Shadow Work

Shadow Work

Shadow Work

What is Shadow Work?

“Every pain, addiction, anguish, longing, depression, anger or fear is an orphaned part of us seeking joy, some disowned shadow wanting to return to the light and home of ourselves.”

― Jacob Nordby

Shadow Work: It’s Time to Shine a Light on Your Shadow Side…

Shadow work helps us make contact with the entirety of who we are. Let’s face it: There are parts of ourselves that we are proud of, and there are parts we would rather never see the light of day. Sometimes, we are not even aware of these dark aspects of ourselves. These hidden aspects form your shadow self. To create genuine change in your life, you have to face it. 

In this episode of the podcast, I discuss how shadow work leads to self-awareness and, ultimately, self-acceptance. Through several examples, I share valuable tips and walk you through uncovering your shadow self. (Be sure to download the workbook I created for you so that you can do even more shadow work exercises on your own). 

If you find yourself wondering why you do things you shouldn’t and how to change behaviors you don’t like, this episode is for you!

Shadow Self Work

In this episode I’ll be discussing how you can: 

  1. Discover how your shadow self can control you without you knowing. 
  2. Learn tips on how you can get in touch with your shadow self.
  3. Understand how shadow work can help you and your relationships with people.

 

 

Shadow Work: Making Contact With Your Subconscious Mind

The human mind is so powerful and complex that it’s impossible to be fully aware of everything. Most of the time, we are only aware of what is in front of us. A lot is going on in the background, which determines our behaviors or reactions.

Your shadow side lives in the part of you that you’re not fully conscious of…

Your shadow self consists of you with goals, needs, or a voice that you sometimes don’t consciously know of or hear. If you’re not aware of it, it can drive you to make unhealthy or unhelpful decisions. Your shadow self only has control when it remains unknown.

Listen to this episode to get new insights into yourself, and how shadow work therapy can help you get in touch with the deepest parts of yourself. Thought this powerful self awareness work, you can become truly empowered. 

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To finding love, happiness, and success

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

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Shadow Work

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

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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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Shadow Work: Podcast 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.

 

That’s “The Visitant” by the band The Tunnel. I am recording this leading up to Halloween. I love this time of year, not least of which is because I get to trot out gothy music for you, you guys, you little Gen Z’s and millennials. And I’m keeping it alive. So I hope you enjoy it.

And in addition to entertaining myself, I am also playing this in to set the mood for our topic today. Because today, we’re going to be talking about yet another kind of deep and important issue that will benefit you, and your love, happiness, and success to learn a little bit more about. We are talking about Shadow Work. 

 

As always, today’s topic is about me doing my best to support you on your journey of growth. I have recently been getting a number of questions on the blog www.growingself.com, through Instagram, through Facebook that are in this category of “Dr. Lisa, why do I do this?” And the ‘this’ can be many different things. It can be, “Why do I have the same pattern and relationships over and over? Why do I make choices that I later regret? Why do I do things that I know are not really in alignment with my long term goals, hopes, or even values?” Like I had somebody get in touch with me not too long ago, it was like “Dr. Lisa, why do I lie to my partner?” 

 

And these kinds of questions are hard, and they’re very real. And I hear and feel the intention behind them. Which is that you really legitimately do not understand why you do the things that you do. And without that clarity and self awareness, feeling like a little helpless or even hopeless about being able to change these patterns and behave in a way that is more consistent with who you want to be. 

 

But when I get these kinds of questions around, why do I do XYZ? The knee-jerk and true response to this question is I don’t know. I don’t know why you lie to your partner. I don’t know why you cheat on your girlfriend. I don’t know why you say one thing and you do another. I do not have that information. 

 

But what I do know is that this information is contained in a part of yourself that you do have access to. And that with some support and guidance, you can get into that aspect of yourself, get that incredibly valuable information to understand, “Oh, that’s why I do what I do.” And with that self-awareness and knowledge, then you will be empowered to handle things differently, and make changes that stick, and feel more in control of yourself and your life. And the part of yourself that all of those things exist in, all of that information is available in your shadow side.

 

And that’s what we’re going to be doing today on the podcast. I am going to be sharing a little bit more information with you around what that is, how you can make contact with it, and then what you can do in order to achieve that clarity by listening to these parts of yourself that you not only just don’t listen to or maybe even don’t know about. So that again, you feel more aware and complete, and able to do what you want to do, and be who you want to be. 

 

So on this episode, I’m going to be talking about all kinds of things. And in addition to the information I’m providing, I’m also putting together a little worksheet for you that has some tips, ideas, strategies that you can use to crack into this a little bit more deeply. If you cruise on over to www.growingself.com/shadow-side, you will be able to download a worksheet that has some journaling prompts that can give you the opportunity to reflect and answer for yourself some of the questions that I will be posing to you today on this episode. Because, as always, and is so often the case really with any kind of growth work, the answers to the questions lie in new questions and being able to answer those questions. 

 

And that’s one of the real, I think, strengths and almost superpowers of being in relationship with a great coach or therapist is being asked the kinds of questions that will help you elicit the truth and the answers that do exist within you, but that you may not consciously have access to. So if you’re one of the listeners who has been asking questions or leaving comments on the blog, or getting in touch with me on Facebook, Instagram, elsewhere, I’m so glad that you’re reaching out and letting me know what’s going on with you, so that I can be of service to you on this episode and hopefully others. 

 

And if this is your first time listening or if you’re a longtime listener who has yet to pose a question, I would love to hear from you, too. You can comment, question, rant, opine, anything you’d like on the blog www.growingself.com  and always get in touch with me, Facebook @drlisabobby, or Instagram at @drlisamariebobby. I can’t wait to hear from you. 

