Is your to-do list a mile long? Are you that person who hustles to get the job done, no matter the cost to yourself?
If your inner task manager tends to take you (or someone you love) over, do not miss this episode with my friend and fellow therapist, Rebecca Ching. It's all about the gift and the cost of being a highly productive, can-do person.
Rebeca speaks candidly about managing childhood trauma through becoming extremely productive—a survival skill she took with her deep into her adult life. You'll also hear more about our friendship, including the opposite ways we operate in order to protect ourselves.
1. The moment Rebecca, as a young girl, walked out on a family therapy session
2. The story of being mugged together in our early 20’s
3. How to re-org your inner circle to protect the health of your family
4. The shaming voice that surfaces when you give yourself permission to down-shift
5. The problem with the word “busy”
6. Key questions to ask in order to simplify your life.
7. Surprising ways you can start to rest & play
8. How faith messages can intensify productivity in not-so helpful ways
Connect with Rebecca at The Unburdened Leader Podcast or www.rebeccaching.com
Take our 2-minute The Best of You Podcast Survey here
Thanks to our sponsors:
Organifi —Go to Organifi.com/bestofyou and use code BESTOFYOU for 20% off your order today!
Check out the Raising Boys and Girls Podcast at raisingboysandgirls.com/podcast
Music by Andy Luiten
Sound editing by Kelly Kramarik
While Dr. Cook is a counselor, the content of this podcast and any of the products provided by Dr. Cook are not specific counseling advice nor are they a substitute for individual counseling. The content and products provided on this podcast are for informational purposes only.
Take our 2-minute The Best of You Podcast Survey here (3 survey participants will win a free copy of The Best of You!)
- To learn more about Fight / Flight / Freeze / Fawn Responses and The 7 P's of Managing Perceptions, check out my new book, The Best of You
- To learn more about Unburdening and the Internal Family Systems model, check out my book with Kimberly Miller, Boundaries for Your Soul
- Rebecca mentions The Daring Way certification program with Brené Brown
- Mark 1:11 “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
- Proverbs 4:23 "Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it."
Episode 32: The Best of You Podcast 8th Dec 2022
With Dr. Alison Cook and guest Rebecca Ching
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Alison: Hey, everyone, I'm Dr. Alison, and I'm so glad you're here to discover what brings out the best of you. This podcast is all about breaking free from painful patterns, mending the past, and discovering our true selves in God. I can't wait to get started as we learn, together, how to become the best version of who we are with God's help.
Hey, everyone, welcome to this week's episode of The Best of You podcast. I can't believe we are already into December, and as this year winds down, I have a favor to ask of you. I'd be so grateful if you would take two to three minutes, to fill out a survey we've designed. It's called The Best of You Podcast Survey, very creative title. And we're going to give three randomly selected participants a free copy of my new book The Best of You, as our way of saying thank you to you for taking just a couple of minutes to fill out the survey.
Here's the thing: we want to hear from you. I am passionate about getting these resources to you for free, every week, to help you in your life. I want this to mean something to you and to be helpful to you. And in order to do that, I need to hear from you.
So please take two to three minutes. You can do it right now, go to The Best of Your Podcast Survey link. It's in the episode notes of this episode. It's also on my website, dralisoncook.com/podcast. It'll take just a few minutes, two to three minutes max, to fill out the survey. We'd be so grateful to hear directly from you on how to make sure this podcast is providing you with real help, you can apply in your everyday life.
Hey, everyone, welcome back to The Best of You podcast. Where today we are going to talk about the hustle. And by the hustle what I mean are those parts of us that produce, perform, work overtime to get the job done. These are the task managers, the productive parts of us. And going into Christmas, I know so many of these parts of us are in overdrive.
We've got the list, we've got the goals, we've got the vision, and we are going to get the stuff done. We are the go-to people and we know how to get it done. And to talk about these productive, these producing parts of us. I asked my friend, I have known Rebecca since we both lived in Washington, D.C., right out of college. So, I don't know, I don't want to age us, Rebecca, is that 25 years or more? More probably.
Alison: So my friend Rebecca, is a Trauma-Informed Leadership Coach, a psychotherapist, and she's the host of a podcast called The Unburdened Leader podcast. And for those of you who have been listening in or who if you've read my first book, Boundaries for Your Soul. We have actually not talked a lot about Internal Family Systems, on this podcast yet. Rebecca is also trained in Internal Family Systems, in IFS. So if you've read my first book, you're well aware of what we mean by unburdened and by this parts model. If you are not familiar with that language, tune in because I'm going to do a whole series on it in the new year.
But her podcast is just a beautiful podcast, where she interviews all kinds of leaders. About how to lead from a place of calm, a place of clarity, a place of curiosity, an unburdened place. We're trying to get out of that pressurized place and into clear, calm, unburdened leadership.
And, so, she is someone who practices what she teaches. She tries to live and model all the things she talks about. And as I know, because I've known you a long time, you've come by that the hard way. Just as I've come by everything I've learned the hard way.
I mean when it comes to hustle, when it comes to productivity, I knew you back in the day. You knew how to get the job done better than anyone. So this unburdened leader, this place to which you have arrived, now, you've come by the hard way and I can't wait to have this conversation with you. Thanks for being here, Rebecca.
Rebecca: Oh, I am so thrilled to be here. Yes, I'm looking forward to this conversation, Alison.
Alison: Yes, so I want to just hit the ground running with an early memory of, and I'm calling it hustle. Does that word hustle resonate with you?
Rebecca: Yes, grind, hustle, work, just the grind culture, yes, the doing, all of that resonates.
