Ashley: Today joining us we have Kaitlyn Lawson. She is an authenticator leadership coach, speaker writer, mother, and spouse. Kaitlyn Thank you so much for joining me today.
Kaitlyn: Thank you for having me, Ashley. I’m really excited to talk with you today.
A: We thought that we would talk about perfectionism and how really prevalent in 2022. It still kind of lives in our head. It is a massive issue I’m sure for a lot of people.
K: It’s kind of the, the monster in the closet.
THERE’S NOT A GOOD DAY OF THE WEEK TO START MAKING CHANGES
A: Well, especially with socials because there is this aspect of, you know, everybody puts out the highlight reel, but for the person that’s consuming, it doesn’t always feel like a highlight reel versus that’s their authentic real life. And they’re showing us everything. So I think that there is a lot of the grass is greener on the other side. So why isn’t my grass is green. The idea of having to filter, edits, you know, whatever to make everything seem so perfect, I think can lead to a lot of stress and guilt and anxiety.
K: I totally agree with you. That’s a great observation and one that I would make as well is maybe it’s personal experience and I’ll speak to women because I have four sisters and I’ve come to really love my relationships with women, but I probably applies to everyone. This observation I have is that perfectionism is the silent presence and it prevents us from starting new things until the conditions are perfect. How many dreams or creative projects or businesses or ways to help communities are sitting in a dream graveyard because we couldn’t find the perfect conditions to begin those passion projects or different initiatives. There’s a sense of grief that I have, and this wish that I have that people could become more comfortable or practice the art of beginning before you’re ready.
A: When the idea of being ready in my opinion is such bullshit because when are we ever ready?
K: That’s the not so funny joke on all the perfectionists out there as you become more ready as you walk forward not before.
A: Oh, for sure. And the idea of as we sit in the beginning of the year, there’s always this like new me new year, or I’m going to start this on Monday because apparently I’m four days from now or whatever you’re going to suddenly be ready. I think a lot of the times that life will kind of throw things at us and you just have to be ready for them. So like you said, you kind of grow into being ready.
K: It’s so true. And you’re reminding me of the time in my life. When for health reasons, I wanted to lose a little bit of weight. Well, a lot, a bit of weight, I’ll be honest. I had this idea in my head. Okay. It’s Sunday and I need to work out Monday, Wednesday, Friday with a bonus, something on Saturday, and then it’ll be okay. And by June I’ll be perfect. There’s that word again, and life would happen so Monday, maybe I do my workout. Wednesday demands of my job would creep in and I would miss it. I’m working out on Thursday, but in my hyper perfectionist brain, the fact that I failed on the Wednesday meant, I felt like I had to restart the following Monday. So Wednesday to the following Monday was filled with some not very kind self-talk and I thought that that was a singular experience that belong just to me and maybe I messed up, but there are echoes of that in the women I know and how crippling.
A: Oh, completely crippling and unfair that we do that to ourselves.
FINDING THE IMPERFECTION IN PERFECTION
K: So the sense of perfection, what is that anyway?! I wonder sometimes if it’s simply the mis-defined perfection, the way that I had it before and the way that probably a lot of people think of perfectionism is to say everything has to be at a hundred percent and I have to be good and the weather must be sunny and clear skies and all of that. And, and then I started to wonder if maybe the true definition of perfectionism isn’t so scary and perhaps there’s that, what would you call it like like the dark side of perfectionism, let’s say the dark side of perfectionism, everything that I just said, but perhaps there’s a brighter way to look at it. And that is simply. Did I do my best today, given the resources and the skills and the conditions, my emotional and mental state did I do my best today was I complete in my communication with people, did I leave anything unsaid? Was I perfect with all the resources that I have did I do better today than yesterday? And the things that I’m not so proud of, like, you know, those maybe are better markers for being perfect and yet there’s fluidity there. There’s a bit of femininity as you will not so rigid.
A: Oh, I definitely agree with what you just said. I think that we do have to be gentle and kind to ourselves and this idea of being perfect. Who are we being perfect for? Like who is determining our perfection goal? Is it really within myself? I want to do all these things and this is my ideal of perfect or are we being perfect for. Somebody else’s ideal or a community ideal or an internet ideal of what a woman or a person should be to be considered perfect. I think when we don’t reach that, then it we tend to be the harshest on ourselves and we’ll talk to ourselves in ways that we wouldn’t, or hopefully wouldn’t dream to talk to other people.
K: We wouldn’t talk to our children that way.
WHAT WE MAKE THINGS LEARNED IN CHILDHOOD MEAN AS ADULTS
A: So I think when we get into that mindset too, that we have to kind of stop and remember, oh I’m just a person I’m just trying to do my best. I need to treat myself the same way that I would hopefully treat others.
K: I think what you’re speaking to as well, sort of touches on fear. Let’s, let’s say, what if I wasn’t perfect. What if I wasn’t good. What might the repercussions be? So if I go back to childhood personally repercussions would have been the sense that I wasn’t loved. And if you go back to like, you know, be good, be good. You’re such a good girl, good girl. Or don’t be bad or crying is ugly. Like you start to get these like little seedlings of perception as a kid that if I’m not good, I’m not lovable. And so, as an adult, without even realizing it, sometimes we play out these patterns on that blueprint. Like I have to be good or else I’m not lovable and then at the end of the day, you don’t actually know what you’re doing for lovable by whom? What struck me, as I kind of made that journey from maiden to mother, was perhaps my fear shouldn’t be other people abandoning me; perhaps my fear should be abandoning myself. And if perfectionism is something that is so rampant, what’s the antidote? And what I arrived on was this concept of wholeheartedness. Can I be wholehearted? Can I be authentic? Am I willing to sacrifice things and people and perhaps jobs or relationships to achieve that so that I don’t abandon myself again,
A: Which is a really like aha moment to kind of come up with. It takes so much to get from the trauma to sort of in a more healed mindset. So it is really fantastic that you’ve kind of come up with those concepts and recognize them within yourself as well, so that you’re able to help other people potentially that have similar or the fear as well.