 

Now, let’s jump right into our topic today. So okay, Shadow Work. We, humans, are incredibly complex. As we’ve talked about on different podcasts in the past, when I was talking to my colleague, Josephine, a while back about being honest with yourself or last year, I think we did a podcast about your subconscious mind and how to connect with it. There are parts of ourselves that are known and parts of us that are unknown. And I am not talking about it in like a really, you know, Freudian way necessarily. It’s kinda just a fact. We all have things going on inside us that are operating outside of the level of our awareness. They’re often subconscious core beliefs, or thoughts that fly through our head so automatically and outside of our awareness that we don’t even notice them. We just have a feeling we don’t even know why. 

 

And also, we have emotional and mental and psychological processes that are operating at a level that is so deep, we don’t even know it’s there. And it’s all okay. It doesn’t mean that anything is wrong with anybody because those things are happening. That is actually the way that human beings work. The human brain is incredibly powerful and complex. And because you are so smart, and your powerful brain is capable of remembering so many things, and so much information, and being conscious of so much stuff, all at the same time. 

 

It would actually be so overwhelming that no one would be able to function at all if we were all completely aware of everything all the time. It would overload the systems. And so our brains typically pay attention to what is in front of us, and what we are consciously aware of, what is occupying our attention in the moment. And everything else is kind of humming away in the background, not a problem in and of itself. 

 

But we do have things humming away in the background that typically have much more power and control over how we feel and what we do than the things we are consciously aware of. And so I know you know what I’m talking about here. I mean, we’ve all had the experience of going on autopilot. Sometimes you’re in the car, and then you get to a place and you can’t quite remember how you got there but you’re there. Or you know, “Wait, did I take my vitamins this morning? I can’t even remember.” 

 

We do things all the time without being consciously aware of them. But we are also – without conscious awareness – having reactions to things. We are making choices. We are responding to things in accordance with what lies beneath much more often than the things that we’re telling ourselves are true or what we want. And it’s important to understand that every person is complex and that we all have pieces of ourselves that we know.

 

The parts of ourselves that we know are often the parts of ourselves that we feel good about, or at least okay about. It’s our public front. This is who I am. The part of yourself that has your personality as you understand it, the part of yourself that goes and talks to people, or does the things. If you were to give somebody an elevator pitch about who you are and what you’re about, that would be your conscious self. 

 

And it is also true for everyone that if you observe yourself over time, the way that you actually behave is often different than the story that you tell yourself and others about who you are, how you feel, what you want. The classic example that everybody in the universe has done, self included, is to say, “I need to get more exercise.” “I need to go to bed earlier.” “I need to eat more vegetables.” Whatever it is. And that your narrative, your working self-concept is that I am a conscientious, responsible person. I take care of myself. I care about my health. I care about the health of other people. I do the right thing. That’s the core narrative, right?

 

And then, we observe ourselves being like, “No, I’ll do it tomorrow. I’m just gonna sit here and drink coffee and eat jelly beans.” You know what I mean? It’s like these patterns, these habits. They’re always operating in us all the time. And so it’s not that we are not thoughtful, conscientious, care about our health, XYZ. It is just that there are other things inside us also, that have preferences, and needs, and hopes, and a voice – whether or not we consciously hear it – that actually have more control over us most of the time than the parts of us that we are aware of. The part of yourself that wants to sit around on your bed for 45 minutes and a towel staring at a wall when you know you are going to be late for work and you really should get ready for work. The part of yourself that just wants to sit there is stronger. 

 

That is your shadow self. The part of yourself that steers you towards having unhelpful reactions with other people or engaging in relational patterns that you know consciously are not good for you is simply stronger. 

 

And one of the reasons why it is stronger is because it – before you gain awareness of what it is, and what it wants, and why it’s doing the things that it’s doing. Because it is unknown and operating without your knowledge or consent, it is able to assert itself in your life. When you shine a spotlight on it and understand it, it immediately loses significant amount of its power right then and there.

 

So, a big part of Shadow Work is really deliberately focusing on the parts of yourself that are currently unknown in order to bring them into the light. Once you do, that is half the battle. And then from there, you can continue acting to deliberately make changes based on your understanding of that shadow side of yourself.

 

So I feel like, again, we’re talking about this a little bit theoretically. So let me give you some examples in addition to the little ones that I shared. You or someone that you know and love probably has developed a shadow side – we often do – in response to often early childhood messages about who we should be. The classic example would be a little boy who gets messages that he shouldn’t cry. He shouldn’t feel or express vulnerable emotions. That’s not who boys are or what boys do. And so because children always accommodate their parents in order to maintain a relationship with them, children will always disown parts of themselves in order to stay close to their parents and try to be the kid that their parents want them to be. 

 

So for many boys that grow into men, their shadow side is often a repository of all of the vulnerable feelings, or attachment needs, loneliness, desire, longing that they were scolded out of having by the time they were five or six years old. So they want to be good. Therefore, they do not have those feelings consciously. But of course, since they’re human, they do still have those feelings. They’re just in the shadow side. They’re tucked away.

 

For women, many times, what do we learn? Girls should be nice. We should share. We should take care of other people and we should always be sweet. And so for many girls who grow into women, they will put into their shadow side the things that others have communicated are unacceptable, like anger, taking care of themselves, prioritizing their own needs and feelings. Sometimes even their sexuality gets put over into the shadow side. 

 

It doesn’t go away. It doesn’t go away. But things that aren’t acceptable need to be put somewhere. And so they’re kept safe in this semi-conscious or subconscious part of ourselves. And they still influence us, but in ways that we don’t understand or expect or feel in control of. 