Alison: Getting it done.
Alison: I mean, it is producing, it's performing, but it's just that kind of grind. That's a good word because there's a tension to it. There's an edge to it, in a way, when we are in that task mode. So what's an early memory of hustling, of producing.
Now, I know hindsight is 2020, so at the time you might not have realized what you were doing. But what's a memory of when you started to operate in that way?
Rebecca: Yes, and, so, I almost want to back it up a little bit because there's a memory. But there are some influences, as I was thinking about our conversation, and one of the biggest memories and early influences. Believe it or not, if you know me, I love pop culture.
And, so, movies, and TV, and magazines were a thing back in the '80s. So I was really drawn to the female archetype who was smart, she was hardworking, she worked her way to the top. She didn't need anybody, and that really was indicative of what I was going through at the time. I mean, my parents had a very conflictual marriage and a three-year separation during my middle school years. Ended in divorce, and there was a lot of abuse, and conflict, and chaos at home.
And, so, I was really drawn to this '80s archetype; the shoulder-pad suits, the slicked-back hair. She didn't need anybody, and then usually there was like a Michael J. Fox character that would come in and melt her heart. And it was kind of gross all of the tropes that I breathed in.
But there was something that felt like, "Oh, if I don't need anybody and I just work, and I have money, and power. I can escape what I'm feeling and still have this recognition, I can have freedom, I can have choice."
There's something about watching some of those archetypes, at a young age, that burned into my psyche. Combined with growing up in the Protestant work ethic, and then in Minnesota, where I grew up on steroids, it was so in the air.
I breathed in, "You work." No exaggeration, you get up, and you shovel the snow in below zero weather, and you scrape off the ice on your car, and turn the car on. And then when it was still dark... that was just what you did.
We would ski. I mean, I know you grew up in cold weather, too. So there was just those two influences. And I say this with humility, but also a sense of pride, once I realized I had a brain. I was gifted with a brain and also I was good at sports.
And, so, at a young age I realized, "Oh, there was something about this kind of comfort." That I realized, "Of getting good grades, and being in the honors' classes, or being on the sports teams, and performing well, and producing the results that calmed the pain that I was feeling. And, so, it was this thing everyone praised. "Oh, you got the home run."
"You got the high test score."
And I had a shadow side, too, because there was this sense of if I didn't ever meet a 100% I had failed. So then I would try and produce more, and work more, and perform more. But it was chasing this idea that these results, these ways of doing and being, would help separate me from the immense discomfort, and loneliness, and pain, that I was sitting with as a kid.
And, then, as we got into high school and then college, and discovering my interests and passions. It was just like putting oil on the fire, fuel on the fire of performing. Because, as we mentioned at the beginning of the show, I got into politics and that's just a place where... My wardrobe in D.C. was suits and workout clothes; I had no casual wear. It was like my-
Alison: Yes, that's the metaphor right there.
Rebecca: Right there. I mean, we'd go to work and then you'd go to some function that you got an invitation to, the happy hour, and you'd meet up with your friends. But it was usually some work networking or an event, and then you'd go home. Maybe go to the gym at night or in the morning depending.
And, so, yes, I think there was just that piece and then it just fed on itself. And then as I got older getting sick was seen as weakness, and if I wasn't producing that was like a moral failure when my body was tired, and I judged others too.
So it was this sense of just going and going because if I wasn't producing. If I wasn't pushing myself and achieving these goals, then I'd have to sit with what I was feeling and that wasn't very fun.
Alison: Yes, it sounds like it worked to some degree. In the sense of, especially, early on, maybe in those middle school, high school years, when there's a lot of chaos at home. Hard to make sense of that escape, almost, of getting that achievement, pushing yourself into sports. I mean, it wasn't an entirely unhealthy outlet, it's what I'm getting at.
Rebecca: Well, it was better than drugs. It was better than sleeping around. But I guess nobody knew me and I don't know if I knew me, but I knew how I was supposed to be.
Alison: Tell me more about that. Were you aware of feeling that at the time, feeling alone even while you were in the grind?
Rebecca: Well, I don't know how much I think I was aware of, "Okay, I'm smiling, but I don't feel like smiling but this is what we're supposed to do." I was a cheerleader, captain of the cheering squad. And I mean, I'd get excited but inside I'd have this constant ache and there were just the burdens I was carrying.
And, again, I loved people, I loved community, I loved team things, I loved gathering. I would host the parties and those kind of things, I loved all of that stuff. And I think the world says, "Well, it could have been worse." Sure, but I was breathing in the whole performance. So I guess I'm saying at the time, sure, it looked like it worked.
Like, "Oh, wow, you get good grades and you did things with your career. and you achieved these things, and, oh, Rebecca, you do so much." Yes, but at what cost? And, so, while I had some really great fun memories, I still am right now in a massive rewiring my nervous system, and what it means to rest, and to downshift, and to not be moving towards achieving.
I mean, I don't think I'm going to check out of that ever. Because that was so connected to my safety, and to my identity, and to my belonging.
Alison: Yes, but when did you begin to realize that consciously, right? In hindsight, again, there was a cost, there was an ache, "I knew it." But when did you begin to, consciously, realize, "I've got to change something?"
Rebecca: Well, you were there for that moment, Alison, in D.C., and you and I were coming back from a late dinner and we were mugged. And I remember you got jumped first, and then I jumped on the guy that jumped on you, and then the other guys jumped on me.
