Empowerment In The Workplace

Empowerment In The Workplace

Empowerment In The Workplace

Empowerment in The Workplace

Empowerment In The Workplace

EMPOWERMENT IN THE WORKPLACE: Have you ever felt disempowered at work? Like your voice isn’t heard, your needs and rights aren’t respected, or that your efforts go unrecognized?

Sadly, feeling disempowered at work is an everyday reality for many of the professionals who come to us for career coaching and professional development services here at Growing Self. This is a tough space to be in, especially if you’re in a career that you love otherwise. 

Empowerment in the workplace is crucial for your long term success. Even if you love the work itself, if you’re in a situation where it feels like your colleagues or leadership are keeping you down it’s an unsustainable situation long term. Feeling disempowered on the job can make you feel withdrawn, can contribute to feelings of burnout, and can even make you feel depressed!

The good news is that there are things you can do to cultivate empowerment in the workplace. We are discussing them ALL on this episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast! 

Empowerment at Work

To make this as info-packed and helpful for you as possible, I’ve invited career coach Mory Fontanez of the 822 Group to share her insights with me around how to increase your empowerment on the job. 

Mory has so much to share: She works closely with leadership and executive teams as a “purpose coach”  to create company cultures that are healthy and affirming. She also has lots of experience in helping talented professionals from historically underrepresented groups, like women and minorities, learn how to advocate for themselves, get the respect they deserve, and advance professionally. 

Understanding Personal Power

One of the most important things to understand are the power dynamics that occur in every workplace. But understanding these, you can act strategically to increase your personal power on the job. 

These are some of the questions we discussed, for your benefit: 

  • What are some of the reasons why people begin to feel disempowered at work?
  • How does feeling disrespected or taken for granted on the job begin to impact you?
  • Who is most vulnerable to disempowerment at work, and why?
  • What are some of strategies that anyone can use to increase their empowerment in the workplace?
  • How can leaders grow in their effectiveness by creating an empowering work environment? (Hint: Emotional Intelligence skills are just the start!)
  • What are some of the biggest challenges that leaders face in cultivating a genuinely empowered organization, where people feel respected and supported?
  • Why empowering leaders create the most effective and productive teams
  • And more!

I also asked Mory the zillion-dollar question: “Can you change a disempowering organizational culture from the bottom up?” 

Her answer surprised me, and it might surprise you too. I hope you listen to our conversation to  hear her honest advice for what to do if you find yourself in this situation. (Hint: You have more power than you think!)

It also led to another really important and related topic… the reality of irredeemably toxic workplaces. They’re out there!

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Toxic Work Environments

Any career advice involving a discussion of workplace empowerment would be incomplete without an honest talk with a leadership coach about the realities of toxic workplaces. They’re out there!

What’s a toxic workplace? It’s a company culture that grinds people down on every level. One sign you’re in a toxic workplace is that when no matter how much sacrifice and hard work you put in, there are still external forces that take away your power and make you feel used, unsupported, and even mistreated.

Toxic workplaces are not just disempowering. They can be outright abusive and even traumatic. A toxic workplace will make you doubt yourself, and over time will tank your self-esteem.

When it comes to dealing with a toxic workplace, knowledge is power. We discuss some of the key “tells” of a toxic work environment so that you can spot them and make an action plan to protect yourself if you’re in that situation. (And better yet, know how to identify a toxic workplace before getting involved with any organization you’re considering joining). 

Professional Empowerment

This was such an interesting conversation and one with so many inspiring takeaways:

No matter what your circumstances, you do have personal power. Part of embracing your power requires recognizing it. Then, you can take steps to empower yourself professionally and personally.

In this episode, we’re discussing everything about empowerment at work for both leaders and professionals. We tackle topics including the realities in some toxic work cultures to the struggles of becoming empowered at work, and why it’s even harder for some people than others.

But we’re also bringing you thought-provoking insights on how to take back your power, and strategies you can use to create change through self-awareness and informed decisions. I hope you tune in!

5 Powerful Takeaways from This Episode

“True power is actually a very stable force that comes from that internal awareness.” 

“I would argue that, especially as women, we were not empowered enough to even think that the system was flawed until recently.”

“Once you have that awareness, you don’t need that validation anymore, and you’re able to uphold your boundaries, which allows you to start to get into that seat of power.”

“If you’re accountable and you are doing your job and you’re upholding your boundaries, and people are making you feel as though you have to fear your security, then we’ve now transitioned into capital T toxic.” 

“Gone are the days of not bringing your humanity into your leadership. People aren’t going to stand for it anymore.”

Enjoy This Podcast?

As always, thank you so much for listening If you enjoyed today’s episode of the Love, Success, and Happiness Podcast, hit subscribe and share it with your friends!

Also, pay it forward: Post a review. If you enjoyed tuning into this podcast, then please don’t hesitate to leave us a review. If you have a loved one who’s struggling to feel empowered at work, please share this episode that they can discover how to empower themselves at work.

If you have follow up questions I’d love to hear them, either in the comments below or on Instagram!

Wishing you all the best on YOUR journey of growth and empowerment,

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

P.S. As you’ll quickly realize when you begin to listen to this episode, cultivating empowerment at work starts with a solid sense of self-esteem and trust in yourself. If overall self esteem is a currently a “growth area” for you here are more resources for you: Signs of Low Self Esteem (Podcast), You Are Good Enough, (Podcast), and a Self Esteem Quiz. xoxo, Dr. Lisa

 

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Empowerment at Work

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | Love, Happiness & Success

Music Credits: The Gun Club, “Calling Up Thunder”

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Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

 

 

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Empowerment in The Workplace 

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Access Episode Transcript

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: This is Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby, and you’re listening to the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast.

[Like Calling Up Thunder by The Gun Club]

The Gun Club with Like Calling Up Thunder, a song about embracing your personal power if there ever was one. Because that is our topic today. If you’ve caught recent episodes, you will notice that this is part of a larger theme. I’ve been talking a lot lately about feeling good about yourself, feeling self-confident, restoring your self-esteem because if you don’t feel good about you, and if you’re not advocating for yourself, no one else is going to. Today’s topic is really all about how to get more empowered at work, and it requires some pre-work to get into a place where you’re feeling that level of confidence. 

If you haven’t yet a great starting point, it could be to take my online self-esteem quiz. You can access that by texting the word, ESTEEM—E-S-T-E-E-M—to the number 55444. It’ll give you an overview of where you are currently in terms of your personal levels of self-esteem, and it will give you some directions on where to build yourself up so that you feel as good about yourself as possible and ready to tackle the world, take on, perhaps a boss, who is not fully aware of the magnificence of your power and abilities, and advocate for yourself in all different areas of your life including friendships, personal relationships, and more. And thanks to, for all of you that have been sending your questions and letting me know what you’d like to hear more about. Today’s topic on feeling more empowered at work is a direct result of your advocating your needs to me through our website at growingself.com, by tracking me down on Instagram @drlisamariebobby, and of course, Facebook at Dr. Lisa Bobby

So let’s do this, you guys. Let’s talk about empowerment at work. I think, on some level, we can all relate to the experience of feeling disempowered. You know, feeling like maybe we don’t have influence or that our ideas or even our needs and rights are not being respected by other people the way that they should be. I know that this can happen in romantic relationships or friendships or family relationships, certainly, but a place where it often happens for people is on the job. And we don’t talk about this experience of disempowerment, I think, as much as we do when it comes to personal experiences of being disempowered. And I think it’s also the case that when people are in careers that are perhaps dominated by individuals who have more influence and power than you do, this experience of being disempowered, and then it’s difficult to get traction and earn respect and authority, is even more challenging. 

And so, if you can relate to this, and if you have been struggling to gain a footing in a career, or if you’d like to feel more powerful and secure in your current role, today’s podcast is all about helping you navigate this very narrow path with both confidence and courage. We’re going to be talking about things you can do to increase your personal power and authority and also some inner strategies that you can use to help you feel more secure and empowered as you do. And to help us with this, my guest today is Mory Fontanez. 

Mory is an Iranian-American purpose coach and the CEO of 822 Group, a values-based business consultant company. Mory has had a long career in Corporate America and knows a lot about personal empowerment, particularly for women, people of color, or other historically marginalized groups who are trying to be powerful in systems that are not always receptive to their empowerment. And she has lots of ideas about things we can all do to help us allow our differences to make us more powerful and more respected and authoritative than we even know. So Mory, thank you for being here with me and talking about this.

Mory Fontanez: Thank you so much for having me. I am delighted to be here.

Dr. Lisa: We are going to have an interesting, interesting conversation today. I just know it. 

Mory: Absolutely. 

Dr. Lisa: Well, I’m so interested to get your take on the subject of empowerment, particularly for people who are struggling to feel powerful and who are in systems that don’t easily allow for that many times. But before we jump into that, let’s just start by talking about power and what we mean by that. And so, could you speak a little bit just about what it means to have personal power and, in particular, to have empowerment on the job. Like, what do you view as being that experience?

Mory: Yeah, I love that question on personal power. And I feel that you know, over the last few years and really digging into coaching, I’ve really simplified it to this, which is, it’s to be cognizant or aware of your value and to come from that awareness. I think, oftentimes, when we are not in our power, it is that we are not coming from the awareness of how truly valuable we are to that person, that situation, that job, or that team. So it’s simply just awareness of your value and coming from that place. 

Dr. Lisa: And so do you feel that awareness of your own power and your own worth is enough? Or is there also an intersection? I mean, I’m thinking right now, you know, of people that I have certainly worked with as clients, who have been working with great diligence and sincerity in organizations that are dominated by people who have more power than they do, and I’m particularly thinking about, you know, younger female clients I have had who have had a management positions, frequently in tech-based companies that are founded by, and all the CEO level executives are not just men—they’re white men. And often, white men have a particular social class that is very privileged—they’ve gotten to good schools, they know how to talk to people, they know all the unwritten rules—and it is a very intimidating position to be in. And I guess what I’m asking is that internal, subjective confidence in your own power enough? Or is there an actual power differential in these situations that also needs to be navigated?

Mory: You know, I love that question because we can get into this definition of power and really dissect it, but I always tell people this—true power is actually a very stable force that comes from that internal awareness. What we experience as power, especially in dynamics at work, particularly with those that have had structural power for a long time, you know, when you look into those dynamics, and you look into how that power has been held on to, what you see beneath that is a lack of that personal power—you see fear. And that is what drives the kind of power that we defined today is “This person has more power over me.” No, it’s that there is a dynamic that’s been created that we bought into that allows us to forget our own value and our own worth. And so, that then creates this dynamic of being disempowered. 

Now, are there power structures? Absolutely. We cannot ignore them. But I am one that believes that with diligence and work, by tapping into that sense of value, you are at least able to change the dynamic. You are able to very organically, cellularly shift the way that you show up in those dynamics, which is the only way that those dynamics themselves will change over time. It’s that if each one of us, like dominoes, stops buying into this concept of power, that those that are in power are so afraid of losing, and so deeply want us to believe that.

Dr. Lisa: I see. So you’re saying… that there certainly are power structures that need to be reckoned with and dealt with and that they will not change unless, first, you’re able to kind of create in yourself that basic sense of your worth and your value and then begin behaving as such, and then your ability to do that will begin to kind of ripple out and change the power system around you to a degree. Is that it?

Mory: 100%. Yeah, absolutely. 

Dr. Lisa: Okay. Well, I definitely want to dig in a little bit more to that.

Mory: Yeah, let’s do that. 

Dr. Lisa: But first, before we jump in, in your experience, do you find that it can be more difficult for some people to even like, have that internalized sense of their own power and value, and I’m thinking particularly, you know, people that have maybe been or stepped down socially. I believe women, people of color, minority women, or even like, you know, disabled individuals trying to make their way in a world of people that’s dominated by able-bodied people. I mean, is it just like a bigger step to make for some, do you think? Or is it, in your experience, the same inner process?

Mory: It is absolutely a bigger step. I mean, there is systemic oppression that happens to those groups that you talked about. And you know, I really believe that when something has happened over and over for centuries, that passes on down to you in systems, in consequences, in your DNA—these are beliefs that have been so long held by your ancestors, that it is something that is almost intrinsic to who you are. And so, absolutely, I believe that that hill is much steeper. I am very heartened to see right now people chipping away at that hill. But I absolutely believe that for all of those groups you mentioned, it is a much more difficult step to take to just grab your own personal power. It’s not that easy; there’s so many systems that have to be dismantled. But it doesn’t mean that in parallel, the work cannot begin to start to find that internal—I call it the seat of your power—to really find that throne and identify it first and foremost is so intrinsic, as the systems are changing and to help the system change as well.

Dr. Lisa: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense that it can be a bigger step. And it is, you know, the struggle is real, and I’m glad that you said that and, and also that it is not just possible but really necessary. And also, I think that there is, as you said, like more of an emerging awareness about power systems and how we function in them, and some of them are very subtle too. 

Mory: Absolutely.

Dr. Lisa: I mean, and I know that this shows up in organizations in a different way, but I had an experience where I was like, “Huh.” It was probably a couple of weeks ago, and so I am in the process of just obtaining a different—another credential that’s possible for psychologists. 

Mory: Okay.

Dr. Lisa: There’s just advantages to doing that. And there’s one organization that I began going through their application process, you know, you have to submit like all this documentation for my educational experience and like licensure and my APA-accredited internship site, and all that jazz, and like checked all their boxes and went down the list. And then at the very end, got this feedback that I did not qualify for this credential because my postdoctoral supervision was not in a—like in my field, there’s often like a very structured postdoc year, where a newly graduated psychologist would go work at like a college counseling center or something and have like a very like, almost like a final year. My postdoc experience was through private practice, and so I had to pay out of pocket for supervision, and I could only do so once every other week. So I got my hours over two years with supervision every other week as opposed to weekly, which is the normal, like a standard postdoc. And I was told that because my supervision was every other week instead of every week, I didn’t qualify. 

And what though that started bringing up for me and other people that I’ve been talking to is that this organization is very subtly, and I think probably unknowingly, supporting that only psychologist candidates of a very particular socioeconomic group and like life experience are able to go through this little gap because a postdoc year is very difficult to do. Financially, you get paid nothing. And like in my case, if you have children and child care, like it’s kind of impossible.

Mory: Right, right.

Dr. Lisa: And it’s like because of this little requirement, you know, and I have a comparatively a very privileged background by class and race and all of this, and was still, like that door was shut. And just thinking about how these little rules and regulations in organizations can serve as gatekeepers and, really, like practical barriers sometimes for people to get ahead if they’re not in a very specific social class ability to do certain things. 

Mory: Absolutely. 

Dr. Lisa: And so, you know, it shows up in so many ways, and that wasn’t just for me.

Mory: Yes.

Dr. Lisa: Like, I mean, and it was kind of a long-winded story, but like people who have higher hurdles than that, to be not just advancing in organizations but to like, first of all, craft this core message inside of themselves of, “You know, I’m actually good enough. My training was actually just as good as anybody else’s, and maybe better in some ways, and here’s why.” 

Mory: Yeah.

Dr. Lisa: It’s difficult to sustain that narrative.

Mory: It is. But you know what, without that awareness that you just mentioned around the system itself being taught. 

Dr. Lisa: The system, yeah.

Mory: There is no change to the system, right? So I would argue that, especially as women, we were not empowered enough to even think that the system was flawed until recently. Right?

Dr. Lisa: That’s such a good point. Yeah, because instead of like, slinking away and being like, “Okay,”—I  am gonna need to write them a letter.

Mory: Right. Exactly. And you know what, that is empowerment. Now, just because the system has a massive gap in it doesn’t mean that you are not empowered to do something about it. That is what I mean exactly by—you proved my point—the perception that these historical power structures have tried to give us that we don’t have power. It’s like, “That’s just the way it is.” You know what? That is not just the way it is. 

Dr. Lisa: No, it’s not. 

Mory: And that is what people are proving.

Dr. Lisa: And that’s what you’re saying too. It’s like the system does not give you power. No one else empowers you. 

Mory: Correct.

Dr. Lisa: You have to take it. 

Mory: You take it.

Dr. Lisa: You take it.

Mory: Exactly. And you know what, we’re seeing it. I mean, we’re seeing it happen in these really, again, very historically disempowering industries. Look at the fashion industry right now, what’s happening to it. Look at the beauty industry. Right? These were industries that are very exclusive. And you now see people awakening their consciousness, awakening to “Wait a minute. You can’t tell me I can’t be in that specific brand or industry because I look a certain way. That’s not okay.” And that awareness is what’s hitting these brands out of nowhere, and they don’t know what to do with it because all of a sudden, people are aware that it’s not okay. It’s not just the way it is, and that they have the power to do something about it, and it is transforming a lot of these industries out there.

