Kicking off the podcast with introductions, we meet in this episode the other half of the show, Whitney Lauritsen, the creator of Eco-Vegan Gal. With her turn in the hot seat, we look deeper into who Whitney is and the journey she has taken through social acceptance and introversion to come to this point. She talks about the pressures she had to overcome from the environments she was in and the realizations she has on the desire to be socially accepted and, at the same time, the fear to be criticized in this technological day and age. Opening up about her vulnerabilities, Whitney takes us through her journey from being a film student and channeling her creativity to making YouTube videos. Follow Whitney’s story and how she found herself being a wonder junkie.
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Social Acceptance, Introversion, And Being A Wonder Junkie
Now recently on the hot seat.
What does that mean?
Literally and figuratively it is a hot seat because we are in the closet at Whitney’s cute tiny house in Hollywood.
It’s not hot in here.
The other day it was. When I say hot seat, literally there have been times where I feel very sweaty and hot.
Why don’t you say something?
Because there’s nothing to do there.
Yes, there is. I have air conditioning.
Does the air conditioning run in the closet?
No, but the closet’s right next to the air conditioner. I’m saying I can plan ahead. If you tell me ahead of time, if it’s a hot day, then just say, “Turn on the AC before I get there.”
The whole thing now is I’m talking about literally the literal hot seat.
You’re complaining about something and then tell me you don’t want to change it. It’s very confusing for someone who’s type A like me.Sometimes people don't want you to solve their problems. Sometimes they want to solve them themselves. Click To Tweet
Change it, but not right now because we’re in the middle of this.
I’m a fixer. I don’t know if that’s like super masculine energy. I guess it is, but I want to solve problems.
Sometimes people don’t want you to solve their problems. Sometimes they want to solve them themselves.
Are you talking about me specifically or are you talking in general?
I’m talking about in general that sometimes people, when they’re approached with a solution, they don’t want it because there’s an egotistical part of themselves that wants to solve it themselves.
Are you talking about yourself right now?
I’m literally talking about in general terms.
That’s actually one of my biggest challenges.
We were talking about this with a lot of the courses, the training, and the things that Whitney and I have put out in terms of not only digital but physical products. As you talk to people and you hear their pain points, you hear their challenges and their struggles, and at the same time you’re like, “I’m giving you this thing that can help you.” They’re like, “I’m good.”
This is a digression. I think we have to do a separate one on that, but we have something else in mind. I’m going to keep us on track because also I’m type A in that way.
The hot seat is that we want to give you a deep look into who we are as people, our journeys to come to this point of, first of all, why we created this show, the intention behind it, but a deeper look into who we are as people.
Clearly you’ve already learned something about me. If you didn’t know this already, I’m a type A personality.
We’re off to a good start. In this framework, I’m going to jump in and I’m probably going to learn a lot about Whitney because when she interviewed me on the hot seat, there were things she didn’t know about me that came through. I’m sure that’s going to be the case.
Our aim is not to make this too interviewee. We want this to feel like a conversation as well.
Whitney, since we’re going to flow with this and improv as we do, when you feel that you have the ability to solve a problem for someone, what do you get in return for that? Why is that so important to you? Why is it so important to you in this type A aspect of your personality that you are talking about? What does that energetic or spiritual exchange, when you solve something for someone, what is that feeling like? What is that exchange like for you? Why is it important?
I’ve thought about this before and one of the things I struggle with sometimes is articulating a lot of my thoughts. That’s probably one of my biggest challenges is that I have a lot of ideas in my head. Maybe it’s like censorship or something or a fear of not saying it right. That’s like a pain point for me is wanting to say the right thing and being afraid of saying the wrong thing. Because I’m very sensitive to people that give non-constructive criticism or maybe they think that they’re giving constructive criticism, but they do it in a way that feels hurtful to me. I’m not trying necessarily to say the right thing for you, Jason or for you, the reader, but I haven’t quite sorted out how to articulate the reasoning behind solving problems and what that feels like for me.
On a surface level, I would say I have some innate desire to help people. I think most people do actually. In general, as human beings, we often feel in order to contribute to our community, to the society at large, we want to play a role. We want to feel like we have a purpose. We want to feel like we’re doing something good. I think that goes in general for human beings back to our society and how if we don’t contribute and we’re not valuable, then why should other people contribute to us? It’s this exchange. I love studying psychology and going back historically to understand what human beings have been like throughout all the different periods of time.
If we go back to this tribal mentality, it’s that we are all working together. We are all contributing in some way for the betterment of that community. If you don’t have a role, if you don’t have something to offer value, then you’re pretty much useless. Maybe there’s this deeper thing for humans in general that perhaps for me, I don’t ever want to be useless because I want to be involved. I want to make a difference. I also have a natural desire to be in a leadership role. I don’t think it’s this idea of wanting to be number one or in charge or controlling others, although those feelings sometimes come up for me.
Now is a great example. Jason and I just got back from what we thought was going to be this easy trip to the coffee shop in a different area of Los Angeles. It ended up taking a lot longer than we planned because there were some major streets closed in Los Angeles in my neighborhood. It was fascinating to observe how other drivers were handling these situations. Over and over again in my head, I’m sitting there and I don’t know if it’s something that has developed over time or I’ve always had in my life and maybe wasn’t as aware of until recently. I’m someone who’s incredibly strategic. Going back to that A personality type, I want to solve problems.