And I'm laughing because it feels so surreal. And then I remember I heard this wild noise and I realized it was me screaming. And I then I heard your voice saying, "Just let him have it." And I realized they just wanted our backpacks, they didn't want to hurt us.
So I relaxed so they could pull my backpack off, and they ran. I ended up going to the hospital because I had smashed my knee in the struggle. And I walked or kind of limped on crutches into my therapist's office, I had just started therapy. And my therapist looks up at me, as I enter the door on my crutches, and smiles and says, "Oh, it's nice to see you leaning on something."
And I was like, "Oh." And I wanted to cuss her out, I was so angry at her . And then at work, I was working for a senator at the time. I kept getting up on my crutches and going to talk to staff, and moving around. And everyone was like, "Rebecca, you don't have to come to our office, sit your butt down and heal your knee."
People were getting mad at me, and I'm like, "Bo, I'm not going to let this get me down. I have to keep showing I can do this." There was no downshifting. So that was the beginning of an unraveling that showed up over the next couple of decades, for sure, but that's a big one. When you asked that question as you were prepping for this call, I was like, "It was that moment."
Alison: I want to pause on it for a second, because I've never told that story on this podcast. And there are a couple of things I want to tease out. I mean, first of all, I don't think I realized, at that time, that you had started seeing a therapist. It was before therapy was really normative in a way.
Alison: So it's not like we were talking. Actually, I'm just realizing, I didn't realize you did have a therapist at the time. It wasn't something that we all did. I mean, we knew about it, we knew about therapists, it was on the front end of it.
Rebecca: Yes, I've been in and out of therapy most of my life with family; we did group therapy. My parents brought us to therapy when they were divorcing. So, for me, I pretty much saw how I didn't want to be a therapist through almost all of the therapists I had up until the one in D.C., which she worked out of a church.
So I wanted to see someone with a faith-based orientation that was important to me. I never had done that before, and that was a beautiful a gift.
So, yes, I already had that and it was across town from where I worked. So I had to get on the metro and go across town and then go up a hill. So I ended up taking cabs to see her because I couldn't get there on time on my lunch break, if I had to do it on my crutches. Well, it's interesting because I just realized, again, we've known each other a long time. So I grew up in a very Christian culture that would've seen going to a therapist as a little bit outside.
Alison: And, so, I'm interested, I don't think I had realized that for you that'd been more a part of the norm. And you knew you needed help and that was something that had been part of your... It hadn't been necessarily that effective, potentially. Because I always like to ask people on this podcast. Every time I ask somebody, "When you reached out for help what was the result?"
I get mixed. Some people are, "I had a terrible experience with a therapist." Or, "I had a great experience with a therapist." So I like bringing that to the surface, because it's important for people to realize that just going to a therapist isn't necessarily the fix. It's finding the right person to come alongside you.
So this is a little bit of a tangent, I want to back up for just a second. Because through this experience of the achieving, and the ache, and the loneliness, and knowing there was this disparity. There were some people coming alongside of you, at some point, but it wasn't, necessarily, helping. Is that correct?
Rebecca: I think I would say, too, one of the gifts that if there's something that I wanted or knew I needed, I just went for it. And I don't know how conscious it was, it was just like, "There's a gap in my life, so I need to figure out how to fill the gap."
And, so, from a young age, I don't know if it's just... I've got a parent who is an entrepreneur and you get scrappy, and you figure things out. But there was just this sense of knowing and looking for more.
I've always been hungry for what's more, what's better, what's different from a young age. And then if I saw something that was an injustice, like the therapist that saw my whole family when we my parents were divorcing, and he would get mad at me for being mad. And I remember I slammed the door, and one of his pictures fell and he yelled at me about that. And I had so much enjoyed that I got to him, and I just remember that, too.
But if I saw an injustice, I wanted to better it. There was always this sense of improving. I had to improve everything; myself, my environment, others. But I was also the one, particularly in high school and middle school that people would come talk to, no surprise.
It was like they would come down to me with all their questions about boys, and relationships, and all the things. Even though I was friends with everyone, I wasn't really in a serious relationship, but I was the go-to.
Rebecca: And, so, there was just this sense of wanting to learn, to better, to grow, to be different than what I was seeing at home. I knew, early on, that what I was being taught wasn't the way. And, so, when things weren't effective I ended... there is a sense I did end that.
So I hadn't thought about it that way. And even if some of the therapists weren't helpful. I remember in second grade going to a family therapy session and my parents listing all the drugs they were using, and substances they were using, and then they dropped me back off at school. And I remember sitting in this classroom waiting for everyone to come back from recess going, "What just happened?"
And like, "Oh, my gosh, that was horrible." So, yes, it took me a while. But this wonderful woman in D.C., she had just this beautiful integrative approach with clinical and theological approach, and just presence. And, so, when I walked in on crutches after our mugging, that was the time I started to realize I couldn't just push through. I could stop, and feel, and heal what happened.
Alison: And she had the trust with you to say what she said. It wasn't the first session when you walked in, and there was that trust and that safety there. What's interesting, Rebecca, and, again, I want to zoom back to this mugging. But I'm learning about you, as a friend and in our friendship, even thinking about your relationship with therapy.
Where you and I, we both have this hustle, productivity, get the job done part of us, but it manifests very differently. And even in your relationships with therapists, I'm going to call it, and you can correct me on this. But I'm thinking about the Fight/Flight response, and it's like you'll go into fight mode. Even with that early therapist you're like, "I'll go. Man, I've got fight, I'll go to the therapist, I'll get there. I mean, I had to, my parents dragged me there." But there was that a little bit of fight. Or "I'll leave."