 

So when we disown parts of ourselves, we are disowning the parts oftentimes that have been criticized or rejected by others. And through the process, we have – sometimes again subconsciously – come to believe that those parts of ourselves are unhealthy or shameful, or that they should be rejected. They shouldn’t be listened to or embraced. But part of doing really authentic, impactful Shadow Work is beginning to reclaim not just parts of ourselves that potentially make us uncomfortable, but is questioning the discomfort in the first place. 

 

For example, as we’ve discussed on this podcast before, dark emotions are your best friend in the whole world. Healthy, legitimate anger is incredibly protective and instructive. In our feelings of sadness or grief even, that is the wellspring of empathy, and compassion, and caring for others. The ability to recognize and effectively cope with big feelings is something that we don’t learn how to do if all of those big dark feelings are getting pushed away into our shadow side to be dealt with later, if at all.

 

So to begin to haul all of these stuff back out and asking yourself really powerful questions like, “How do I really feel about this?” What’s interesting, what I’ve learned over the years as a therapist or coach when I sit down with a client and I say, “Well, how do you feel about that?” The first answer I get usually is what people think they should feel about something. So they tell me, they say, “Well, you know I love him. It’s fine.” And then I ask, “How do you really feel about that?” And we go into like a little bit deeper. “Well, you know, sometimes, when I think about it, I’m really not that happy. You know, I feel frustrated but then, you know, I feel bad for feeling frustrated. I mean, they’re doing the best they can, too.” 

 

Like, there’s all these efforts to kind of minimize and push away again. And it can take me quite a while. Many, many episodes of questioning on different days to finally help someone peel that onion and get into the truth of how they really feel and what they really want. And not even just like what the truth is, but being okay with what that truth is. Because it’s one thing to have something be true and to feel it. But many people feel ashamed or judgmental of themselves for having the thoughts or feelings or ideas that they have. So it can be it can be scary work. And I think that that’s why it’s so important to be in a relationship with a coach or a therapist who can help you. First of all, who can ask you the question 17 times and not accept the first answer – which is the one that is the conscious answer. That’s the one that you’ve been telling yourself. 

 

Our work involves going into the rest of the story to help you uncover the true story, the true feelings, and be able to walk in to that shadow self. And the reason why this is so important, is because unless and until you do this work and begin to understand all the thoughts and all the feelings, they cannot just control but sometimes ruin your life. And I know that sounds incredibly dramatic, but it’s really true. 

 

Like, so, for example, if we go back to that simple scenario that we can all relate to, which is having a bad habit. You do something that you don’t like. You wish you didn’t do it. You tried to stop it, but you can’t and you don’t know why you keep doing it. When we walk into the shadow part of ourselves fearlessly and honestly, we often discover that there are understandable reasons why we do the things we do. 

 

Very often they’re related to comfort of ourselves, needing connection, wanting to feel good about ourselves, wanting to feel pleasure, wanting to feel taken care of, managing anxiety, or managing fears that we’re not even aware that we have. Those are often things that are discovered through this type of Shadow Work. And you may be thinking that this is like more of a deep, super serious therapy thing, right? And certainly, to gain self awareness and make contact with the shadow side is always — whether explicitly or implicitly part of effective therapy — but it’s also really part of good coaching as well. 

 

We think of life coaching as somebody coming in and being like, “Okay, these are my goals. Help me attain them.” And you’re like, “Okay, here’s what to do.” And coaching can certainly have that quality sometimes. But what will also invariably happen over the course of any type of coaching – whether it’s life coaching, career coaching, relationship coaching – is that somebody’s like, “Okay, these are my goals.” I’ll be like, “Alright, here’s how to attain them.” They’re like, “Great, I’m gonna go work my plan.” And then they come back, and they’re like, “Well, I didn’t do the plan.”  I’m like, “Why didn’t you do the plan?” They’re like, “Well, I don’t know why I didn’t do the plan. Why didn’t I do the plan?” 

 

And that is actually the moment where we can then start to get all kinds more information about what’s really going on. And talking about why they do things they do in terms of not how annoyed or frustrated they’re with themselves. But let’s talk about this, about why it makes sense that you didn’t do the plan. I know your conscious mind is telling you this, but if we were to listen to what else is true, and what we always find is that this person in their shadow side, in this like closet part of themselves where all the rest of this stuff is, there are other goals that they are actually achieving. They’re just not conscious of them. 

 

And so we have to uncover the unconscious goals that they are achieving and fulfilling at the expense of their conscious goals in order to help them make progress towards their conscious goals, competing goals. So it can get quite complex, but it’s always so interesting. 

 

So, one great way to really make contact with a shadow self is to connect with a coach or therapist who understands how you’re operating, how we’re all operating on this level, and who can help you make contact with that part of yourself through questioning, through kind of shining a blind spot. Like, “I hear you say this and I see you do that. Help me understand the discrepancy.” So super annoying coaches and therapists ask those kinds of questions for better or for worse. 

 

But in addition to that, there are some other great ways that you can begin to tap into some of this on your own. Dreams are a fabulous window into how we’re really thinking, feeling, and viewing the world on a deep level. And I am not talking about dreams like prophetic dreams or like magical dreams or I dreamt that I lost a tooth therefore it means XYZ. 

 

Our dreams are always just a little window into the part of our mind that we are not fully conscious of during the waking hours. And so sometimes, dreams do not make any sense at all. Sometimes dreams are simply – our brains running through a little program that helps us synthesize and incorporate little bits of information. Part of the reason we sleep and dream is to kind of just literally clean and organize our brain. 