K: We joke in my family that I’m the 55 year old, 31 year old. I think sometimes we’re handed life experience because there are people who need your soothing balm and maybe it’s not so fun to be that person; to walk the path first or be one of the people who have walked a path to show others the way. It really strikes me, perhaps it’s more as a mother now I think about these things more often that my grandfather was in the Navy. Many people had family members who are perhaps still alive, who fought physically for freedom and then I wondered what are we fighting for now? Luckily here in this part of the world, at least knock on wood. We don’t have to fight physical wars for our own safety. I feel like the wars we waged now are for our own mental health. It’s a more internal battle, but where it really comes up for me now is with my 12 year old stepson and my two and a half year old, and really being mindful that a lot of the wounds, we, I say, we generally speaking with, you know, perhaps our age range is as mothers now with children, we are working through trauma, as you said, and really trying to be careful that we don’t pass on a blueprint that’s fragmented.
A: Which I think is so hard as parents. Like you know when I grew up, I was born in the eighties, grew up in the nineties and so sort of this idea, like a running joke, almost like, oh, we’ll pay for therapy for it later. Well, now I think that we’re more mindful of trying to not create situations that we’re going to have to pay for our children’s therapy later.
K: A hundred percent, a hundred percent.
GROWING UP AS A JEHOVAH WITNESS
A: What do you remember being your first experiences with having to deal with a perfectionist within your own life?
K: Oh it’s a great question. I mean, I’ll tell a shortened version of the story: I grew up as a Jehovah’s witness. My parents were Jehovah’s witnesses and I’ll share my experience while being careful not to bad mouth an organization that I’m sure provides all the highlights that religion gives to families like togetherness and community and all of that. That being said within our own family structure, the way that played out for me as a child and for my sisters was the sense that you had to behave and you had to be good in order to receive love and even more than that, you had to be good and to behave in order to have God’s approval that you deserve to reap the benefits, which are in their case: living forever in paradise. Which as an adult, who is no longer a part of that religion and wants nothing to do with it, to say those words, I realize how it must sound like, wow, that’s a pipe dream but when you’re raised with the belief that that is simply how it is. It becomes a very fear-mongering environment in which I become good and you an outsider become bad. Someone who may infect me, someone who may drag me down there, there’s this sense of evil. It reminds me sometimes it’s like the Amish community, so protected, so enclosed and in a bubble. And furthermore, at the age of five, you know, we would go door to door and our job was to try to convince you the owner of the house, that it was of utmost importance for you to also join us or else you could die and I felt this sense of heavy responsibility and not understanding like how someone could want to live a different kind of life, if this is the truth. It was simply what was put to us as facts. There was so much fear of anything outside and so not only did I want to please: my parents, I also wanted to live. That it was literally life or death to be good and the only problem, only one of the problems with that is human nature is to explore yourself. At a certain point, maybe it’s the Aquarius in me, but all of the rules went against my intuition, and there’s only so long that that can go on for before suffering is involved. For me personally, it played out as well, if I can’t control my home environment and I can’t control all these expectations with multiple meetings in a week and going door to door for something I don’t necessarily believe in. I tried to find control in my life in other ways, for me, that came out as disordered eating, that was a really big one for me. I was skinny as a kid anyway, but it wasn’t about physical appearance. It was about feeling in control of something and that became a pretty big theme in my teen years. The other was not understanding that I had a voice and I would find myself in situations a couple of times with people where unfortunately I was sexually assaulted, but didn’t know how to stop it because I had never found my voice as an individual. So there’s a lot of grief that was involved as an adult. Looking back at my childhood and sort of seeing where perfectionism or this sense that I had to behave, I had to be quiet. That really meant my safety and then realizing as I got older, that I wasn’t safe at all; and then finally at 17, deciding that I didn’t want to be part of that community anymore. I didn’t feel like they had protected me at all. I felt my parents’ hands were tied in terms of what they could do for me due to perception within that community and ended up leaving. The only downside to that is within that community if you decide to leave it’s very likely you’ll be disowned. So I haven’t spoken to my father in many years. It’s the sense that I think people talk about fear of abandonment and it’s perhaps a different fear when you have been abandoned and that’s perhaps where I come from when I say like, but have I abandoned myself? So at least I can say I didn’t do that, but it’s been a long road of trying to identify like who I am and what do I want? Not what’s expected of me. That still comes out today. Like someone will offer me a coffee and I’ll say sure, because I don’t want to offend, but I don’t want a coffee. This is where that comes up for me now is this sense that I want to please. The people pleasing something I’ll likely be healing for a long time, but at least I can say that the life I have now in the way I raise my children is something that I am wholehearted at and I’m not a perfectionist in anymore.
RECOVERING FROM PTSD AND RELIGIOUS TRAUMA
A: Well, thank you so much for sharing and going into all of that. I personally, I didn’t grow up with religion in my life, but it can, I appreciate sort of the peace it can bring for the people that do believe in whichever religion that they follow. But I do think sort of the negative side of it can be like what you talked about, this us versus them and divide in it. Where it’s like; you don’t want to look at somebody else and instantly judge them just because they aren’t the same. We’ve seen, in multiple different ways, how religion can really spread more hate in a lot of cases when their intention on the forefront does seem to be love. I think too, it creates, especially as a very small child where our brains aren’t even fully developed until we’re what like 21 or 25 or somewhere in there. So for us to understand as small children, these big, larger than life, philosophical concepts that it just creates these huge shoes to fill and does create all this unnecessary guilt and anxiety [K: and shame]. I know when professionals will talk about religious trauma, I know you touched on some of it, but it is like: nightmares, it’s avoidance behaviors and not even feeling comfortable to be like: “no, I’m good for the coffee this time.” It can be difficulty forming adult relationships. If you don’t sort of do the work to be able to heal that part, the shame, the guilt, the lack of confidence or self esteem, and even being able to say like: “no, I don’t want to be in this situation”, or “no, I don’t want to have sex with you”, or whatever the case may be. It may be poor decision making skills because the trauma is so big that even sometimes making a simple decision would feel like standing at the edge of the ocean and not knowing what to do, whether it’s picking a restaurant or potentially picking an outfit in the morning.
