes us happy and pursue those opportunities for happiness. That could be hobbies. That could be friendships that nurture us. That could be just having space to read a book. 

You're not doing anybody any favors when you are living your life in such a way that there's no space for you and the things that make you feel happy and satisfied and fulfilled. It may sometimes seem a little selfish to do that, but think about the converse. If you are literally giving everything away and then some, you are going to be irritated, grumpy, exhausted, resentful, angry, and not that functional. You are not of benefit to anybody else if you are grumpy, and resentful, and exhausted, and not that functional. 

You have to be doing things that fill up your own cup because you can't look to other people to do this for you. It is not their job. It's not their job. It's your job. Again, this sphere of personal responsibility. It goes in a couple of ways but getting clear about what we need to do is so liberating and empowering once we figure out how to define those boundaries. 

Defining Your Obligations

Other things that are super important and within our sphere of personal responsibility is spending some time to get very clear about what do we actually need to be doing in terms of holding up our end of the bargain. Those could be personal obligations or responsibilities in your personal life, but also that may extend to your roles at work or your roles as a parent. 

If you're a parent, it is actually your responsibility to make sure that the basic needs of your children are met, to be providing income, housing, transportation, basic stuff, safe environment, an emotionally safe environment for your kids. That is also your responsibility. In other roles, it can even be helpful to sit down with a piece of paper. Like, “Okay, at work, what is my job description? What am I there to do?” To write down all of those tasks: “what is my job,” quite literally. Or in your home life, your personal life: “What are the things that need to get done and that I should be doing?” That could extend to the way that you show up in your relationship. You know, spending at least some time with your spouse, are the things that are your responsibility. It's making an effort to be a kind, considerate, loving partner for your spouse.

I don't know if you had the chance yet to listen to my recent podcast episode about love languages, but trying to be thoughtful about what your partner needs from you and how you can give that to them. That is, I think, in your sphere of responsibility, in addition to being an emotionally safe person and an effective communicator. 

It is also your responsibility to provide people with necessary information to be able to say, “Here's my job and this is what I am going to be doing. This is what I'm going to be doing.” So that they can make choices about what they would like to be doing in response to that. Again, you're not telling them what to do. You're saying, “This is what I'm doing.” Providing them with accurate information and that could extend to boundaries but it could also… Doctors are actually, disclosure, therapists run into this a lot. 

I know part of my role here at Growing Self, I certainly do see my own therapy and coaching clients, but I also do a lot of supervision of other therapists and coaches at this point. One of the big themes that comes up, especially, I think, for earlier career counselors is this idea of how to tell if they're working harder than their clients are. Because that can actually be a thing in the therapy world. A client might come in and sort of vent about all of these things that are happening in their relationship that they aren't happy with, that they would to have changed. And then, a therapist could say, “Okay, these are the things that I think would be really helpful for you. I think that this is where we should put time and energy into expanding.” 

We cannot control whether or not someone engages with that, whether or not they want to do that personal growth work or challenge themselves to do things differently in their relationship with their partner, that would actually help them get different results. I think early career therapists can often feel really bad. Like, “Why isn't this ‘working?’” I think it also has to do with these ideas about how personal growth works, how therapy works. I think that some people have this idea that just coming into a therapist's office or a marriage counselor's office and saying out loud, “This is the problem” and hoping for advice. “Okay, what do you think I should do to change it?” That in itself would change something and that isn't the way it works. 

I think that that's one of the dark parts of talk therapy is that people believe that if they're coming and talking to a therapist, they are doing what needs to be done in order to change and grow and evolve. Listening to yourself tell the therapist about how you feel is great. It helps build insight. which is always helpful but it doesn't actually change the results that you're going to get in your life until you turn that insight into action and are able to put in the time and energy and effort to doing things a little bit differently, like the things that we're talking about today: managing the way that you communicate, being clear about your boundaries, saying no, protecting yourself, taking care of yourself, and providing other people with information around “Here's what I'm going to do.” 