Dr. Lisa: That is awesome. I love it. 

Mory: Alright.

Dr. Lisa: Okay. So with this premise in mind that power is something that starts inside of you, and it is something that you have to take for yourself, I’m curious to know if you have, in your own practice, or you know, in consulting with organizations, or people attempting to kind of manage this in their own careers, when someone is attempting to function in a, you know—not like Star Wars Deathstar like ultra-disempowering system—but it’s kind of a garden variety, like tone-deaf disempowering, what does it look like for them if they’re not able to reshape their narrative and their expectations in turn? Like, what happens to people when they aren’t feeling empowered both professionally but even personally? You know, because my sense is that it bleeds over, but I’m curious to know what your…

Mory: Yeah. Absolutely. I mean, I will tell you. Let’s start with the professional and just the impact on the organization as a whole. The first thing that happens is a complete loss of productivity and creativity. 

Dr. Lisa: Whoa, complete loss.

Mory: Absolutely. Because when people start to feel disempowered, they then stop believing in themselves—and that is all it takes to not be creative or innovative any longer. And if you’re not able to do that for an organization, then it impacts your ability to produce, to do your job to its maximum quality. Now, in fact, there are a lot of people out there who can function at 50%, and it looks like 100. Right? So we’ve been getting by—this is what I tell leaders and executives and CEOs all the time when we come in, it’s like, “Yeah, you’re getting by, but what would full productivity look like? That would be 50% greater than what you’re seeing right now. You’re just seeing them get by.” So productivity, creativity, and innovation suffer hugely. 

And then, I love your point about it bleeding over because it does. First of all, it affects your perception of yourself, which your value becomes challenged. And when that happened, I’ve actually seen it come out in one of two ways in other parts of that person’s life, right? One is either you don’t trust yourself, and so you allow other people in other areas of your life to take advantage or to cross your boundaries and to disempower you. Or, you go to the opposite extreme, which is that you feel like those other areas are where you must exert control. And so all of the stress and frustration that you have comes out sideways to people who had nothing to do with you feeling so disempowered to begin with, or, you know, that’s same as saying, “The oppressed become the oppressor.” 

Dr. Lisa: Yeah.

Mory: Because it has to come out in some form. And then what happens is you cultivate leaders who take on these really malignant behavior because they believe that that’s the way to succeed. And so going full circle back to the organization itself, you’ve now created a culture, a system, that the only way for success is to behave in these disempowering ways towards others. So, it becomes very cyclical.

Dr. Lisa: Oh, my god. That is just so interesting. And I have to tell you, I have not thought about this in the same way before, Mory. Okay, so that when someone feels really disempowered and voiceless, first of all, they don’t believe in themselves enough to be able to like generate ideas and be productive because that, in itself, takes a certain amount of confidence. 

Mory: Absolutely.

Dr. Lisa: I mean, even if you’re putting together a report or presentation, like you have to be putting yourself out there and like, “These are my ideas and this is why I think this would be helpful.” And if you are feeling, you know, stepped on, it’s hard to even do that. And from that space, though, of feeling kind of disempowered, like it’s worse for the organization, but also personally, either people just like carry the sense of being a doormat everywhere or they kind of overcompensate and try to be maybe more controlling or more belligerent in ways that are not actually helpful, either personally or/and—maybe it’s an and—when they do, over time, managed to kind of gain a foothold in their career, in the organization, they carry that kind of toxic controll-y disempowerring. It’s almost like power hoarding or something, directly because of their own disempowerment, like it’s a wound that just keeps on festering. 

Mory: Exactly. Correct.

Dr. Lisa: That is so interesting, and which, you know, one of the questions that I have for you, it goes on to like toxic workplace cultures. And you’re saying that, you know, between the lines here, to cultivate empowerment and to help people feel more valued and respected will, over time, create a healthier company culture overall because you have like healthy people that are…

Mory: Right?

Dr. Lisa: …you know, kind of percolating up through management roles. Or am I oversimplifying this?

Mory: No, that’s exactly right, and that is very difficult for leaders to do. And we can get into this later if it makes sense, but that’s because leaders have all sorts of things they have to deal with in order to have the competence to deal with an empowered culture, right? Because having a disempowered culture feeds the ego in a way that having an empowered culture challenges your ego. And so, there’s a lot of work, that’s where I come in with a CEO. It’s like, “Let’s work on this with you, so that you can get over this obstacle, so that your team can become empowered.” 

Dr. Lisa: That is awesome. 

Mory: Yeah.

Dr. Lisa: Okay, so let’s take this then piece-by-piece. Because, you know, we have many, certainly, career coaching or executive coaching clients at Growing Self who are in those leadership positions, and I think would be very interested to hear your thoughts about how they themselves can create healthy organizations that will kind of do that inside work to be able to tolerate the indignities of having an empowered workforce.

Mory: I love that.

Dr. Lisa: Or arguing with them. Okay, so we’ll talk about that. But, first of all, let’s talk about, you know, if we think of people who are on the ground floor, so to speak, of said organization, and they have gotten the memo that they are worthy of respect and appreciation, and that they do know what they’re talking about, and they’re doing a good job, and they’ve internalized that, and they are in the system that maybe does not fully appreciate all that they can do yet. What are some strategies that you have seen to be effective for people as they begin to shift the narrative, perhaps not inside of themselves, but around them, so that they’re able to kind of create power and influence and help people recognize their own value? Like, what works? 

Mory: If you are in a toxic work environment in order to be empowered?

Dr. Lisa: Let’s say, because I think…I mean, I’ve talked to people who are in like—capital T—toxic environment that may be irredeemable, and we can certainly talk about that too. 

Mory: Correct. Yes.

Dr. Lisa: But let’s say garden variety—like not the most horrible, not the best—like a standard-issue company that you need to advocate for yourself in order to be empowered. Let’s say that.

Mory: I think that it starts with really understanding your own triggers. And the reason that that’s important is because then you can depersonalize whatever is happening in that environment. And what I mean by that is we all have things that have happened to us that created storylines, you know, that’s better than me, of course. I’m sure you help people with this. But really, those storylines create triggers for us, and if we are not aware of them, people very easily push our buttons; they press those triggers, right. So, “I’ve grown up thinking I’m not smart. I’m not valuable. I’m not wanted. I’m lazy,” right? Whatever these narratives are, if we’re not cognizant of them, if we’re not looking at them and aware of them, someone can say something to you at work, or you can be in an environment where people feed off of triggering you—because if they trigger you, then they’ve got you, right? And if you can depersonalize that by saying, “No, this is a trigger. It is not my truth today,” you, first of all, remove that power. So that is the first and most important tool.

Dr. Lisa: Okay.

Mory: Then it comes to really getting to the heart of your value and your values. The difference being, your value is just knowledge of something, anything that you know you bring to the table in that environment. What is it that you know you bring to the table that is valuable? And then your values are, what is it you stand for and believe in strongly? And I don’t think people do enough work to really examine their values. And that’s where we find ourselves making trade-offs in jobs or in relationships where we don’t even know what it is we stand for, so how can we uphold a boundary around it?

Dr. Lisa: Yeah.

Mory: And then that’s the third piece, which is boundaries. Once you’ve gotten really clear on, “These are my triggers. This is trigger versus reality. This is my value, and this is what I stand for,” that’s when you have to get really good at, “Okay, these are my boundaries then. If the person asks me to do their work for the fifth night in a row, and I stay here later, is that me allowing them to tread on my boundaries? Yes. Do I do it because I need to feel valued? Probably.” Right? 

But once you have that awareness, you don’t need that validation anymore, and you’re able to uphold your boundaries, which allows you to start to get into that seat of power because now you know, what your values are, and you’re able to stand up for yourself and create boundaries that allow you to have a life and a working situation where you are at least feeling respected.

Dr. Lisa: Yeah, I could see how that would be really helpful to, I mean, the emotional regulation and what are my triggers and how do I counterbalance that narrative, what’s important to me, that then allows you to advocate for yourself effectively. And as we’re talking, you know, my background—so in addition to psychology—I do a lot of marriage and family therapy. And rule number one of systems theory, and I’m sure this probably comes up in your work too with organizational kinds of systems, is that if one little piece of a system all of a sudden starts behaving differently than it has been, say, maybe advocating for oneself or not taking on more work that they had in the past, the system will then work pretty hard to exert pressure on that individual to return to the way that they had been. And so, you see this a lot, like people and families where they have been, you know, perhaps not treated well by a family member, and all of a sudden they started setting healthy boundaries and the family’s like, “Why are you being so mean to Uncle Joe?” 

Mory: Right. 

Dr. Lisa: You know, like, “What’s gotten into you?” And there ‘s like pressure to return. So, do you see that happening organizationally? Or are people like, “Oh, okay. You’re not gonna do my work for me anymore? So I’m just going to go ahead and do it myself without complaining that you stopped enabling me.”

Mory: Yeah, that would be so…

Dr. Lisa: Not that I would say that out loud, but you know.

Mory: I see that pressure every day, and I think that pressure becomes really dangerous because it really starts to threaten your sense of security. When people are in perceived, you know, positions of power over you, you then start to fear that you’re going to lose that opportunity, that job, their respect. And so, that’s where playing on your fear for upholding your boundaries becomes something that we go from lowercase t to capital T toxic, right. And I think to your point, that’s when your little red flag needs to go off because if you’re upholding a healthy boundary, right—you’re not being disrespectful, number one. The other thing I wanted to mention is you’re being accountable. Just because you have boundaries does not mean that you no longer have accountability. 

Dr. Lisa: Sure.

Mory: You understand what it is your role is. You understand that if you make a mistake, you own it; if you succeed, you own it as accountability. 

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. 

Mory: If you’re accountable, and you are doing your job, and you’re upholding your boundaries, and people are making you feel as though you have to fear your security, then we’ve now transitioned into capital T toxic, and is that then the right space for you?

Dr. Lisa: Okay. Yeah.

Mory: And that’s really important because the more people think that way, the more you start to transform the system, right? Because if people start to realize, “Well, if you’re not going to allow me to have boundaries, and this then is not healthy for me,” And that happens more and more, and people have that awakening more and more, there’s less people to pressure. 

Dr. Lisa: Yep, and that’s why we have unions. I’m thinking about that.

Mory: Yeah. Exactly. 

Dr. Lisa: I mean, really, like collectivism is groups of workers being like, “Wait just a second. You’re not actually going to work 18 hours a day until you kill us.” Yeah. No, but that’s like strength of numbers, and I like it that you shared that if you are not able to set appropriate boundaries and have that be respected, that is a clear warning sign that this could be a capital T toxic environment and that you might need to be on a different plan.

Mory: Absolutely.

Dr. Lisa: Okay, so what I want to talk more about toxic environments, but before we move into that, have you identified any strategies that make it a little bit easier for people to have influence and existing roles or set boundaries? And so I’m thinking, you know, things like managing up or like how you frame things to leaders that you’re telling, “No, I’m actually not going to do that.” But are there ways to do it in a way that might have that go down a little bit easier? Or in your experience, is it just like, “Alright, people, here’s what we’re gonna do”?

Mory: Yeah. I have a little four-part equation, which starts with value and boundary. 

Dr. Lisa: A four-part equation? Okay.

Mory: Yeah, which we’ve talked about. So the value plus boundaries, so you know your value, which means you’re coming from a place of power, you have boundaries, so people are not going to cross them. And then you add in vulnerability, and that’s where you’re able to be, you know, really transparent and honest about where you’re at, what your needs are, what needs aren’t being met. You know, what it is like for you, your experience there, in a way that is just factual, right. You can just share, “This is my experience right now”—you’re able to be vulnerable. 

And then the fourth part is curiosity. And when I say curiosity, I find this to be one of the most effective tactics for managing up or dealing with a difficult colleague that’s out there, which is why, you know, really getting curious about, “Why is it that you ask me to do this every day at 5pm? You know, what is it that you need? Why do you feel that speaking to the team that way is effective?” Really starting to interrogate, in a respectful way, that person’s methodology. Really truly with curiosity—not judgment. That is the fine line. Because judgment can get into places that you don’t want to go, right, but to just have that—it’s almost like a flashlight, you’re turning on inside the other person, like, “Help me understand your motivations.”

And I say it’s a four-part equation because I truly don’t believe you can do one without the other three. If you don’t have the strength in your value, then your curiosity is going to get kind of wonky, right? 

Dr. Lisa: Sure.

Mory: If you don’t have boundaries—it’s not great to be vulnerable without being able to uphold boundaries. So it is a very delicate dance, but I think that when you put those four things together, then that equation becomes really effective in managing difficult people or difficult situations.

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. Wow. And I have to say more in probably, I mean, how much courage does it take to do that, and then imagine, you know, I sit down and someone with, you know, relative less power in the system using your four-part model, which makes perfect sense—in the values and boundaries and vulnerability and also the curiosity. And I could also see how for very powerful people in an organization, why it would be so important to have a Mory, who is also right there that they have hired to kind of like push them around a little bit for you to be saying, “Why are you thinking that that is an effective way to communicate with people?”  Because I could see like coming from you, they’d be like, “Oh, okay.” 

Mory: Yeah.

Dr. Lisa: Whereas, if it was, you know, Joe, the mail clerk down the hall, it would probably be very easy for powerful people to get defensive and confronted. 

Mory: Well, and let me tell you this…

Dr. Lisa: Yeah.

Mory: Yeah, which is that it all comes back to their purpose. That’s why I call what I do “purpose coaching”, right? Very powerful people still need to feel aligned with something. 

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. 

Mory: And so this curiosity from me, which does hold them accountable, is less about really judging them but about, “What is it that fulfills you? What is your purpose? And where are you off track? Why are you off track right now? How do we get you back in alignment with—what I call your own internal GPS? Because that’s how you’re going to be more effective, more successful, more innovative.” And that’s what we find with these powerful executives sometimes, where things are going awry, it’s a misalignment with their purpose, like they’ve forgotten their “why.” And so this is really about tuning the GPS back on rather than making it a judgment framework for them, that they have to operate in.

Dr. Lisa: I know, completely. It’s so important. Well, and, you know, kudos to the people in leadership positions who are inviting that kind of growth experience through their work with you. But do you think that it is possible for someone on the lower echelons of an organization like the ones we’ve been describing, to create change in that system from the bottom up? Or do you think that leadership needs to be actively participating in the creation of that change in order for it to occur?

Mory: You know, I think that it can go both ways. I think ultimate transformation comes from both sides. I think that if truly the organization is toxic, and it’s going to change, it has to come from the bottom up and the top down in order to transform. Now, it is a domino effect. So to answer your question, “Can it just be from the bottom up?” Yes. Because that’s what puts pressure on the organization to change, and, you know, I really believe that that has to do with unity and collaboration at those levels, right? Where we are all aware at our level that we are in a toxic environment, so, therefore, we are going to treat each other with respect, and we are going to resist the temptation to get the reward for the bad behavior. Because that’s how the toxic work cultures happen, right? You have toxicity from the top, and then toxic behavior is rewarded, and those of us that want that pat on the back and the validation are going to do what we can for that carrot. 

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. 

Mory: And I think that change comes from awareness again, that this is not an environment that can really help people to flourish. And in agreement, at a certain level, organically at that bottom-up level of, “Okay, then we’re in this together. Unity is our strength. So not one person is going to then go and get that carrot, we’re going to all uphold boundaries. We’re going to see each other, and each other, the value, and we’re going to interact with one another with respect, even if we’re being rewarded for being disrespectful to each other.”

Dr. Lisa: Geez. That’s such a good message, Mory, and I think one that needs to be said out loud. Because I think you see that in toxic organizations where it’s more important than ever for the rank and file to be like, you know, working as a team to affect change,  you start to see people turning on each other, don’t you? 

Mory: Yes. 

Dr. Lisa: Yeah, that’s like survival. Island…

Mory: That survival, that’s what it is. 

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. Ugh. 

Mory: Yeah, and it reminds me of that, I don’t know, that Aesop’s fable, if you’ve heard of them. The bundle of sticks where there’s a father who had sons who were constantly quarreling, quarreling, and he didn’t know what to do with them, and he gave them a bundle of sticks and said, “Try to break this.” And they couldn’t break it. And then he untied them and gave them one stick at a time, and “Try to break it.” And they broke it. And then he said to them, “Can you see that if you help each other, it’s impossible for your enemies to injure you. But if you’re divided, then you’re just as strong as that one stick.” So it really is an ancient truth.