When I’m in a car in a traffic jam, I’m sitting there thinking not only how can I get out of this traffic jam, but how could I create an example to help other people get out of it? A lot of times human beings make choices that have a ripple effect negatively. I don’t want to be part of that at all. I’ll do whatever I possibly can to avoid having a negative ripple effect on society. I want to be useful, not useless. I don’t know what’s the word, but there’s got to be another term if you’re having a negative effect, not just a neutral effect. Not just having any use, but sometimes we do things that are taking away, not adding to. My aim is to add.
It’s doing something for the greater good. Being in a traffic jam is a perfect example because we’ve all witnessed a traffic jam and we’re sitting there thinking, “What’s going on? What’s causing this traffic jam?” Sometimes it’s that domino effect of one person makes one small decision and then everybody else in the line of cars either starts making the same decision or that ten seconds that you made a poor decision has a ripple effect that adds up. It’s cumulative. It’s like interest where it’s not that there’s a ten-second delay. That ten-second delay that you have builds up over time. All of our decisions as human beings have a compounding effect or can have them. It’s also like that phrase of if a butterfly flaps its wings, it can because a massive ripple effect that affects us for however long. I would rather do something that not only benefits me but has a positive effect on other people. I guess that’s my long answer to that.
Extrapolating this mentality you have on a global level, is it ever frustrating to you to look at a world where people are making “poor decisions” with their environment, with how they treat other people in their relationships and how do you want to macro level? We’re hovering around the eight billion people mark. To look at the challenges we’re facing on this planet, which are innumerable. We were aware of what these challenges are. With your desire to help people and be productive rather than reductive to contribute something positive rather than negative to this planet, how do you stay focused and positive and keep moving forward when perhaps some days you might look around you and see nothing but bad choices and people being negative, hateful, hurtful, and violent in a world that’s full of those things? How do you with that philosophy move forward in life?
Since one of my aims with these introductions is to share our past and not just to give tips, I would go back to different phases of my life where growing up, I was very shy as a kid, from what I can tell. I don’t have a ton of memories of that shyness, but I can see it in photos and videos of myself. The expression on my face looks like I was feeling very shy. I think maybe more than partially, is that I’m introverted and to this day I feel a bit uncomfortable in social situations as many introverts do. Part of that is because there’s this energetic balance that you’re always trying to figure out how much energy do I have in this situation? If I get depleted, what do I do? I get a little bit of anxiety from that.
This is also something interesting I learned. There’s this book called Genius Foods that I finished reading and I highly recommend it. In this book Genius Foods, the author talks about how genetically we can be predispositioned to things. Based on genetic testing I did through 23AndMe, my genes predispositions me to be a worrier and to have anxiety and to be introverted, which is fascinating. I actually think about how one of my grandmothers was a massive worrier. My dad is a worrier, probably as a relation to that. It’s this nature versus nurture thing. My dog can be a worrier as well. It’s funny because I try, now at the present time, not to worry too much because it’s not useful.If we don't contribute and we're not valuable, then why should other people contribute to us? Click To Tweet
When I look back on those old videos, I have a lot of home videos of myself as a kid and I see the expression on my face and how I looked like I was worried or something. I got it as an adult. That’s how I interpret it. I think about the struggles I had in school, for example, of maybe feeling not good enough, especially academically. That was a huge struggle for me. I felt like I was always at a B level, but I wanted to be an A level, but I at some point figured I’m just not an A student. It was very rare that I would get A’s on things. My school had high standards. I went to a wonderful public school in Massachusetts. I had great teachers and they pushed us hard and they had a great impact on me. There was something for my self-esteem of not getting these top grades, partially because of the culture of my school. Most students there wanted to succeed, which was a great environment for me. My parents also put a lot of pressure on me to be successful.
My dad’s an incredibly intelligent man. Both my grandfathers are very intelligent. My grandmothers, as I said, we’re a little bit more on the worrier sides. Maybe all my grandparents were, but my grandfathers were very well-educated, very passionate about research. I get a lot of those traits from the men, my dad and both my grandfathers. They loved books. They were always tinkering with things. They were trying to figure out solutions. Genetically and also nurture influenced me that way. The environments that I was in with the school system, I felt a lot of pressure to be a good student, but at the same time I felt like I kept hitting my limits. I didn’t know how to overcome them. Over the years, I naturally started to look for strategies.
One of them was being the teacher’s pet, which was literally what I was named in the school yearbook. The class will name and vote on people. I was voted teacher’s pet because one of my coping mechanisms in high school as I got older, so as I went up in the grades and also when I was in college. I was somebody that would sit in the front row of class and show the teacher that I was paying very close attention. I would be the student that would chat up the teachers because I realized at some point in high school that that was one way I could get better grades.
I actually soak up knowledge in general. I think part of it was that I wanted to be able to listen and pay attention. This happens to me still. Even when I go to yoga class, I’m a front-row student. I want to be at the very front of the class. It helps me focus. I don’t want to be distracted. I do this at events too. I don’t like sitting in the back row because a lot of people that sit in the back I found tend to be not paying as close of attention. I get easily distracted when I see other people not paying attention. In high school and college, I would sit in the front row to become closer to my teachers. They would notice me more, I could pay closer attention and all of those things combined would help me get better grades.