I could tell you that, as a therapist, until I'm blue in the face but that is actually where my sphere of responsibility ends. Whether or not you do that stops being my responsibility because I have done my part of this equation, which is providing you with new ideas and growth opportunities. That's kind of how this works in my profession, but this is also how it's going to work in your life too. I think if we go back to that thing that we were talking about at the beginning of the show, about how often we can inadvertently get in these situations where we're fighting with people, particularly with our partners to try to get them to do things differently or move in the direction that we want them to move in, that is not anything that you have control over. 

Where your sphere of responsibility ends is around: “This is what I need. This is what I'm going to do. This is what I'm going to do in response to whatever you decide to do.” Then, seeing what they do with that. So it gets injected from that inner circle at that moment and into somebody else's lane to do with as they will. Yes, we're interdependent, and the way that we show up in our relationships can impact the response that we have. But I have ceaselessly been amazed over and over and over again about how dramatically, and sometimes, even quickly relationships will change. And how differently people will feel when they start getting real clear about themselves and their own boundaries and their own needs and how they're taking care of what is their responsibility instead of looking outside of that sphere of responsibility for things to improve. Those are some of the things that are in your sphere of responsibility. 

Having Empathy and Compassion

Others that I will add, I do believe personally, and this goes back to one of my core values that is not one that is shared by everyone, but I do believe that we all have the responsibility to try to have empathy and compassion for other humans. I think that that's just one of the core principles of life worth living. Again, that's a values-based thing. I do personally believe that we all have the responsibility to try to do as much as we can, particularly when it comes to doing our own work and bettering ourselves. 

I think that investing in yourself and your own wellness is our responsibility. That can extend obviously to the health stuff that we were talking about. Well, clearly, we're here together. You're listening to this podcast so you could check this one off the list, but reading self-help books, engaging in personal growth activities, thinking about: “Who am I? Am I the best self that I could be?” Considering what your options are and being willing I think to experiment with new things and grow. 

What is Your Problem

It all really boils down to our responsibility is, ultimately, controlling how we show up in the world and making sure that we are living our own lives with integrity: integrity to ourselves, integrity to others, and that managing ourselves as well as we can. Not perfectly. That is not an appropriate expectation for anyone but a sincere well-intentioned effort to be doing our very best job of being a good person, being thoughtful and considerate and kind in our interactions with other people, being very willing to accept responsibility for the things that we do actually need to do, which is our health, our wellness, and also basic stuff of life that we do actually need to get done. That requires a lot of thought and energy into thinking about what those things are. 

If you're feeling a little bit overwhelmed by all those, first of all, I'm sorry. But this is going back to that idea that when I do work with people in therapy and coaching, we dive into all of these things over many, many sessions. I'm trying to distill this for you into an exercise that we can talk about in the podcast episode of 45 minutes or whatever it is. Take notes, write these things down. My advice for you would be to give yourself time and space to think more about it. Write down: “What is my responsibility?” Fill in that circle. “What am I in charge of? What am I doing to take care of myself? How do I feel? Am I saying no? What, legitimately, are the tasks and things that are my job that are on my responsibility list?” 

Give yourself some time to do this because only then will you be able to say with confidence and clarity, “I am doing what I need to be doing. I know what that is and I feel really good about that.” Because then, that in turn, will lead us to step two which is figuring out what is on the other side of that boundary, that boundary of personal responsibility. 

Other People’s Problems

Once you have figured out what you want, what you need, what you need to do to create that, and get clear about what behaving with integrity and responsibility means to you, then you can get very clear and confident about all the things that are on the other side of that line. What is actually someone else's problem? Other people's problem: OPPs. These might include things like other people's reactions to you. If you are behaving well and in alignment with your values, and you're confident that you are being appropriate and clear and kind and responsible, then it leaves your domain of responsibility when it is launched out into the world and received by another person. 

I will tell you, if you are trying to set healthy boundaries with someone who does not have healthy boundaries, they will very likely get upset with you for doing that. They will try to make you feel bad about that. And they will have negative interpretations of whatever you do, despite your positive intentions. They'll perceive you as being not a nice, loving person, and that is okay. Because at this point, because of the work that you've done, you do not need them to think that you're a nice person because you already know that you're a nice person, that you're being really healthy and really appropriate. 