Dr. Lisa: That’s an awesome story. I just got chills. Gosh, I’m thinking like organizationally but, goodness, like as a society?

Mory: Yeah, the society.

Dr. Lisa: Like, ugh.

Mory: Yeah.

Dr. Lisa: Somebody needs to send that one to the powers that be in Congress right now.

Mory: Yeah. 

Dr. Lisa: But anyway, let’s go back. That’s probably not my place.

Mory: That’s a whole other podcast.

Dr. Lisa: Really? So, okay. So that is an absolutely necessary survival—not just survival tactic—but you know, change agent for a toxic work environment. Like, if it’s going to get better, it’s going to require that teamwork. And have you been witness to organizational cultures that are so toxic as to be irredeemable, like there’s no changing it, you just gotta recognize it for what it is? Like a really toxic relationship, like this is not going to get better, we need to recognize it for what it is, what it always will be, and like just get out of there as fast as you can. Have you seen that? Or do you think that change is always possible? I don’t know, you might be less cynical than I.

Mory: I have seen it, unfortunately, more times than I would like—I’ve been in it myself. 

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. 

Mory: And I will tell you, it comes from the very top. And if the very top is toxic and has no desire to change, then really, change is very difficult, right? That’s when you start to see, okay, maybe it lasts a decade, two decades, three decades, but things start to fall apart at some level because people start to become fed up. So I think you lose your license to operate when the toxicity comes from the top, and that leader is not willing to change. I think if you’re in that—listening to this right now—you’re like, “Oh my god, there’s no hope.” If you see any iota, any kind of clue, that the leader is trying to change, right, you see them with a coach, you see them bringing in third parties, you see them doing surveys. Right? Like any kind of sense that there’s a desire to create a change, that’s when the kind of light can glimmer in. But if there’s no desire to change, then that is when the toxicity overpower, unfortunately.

Dr. Lisa: There has to be that willingness to change. And then actually, while we’re on this subject, and I hope this isn’t putting you on the spot, but would you have any insight to share for people who are maybe, you know, seeking a different position and desiring to avoid getting into a toxic situation in the first place? 

Mory: I mean, we talked about relationship warning signs, like what would you say are some of the things to pay attention to if you’re interviewing or vetting a new organization to work for that might reveal toxic culture before you actually start working there, which would be way better? 

Mory: Yeah. 

Dr. Lisa: Six months in, right?

Mory: I know. Well, there’s two parts of the answer. I’ll give the easy part, and then I’ll go to the hard part. I’ll do it the other way around this time. The easy answer is to really make sure you’re talking to as many people who work there as possible and asking them things like, “How do you like being here? What do you feel like the mission of this organization is, and how are you a part of that mission? What does your work-life balance look like? How do you feel fulfilled when you walk in this door? How do you work with your colleagues, and what is that relationship like?” Really try to talk to people that are going to be at your level before you go in.

I think that one warning sign is if you see disengagement in an interview, and I think that if you know how to look for it, you’ll find it pretty easily—which is that you just don’t see that passion and come through when they’re trying to sell you on the job because that’s what they’re supposed to be doing. And if you feel that disconnect, then there’s something missing. They don’t feel engaged, and they feel disconnected. If you feel it from one person, but the other five are passionate, okay, that person could be in a different situation. But if you talk to several people, and you still feel that, like, “Where’s the excitement or the enthusiasm or the passion?” then there’s a disengagement. So that’s the, I think, that kind of easier things you can tick off. The harder answer is, like in a relationship, you have to know yourself first before you know what you’re looking for, right? 

Dr. Lisa: Yeah.

Mory: And so, I always…

Dr. Lisa: Because toxic is different for different people. Yeah.

Mory: Right. Well, not only that, but you know, I’ve been asked a lot lately because people are changing jobs. And anytime I get interviewed about job changes, I say, “You have to start by identifying your purpose and your values. What is your “why”? What fulfills you? What are you good at naturally, right? That’s your purpose. And what are your values?” And when you have clarity on that, it is on you. You are accountable to go find an opportunity and an environment that matches your frequency. You can’t go out there looking for something with blinders on; you have to know yourself first.

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. That’s great advice. Like, what am I looking for? What would feel fulfilling? Is this a match? 

Mory: Right.

Dr. Lisa: But also then talking to people on the inside or like paying attention if they seem kind of checked out, or you’re like, “Why would that make sense?” So, okay, good advice. Okay, so now—and I know that we’re coming up on our time here—but before I let you go, I would love to talk with you a little bit more about, you know, your work with leaders, specifically, and how leaders—leadership—so people who call the shots, so a founder and an owner, the, you know, C suite people. What are some things that they need to be very consciously aware of doing, in order to create an empowering environment for the other people on the team?

Mory: There’s really three big ones that I’ve worked on and focused on a lot. The first starts with managing your own fears. What is it that you’re afraid is going to happen if you empower others, or if you let go of the steering wheel slightly? What you find a lot of in highly successful executives or entrepreneurs is perfectionism—and perfectionism at some level is driven by a fear of failure. And so, really getting clear on what you’re afraid of, and whether that’s a reality or a fear, is a very important exercise if you want to build empowered cultures because it’s asking you to manage your own stuff and not asking your employees to do that for you, which is what not self-aware leaders are asking. When you’re not self-aware, you’re not willing to do that work, you’re asking your employees to manage your fears for you, and that’s not okay. 

The second one, then, once you’ve been able to do that is to delegate decision-making. That’s the second thing I see as problematic is that there’s such a desire for control and perfectionism, that others are not given the opportunity to make decisions. This is actually where you see, going back to this idea of diversity in historically oppressed groups, where you’re seeing a lack of true innovation is because there’s no diverse voices in that group that’s making the decisions. Then the problem comes in when the brand is selling to customers that are diverse, but the decision-makers don’t reflect that same look. And that’s where you start to see, as someone who comes from crisis management, crises happen for organizations because they’re speaking to a group of people without having empathy for them. 

Dr. Lisa: I see.

Mory: And so, that’s where you need to have diverse decision-makers, and that’s where the delegating of decision-making authority comes in. And then the last one is really accepting failure as a path towards growth and innovation. And not being so afraid that failure is going to, you know, snowball into something bigger than it is in that moment. That really, people are only going to learn and grow and become empowered leaders if you encourage them to fail. And then also, that you embrace accountability, that if that failure is, in a way, that truly misrepresents the brand or your values, that you can hold people accountable.

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. Those are all great, great strategies to be able to, I think what you’re saying is really like identify and confront whatever fear is driving over control in leaders.

Mory: Yes.

Dr. Lisa: And being able to cope with that to the degree to let other voices in, let other people take charge of some things and kind of trust that that is going to be okay, and also, have confidence that if it isn’t okay, that can also be part of a healthy process. It’s, you know, making mistakes and learning from it. That’s great.

And I guess I just, lastly, you know, I think what I also see sometimes—people have a lot of power. I think one of the biggest blind spots is that they don’t realize how much power they have, like they don’t realize how maybe intimidated other people are of them, or the fact that other people perceive them as needing to be handled like delicately. So maybe they’re not getting all the information because people are afraid to be as open with them as they like to be. Or that maybe they’re kind of subconsciously doing things that gives the impression that they don’t desire to have other voices heard. Do you have any thoughts for leaders who might be wanting to gain that self-awareness of things they’re unintentionally doing that could be fear-driven or could be creating obstacles to that kind of empowered workplace, that they might desire, but are contributing to the opposite without knowing?

Mory: Yeah, I think there’s two things. Yeah, absolutely. There’s two things you can do. One is getting curious. You know, really being able to ask questions and then be quiet and listen to the answers, which goes to point number two, which is managing your reactivity. When you’re hearing something as a leader that you don’t like, you really need to take a beat, like take a deep breath, let that happen, let that person walk away, and then just like process it before you say anything about it. That’s how you create a safe space where people can trust you enough to talk to you. 

And then if you really processed it, and you’ve separated out your own stuff, your own triggers, your own fears from the reality, you can go back to them and address just the facts of what they’ve said, right? And if they’re misinformed, if they are making assumptions that are not fair—if you know, there’s a lot of ways that you’re going to get feedback that are just inaccurate because someone doesn’t have that piece of the puzzle. And you certainly should engage in dialogue. This is not to say that misinformation shouldn’t be corrected, but you have to really do the work to separate that out from your own, you know, anxieties or fears that are getting triggered by what you’re hearing. And I think what you see when people don’t trust their leadership is just reactivity and not being able to manage that.

Dr. Lisa: You shared so many wonderful insights and tips, but I think one of my biggest takeaways from our entire conversation kind of comes back to the idea that personal growth is absolutely essential for leaders to be engaged in on an ongoing basis. That is like what I keep thinking of, like we think of personal growth opportunities as being personal or like in your relationships.

Mory: Uh-huh.

Dr. Lisa: You have to, really, to be an effective leader, and to have an organization that is a healthy, strong place, it requires a lot of deep diving into your own psyche and emotions and core beliefs and expectations and emotional regulation. 

Mory: Gone are the days of not bringing your humanity into your leadership. People aren’t going to stand for it anymore, right? They have too much power in being able to share their experiences, thanks to social media, that you don’t have the option of not bringing your humanity in anymore. And I think leaders were taught that they had to leave that at the door, and now we have to reteach them how to lead successfully while being personal, you know, human people that are growing and focusing on their own evolution.

Dr. Lisa: Wow, and I love what you said a second ago because the workforce is becoming so much more empowered and, hopefully, even that much more empowered, as a result of listening to all of your great advice today. So thank you for sharing it so generously. I appreciate this. And you guys, if any of you would like to learn more about Mory Fontanez or her work, she can be found at 822—do you say at 8-22 Group Mory, or 8-2-2 Group?

Mory: 8-22. Yeah. 

Dr. Lisa: The number 822group.com is the website, and she’s also on Instagram at @moryfontanez. Mory, thank you so much.

Mory: Thank you so much for having me. I really enjoyed talking with you.

 

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​Have you ever felt like you were walking on eggshells around your partner? Like no matter what you say, it is taken as a criticism and erupts in defensiveness or walking away? Or do you feel you have to be really careful or you’re going to get “in trouble” for doing something the wrong way and get blamed and nagged by your partner? In my work as a marriage and family therapist, it’s common for couples to begin counseling because of similar feelings like the ones above. Typically, one partner will feel like they are constantly having to “be careful” while the other partner has no idea they feel this way.

I see couples all of the time who say, “I feel like I have to walk on eggshells.”   

Walking on eggshells is usually a misguided attempt at preserving a relationship. In other words, partners are afraid of expressing their more vulnerable thoughts and feelings out of fear that they won’t be heard or understood and that it will somehow cause conflict or arguing in the relationship. The good news is that this is a pattern that many couples face and it can be worked through. The bad news is that if walking on eggshells becomes a pervasive pattern in your relationship it leaves both partners feeling alone and misunderstood. 

Prioritize Emotional Connection

It’s sad when partners feel like they walk on eggshells because it usually means that they aren’t connecting emotionally. If you constantly watch what you say to avoid offending your partner, it is usually because what you say strikes a nerve deep within them. The nerve may have developed when they were younger or it may be from a past relationship. Perhaps they perceive what you’re saying as criticism and it strikes their nerve of “i’m not good enough.” That shame quickly turns into anger and they get defensive or simply give in to what you say without really hearing you. Even something as simple as “Will you please put the crackers on the bottom shelf next time?” can land as a criticism and can start the reactions. Maybe your partner checks out emotionally or leaves the room by the end of the argument.

While this may make you feel misunderstood and angry, your partner shutting down or leaving is an attempt at preserving the relationship. They may feel they need to leave in order to avoid further conflict or avoid saying something they don’t mean.

Chances are the reasons you feel anxious and angry is because you actually care about your partner and you long to connect with them better. There is a fear that you might lose them. If you didn’t care about them, it probably wouldn’t bring up these types of emotions. 

There are some things you can do on your end if you play the role of this partner in your relationship. Instead of worrying about where your partner puts things in the fridge or how they pack the kids’ lunches for school, try to recognize your need for emotional connection with your partner and prioritize that.

Grow, Together.

Before we sought help from you, I was at a point in my relationship that I had really given up on hope... you have changed our lives.

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You Control How You React

If you feel you need to walk on eggshells or your partner will find fault in something you do, nag you, criticize you, or blame you, you are not alone. Maybe you’re even aware that the nagging, criticizing and blaming not only makes you angry, but makes you feel inadequate or that you’re falling short. You probably find yourself shutting down emotionally or physically leaving the scene either to avoid getting into a bigger conflict or simply as an act of self-preservation.  These are natural reactions to this common occurrence in relationships.

However, the problem is, your partner is trying to reach you for emotional connection. I know it sounds strange, but it’s true. The nagging, criticizing, and even the blaming is an attempt to reach you emotionally. (I didn’t say it was a good attempt, but it is an attempt nonetheless.) So, when you leave, that strikes fear deep in the heart of your partner such as “I can’t count on him,” or  “What if I lose her?”

Once you can access these thoughts and feelings, you will immediately have more control over them. You can decide how you will react.  

Access Vulnerability in Your Relationship

Sometimes when we approach our partners about sensitive topics we are defensive or upset.  This almost always leaves the other person feeling blamed. But when we come from a more vulnerable place, when we’ve accessed those tender feelings beneath the surface and we are able to express those to our partner, they can usually hear us.  

Learning How to Be More Vulnerable in Relationships is an important step in any relationship and a relationship-saving tool that you and your partner can work on together.

See the Argument Through a Different Lens

Try and see the argument through a different lens. Is the argument really about where to put the crackers on the shelf, or is someone feeling a lack of connection? Is the argument really about the kids or is someone looking for reassurance and safety? If you can work with your partner on filling in the blanks below, you will be on your way to a solid foundation, rather than those fragile eggshells.

  • This is what I yearn for in the relationship (security, a sense of belonging, to matter)
  • When the thing I yearn for is not happening, I feel (loneliness, shame, danger)
  • When the above feeling is too difficult or vulnerable, I feel (Angry, frustrated, confused)
  • What I think about myself is (I’ve got this wrong, I’m not enough, I can only take care of myself)
  • What I think about my partner is (He doesn’t care, she doesn’t listen, he’s so irresponsible)
  • So I try to take care of myself by (controlling, blaming, walking away, zoning out) and this triggers my partner. And we go back to the beginning.

See how it works?    

Sue Johnson, the developer of Emotionally Focused Couples therapy called this “The Dance.”  All couples have a dance they do and when couples are caught in this negative cycle it leaves people feeling bad and alone, and like they are walking on eggshells to avoid fighting.

If you feel like you and your partner can work together to change this dance, there are great tools out there for couples. My favorite book to recommend to my friends and family is “Hold Me Tight” by Sue Johnson. It teaches couples about how and why they are walking on eggshells and provides powerful exercises and talking points to explore this with your partner and improve emotional connection.

If you feel like you’re too stuck and the thought of bringing up any of this with your partner feels like it will end in a major battle, find a trained couples therapist who will help you get unstuck!

Wishing you happiness,
Stephanie Oliver, M.A., UKCP

Online Therapist UK Relationship Counselling Online

Stephanie Oliver, M.A., UKCP Family and Systemic Therapist is an active, engaged, and down to earth counselor who takes great interest in your overall well-being. She works with couples, families, and individuals to help them reach their full potential in life and their relationships.

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Do you feel good about YOU? In this podcast, we’ll explore the signs of low self esteem, and effective strategies to raise your self esteem and feel good again.

How to be Successful Online Dating

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The online dating world can be a jungle. Online therapist and dating coach Jessica Small, M.A., LMFT shares her top tips for online dating. From creating your profile, avoiding red flags and disappointment, to setting yourself up for success!

When To Call It Quits In a Relationship

When To Call It Quits In a Relationship

Is it time to break up? Knowing when to end a relationship or when to divorce is hard. Learn when to call it quits from an online couples therapy expert. Listen to this podcast for new insights, thought provoking questions, and action steps to help you get clarity, confidence and direction to help you move forward… or call it quits.

Attachment Style Quiz

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Understanding your attachment style allows you to release self-limiting patterns in relationships, and become empowered to create the healthy, secure love you want. Learn about attachment styles in this episode of the podcast, then take the attachment style quiz to discover yours!