 

And it is also true that when you pay attention to dreams, you can get information from a different part of yourself that may be worth listening to. So one great strategy to get in touch with your shadow side is to simply start keeping a dream journal. And it does not have to be anything complicated. It can simply be a notepad on the side of your bed or a little notes app that you keep on your phone. And first thing in the morning, just write down what you remember even if it was completely dumb, irrelevant. Not all dreams are significant, right? And some of them are. And again, maybe it’s not a specific dream, but patterns of dreams, or themes, or “I had that weird tornado dream again. What could that possibly mean?” Being able to do some exploration around that. 

 

Another fabulous way of making contact with your shadow self is to observe what you do and just even write it down. Log it without judgment, condemnation, criticism or excuse. Just write down what you do, what you actually do. Because we all have intentions that are conscious. We all have reasons why we do the things that we do that are conscious. We have excuses. “I meant to go to the gym, but then you know, I got to be at work, blah, blah, blah.” So fine, like those are all well and good. And those are all your conscious mind telling you what it wants you to hear and what is available. But it is through our behaviors that we really get the truth. 

 

So just begin to notice what you do and perhaps how that is different than what you intend. Again, over time, you can see patterns in your way of behavior that point to the existence of an aspect of your shadow self that you will need to get to know before you can have those behaviors be different. 

 

Additionally, another great window into our shadow self is our reactions to other people, particularly the big ones – either really positive reactions or really negative reactions. But if you are aware of yourself and like why do I have this feeling when I’m around this person? Or why did I snap at somebody in this situation? Or why did I feel this like big feeling when this person did this or did that because it was a little bit out of maybe proportion to what the actual event warranted? What is going on with me right there? 

 

Particularly in relationships with people that we’re close to that can come up – and not just with your romantic partner – sometimes with friends, very frequently with our family members – we can have interesting reactions that if we follow that thread all the way down can really illuminate some important things about patterns, shadow selves, and also particularly when it comes to reactions to your parents. 

 

Part of their – let me say that differently. I was gonna say part of their messaging to you. But let’s just be fair. There can oftentimes be a difference in what particularly children think people are saying or think that people are wanting – that may or may not be true – because they are filtered through our very limited child minds. So your child self may have received a message that a parent or authority figure may or may not have intended to send and it doesn’t matter because it was still incredibly true for that child and therefore true for you as an adult. But I just want to be fair to parents in this situation as well, because all kinds of things can happen in the space between a parent and child in close relationship with each other. 

 

Now, in addition to these self observation practices that I’ve been sharing, including noticing your behaviors, noticing your reactions, you may also consider keeping an ear out for how you hear other people perceive you, particularly if those perceptions that other people have are different than your self-concept. And certainly, we want to limit this to only healthy, emotionally safe relationships, because you may also have relationships in your life with people, who perhaps due to unrestrained forces on their own shadow side, are unnecessarily hurtful, or critical, or condescending, or unloving towards you. And in those cases, it’s often a better strategy to set boundaries and protect ourselves from people who may not be in the best place themselves, as evidenced by their behaviors. 

 

And if you also scroll through the people in your life that are close to, you’ll probably also have friends and family – who you love and who you know love you and who are kind and good and treat you well – who also may share their impressions of you that are worth listening to. 

 

And I don’t know what those may be. That’s obviously behind beyond this, the scope of a podcast. But if I were your therapist or coach, I might help you make a list of some of the things that you’ve heard over the years from people that you trust. Not that we have to agree with them, but just to log them. Because there might be useful information there that is easy for our conscious selves to reject out of hand as being wrong and well, “They just didn’t understand XYZ.” And we can explain away all kinds of stuff, doesn’t mean it’s still not there in the shadow side. So, there’s that.

 

And also, I want to say something. So I am giving you strategies to make contact with the shadow self around dreams, and noticing your reactions, and noticing your behaviors, and kind of how others might perceive you. In order to be ethical and appropriate here, I want to be very clear that where this is helpful to do on your own in the way that I’m describing is when your shadow self is kind of like garden variety shadow self that everybody has, right? We all have aspects of ourselves, things that we’ve disowned, etc., that we need to engage with, and incorporate in order to grow and grow into the fullness of our potential. 

 

It is also true that people who have been traumatized at points in their life, particularly early childhood trauma, can have dreams, super scary dreams, intrusive thoughts, incredibly intrusive feelings, or reactions that are extreme to people or situations that are quite mysterious to them. And they can feel sometimes out of control with their behaviors. Like they’re doing things that they don’t want to do, but they can’t stop doing them anyway. 

 

It’s thought by some researchers in the field of substance use and substance disorders that to a person, everyone who has a profound and debilitating addiction or attachment to a substance is at least partially as a cause of their efforts to protect themselves from the symptoms of often early childhood trauma or neglect. 

 

And so, I just want to say this for the purpose of providing you with information to help you differentiate. Is my shadow self something that I can kind of like get to know and like hang out with and take information from? Or is there stuff in here that is trauma-based and that I really need to get help with in order to recover, because my experiences of what’s coming out of that shadow side are above and beyond what’s kind of normal and expected for everybody to have. What is coming out of the shadow side is actually a symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder that needs to be dealt with. 

 

There’s a real difference there. And also, just if you’re listening to this, if you have someone in your life who has been traumatized and who may not fully be in control of themselves or have things that they are really working hard not to feel or deal with, just be sensitive to the fact that there might be a really good reason for that. 

 

Not just that they can’t, it would be potentially even harmful to try to force them to go into that place and deal with those things on their own or through their conversations with you. They really need a very experienced, licensed mental health professional who is specifically trained in evidence-based forms of trauma recovery work. There are many out there: trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy, EMDR has achieved good results. There are also kinds of exposure therapy that can be super helpful for trauma work. 