You can expect, again, unhealthy people, that that doesn't go over well with them. Particularly, if you've been caught in a dynamic with them historically where you have been doing too much and taking responsibility for things that aren't your job. As soon as you stop that, then that's not going to feel good for them anymore. They might try to punish you or make you feel bad. Again, I just want to pause for a second. There are degrees of punishment. It might be your mother that you're trying to set new boundaries with. Now, she's giving you the silent treatment because you're not doing what she wants you to do. That's completely okay and that's, again, within the realm of what a lot of people deal with. 

There is also though, a different thing if you are in a patently abusive relationship like domestic violence. If you are afraid for your life or for the welfare of your children, the things that I'm talking about right now about other people's problems and how to deal with them probably don't apply because you need to do whatever you need to do to manage that situation long enough to leave the situation. Don't think for a second that there's anything that you can do to change your partner's abusive reactions. Your responsibility is keeping yourself safe, which is doing whatever you need to do to stay safe and then leaving. That is your responsibility. Just know that the things that I'm talking about here do not extend to those situations. 

If you are in an abusive situation, if you're afraid for your safety, and that's showing up in boundary stuff, do not pass go. Go to the website called thehotline.org. thehotline.org, it is by, for, and about people who are stuck in violent and abusive relationships. They have tons of information and you can get free confidential access to a domestic violence counselor who can help assess the situation, and do a safety plan with you, and help start the process of getting you the heck out of there: thehotline.org

Giving Space for Others to Grow

Veering back into our lane, to continue the conversation about what is not your problem is managing someone else's feelings: feeling like you have to do certain things in order to make somebody else happy. No. You need to be responsible for yourself, and then they will have whatever reactions they need to have to that. It is also someone else's responsibility, not your problem, it is their problem, to set boundaries with you, and tell you what they need, and tell you how they feel and to say no to you, right? 

We can only ask for what we want or need or expect but then, the expectation is that it goes on the other side of the net. That an emotionally safe person will have done similar work to what I'm talking about right now and will be able to take on board what you're saying and consider that in light of who they are, and how they feel, and what they need, and what feels healthy for them, and then communicate back with you in an emotionally safe and authentic and respectful way so that there's a dialogue that starts. It is their responsibility to do that with you. You do not have to try to read somebody's mind, or anticipate their needs for them, or prevent their feelings from being hurt. Our job is to trust other people enough to tell us that because that is the foundation of a mutually healthy relationship: healthy boundaries on both sides. 

Again, allowing other people to have the time and space and feelings to do their own growth work. Other people's growth is on their side of the net. One of the things that I've learned over the years in relationships, personal relationships, and myself as a parent, as a therapist, is that one of the most precious things that you can do for someone that you really, really love is by allowing them to experience discomfort, to allow them to experience pain, even, and to allow them to experience the natural consequences of their own decisions and their own actions, so that they have the opportunity to get in touch with their feelings, to get clear about their values, about what they need, so that they get to practice communicating effectively, so that they have growth opportunities that come from the same place that yours do. That they're motivated by the desire to get different results. 

In the absence of dissatisfaction or frustration, people don't grow. They just kind of cruise along. If you are, I've learned this as a parent, out in front of your kid sweeping the path clear for them always, they don't get to grow. They don't get to learn. They don't get to try something, and I hate to use the word fail. Let's just not even. But have the opportunity to say, “Oh, that didn't work the way that I wanted it to. What could I do differently?” They have to kind of struggle with that and that is their problem. Again, you can provide them with information. Like, “Hey, I just read this book. It was so helpful to me. Here's the title. You might want to check it out.” You're done. Now, it's on their side of a net and they get to decide A: whether or not that is even remotely relevant to what they think they need and to follow through with that. Your work here is done. You tried. Those are all different examples of things that are on other people's side of the net. 

Lastly, to put all this together, I'll give you kind of an illustration of this. In my role, so I certainly do therapy and coaching, but at this stage of the game, I'm really the clinical director of Growing Self, at this point. A lot of what I'm doing is managing a team. I provide clinical supervision but also working with different people to keep all the wheels on the bus. As a leader, my sphere of responsibility, I need to create a really emotionally safe environment for everybody on my team that values authenticity, that values growth. This basic idea that we all need to talk openly about how we're feeling, and what we need, and potential problems because the whole theme of everything that we do here is around growth: What can we learn? How can we improve? How can we make this better? And then, it's okay that there are problems because that gives us the opportunity to reflect on our actions and grow and learn. 