K: That’s the thing, it’s what you just described as something I had to learn was post-traumatic stress disorder and just feeling very childlike about seemingly simple decisions. My spouse, before I had to sort of discover a lot of this and share it with them as I went, as I felt comfortable, but it would drive him nuts sometimes you know? We’d leave the house and he’d say: “okay, what grocery store do you want to go to?” And I would freeze, like being told your whole life: not to think for yourself or not to make decisions. Like I’m not being dramatic about this simply that sense of you don’t get to choose and so, you know: “Safeway or Save-On here in Vancouver?” “Save on”; and that answer would be incredibly difficult for me to come up with. It’s… it’s a practice every single day; but yes, you’re right: it is referred to as religious trauma. What I’m learning is that there are more people out there, not just from the Jehovah’s witness group, others as well, who thought that life had to look a certain way. And unfortunately, the: “if you don’t agree with me your bad” shows up in other ways for people; it’s true of the COVID crisis. It’s that “if you don’t agree with me”, no matter which side of the fence I stand on, you are my enemy, not my friend. And I’ve observed so many friendships. Instead of: we’ve both been exposed to the internet, we both can do similar research, we both have to do what we feel is right for our families; and that may look different from your family than from mine. I hope both groups get through this time and we can meet again when it’s all over. I wish it could be like that for every family, but instead there’s so much divisiveness, like there’s a divide and it hurts my heart to see, but really what I see is wounded children who want to be loved because they’re being good.
A: I definitely see that being a root of it. I think part of the us versus them sort of stemmed in, we saw the beginning of it in American politics and, not that our politics are much better, but I do feel like there’s a less of a two party choice and it’s not as controversial as the last American situation was. So I think where we kind of had a little bit of that and then the media also creating this like constant news cycle of misinformation and really loud noise, mixed with mild facts. I think that instead of being gentle with ourselves of knowing that this is the first time that the majority of us have lived through a pandemic and not really any of us being actual scientists versus keyboard researchers, that it really is a lot of people not willing to see the other person’s side. It was kinda shocking to me, just how many people really jumped into that us versus them mentality.
K: Well, to take up a position I’ve observed makes people feel safe because then when you chosen a side, you’ve got people who are also on your side and, you know, the thing they take comfort in that. I mean if you really boil that phenomena down, you’ve got people craving for any sense of community they can have because most of our communities been taken away for a very long time. I look at my son two and a half year old. He has not seen adults without masks on like for the first six months we were hunkered down in our happy newborn bubble. But beyond that, I mean, masks to him or what people wear on their faces. I kind of think about that sometimes, perhaps for adults two years is, you know, two years kind of go by and maybe we know how mentally to pick up and carry on with our lives as best we can. But when I look at my son two years is an awful big chunk of time. A lot has changed with him. And I just, you know, the days are long, but the years are short.
A: Which as a mom of a teenager, it really, it goes by so fast.
K: I wonder what this will mean for, for our children of varying ages, my stepson being 12, he was a very happy go lucky child until COVID hit and all of a sudden he was hit with so much anxiety and we’re still working through that. Anxiety, not so much around, you know COVID or the pandemic specifically more around if you cut me off from my friends, I don’t know if I like being alone we’re really having to have the conversations around that, but openness is required and definitely flexibility and adaptability and those things dislike perfectionism.
A: Well, and it is a little bit frustrating that even though mental health awareness and the discussions around mental health are more commonly acceptable than they ever were previously. I feel like the focus and the funding don’t really match the acceptance. So I think that that for the last two years, and who knows for how much longer it will continue that the mental health aspect I think, has been missed so much, even when we think about children that were born into COVID or kids say that are entering school for the first time in COVID, they are having a completely unique upbringing and situation that we’ve never, ever seen before. I remember when my daughter was in kindergarten, it was like, all the kids would hug. They were playing together constantly. Everybody’s sharing the same toys, everybody in the same space that to have this really great already kind of creating the everybody stay away from each other kind of bubble mentality, which again, I completely agree that we all need to be as safe as possible, but it’s such a surreal idea for teaching our children that this is sort of the new normal, or this is the only normal that they’ve ever known.
K: Well, especially in a climate in terms of technology where everything already; like my, my son doesn’t like to make phone calls so he likes to text already. The world was shifting towards sort of a more arms length approach to communicating, kids are reading less, they’re watching more YouTube. Like I’m generalizing, but then you throw in a pandemic where it’s expected that people will stay apart physically. It makes me wonder; curious about the future. I’m trying not to be fearful, but I don’t want to be in an environment say three years from now where kids are sort of orbiting around each other by six feet and heads buried in their phone because they’ve learned that we should not be close.
A: Have you seen the reality show? The circle? I think it’s on Netflix.
A: It’s kind of like this weird concept where everybody lives in this apartment building, but they don’t actually get to meet each other. I think that they’re able to share a picture per week on their version of a social media site. They communicate via like DMS and group texts and all of these kinds of things. They’re super happy to hang out in their room and kind of do that. And I feel like in 30 years, is that going to be the new normal of your idea of hanging out? We’ll be like a group zoom and whether it was really a COVID situation or just the way that technology is, but it is one of those things. Like my daughter will text me for an hour straight, but the idea of having to sit down and like make a conversation is like, oh, I have other things that could be doing because she knows notifications or whatever would be going off on her phone.
IS BEHIND THE SCREEN BECOMING MORE NORMALIZED FOR KIDS
A: All of their social life sort of lives in this phone. If you don’t get the in-person, sometimes you feel like you’re missing out, or if you’re not involved in that group chat or somebody didn’t comment on your page as fast as, or your pictures as fast as somebody else’s. That’s their version of us going to the mall or whatever the case may be. So it is really hard. Is behind the screen becoming more normalized for kids?
