Anxiety isn’t necessarily a fun topic to talk about, but it’s pertinent to most people’s lives. In this episode, Heather Rider, anxiety expert and The Energy Synergist, joins Jason Wrobel and Whitney Lauritsen to talk about finding peace and emotional balance amidst anxiety and rampant mental health issues. Heather shares her background in dealing with mental health issues and her own experience having high-functioning anxiety, perfectionism, and impostor syndrome. Heather dives into the holistic approach to her healing and why western medicine didn’t work for her. Learn the difference between anxiety, feeling stressed, and feeling anxious and how to approach your own mental health through alternative medicine. Tune in as Jason, Whitney, and Heather dig deeper into the connection of mental health and nutrition and how your body is connected to your emotional realm.
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Finding Peace And Emotional Balance: Healing Anxiety And Other Mental Health Struggles With Heather Rider
One thing that I’ve noticed is when I’m struggling with something in my life, it seems that hidden and unseen forces, people or resources come to the rescue when I’m feeling anxiety, stress, insomnia or any of the mental health issues that we’ve discussed here on the show. I was having a conversation with Whitney and some other friends about the level of anxiety I’ve been feeling. I don’t know if my computer and my phone is listening to me. That’s probably another topic we can discover and discuss.
Something popped up with Dr. Gabor Maté about anxiety. He was discussing this interesting and in-depth perspective about anxiety coming from the traumas and pain of our childhood. The anxiety we feel in adulthood is a compensatory mechanism to deal with the root of anxiety that we experienced as a child but never overcame. Lo and behold, I get a meme sent to me from a friend which is from Ram Dass who passed away. He said in this quote, “Where you are now with all your neuroses and your problems, you’re sitting in just the right place.”
It’s interesting because, Heather, when we discovered your work, and Whitney and I were reading about what you do and how you support people, it’s like, “Anxiety, sleepless nights, stress, depression, too much chatter in the head.” It was like, “We need to have her on. We’re stoked to have this conversation with you, Heather. Much like those other resources, it seems that you are here with us and it’s perfect timing.
Thank you. I am excited to be here. While anxiety isn’t necessarily a fun topic to talk about, it is pertinent to most people’s lives, especially anyone’s life because we all know people who are struggling with mental health issues.
It’s heartbreaking. We know in society, there are many factors that contribute to mental health struggles. We certainly talked a lot about that here on the show. Whitney, you sent me an article about 1 in 4 young people, Millennials and Gen Z, are experiencing suicidal ideation. You were the one who sent that to me.
I’ve been reading about that a lot. We did one episode, the 25 ways that anxiety manifests in our lives and keeps us distant from other people.
It’s a curious thing, Heather. We see things like depression, suicidal ideation and mental health issues coming to the forefront via a lot of maybe celebrities, actors, athletes talking more openly about this. With COVID, the quarantine and everything we’ve gone through in 2020, these statistics and these studies that are coming out are concerning. My question in terms of anxiety and your work, what was it about your story, history, and your experience with anxiety that led you to focus on this?
I have an interesting background because I had high functioning anxiety. I was not familiar with the term and I didn’t know such a thing existed and I didn’t know that I had anxiety. To me, I thought anxiety looked a certain way. A person with anxiety would look like this externally or would say or do these sorts of things. High functioning anxiety is that I was high functioning in the world. I thought that I was stressed out all the time. I thought, “It’s because I’m a single mom and I have a demanding job.” Fill in the blank with all of the life things that we have in American society where we’re, “Go, go, go.” I didn’t realize that I had been suffering from anxiety for a long time. It took a dramatic wake up call for me in the form of a strong autoimmune reaction where I got sick and for me to start addressing all of the reasons that my body started breaking down, which were emotional reasons. I didn’t know that at the time. That process led me to become aware of high functioning anxiety and how it had been running my life for years.
That reminds me of how it seems like anxiety has been coming up so much in the media, on social media, and articles as the reference. It’s becoming a hotter topic on podcasts. One thing I’m curious about from both of your perspectives is whether you think that it is growing awareness of anxiety is helping people recognize that they have anxiety and/or do some people categorize themselves as having anxiety when it might be something else? I’m curious for you, Heather, and also for you, Jason, how did you figure out what exactly was going on for you? I love this concept of high functioning anxiety, which is not a term I hear often either. I’m glad you brought that up. Did you start to notice that other people that might not even be “diagnosed” with this yet or might not realize that they have it? Do you have any thoughts on how there are a lot of people throwing around that term anxiety and maybe not always using it in a proper way for lack of better word? Are people using it flippantly? It’s like, “I have anxiety.”
You asked many relevant questions because there is a difference between stress, feeling anxious and having anxiety. People get those all muddled up and mixed up together. Oftentimes, people are thinking about stress and when I tell them I work with people who have anxiety and that I’m an anxiety specialist, I’ve heard this multiple times, they’ll say, “Isn’t anxiety good to have?” They’re thinking about stress and how sometimes being in a stressful situation can be motivating. It can light a fire under your tooshie. It’s the thing that’s propelling you to get something done.