Or, "I'm happy if I get to him."
Alison: And then in the mugging, that's where I'm circling back to, there was that fight response. "Man, I'm going to protect my friend." And what's fascinating, I have much more of that Flight/Fawn, so I would never have gone to a therapist. You couldn't have paid me to go. I was halfway through my doctoral training to become one and I was like, "No way." So my way is to avoid or I fight through fleeing. I go the opposite direction.
So actually it's interesting, so my protective strategy is I won't protect myself with someone who's not helping me. So I just won't go near them. I won't give anybody a chance, I'll keep everybody out, that's how I protect myself.
Whereas you would go in and if it got bad or if it wasn't helpful, you would speak up a little bit more, and that's an oversimplification. But I want to zoom in on that mugging moment because that is where just for-
Rebecca: Pretty indicative of my personality.
Alison: Well, but, yes, both of our responses, if you think of that survival, that nervous system response.
Alison: I remember, vividly, I could tell, I don't remember if you did. I remember thinking, "Oh, this doesn't feel good." We're walking, I was like, "Oh, this isn't good." I felt it, I just collapsed. I don't even think I screamed.
I mean, I realized, "Oh, my gosh, when faced with danger I won't fight, I won't run, I will just surrender." That was scary for me. You on the other hand went into fight. I mean, you were going to protect me. It's interesting because those are those survival mechanisms.
Rebecca: It was of value, too, because I remember there was this moment where I looked at you and this guy. Because these were really tall guys, they were three guys and you and I are not. We're not blessed with height, but we're blessed with might. But and I remember just thinking, "Well, if I'm going to go, I'm not going to go just standing here watching my friend get hurt." And I was just all in, and that was something I really tapped into. I was like, "Okay."
But what was interesting is some of our mutual guy friends, I felt a little shame, because they said, "Oh, if it was just Rebecca, she never would've been mugged." There was almost this sense of like, "She's so tough." You know what I mean? Like my strength was a repellent and that's been an interesting dance. Where people are drawn and repelled by strength.
And, so, yes, I think that was an interesting time where I started to own that. But that was a clear moment, it was almost like I just hear this God moment, of like, "If you're going to go." And I just didn't. I mean you were getting hurt and I was like, "Screw this."
Excuse me, but you're right about the fight and connecting it to producing and productivity. I don't know how to downshift and I'm just getting a handle of downshifting. It's like, "Okay."
Because I think even in one of our conversations, maybe, this year. You're like, "Rebecca, you don't always have to be improving, you are enough now." And I was like, "Oh, yes." It's like I never want to settle. And I'm like, "Oh, geez, I've breathed in with so many of the leaders I work with, and so many of the clients I work with, and my clinical work. That when am I enough?"
I'm like, "Oh, shoot, my enough, it was there when I was born."
And, so, how to separate that from I still want to refine, and grow, and push, but then even that can be its own drug of choice for me. And I have to sit with the discomfort of just being. And, so, I'm really trying to pay attention to that because I love to do, and create, and push, and challenge.
But then at what expense to myself, my wellbeing, the most important relationships, and rest, and play, those things that I used to laugh at. Like, "Oh, rest and play, that's for those wimpy folks that need to. This is my life, I work." Oh, my gosh, it's embarrassing that I think about it. But you know me, then, and it still comes up every now and then, too.
Alison: Well, this is the whole series, each of these productivity, whatever you want to call it, has its strengths, and I see, to this day, those strengths in you. You are going to show up. You've shown up for me at times when I'm like, "You shouldn't be showing up for me, you're tired."
As your friend I know this about you, you will show up. Even when you're exhausted, excellence, justice, all of these things are really beautiful, good qualities. And I think that's what's really hard about these parts of us because, and there's a cost.
Rebecca: There's a big.
Alison: There's a cost, we have to balance them out. And, so, again, going back to this moment, we've been circling around it. But there's this moment where there's a physical. You're walking into your therapist's office in crutches, and she says, "It's good to see you leaning on something."
And, again, even today I can see it in your face, you're shaking your head at yourself, "Yes, it took that." And even then, I know there was still many more, but it took that almost physicalizing something embodied to slow down just a little bit, which was still not quite easy for you.
Rebecca: And parenthood was the other big catalyst because for a while, then, I was finding work and family were at war with each other. And I'm like, "Oh, that's not working." And, so, a few years ago I really wanted to say, "Okay, my loves; what I love to do, and to give, to serve, to work, and my family are going to be on the same team. I'm not going to pivot them against each other."
But that's when I started realizing, if anything, it's taking me away from being the best partner. The best parent, and the best friend that I want to be, and community member, I need to rethink this. Because work was and producing was trumping it all and it was so reflexive.
Alison: Can you tell me a little bit about that? As a parent, how did you begin to notice that? What are some examples of when you noticed, "Oh, my gosh, the reflexive instinct here is something I've got to start to pay attention to."
Rebecca: Yes, and it's something that my husband Gavin and I talked about early on. He knows that I love to just create, and build, and try, and do new things. He knew it more about me than I did. It was a few years into the marriage. And I'm like, "I think I'm an entrepreneur."
And he's like, "Yes, like really." And then with kids, having kids, I realized many folks who've grown up in homes where there are a lot of challenges. I know, for me, going into parenthood, I knew more of what I didn't want to do than what I did. So I had a lot of things to learn there too.
Oh, and then being a trained psychotherapist with the trauma specialty, I was like, "Oh, it's all about presence. And, so, how am I showing up with my littles? How am I showing up with myself? And I can't do that if I'm spinning out and running around."