K: I’m sensing too, to your point and sensing the same anxiety among my son and you know, his little bubble of friends who comes through the house and eat all the food. The sense of anxiety: if I don’t have my phone or see the notifications or we went to a movie and there’s probably so many notifications, like there’s this anxiety to keep up and it’s no different really. You know, knowing that getting to work there’ll be 16 emails and probably four of them are really important. I hope my train isn’t late. You know, this I’ve got to keep up in order to be valued. I think that’s sort of the same in our children and I worry sometimes about how that anxiety to keep up, will play out with them as adults.
A: Well, and I do hope to some degree that the idea of hustle culture, which is sort of the same thing; the pressure of having to respond instantly to all those emails or, for our kids, maybe the pressure of having to go to their Snapchat and clear all of that. Whatever their things are called, but I think hopefully that there will be a shift where we do kind of go more into like the mindful; “does this serve me?” “Is this something I want to do?” “Is this necessary?” Or can I put it aside for, you know, an hour and not feel that guilt or shame or anxiety of knowing that it’s sitting there and that people will kind of appreciate the fact that this go-go-go mentality is really not beneficial to us or beneficial to our mental health or the connections that we’re trying to create with others. That as our kids grow, all that starts to dissipate a little bit.
K: That would be the hope. I mean, I will say that, with the right boundaries in our house, that the technology is, something, we try to keep it at bay just in different ways. The single handed best teacher for any of these triggers regarding perfectionism though, or ideals or being good.
I will tell you that my stepson 12, he’s a Leo, he’s very sure of who he is and not afraid to say when he doesn’t want to do something. It’s interesting too, how perfectionism plays into parenting. Living for three years on my own, after being divorced and healing and hiring a coach and spending a lot of time on myself, I finally felt like I was at peace. Then I became a mom and got into a relationship and man, I learned how to relate to myself, but it’s a different ball game to relate to other people. I realized kind of a powerful lesson is, in my stepson, this sense of; “I know who I am I don’t want to do that. You can’t make me do that.” It would really trigger me. It took a while for me to realize it triggers me because I’m jealous. I didn’t feel like I was allowed to do what he’s doing and in this house that’s okay. Some of parenting I’ve found is, being able to go back to me at his age and apologize to me. Again with my two and a half year old, like he and I are very close, like we’re just very close and stuck to each other, like glue all the time and happy as can be. I don’t recall physical affection. So sometimes as much joy as I have in these moments with our young family, there’s some grief with the joy and I have a hard time reconciling that. I used to, you know, feel shame for feeling grief, which is just the worst, like the only thing worse than grief is shameful grief. It was terrible. So it’s really having the grace to understand that echoes of the past will come up in the present and that those things are okay and actually those things will help you heal.
HONESTY WITH YOURSELF AND OTHERS HEALS
A: I think it is fantastic that you recognized and have done the work to recognize: “oh, it could be jealousy, this feeling I’m feeling”, instead of putting it on the other person and putting it on your stepson. Being like: “oh, you have to change.” instead of knowing that maybe a behavior change isn’t necessary and it’s just giving yourself the: it’s okay to feel this way in this moment and then releasing it. I think once we acknowledge something, we kind of almost take the pin out of whatever it is. Once you kind of let it out and acknowledge it, then it doesn’t become this massive, big thing in the moment and you give yourself that permission. I can feel this way. I’m a human. I can have emotion, but it doesn’t have to, you know, ripple effect. I think when we don’t do the work or we don’t want to acknowledge it, or our ego gets in the way, then I think that’s when it does just balloon into this major thing and cause additional trauma.
K: I was thinking back to your comment at the beginning of our conversation where you said: you don’t want to cause more trauma for kids, or be the reason that they need to go to see a counselor or something like that, or need therapy later in life. Everything you just said about those moments of trigger or ego; those are the moments where potentially that trauma has been caused. I’ll admit I’m not a hundred percent. I’m pretty damn good, but I’m not 100.
A: I don’t think anybody is. And I think it’s maybe understanding that humans we were never meant to be a hundred all the time.
K: No, but I mean, if you go back to my more, more light definition of perfection, how that plays out. Is the moment becomes perfect for me and for him, because I’m able to say, you know; “I just made a decision or raised my voice or whatever it is. I wasn’t very kind but I didn’t mean to do that. I’m really sorry. I felt triggered”, and apologizing to him was like the, I remember the first time I apologized to him, he just had this look of shock on his face, but it drew us closer. When I’m honest about, you know; “actually I responded that way too, because, you know, I felt triggered you know exactly who you are, and there are times I still don’t know who I am,” I said “I envy you.” I tell him that, and we have the best conversations when I’m honest, but I think I’ve had to let go of this parenting model that I had, which was you’ve got to be. You’ve got to do, as I say, even if you don’t understand, don’t ask too many questions. Like sometimes on a bad day that DNA is there and I see it. I know it’s there and it doesn’t come up often, but the decisions we’re making as parents now affect how our children will parent. I think we’ve got to be very careful about what world we want to see these children create for themselves when we’re gone.
A: And it is so hard as a parent to kind of suck it up and be like my bad for today, today, it was me. I think it is so important to do with our children. And I think, especially with your oldest stepson, getting into that tween and teen phase where they’re not necessarily going to be recognized, in the moment why they’re acting in a certain way.
A: Just to give you a heads up and warn you of some potential behaviors ahead. It’s like you all over again. Like they really it’s like being a toddler, but with bigger emotions and more hormones, like they just don’t get it. So it’s so hard as a parent, not to feel like I’m so good to you. Why are you being mean to me? Or why is this behavior or taking their basically their behavior and actions personally to mean something about you when it really means absolutely nothing. It’s just that they’re like these super mean like toddlers, they go and they’re not even trying to be mean. It just can kind of feel that way, but it’s like that they really don’t know. So it’s important to teach them in that moment that if they’re being a jerk, that you have to stop and try to recognize that and be like my bad for being here. Where it’s like, if I am reacting to your, you know, teenager mode, then I have to stop and be like, Hey, I know that you’re not trying to be like this my bad for overreacting to your whatever.