You succinctly said all of the things that people are wondering and what they’re confused about. Stress is a response to an external cause. Like a deadline at work, that’s common for adults or, “I have two kids and they both have to be somewhere at the same time. I can’t possibly drive them both.” Those things. There’s feeling anxious and then there is having anxiety, which is a perpetual chronic state that one is in and it is not something that somebody wants to have. It’s like the comment I said where someone is like, “Isn’t anxiety a good thing?” Anxiety is perpetual and it’s not just stress and it’s not feeling anxious.My body was the catalyst for the emotional realm. Click To Tweet
You mentioned the emotional connection with your experience, Heather, in your story of working in a corporate job and the environment you were in. I’d also love to know more about how you learned that it was anxiety that leads to this autoimmune condition. What was that approach like for you from obviously recognizing the mind-body connection? How did you unravel the layers of that? Was it going to therapy and learning about some unresolved trauma or things from your childhood as I referenced with Dr. Maté’s work? Did you experiment at all with maybe pharmaceutical drugs to address it? Did you go straight to holistic remedies? How did you break that down? When you get something like that, it’s like, “What do I do with this?”
To me, it’s similar to when I was diagnosed with clinical depression years ago. We’ve talked about this on the show. I also want to answer Whitney’s question that she asked. My perception of stress, depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, that was a thick sandwich that I had to go through and dissect for myself. I’m curious when you receive that information, what was it about that you were like, “How do I tackle this? Do I go pharmaceutical? Do I go to therapy? Do I go holistic?” That’s a long-winded question but I also want to make sure I covered it correctly.
I started to unravel things and while I was unraveling them, I didn’t know what I was doing. It’s in hindsight that I learned all of the things that I talk about. The autoimmune reaction, it most likely was an actual disorder of some sort. I had also been prescribed and overused antibiotics over the years, which decimates your gut flora. I had a huge number of things happen all at one time. I had high functioning anxiety even though I didn’t know it. At a particular time in my life, I had a series of serious things happen. My mother was diagnosed with cancer. My younger daughter was having some severe health issues and problems in school. I then started to get sick. When that happened, it tipped my body over into having the autoimmune reaction. I had been on the cusp of it a number of times. Looking back, I realized that. It was the severe stress that my nervous system went kablooey and it tipped me over into being sick.
What happened is I went to some doctors to try and get help and they wanted to put me on more antibiotics. I knew that was part of why I was sick. I quickly gave up on Western medicine. I was doing a ton of research on my own and trying to figure out how to heal the gut and various things like that. I realized I cannot trust doctors. I was asking them for tests and they didn’t even know what I was talking about. I radically changed my diet and started taking a number of supplements and realizing that I had some mental things that were going on. I finally started to recognize it, it’s the simplest way to say it. I went the holistic route. When I started having the open mind of recognizing that all of the things that I had been doing for so long weren’t working anymore, that’s when I started to change. The subconscious stuff that had been shoved down for so long started to come up to the surface because I was ready to address it.
That sounds like your story, Jason, when you realized that through getting some tests done that there were some nutritional imbalances happening and supplements were helpful for you.
It was the first link in exploring nutritional psychology where having been obsessed with food, nutrition, and wellness as we are here on the show, for me, it was the first-ever time that I was like, “What I eat, whether it’s probiotic foods, artificial foods or specific supplements, is directly affecting my neurochemistry.” As you alluded to, Heather, Whitney and I talk about probiotics and how much we love probiotic supplements all the time. When I got diagnosed, it was one of those lightbulb moments. It does depend on my nutritional intake, my vitamins, minerals, my omega fatty acids, the probiotics, and taking out some of the stimulants that were creating some neurochemical imbalances in my body.
Whitney and I have a dear friend named Ariana, who lives in Philadelphia, who’s a psychotherapist. I had a conversation with her and she was even saying in her field that the nutrition and mental health connection is still in an embryonic stage. It’s not something that’s radically discussed in the psychotherapy field. It’s just starting to get some momentum. It sounds like you had a similar experience like, “What I eat does matter for my mental health.”
Looking back, I would say that is absolutely true. At the time, I was trying anything. It’s the best way to say it. I knew that I couldn’t count on Western medicine. I was doing so much research. I knew that I needed to start taking probiotics. I had not ever done that before. I thought that I had been eating healthy because I was comparing my diet to a lot of other people’s diets that I knew, but I wasn’t eating that healthy. It was interesting. When I started to focus on healing my body, there was this leap over into an emotional space that is hard to describe that occurred for me. When I was willing to look introspectively at all the things that weren’t working, my body was the catalyst into the emotional realm.