I wasn’t even aware of why I was doing that. My awareness of the why is now, in these more recent years. Naturally, I was that person that was looking for the strategy to perform better because whether it’s a genetic nature versus nurture type of thing, something has always driven me to succeed. Not for myself, but it’s setting an example for other people. I remember when I got that label as teacher’s pet, I was embarrassed, but maybe there were a couple of people that admired the fact that I was a teacher’s pet. In my head maybe I thought, “Everybody thinks I’m such a nerd.” Hopefully there were a couple of people that were like, “Maybe I should participate the way Whitney does.” Maybe they were jealous that I always befriended my teachers. I still do that to this day in yoga class. I’m friends with all of my yoga teachers, whereas most students I observe, they go into class, they go in the back, they barely interact, they leave. Having a dynamic with the teacher has a lot of benefits.
When you talk about your upbringing and you talk about childhood these challenges that you went through, in adulthood we have this tendency to live out or recreate some of the situations from our childhood that were perhaps challenging or have the same personality archetype. You mentioned the same way you engage yoga class is the same way you engaged your high school teachers. If you look back on your childhood, are there any situations or things that you see popping up in your adult life now? The reason I go there is that I always draw a parallel in my mind and I think you and I have talked about this. In high school in particular, the social dynamics of high school very much mirror social media right now. There’s a lot of popularity, there are cliques and there are communities within communities and you use the right filters, the right angles, and the right hashtags to get noticed and get likes. I’m trying to extrapolate in this conversation since we’re talking about your childhood if you see any social dynamics from childhood that you’re like, “This is still playing out in my adult life,” or maybe, “I’m still struggling with this stuff.”
I actually started to become very drawn to psychology in high school. I had a great psychology class and teacher and I minored in Psychology in college. I don’t talk about that very much. I’m sure I’ve told you this before, but people forget about it because I don’t bring it up that much. I went to film school at Emerson College in Boston because I was planning on having a film career. We’ve talked about this. I decided at this art school that I was at, Emerson is a very creative school, but they still have other types of classes beyond filmmaking, acting and all that stuff. I studied psychology. I took a ton of psychology classes so I could minor in it and that’s all because of high school. This one teacher, it was like a requirement to take the psychology class in high school. I loved it so much. I love learning about it. I think that’s also part of a coping mechanism is that if I felt like if I could understand people better, then maybe I wouldn’t take things so personally.
What I mean by that is the more we deconstruct things like social media, we can start to understand society. Society is based on so many levels of social agreements. Also, it’s based on a lot of old psychology. A lot of our behavior, if we are not aware of it, then we’re just repeating the patterns of the past. We’re doing the things that our friends and our family members are currently doing and the things that our family members, our ancestors have been doing. That’s part of my passion for projects like Wellevatr. Jason and I share this. We want to help people break out of these subconscious belief systems that they may not be aware of.
We want to raise awareness so that you can choose as much of your thought processes, your emotions and your behaviors as possible. I don’t know if we can control it to the extreme that we may want to. That’s part of what’s helped me a lot. Coming back to the coping mechanism is the more I can understand psychology and why I was making decisions and why people around me are making decisions, it helped me cope in social situations. Thank goodness I did not have social media in high school because I cannot imagine how that would have affected me. One thing that I’m still trying to get to the root of is something that a lot of people struggle with, which is the feelings of not-enoughness, but also the desire to be socially accepted and having approval and validation. Most of us experienced that in high school. I can’t imagine being in high school and having social media. You are feeling like not only are you keeping up appearances while you’re physically around these people, but then online when you go home, the weekends and the summer vacations. You are basically on all the time with your peers. They can see you and what’s going on in your life all the time. If you’re not on social media, maybe they’re judging you for that too. It’s like there’s a lose-lose situation. The more I think about that, I feel so sad.
There are a lot of different opinions about whether or not kids should have access to cell phones, devices, television and all that stuff. There’s actually a lot of data that it’s horrible for our brains. I think our brains are developing until we’re 21 to 25. That’s old. Most of us have graduated college at that point in our lives. How much of ourselves are formed during those years? These people are on all these devices all the time, not only disrupting themselves on a chemical basis, the way that the screens are affecting our eyes and taking in all of this information all the time. The social side of it is crazy. It’s a long answer to your question. It’s hard enough as an adult being triggered by social media now and having some old emotions come up that I experienced in high school. Imagine having that happen simultaneously as a teenager. You’re navigating school, your relationships and all your crazy hormones, but doing that publicly online, that’s rough.
Describing it sounds like an insurmountable amount of pressure.
It’s interesting too that as a kid, I could have seen myself wanting that experience badly and I understand why it appeals to people. I’ve loved technology for as long as I can remember. My grandfathers and my dad, all three of them have been into technology. We had a computer at a time when there weren’t that many computers. Believe it or not, anyone that’s beyond the Millennial age and reading right now probably remembers those days where we didn’t have iPhones, iPads, and computers and all of this access that we have now. Jason and I both grew up at the dawn of the Internet Age.
Both of us can remember what it was like to get internet access for the first time, to have cell phones for the first time. It’s an amazing thing to look back on. I remember those formative years of my dad having a computer. I remember computers evolving over time and your friends would have some fancy expensive computer and it was like this huge deal. I remember getting my own first personal computer. My dad basically would get a computer. He would use it and then when it was falling apart, he’d give it to my sister and me. The first laptop I had was when I did this film program in New York City before I went to college. My dad gave me his old laptop. I was probably one of the only people there that had a laptop.
I remember when cell phones started coming out. My point being is that I loved technology. When I got access to a computer, when I finally got that first phone, even before my cell phone, I got my own private phone line. My parents had their line and I figured out how to get a second line built into our house and then how to get my own phone. I could switch between the two lines so I could answer either one. I had my own answering machine. I felt like on top of the world when I figured all that stuff out. This is not something that a lot of my friends had. They usually had to call through their parents, but I had my own separate phone line, which was so cool. When cell phones came in, that’s basically what those were.