Infidelity Recovery Stages: Healing Your Relationship

Infidelity Recovery Stages: Healing Your Relationship

Infidelity Recovery Stages: Healing Your Relationship

Healing After Infidelity

The Pain of Infidelity

Is it true that the pain of infidelity never goes away? Is it possible to get over infidelity pain? What does the road to healing look like after infidelity? As a Florida Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Relationship Coach, I have couples come to me looking for help through the process of healing after infidelity. They often ask questions similar to above – and it’s true – infidelity recovery is a long road, but for couples who put the work into the relationship it can be healed. 

It is NOT true that pain caused by infidelity never goes away. Like with any trauma, it has an impact on someone’s life, and regardless of whether the relationship is repaired or not, healing from the trauma is absolutely doable [see more on Post Traumatic Growth here]. 

To move past infidelity pain, it is important to talk through and process the event. For couples who choose to repair and rebuild the relationship, it is important for them to understand that their previous relationship needs to be grieved because the relationship as they once knew it no longer exists after such a significant breach of trust. 

Couples often wish they could “go back to the way things used to be,” but I always like to remind couples that “the way things used to be” actually didn’t work for them. Instead, through couples counseling work, you can create a new, more effective, healthy, and satisfying relationship. Most couples who successfully achieve healing after an affair report that their relationship is stronger and more connected than it ever was before the affair took place. 

The work that is done during the affair healing process allows couples to evaluate all areas of their relationship and to pull what worked into their “new” relationship, and to address and “fix” the areas that were not as effective. 

Falling Out of Love After Infidelity

But what do you do if the trauma of infidelity has impacted your relationship to what feels like the point of no return? Or, what if the affair itself has brought to light major discrepancies in your relationship that has completely changed your outlook on your partnership? In my work with individual therapy clients, clients who have experienced an affair in their partnership have questions like, “I don’t think I’m in love with my partner anymore – is it possible to forgive them/myself and recover what we once had?” And,  “When do I know it’s time to move on?”

A great way to know when it’s time to move on is if your partner is unwilling to be patient and participate in this process. It isn’t easy, but it is possible and requires both partners to be invested in the healing process. It is absolutely normal for either couple to experience frustration and even hopelessness at times during the healing process because it can feel like a never-ending issue. At times, it can be very difficult for the spouses to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and the healing process requires that couples trust their therapist to guide them through it. 

What you may be feeling right now is completely and totally okay, and the only way to move forward together is to process these emotions and work through healing together. As I mentioned above, many couples who successfully achieve healing after an affair report that their relationship is stronger and more connected than ever before. 

Grow, Together.

Before we sought help from you, I was at a point in my relationship that I had really given up on hope... you have changed our lives.

— Couples Counseling Client

Infidelity and Divorce

Should divorce be the route a couple decides to take, there are less damaging options for divorce than the traditional litigation route, such as the Collaborative Process. The Collaborative Process is an alternative dispute resolution method in which two attorneys, and in most cases, a financial professional and a mental health professional, work together as a team to help a couple separate legally, financially, and emotionally. 

Alternatively, couples can explore mediation, which allows couples to find resolution with the help of a third-party mediator. Both of these alternatives to traditional litigation allow the couple to stay out of court, which is beneficial to the family for a number of reasons, and they grant the couple more autonomy in creating marital settlement agreements that are specific to their unique family needs. 

[If you would like to read more on your options when it comes to divorce, read: Considering Divorce? Or Is There Still Hope?]

Infidelity Recovery Stages

So what does the road to recovery look like after infidelity? What can you and your partner expect in couples counseling and throughout the healing process? Typically, the partner who has been cheated on has many questions, and it is important for them to grasp the entire situation and have all of their questions answered. The healing process requires that the person who has been unfaithful to answer all of their spouse’s questions with the exception of details about sexual encounters. 

The spouse who has been cheated on needs to feel like their pain and experience is thoroughly heard and understood by their partner. Inevitably, frustrations occur during this time because the person who cheated is eager to move past the situation, and oftentimes, the same questions or triggers need to be addressed over and over again. 

After the spouse who has been cheated on feels completely understood by their partner, it is time to switch roles and hear from the spouse who has cheated. There are often concrete reasons that led to the infidelity, and it is during this time that many of the areas in need of “fixing” come up so that this issue can be prevented in the future. 

Finally, the couple develops new rules so that the relationship can function better. For example, one spouse might ask the other to change their phone number/email address so that there is no way for the affair partner to contact the spouse. They also might decide that they will carve out time for a date once a week and make the appropriate arrangements, like for childcare, to support that new rule.

Ultimately, it is up to each spouse to determine whether they want to repair the relationship and whether they are willing to put in the effort that is required to accomplish that goal. Healing is possible, regardless of the path the relationship takes. 

Wishing you the best, 
Rachel Merlin, DMFT, LMFT, M.S.Ed

For more on Daring to Trust again after a breakup or divorce, see: Daring to Trust Again

Dr. Rachel Merlin, DMFT, LMFT, M.S.Ed.

Rachel Merlin, DMFT, LMFT, M.S.Ed, is a relationship coach and marriage and family therapist who assists couples and individuals in transforming their lives by creating more satisfying relationships.

Real Help For Your Relationship

Lots of couples go through challenging times, but the ones who turn "rough-patches" into "growth moments" can come out the other side stronger and happier than ever before.

 

Working with an expert couples counselor can help you create understanding, empathy and open communication that felt impossible before.

 

Start your journey of growth together by scheduling a free consultation.

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Being Honest With Yourself

Being Honest With Yourself

Being Honest With Yourself

Being Honest With Yourself

[social_warfare]

Being Honest With Yourself

How to Be Honest With Yourself

Being honest with yourself… is, honestly, sometimes harder than it sounds. It’s said that “the truth will set you free.” Sure, we’ve been schooled about being honest, but being honest with oneself is a different story.

Being honest with yourself requires self-awareness and even courage. It can sometimes be challenging to make contact with your truth, and even harder to take action based on that truth.

Honesty is a little threatening because it’s so powerful. It’s also transformational. And (again, if we’re being honest!) sometimes we’re not ready for all the changes that radical self-honesty can bring.

When We’re NOT Being Honest With Ourselves

So what do we do instead of being honest with ourselves? We play little games with ourselves, or minimize away our feelings. We might even convince ourselves of things that are absolutely NOT true, in order to make peace with non-ideal circumstances over which we feel we have little influence or control. (We might even convince ourselves we have less influence or control than we actually, honestly do).

These strategies to avoid being honest with ourselves are especially common when embracing the fullness of our power feels scary. Honesty challenges us to take action and do courageous things in service of our own health and happiness.

Honesty is hard. Honesty is elusive. It can be anxiety-provoking. It can also be exhilarating. Being honest can be quite tricky, in reality — Whether we’re being honest with ourselves, or with others. But above all else: Being self-aware, and being honest with ourselves (whether or not we choose to act on our truth!) is essential to our overall wellbeing, and the quality of our lives and relationships.

Because being honest with yourself is SO important (and SO challenging) I’m devoting this entire episode of the podcast to it. I have invited my colleague, Denver therapist and online life coach Josephine Marin to share her unique, compassionate insight into why being honest with ourselves is crucial for our growth (no matter how uncomfortable it could get), and some real-world, down-to-earth strategies to help you connect with your deepest truth. 

In this episode, Josephine gives us a glimpse of the process of becoming honest and self-aware so that we can live in a way that is congruent with our true selves. Furthermore, she explains why being honest with ourselves is the key to love, happiness, and freedom.

Tune in to the episode to learn more about being honest with yourself to live out your true and authentic self. (Scroll down to listen!)

Here are some of the main takeaways from today’s conversation:

Why Being Honest with Yourself Is So Important

Not being honest with ourselves can be a form of protection, but it is essential to tune in to ourselves. Without self-awareness and a connection to our core truth, you can get involved in situations (jobs, relationships, and more) that are not good for you.

The worst thing is investing years or even decades of your life to something that is not truly meaningful or satisfying to your authentic self. Josephine offers some suggestions to make radical self-honesty part of your daily practice, particularly when it comes to the most important parts of your life. 

Learning how to be honest with yourself ensures that you will make choices and create a reality that is congruent with who you really are, and what you really want. 

"I have tried counseling for about a decade with various counselors and have never been able to connect or grow with them. [My Growing Self Coach] has connected with me genuinely and helped me grow more in two meetings then several counselors have done in a decade.”

— Coaching Client

The First Step in Being Honest with Yourself

The first step is becoming aware of how you feel is to mindfully and non-judgmentally begin observing your inner reactions to the experiences you have. Noticing how you think and feel is the foundational starting point for compiling information about yourself and your truth. Changes may happen later on, but what’s important is to develop the ability to observe how you think and feel first.

Knowing What Is True

One of the tricky things about “truth” is that it can be subjective. What is true for someone else may not be true for you, and it doesn’t have to be. It can be surprisingly easy to have our thoughts and feelings about what feels true for us tangled up with the perspectives and truths of others — especially people who are very important to you. We discuss some ways to identify what’s your truth vs. what’s someone else truth. 

 It’s also true that your truth can change: What was true for you at one point in your life may not be true after you’ve grown and evolved. Remembering that “truth” is not a constant can help you compassionately and mindfully observe, without judgment, what feels true for you now. We discussed some tips for how to keep track of how your truth evolves over time (and how to be okay with that!)

Reasons Why It’s Hard To Be Honest With Yourself 

While we discussed a number of different ideas and strategies for how to be honest with yourself, we also touched on the main things that can block you from being honest with yourself:

  • Invalidating yourself and minimizing your experiences.
  • Judging or criticizing yourself for your truth.  
  • Feeling threatened or challenged by the truth can make us afraid to sit with our emotions and thoughts.
  • Feeling defensive or rejecting of parts of ourselves that make us feel guilty, ashamed or uncomfortable.
  • Feeling pressured to take action on our truth, instead of being patient and thoughtful.
  • Fearing the consequences of our honesty, for ourselves and for others.
  • Fearing our own power and feeling anxious about what might happen if we trust ourselves, and our feelings about what is true for us.

We discuss ways to manage all of the above, and more, so that you can move forward fearlessly into YOUR TRUTH — whatever that may be!

5 Powerful Takeaways from This Episode

“I think about what it would look or feel like to not be honest with yourself. And to me, it seems like kind of walking around in the world with blinders on or we’re not fully experiencing everything that life has to offer.”

“I think the witnessing that somebody’s sharing or taking an interest in you and your experience, that can just be so powerful.”

“There’s not a human being on this earth that hasn’t had some growth opportunities…. We’re asking for progress, not perfection.”

“A way of thinking about being honest with ourselves is like not doing so is a disservice to who you are, that your needs and your values deserve to be tuned into.” 

“The longer that we are dishonest with ourselves, I think the harder it is to change or to create change.” 

About Josephine

Josephine Marin, M.S., MFT-C is a marriage counselor and relationship coach who provides online therapy, life coaching, and couples counseling here at Growing Self. Josephine is passionate about helping people move forward on a path toward self-discovery and authenticity. 

You can read more about Josephine in her Growing Self page

Enjoy This Podcast?

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Wishing you all the best on your journey of growth!

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

PS: We often use a variety of assessments and questionnaires with our therapy and coaching clients here at Growing Self in order to help provide insight and new self-awareness about subconscious aspects of themselves. One such tool is our “What’s Holding You Back” quiz. It shines a light on different ways of thinking, feeling and behaving that may be creating issues in your life — without your even being aware of them. You’re welcome to take it too!

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Being Honest With Yourself

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | Love, Happiness & Success

Music Credits: Malyssa Bellarossa, “Pretend”

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Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

 

 

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Being Honest With Yourself

Episode Transcript

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Access Episode Transcript

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: This is Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby, and you’re listening to the Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

[Pretend by Malyssa Bellarosa]

Malyssa Bellarosa with the song Pretend, song about coming to terms with who she is, who she’s been trying to be, and how to develop radical honesty with herself. Because that’s what we’re talking about today on the podcast, getting honest with you. 

In my experience, being honest with yourself is a fundamental part of the personal growth process. Without that self-awareness and, you know, being connected to your personal truth, it’s very difficult to even know in what direction you need to grow much less do it. Yet, it can be really hard to be honest with yourself. And it can sometimes even feel threatening to be honest with yourself. And it’s also true that we all have blind spots, things that we don’t know that we don’t even know. So being honest with yourself sounds easy, it’s a little bit more complicated in practice. And that’s why we’re talking about how to be honest with yourself today on this episode of the Love, Happiness & Success Podcast. 

My guest today is my dear colleague, Josephine Marin. She works with me at Growing Self. She is a Marriage and Family Therapist [candidate] and a Relationship Coach. But she also works with a lot of individual clients as a therapist and coach, and helps her clients move forward on that path of self-discovery and authenticity. And today she’s here to join her wisdom and perspective with us. Thank you, Josephine. 

Josephine Marin: Thank you so much, Lisa, for having me on. Very excited to be here today and to talk about this topic with you. 

Dr. Lisa Marie: Me too. Well, it’s an important topic. And I really wanted to talk with you about this because, and we work with so many amazing people, but I think I’ve always viewed you as being just like this, especially just like an authentic person. And I know like in our consultation groups, you talk a lot about working with your clients around how to get connected with their truth and affirm that. And so, I know you know a lot about being honest with yourself. And so, let’s just start there. I mean, from your perspective, personally, professionally, through the work you do with your clients, why do you think it is so important to be honest with yourself in the first place? Like why even try? Why to begin? 

Josephine: Sure, yeah, thank you for saying that. When I think about why it’s important to be honest with yourself, I think about what it would look or feel like to not be honest with yourself. And to me, it seems like kind of walking around in the world with blinders on. Or like we’re not fully experiencing everything that life has to offer. It makes me think about when people say, “Oh, well, they’re just in denial, right?” It’s like, what is the opposite of being honest? It is when we are actively denying something. And so, if we aren’t being honest with ourselves, we can find ourselves in relationships, jobs, situations to where we are unhappy, or they aren’t serving us. And that’s one of the reasons that I think it’s really important to make sure that we’re living the life that we want to live and have the relationships that we want to have.

Dr. Lisa Marie: Yeah, you bring up such a great point. Like without that connection to your authentic truth, you can kind of just wander into situations that you haven’t like intentionally created and something that can be not good for you. And like relationships, in careers, I have talked to people who have like, you know, are 10 years into a career that they hate every day. And when you kind of unpeel the onion and figure out like, “How did this happen?” It’s often because they made those decisions when they were in a lifespace where they were really not connected within themselves. 

Josephine: Absolutely, I think this, you know, “How did this happen? How did I get here?” These are the kind of questions thatit makes me think of where along the way were we not tuned in. And that’s what really comes to mind when I think about this topic of like tuning in to our thoughts, our emotions, the reactions that we have. We either were not aware of them, and that’s possibly how we got to this point. And sometimes being honest with yourself isn’t intentional. But I think that is, you know, unfortunately that’s part of the problem though if we aren’t tuning in, how are we going to recognize along the way if this isn’t a good fit for us?

Dr. Lisa Marie: Yeah, that’s such a great point. And I also love the fact that you brought up that it’s not intentional. I guess out there somewhere but someone who’s like, “No, I will not think that thought.” But really, like, and as soon as those words came out of my mouth, I immediately thought about the kind of, you know, agony that perhaps a gay boy, or a lesbian girl, adolescent living at home with parents they perceive as being unreceptive, you know. They might have some of those thoughts and feelings like, “Nope, that is not okay for me to think about.” You know, and so that’s like survival. 

Josephine: I think you bring up a really important point, though. That sometimes not being honest with ourselves is a protection or something that we need to kind of get through a period of time, situation, and that can be tough. And that in and of itself, I think it’s about weighing what we really need most right then. Is it going to be most helpful or important to sit with those feelings and to think about what that means for us? Or do we not have the time or resources to really think about what being honest with ourselves really means. And sometimes, it’s not always going to be helpful. And that’s an important distinction too.

Dr. Lisa Marie: Thank you so much for giving everyone permission for that to be true. Like it is okay, Like “I do not have the mental, emotional bandwidth or personal resources to cope with that reality right this very second. So we’re just gonna let that one slide until it is the right time.” Because that’s, I think one of the obstacles to being honest with yourself a lot of times is because if you make contact with something that is true, and is important, and your life as it is is not currently congruent with whatever that truth is, then what? Like, do you have to make changes or have hard conversations? And let’s just let that answer be no, you don’t. You don’t have to do anything.