 

And I just wanted to bring that up, because I would hate for anyone to hear what I’m saying on this podcast and be like, “Okay, cool. Shadow Work. Got to do that.” And unintentionally stumble into something that’s beyond the scope of this kind of self-help work that I’m describing. 

 

Okay, that’s my disclaimer. Now, when you use these kinds of activities to do your shadow work, be aware of the fact that you are deliberately trying to make contact with something that you can’t see, that you are not fully aware of, and that there is a tendency as a result to avoid. 

 

One of the key indicators that you are connecting with a really important motherlode of shadow self that is important to connect with is a feeling of discomfort and an immediate sort of knee jerk reaction. Like, I don’t want to talk about that. I don’t want to think about that. No, I feel bad about that. I don’t want that to be true. 

 

Whenever I hear that, as a therapist, or coach, I think to myself, “All right. Like we’re getting somewhere.” And so just know that as you do the self exploration work, that can be one of your signs that you’re actually on the right track. And to practice in these moments, mindful self-compassion, and be very actively not judging yourself, not criticizing yourself, not shaming yourself, and really just practicing being like, “What if this is true?” 

 

If that feels too hard to do, and you notice yourself just avoiding and avoiding things all over again, and it feels like it’s like too uncomfortable to stay in contact with, that could be an indication that it’s time to connect with a good life coach or therapist around that.

 

And then also a question that I often ask my clients and that I would encourage you to use on yourself is the question, “How does this make sense?” Which is the exact opposite of our tendency to criticize or shame ourselves. But when we encounter one of those sort of uncomfortable things, ask yourself, “How does this make sense?” And embrace that. Like, if I had to tell myself a story of why this made sense as opposed to like me trying to make this not be true or feeling bad about it – why does it make sense? And that’s often the doorway to not just self-awareness, but a really deep self compassion and empathy for yourself that you do actually make sense. And there is a perfectly good and understandable reason why you do all the things you do. 

 

And that if other people had lived through your life path – and we’re born into the world with your set of circumstances and dealt the hand that you were dealt – they would probably do exactly the same thing, that we are all a product of our life experiences. And so it’s okay. 

 

And even if you encounter things that you don’t currently love, understanding why they make sense will empower you to then be able to say, I’ve been kind of doing this on autopilot. I haven’t fully known why I have done all of these things that I don’t love. It now makes sense to me. Here are the needs that I was subconsciously attempting to have met. Here is the unconscious narrative that has been going on in my head that led me to do the things I did and make the choices that I made. Or here are the messages that I internalized about who I should be that aren’t actually true for me. When I tap into my shadow self and listen to it compassionately, so it really just opens the door to so many, so many opportunities. 

 

So I hope that this discussion has helped you just gain some insight into what this type of work involves and some strategies that you can use to begin to unearth these truths inside of yourself. Because the answers to all of the questions that you guys have been asking me lately, everything from “Why am I attracted to these partners who are emotionally unavailable over and over and over again?” Ask yourself the question, why does that make sense? And pay attention to the answer. To really ask yourself without shame, judgment or criticism. 

 

Why do I lie to my partner? What is going on with me in those moments? I’m not fully aware of having a feeling or a thought, but I’m doing it for a reason. Why does that make sense? What am I obeying? What am I feeling that would lead me to do that? 

 

And beginning to crack into that truth? Why did I or do I cheat on my spouse? My spouse would tell me it is because I’m a monster, and I am a terrible person. I don’t know if that might be true. But also, what is the reason why it makes sense for you to be doing that? 

 

Again, these can be very challenging questions to grapple with on your own, particularly if you are aware of doing things or feeling things that you’re really unhappy with. And especially if you use some of these exercises that I shared with you today. And a true understanding of yourself feels elusive, that could be a sign that it’s worth getting involved with someone who can help kind of like pull you in deeper to those parts of yourself in a safe way. There’s always a balance in growth work. Like it has to be somewhat challenging in order for it to be meaningful and effective, but it can’t be so challenging that it feels scary and like you’re really uncomfortable or emotionally unsafe with the person that you’re working with. 

 

So always step number one is to establish a really positive and trusting relationship with a therapist or coach who can help you and make sure that you feel good with that person. And then slowly over time, allow them to assist you in peeling that onion, and getting deeper and deeper into these parts of yourself that need to be brought out into the light, so that they can be in your conscious awareness and dealt with intentionally and effectively. 

 

Because when you do that, not only will you be happier with what you’re doing day to day, you’ll feel more in control of yourself. You’ll be doing things that are more in alignment with what you want. But there’s also the sense of like integration for the part of yourself that you’ve known about, but also this other part of yourself that maybe you haven’t known about, maybe you have kind of disowned, or rejected. 

 

And in my experience doing this work with people, even though they’re a little like, “Oh, I don’t know what’s there. I’m not sure I wanna make contact with that.” Like when my clients do, they almost always move into this space of developing greater compassion and appreciation for themselves. And like a more compassion and appreciation for other people too, as a result of that work on understanding, and accepting themselves, and making sense of their own life story. 

 

Also, through this kind of deep, deep Shadow Work, you can – believe it or not – attain greater emotional intelligence. Because in that shadow side, as we mentioned, are oftentimes the dark feelings or the challenging feelings that we have pushed away. And through that pushing away, we really sometimes do not know what to do with them when they come up in a constructive way. 