It was the severe illness that my mother had and what I was grappling with my daughter, the ways in which I was trying to control things for example, which is common with someone with high functioning anxiety. I couldn’t control everything anymore. When your life is out of control, things start to break down because the coping mechanisms that I had didn’t work anymore. I was focused on healing my body that some of those other control things that I was doing in terms of emotional control, I didn’t have the capacity for anymore. Things started to shift for me in a lot of unexpected ways.
One of the things that I know you’re interested in talking about, Heather, is perfectionism and imposter syndrome. This is a great time to bring those up because we can get into such a state of wanting to be perfect physically, mentally, and emotionally. I have certainly been through this a lot myself. Sometimes I feel like that gets in the way of me figuring out what’s best for me. If I find myself being focused on what other people are doing, it becomes hard for me to figure out what’s best for me. I can assume that what works for somebody is going to work for me or I might assume that they did it this way so that will work for me. If I don’t get those results, I can feel disappointed in myself. It’s like, “I must be doing something wrong. Why is it working for them and not for me?” Did that show up along your journey as well?
I was in uncharted territory, which in a lot of ways, was great for somebody who had struggled with perfectionism. Perfectionism, imposter syndrome, and high functioning anxiety is this little trifecta. I think of it as a triangle. They tend to go on altogether. Because I was stepping into experimenting with food, supplements, and trial and error, that gave me a lot of freedom in a way that there wasn’t a perfectionist way to do it because it wasn’t, “You should do this. You should do that.” I was trying all sorts of things that I was reading about on paleo blogs and different sources of information. I was trying lots of different things. That is how I was able to start to have the emotional healing that I didn’t know that I needed. How you asked that, Whitney, was interesting because no one else has ever asked that before. You helped me have an insight. Following something, a textbook is perfectionism. There was no textbook for me because I was trying all sorts of different things to heal my body. That probably gave me a lot of freedom that I didn’t even realize I needed.
That’s true, too. It seems that maybe it can be one or the other for a lot of people. Some people are comfortable experimenting and trying things out for themselves. We’re also in a time with so much information that it’s easy to find solutions that work for somebody else and then try to do them yourself. It depends on your relationship with that trial and error. It sounds like you, Heather, are comfortable trying something and if it doesn’t work, you can pivot. Some people may try something and it doesn’t work for them and then they get stuck in that feeling of despair like, “I did it wrong. Nothing is ever going to work.”
I was talking to a friend of mine who’s gained a significant amount of weight and she wants to lose it to get back to what she feels is a healthy weight for her body. She was describing that process as feeling desperate because she’s tried so much. The doctors aren’t giving her answers and things aren’t working. She wants to find that thing that’s going to work for her. That can come up a lot for us too with our mental health. Jason, you’ve experienced that to an extent. There are times where you sound empowered and you’re on the right path. For your body, you struggled with gout and trying to figure that out. It seems like you go through these up and down periods too, where you’re trying a lot and you haven’t found that solution. What do you do, Jason, when you get to that point? How do you manage that from a place of not getting into a depressive state at all?
I personally have to work around the core of what we’re talking about, which is a certain amount of “doing it right.” I have perfectionistic tendencies that manifest in terms of taking care of myself. I’m taking all the right supplements. I’m doing the right workout routine. I’m meditating every day. I’m writing my affirmations. I’m eating my organic food. It’s a confronting thing when I feel like I’m checking off all the boxes, proverbially speaking, of what I ought to be doing. Moreover that, I have an expectation that by checking off all those boxes and “doing it right,” that’s going to lead to a specific outcome. The expert, the doctor or my own research said that if I do this and this in combination with this and this, and this food, this modality and this routine, then my result ought to be what I expect it to be. The challenge is when all of those things get ticked and the result isn’t there, it’s like, “What do I do now?”
It’s tough for me sometimes because in investing, weeks, months, years, and a lot of money into certain things, particularly, holistic remedies, it can be frustrating. It’s like, “I spent all this money and all this time and I didn’t get the result I wanted.” Especially in terms of healing and I suppose that I’ve found over the years that if I can allow the frustration and disappointment to move through me and let it go. I’m willing to get back on my feet and do a new experiment whether that’s been the depression and the suicidal ideation, gout, or some other health challenges I’ve had. It’s been a process of, you tried it and it didn’t work. What’s next? You’re going to be a little disappointed. It’s okay. Try it again. It’s being radically willing to experiment over and over again. I suppose that’s been my tack on it.
I want to commend you because you said some things that are important. Each human is different in our body, chemistry, and our makeup. Thinking back to the time that I was sick, there were definitely times where I thought I should be getting better a lot faster. I don’t know why I thought that. Where was the gauge? This needle should be over here. When you put in so much effort and you want an outcome, it can be frustrating. We have to give ourselves some grace and say, “I’m trying something and it’s not the mainstream.” We’ve talked about medication. It has come up a few times in this conversation, pharmaceuticals.When your life is out of control, then things start to break down. Click To Tweet
I didn’t consider pharmaceuticals because I didn’t realize that I had emotional-based work that needed to be done. I thought it was all physical but I can say there are a number of my clients who definitely tried pharmaceuticals and it doesn’t work for them. It’s interesting when we’re talking about whether I should take this pill and that means I’m going to feel better or it’s what you said, this whole protocol, I should feel better. We are individuals and we are unique so the willingness to recognize when something’s not working and know that we do have to try something for a set amount of time.