WE CAN’T FILL OTHERS IF WE’RE NOT FULL OURSELVES
K: Yeah, exactly. Or here’s how I’m feeling right now; like I’m responsible for my feelings, but when you do this, this, and this it kinda makes me feel like: that. But, I’ll, you know, take better ownership of my experience and just kind of show them, you know, this is how I’m choosing to deflect, like to deal in this moment, and you’re right. It’s a constant conversation and it demands that well to the name of your podcast
filled up cup; it demands that we keep our cup is full. I can’t, possibly show up for them when I’m not showing up for me.
A: The other really important thing is that, especially as mothers, our first instinct is to fill up their cup first and to focus on everybody else. At the end of the day, be like: “oh, maybe, maybe I’ll fill my cup tomorrow”, and I think that as women, we really do have to understand that we do need to prioritize ourselves. Prioritize ourselves really high on that list because we can’t fill others if we’re not full ourselves.
K: And it’s finding, I mean, it’s finding ways that make sense for our authentic selves, that can be in the form of 60 seconds, 60 minutes or six hours, like depending on what you’ve got available, like for my sister, it’s, you know, the luxurious candle bubble bath for me, I don’t think I’ve had a bath since I was pregnant. Like, it’s just not a luxury that I’ve had then again, If I wanted that, if that was my brand of self care, then yes, send me the $40 candle and the bath bomb, like good. But for me, the meaningful moments are, you know, honestly, it’s the mom joke, but like shutting myself in the bathroom, having 60 seconds, if that all that’s all I can get to do some deep breathing, then good. Like, let that be my perfect for today. Perfection today for me will look perfection for me, different than perfection for me tomorrow are different from yours are different from my cohort, you know? And it’s the sense of each don’t have to set the bar so high. And that’s where I think social media sometimes comes into play where, you know, I went and got a $200 massage, like a time B resources. Like I don’t always have the ability to go do that. I don’t want to set the bar so high for women or people that, you know, to take care of yourself. It has to be theatrical. It has to be worthy they know, do it for you in a way that fills up your cup, even temporarily to get you to tomorrow. Like just if you need to be in survival mode because of the season you’re in good, but don’t neglect you.
A: And all of those, I honestly could not like, appreciate more that that’s such a good point. I do think sometimes with those sort of fancy procedures, whether it’s a massage, whether it’s going to a spa for whatever, I think that there’s a wealth and privilege into that and I do think without acknowledging that it does become sort of the. Almost like a braggadocious thing that we’ll do on elitist or something. And we think that this idea, like, I think it’s great to know when you need a time out, whether it’s locking yourself into the pantry for 30 seconds. You know, screaming into a pillow or whatever that may be. I think every single day it can be different things. And I think that it’s important to try different things and have new experiences, whether it’s walking around your community, walking around the block to just get out into nature and get fresh air. But the idea that self care is a one mold fits all ideal is something that I would love to see just go away completely.
K: Exactly, and I think it’s almost like walking around with an interminable thermometer and saying like: “okay, how am I feeling? Am I doing this because I want to, or am I doing this out of a sense of obligation?” I’ll tell you, this morning, I love my coffee… I’m a big coffee fan and I was looking in the cupboard this morning for a cup and I couldn’t find my mug and I thought: well, okay, whatever, like this one’s good enough, then I paused and I was like: “no, I want my mug”. It was making the decision to, you know, foolishly even go into the dishwasher, find the cup hand, wash it, have my coffee in my ceramic mug that I love, you know, that to me was an act of self-love. That was tiny, but they accumulate through the day and it’s this constant message to myself; like: “I put you first, don’t worry, girl. I got you”, in the little ways that I can, even if it’s a day. Even last night, I felt obligated to make dinner, but I was exhausted. I was just completely wiped. I knew that if I made dinner, I would be sacrificing time with my son. He’s been the day in daycare and we get three hours together in the evening, and I thought I’m going to spend two hours cooking and cleaning up and making lunches. I don’t want to be on this hamster wheel right now. I can’t, I have no capacity. So I ordered UberEATS. I was a little bit ashamed at first, but the shame went away. As soon as I got under a blanket with him on the couch and watched a show on Netflix. Asking myself: “what do you need right now?” It’s like pushups. At first you can only do one, if that, but the more you do it the better it becomes and the stronger you feel and the more committed. I don’t think I was ever taught that and I don’t attribute that to religion or anything. I attribute that to seeing my mother raise five girls working in the home. She didn’t have a job outside the home, then I saw her sacrifice so much. I think what I learned was: love is sacrifice, and you’re doing it right if you’re exhausted. Having to break that pattern as well, for the sake of my kids, and really wanting them to remember their childhood. You know; putting the marshmallows in their hot chocolate or forgetting the dinner that they probably don’t even care about and are thrilled to have sushi anyway. It’s just letting go of this sense of: I have to be this in order to be loved to be a good mother. There’s that word again; good. A good mother, a good professional would be able to do it all. I didn’t want to be good yesterday. I wanted to have love around me anyway, and I managed to get that. The fact that, that sounds to me in my heart, like a momentous occasion tells me that there’s more work to do, but I also take comfort in the fact that I know I’m not alone.
A: I think so many other women are the same. Our parents’ generation and their parents’ generation before that it was. Women were just to balance at all. We were to do it all. We were told just to figure it out without complaining and put on a kind of happy face and exhaust ourselves. I think now, and again, just teensy tiny changes, but it’s understanding that, in my opinion anyways, women can’t have it all at the same time and we can’t do it all by ourselves. We really do need to outsource, whether it’s: Ubereats, or whether it’s having daycare, or having a cleaner. That needing all of these things, anything that we need, to not feel guilty about having to do all of those things. Like it was one thing when maybe being at home was our job that cooking and cleaning was more expected, but in today’s day and age, where both parents generally work outside of the home or trapped within the home while still having to do it. That I think nobody asks men: “Oh, how are you balancing at all?” or “How do you deal?” That it’s always an only women or sort of the caregiver or provider within the relationship that I just feel like that kind of needs to end, or there needs to be a really big shift in understanding that it’s okay to ask for help. It doesn’t mean anything about you. Like you’re not bad if you don’t cook dinner, you’re not bad. If you need time away from your kids, like the number, the sort of thing that you’re holding onto, it’s just releasing it and knowing that a billion people are feeling the exact same way. That you’re not weird or different because you don’t feel like you have 72 hours worth of things that you can jam into 15 hours successfully.