Josephine: Mm hmm. Absolutely. Now, I’m so glad that you say that. Because I think one just noticing or recognizing that this is a thing, whatever it is. That this is like, “I need to be honest with myself, I need to do something or I’m just noticing.” That is the first step of like, okay, and that doesn’t mean that we have to do anything with it right then or ever. It could just be an observation of, “Hmm, okay. I’m gonna take that in. And then we’ll see.” And I think if it does need to be addressed, it doesn’t have to be then. And the important thing is that we do come back to it when the time is right.

Dr. Lisa Marie: Yeah, that’s important. So, that honesty, self-honesty, it’s important for, like you said, you know, making sure that you create a life path that is congruent with who you really are. And also, I mean, I don’t know if this has been your experience, but when I think back to the work that I’ve done over the years with clients, and even myself personally, that moment of clarity. Like even if it’s not the right time to act on, it is very difficult to create any change without that experience of honesty, or clarity, or truth. Why is that like, do you think the first step for people and change is really difficult unless they have that first honesty, piece?

Josephine: Yeah, I think why it’s necessary is that otherwise how do we know where to focus? Or like when I think about if we’re trying to create change or you know, looking for treasures, what’s coming to mind for me is that we don’t know where to start if we don’t have a map, or we don’t know where to start digging, right? And so I think it’s this awareness, this noticing, is absolutely the first step in creating any kind of deepening of understanding. It doesn’t always have to be growth, I think. It doesn’t have to necessarily change as a result of being honest with ourselves. It could even just be better understanding ourselves, our partner, or a situation. And that in and of itself can bring healing, or closure, or some kind of positive difference. We don’t have to do something about it all the time in order for that to be meaningful.

Dr. Lisa Marie: That is also a great point that change can be a change in perception or the meaning that you make of something as opposed to an actual, like practical change in the way that you do things. Change happens on so many different levels. That’s a good point. 

And so when it comes to, like strategies that you’ve seen people use. I mean, like, and there are a lot of practical strategies. But like, if first though, we were just to have some discussion around what it even means to be honest with yourself? Like, what is the goal? Okay, here’s the different question. How do you know if you’re being honest with yourself? Or if you’re like, you know, I mean, you can trick yourself into believing all kinds of things and it can be really confusing to sort through, is this like, the bottom? Is this the deepest layer of my authentic truth or isn’t? Am I playing a game with myself right now? How do you begin to like dial in and even know what’s true and what’s not true for you? And I’m aware that that’s kind of too big of a question. But like, do you know what I mean?

Josephine: Yes, absolutely. No, absolutely. And so I think that’s one of the wonderful things about being human is our executive functioning, and how we can, you know, manipulate, and explain, and help ourselves understand all these things. It can also, I think, be our detriment where it makes things harder. Or like, is this even real? We can go really existential. 

But I think what helps for me I mean, even like, personally or with my clients to think about, like, what is the real truth here? And I think it’s helpful to also remember that our truth can change or what our truth is now doesn’t mean that it’s stagnant. It’s not a consistent state. That in itself could change and it likely will, and that’s okay. It’s really kind of finding our truth in the moment. 

And so, I think having that in mind of kind of really looking inward and sitting with what it is that we notice either in our body, what our thoughts are, what we’re feeling as we are exploring whatever the topic at hand is. If we are thinking about where we stand on a particular issue, or what to do about our job, relationship, and can we explain it to ourselves as a way that I think about it. If we say, “Well, you know, I want to get up earlier. I want to start going to bed earlier, and I want to do that.” Okay, well, why is that important to me? Can we explain the why? And if I’m having a hard time thinking about why I want to do that, do I really believe that? Is that really my truth? Or is this something I think I should be doing, or saying, or thinking? And so if we can’t explain it to ourselves, why is this important to me? Why do I want to do this? Then maybe there isn’t really a whole lot there.

Dr. Lisa Marie: You bring up such a good point and it sounds weird to think about. But it can be surprisingly easy to be kind of like living according to someone else’s truth. Like particularly I think for younger people who have inherited the set of messages about who you should be, and then a way to live, and this is what successful happy people do. Like we internalize. Or like messages from, you know, YouTube or social media. Or like, yeah, I was, I can’t rememberI was with, I’m likeit was some podcast I was listening to. But it was about the experience of someone who was going out to dinner with a friend, and the friend was sharing an opinion. But the other person has been trending on Twitter earlier. And I think it was like political news, but the person stopped his friend, “Is that actually your opinion and how you feel? Or is that something that you heard and absorbed without realizing it?” And the friend was like, “I’m not sure.” I think you know what I mean, like an onslaught of all kinds of people with very strong opinions, like beaming into our brain. And it can be really hard to parse apart. But how do I feel? What do I think? Because, like, there’s so much noise from other people’s opinions. Have you found that to be true with your clients?

Josephine: Oh, yes, absolutely. This is something that I talk about with all my clients, whether it’s individuals or couples. Especially when it comes to relationships, when it comes to expectations that we may hold, and where is this coming from. Is this something that we saw in our family that we are just, you know, internalizing? And is that something that’s actually important to you or to parenting? You know, are we doing this because this is what we feel like we should be, this is what I think a good parent should be doing? Or is it actually important to me to do these things?

And I think that is part of where we get lost as a culture or society of what I like to think of is like mindlessness. You know we aren’t actively, or not actively, but kind of like tuning out. Or we’re so busy, and we’re going, and trying to do so much that we are unable to take the time, of course. I mean, it takes intentional efforts and energy to tune in. And check in with ourselves, “Am I happy? Is my life looking the way that I want? Or am I content with my relationships?” And it’s kind of tuning into those emotions and thoughts that we have throughout the day, as we notice things, and it’s a lot of work.

Dr. Lisa Marie: And you bring up such a good point. It’s like usually we’re all, I meanI know me. I’m like, blalalala, you know. And then along the way, like absorbing information generated by other people all day long. And like, stop for long enough to ask yourself some of those questions like, “How do I feel about this? What do I think about this? What is my true opinion?” And I think what can be especially challenging, and not always, I mean, certainly you can have an honest moment when you’re like, “Hey, I’m really having a good time right now. I love this. This experience is what I want to be doing all the time.” You know, that happens. And that also it’s true that many times, you know, that first inclination of like, “Wait a minute, what do I think about this?” can come up as an uncomfortable feeling, like a vague discomfort. Or, “Why am I having this reaction?” And it’s often like, our dark emotions that are that first like, “Hello, something’s going on that you need to pay attention to.” Has this been true for you? I mean, of course, I’m across the spectrum here, but…

Josephine: Oh yes. I feel like all the time. That very much feels like for me personally when I am noticing something, or I need to be honest with myself, or sit with my emotions to where something will happen, and then I’m like, “Hmmm, what’s happening here?” Or like, “What is this that where I’m unable to make sense of it?” And that is a really big clue for me to sit down, and just kind of think, and say, “Okay, what is it that I’m feeling? Why am I maybe feeling this?” And, of course, as a therapist I validate myself, you know, makes sense that I’m having this feeling. And, you know, all the skills that I work with my clients on. 

Dr. Lisa Marie: Now you’re out Josephine. Now they all know that you use these same skills on yourself. [laughs] 

Josephine: I try. I mean, I will be honest, I am not always perfect at it. I do not always, you know, practice what I preach, but I try. 

Dr. Lisa Marie: I hear you. 

Josephine: My clients help keep me accountable in that way. And so I try to think, you know, “Okay, makes sense that I’m feeling this way.” And then, okay, “What am I going to do about it? Do I need to do anything about it?” And sometimes just sitting with the emotion, thinking about it is enough. If it is a belief or something, if it’s coming up, you know, “I’m having this emotion, what’s happening here? Why does this make me so upset?” And then it could be just realizing, “Okay, so maybe I actually believe this. Or the next time I have a conversation with somebody, maybe I need to bring this up.” 

Dr. Lisa Marie: And yeah, that’s so good. And you know what I also, though, I want to rewind just a little bit because you sort of fleetingly talked about what I think is a hugely important micro skill when it comes to being honest with yourself. And I think because you’re just so good at this and you sort of like, “Well, I’m a therapist. I validate myself.” But I just want to highlight, I think, how easy and common it is for people, particularly women, but men do it too to have a feeling when they’re like, “I am not having a good time right now. Or I don’t, this is not going…” And they minimize their own experience. They invalidate themselves. Like, “You’re just being hormonal. You can never be happy. And just let this go, don’t be difficult.” Or whatever it is, like, there’s all this, like, mental minimization that sometimes they really have to actively fight through. Because it’s sort of like this running commentary about how they don’t have the right to have their own feelings or how their thoughts aren’t quite as trustworthy as those of others, you know. And so, that can be hard. You know, again, you do it so naturally. But I just wanted to point that out because that can mess people up.

Josephine: Oh, yeah. Well, I mean, thank you for saying that. But I will also be honest in that I also can minimize myself. Absolutely, no, and it’s such an important thing. I’m really glad that you said that. Because I think if we, that’s a good clue too if we notice ourselves, like, “Oh, stop. It’s just this. Or it’s not a big deal. Or you’re on your period this week.” Or whatever it is, to maybe stop and say, “Well, hold on. I mean, even if all those things are true, it doesn’t mean that it’s any less important what it is that you’re feeling.” So I think one if we noticenoticing is a big skill here. But “wait a second,” kind of having that loving parent voice within ourselves, I think is a great way to frame it. Or like if you were talking to a small child, I would hope you wouldn’t minimize what it is they’re feeling. We would sit with it. And so I think kind of talking to ourselves the way that we would maybe our inner child or somebody who maybe doesn’t necessarily have the skills yet. How do we talk them through it? And then trying to do that with ourselves can be a really big game changer.

Dr. Lisa Marie: Yeah. And honestly, I do think that that can be one of the experiences that we have like in therapy or in good coaching that can be difficult. Because I don’t think that therapy and coaching is like the Alpha and the Omega, I think that people can do all kinds of personal growth without that particular experience. But I do think from my own experience and like being with clients, there are two parts of that. I think sometimes when people have the opportunity like that time and space to say out loud how they are really feeling and kind of be invited to dig more deeply into that, is oneit kind of generates that honesty. But the second part just, I can’t tell you how many times I have had a client say something really importantabout who they are and how they feeland then immediately say, “But there are so many people in the world who are suffering with X, Y, Z. So I’m just making a big deal out of nothing. And I haven’t really so good compared to how things could be. I have nothing to complain about. Let’s just move on.” And I need to be like, “No. We’re not moving on. Go back to what you just said. Say that again. Notice how you feel when you say out loud to me right now.” And then, they usually cry. That is the ultimate goal of every therapist. But you know what I mean? Like, I think sometimes it takes that partner to sort of like, validate when it’s hard to do it by yourself. So, yeah.

Josephine: It can be so powerful. And I think part of it is, I think the witnessing that somebody’s sharing or taking an interest in you and your experience. And that can just be so powerful. But I think it’s again, it’s what you described is that slowing down, tuning in, and really thinking about what it is that you’re thinking and saying, and how that impacts us emotionally. Yeah, it’s justit can be so powerful. I lost my train of thought.

Dr. Lisa Marie: That’s all good. You’re being totally honest with me right now. And I really appreciate that. But yeah, that and but also, I think that tendency to minimize can be one thing that makes being honest with yourself hard in addition to sorting out like, “What’s my thought? What somebody else’s thoughts are?” 

But also, um, I don’t know if you’ve encountered this but like, I think being radically honest with yourself can be a little bit threatening sometimes. If you determine that something is true for you that might not be true for people that you care about, where it might go against, you know, cultural beliefs or might potentially create friction in relationships. I’m trying to think of a good example here. Well, I mean, just you know, even with some of recent awareness I think around racial injustice. I mean, for someone who has grown up in a privileged white family who does not discuss such things and who maybe doesn’t recognize that as being an issue at all, to, you know, for a person to begin to have ideas, or feelings, or awarenesses that are against the grain of that. That can feel threatening if they’re no longer in agreement with their culture, even. 

Josephine: Mm hmm. Absolutely. And that is one of the hardest parts, if not the hardest part about being honest with ourselves of kind of, “What this means? And what now? This is the way that I lived my life and conducted myself before, now I’m having this thought. It’s challenging my status quo. What does this mean about me and who I have been? What do I do with this? How will it affect going forward? Will it? And this is a lot.” 

And so I think when we do feel threatened or challenged by something, naturally, we’re going to feel afraid. And fear I think, is kind of hard to sit with. And so then we get angry because that’s easier. And so anger can be a little easier to deal with in terms of its activating, you know, “What am I going to do? Am I going to actively push it away? No, that’s not true.” Or if we can kind of sit with that and be curious about anger, “Well, hmm. What about thisis threatening or makes me feel upset?” And as much as possible trying to get to the heart of the matter but a lot of these things can be changes that might need to take place as a result. And if it is an entrenched deep thing. It could impact our relationships, or how we feel about the community, or groups we belong to. That’s no small thing. Yeah,

Dr. Lisa Marie: Yeah, that can have a major impact on many different areas of life. And you brought up such a good point Josephine which is like, you know, a big part of being honest is having kind of clarity and like taking responsibility for maybe things that you haven’t done as well as you would like to. Maybe mistakes that you made. I know a lot of white identifying people these days are you know, sort of sitting with, “Oh, I did not realize that that can be perceived as being really like a racist way of being.” Or, you know, to say, “I don’t see color feels extremely offensive to people.” And I think especially when we feel confronted by that honesty or that honesty sort of shines a light on mistakes that we’ve made or things that, you know, let’s not call them mistakes, let’s call them growth opportunities or learning. You’re saying that, that can still feel very threatening. And that the immediate reaction is a tendency to be defensive, or to deny, or to displace blame. 

And, I think it’s like, I don’t know, I think that’s an internal process that happens. You always see it with couples, like if Person A is confronted by Person B about somebody that they’re doing that feels really bad to Person B. They’re like, “No, that’s not true. I don’t do that.” Whatever it is, but like that self-honesty, that can also sort of happen internally where they begin wrestling with themselves a little bit around. I just had this thought about something that might be true, but that made me feel bad. Let’s talk about why that might not be true actually. You know, the back and forth.

Josephine: Definitely, yeah. Oh, absolutely. And when I talk about defensiveness and taking responsibility with my couples, I explained to them just the way that you did. Like, it’s hard to sit with that we either upset, or disappointed, or let down our partner. And so of course, we’re going to be defensive, or we don’t want to accept that as the reality. So we’re going to try to fight against it or explain it away. But if that is somebody’s truth, then we can’t argue that it didn’t happen.

And I think going back to outside of relationships, that when we feel defensive, or we notice anger about something like “oh” that we’ve done in the past that we don’t like, we can validate that. That we don’t have to be hard on ourselves about that. We don’t want to beat ourselves up for beating ourselves up in a way, you know. And that’s not going to be helpful. So I think one, not being too hard on yourselves is the key thing with being honest. Practicing that patience and compassion, that’s where the validation comes in. That, you know, it’s okay to make growth opportunities or mistakes. You know, that we can say, “I’m not perfect, nobody is. There’s not a human being on this earth that hasn’t had some growth opportunities or maybe to be honest with themselves, and that’s okay. We’re asking for progress, not perfection.” And so we’re recognizing this, what is it that we don’t like? Like, I don’t want to be seen as somebody that I’m not. Okay, then what do we need to be different? Or what is it about this that made us upset? And we don’t have to beat ourselves up. We can own it and then move on from there.

Dr. Lisa Marie: Completely. And like not beating yourself up, and being like, you just sitting with the truth. And also like, I think being honest enough with yourself to say, “This doesn’t feel good for me right now. I feel embarrassed. I feel guilty. I feel kind of a little bit ashamed. What is this feeling?” And also just this idea that it is absolutely okay for people to feel those feelings sometimes. You don’t have to push away all those dark emotions immediately. It is okay to feel uncomfortable feelings, and healing, and helpful, and important. And a big part of that honesty process, I think.

Josephine: They tell us something. I think it’s uncomfortable, of course. We don’t like them. So that’s why we push away shame, and guilt, and all of that, but let’s listen to them. And like what they are trying to tell us. Like I feel ashamed that I, you know, reacted before thinking about what it is that I wanted to say. Or I feel guilty that I may have accidentally offended someone or something like that. And so, alright, well, what are we gonna do with that information? Do I need to reach out to that person and maybe like, clear the air? Or do I need to think about taking a breath before I respond to what somebody said? So we can meet our learning opportunities too. And so it’s, you know, treat them as such.