This is all a good thing but it's my job to, not just make sure that everybody knows that intellectually, but to help them feel that way in their interactions with me. How I respond to people, how I invite people to share their thoughts or feelings, and my reactions to that, that's my job, one that I take very seriously. It is also my job to hold up my end of the bargain with practical matters. There are all kinds of things that need to be done. I have a task list. There are things that I need to do that actually nobody else can do. I need to do that so I'm very careful about how I manage my time, and I'm taking those commitments really seriously. I think it's also my job to do as good of a job as I possibly can. I put a lot of energy and effort and intention into the things that are my job. Making these podcasts for you, I care about that. I can do some little 20 minutes super light non-deep pod… There's a time and a place but I don't do that. 

I really want to go deep with you so that it's a meaningful growth experience. I put hours and hours and hours in each one of these, which is great. I love it. I'm happy to do, and I'm not complaining. But I feel that is actually my obligation to you, to be present in that way. That's my job. Also, my job is to know what my strengths are and also what my liabilities are. What am I good at? And what am I not that good at? So that I can either very proactively take steps to kind of either get help for the things that I'm not good at or get real conscious about like, “Okay, I know I'm not the best in the world at time management so before I start my day, I need to look at my calendar. Set my timers so I'm not late to anything.” That's my job. 

It is also my job to share ideas and to ask for what I need and also to be selective in what I commit to. I have people come to me all the time with business ideas or things that we could be doing, and I have to say no to a lot of them. Because anything that I say yes to means that there's less time and energy and effort for stuff that I've already committed to that is really important. Being responsible and thoughtful about the boundaries that I set and also be clear about what I would like to have happen with other people on my team. 

I think that all of the things that are my responsibility accumulates to being trustworthy, being emotionally safe, and creating an emotionally healthy environment for other people where they feel valued and supported with me. It's my responsibility to show appreciation, to do as much as I can to nurture and support the growth of others. All things that are my job. 

What else is happening is that I expect that if I ask somebody on my team to do something, they will say no to me if they can't. Or say, “You know what? I have all of these other projects and when I really look at the amount of time these are all going to take, something has to give. I cannot do one of these, and do this thing that you're asking, or maybe we could schedule it at a further time.” But this super reality-based conversation about what's possible and what's not possible. 

I feel like it's also other people's responsibilities to say to me, “Hey, Lisa. This thing isn't working that well. I'm not feeling good about this process. I think that this needs to be better.” Instead of suffering in silence and trying to make do with things that maybe aren't actually good enough. But maybe they're having sort of assumptions laid out like they don't want to upset me or they don't want to cause problems. Or that old friend of “Well, if I were just doing a better job, I wouldn't be feeling so overwhelmed or defeated or whatever it is.” I disagree. I think it's their responsibility to be communicating with me about how they feel because if I know, then we can work together to solve the problem. 

I trust the people that I am in a relationship with to care enough about me and our relationship to set boundaries with me, to tell me how they feel, to be self-aware enough to know how they feel. Also, to communicate with me in an emotionally safe and respectful way that are like “Hey, we have a problem. What are we going to do here to fix it?” 

That's kind of a simple work-based example of all of this in action about what's my sphere of responsibility and what somebody else's. But as you reflect on your own job or your own roles in your family, to think about what are you creating in terms of the environment and your responses to people. What, perhaps, has been bleeding over that maybe you've been attempting to control something that is in someone else's domain or trying to manage the responses and feelings of another person? 

I have all kinds of clients. Super hardworking, super competent who will tell me that they're actually doing somebody else's job in their department. They're doing a job and a half or sometimes even two jobs because they have a really mercurial boss. They are afraid that their boss will be upset if they say no to them. That is so toxic. That is not okay. Again, to get clear about how to set boundaries in a healthy way and also to set limits and to take care of yourself. Because if your toxic boss is actually going to scream at you if you're not doing 1.75 jobs that is inappropriate for your job description, your responsibility is to be operating in reality and thinking, “Okay, can I communicate what I need and have the situation change? What do I need to do to try to make that happen?” “Do I need to start making other plans for myself if I'm in a legitimately toxic work environment that is unhealthy for me, that isn't going to change?” It's your responsibility to figure out your way out of that instead of continuing to be sad and frustrated and miserable because that's your job: to take care of you. 