 

And so, we are reactive, or we lash out, or we do weird things in the moment when we’re feeling emotional intensity, because we simply have not had the practice and the opportunity to learn skills of what do I do when I start to feel mad? How do I have productive conversations with people without flying off the handle or not saying how I feel? Because that’s not helpful either. How do I manage stress and anxiety in productive ways? How do I stay in control of myself, even when I am going through something hard, and most importantly, how do I understand the presence of these emotions in others and use their expressions of emotion in order to help me understand them better, and have more meaningful and productive conversations and communication and connected relationships with them? It’s so important.  

 

Another neat byproduct of this work is that when you do it, you will walk through the experience invariably of encountering some uncomfortable things about yourself that again, you need to embrace, and learn about, and appreciate, and accept. And in doing so, you will release any judgment towards yourself that you may be holding. You will feel more confident in yourself. You will feel higher self-esteem oftentimes. 

 

And you will become – I wish there was another way to say this but I’m sure there is – you will become less judgmental of other people. Because you will come to understand that everyone, every single one of us is fighting these types of battles on the inside. And that when people perhaps don’t behave well – just like it was true for you – there’s a reason why it’s true for them, too. And you know, maybe they haven’t yet done all the work that you have done, but to hope that they will and understand that they have conflict inside themselves as well, as opposed to just kind of judging people harshly and casting them away as a result. Everyone makes sense. 

 

So, again, I hope all of this has helped you and inspired you to begin to Shadow Work, either for yourself or with a coach or therapist. Again, I have prepared a worksheet like a little plan with some questions and activities to help you do some of this work on your own. Again, cruise on over to www.growingself.com/shadow-work to download your copy. You can print it out and write in it. And that in itself may be very, very useful for you. I hope it is. 

 

So again, if you have questions for me, or would like to follow up questions about Shadow Work, or would like to hear information about a different topic or other types of questions that you’ve been grappling with, I’d love to know about it so that I can make a podcast just for you. You can leave your comments on the blog at www.growingself.com. You can also get in touch with me on Facebook, Instagram, et cetera. And I look forward to hearing from you and to being with you again on the next episode of the Love, Happiness, and Success podcast. 

 

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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.

Letting Go Of a Toxic Relationship

We’re approaching a new year, and as such, you may be thinking about changes you want to make in your life. If you’ve been stuck in a relationship with someone who is not treating you well, and who is causing you hurt, anxiety, pain and frustration, now is a wonderful time to consider leaving your toxic relationship behind… and creating a new year full of healing, health and happiness for yourself.

Toxic Relationship Warning Signs

Letting go of a toxic relationship can be one of the hardest things for anyone to do. In my work as a life coach, therapist, and couples counselor, I have had the privilege of walking with many people through the experience of first recognizing that their relationship is toxic, then ending a hurtful relationship, and then healing after the “toxic relationship experience.” Toxic relationships take a toll on you, at every level. And every step of this journey is hard. (Necessary, meaningful, and empowering… but hard). I know, I’ve been there personally too.

Letting of a toxic relationship often starts with people working to improve their relationships.  At this stage they often believe that if only their partner could make changes, then they’d finally get the love, respect, and consideration they deserve. They come in to life coaching or even drag their partner in to couples therapy, hopeful that they can make improvements. (And I will say that almost all the time when two people are both committed to a relationship and willing to make changes, relationships can be transformed).

However, if your relationship is truly toxic, it is unlikely to be healed in marriage counseling or couples therapy. Instead, you’ll continue to feel frustrated, hurt, angry… and then elated when it seems like your partner is finally hearing you and caring about your feelings… only to be crushed when they disappoint you again. [Read: “Are You Addicted To a Toxic Relationship?”]

But in many genuinely toxic relationships, the biggest “warning sign” of all is when your partner routinely shows a lack of interest or follow-through in changing anything about the relationship. Instead, you when you bring up your feelings you get yelled at, blamed, rejected, or made to feel that the problems are all your fault.

Characteristics of a Toxic Relationship

In these situations of course, attempts at couples counseling often end badly. Most of the time, since their partners are unwilling to work on things with them, people in toxic relationships wind up entering empowering life coaching or effective therapy on their own.

Only over time (and often through deep personal growth work) do they then learn how to spot the characteristics of a toxic relationship, and come to terms with the fact that the only way to improve their situation is to take their power back and move on.

But until then, people in toxic relationships often struggle. They struggle with the mixed signals they get from their partner, because sometimes they are loving. They’re told that things will improve, and maybe they do for a little while. Many people believe that if THEY work harder at the relationship, are more loving, are more generous, and more patient that their partner will eventually change. (Because often, their partner is telling them in both overt and covert ways that the relationship problems are their fault).

Over time, a genuinely toxic relationship will destroy your self-esteem, interfere with your other relationships, make it hard to focus on positive areas of your life, and consume all of your time and attention. But through self-reflection, self-love, self-compassion (and sometimes excellent therapy or life coaching) you can begin to see that you have become attached to a profoundly unhealthy partner who is never going to give you the love and respect they deserve.

Then you can work to create positive, empowering changes: Like insisting that you are treated well, and setting firm, clear boundaries with anyone who doesn’t — especially the one who’s supposed to love them the most.

Can a Toxic Relationship Be Healed?

Ending any relationship is hard, and even people who are addicted to profoundly toxic relationships can hold on hope that the relationship can improve, sometimes for years. Many people (understandably) need to know if their toxic relationships can be healed before ending them permanently.

In fact, I get many, many relationship questions on the Growing Self blog about this very subject. Of course the writers of the questions are not labeling their relationships as toxic. They are instead describing extremely frustrating, hurtful, even crazy-making relationship experiences and then asking, what should I do? (Usually phrased as, “How do I get this person I love very much to stop treating me badly?”