And I think also a way of thinking about being honest with ourselves is like not doing so is a disservice to who you are. That your needs and your values deserve to be tuned into. That we don’t want to be walking around, not thinking about what it is that we’re doing. And then be unhappy one day or be satisfied where you’re at. That you’re worth tuning into yourself, even if it is uncomfortable.

Dr. Lisa Marie: That’s a good reminder. And I think that experience is so important when it comes to growth, like letting in the possibility that there are opportunities for growth. Even if they are uncomfortable, that you deserve that. 

And I wonder if you could also speak to what is like, I think even a different kind of self-honesty. Maybe not so much around like, this is where I need to grow, or this is maybe mistakes I’ve made. But like, you know, I think some people are in situations that if they are really honest with themselves, they don’t like. And if they are really, really honest with themselves, like might not be sustainable long term. And so like I’m thinking of someone who is in a relationship that they are really unhappy in and that the relationship is very unlikely to change. Like, they get real honest with themselves about like, “Okay, what does that mean?” Or like in a career, “I absolutely hate this and yet here I am.” You know, well maybe you could talk a little bit like what makes coming to terms with that level of honesty feel so uncomfortable and so difficult.

Josephine: Mm hmm. Yeah, I think what comes to mind for me is that we can’t unlearn it, or then we can’t ignore it anymore. It’s like there’s no going back. Like, once we fully recognize or are honest with the scope of the situation. Yeah, it’s like, well I can’t go back to like, “Okay, well, I’m just gonna keep doing this now.” Like, every time that we walk into the office, or do a certain task, or maybe come home from work, and then we’re confronted with that reality and we can’t ignore it, or it’s a lot harder to ignore once we confront it. And so I think that the hardest part about this is, one, that we can’t go back and two, and I’m gonna have to do something about it. And change is really hard and scary for most peopleunderstandably so.

Dr. Lisa Marie: Yeah, and it’s uncomfortable. And it creates the psychological term, that cognitive dissonance. If you feel and believe one thing, yet you do another, it creates this internal sense of pressure. And I don’t know if I ever shared this with you but I came across something in research not too long ago that I thought was just fascinating, I think it was an article talking about like, it was related to like goals. It was along the lines of our coaching work, but that cognitive dissonance is so uncomfortable that it is often easier, and you’ll see people willfully changing the way they think or feel, in order to be in alignment with what they’re doing. Because in some ways, it can be harder to change what we do than it can be to change our internal narrative about what we’re doing. And so like you see that all the time if there’s a mismatch between how you feel and what’s actually happening, people will twist themselves into pretzels for like all the 573 reasons why this is actually okay. If you know the reality of making a changequitting a job, leaving a marriage-feels too big. They will sacrifice their truth to make it work, but to their detriment. Because long term, it’s not good for people.

Josephine: I agree. I think at what cost, you know, that we can keep going along. But then at what point? Because the longer that we are honest with ourselves, I think the harder it is to change or to create change. And when you were talking, it absolutely reminded me of what can happen, how we can devalue our partner in our mind, if we are going to engage or are engaging in an affair. The cognitive dissonance there, “I have this commitment to my partner, but I need to have it make sense as to why I’m able to do this. Because there’s such  X, Y and Z to where it supports what it is that I’m doing.”

Dr. Lisa Marie: And to talk a little more, so you’re talking about, like, if someone is, say, married and is having an affair or an emotional entanglement with another person, then that behavior conflicts with what they think they believe or should believe. That they’re committed that they, you know, this is not what married people do. They need to find a reason to justify having an affair or having romantic feelings for someone else, which will almost always be, “Well, my partner, I found a toenail clipping on the bathroom floor once therefore I can no longer have sex with that human.” Or whatever it is, like there’s some kind of justification.

Josephine: Yeah, it’s a tricky thing, I think. Yeah, it could kind of go back to the first question that you asked about, “Well, how do we know if we’re really being honest with ourselves or not?” Really kind of sitting there and then thinking, well, truly “Is what I am doing, thinking, matching up with my values, or my beliefs? Kind of checking, are we all aligning there?” And if we can explain, well, let’s say that I’m doing does support this value, then okay, maybe we’re being honest with ourselves. But that can also be a good way to kind of check.

Dr. Lisa Marie: Okay, you brought up a greatand this is a hard question. Okay. But we have people in our practice come in and they are in reallyJosephine, sometimes exactly that situation. They are married or partnered, and they have developed an emotional entanglement or they’re having an affair with someone. And they come because they would like our assistance and getting clarity about what to do. And it can be very difficult. And so like, on the one hand is your honest truth. Like, “No, this person makes me happy. I deserve to have this kind of fun and love in my life. And this is what really and truly feels most important to me.” Or, “Is it most important to me to have a stable, long-term, faithful, committed, secure marriage that’s based on friendship, and mutual trust, and respect? And it’s also for the benefit of our children, and I keep my promises.” And like, weighing out those two things.

And you’re totally right. I mean, how uncomfortable is it when someone is like, “No, I’m actually doing this horrible thing to my family because I kind of like the way it makes me feel.” Like it can be the truth. And then people say that and they’re like, “Oh, my God, what does that mean about me?” Right? And that’s not always the outcome, but it can be.

Josephine: Yeah, when I think of what you said, if that was my client that I was talking to, I’d want to slow them down. And say like, “Hold on. Wait a second. Okay, one. Great, you’re having a lot of revelations. But like one, let’s sit with that feeling that makes you feel really good. Okay, it sounds like that’s a need that’s not being met. Do you think you would rather have that need be met by your spouse? This idea of we’re noticing something that we’re not getting and then kind of turning that back to our partner as opposed to the outside person?” And so then I think kind of sitting with that if validating, it sounds like you’ve been wanting that and you haven’t been getting it. That must have been really hard. Of course, it makes sense that you’d want to keep doing that. But what is more important to you? Having fun and feeling good or preserving your relationship with your partner and the family that you have? And if that answer is no, that can be your truth. That’s okay.” 

“No, actually, that is important to me.” 

“But okay, let’s think through what that would mean for you if we were to make that change. And is that your truth, and what you want, honestly? Is that something you think you can be okay with? And is that worth it to you?”

Dr. Lisa Marie: Yeah. And going into that clarity and the intention around it. That’s a hard one. 

Josephine: Yeah. It is tough stuff. But I think it’s worth doing because then at the end of the day, if we make that choice and say, “No, having fun and feeling good is more important to me.” And then one day down the road, we’re honest and said, “But was it really the most important thing overall, or even at that time?” And if we weren’t honest with ourselves, we didn’t take that time. We can make decisions that we regret.

Dr. Lisa Marie: I want to do an episode at some point on that experience of regret and how to avoid it. Because, I don’t know about you Josephine, but I think that regret for something that happened that is no longer fixable is the absolutely worst of all human emotion. I think it’s worse than shame. You know, because you can work your way through shame but like regret, that something that you can’t fix, is the worst feeling. And really in a roundabout way, we are talking about how to protect yourself from regret, because we’re talking about how to be honest with yourself. And that really is, I think key. Yeah.

Josephine: I agree. Absolutely. It is tough.

Dr. Lisa Marie: And so, I know that we’re probably coming up on our time here. But if we were to just kind of briefly talk through some strategies that people who have been hearing this conversation and like, “Yeah, I really need to get honest with myself.” I mean, we’ve talked about some of the common obstacles. You know, being honest with yourself, that tendency to minimize, or that like, denial of things that make you feel bad. You know, the threatening of like, “Oh, what does this mean about me? Or do I have to do something about this?” But are there other strategies you found that people can use to, like, just facilitate their ability to get more clear and honest with themselves?

Josephine: Absolutely. I mean, I think just even reflecting on the conversation that we’ve had today. I think one, starting with naming and noticing our emotions is probably going to be the most helpful place to start. When can I recognize when I’m feeling something of, “Wow, I feel bad. Is this frustration? Is this anxiety?” So one, even recognizing that you’re feeling something is a good place to start. And then two, naming those emotions. Because then if we notice our emotions, those can be clues to say, “Hmm, what’s happening? Why am I feeling this way?” I think that is a fundamental skill that will get people very far, even just outside of this conversation. It’s so important. And so I think that is a great place to start.

To practice patience, and compassion, and the validation that when we do feel those emotions, that we aren’t shaming ourselves for them because we’re not going to keep doing it if we feel bad every time we think about our emotions. So we want to have some positive reinforcement. So thinking about our emotions, we can validate, and make sense that I feel this way.

And then, alright, we’re going to do what we need to do. “Do I need to do anything about this? Maybe not.” It’s also up to having great friends, great support systems, or people that we can have these kinds of conversations with, that even just talking out loud, listening to ourselves, saying things out loud, can be very helpful. And that requires no participation from anybody else, right?

Dr. Lisa Marie: Yeah, yeah. But then being able to say things out loud, but also like having supportive people in your life who when you do say something that feels like a bit of a revelation, they can help you validate that. And so, “Yeah, it makes sense why you would feel that way, anyone will feel that way.”

Josephine: Right. This is an important one, so that our support system is not minimizing our emotions. You know, kind of recognizing who are good people to have these kinds of conversations with than to maybe we want to stick to more surface level kind of conversation. 

Dr. Lisa Marie: Anyone who tells you to stop crying because you don’t really have it that bad. I don’t get to hear about this stuff anymore.

Josephine: Yeah, try again. Yeah, I definitely think those are two great starting places.

Dr Lisa Marie: Yeah, good. And I found too, like personally, like journaling, I think can be helpful sometimes in conversations. But journaling can be helpful. And then lastly, I think it was a point that you brought up at the very beginning of our conversation, just to remember that just because you think a thought or that something might be true, no action is required. It’s absolutelyand it might be uncomfortable to be in that space of dissonance, but it also can make it feel safer to be honest with yourself, if you give yourself permission to just, it’s okay. If you’re having a thought, you’re having a feeling, no action is required. Until at some point in the future, maybe you decide to do something about it, but you don’t have to do anything right now. Because there can be consequences for honesty, and those are realistic consequences. And that can lead to changes. And you get to decide whether or not it’s the right time, if at all.

Josephine: Mm hmm. Absolutely. Reminding ourselves we are the expert on ourselves and what we think and belief matters the most. And nobody else gets to tell us what our truth is, or what’s important to us, or what we should be doing. We don’t want to shoot all over ourselves. That just kind of looks like let that go. No more sheds.

Dr. Lisa Marie: What a nice positive note to end the conversation today. I love that, though. So thank you and thank you so much for sharing your perspective. I really appreciate your time today, Josephine. 

Josephine: Thank you so much for having me on. It’s such a pleasure and love just talking with you Lisa. 

Dr. Lisa Marie: Have a good time.

 

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To help you overcome imposter syndrome on the job, I’m also speaking with career coach Dr. Lisa Orbe-Austin about where imposter syndrome comes from and what you can do to regain your trust in yourself. We talk about the difference between “growth opportunities” and imposter syndrome, and how to tell the two apart.

Why Accomplished People Still Don’t Feel Good Enough

Here are some of the imposter syndrome-busting strategies that Dr. Orbe-Austin is sharing with you:

  • How to identify the origins of your impostor syndrome as being rooted in childhood experiences.
  • People who were considered smart kids doubt their intelligence when things don’t come easy to them.
  • People who were not considered gifted growing up are the opposite. Because they had to work hard for things, they doubt they have natural talents and skills.
  • Lastly, those who had to survive without adult figures fear their success could be taken from them at any time.
  • Having codependent or narcissistic family members is also correlated to impostor syndrome.

The Impostor Cycle

  • People with impostor syndrome often get performance anxiety, and they cope by either overworking or self-sabotaging.
  • When feedback comes in, they internalize the negative and minimize the positive.
  • They get so caught up in their mistakes that the next time they perform, it’s as if they’ve never done it before. Then the cycle repeats.

Overcoming Impostor Syndrome

Overcoming imposter syndrome, just like repairing your self esteem, is not easy work but it is essential. Here are some tips to guid you on your journey towards healthy confidence in yourself:

  • Remember that letting go of your impostor patterns is a lifelong process. Understanding your triggers is incredibly important. What are your triggers for not feeling good enough? Listen, and find out!
  • Becoming empowered means getting in control of your inner narrative: Learn how to use the skills of rational thinking and self affirmation to support yourself when imposter syndrome flares.
  • Did you know that perfectionism, imposter syndrome and low self esteem are all connected? Learn why!
  • Learn why it’s so critical that you reprioritize and take care of yourself first — even when you feel like you haven’t “earned it.” 
  • Having a community of support is incredibly healing when you’re struggling to feel like you’re good enough. It’s the antidote to shame. Learn how to create a chorus of confidence in your circle that lifts you up!

Resources To Help You Feel “Good Enough!”

5 Powerful Quotes from This Episode

“Your circumstances have almost no actual bearing on how you feel about yourself.”

“You can’t flip a switch and change the way that you feel. But you can change the way you think. And when you change your thoughts—you change the script, you change the story—you will feel differently about exactly the same thing.”

“If you are still learning and growing doesn’t mean that you’re not competent.”

“The person that we take care of last is us . . . And so it’s such an important thing to kind of reprioritize that and think about how we’d like to live and the way that we care for ourselves.” 

“It is sort of getting a community around that so that you can deal with sort of what’s happening structurally to you that is real, that is attempting to make you feel invalidated.”

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Wishing you all the very best on your journey of growth my friend!

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

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You Are Good Enough

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Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

 

 

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Access Episode Transcript

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: This is Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby, and you’re listening to the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast.

[Superman plays]

That is, of course the, I think, classic song, Superman, a poignant exploration of someone who is not feeling good about themselves, who is focusing on their flaws but who is also harboring this idealized fantasy of what they could be. They want to be Superman. They’re not going to be Superman, but they can feel good anyway. That’s what we’re talking about today on the show. 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 and Coaching, and this podcast is all about helping you create love, happiness, and success. And thank you if you’re a regular listener and have gotten in touch with me through growingself.com on Instagram at @drlisamariebobby, or of course, on Facebook.

And today, we’re talking about how to feel good enough, genuinely good enough. And we’re talking about this today because you have told me that this is a pain point for you. I’ve gotten so many messages through social media and through comments on the blog, and also even in conversations with my therapy and coaching clients here at Growing Self, and also, you know, listening to what my colleagues are doing in their work lately, and this is such a painful life space to be in. I wanted to bring you some things today that could help with this. You may remember a while back, we talked about self-esteem in depth, you might want to take a look a few podcasts ago if you’d like an overview of that. And if you’re interested, you can certainly help yourself to the self-esteem quiz that I created. If you even want to pause this, take the quiz again to see where you are. You can get that by texting the word esteem, E-S-T-E-E-M to the number 55444 just to kind of get a read on where you are in terms of your overall self-esteem. 

And feeling good enough, I think, is connected to self-esteem, but it almost has like a different life of its own and can be a little bit different to shift it as opposed to like a global self-esteem kind of situation. And I want you to know that if you struggle sometimes to like, feel good enough, it can be sometimes related to what you’re doing in life where self-esteem is kind of just this marinating and a sense of not feeling that great about yourself more globally. I think feeling good enough often manifests in like comparing yourself and being linked to achievements andlike what you’re doing and what other people are doingthese perceptions of success and whether or not you’re living up to whatever that definition is. And I have to tell you something, so as a therapist and a life coach, I work with you know, people from all walks of life, and I often speak with people who are objectively, very successful. You know, they’re successful in their careers or their business owners, and like, subjectively when you look at them from the outside—or objectively—I should say, they look like they have it all going on. And it doesn’t really matter that much, I mean, like even though things are working out for them, things are going as well as possible, that truth does not touch them on the inside.

And I say this because if you’re like most people who are struggling to feel “good enough”, whatever that means, it can be very, very easy to tie that to whatever your circumstances are. And for, you know, normal average people like us to be looking around at our circumstances and viewing that as evidence of why we’re not quite good enough, you know. So you can look around and be like, “My house is a wreck, I’m a mess,” or “I don’t have as many friends as other people do,” or “I’m kind of struggling financially,” or even some people, you know, think, “I really am not…” you know, “I have a job; I don’t have a career that I’m passionate about. I should,” and all of those external circumstances conspire into these like reasons why you’re not quite good enough, right? 