Anyway, so many examples of these differences. If you are one of the people who has written to me lately asking about how to handle specific situations with your spouse or partner that you're feeling unhappy about, and what do you think I should do, or what I think you should do rather, I hope that this conversation has illuminated that the answer to this in a more meaningful way than some basic high-level advice would. There are growth opportunities here, primarily to you, that will then cascade out into your relationship and impact the results that you're getting. Or if you are one of the people that has written in on Instagram about a crappy job situation or how to deal with a really unreasonable boss, I hope that this discussion helps you clarify and design a much more comprehensive, and ultimately, effective path forward for yourself that's based on your long-term health and needs and goals. 

Personal growth is messy and the answers aren't always easy. It requires work and depth and thought and intention and also a lot of courage. Because it's also one thing to have these ideas and be reflecting on them, but it's a whole other level when you set out about to do them. Then, experience what that feels like when you do. I hope that you take this in the intention that it was created, which is me trying to do a really nice job, making a meaningful podcast for, you and I am bouncing it over to your side of the net to do with as you will. I'll be so interested to hear if you have any follow-up questions or reactions and how these ideas work for you as you implement them in your own life. 

Thank you again for spending time with me today and I'll be back in touch soon with another episode of The Love, Happiness, and Success Podcast.

[Outro song: O.P.P. by The Wimps]


Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy

Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy

What is EFT?

EFT is an experiential approach to couples therapy, meaning that it’s not about learning skills and strategies (though you’ll get those along the way too). EFCT will help you understand yourself and your partner differently, so that the moments that would have led to anger or hurt feelings in the past, can actually become powerful moments of bonding and connection. 

If this sounds amazing… it actually is amazing. I’ve been honored to work as a marriage counselor guiding couples through this process. I can honestly say that when couples “shift” from viewing each other as hostile and emotionally dangerous to seeing each other vulnerable and in need of love and care — it is beautiful: empathy and compassion start to flow naturally. Through these new experiences, and shift in emotional perspective, everything about a relationship can change for the better.

The Practice of Emotionally Focused Therapy

Because Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy is such a powerful form of marriage counseling — and so darn effective — I really wanted to unpack it for you on today’s episode of the podcast, so you can understand how it works, and how to use the principles of EFT therapy to benefit your relationship.

I’ve invited my colleague Anastacia S., M.A., LMFT to join me on today’s show to answer your questions about emotionally focused couples therapy and to discuss how EFT therapy works. 

Anastacia is an advanced, licensed marriage and family therapist on our team here at Growing Self. She practices Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy, and she is also a clinical supervisor who trains other therapists seeking to become EFCT marriage counselors. 

She has so much wisdom to share on this topic, and I’m delighted to share her perspective with you today! You can listen to her relationship advice using the podcast player above, or listen to “Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy” on Spotify or on Apple Podcasts. (Be sure to subscribe to the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast while you’re there!) 

EFT Therapy

What is emotionally focused therapy? Listen to learn everything you ever wanted to know about EFT couples therapy and how it can help YOU transform your relationship. Ana and I are discussing:

  • What Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy is, and how it’s different from other forms of couples counseling.
  • How attachment styles impact your relationships.
  • How our early experiences in our family of origin can impact our ways of relating as adults.
  • How couples fall into negative spirals of reacting to each other, and why that’s so toxic to your relationship.
  • What happens to relationships when we begin to create a “negative story” about our partners.
  • Why healthy, securely attached people can appear to have avoidant or anxious tendencies in a distressed relationship.
  • Understanding the pursue/withdraw pattern, and how to extract yourself from it.
  • How to cultivate a secure attachment bond with your partner through emotional connection and responsiveness
  • The difference between primary and secondary emotions.
  • Cultural differences (and similarities) around how we connect and bond.
  • What to do if you’re feeling like your relationship is too far gone for couples therapy.
  • And so much more.

Ana and I both sincerely hope that this discussion helps you restore the love and connection in your relationship, in order to keep it strong, secure, and healthy for years to come.

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy

The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast with Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Music Credits: “All This Love” by Russo and Weinberg,

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