My point is if social media had been available, I’m sure that I would have been very excited to use it. Once you’re in that matrix though, there are so many pros and cons. To this day, the pros are you can connect with somebody from all around the world, which again, I was on the earlier days of AOL Instant Messenger. I remember getting access to that as a teenager and thinking that was the greatest thing ever because you could chat with people all around the world. You could have these pseudo-relationships. You could pretend that you were somebody that you weren’t.
My female friends and I would go on AOL Instant Messenger and chat rooms and pretend to be older than we were. We’d flirt with these boys and we didn’t know who they were. They’re complete strangers, but we weren’t posting pictures because we didn’t have a method of easily taking pictures of ourselves back then. The other thing that’s funny is we haven’t even had access to these digital cameras. I remember getting those and being able to upload a photo to your computer so easily. That’s still relatively new. When I was a teenager, we had disposable cameras and maybe we would use an actual camera and put the little roll of film in, but you had to go get it developed and pay the premium if you wanted it to be developed quickly that day. Remember all that?
The things that we have seen in our lifetimes are almost as crazy as what my grandparents saw on their lifetimes or maybe equally as crazy if you analyze it. It’s wild. There’s a part of me that loves all the technological developments, but is also trying to be very conscious of how I use it, how I use social media and how I use technology because we don’t know the ripple effect that it’s going to have. Sometimes I think about how much information I put out about myself online. If you go and type my name, Whitney Lauritsen, you can find all these pictures of me, all these videos. There are hundreds of photos, thousands of videos, blogs and interviews that are on and on the database. You could collect a lot of information about me with a quick internet search. There are a lot of benefits to doing that if you’re building a brand, but what about privacy?
That was going to be my question to you is in the Information Age that we’re in with all of this access to so many details about so many people. Probably not just me, but the first person when you meet someone and you’re like, “I’m going to google them.”
Jason met somebody and instantly connected with them on Instagram and teenagers, apparently they’re all following each other on Snapchat. Did you know this, Jason? It’s so funny. We probably sound like we’re dating ourselves a lot. We’re not teenagers. It’s funny, on Instagram or YouTube, I’ll come across videos that teenagers are making. From my understanding they’re using Snapchat. They’ll walk up to each other and be like, “What’s your Snap?” It’s funny to me because that’s like asking for somebody’s number these days. Jason, on the other hand, he does something in between. It’s like Jason, I noticed when he meets somebody new, he’ll connect with them on Instagram immediately and that’s his version of getting somebody’s number.
I was going to ask, in terms of privacy, because you touched on what I wanted to ask you. Are there things that you choose to keep private and why do you choose to keep those things private? What things do you feel, “I don’t want to show this on my social profiles. I don’t want to talk about X. I don’t want to share Y?” What are those things that you may feel like you want to keep private and is there anything in that category?
I’m very aware that the things I choose not to share tend to be points of vulnerability. As I’ve openly discussed, I’m a very sensitive person. Even though I’ve been creating content online for over ten years, it hasn’t gotten easier for me to receive criticism. I haven’t quite figured out how to fully cope with it and I don’t know if I ever will, to be honest. I’ve talked about this before, how people will say, “Develop a thick skin,” but I don’t know if I want a thick skin and I don’t know if it will ever get thick enough to not be affected. I honestly don’t know if anybody’s skin is as thick as they say it is. A lot of people like to pretend that they’re not affected by other people, but I don’t know if that’s true. You can talk a big game, but is that the reality of what you’re experiencing?
One of our big aims with Wellevatr is to be authentic and share. For me, the things I don’t share online tend to be things that I feel vulnerable. I don’t want someone criticizing me about it. A perfect example is how I have been on a plant-based version of the keto low carb diet and I’ve barely talked about it. I’ve dabbled in it a little, I’ve suggested that I eat keto, but I have not come out and made a YouTube video about it, which is typically what I would do and say I’m eating a keto diet. I think about it almost every single day. I sit here and I think, “I want to make a video about this.” What my head goes to is, “People are going to come and criticize me.”
I struggle with sharing something when I’m afraid that someone’s going to criticize me because I have a tendency to start to doubt myself when I get criticism. One of the reasons I’ve been very careful with the keto diet, for example, is because I want to make sure that I’ve done my research and I’m confident. I feel great, but am I confident it’s the healthiest diet for me? I’m not sure yet. If I posted about keto and someone said, “That’s not healthy for you,” then there’s a tendency for me at this point in my life to start thinking, “Maybe this isn’t healthy. Maybe I shouldn’t be doing this.” I can’t tell you how many times it’s happened.
I’ve posted things, whether it’s on YouTube, Instagram or whatever, there’s always be somebody that’s in disagreement or wants to tell you something that you’re doing wrong. There’s part of me that thinks, “No matter what I do, I’m going to receive that so I might as well post whatever I want.” There are also some things that I want to be mindful of. I think the dietary changes are challenging for me because I had an eating disorder in high school and college. I have to be very mindful not to be too obsessive about my food choices. When somebody says that’s not good for you, coming back to my strategic type A personality, I will start to analyze and think, “Maybe I should be doing this instead.”A lot of times, human beings make choices that have a negative ripple effect. Click To Tweet
Basically, food becomes a strategy more than just eating what I intuitively want to eat. It’s an ongoing thing. Food is sometimes challenging for me to share online because it seems like everyone has a different opinion about food. I am vulnerable to that because of my food obsessiveness and the eating disorder I had. The other thing is that I tend not to post about romantic relationships because a few years ago, I did and there’s this one person on YouTube who had a very odd reaction, like an obsessive, almost stalker-ish reaction to it.