FIGHTING FEELINGS OF RESENTMENT
K: Exactly. It’s did you see that meme floating around Instagram everywhere that was like: you know “you’re doing a great job!” and the mom’s like: “well, actually I really need help.” It’s like; “you’re doing great. Just keep doing it!” Like, well, no, I could really use some back up. You know what I mean? I’ll tell you the COVID period or just new motherhood in terms of having a son of my own biologically, like really threw me for a loop and threw our relationship for a loop with my spouse and I. I have never resented a person more, I’m being completely authentic and he knows this.
So if he’s listening, I love you dearly Dave, but man I didn’t like you very much sometimes.
And it’s, you know what it was though. It wasn’t really about him. It was about me. I would feel like I was running off my seat all day. He would go to work, work hard, come home, you know, drop his stuff and sit on the couch. Meanwhile, I hadn’t been able to sit all day and had been running around trying to do this, trying to do that; very stressed, probably. Not the nicest person to communicate with and internally feeling that he was sitting and not helping. As with most resentment, the longer it stays dormant, the bigger it gets. So by the time the topic actually came up, I blew a gasket. Sorry. What came out was, you know, you just sit and I have to do all of the things, you don’t have to do the things! You go to work, you come home, you sit, you know, you have dinner; and he said to me: “you never asked for help.” And on one hand that pissed me right off; on the other hand, I thought, you know what he’s right. He said: “you know, you’re so determined that lunches have to be made this way, and we have to have this for dinner, and the kitchen needs to be cleaned before you’ll sit down, and you have all these rules around what’s okay. That I feel like if I walked in there and offered to help, I wouldn’t exactly be welcomed.” And he’s not wrong. He’s absolutely right. I create this tornado around myself of things that need to be a certain way. That’s a very difficult place for him to stick his nose into and after a long day where I’m sure he doesn’t want to. But I didn’t create a structure in which partnership was invited. I created a structure in which resentment was cause that’s what I observed in my parents. And he said: “you know, if I came home and I saw you sitting, I would do it all because you are showing me, you needed to sit.” I thought, how much of this is, rightfully me wishing I had more help, and how much of this is me feeling so determined to do it all and needing to prove that to myself because I need to be good. It was a really interesting learning moment for our relationship. We’re in a much better rhythm. Now I will say, I love to cook. He lets me do it. He’s a great cook too, but you know, he cleans the kitchen. Like there was a good thing that came from that eruption, but I really had to force myself to take responsibility for where perfectionism was ruling our lives and where I needed to be more vocal about what I need.
A: I think that’s so important and I think women we do this because we have the ability to maybe notice different social cues or be more of that caregiver, or be more likely, again just generalizing, the ones to kind of step into it that we do get frustrated. “Hey, I can see this. Why can’t you see this?” And it’s like, there was like a meme going around where the woman is texting her boyfriend and she was like, “so are you coming over?” And he was like, “I don’t know, maybe” and she’s getting furious and he’s like thinking that they’re having this great conversation? But they’re not really having the same conversation.
K: Yes. Yes.
A: That I think in so many relationships, whether it’s a spouse relationship, whether it’s a friend relationship, whether it’s a family relationship that I think too many of the times, that we all kind of assume that the other person has to understand what our intention is for the situation and essentially be mind readers.
A: there’s so much miscommunication comes from that. I do remember the first year of having a kid is really the hardest, because you are trying to find who does, what what’s this going to look like? So if you are a parent and you have like an under two year old child or under three, and you’re having these struggles, please know that it’s completely normal.
K: So normal!
YOU ARE NOT ALONE IN PARENTING STRUGGLES
K: But nobody really talks about it. I think that was the biggest sense of whiplash. At least for me was, I mean, I even had a mother with five kids, you think I would have noticed. But it’s just, I mean, the sense of drowning. But you can’t drown because you’re trying to keep a little person alive. So it’s like high stakes drowning and trying to find enough joyful moments to fill the battery to keep going. But I mean, I would argue that, you know, for that first year having a full cup is more challenging than ever. It’s like, the cup is on your head while you’re doing everything else and don’t spill any water. It’s really, really tough, but what you see on Instagram or what I saw for my friends was, you know, the cute baby and the Christmas outfit on Santas lap, and oh, what fun? Not the struggle. It took to get everyone in the car on time with the backup outfit. And, you know, in all of that, it’s definitely being thrown into the deep end and no matter who you are listening, you’re doing a wonderful job.