But I am going to tell you a secret. This is a big, top secret like life-changing information that I’m going to share with you right now. Here it is. Your circumstances have almost no actual bearing on how you feel about yourself, and I know this for a fact. Here’s a secret, it’s gonna tell you why. I know this for a fact because I have served as the therapist or life coach to extremely successful people, like, way more successful than I am. I mean, I have literally had clients drive to my office in a Ferrari and flop down on my couch and tell me all the reasons why they’re not quite good enough. I have been in life coaching sessions where I have said things like, the words that have come out of my mouth have been, “You’re the most successful real estate developer in your region of the United States. You have built hundreds of homes. You are worth millions of dollars. Really, you’re not that good enough?” And the answer back is, “Well you know, I mean. Yeah, there’s that. But let me tell you about all these other areas that I’m failing in.” I mean, physicians, doctors, lawyers, Indian chiefs, like who are multimillionaires, they vacation in Switzerland, they live in mansions, they havelike live in help, and they still feel this way. They still feel like they’re not quite good enough. 

And so the punch line, the thing that I’m trying to communicate here is that whatever circumstances are going on, changing those circumstances will not change the way that you feel because the other side of this too. I have had the honor of serving as a therapist to people who are absolutely on the opposite end of the spectrum. So you know, someone who was living in their car and got food exclusively from food bank donations at one point, and they felt like a fundamentally worthwhile human being who was going through a hard time and who deserved more and who was going to be okay. It was not tied to their circumstances. The way you feel about yourself and whether or not you feel good enough comes exclusively from your relationship with yourself and the way you think about yourself, and that can be cultivated intentionally. So do not get tricked into believing that your happiness or your worthiness as a person is dependent on outside circumstances and that if you worked hard enough and you’re able to create these specific set of circumstances, then you would feel differently. Because I’m telling you, as somebody who has had a front row seat to this, you will not feel differently because people who have done that don’t automatically feel differently. 

The feeling good enough cannot be linked to achievements or status or any other, you know, “proof” that you’ve done it. It doesn’t matter. And another thing to think about is that all of those circumstantial things can be taken away. You could live in a mansion and go vacationing in Switzerland and live in housekeeper—and then lose that. And then what does that mean about you? Similarly, all kinds of privileges are bestowed on people who have not earned them, they are worthless in that sense. So the only thing that matters is your relationship with yourself; everything else stems from that. If you have an abusive critical relationship with yourself who is always telling you how bad you are and how you’re not quite good enough, you will feel anxious and unlovable in many different situations. You’ll feel anxious and unlovable in your relationships even if you are connected to people who love you to pieces and just tell you how fantastic you are and think you’re great. It  doesn’t matter, you will not feel that way. If you are fundamentally harsh and judgmental with yourself, you will dismiss and devalue everything you do. 

“Yeah, I’m a published author, and yes, the book won an award, but it was like four years ago. What have I done since then?” I mean, really, it is so easy to slip into that inner dialogue. And so the key here is not just intellectually believing that you’re good enough, but it is feeling the truth that you are really good enough and that comes through a growth process. And I’m going to tell you the steps. I am not even going to mess around here.

I once wandered into a Chick-fil-A, and they had a poster on the wall, it was like, “Lemonade. Here’s the recipe: water, sugar, lemons. The secret is out,” and I just thought that was so cute because it’s like so obvious. And I am going to give you the secrets to changing the way you feel about yourself as, hopefully, as directly as the lemonade recipe. And here it is. Super straightforward.

Step one of feeling good enough, is recognizing, first of all, that you are not the same thing as your thoughts. Your inner narrative, the one that is telling you who you are, what you are compared to what you should be, is not the objective truth. It is an opinion, and it is not you. It isn’t. 

Once you’ve realized that, then step number two, once you’ve recognized that you are not your thoughts, is realizing that you have control over the narrative. That voice inside of yourself can be shaped intentionally, and you have the power to change it. 

Once you have embraced that truth, then step three, is recognizing and experiencing that your thoughts and whatever is going on in your head in terms of the narrative, the story, the script—that determines your feelings. Your thoughts create your feelings, your thoughts create your perceptions of reality and your experience of reality, and you can’t flip a switch and change the way that you feel, but you can change the way you think. And when you change your thoughts, you change the script, you change the story, you will feel differently about exactly the same thing. And when you’re able to do that, there is a sense of peace and your emotional experience of yourself changes. 

And then step four is that when you shift into that emotionally-felt experience of being good enough and the sense of like peace and fundamental worthiness, you will make better choices for yourself that stem from that fundamental worthiness, and that the things that felt difficult to do intentionally will all of a sudden feel much, much easier to do because they’re coming from a place that feels true, as opposed to you trying to wrestle with yourself to do things that are incongruent with your self-concept. 

So that’s it. Those are the steps. Anyone can do them—anyone can do them. I would also like to add, while we are on the subject, that the process that I’ve just outlined for you, just so you know, is not my opinion. I did not make this up. This is the foundation of something called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which through countless hundreds, possibly thousands of clinical trials that explore what actually changes the way that people feel, think, and behave. This one wins every time. This approach is certainly useful for mental health concerns. It is also the approach of evidence-based coaching. And I think that’s why I have so much—is frustration the right word?—or discomfort with approaches of therapy and personal growth that focus on other things. And not that the other things can’t be important or salient, I do think that it is sometimes necessary to figure out, “Okay, who am I? Where do I come from? Why am I the way that I am?” But to be involved in a growth process that stops there and doesn’t really explicitly help you change that narrative is going to be very limited in terms of its effectiveness, and you deserve that. 

So changing your thoughts is really core to changing all other aspects of your experience and feeling better; it is the most direct path. You can certainly learn these skills. There are self-help books galore. I, myself, have done an online, you know, my online happiness class is all about, it’s like teaching you how to recognize thoughts and change them. And it can sometimes be very, very important, even necessary, I think, to partner with someone who can help you gain that first step of self-awareness. In my experience, the first one is the hardest, just like they say in AA, “Watch that first step. It’s a witch,” right? It can be challenging, I think, if you have been marinating in the broth of your own self-concept for your entire life to begin to get the psychological distance between your thoughts and the true you. That is hard and it’s also necessary because you cannot take an empowered stance towards your thoughts unless there is a you and a difference between you and what’s knocking around in your head. 

So that first step is often where therapy or coaching comes in and can really be the most necessary as is. Because without that, it’s like you being at war with your thoughts and trying to figure out what is true, what isn’t true. And when you connect with someone who’s there beside you saying, “Is that really true?” or “Where did you learn that about yourself?” or saying things like, “I know that’s a story that you’re telling yourself, but here’s what I see about the situation.” So it’s like you have an ally who can stand with you and help you see the thoughts and the inner narrative differently and begin to create a sense of yourself that is different from your thoughts because, again, it’s not the same thing. So to get an ally in that change process can be really, really helpful, and from there, once you have that sense of empowerment, then you can begin to change the story and feel differently.

And it’s also true that when people are struggling to feel good enough, it can show up in numerous dimensions of their lives. But for a lot of people, a real pain point comes around feeling good enough in their career or at work, and again, because that good enough feeling is so often linked to achievements or advancements or, “What am I doing compared to what other people are doing?” Professionally and occupationally, there is a lot of growth that can be done in service of feeling better about yourself when you look at how you are showing up in your career. And when it comes to looking at this experience from the mindset of a career coach, an easy way to get a handle on this is to think of the impostor syndrome. I don’t know if you’re familiar with that term, but the impostor syndrome refers to the experience of being in a professional role, often one where you have responsibility or you’re in a position of leadership where people are looking towards you to make decisions or provide guidance, and if you don’t feel good enough, you feel like an impostor. You feel like you’re faking it. There’s this voice in the back of your head that’s like, “I don’t really know what I’m doing,” and this anxiety that comes with, “Sooner or later these people are going to realize that, and they’re going to know that I don’t really know what I’m talking about, and that I am not good enough, and I’m going to get humiliated or criticized or even rejected and run out,” right. This is a terrible experience, and the impostor syndrome is also very common and deeply linked to that deeper experience of not quite feeling good enough.

So for the second half of this episode, we’re going to be talking more specifically about the impostor syndrome experience, and for that, I have enlisted the support of an expert on this topic. We are going to be turning our attention now to a conversation with a licensed psychologist and executive coach,  Dr. Lisa Orbé-Austin. She’s based in New York City, and she is the co-author of a book on this exact topic. The book is Own Your Greatness: Overcome Impostor Syndrome, Beat Self-Doubt, and Succeed in Life. And she’s with us for the remainder of the show to share her insights on where impostor syndrome comes from, related to the work experience and what we can do to change it. Dr. Orbé-Austin, thank you so much for joining me.

Dr. Lisa Orbé-Austin: Thank you so much for having me, Lisa.

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: I’m excited to talk with you about this. And so I have a number of questions prepared. But the first one, and I hope it’s okay to jump in with this. But so you’ve written extensively on the subject of impostor syndrome, which is that experience of like feeling, not confident, worried that you don’t really have mastery over the subject that people are kind of looking to you to guide them around, and so it’s that experience of not feeling good enough when actually you are. 

And to begin, I am wondering how one can tell the difference between not feeling good enough when they actually are? Or are they having an experience of needing to grow and develop skills and maybe get more experience or expertise in order to really legitimately feel more competent? How can you tell if it’s a confidence issue? Or if maybe you do need to develop yourself? Can we start there?

Dr. Lisa Orbé-Austin: Yeah, sure. I mean, it’s a great question. I think a lot of people ask me this, especially when, you know, people are coming straight out of college in their first jobs struggling with this feeling of being incompetent. Is that impostor syndrome? Well, you know, if it’s about that particular domain, and you’re coming out of college and it’s your first job, it’s probably not. That specific instance, it’s probably not about impostor syndrome. It’s about when you have these accomplishments, skills, credentials, like you have verifiable concrete proof, you have 10 years of experience in the business, like you have like significant proof, you know, behind you that’s concrete, and yet you still feel like you might be exposed as a fraud or incompetent. And it’s not you know, it’s the differentiation between the idea that you have to be doing something perfectly in order to be competent or excellent or expert and the idea that we have to constantly work on our growth and be in a growth mindset and constantly adding on skills, like these are not mutually exclusive. Being an expert and skilled and being at the nth degree of our careers, like those are not sort of what we’re talking about, you know.

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: That’s a great reminder, and I love that it’s like, you’re just reminder that if you are still learning and growing doesn’t mean that you’re not competent. It’s a good thing to be continually learning and growing, and you’re saying that’s just an easy way to figure out, is it impostor syndrome or is it actually anot just growth opportunity, but growth necessityis to look at that just like rational peace? “Have I gotten the level of training or experience that other people of kind of maybe around me have?” or, “Am I brand new into a field or a role?” then it’s kind of like expected that you would be learning, figuring it out, and that’s okay, too, compared to like a feeling, like you don’t know enough when you actually do. I appreciate that because it’s hard for some people to know.

Dr. Lisa Orbé-Austin: Yeah. It’s hard to differentiate it. And I think, some people, what’s interesting is that when you have impostor syndrome, sometimes you even dismiss the concrete credentials. So then as I’m working with my clients, and they’ve gone to like an Ivy League undergrad in an Ivy League grad school, and meanwhile, they’re like, “Oh, that’s nothing.” That’s like they blow it off. So even a concrete credentials are sometimes hard for them to hold on to. But you know, they have to kind of work on sort of being able to recognize they are meaningful. They do mean something to—if they don’t mean something to you right now, they need something to the outside world, and they are worth something. And so that can be even hard, even with the concrete things. Oftentimes, with impostor, to dismiss them as well.

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: Yeah. That’s like, really be aware of the credentials and the expertise and the skill set that you are bringing into a situation and resist the temptation to like, “Ah, that doesn’t matter, but that doesn’t…” Yeah.

Dr. Lisa Orbé-Austin: Yes

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: Right?

Dr. Lisa Orbé-Austin: Yeah. 

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: That’s really good. Wonderful. And then, okay, so then let’s dive a little bit more deeply into the experience, though. Say, you know, like so many people that you and I have both spoken wit—intelligent, accomplished, educated, experienced—all this stuff, yet struggle to feel like they really know what they’re doing. What is that about? For most people in your experience, what does that even come from?

Dr. Lisa Orbé-Austin: It’s about a variety of things. You know, so a lot of people say very kind of colloquially, like, “Oh, it’s just about internalizing your accomplishments. And if you just say some positive affirmations, you can make it go away”.

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: Like it’s easy.

Dr. Lisa Orbé-Austin: Like it’s easy. But oftentimes, there’s some pretty deep rooted sort of early childhood experiences that come along with that and so one of them is sort of these ideas of these very like calcified, very narrow roles in the family, where you’re either considered the smart one, and if you were considered a smart one, it meant you didn’t have to work hard at anything, everything should come easy and natural to you. So when things did come natural easy to you, you thought it was evidence of the fact that everyone was wrong, and you truly we’re not as gifted or intelligent people thought you were. 

The second role is this idea of you were the one who was never naturally gifted in anything but knew how to work hard, and so everything must come hard, everything must require like an extreme level of effort and work in order for it to be successful. And in those cases, it’s very hard for you to even see that you might have any natural talents or skills. 

And the third one is an experience where there weren’t a lot of adults or parental figures around, and you had to survive. Your successes were about survival, they were about you know, sometimes, putting food on the table or making sure you did well in school, so you know, you could stay in the graces of somebody, or like it really sort of required you’re very vigil, you have an incredible vigilance on your achievements, so that you could actually be successful, so that you could survive this all. So even for them in the C suite and still be like, “Any day this could all be gone.” You know, so.

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: Wow. And all of those are difficult experiences, but I’m hearing you say that there’s like these internal core beliefs. And like in the case of the first two, if the experience of what it actually takes to be successful isn’t in alignment with what you think it should feel like, with what success should feel like, that will create kind of confusion and damage people’s confidence that it’s, no, it’s actually okay. And then also in that third one, certainly, it’s just like being chased by wolves experience that it’s like, any second now, it’s just gonna leave.

Dr. Lisa Orbé-Austin: Yeah, you can’t let it down. Yeah, you can’t let the guard down any time, it could all be taken from you, which is the experience that early childhood survivor experience. There’s all kinds of other additional connect correlations, like codependence is correlated to, you know, having a codependent family dynamic is correlated to impostor syndrome. So is having a narcissistic family member, usually parental adult figure. A family that was focused on achievements only and nothing else, so that only your achievements got recognized as valuable, or you got seen as valuable in those moments. So, you know, families that have trouble dealing with high assets, and so there’s a lot of sort of correlations to impostor syndrome.

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: Yeah. So many, many paths to that same destination. But you know, I had the most interesting experience. I think it was a couple of weeks ago, we, on Instagram of course because, you know, but we shared…it wasn’t a story from our account, somebody else had done this little drawing, and it was a drawing of like a little stick figure and four mountains, and the stick figure had successfully scaled and come down on the other side of like three mountains and was like close to the top of the fourth and was like, “I can’t do it. I’m a failure.” And you know, just like the kind of black, white, but you’ve done all of these, and I think like the fourth mountain was even smaller or something. And so we put this at our stories, and I seriously had like so many people, including a number of current clients of mine. Reach out to me—”I so identify with that drawing,” and I think what that kind of captures that in some ways, it’s like despite all of these achievements and successes and strengths and abilities and competence, and like you have all these people who maybe perceive you as being this person who’s like doing all these great things, and you haven’t done all these great things, like it doesn’t get in all the way emotionally.

Dr. Lisa Orbé-Austin: And it’s because of the impostor cycle. Because in the impostor cycle, you have like a highly visible event or performance or something, you know, that’s pretty visible or something that’s new for you, then you know, you get performance anxiety, and as a result, you either overwork or you self-sabotage, and then you get the feedback. You don’t internalize any of the feedback unless it’s negative, and if it’s negative, we blow it out.

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: That we let in. Blow it out of proportion, does that what you mean? 

Dr. Lisa Orbé-Austin: Yeah. It becomes even way bigger than that, and then you also internalize it, and then you don’t internalize any of the positive feedback or in the positive experiences, and you get in that cycle all over again. So that idea of the four hills makes sense because once they see the hill again, it’s like if they’ve never seen the other three hills, you know, because they haven’t done any of the work to internalize all the positive feedback. The hill becomes, it’s like climbing it for the first time. Yeah.

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: Wow. So the cycle, so big events, lots of anxiety, overworking, like killing yourself to make it good, and then what was the next phase of that cycle?

Dr. Lisa Orbé-Austin: The next phase is you get some kind of feedback after you perform. You get some feedback. 

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: 500 people are like, “That was amazing.”

Dr. Lisa Orbé-Austin: But one person 

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: One person was like, “I don’t know.”