I don’t know what that is because we can’t do something for a week and expect monumental change. If you’ve been doing something, whatever that is pretty diligently and committed for quite a while and you’re not seeing results, maybe it’s time to pivot a bit. These are things that your readers are going to have to think about, but it is a willingness to stay committed to the process and know that it’s a process. If you keep coming back to knowing that you’re trying to heal yourself, either your physical body, mental wellness or whatever it is, that dedication is a huge part of success.
How do you help people make the leap between ingrained scientism? I’ve seen that term being levied around by people that are like, “Western medicines are the way. Pharmaceuticals are the way. I’m going to take a pill and be done with it.” For a large part of our American culture, that seems to be the mentality of millions of Americans. It’s, “Give me a pill and I’ll be done with it. I don’t have time to bleed. I’ve got to move on with my day. I’ve got stuff to do.” To make the leap, I suppose for a person who’s skeptical, who comes in and he’s like, “We’re going to talk about energy, healing, Reiki, some meditation or spirituality.” What’s the best approach to work with a skeptic like that who’s like, “My wife told me to come in and whatever. I’m doing it for her?” That’s a cliché example, but someone who might be in that frame of mind. What to do with a skeptic who’s never been exposed to alternative medicine or energy medicine. What’s the approach to that?
I don’t work with skeptics. When most people come to me it is because they’ve tried something more traditional. They have tried pharmaceuticals as an example and they did not feel better or they’ve been working with, let’s say, a therapist for a long time and feel they should have made more progress than they have made with that person. They are usually ready for something different because they’ve tried other avenues. I have had people come into my office and they have a prescription in their purse that they have gotten for pharmaceutical and they don’t want to start taking it. They’re like, “I’m going to try something else first.” Your question though is valid. I work with people who want to work with me. This is my philosophy about life. I’m not motivated by trying to change people’s minds about things. Usually, when I talk about my own journey and my clients’ successes, that is enough for people who want to try something different.
It’s interesting because not wanting to change someone is a different intention. Certainly, with a lot of the work that Whitney and I do, have done and continue to do, we do get pushback from people sometimes. Perhaps you experienced this too, Heather, that sometimes on social media or on the internet. There’s a lot of pushback for things that people aren’t used to or haven’t been exposed to in their lives. It’s wonderful what you said. You offer gifts, services, talent and perspective, but you’re not going to be heavy-handed about it. You’re not going to try and convince someone who isn’t open energetically. With our work around mindfulness, nutrition, healing and wellness, we’ve definitely experienced that too. People are like, “No. I don’t believe you. You’re full of crap.” It’s like, “I’m not going to spend my life force trying to convince you of something.” That takes a lot of discernment to be like, “I trust that the people that are ready to work with me will find me and I don’t have to push, cajole, convince or overpower someone to see my perspective.”
There are so many people on the planet and there is someone for everyone. That can be a broad way to say something but it’s true. There is a practitioner for everyone, a diet for everyone, and all of these things that we have been talking about. From a business owner’s perspective, I want to work with people who are motivated and ready to change their lives. This is an energetic conversation, but I tend to magnetize a certain type of person because they are the person who wants to work with me and is ready. This commitment level that I mentioned is coming up again where people are ready to make positive changes in their life and are dedicated to trying something and getting closer to where they want to be.
I’m curious too, about how the imposter syndrome plays into your work, Heather. Is this something that you personally experience or you did experience? Is this something that you commonly see when working with clients? How does that play a role in healing? When I think about the imposter syndrome, I think about business. I love that you’re talking about getting new clients and how it seems to come to you easily and people are attracted to you and that’s such a beautiful thing.
A lot of people struggle with the imposter syndrome when it comes to doing the things that they love in the world but not feeling they’re good enough. Trying something and being afraid that other people are going to notice that they don’t have it all figured out. They don’t deserve something which comes up a lot on this show from a spiritual context and our relationships with managing our careers. Do you feel that imposter syndrome comes up during the healing process from a personal level?
The perfectionism that we talked about, high functioning anxiety in particular, and imposter syndrome do tend to go together. I work with high achieving women. That is my main clientele so these things are all wrapped up together that when perfectionism is at play, that’s when the imposter syndrome is showing up. It can be professional, but it can also be personal too because oftentimes people have personal pursuits that they are interested in. Maybe they have a creative pursuit that they do outside of work, something artistic is something that I have heard. I had one client in particular who worked in finance, but she wanted to be a writer. In her free time, that’s what she did, but she didn’t feel she was good enough to be a writer because she didn’t have a writing degree. She didn’t have a background in writing so she dismissed herself in this passion of hers outside of work.