This person wanted me to disclose all this information about my boyfriend at the time. They were demanding that I say what his Instagram was. This person was trying to manipulate me into sharing more. It creeped me out. Ever since I thought, “I don’t need anybody to know what’s going on in my life romantically.” I also don’t want to announce when I’m single and when I’m not because I don’t want someone to come and try to date me when I’m single, like some stranger on the internet. It’s another vulnerable thing for me. I’d rather keep my relationship status. Until I’m in a very committed relationship, maybe engaged or married, maybe I’ll share more of that. I’m not sure yet, but at this point in my life, I’ve chosen not to talk about that.
For me, in that reflection of keeping, I always say it’s keeping certain things sacred. That’s the word that I use in this super public age. The other thing you mentioned is being an introvert. It’s interesting because you’ve chosen to make 1,000 videos on all your combined YouTube channels.
I’m sure it’s well over 1,000 at this point.
You’ve done more speaking appearances. Whitney and I did a speaking appearance for a small group. It’s interesting to notice that and you perceive since you were a young girl, this shyness and this introversion.
Shyness and introversion are not the same things. I know you know that, Jason, but I want to clarify because I don’t want to perpetuate that. A lot of people misunderstand introvert. Being introverted does not necessarily mean that you’re shy. I think what I was saying is that either I was shy back than when I was, let’s say, under ten years old or I thought I was shy because I was introverted and so I didn’t know how else to interpret it. Maybe other people were projecting onto me that I was shy or maybe as a little kid, I didn’t know how else to protect my energy. It manifested as shyness. I wouldn’t say that I’m a shy person. I’m actually more careful about engaging with people because I can become easily exhausted in social situations as an introvert.
My question was going to be, since you willfully continue to choose a life as a public figure, as an entrepreneur, as someone who is on the microphone, on the camera, on a live stage, what’s that like for you as an introvert, putting yourself in the public eye?
It’s easy when I’m doing videos at home and by myself and that’s the thing I’ve noticed about a lot of content creators. Over the years I’ve met so many, YouTubers, Instagrammers, all these “influencers,” content creators out there and a lot of them are introverted. A lot of them are very uncomfortable in live social settings, but extremely comfortable in front of the camera when they’re by themselves. Most content creators are by themselves. They’re sitting at home recording a video on their cameras, their mobile devices or their webcams, and that’s a completely different experience than being out and about in person.
As far as speaking appearances go, I’ve been practicing speaking since high school when we were forced to do that. I’m trying to think when I started to actually enjoy it. I’ve always enjoyed being on stage, period. In high school I would try to be in plays whenever I could. I wasn’t in that group of kids that always got the big roles, but I would be an extra or whatever they called it, as a bit player. I don’t know what they call them when you have a small role in a high school play. Whatever I was doing, I enjoyed being on stage in that sense performing. I guess it’s very similar when I’m giving a talk or being on a panel or whatever situation. It’s still the joy of being on stage and it comes back to my desire to help other people. I thrive in environments where I can be a leader and share something that I think is going to be a value to others, which is also a drive for me doing content.
You flipped the script didn’t you, in your youth because you at some point wanted to be an actress and then you ended up going to Emerson Film School.
It’s not just a film school.
Why did that flip for you? Why did you not pursue being an actress?
I didn’t have the confidence to because in high school, pre-YouTube, YouTube has changed the game for a lot of artists. We’ve seen Justin Bieber get his whole career on YouTube. It’s actually interesting to see how social media has changed it. Now if you’re a talent, you get on social media and you can share your talent with the world and maybe you’ll be discovered. Jason and I did not have that growing up. The only thing I had and again I think Jason as well, is being in school plays. Aside from enjoying being physically on a stage and performing, I was never a fan of plays. I knew from a very young age that I wanted to be on an on-camera actress. I never wanted to be a stage actress. The only reason that I was in plays in high school was that it felt like the only way for me to perform.
Meanwhile though, I was making films with my parents’ video camera from a very young age. I think probably thirteen, fourteen is when I started doing that. Once I realized I could make my own videos, that was my obsession and that’s what led me to film school. What happened is I wasn’t even thinking about the acting side of it as much as I was thinking about the production side. Because yes, being on camera, that has always come naturally to me. That’s an innate talent that I was blessed with for whatever reason.
The production side though started to get exciting for me. I’ve always been into technology. I loved learning about cameras. I loved figuring out the set design. I loved editing and I loved directing. What happened is I wanted to be all of that. There’s a term that’s not very commonly used. It’s called auteur. That’s describing a filmmaker that plays all the different roles. They’re creating every part of a film. Woody Allen is a great reference. He’s somebody that’s usually in his films, he’s writing them, he’s directing them, he’s probably producing them. He’s involved with all the major roles. That’s what I wanted to do. That was the track that I was on. YouTube felt perfect for me when that came about because I could do all of that stuff and have continued to do that without having to work in the film industry. Basically, the on-camera stuff never ended for me. It has been there since I was a preteen. I never stopped doing that. Even though I’m not acting per se, I’m still on camera and I’m still that auteur that is involved with every element.
Was being famous ever motivation for you or is it a motivation for you?