And then I started recognizing, "Oh, okay." And, so, it's just navigating that, and especially as they got a little bit older. I mean, some people have different phases they love for those who parent, or care-give, or are step-parents.
I mean, my kids are in their preteen and teen, and this is my sweet spot. But also just those moments of being with, and that's when I had to slow down, and then all of a sudden stuff came up. But also it was like, "Oh, I want to do things differently and I can't do it all."
I started realizing my capacities. I mean, when we're in our 20s it feels like we can just do about anything. When you're blessed with physical ability and health, you do that. And then just the fatigue. And my oldest daughter is on the autism spectrum and there were some other things coming around that, and I got really protective there.
And, so, I realized, "Okay, if this is a priority, to create the home and the safe space that I wanted for them." Then I needed to make some shifts in what I was valuing, what I was worshiping unintentionally, and started to really redefine what producing and productivity were. And, so, yes, I'm still untangling it from it all, but having kids was the next phase of that awakening.
Alison: I always love how intentional you are about those things. You become aware, you get intentional, you get the resources that you need. But I can imagine in the context of the childhood trauma.
The history around which this beautiful, again, entrepreneurial, creative, productive, can-do woman that God made you to be. This is good. This is a good part of you. But yet some of these ways in which it got extreme.
Alison: Out of a context of trying, it was your way out of pain for those early years. So, again, at every moment, and we know this to be true, that when we step back a little bit. Whether it's the pleasing, the perfecting, the performing, whatever it is, things come up because we do those things for a reason.
And, so, you have the value. You're like, "I want to be present for my kids, I know this is important. I've got to shift my relationship to work, to producing." What came up for you and how did you care for yourself, as you made that shift?
Because I think that's why it's hard for people to change and to shift, is things come up for us. For me, if I shift away from a little bit of that people-pleasing drive, and over time. I'm aware of it, and it's like, "Oh, yes, that's why I do it because it's scary."
Alison: There's stuff under the hood there.[00:30:04] < Music >
Alison: Have you checked out the Raising Boys & Girls podcast? Hosted by Sissy Goff, David Thomas, and Melissa Trevathan. They are three counselors who are serving kids and their parents in the Nashville, Tennessee area.
In each episode of this podcast, they share some of what they're learning in the work they do with kids and families, on a daily basis. Their goal is to help you, parents, care for your kids with a little more understanding, a little more practical help, and a whole lot of hope. Episodes are released every Tuesday, and you can find more information at raisingboysandgirls.com/podcast.[00:30:46] < End of part One. >
Part Two.[00:00:01] < Music >
Rebecca: It took me a good chunk of years to untangle myself from a lot of commitments, and spaces, and things that I developed. But I realized I needed to simplify, and I got really picky on what I was giving my attention to, and who I was giving my attention to, and that felt important. And it is still a challenge, and you and I've had many a conversation about social media on that area too.
But it involved a lot of reorganization with who was our inner circle. What does support look like for me? And I found a lot of support in the work spaces, but I was diving deep into Brené Brown's Daring to Lead community.
So I'm a certified facilitator and also a consultant, and I've done trainings for them. But to do that work you have to, it's like the self of therapist. And with IFS it's the same thing, it's a way of leaving. Shame, resilience, IFS, they're a way of living and being.
And, so, I was drawn to these methodologies that weren't just frameworks that I could teach. I had to live it if I was going to be a decent model for this, for anyone else who was wanting to learn it.
So it was this intuitive being drawn to the things that we needed to learn for ourselves. And, so, I was learning what I needed to learn also to help others learn it too. So these communities, that I'm a part of professionally, became the space. And at the same time, in my personal life, my husband and I had to get rid or do a big reorg.
Because we realized, to have our home be safe it meant setting tougher boundaries. Maybe with folks who felt entitled to our family because of being related, or proximity, or whatever, and being intentional about who we sought out. And it's harder to make friends and build community in that post-college era because everyone is so full and their schedules.
And I think that's the other thing, too, is I try not to stay busy. I don't want to be busy. I want my life to be full of things that I love and that are aligned, and I know that's a privilege and a gift. And sometimes we got to just do the things because we got to do the things, and adulting is what it is.
But that's become part of it too. And I had to do a lot of work with some of the voices I internalized of, "Who do you think you are to be..." Fill in the blank. And I came from a family where there's a lot of brilliant, talented people, but everyone was siloed to their one thing.
And, then, either this person is this, so that means you can't be that too. And I am a multiplicity of talents, and gifts, and things, but I didn't pursue them because that wasn't nurtured because I wasn't tapped with that. And, so, part of parenthood helped me discover that too. Because there's that thing awakened, that, kind of, Mama bear for me awakened. But, again, it took me quite a while to detangle.
So when Covid hit, I had been feeling for a while to simplify and began the process of scaling back, and released the brick and mortar that I'd been running, and the team of 10 that I'd been leading. And I started this business to help with leadership, coaching, and consulting. Which I've been dreaming about and working on for years before that, but solidified that so I could be home as much as I can as my kids were getting older.
But it's tricky, Alison, I still struggle to rest well and I'm really trying to build in practices, and I'm trying to check myself on what's the meaning and motivation of what's going on in my head. "Am I trying to create, or build, or cultivate something out of protection and fear?"
Or is it something that's coming up that it's, almost, like I cannot get it out. And that's what I've seen with other projects I've done. I have to just write it out, or create it, or sketch it out. And, so, I'm trying to get be better discerning of that and really trying to like butt on the couch watching a show, or reading a book, sketching, journaling, getting outside, just slowing that down.