I’ve also had other clients who have imposter syndrome around being a mom, which is interesting because they’re comparing themselves to other moms that they know where they think “a good mom” would do this. A good mom is supposed to cook dinner. A good mom should do these sorts of things. They get imposter syndrome around their parenting. Someone can have imposter syndrome about anything and we go back to the conversation about perfectionism so we can see where that imposter syndrome is coming from. It’s having this idealized view of what something is or isn’t supposed to be and having perfectionist tendencies that are leading us to this probably unattainable way that something is going to show up in the world.
That’s so interesting, the way that you describe them. That shows up in life more often than I realized, especially I feel that there’s a lot of pressure on parents. I don’t know if you work with male clients. It sounds like your clients may be predominantly female, correct me if I’m wrong, but I wonder if that comes up for men too. It’s not something that I hear people talk about as much. What do men experience when it comes to being a father? Do they have the imposter syndrome too?
Most of my clients are women and I have heard some men talk about imposter syndrome. It’s been related to work. I have not heard them talk about it related to being a father. Maybe Jason knows some dads and can give us some input.
I do know a few younger dads that they feel like they’re “doing it wrong.” They admit to me that they don’t know what they’re doing. They feel I suppose lost in the woods for lack of a better term and maybe those are the men that are willing to be more honest. I tend to have open, sensitive, emotionally connected relationships with a lot of the men I’m close to which I feel blessed about that. There are a few dads that they’ve confided in me that they often feel lost, confused, unsure what to do, that they’re making it updated day-to-day which is an honest way to communicate their level of parenting. I don’t know that they feel they compare themselves to other dads. That’s not one thing that I’ve heard, but they feel lost and not doing a good job.
For me, if I examine my fears around fatherhood and parenthood, there’s a deep-seated fear that I’m going to screw them up. I’ve talked to a lot of friends about this. There’s a deep fear that even if I do my best, I’m somehow going to screw my child up, which I don’t know if that’s imposter syndrome per se. Maybe a lack of belief in myself and my ability to guide a child through this world but it is something that men have confided in me that they feel they’re not doing a good job as a dad. They feel that they’re bad fathers.
It’s fascinating and I invite more people to discuss that openly because it’s interesting how social media and the media, in general, will shape a lot of these conversations but there’s so much happening in people’s lives that is universal. If it’s not discussed, we can often feel we’re the only ones experiencing it. That’s one of our big goals with the show. It’s to talk openly about these things so it gives permission for others to feel that sense of community and talk about it too. Another thing on the note of the imposter syndrome, because I know you had done a virtual workshop is what you call it.
You shared a story about being a high school librarian and I love that because my first official job was in high school working in a library so I have a fondness for librarians, the library experience, and how many libraries continue to make a huge impact in my life. I now borrow books virtually through this amazing platform called Libby. I’m using the library in some capacity almost every single day of my life. That’s a little personal side note for you. You said that when you walked into that career, you felt so overwhelmed. I’m curious how that story shaped the work that you’re doing now and how you made that transition from working as a librarian to your work.We can't do something for a week and expect monumental change. Click To Tweet
I’ve had imposter syndrome two times in my life distinctly. One was when I went to be a high school librarian. I had been working at an elementary school for a couple of years and I went into high school. One would think, “I got this.” I felt confident about being a librarian. I have a Master’s degree in Library and Information Science and when I went to go to work in elementary school, I felt confident. When I walked into a high school and it was extremely different and I didn’t have a support system. To make it a short story, when I walked into the actual library and the teacher work week before school starts, there had been a lot of changes in high school in the physical building. They had moved a lot of equipment around and when I had been given a tour of the library, they didn’t show me this huge back room where a bunch of stuff had been shoved.
I get my key, the day that I start and I walk in and it looked a tornado had hit in this back room. I’m not exaggerating. I had this massive overwhelm when I opened this door to the scene. I was like, “What is going on? What am I supposed to do with this?” I remember standing there wanting to cry and feeling like I don’t know what I am supposed to do. I am overwhelmed and I definitely would cry now but I wouldn’t even go in the bathroom and cry then. I didn’t know that I was struggling with imposter syndrome at that moment, this huge feeling of I don’t know what I am doing. That happened later in life as well because you’re asking how did I wind up doing what I am doing.
I’ve had an interesting career working in technology in Austin, being a school librarian, and moving back to Austin to get back into technology. That is when I had imposter syndrome again. I got a job through networking with somebody that I had worked with before. It had been years since I had worked in technology and things change fast in technology. I remember having this job and feeling grossly inadequate. I did not know what I was doing. One day I was sitting at work and it felt like I was in a movie and that was my life. That’s the only way I can describe it. It felt almost like an out of body experience. I was sitting there doing the work, but I felt I was pretending to do the work. It felt like there was a film crew around me or something. It was bizarre.