A: a really important thing to think about with Instagram is nobody’s going to take a picture of the, blow out that your kid had in their diaper at a mall on the one day that you forgot to bring the diaper bag on the day that, your kid is screaming and you have to put them in their crib or in their bedroom and walk away so that you won’t lose your mind. Like nobody posts in those moments. And I a hundred percent have been guilty of this, but when you’re posting pictures of your house, when you want to showcase one thing, please know, and a hundred percent of the time in my pictures, there’s a big, huge mess behind me that I’m hiding from you. So this idea that we all live, these picture perfect Instagram lives, couldn’t be farther from the truth. That it’s essentially a version of Photoshop, but instead of for your body, it really is for our lives, don’t put your value on your situation, on something that you see there because nine times out of 10, it’s complete and utter, you know, highlight reel
K: Yep a hundred percent. It kind of goes to show you the accounts out there where there’s some authenticity. Like one I love to follow is a mom: the bird’s papaya. She’s just, she’s wonderful. Bless her for showing her: stretch marks and the loose skin and all of that. I mean, unfortunately, what’s created is two ends of the spectrum. The women who are brave enough to show it all and talk about it all. And the ones who are very curated and beautiful and sophisticated and perfect looking quote unquote. I wish that there was a safer. Sense of belonging in the middle. I’m a firm believer to be honest about not sharing something you haven’t processed yet. Everything I shared about my upbringing is something I feel safe to share because I processed it. I certainly don’t think that, some things out there are ready to be shared, but I do believe that when I found: the birds papaya and I started tearing up because she was talking about, going on to have another child, once you’ve already been divorced, her showing her heart held up a mirror so that I could see myself in her and it was only through that, that I started to heal. If it’s not on Instagram, but it’s just with a friend or a sister or a parent or your child when appropriate, like to, to tell the truth about who you are with your whole heart is authenticity. If we could just bring some more of our authenticity to our day-to-day lives at work. Yesterday we had a difficult conversation as a team where, we all had to sort of agree we could’ve done a better job, but no one was willing to start that conversation because everyone is afraid. You know, me being me, I did it. But everyone left feeling a hundred pounds later, but it was because we had to stop being, you know, cookie cutter, corporation and start being human. So where can we bring our authenticity and our honesty and tell the truth, even though we’re scared and be honest about when we’re triggered with our kids. To be honest with our spouse when we need more help; like to do that requires our authenticity. And that’s something that I’m completely a believer in needs to be part of the next generation; and we have to show that generation how by doing it ourselves.
A: And that’s really the only way that they’ll learn. We can tell them something until we’re blue in the face. But if we don’t model that behavior ourself, it’s pointless. Even using the word.
K: Yeah. Yeah. I have no better way to say that you’re a hundred percent right.
A: Now for somebody who is looking for an authenticator or leadership coach, what is that? And how would somebody know that they need one.
K: Well, I think as with most things, you’ll know if you don’t have it. The signs that authentic leadership is needed and, and I say that both in business and in family life, I’ll go back to this core belief I have: that everyone is a leader of something. because even if you don’t have a family per se, or a team at work, or, you know, whatever people who report to you at the very least you lead yourself and how you lead yourself as a human with a body on this earth in this age will very much determine how you’re able to lead other people around you or create a leadership role for yourself. So when authenticity is missing from leadership, or I’ll say management or in families, you see people who don’t tell the truth because they’re afraid of consequences. You’ll see People who sabotage others or sabotage themselves because they’re afraid of losing their job. You’ll see kids who don’t obey boundaries, I say obey loosely because they feel like they were never a part of setting them in the first place and they believe you don’t trust them. I’d say that any concern in a family or in a business can be solved with authenticity. And a lot of people just don’t know how to start. Luckily, I had to rebuild my life by trying to find my own authenticity, and it became clear to me after a time that there’s a blueprint for it. And it requires some self discovery, both in business and at home, but it’s something that you can do together and something that will absolutely change your life for the better too.
A: That is fantastic to be able to provide that resource for people. I think so many times when they’re dealing with a situation where we don’t necessarily know the answer more often than not, we tend to shut down versus going: “who can help me?” Cause then there’s also that, guilt of saying: “I don’t know how to do this myself”, because it was sort of this idea that we’re supposed to just know everything and figure it out. I remember being younger and thinking by the time I’m 30, I’m gonna, know everything and I’m going to have all the answers and X, Y, Z, they got to that age. I was like how I know none of the things.
K: I know. I know it’s tough to realize that. Your parents when they were raising, you also felt like this, and yet we thought or made to believe that they knew all. And you realize that maybe allowed me to have a bit more compassion for both parents to say, I know you were doing your best with what you’ve had. I just think the call to authentic leadership is to continue to do the best with what we have, but also recognize where harm has been done in the past when we weren’t necessarily conscious to what was happening around us
A: I think a lot of the times people don’t even necessarily know. That, because this happened is why I feel this way now. So when you’re doing those daily check-ins, and I think that that’s something that we should do. Every single person is checking with yourself every day. You know; “how am I feeling? Why do I feel like this?” and it doesn’t need to be like a big, long thing, take five, 10 minutes and kind of ask yourself. If you’re noticing the same feeling, start looking at that, looking at why potentially you feel that way, what could be the root.
K: A hundred percent. I still sometimes feel like I have training wheels on. And one thing that I do three alarms a day in my phone that come up and say: “what do you need? What do you need right now?” And sometimes that answer is nothing. And sometimes that answer is a glass of water cause I’m dehydrated. Sometimes it’s a cookie, but the art of asking yourself all the time, the same way you would with a toddler, like: “Ooh, is that their snack time yet?” “Do they need a diaper change?” Like you ask it on autopilot and just getting into the practice of doing that for yourself. The other thing I do want to say, cause I mean, sisters, friends, there are people who I love words and I think you do too. And we love expressing and for some people that’s more difficult. So this talk about being authentic or telling the truth or being honest with your kids is terrifying. I get it. The thing I want to impart though is little steps every day and also. Asking yourself. If I were unapologetically me while also being seeker for what’s true for me, how might I show up differently today? And I think the differences in communication will be subtle at first, but just deciding to , get curious about what’s going on inside yourself and understanding that not all thoughts are meant to be believed. Not all thoughts are true. They’re just thoughts. They’re just things and you get to choose the narrative you want running inside your own head. A really transformative experience for me and something I credit with being able to change some of those neuro-pathways because that’s what happens when you begin this self work is you actually change the chemistry of your brain, which is
A: so crazy. Just being crazy yourself can do that. Like it’s just mind boggling.
K: Absolutely. I mean, I can send you the study link and I’m going to paraphrase probably terribly, but and people who had trauma in previous generations, so call it anyone who was part of concentration camps. That’s an extreme example. It actually changed their DNA. All the trauma changed their DNA and it takes about two generations to work it all out. But if you adopt a practice of healing, even for those previous generations, like starting to try to process and understand what trauma they experienced, when you decide to adopt that practice of healing, you’re making sure that that DNA change ends with you. And that’s very powerful, so powerful to me, super powerful.
A: And yes, it would love you to send me that study.
A: It really makes you wonder, say for all of us living in a global pandemic, what the change to our DNA will be.