Yes, especially growing up and not having social media and all of these mediums of expressing yourself creatively. We basically would see celebrities and think that they were cool. It’s like, “Look at that great life that they’re living,” and wanting to have that too. That’s how celebrity culture is positioned to us. It’s like, “Look at this amazing thing that this person has. Look at this amazing life. Look at all the money they have and look at all the attention that they’re getting.” That’s very appealing to most human beings, whether they admit it or not. Now, we have social media fame. That’s appealed to me, but if I deconstruct why, it doesn’t matter that much. It’s still hard. I feel like it’s very frustrating that I’ve been on YouTube for over ten years and my Eco-Vegan Gal channel, it just plateaued and then dropped.
That’s hard for my ego because I felt like, “I’m not doing it right,” or “People don’t care about my videos anymore,” or “I’m irrelevant now. Maybe I’m too old for YouTube,” all of those different self-defeating thoughts that come up. If anything, there’s more of this desire to be validated. It’s not just about the fame. It’s like, “Do people like me? Am I worthy? How does that affect my career?” That’s a struggle. A lot of our careers are dependent on how many numbers, how many followers, how many likes, how many comments and how many views. All of those numbers, those can make or break whether or not we get a certain paycheck. It’s not necessarily fame. It’s very connected to success.
We’re in such a strange time in our culture where there’s this pressure to keep up, this pressure to stay relevant and this pressure to produce. There are a lot of pressures, especially being an entrepreneur, being a content creator, being a public figure. When you have these thoughts and you mentioned this not enoughness, in all of its myriad forms, what do you do? How do you handle that for yourself? How do you care for yourself when you’re feeling these feelings of not enoughness, whether it’s career-related or personal-related? What’s that process like for you? How do you sit with it? How do you talk to that part of yourself? What do you do with that when it comes up for you?
It probably comes up every single day, if I’m honest. I don’t keep track of it. It’s there a lot, don’t you think? Would you say the same about yourself?
I don’t know about it. It’s pretty consistent.
I don’t know if it’s every day, but I would probably guess it is every day because there are so many thoughts going through our heads constantly. I forget what the statistic is about how many thoughts we have but it’s nuts. This is part of my passion for awareness. The more that we can tap in and realize that things that we’re thinking and the messages we’re playing, the stories we’re telling in our heads, it gives us the ability to shift a lot. The key for me is awareness. I have learned many different ways to become aware, whether it’s choosing to go to a yoga class or a meditation class, which I prefer over meditating on my own at home. Part of the discipline that I struggle with is just sitting down to meditate.
Journaling helps and having conversations with people. When a big feeling comes up, when I say that I’m feeling not-enoughness every day, it’s usually very subtle. When the big feelings of not-enoughness, like the crippling feeling of wanting to lay in bed all day long or for a few hours, that’s pretty frequent for me too. At least a few times a year, I go through a few days to a week of feeling that. Sometimes, I get struck and I feel like I’m almost paralyzed by it. During those times, first and foremost, it’s to let myself rest because sometimes it’s a matter of feeling burnt out or sometimes I’m massively triggered and I can’t quite think myself out of it.
Sometimes it’s so strong that I don’t even want to go to yoga or meditation and I know those are good for me. Sometimes it’s such a powerful feeling that I can only be still and I have to allow myself to be still. The great thing about stillness, whether it’s meditation or literally lying in bed and zoning out, reading a book or watching TV, movie or something like that. Those are the times that we can give ourselves permission and we’re giving our bodies and our brains time to heal, relax, let go and surrender. That’s a lot of the times where the healing happens. Our bodies are repairing themselves every night when we’re sleeping, but most people aren’t getting enough sleep. We have to remember that during the day, sometimes our bodies and our brains need a break. Sometimes if we don’t give ourselves that break, if we don’t pay attention to ourselves, our bodies will force us to.Being introverted does not necessarily mean that you're shy. Click To Tweet
I think that’s why it happens to me a few times a year on average. Maybe I just haven’t been giving myself enough time to rest or recover, and my body or brain are like, “No, you need to stop,” or I’ll always see it as a gift. If something comes up and massively triggers that feeling of not-enoughness in me so much so that I need to take a whole day off, it’s a great opportunity to address it. I have to face it head-on and sit through the pain. The only way out is through. It’s a matter of acceptance. It’s a matter of surrender. It’s a matter of always cultivating my personal awareness and going back to my coping mechanisms since I’ve had as a teenager is studying psychology, self-help and personal development because that helps me find a better understanding of myself. The more that I can understand myself, the more tools I have to work through any of those times of healing.
When people ask you, as they inevitably do, what you do? We talked about you coming up and being a student filmmaker and content creator. There are a lot of titles I suppose that would be apropos to describe you throughout your life and career. Right now, how would you describe yourself?
I don’t like that question.
That’s why the name of this show is This Might Get Uncomfortable. I’m asking you not to assign anything to you because people are so apt to look at your public persona and, “She’s a blogger, she’s a YouTuber.” Independent of how other people perceive you, how do YOU perceive you? It doesn’t have to be a job title per se, but how do you perceive yourself? I suppose that’s a deeper layer of that question. I don’t want to get juicy.
Actually, I don’t like this question. I know Jason’s not doing this, but I’m saying in general, when someone asks, “What do you do?” I feel like I have to quickly answer in a concise way. There’s the standard of if you don’t have your elevator pitch down, which is something that we were taught in film school, that’s honed into you, “You always have to have your elevator pitch.” It takes some time for me to verbalize things because it’s not always wanting to say the right thing to please somebody. It’s just that based on my study of psychology, I notice how if you don’t give somebody a concise answer or something that they can easily understand, they lose their attention. I feel this pressure and it’s become very uncomfortable over time to answer.