I don’t know what I searched in Google but I searched something related to how I was feeling and this result came back for imposter syndrome. I read it and I was like, “That is me. This thing has a name and other people feel this way. I had no idea. This is a common theme.” I was struggling with a lot of things that I didn’t know had names that other people felt. I knew that that was holding me back in my career so I hired a life coach to help me get past the imposter syndrome and we had some amazing sessions that busted through it.
Speaking of imposter syndrome, because technology is predominantly masculine energy and it’s a male-dominated industry, in Austin, there’s a lot of conversation around imposter syndrome. I still live in Austin because it’s a tech town and I love it when the conversations are coming up, because this is when people are realizing, “This is common. I’m not the only one who feels this way.” It is these dialogues that we’re having and when people are talking amongst themselves that is how people can start to make a positive change in their life.
You may have an interesting influx of a lot of new clients soon, Heather. I was sent a website by a colleague of mine in Brooklyn. It’s a website called Transplant.to. It’s an open-source hub for people talking about where they’re moving to and from in the United States and why they’re moving. One of the biggest things that I noticed was a massive amount of people coming from San Francisco, New York City/Brooklyn, and Los Angeles to Austin. It’s an incredible number of people that are flooding into Austin.
I’m curious, it’s a little bit off-topic, but also on-topic, of with that many professionals coming from LA, SF, New York City and coming into Austin, what do you feel about in terms of how that might alter the culture of where you live and also with the work you’re doing? The competition for jobs, resources and people who are like, “I’m getting out of these crazy expensive cities.” That’s a multi-part question of how does that hit you? Do you anticipate that maybe you’ll be seeing an influx of clients with that many people moving there? Also, maybe feeling that imposter syndrome and feeling the stress of the competition to find work there after leaving their city.
I’ve lived in Austin twice and it is slightly off-topic. Austin used to be a small little college funky town. It has changed a lot over the past number of years because there are many people moving here. It’s hard for any city that has massive growth to maintain its “vibe.” When more people are moving in from these big cities like San Francisco, there are a lot of extremely well-known tech companies. When you have new people moving into town, yes, there are jobs coming because companies are relocating but it does bring up imposter syndrome. The company is moved here, but all the other people are moving here too, so it’s the pool of applicants. The job descriptions that are written themselves make people feel like an imposter.
That’s something that I have heard multiple times. People get imposter syndrome just from looking at job postings because a recruiter will write it and will say, “I want five years of experience doing this and seven years of experiencing doing that.” Somebody looks at this job posting and thinks, “I’m not qualified. They’re not even going to consider me.” This is interesting. Someone that was a participant in a workshop that I lead got a job but he didn’t have all of the qualifications that he saw in the job listing. When he started, he had imposter syndrome. He felt like he wasn’t good enough because he wasn’t what they wanted. They settled for him as what he felt like.
He got hired. That’s fascinating. Feeling like he ought not to be there, in that sense of, “I got hired, but they must have made the wrong decision.” That level of imposter syndrome where you find yourself in a situation and you’re like, “I’m not supposed to be here.”
He felt like, “Why did they hire me? Because I didn’t have all of the qualifications they were looking for, they settled for me.” He did feel like he didn’t belong there and then he felt like there was this expectation that he should know something that he didn’t know. Not having a growth mindset of saying, “I know they wanted this so these are some things I’m going to have to learn.” He felt like he started out at a deficit.
It’s interesting because I can identify with exactly what you’re talking about where I have found myself in situations in my life. Whitney, I’m curious if anything comes to your mind too, in terms of imposter syndrome. The two immediate things that come to mind, and I’m sure there are many more, is when I went to culinary school and I remember being up in Mendocino and ready to start the first day of culinary school. I remember looking at my knife roll, with all my chef’s knives, and I was sitting in this little cabin I was renting up in Northern California. Before the first day of school, I’m being like, “What am I doing here? I’m not a chef. I don’t know what I’m doing. I can barely make pasta with marinara sauce. This is crazy.” The other time was when I had my TV series where I was a chef and also thinking, “This is madness. Why did they pick me?”
It’s interesting because I don’t know if I fully recognize when that has happened to me. One thing that you were describing, Heather, about when you stepped into the library and you had this overwhelming task upon you. I took on a new social media client and I felt overwhelmed when I first started working with them. I immediately thought, “They’re going to regret hiring me and they’re not going to want to work with me. I’m not going to get this done.” Even verbalizing it, I still continue to feel that not good enough feeling that we’ve discussed in this episode, but comes up frequently. I was like, “Am I doing a good enough job?”
I have this subtle fear in a lot of positions like that, especially when I’m working with freelance clients because technically, they could choose not to work with me at any point. I’m curious, have you experienced this too, Heather? It’s like, “I want to continue to prove my worthiness and my value to them.” That is probably imposter syndrome. It’s like, “I’m glad they hired me but that doesn’t mean they’re going to keep me around so I have to still show up.” This wondering and worrying if I’m doing a good enough job and should I do better?