Because I do love what I do but I'm starting to see I don't have to keep that drive that, as a young kid, that helped me, go, "I got to do something different. I got to find other mentors or other resources." That younger part can still show up, if she gets scared and feels disconnected from me.
Alison: Yes, and how does she, that younger part of you, as you rumble with this idea of rest.
Alison: How does she experience rest and play?
Rebecca: Hmm, okay, she's a real goofball and a real dork, and my kids don't always enjoy her, but I do. And I enjoy seeing my kids get annoyed with me or roll their eyes, and I have to watch that because I can push it a little much because it's so entertaining.
But, yes, I'm just a goofball. I lose that place when I let myself just let her lead a little bit. I'm not caring what other people think. It's awkward dance parties, singing at the top of my lungs. It's not editing myself, or on the other hand, it's a deep place of deep listening and curiosity.
I'm in a just a radical presence of, "Oh, my gosh, a new person, a new story, a new thing to learn." And it's like sitting criss-cross, applesauce around, and it's like, "Oh, tell me more." And there's just this joy, I love learning from other people and just listening to their stories, that just delights my system. Because that little girl likes to see herself in other stories or she gets a lot of perspective, from others' lived experiences.
Alison: I love that because, especially, for producers, I love that you're touching on this idea of rest. Rest is hard for a couple of reasons. Some of it is the self-imposed-
Rebecca: It sounds weak.
Alison: Yes, it sounds weak. Some of it is there's a lot of energy. I know when tap into the young producer performer in me, she's just full of energy. She wants to move. She wants to move. And, so, I've had to think about rest in a different way. And that's what I'm kind of hearing you say rest for her. That's why I was curious, what rest for her isn't necessarily putting her nose in a book, it might be.
I had to learn that rest doesn't, necessarily, mean sitting still in a quiet room. Rest for me might be a lot of movement, but just movement that's fun, and playful, and there's a lot of different ways we can rest.
Rebecca: Yes, I mean it's Tahoe for me. Lake Tahoe, which we discovered, I'm in San Diego now and I've lived in the Midwest, in the East coast, and I've lived in Europe. And, so, Tahoe's this beautiful mixture of some of the most significant parts of my life. And lake life is different than ocean life and has a different energy to it. There's a stillness inside, even when my body is moving in nature or when I am just listening to others.
Going to my Sunday school, just one of my spiritual practices, and just listening, really, watching my judgers or my defenders come up. Because it's this beautifully, it's diverse in theology, and political orientation, and socio-economic status. It's not very diverse in race, necessarily, but it's this place that helps get me out of my polarities.
And, so, these parts kind of all come with me and listen, and come, and we don't break bread together, but we're talking about the Word. And, then, my Sunday and school teacher will stir things up. And then parts of me like my know-it-all parts, my I-want-to-teach parts, my defense parts. And then there's just those little girl's, it's like, "Oh, what do they think?"
"And what do they think?" Or, "Oh, that wasn't very nice to say."
And, so, just sitting with that and delighting. But it really has been good to be in community too, and get out of, sometimes, the bubbles and the work zones that we can be, and in the echo chambers.
So maybe rest isn't the best word for it but that spiritual practice of just rubbing shoulders with people, and being in community that's not about creating, and producing, and productivity, and being identified by whatever titles or letters by my name. It's, "We are connecting and coming together." That fills my cup and it's life-giving, even when it's a little hard, if that makes sense too.
Alison: I love that. The word that comes to mind is curiosity. When you're just given permission to just be curious and just be present, without having to be anybody or do anything. And, again, that's energizing, it's life-giving.
It might not fit that classical definition of rest, but for you it's giving the young one inside of you instead of producing, or performing, or earning her words. She just gets to... I get this picture of her just Curious George, just super curious and enjoying that, delighting in that.
Rebecca: And what I've seen, especially, with the leaders that I most admire and the leaders that I get to work with. They're the ones that detox from the very dangerous personal and professional development messages, that we've all been sold and breathed, in over the years. About pushing through, and exiling our pain, and overcoming, and all of that stuff. And it's like once a bit and then coasting.
It's just so full of privilege and power over, and not full of that consent of those different parts of us that just want to be seen. And the leaders that I'm drawn to, and the leader that I want to be, is definitely one that's able to sit with a lot more of that presence, and that curiosity, and owning. Sitting with my discomfort in the presence of someone else's discomfort. And I can't do that if I'm trying to fix, strategize, mobilize, organize, I can't.
And, so, I'm finally getting it. I mean, I've read that, I've been taught that, and now it's starting to metabolize in my system more and integrate. And I think that's the gift of age, honestly. I think that's taken me a while to work through that and that's the gift of feeling a little bit more settled in that.
But I'm also seeing it with my kids though, too. My kids, they don't have all that stuff. They're carrying a lot from the times they're growing up. But when I see them listening. When I see them learning, I see them asking questions with abandon, and a lack of self-consciousness, that's beautiful. I didn't have that as a kid.
So seeing leaders who can create spaces for real sharing. For a welcoming of the mess, and the imperfection too, and for collective struggle. I was always taught that I had to do this on my own, the lone wolf. The very individualistic way of surviving and excelling. There's no I and team and just cheesy as that is, I forgot that for a long time because that's what I needed to do to survive and to be able to do something different.
And, so, when I am producing at the expense of connecting, or really the presence of witnessing someone, that does harm. And I've done that, and I, again, untangling from that, not intentional, but still the impact's not great. But when we're raised with, "Oh, you're producing, you're doing so much, you're so great." You just go into automatic pilot but we lose touch with who's in front of us.