If a relationship is truly toxic, it is unlikely to change no matter how hard YOU work at it. Why? Because it lacks the fundamental building blocks of a healthy relationship: Empathy, commitment, personal responsibility, and true love.

Your toxic relationship will finally be changed forever, when YOU decide that you’re not going to participate in it anymore. When you commit to yourself that you are worthy of love and respect, when you recognize your toxic relationship addiction for what it is, and when you learn how to cultivate the type of healing mindset that will set you free, you can end your toxic relationship for once and for all.

Letting Go of a Toxic Relationship

Because so many people have been reaching out for relationship advice on how to deal with these types of toxic relationship situations, I decided to devote an episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast to this subject. On this episode we’re going to be talking all about toxic relationships, including:

  • How to identify toxic relationships. I’ll be sharing the top 5 signs that you’re in a toxic relationship. Listen and give yourself the mini, “toxic relationship quiz” to find out if your relationship is actually toxic, or just temporarily frustrating.
  • Why toxic relationships are so addictive. Instead of beating yourself up for remaining in a bad relationship, learn why you’re biologically predisposed to developing intense attachments to others and why toxic relationships are actually MORE addictive than healthy relationships.
  • The difference between healthy vs toxic relationships. Just because your relationship feels hard and frustrating does not mean it’s toxic and irredeemable. Learn the difference between toxic and healthy relationships, and get access to some relationship resources to help you determine whether you should keep working at this, or move on.
  • How to leave a toxic relationship with your dignity intact. Too many toxic relationships end with, ironically, the person who was caring, trying, and hurting getting broken up with. If you’re in a toxic relationship, don’t continue to dangle on this string, waiting and hoping it will get better until they end it. Take your power back, and decide for yourself to be done. If you’re realizing that it’s time for you to pick up your self respect and move on from a toxic relationship, we’ll talk about how. We’ll discuss how to cultivate  self-compassion, self-respect. and the ability to stop depending on an unreliable, hurtful person to love you, and instead, learn how to love yourself.

 

You might be listening to this podcast at the cusp of a new year (or other major life change) and ready to leave this relationship for good. You might be just starting to explore whether or not the relationship you’re in is salvageable. You might be realizing that your relationship is toxic, but still in love and not sure how to end things. You may be caught in a toxic relationship cycle of breaking up and getting back together again. Or, you might be sitting in the pain, anger and heartbreak of just having been hurt again for the dozenth time, and looking for answers.

This podcast is for YOU.

All the best,

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Ps: One of the tools I mentioned if you’re still in that “can this relationship be saved” space is my relationship quiz that can help you learn whether your relationship is fundamentally strong, or fundamentally toxic. Here’s the sign up box in case you’d like to take it. xo, LMB

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How to Leave a Toxic Relationship, With Dignity

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

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Everyone experiences challenges, but only some people recognize these moments as opportunities for growth and positive change.

 

 

Working with an expert therapist or life coach can help you understand yourself more deeply, get a fresh perspective, grow as a person, and become empowered to create positive change in yourself, your relationships and your life.

 

 

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

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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Grow Into Your Full Potential

Our transformational approach to career development coaching helps you grow, and achieve at your full potential.

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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You Are Good Enough

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You Are Good Enough: How to Feel Like It, and Overcome Imposter Syndrome

You Are Good Enough

Self-Esteem & Feeling Good Enough

YOU ARE GOOD ENOUGH: When someone gives you a sincere compliment do you automatically think of six reasons why you’re really not good enough? Do you compare yourself to others, and imagine that they know more, have a better time, or are more successful than you? Is it hard for you to feel “good enough” no matter what you do, or how much you achieve? How about on the job? If you’re in a position where others look to you for leadership or guidance, do you doubt yourself and struggle with “imposter syndrome?”

If you can relate to the “I’ll never be good enough” experience: Welcome. I’m sorry you’re going through this, but I’m glad you’re here so that I have the chance to help you. As a Denver therapist and life coach, I so often work with clients who struggle to feel “good enough” even when everyone else (including me, their therapist) thinks they’re amazing. I know how painful this life space can be: Feeling like nothing is ever good enough is an exhausting and demoralizing way to live. It takes a toll on your self-esteem, and makes it hard to enjoy your life.

I also know from my work as a Denver self-esteem therapist and life coach focused on empowerment and strength that hope and healing are possible, with the right help. On today’s episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast, I’m going to be sharing some of the evidence-based therapy and life coaching strategies that I share with my private clients who are struggling to feel like they are good enough.

We’re doing to be doing a deep dive into the causes of feeling like you’re not good enough (including “imposter syndrome!”), and then discuss in-detail some actionable strategies you can use to genuinely, from the bottom of your heart, say, “Yes. I am good enough.” Because you are good enough! This episode will help you FEEL it, too.

Here’s an overview of what you’ll learn in today’s episode:

What Do Your Circumstances Have to Do with Feeling Good Enough?

Did you know that most people who don’t feel good enough tie it to their circumstances? Your circumstances have almost no actual bearing on how you feel about yourself. Really! Even the most successful people sometimes don’t feel good enough. Remember: all these “proofs” that you’re successful can be taken away. The only thing that matters is your relationship with yourself, and learning how to feel good about yourself and your life even when you’re facing challenges. I’ll explain how!

How to Believe You’re Good Enough

What research into evidence-based practices such as cognitive behavioral therapy shows is that getting a handle on your inner narrative and inner dialogue is the most powerful way to change your relationship with yourself. I’m sharing some strategies to help you keep from getting swept away by your automatic (even subconscious) thoughts so that you gain control over your inner experience. We’ll talk about how your thoughts impact your feelings, and how to heal your heart by getting clear in your mind.