Sometimes when I have those thoughts, I wonder like, “Maybe I don’t need to be putting in that much effort. Am I trying to overcompensate when my clients might be happy with me and some people just don’t verbalize it as frequently as I might want to hear?” Does that come up with you with the clients that you have, Heather? Do you have moments where you’re feeling you need to continue to add a lot of value or fears around them staying clients or giving you that repeat business?
I do want to say that what you’re describing does sound like imposter syndrome because that’s another question that I get. People are wondering, “Do I have it or not? I’m not sure.” Because it can “look a lot of different ways.” In terms of my work, I left a corporate job and I was successful. I took this leap of faith knowing that the work that I do is why I was put on this planet and knowing that all of the things that happened to me were for a reason. I felt, spiritually, that I was supposed to be doing what I am doing, but at the beginning, I definitely felt like, “This is different from the corporate work I’m doing. Am I doing this right? Are they happy?”
I’ve been in business for a couple of years so that dialogue has gone from my head but I still can see it come up in other areas of my life like personal things that I mentioned. Going back to the creativity, I worked with a coach and I was part of a group program. As part of that, we had to do some art journaling. I like to give this example. I was like, “I don’t want to do any art journaling. I’m not an artist. Can’t we just write things?” Because I’m good at that. I felt like, “I’m not an artist. I don’t know what I’m doing. Why does she have us do this exercise?”
It was powerful and I stuck with it because I paid for the program. I was like, “I’m going to do this because I paid for it.” That got me through a big block that I had around, “I’m not creative.” That was what I was telling myself in my head and that was a form of imposter syndrome. We all are creative. We’re creative in our own ways. I was comparing my output to somebody else’s output. These are areas that people can look at in their lives because imposter syndrome can show up as a parent.Stay committed to the process, and know that it's a process. Click To Tweet
It can show up at work and it can show up in some pursuit. This comes up to people a lot when they are exercising. They don’t want to go to a class because there are other people who are more advanced in the class and they think, “I don’t want to go because I don’t know what I’m doing.” Let’s say they’re looking at somebody who’s been practicing yoga for twenty years. They’re going to look different than that person who’s been practicing for twenty years.
I don’t know if it’s the exact same thing but it goes hand in hand with the imposter syndrome is that comparison trap and maybe the comparison trap could lead to the imposter syndrome. I’m not sure which would come first, Heather. Maybe you have a perspective on that, but how much we think that we’re not as good in comparison to other people. That can lead us to feel like everyone else is better, so we’re the ones that are imposters.
What Jason and I have found, especially in our work in social media, as content creators, people on camera and all of that that we’ve done for all these years, is most people that we meet in our field have the exact same feelings. We all collectively compare ourselves to one another and we may all collectively feel like imposters and that somebody is always doing a better job than us. Even some of the most successful people I know that you would think of have it all figured out feel that way to some capacity.
What’s helped me realize is if I would feel that regardless of whatever external successes I received, then I might as well be happy where I am right now because that external success is not going to change that interstate. Maybe it’s not as necessary for me to get there. If I can stay conscious of that, that helps me move through the comparison trap. The same thing goes with our bodies physically, Heather. I’ve struggled with my weight, had disordered eating and constantly trying to be mindful of that so that I don’t fall into the downward spiral.
I’ve had those moments that you’re describing of being afraid to go to the gym or worried about what I’m wearing. Even during COVID, I take online classes, and sometimes I’m not comfortable being on camera. It’s optional luckily with these virtual classes I take but for my live classes, they like to have the camera on so the teacher can make some adjustments for me on my yoga classes. Sometimes I’m like, “Is my yoga teacher judging my body or the way that I’m doing these postures? Are other people watching me?”
I’ve been doing yoga for many years, so I have to remind myself, “I’ve been having those feelings from the beginning. They’re probably either never going to go away or maybe the only way that they can dissipate is for me to start to let them go as opposed to thinking that I need to change in order for them to go away.” I don’t have to change my body. It’s more than I need to shift my outlook or perspective on it all.
I want to comment on something that you said because this is a handy tip for people. The dialogue in the head, if we do work most likely will lessen but it may still always be there because we’re growing and we are put in new and different situations. There’s always going to be some different external stimulus that is causing us to react a certain way. The first key is to notice that we’re having the thoughts which all of us have described times when we’re noticing the thought but I like to tell people to name that thought and personify it. When you can do that, it externalizes it, and then when that voice comes in, you can be like, let’s say you name it Dorothy, “Dorothy, you’re back. Stop talking to me.” “I hear you. Thanks for your input.” Thank it and then go back to your business.