Alison: Yes, that's beautiful. I love the picture of, it's interesting because you've told me a lot about that Sunday school class, and I never really pieced it together before that. But for you being there and giving yourself permission to be with all that's going on there. Without needing to take over, take charge, strategize, teach, instruct, just be with is a spiritual practice for you that makes so much sense to me.
Rebecca: You got it.
Alison: And it's being part of a community because being part of a community, when you're used to being an achiever, a producer, it can feel inefficient. At least to me, it can feel inefficient. It can feel messy like you're saying.
But I love almost the spiritual practice of being with, just watching, noticing. And even what you were saying there was that different energy. It's not judging, it's not criticizing, it's, "Oh, that wasn't nice." Just how kids are when they just state what's true. They're just, "Oh, ouch."
Rebecca: And saying that, hey, I noticed in me when that was said, this is what that brought up, versus, "You need to stop this if you were really a good Christian." And that's the circular leadership where the power is more egalitarian versus that hierarchical that you and I were raised on, on so many levels. And this top-down has just got me rethinking, it's about power too. There's so much about power because I felt like I was so powerless as a kid. And I had to do whatever I could to maintain some level of my own sense of power or to reclaim it.
Rebecca: And I think now, more than ever, with people there's just so much hurt. So much polarizations, and so much pain, that's where it's like, "Okay, that's the call on us to be able to sit with our discomfort so that we can sit with others." And I know that I can go into that produce/perform. I can put the smile on, I know how to appease. You and I, both, probably, we got PhDs in appeasing, but I also just want to be real.
And, so, I think that's the work and, so, there's something about rest that's very much connected in me being seen, and me being present. Me witnessing myself and what's going on with me, and allowing others to see that, outside of my identities that are related to work or producing.
Alison: That's beautiful. I mean, this is exactly this whole series. It's moving from managing the perceptions going in, "I'll be the can-do person here, which is exhausting for me and doesn't really lead me to the connections I so deeply need."
And, again, just that picture of you sitting in that circle with the freedom to say, "Oh, that didn't sit well with me." There's so many ways we can be authentic, we can be real, we can speak on behalf of what we're noticing inside of us. And you're doing such a good job, Rebecca, of it's all the stuff we talk about. It starts with being curious and compassionate with all of our own internal-
Rebecca: It's ground zero.
Alison: With all the things that go on inside of us, and that's what enables us to show up with other people, and sit with all that's going on in that room. All that's going on with our kids, all that's going on in our families, all that's going on in our church groups. Whatever the room is-
Rebecca: In the world.
Alison: In the world. Not silencing, not fleeing, not just caving, or fawning, which was my go-to. Not needing to fight, or lead, or take charge.
Rebecca: Not everything has to be a danged fight or debate.
Alison: Yes, but simply being present, and that's where we start to feel real connection. We build that safety inside of ourselves, that allows us to be in a room where we don't require perfection to feel safe. We need enough, we need a critical mass of safety, sure, but then we can be in that room and be present to ourselves. Present to others with that same curiosity and compassion.
Rebecca: Can I add one more thing, though? I think that's important to this too. For me, for so long, too, I was raised in a mixed faith home. But I didn't really start my own faith journey until the end of high school. And for so long, the messages I got around faith was, "If you believed then life was good."
"If you had faith and if things were struggling, I was doing something wrong."
And, so, that message played upon my producing, and performing, and productivity parts. It's like, "Oh, if there's struggle then I got to figure out what flaw is in me." This deficiency versus kind of the more Imago Dei model of really seeing myself as an image bearer. And those around me as an image bearer, regardless of even how they identified in their faith journey.
And, so, for me, there was a lot of that unhooking of some of those messages that I had to... or of this image of, "if I am going to be a success I have to have it all together, and I can't show the underbelly of my humanity."
And I'm not saying all the things all the time, some things are just sacred and private, but I had to start owning it myself. And I was exiling my story because it didn't fit this narrative of what it meant to be a good follower of Christ.
And, so, that was also a big part for me to allow myself to downshift and to be able to find more rest. When I realized to lean into what God said to Jesus right after He was baptized, "You are my beloved, and with you I am well pleased."
This was right after He was baptized but before, at least, what we know, of all the miracles, all the things He did, "You are my beloved, and with you I am well pleased." That was right after... I was like, "Okay." So there's something about that, that it took a while to metabolize, too. But I think that plays a role in it for me in my journey too.
Alison: Yes, we can Christianize our hustle, I hear you on that, and that's a really good word. There's a lot of layers there, thank you so much for that. I'm curious, What would you want to say to that younger you, whether it's the 15-year-old, absorbing all of those tropes about the lone wolf, shoulder-pad wearing female hero. What would you say to her now?
Rebecca: I would say, "You probably aren't going to take this in, but this doesn't have to be the path. And I'm here for you when you're ready to listen." Because I wouldn't have listened, I just know her, I should have been.
I'm a redhead and I live up to the stereotype of stubbornness, but I just would've said, "I'm here. I'm here a little sooner maybe to her. I'll be just like, "There are other ways, when you figure it out that this isn't working. You don't have to keep pushing one result or one outcome, and I'm here to listen, and I'm here to be with you when you're ready."
Alison: Sounds like wise parenting. The non-shame based, non-power over. Just, "I see what's happening. I know you and I'm here, when you're ready."
Rebecca: When you're ready to listen.
Alison: Yes, I love it. What would you to say to others who are listening, who struggle with producing, performing, for their worth?