Even now I’m like, “How do I describe this? We don’t have a ton of time left.” It’s like, “I don’t even know if I’ll have an answer by the end of it.” That’s the most honest. I want to go very deep with things and instead of giving a surface level response, which you can easily find on my Instagram bio, my LinkedIn profile, you look me up and you can find all sorts of descriptions of what I do and who I am. The depth of it is that I don’t have a concise title for it because it’s always changing. I’ll tell you, I don’t align with the word influencer. I cringe to be described that way. It’s like a box.
I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with being an influencer per se, but I have a lot of negative connotations with it because I feel like for the most part and maybe this is true of any careers, there’s just so many superficial sides of that. I find myself tapping into that superficial side and I get frustrated with that. I take a picture and I want to edit it. I want it to have the greatest caption and like, “What can I do to get people’s approval of me?” is basically the thought process. How can I get people to follow me, like me, comment and all that stuff? I don’t like that side of my brain. I don’t like what social media has done for me in that sense. To go back to Jason’s question about high school, it is very similar to high school. It’s like, “How can I dress to make sure that I fit in with the other girls at high school? How can I act and what can I do to get the attention to boys who have crushes on?” It’s like, “What can I do to get teachers to like me and approve of me so I can get the right grades?” It’s like this high school, this constant self-evaluation.
That’s part of human life in general, but it causes us a lot of stress of trying to fit in and trying to get the approval and trying to get things. Social media feeds a lot into that. I changed something on my Twitter bio because there was this term and it’s so new to me that I don’t even remember it. I would say if I had to give you one concise term, I love the term wonder junkie. Isn’t that good? I think that might’ve been in Genius Foods. I read a lot. Speaking of wonder junkie, my addiction is information. Wonder junkie, I like that.
Wonder junkie is very cool and it’s fun. Piggybacking on the comment you said about fitting in and conformity, I think the flip side of that is this pressure to be different. You’ve been vegan since 2003. It’s interesting to think about you starting as a content creator, taking all that filmmaking experience, taking all the on-camera experience, creating the Eco-Vegan Gal brand, there were not many people doing healthy plant-based vegan, eco-friendly content. There was barely anybody doing it. In the wellness industry, there’s the Vegan Movement, eco-mindedness, everything, the whole wellness consciousness spectrum. In the marketplace now, in our industry years after starting your brand, what’s it like to be in this sea of sameness where it seems like everyone’s talking about matcha lattes, CBD and their yoga routine? I’m not diminishing anyone in particular. It’s just if you scroll through social media, it seems like everyone’s talking about the same stuff. How is it like you expressing yourself in a unique way amongst a glut of people doing it over the last decade?
We have to tap into why do we even need to differentiate ourselves? That’s an interesting thing. I’ve been studying social media for over ten years. When you tie in social media with psychology, you can learn a lot of interesting things. If you start to understand why social media is constructed the way that it is, I’m reading a book about Facebook and it’s like breaking down the business side of it and the psychological elements of social media. We have to identify that there’s a big human desire to fit in, to be validated, to be taken seriously and to be important. What social media has taught me is it’s actually helped me become less than my ego in a lot of ways when I realized that I’m not the only one doing something.
Social media has pointed that out. It’s showing us how we are more alike than we may have realized before. For me, I spent all these years making videos with my friends and my sister before YouTube existed. There’s like this, “I’ve been doing that before YouTube,” thinking that we’re all on our high horse. The truth is there are kids all across the world. If they had access to video cameras, they were probably making videos too. I just didn’t know it because they weren’t uploading them to a platform like YouTube. When I was making YouTube videos early on, it was because I happen to have the tech skills to do that stuff. Not everybody had that knowledge. It took them longer to develop the knowledge because most YouTubers didn’t go to film school as I did.
I was “ahead of the curve” simply because I was interested in filmmaking before most people had access to all the tools that I had. I had that privilege. I had the privilege of having a video camera and computers and teachers that understood filmmaking and all of those tools that have not become as common until now. That doesn’t mean that I’m any more important than somebody else. I just had different access to it. I think social media shows us we’re all very similar to one another. I’m not the only one who likes matcha. I’m not the only one who likes going to yoga classes. I’m not the one who wants to take cute photos of myself so that I’ll get the approval of other people.
When I see things that are “annoying” to me about other content creators, it gives me an opportunity to look within and say, “If something that somebody else is doing is bothering me, what does that say about me and where I’m at?” A lot of the times it’s like, “I want to be the only one.” Why do I want to be the only one? Some of us are drawn to being special and unique that feels good and safe to us and that feels important to us. It’s very humbling when you realize you’re not necessarily special or unique. If somebody is doing something that I’m like, “How dare they do that?” Maybe there’s part of me that wants to do something that they’re doing, but I didn’t have the courage to do it. I was censoring myself and maybe I’m just envious that person wasn’t censoring themselves.
I want to shift gears.
Can I show you something? I think you might’ve gotten a peek.
You had a little photo, which is apropos because of the next question I was going to ask you. One of the things I’ve always challenged Whitney about is her actual parentage because she looks like a small Asian or Inuit Eskimo baby. I’ve always challenged her, who are your real parents? There’s a gentleman wearing a tie in the background. Whitney’s got a very short haircut. She looks like she’s in a very warm sweater and she’s hugging a gray cat who looks semi-relaxed, semi-concerned about the hug. Who is this cat?