This is interesting for many reasons because the voice in our head can be cunning. Going back to I suppose the comparison trap and imposter syndrome, the things that we’re focusing on. I’ll have a conversation with this other voice in my head, which I haven’t named yet, Heather. It’s interesting. I feel like I ought to give it more of an anthropomorphic persona that I can embody in a certain way. I’ll come up with a work situation and it’s usually creativity. I’ve noticed imposter syndrome and the comparison trap typically shows up with things that I’m deeply invested in.
As an example, for me, I’ve been playing music and singing for many years in and out of many bands and have recorded music, but I still have blocks around it because it’s important to me. My standards of what good music is are high that I’ll stop myself. That voice will be like, “You can’t write a good song,” and I’m like, “The last song we wrote was good.” “Yes, but you can’t do it again.” I already wrote a song that I liked that I thought was good but that voice will be like, “You can’t duplicate it. That was a one-time thing only.”
This conversation with our inner voices is such an interesting thing. I did want to bring back around a question in relation to energy healing, energy work, Reiki, mindfulness, and the things that you facilitate. What’s the intersection of these kinds of energy healing and energy work modalities and these things like imposter syndrome, not believing in ourselves, working on some of maybe these deep, inner traumas that are preventing us from moving forward? How do energy healing, Reiki, and mindfulness support that process?
I would say the intersection is that there generally is a root cause. There’s generally childhood wounds or traumas, even from adolescence. Things that have happened in our lives, and we may not see them as traumas. They’re just things that occurred but we store in bed and house past experiences within our energy system and our energy body. That’s probably a whole episode on its own but those past experiences dictate our current reality. Quite often, people have no idea why they’re stuck in a thought loop or a behavior pattern. It’s because of something in their past that is running the show.
I used the analogy of a little computer program and it overrides what you’re trying to do. Even though you may try hard to do something or try hard not to do something, when you keep getting stuck in the same pattern over and over, it’s because the past experience is overriding and dictating your reality. Energy work is an amazing way to remove those blocks and past experiences so that you can be liberated and be the person that you truly are without layers of grime on top of you.
It sounds to me like it’s a combination of getting to the root cause of some of these things that might somatically be stored in our bodies and our beings. One of the things that have been helpful for me over the years in working with my therapist, Gary, here in Los Angeles, who’s a somatic practitioner in the sense that we don’t just address some of the issues that I have on a cerebral or psychological level. We get into, “That happened when I was three years old. That happened when I was five. That thing happened with my dad.” I internalize that in my gut. We go back to the probiotic thing but maybe go full circle here. With gut health, one of the biggest things I’ve identified through my own experience with energy work, psychotherapy, and different healing modalities has been a lot of my gut issues in life.
It has been a result of a lot of the trauma that I stored in my gut as a child and that was a huge lightbulb for me. It’s not the sole reason but it was definitely a lightbulb moment of, “I’ve had a stomach, gut, and digestive issues my whole life.” That’s where I stored a lot of this pain and trauma. That was a quantum jump for me in realizing that there were different ways I could approach my healing process. It’s wonderful what you’re facilitating for people and hopefully opening their eyes, Heather, to new ways that they can heal themselves that maybe they hadn’t previously considered.
I love that you are working with a therapist who’s doing some of that body-based work. That’s some of the tools and techniques I bring in as well. We’ve hit on many amazing points in this conversation. Going back to what works for one person shouldn’t necessarily be the standard to compare yourself by and you’ve had an interesting journey, Jason. Whitney and I probably have too. Whoever is reading, if you are feeling like your path is one way, just let it be your way. You’re healing, whatever it is, your body or your emotional state, it doesn’t have to look like anything else that anyone has done because it’s your journey and your unique person.
It’s such a wonderful summary, Heather. It reminds me of one of our oft-mentioned resources here on the show, which is Joseph Campbell. He always talks about, if you are going into the dark forest on your personal adventure and there’s a path already laid out, it’s not your path. Your path is a path unlike anyone else’s. It’s a path that hasn’t been laid yet. It’s a path that is unknown and that’s where the courage comes in, in walking your own path.
For you dear reader, if you’re interested in learning more about Heather and her incredible Reiki, energy healing work, workshops, meditations, and all her great services, go to her website, TheEnergySynergist.com. You can dig more into Heather’s incredible work and her services whether you live in Austin, Texas. I’m sure you also offer probably Skype or Zoom services. Is that correct, Heather?
Yes, I work with people from all over the country.
Until the next time. We are grateful for you being here. Whitney was awesome, as usual. Heather, thanks for sharing more of your story, going deep, and explaining to us your approach for being of service to the world. We appreciate your presence here.Dedication is a huge part of success. Click To Tweet
You’re welcome. Thank you for having me. I loved it.
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About Heather Rider
Heather Rider, known professionally as The Energy Synergist, is an anxiety specialist who personally overcame high-functioning anxiety while working in a demanding Tech job. She works with clients from all over the world who want to take a nontraditional, holistic approach to healing anxiety.
She regularly writes and presents on the issues of perfectionism, Imposter Syndrome, high-functioning anxiety, and other anxiety-related topics.
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