Rebecca: I'm here for you when you're ready to downscale, I'm just kidding. I see you. I see you. There's another way. I guess depending on where you're at in your relationship with your awareness of all this. Just to know that there is another way and this is said a lot, but your worth is never on the table for a negotiation.
We're the ones that put it on the table for others to have an opinion on it and to appraise us. And reclaiming that is one of the scariest and most empowering things you'll ever do, is detaching from the world's having an opinion on you, and your worth, and your faith, and your identity, as a human, as a follower of Christ, whatever it is you may be doing and that's the work.
And to be so picky on who you allow to have a say into your life and what you allow to have be said, be discerning. Not out of fear and instead to have an open but guarded heart in the process too. And I will say girlfriends, for me, friends are the best, if you're a female listening to this.
I mean, Alison, our reconnecting after all our years and our conversations have been medicine to my soul just to be able to. There was the most integrated conversation. So finding one or two people that you can really show up and not edit, is the beginning. Where you're not filtering and just saying the things, and getting seen and loved in that place is really a powerful and healing place to be.
Alison: I love that, and just that reminder it's quality not quantity, when it comes to those key friends, those unedited friendships. It doesn't have to be a ton; one is life changing.
Rebecca: You got it.
Alison: Rebecca, thank you so much just for being so honest and so real. I know we've barely scratched the surface. If you've been someone who just feels that tension in your body of, "I can get the job done."
It's a hard journey. It's a long journey to begin to release, and it doesn't mean you stop being productive. You're one of the most productive people I know. It means you relate to how you show up as a productive person in a different way. Tell us what's bringing out the best of you, right now?
Rebecca: I mean, some of this is cheesy like being instead of doing. Being with instead of doing for. My word of the year, or words of the year, slow and bold and slow. So slowing down and not overcommitting my schedule has been a beast to detangle, and then being bold in that place.
I think people, like I said, my friendship with you, my relationship with my family, my Sunday school, my neighbors, my mom friends. And, honestly, I've always valued this about me, but being around folks who have different views on things is a huge value of mine. I've had it from a young age, whether it's different faith, political, worldview, you name it, that brings out the best of me.
So that I don't get into my head or I'm always challenging my beliefs. So that either I know I need to rethink them or I feel more anchored in what I believe. So I can always want to be pursuing and refining, but I think that that's important.
And I, honestly, like many people I work with, I knew who I was supposed to be, and what I was supposed to value, and what I was supposed to do. And it's just taken me a while to figure out who I am, what I really love, what really matters.
"Out of the heart flows the well spring of life." Those desires of our heart that I squelched down to try and fit in. And, so, I really just think taking that time to be with people, books, TV shows, experiences. Live music is my love language right now, and that's where I go, "Okay, I like me, I connect with me, I'm proud."
When we walk away from people or experiences where we feel less than or smaller, it's amazing what we tolerate, Alison. It is amazing what we tolerate in the name of things that we've deemed good, but just stop tolerating. Just stop tolerating and speaking truth to BS, and speaking truth to BS with love.
Alison: I love that. What needs and desires are you working to protect?
Rebecca: I think there's something about getting older, but my needs and desires to be present with my family, with the clients that have invested their trust in me, and treasured friendships, my health, and my calendar. I am trying to create more space in my calendar, that's my word for 2023, is space. Space and pace, which is you know me, that's going to be an adventure.
Alison: Wait, you went from slow and bold this year, to space and pace next year?
Rebecca: That's the fruits of this year, yes, it's nice.
Rebecca: Yes, trying not to over commit because there are the big things I want to create and I want to do. And I realized I have lived outside of my margin and my capacity for so long. Being a high producer, just like many of the clients I work with, we don't know we're in crisis and we're overwhelmed till we're hanging off the cliff by a pinky.
Rebecca: And even then we're just like, "Oh, my pinky is sore." Versus, "We're hanging off the cliff." So I don't want to be that way anymore, so I'm protecting. The full body sacrifice is not okay unless...
I mean, again, like I said, I'll jump in. If you're getting mugged, I'll jump in. If I know you and I'm there, I will jump in, that's a certain kind of full body sacrifice. But the day-to-day because of the grind of culture, and the shoulds, and the have-tos that aren't aligned with values, no. That take me away from the most important relationships, I am fighting for that.
Alison: I love that, and also because you are someone who's so whole body, all in. All the more reason the space and pace is needed to protect because you will be that person. And I've said it time, you will show up, I know you will. Therefore, you have to make sure you're protecting that space.
How can people find you, Rebecca, connect with you, your podcast?
Rebecca: Yes, wherever you love to listen to podcasts, you can subscribe to the Unburdened Leader. And if you listen and are impacted by an episode, I'd be honored for you to leave a review and a comment, I want to hear from you.
You can also follow me an Instagram @rebeccachingmft, or sign up for my weekly Unburdened Leader Email at www.rebeccaching.com.
Alison: Thank you so much for being here, you're the best.
Rebecca: Ah, it's been an honor my friend, I appreciate you.[00:25:54] < Outro >
Alison: Thank you for joining me for this episode of The Best of You. Be sure to check out the show notes for any resources and links mentioned in the show. You can find those on my website at dralisoncook.com. That's Alison with one L- cook.com.
Before you forget, I hope you'll follow the show now so that you don't miss an episode. And I'd love it if you'd go ahead and leave a review, it helps so much to get the word out. I look forward to seeing you back here next Thursday. And remember, as you become the best of who you are, you honor God, you heal others and you stay true to your God-given self.
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