Dr. Lisa Orbé-Austin: Yeah. And that’s the one you listen to, and that’s the one that sort of gets out of the proportion. If everyone says, “It’s great,” you still minimize it. You still are like, “Well,” then you get caught up in your own assessments of all the mistakes and places where you made errors, and that’s what you’re taking in. And then you kind of get right back into the cycle again the next time. It happens, it happens as if it never happened before.

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: Oh, my goodness. What a painful place to be. And so, it really, it sounds like, I mean, the thing that I’m hearing the loud and clear between the lines here is that this experience is very much one of perceptions rather than reality and perceptions that maybe have been shaped by experiences in early childhood.

And so then, and I know from your work, and what you’ve written about in your book, kind of walks people through beginning to reevaluate those perceptions and shift those perceptions, and I’m sure that it is a process. I mean, if you’ve had that sort of relationship with the world since earliest childhood, and you’re not going to snap your fingers, like, “Four easy steps to…” Yeah, but so, you know, with cautioning people that it’s going to sound much easier than when we talk about it than it actually has to do, right. Now, what are some of the growth moments that people need to work through in order to release this—this pattern, this dynamic?

Dr. Lisa Orbé-Austin: Yeah, and I think it’s good, it’s great that you point out the fact that it is a long process and, you know, nobody likes to hear this, but I sort of know it is a lifelong process because I’ve talked about my own TED Talk that I’ve had impostor syndrome, and I still get triggered for, you know, on a number of occasions, I just make different choices now with the trigger. As opposed to the ones that I used to make when I was in the throes of it. And so I think, you know, one of the things we’ve talked about, which we were just talking about is really understanding the origin, how it uniquely got to be your story based on some of the origin issues that are sort of laid forth, how you understand them, where have you identified this in your own experience. The reason why the origin issues are so important to us is because it really helps us to understand the triggers in the here and now. So oftentimes, those triggers that we experienced in our day to day lives come from those earlier experiences, and it becomes easier to identify when you know you have vulnerability for them. And it doesn’t become so surprising why these things are happening, you’re like, “Oh, I get it now.” It just gives you a sort of agency and power to feel like, “This is not so mysterious anymore.” What’s a piece of it, I think another piece of it is around really learning how to restore your narrative and choose the words and the ways that you tell yourself the stories around what’s happening to you and really kind of examining and listening to the way that you’re storing the narrative and then kind of picking and choosing different ways to tell the story. 

We also talked about sort of getting triggered for automatic negative thoughts and how to kind of rationally respond to your automatic negative thoughts, be able to identify them, categorize them, and then also be able to respond to them differently than you use to respond to them. Rather than you know, I love the Amit Ray quote like, “You are not your thoughts; you are the observer of your thoughts,” and sort of teaching people to be the observer of their thoughts and being able to kind of construct a new way of responding to them. It’s also about. you know, really embedding self-care. When we have impostor syndrome, the person that we take care of last is us, which means last around our dreams, last around our self-care, last around everything. And so it’s such an important thing to kind of reprioritize that and think about how we’d like to live in the way that we care for ourselves. It’s also about for us, you know, building a team around you. So, you know, oftentimes we suffer in this alone, and it’s beginning to kind of tell people that we struggle with it, share it, like find a team around us that really know how to help us kind of move the needle forward. 

So those are some of the things that we talk about, but you know, these are like, they’re easy. Like you said, they’re easy to kind of like say, but they’re much harder to do, to institutionalize, to make them part of the new way that you live.

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: Yeah, no, I absolutely get that. And yet, they’re also powerful. You know, self-awareness, being able to observe what is going on between your ears being, able to have a way of responding to that, that’s healthier for you. I especially like the strategy that you brought up around building a community, and I don’t know if this was true for you, but I know for me personally, I think most therapists probably have this experience. We first start seeing clients, you have this moment where you’re like, “Is this okay?”

Dr. Lisa Orbé-Austin: “What am I doing here?”

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: I know.

Dr. Lisa Orbé-Austin: “Who let me do this?”

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: Exactly, right. And I remember just in my cohort, my peers, you know, like to have a group of people who I perceived just being very, you know, smart and competent, probably much more so than me being like, “I feel like such a fraud right now. Like I said XYZ in my session, and they believed it, like what is going on?” and just like to have that moment of like, “Ah, it’s not just me. I think it’s actually the experience.”

Dr. Lisa Orbé-Austin: It’s so powerful. I mean, I think, you know, when I see on my Instagram page, you know, different places where people would admit, they’ll tag each other and admit that they have impostor syndrome. And there’s such a powerful dynamic, you know. It happen, people say, “Oh, my god, I didn’t realize you had it too.” And, you know, the stat I think is that 70% of people have experienced impostor syndrome in their life, and I just saw a new study that just came out that said 82% of people, so it seems to be going up. And so I think a lot of people have experienced, and I think oftentimes, we’re hiding in this shame that if we share being that we have this that we will actually be found out as a fraud. It would be like, “You don’t have impostor syndrome. You’re actually an impostor.” And so I think there is a lot of like, quiet-shameful retreating into this. And I think the other thing I hear a lot is that people say, when I tell people I have impostor syndrome, they’re like, “Get over yourself. You’re so successful. Like, are you kidding me?” Like, you know, people dismiss it and don’t recognize the pain it is to sit in that and how difficult it is to sit in that experience. So it’s so important to have a community around you that really got it. I talked about it in our book, like having different people who fit different roles, like somebody who’s like the cheerleader and somebody who’s the grounder and somebody who’s the big picture, like a variety of people who hold different types of roles for you.

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: That is a fantastic idea, that there’s different kinds of people in your life that can help you in different ways. But that’s very interesting, though I wasn’t familiar with that statistic, so that 82% of people have this experience, which is basically everybody. That idea that, you know, you brought up another such important thing, which is that when we likebelieve what shame is trying to tell us, that we’re like uniquely horrible somehow, it’s very, like people hide that. They hide it.. They don’t talk about it. What I’m hearing you say is that the most direct path to just blowing this out of the water is talking about how you feel and addressing it openly

Dr. Lisa Orbé-Austin: Yep, taking the ownership of it, meeting it on head-on. Because the other thing that’s weird about impostor syndrome is that people like to hold on to it because they believe in some ways the impostor syndrome has got them where they are at. So they sort of believe like, “If I let go of this or I start to admit it, I let go of it, I’m going to have nothing. Everything is going to crumble around me.” So they’ve come to believe the impostor syndrome is like their best friend, and so letting go is a very difficult process. And having people around, you know you’re struggling with it makes it easier to kind of be like, “Don’t hold on to it. Let’s do this instead,” like, you know, somebody who can really understand how to re-pivot those thoughts, you know, and in vivo.

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: But that’s so interesting. And, you know, I’ve heard of that idea, like as it relates to perfectionism, like people believing that their anxiety is what makes them be okay and to release it feels incredibly scary, and you’re saying the same thing with impostor syndrome. “If I believe that maybe I actually am okay, and I am actually good enough, I will stop trying as hard as I am. And as soon as that happens, I will be the failure that I fear my else to be.”

Dr. Lisa Orbé-Austin: Yep, that I’m always scared that I would be. You’re not, I think the reason why you point to a really good, you know, an example of that is that perfection underlies impostor syndrome. So perfectionism is a piece of impostor syndrome, and it’s very central to it, oftentimes. 

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: Yeah. Now, and can I just briefly, and I know we’re coming up on time here, I would love to like go deeper into that 82% statistic, and I don’t know if that’s broken down, but like when I think about the people that I have knownyou know, of course, in addition to myselfwho have had this experience, like thinking about clients, for whom it’s like a major ongoing struggle. I think that while some people—many people, most people—feel this way from time to time, for others, it’s a bigger deal than it is, and it’s harder for them to release these feelings. And when I think about in my own practice of people that that has been true for are, specifically, women, and I think even more specifically than that—women who are people of color or in maybe a differentwere raised in a different socioeconomic class than the one in which they are now functioning. I have certainly, you know, seen it in men as well but to a lesser degree, and I’m wondering, in your experience as a therapist but also as a black woman, do you perceive this experience being different or sometimes more challenging or internalized in a different way?

Dr. Lisa Orbé-Austin: So I think you’re getting to a really bunch of interesting points. What some of the research reveals for men and women is that when men and women deal with it differently. The data around it has been quite like equivocal. It’s like sometimes, it’s more women, sometimes, it’s more men. They can sort of figure out whether it’s more women or more men, but what they have been able to see is that, generally, women are more counterphobic. So women will face the fear, go headlong, go into it, and then just live in the constant like paralyzation of the impostor syndrome. They’ll like be paralyzed internally, but they’ll still go forward professionally,. Where men, tend to do a lot more saving face, and so they will underperform or be in a place where they can be top of the heap, and so that they feel less threat of their impostor syndrome. They felt less prone to it because they’re putting us in the situations where they’re less at threat. 

For people of color, women, first gen, what we see is that both the internal experience of impostor syndrome and then the external experience that, “You are actually an impostor. You don’t belong here.” So you get these internal messages that you’re trying to shut down, and then the outside world is telling you, “No you don’t belong here. No, you’re a token. No, you got in because of affirmative action. No, you got this. No, you got that.” So it’s very, it’s specifically harder to deal with because you don’t get enough external reinforcement from the outside world that you do belong. And so what a lot of the research suggests is that you need to find community along the identity dimension that you feel like a preston. 

So if it’s that you’re black, it’s finding more black people in that particular field or in that particular area, both at your level and above your level, that help you to kind of navigate the waters and help you to deal with the external pressures that are coming at you. So that becomes, like we were talking about before, community becomes so important in managing the external invalidations that you’re receiving, that are telling you you are an impostor. “No, you should believe that impostor syndrome. You don’t belong here. Work harder. Work twice as hard. Work three times.” So it is sort of getting a community around that, so that you can deal with sort of what’s happening structurally to you that is real and that is attempting to make you feel invalidated.

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: Yeah. Oh, my gosh. That is so beautifully said and just like the challenge of doing this inner work and changing this inner dialogue in the face of external circumstances that almost like I want to agree with that negative injury in terms of that dialogue.

Dr. Lisa Orbé-Austin: I want to reinforce it 

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: Yeah, and how much more difficult even that is. And I could see how having a community of people who’s able to kind of like be a healthy supportive chorus to kind of counterbalance all these other voices is essential, and to be isolated in the face of that is probably about the worst thing.

Dr. Lisa Orbé-Austin: Yeah, that’s what you don’t want to let happen is become isolated, which can be happening in a lot of these circumstances, where you can feel very alone.

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: Well, important message. Well, thank you so much for spending time with me today. This has been a very interesting conversation, and I wish we had more time. I’m sure my listeners wish they had more time with you too. And so if you guys would like to learn more about Dr. Lisa Orbé-Austin and her practice, her practice is called Dynamic Transitions Psychological Consulting. Her website is dynamictransitionsllp.com. And on your website you have access, of course, to your book, which is called Own Your Greatness: Overcome Impostor Syndrome, Beat Self-Doubt, and Succeed in Life. And I think I noticed an online course kind of walking people through your material as well.

Dr. Lisa Orbé-Austin: Yeah, it’ll be an online course. The first one will start in September, and it will be in beta. So we’ll take a small cohort of people during that time before mid-September. So yeah, so people who are interested, that also is on my website. 

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: Wonderful. Well, thank you again so much for joining me today. This has been a lot of fun.

Dr. Lisa Orbé-Austin: Thank you so much for having me, Lisa. This was great.

 

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How to Avoid Miscommunication in Relationships

How to Avoid Miscommunication in Relationships

How to Avoid Miscommunication in Relationships

Are You “Mind Reading” Your Relationship?

[social_warfare]

Miscommunication in Relationships: Can you recall the last time you felt confused in your relationship because you couldn’t find an explanation for the behavior of your partner? The last time you felt worried that things might not be going well because something happened that seemed like a bad sign? 

Miscommunication in relationships is more common than you might think. When there isn’t an open and honest conversation around what you’re feeling, expecting, or needing from your partner, miscommunication is bound to happen. Maybe you’ve even found yourself wrestling with some thoughts like these:

If she hasn’t returned my text message in the past three hours, she must be upset with me. 

If he isn’t very talkative during dinner, he must be wondering if we should keep seeing each other. 

It’s been a long time since we’ve been intimate. He must not find me attractive anymore. Or maybe he’s seeing someone else? 

In each of these scenarios, there is one piece of information that is clearly missing – the thoughts of our partners. Our own effort to fill in those gaps with what we assume they must be thinking is indicative of something therapists sometimes refer to as mind reading. And while that’s technically a superpower, it can be a major hindrance to our relationships, leading to severe miscommunication. 

Communication is Key in a Relationship

In my experience as a relationship coach, I would argue that some level of mind reading happens in every relationship. At its most basic level, it is simply the belief that we know what another person must be thinking or feeling at a given moment. This miscommunication in relationships comes from an innate tendency we have as people to fill in the gaps around things we don’t fully understand. Unfortunately, most of us have a bent toward filling in those gaps with the worst-case scenarios. We assume the worst so that we’re surprised when that’s not the case, rather than assuming the best and being disappointed when reality doesn’t measure up. 

While the impulse to do this is perfectly normal, the consequences of it can be incredibly harmful to our relationships. We end up in fights over problems that don’t exist. We attack the character of the person we love most because we misinterpreted an event. We assume that the worst-case scenario simply has to be true so that we can guard against being hurt

The impacts of these beliefs in our relationships are real because something is real if it is real in its consequences. It doesn’t ultimately matter if they are actually true or not. If we believe that our partner meant to hurt us when they truly didn’t, we will still treat them like they did. The impact on the relationship is real.  

This is where communication is key in a relationship: having healthy communication that connects you to your partner vs. assuming you already know what they are thinking.

Assume the Best of Your Partner

What if we didn’t fill in the gaps with the worst possible version of events? What if we made the intentional choice to assume the best about a situation when the information was missing? What if we went a step further and actually asked our partners to tell us what they mean rather than trying to read their minds? 

Here are three guidelines that I teach my online couples coaching clients that can help you and your partner do this on a routine basis. 

Couples Counseling Communication Tips to Avoid Miscommunication in Relationships

#1 Assume the best about what your partner means in a given interaction.

We are all guilty of running the instant replay in our heads after a conversation with our partner. Questions flood our minds as we reflect on what was said. What did he mean when he said this? Was she implying that I was responsible for all of this? This tendency to overanalyze leads us to walk away from interactions and only later decide that something happened that we should be upset by. When we find ourselves reflecting on a conversation and this happens, instead of believing that our partner’s comments or actions were meant to hurt us, we can choose instead to assume that they care about us and did not mean to cause any harm

#2 If you are hurt by an interaction, ask your partner (directly) to clarify what they meant.

We often want our partners to fully understand us, but it takes more effort on our part to invest the time needed to make sure we fully understand them. When we find ourselves hurt, we can allow the hurt to serve as an invitation to deeper understanding. We can reach for our partners and ask if they meant to be hurtful in what they did. This gives our partners the chance to tell us what they were thinking or feeling when something happened, providing additional clarity as we determine whether or not the injury was intentional, accidental, or simply the result of an unfortunate misunderstanding. 

#3 Ask yourself if there might be other explanations for something your partner did that might give them the benefit of the doubt.

Sometimes, we are short with those closest to us because we feel animosity toward them. Oftentimes, we are short with those closest to us because we feel hangry. Could there be a more benevolent explanation for the interaction that has upset us? None of this is a denial of our right to tell someone that something they did hurt us; this is simply an invitation to not assume that our partner was being malicious toward us when it happened. Sometimes a text gets missed because it was opened in a meeting and they haven’t had a chance to respond – it doesn’t have to mean we’re being ignored on purpose. 

Create Space for Intentional Communication

The space we create for our partners to share their intentions with us is critically important. When we create internal narratives around what another person must have meant without actually asking them to share their intentions or perspective with us, we run the risk of expending valuable emotional energy being upset with them over something that is largely the creation of our own imagination. 

We would do well to leave the power of mind-reading on the shelf and instead choose to utilize one of the simplest but hardest to execute powers in our relationships – open and honest communication.

Warmly,
Benjamin Jones, M.S.

online life coaching online couples therapy online relationship coach

Ben Jones, M.S., is a life and relationship coach who helps couples and individuals activate their inner strengths in pursuit of their goals and passions. His collaborative, friendly style makes him easy to talk to. He can help you get unstuck, achieve new understanding, and create deeper connections.

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