K: Yes. Yes, absolutely. The really, really fascinating trick I learned when I was I studied behavioral science and behavioral finance for a couple of years. And one thing that really fascinated me was this equation you can adopt. So we talked about sometimes the accessibility of mental health support and you’re absolutely right. Like for, for me even with a great extended benefits plan for me and our family to get the mental health support that we need in this season of our lives about three quarters of it is not covered. So I think we do need to look at ways that we can sort of look at our own journey and try to give ourselves that love. And some of that healing on our own until some of those services hopefully become, are readily available. But one such way that really, really changed my life was looking at. Beliefs that I have, or thoughts that fly by in my brain and starting to question them. So I used to deal with terrible panic attacks, like truly crippling, truly crippling. I would faint like flies from hyperventilating so hard. It was a truly painful part of my life that I didn’t know how to resolve. So one truth that I believe was that I have crippling anxiety or I’m always afraid. Those are things that I believe to be true about myself. And so my life’s experience ended up following those beliefs that ran through my brain, like ticker tape all the time. And so I had to write down a list of all the beliefs I had about myself, things I thought to be true. And some of them were pretty ugly or really not nice. And then beside that in the second column, right, the opposite belief. So an opposite belief to I am always afraid is I have incredible courage. Because courage doesn’t mean you’re not afraid. It means you’re brave through it. And so every single morning for 30 days, I got this from my coach who unfortunately is now deceased, but I promised him to pass on a lot of his lessons, and so this is one of them. Every morning for 30 days, I would write down the new beliefs. And at a time when I believe to myself to be broken, there were probably 30 or 35 beliefs that I had to revise and rewrite. And that’s where the neural pathways change is in the writing. It’s almost like a meditative practice. So I had, I have incredible courage. I am a powerful, source of light for the people in my life and so on and so forth down the list and the rewriting of these over and over for 30 days, I cannot even tell you the transformational power this had for me. I got a little bit more confident. I felt a little bit stronger. The panic attacks stopped and it’s just like, what, what ticker tape remarks or comments do you make about yourself that you believe to be true because it’s how it’s showing up in your life. And I don’t take that away from me. They probably aren’t you right now, but what ones do you want to change? What ones aren’t serving you anymore? Write them down. Try it. 30 days. See if there’s a change in our little love to hear if that makes a difference for anyone.
A: I think that that is such a great practice for people to do. Do you follow Alicia? McCarville on Instagram at all.
K: Oh, you know what? I, I don’t know if I do, but I know she’s connected to the birds papaya. Somehow.
A: She is another Canadian influencer who is a plus sized person, her biggest challenge was her physical appearance. So she did the exact same practice. “What can I say? That’s nice about myself that has nothing to do with a compliment for my body.”
A: And she said that she struggled, it took her, I think like six months or something like that to fill up like a little dollar store notebook. It helped her realize that she is not her body. She is really this person that, you know, she puts so much value on her body. She assumed everybody around her did too. Once that shifted it helped her realize, like she’s a great friend and she’s a great wife I think having that practice of writing something down that is something great that you can do really will help you see it and believe it, the longer you do that practice I really believe that the more that we’re gentle with ourselves, the more that we do have the ability to see our strengths and not just our weaknesses.
K: Absolutely. There’s a hesitancy sometimes to pull back the curtain because you’re not exactly sure what you’re going to find and maybe are a little bit afraid and I honor that so much. You’re right. It’s scary. Sometime these mental health terms are tossed around with not a lot of investigation and side note, I get a little bit upset every time mental health day comes around in BC because Michael bublé says for every person who views my video, I’ll donate a dollar. So he gets millions of views and millions of dollars go somewhere that haven’t actually helped my family in particular yet. There’s no actual education in the sound bite. So I love Michael bublé, but I don’t love the campaign. I find sometimes that glosses over some very serious issues. For instance, depression, people talk about depression. People think it may be contagious, so they don’t want to get too close to someone who has it. They hope they feel better soon. But what I’ve learned about depression, my own theory is depressed. Sounds an awful lot, like deep rest and. Anxiety is a fear of the future where you can’t control deep rest, invites you to revisit the past and heal something that’s holding you back. Depression sounds perhaps more intimidating than what you might find. If you were actually to enter a state of deep rest. I don’t see depression as scary. I see it as an invitation and as someone who’s been through that before, I feel like I’m allowed to speak to it, and the same with anxiety the focus on the future means that I’m robbing myself of the richness and juiciness of this present moment. Of speaking with you and to be wholehearted in this moment and constantly bring my attention back to this moment and what’s going on for me right now. It forces me to stop the hamster wheel, get off that treadmill and say: “what do I need right now?” And so, yes, I will keep the alarms on my phone for as long as I need to. I am determined to spend the rest of my life asking myself that question and teaching other women how to do that too.
A: I think to take that trauma that you’ve experienced and, , maybe it being a place of like serving others. A purpose that you no longer believe in, but being able to take that love of service and turning it into something that can be so positive for so many women going forward, I think is really amazing.
K: Well, thank you. Honestly, I found your account probably three or four months ago and immediately felt from afar. Like I had found us a soul sister. So thank you for the work that you do and your honest conversations and dialogue. I may not always respond to your stories with words, but I’m always thinking about them very thoughtfully afterwards because you raise important points about motherhood and about showing up for yourself, the conversations that absolutely need to be had. So you have my 100% support.
HOW TO FOLLOW KAITLYN!
A: Thank you so much. If our listeners are trying to find you, where can they find you on social media? And do you have a website?
K: I do have a website under construction at the moment. So it’ll just be my first name, last name.com. KaitlynLawson.com. I’m on Instagram. Make current handle is @kaitlynwholehearted surprise, surprise.
A: I really appreciate the conversation that we had.
K: So do I I’m like my cup is now full. So the mission accomplished.
A: Thank you so much Kaitlyn for being on FilledUpCup.com, we loved your insights and heartfelt conversations on your life, parenting and everything in between. Please make sure to tune into our next podcast!