How Therapy & Coaching Help You Feel Good Enough

Therapy helps you gain self-awareness about what’s going on inside of you. This self-awareness allows you to step back, and make intentional changes to the way you think and the way you feel. Effective life coaching challenges you to take positive, intentional action that helps move you towards your ideal goals. When you’re in a good place and emotionally healthy, positive actions are much easier to follow through with. Then you can begin an upward spiral of wellness that supports the highest and best of your whole self. You cannot take an empowered stance when you’re at war with your thoughts.Your therapist or coach is your ally in creating a sense of self that is different from your inner narrative: That’s where it all begins!

"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 Impostor Syndrome

Another really common aspect of feeling like you’re not good enough is when you’re struggling with imposter syndrome on the job. “The impostor syndrome” refers to the experience of not feeling good enough in a professional context. Even when intellectually, you know what to do, you feel like you’re faking it. The imposter syndrome leads to feelings of shame and anxiety that people will realize you don’t know what you’re doing. (Even though you do!) This can lead to paralysis, disempowerment, and even burnout. Let’s not!

Impostor Syndrome vs. Growth Mindset

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.”

Enjoy The “You Are Good Enough” Episode?

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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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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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You Are Good Enough

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 Get Unstuck

How to Get Unstuck

How to Get Unstuck

Advice From a Life and Career Coach: How to Get Unstuck In Life

How to Get Unstuck

How to Get Unstuck

Feeling stuck is the worst. With all the uncertainty around us — particularly if you’re facing very real limitations due to the pandemic situation we’re all facing — you may have a lot on your plate that keeps you feeling stuck in your life, your career, even in your relationships.

Finding ways to get unstuck and create your new reality can get quite tricky, particularly when you have very real obstacles and challenging circumstances. However, Denver Therapist and certified online life and career coach Elise Ross is here to remind us that we are capable of empowering ourselves and moving forward — even when things are feeling hard.

In this episode, my colleague Denver life and career coach Elise Ross shares her insights on the the mental blocks that lead to feelings of stuckness, and the importance of getting emotionally unstuck on the inside before you can create positive change in your reality.

She’s providing you with some concrete “how to get unstuck” strategies drawn from her effective approach to personal coaching services, and how she helps clients get over this feeling.

If you want to learn how you can get unstuck when you’re feeling trapped, then this episode is for you!

xo,

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

P.S. If you want to get even MORE insight into why you’re feeling stuck and how to liberate yourself mentally and emotionally, be sure to take my “What’s Holding You Back” online quiz to see where you need to focus your personal growth work.

Here are three reasons why you should listen to the full episode:

  1. Get insights from a professional life and career coach on how to get unstuck mentally and emotionally.
  2. Discover the importance of getting yourself unstuck internally to create your own reality (and how). 
  3. Learn about the hidden, subconscious core beliefs that can keep you feeling stuck — and how to break through.

Episode Highlights

What Makes People Feel Stuck

  • Life coaching and career coaching clients reach out to Elise and tell her they feel stuck or trapped and don’t know what to do. She shares where she starts in helping them get unstuck, by increasing self awareness. 
  • We talk about why different life circumstances lead to feeling stuck in different ways, for example feeling stuck in a career is a very different experience from feeling stuck in a toxic relationship!
  • When you feel trapped it leads to an increase in feelings of worry and nervousness about the future, and that in turn leads to even greater paralysis and difficulty in taking effective action.
  • One of the odd paradoxes is that when you have too many choices it leads you to feel more overwhelmed or trapped — find out why, and what to do when you just don’t know where to start.

The Process of Getting Unstuck

  • If you’re feeling stuck, getting support from a life coach, career coach, or relationship coach,  or even just someone you trust can help in processing your thoughts and laying out all the possibilities you have.
  • Sometimes you need someone else to help you align your thoughts, especially when your mind is clouded and very limiting.
  • Elise uses Snyder’s Hope Theory with her clients. It focuses on identifying goals and pathways to achieve those goals, as well as developing your agency to do that.
  • Elise connects the feeling of stuckness to hopelessness, which is why she tries to instill hope in her clients.
  • It is about concretizing barriers, obstacles, goals, and solutions.
  • The process of getting unstuck might also include looking back at successful moments and determining the strategies that worked during those situations. It is a way to build hope.

5 Powerful Quotes from This Episode

“That feeling of worry and nervousness about the future and about not being able to do anything really signals to me that someone actually really does care about wanting to make positive changes, but doesn’t know where to start by themselves.”

On “I should” statements: “Those kinds of things can lend to feeling stuck, because it’s not coming from that place where you feel like you have the ability to actually do something. I always say, with the ‘shoulds,’ you’re shoulding on yourself, and that doesn’t leave a lot of productive work.”

“Sometimes, being stuck means you do have to do hard things because it will get you to that ultimate goal.”

“At the beginning of the process, when I’m hearing someone’s stuck, my brain automatically thinks, ‘Oh, they’re feeling hopeless. There’s not a lot of hope.’ […] And so I love starting by asking, ‘What is one thing that you would love to change about your current circumstances?’”

“You don’t have to know exactly where you’re going to start getting unstuck. Because often the place you’re meant to be will be revealed as you continue that process.”

About Life & Career Coach Elise Ross

Elise Ross is a life coach, career counselor, and an individual Denver therapist. She is one of the experts behind the Growing Self team. Elise is passionate about helping people find their truth and change the world through living their authentic purpose.

Read more about Elise on Growing Self. If you’re feeling inspired to do your own work around getting unstuck above and beyond listening to this episode, you can schedule a free coaching consultation with Elise to discuss your life  and career goals, and how she can help you achieve them. 

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Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

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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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