I don’t know. I don’t remember the context. It’s like a family friend or something.
You clearly always loved animals and you’re so peaceful. The look on your face is so caring and so peaceful as you’re embracing this cat and now it all makes sense.
There’s one more photo that makes me laugh that also makes a lot of sense.
This is apparently Whitney in front of a school project. She’s wearing a dress with blue with white and red buttons. She has cool bowling shoes and leggings. They look like bowling shoes. She’s holding her arms behind her back and her chin is held high like a proud French bulldog. There’s a meme she always sends me when she’s proud of herself of a Frenchie stretching with its chin up to the air. This basically tells me all I need to know. One of the last questions I want to ask is Whitney has this thing of sending me cute animal memes and cute animal photos. If you had a dream experience with an animal, what would that be? What’s the first thing that comes to your mind? I know how much you love animals. Obviously that’s one of the reasons that you’ve been vegan all the years you have been, but a dream experience of like, “If I could only meet this animal, go to this place.”
I know what it is, the one that’s been the longest in my consciousness since I was a little kid. I made a pact to myself, which actually scares me now, but I feel like I’d be doing my younger self a disservice if I did not do this.
What is it?
When I was little, I was obsessed with great white sharks. It’s funny that as an adult, I feel afraid of them, but as a ten-year-old kid or however old I was, I was not very afraid of them. I was like, “I want to see a great white shark face to face,” in one of those cages that you can go down in. That idea right now scares the crap out of me.
Why?People lose their attention if you don't give them a concise answer or something that they can easily understand. Click To Tweet
Why does it scare me? There are videos of them breaking through the cages. Also the more I learn about animal entertainment, the more I’m like, “It has to be something that I knew was kind.” They’ve been basically manipulating these sharks to come by the cages.
They’re probably putting like chum in the water.
I’d have to do a lot more research to understand is that bad for them? Is that screwing up their habitat somehow? There are a lot of things I’d like to know. I certainly wouldn’t want to see one in captivity. From an environmental and animal rights perspective, I’d want to make sure that it was good for them. It’s interesting, I lost a little bit of the intrigue I had for great whites. Maybe it’s because as a kid I didn’t have access to Shark Week. Now we have Shark Week and there are so many videos and stuff. They’re a little less mysterious even though they’re still very mysterious creatures. There’s part of me that’s like a bucket list thing that I’ve had since I was a little kid. I can’t imagine what it would be like to feel that fear because if you’re being put down in the water, you can barely see a few feet and this giant creature is a known predator.
They are an apex predator.
What does apex predator mean?
That means they’re at the very top of the food chain in its ecosystem. We kill great whites, but in its natural environment, there’s nothing that’s killing great whites. They’re apex predators.
There are a lot of myths around them thanks to the movies and all of that, this mythology that they’re human predators. They’re not trying to kill us, they’re trying to eat. A lot of people know by now, they often mistake us for seals or something else, like another meal. I’d be also happy to observe it from a distance in a boat. You see those videos of them diving out of the water and stuff. That’d be fascinating. Although it’d be disturbing to watch them kill a seal or something. I don’t think I’d want to see it eat another creature in front of me. I think it would be pretty magnificent because I bet you they’re a lot bigger.
Can you imagine the energy in the water? Maybe that’s what it is. Maybe I’ve become more sensitive as an adult. I feel if you put me in that environment, the anticipation of knowing I was about to see a shark, I think is such a huge strong emotion. Actually seeing this massive predator in its own environment, I’m the one intruding, so naturally it deserves to rule that situation. Even if I felt like I was in a safe space, I don’t think we can control that feeling of fear. We are designed as human beings to fear predators. That would be a great opportunity to practice being present and controlling our fear in a way that I’ve never had to control it before.
It’s a massive discomfort.
The other thing I was going to say is energy. If you attune yourself to the energy of other beings and the world around you, you can sense a lot of things the more you allow yourself to become sensitive. This is one of the reasons that I want to own up to be insensitive instead of trying to develop a thick skin. I’d rather be sensitive than having thick skin because I think it’s like we’re choosing to numb ourselves or something or become strong. When in reality, we’re designed to be sensitive and aware. Can you imagine, Jason, what it would be like to feel the energy of that being? There might be more than one too and not just within your vision, but imagine what’s beyond what your vision can see in that water. It’s exciting, but also you’re being lowered into deep water in the middle of the ocean. I don’t know. I’ve gone skydiving and this seems a lot less frightening than skydiving to me. Now, he knows how to make me uncomfortable. It’s like I’m on one of those reality shows where you tell the producers what your greatest fear is and they’re like, “No, that’s great.” A few weeks later the producers are like, “Guess what? We’re putting you in a situation based on your greatest fear.”
Do you have a greatest fear?
I don’t know if we have enough time to dive into that. My fear right now is to be late for my yoga class, to be honest. I want to go get my teacher’s pet spot in the front of the class and go in and sweat it out in this yoga class. Right now, the discomfort that I’m feeling in this very moment is that of the fear of being late.
Whitney, thank you for teaching me more about you. There were some things you shared I didn’t know. I didn’t know about the great white stuff. There was a lot of things you shared and I appreciate you being open and vulnerable because that is the spirit of this experience. For more glimpses into who we are and our philosophies of life, mental health, emotional wellness and everything, you can go to Wellevatr.com. For more resources, you can download our workbook You Are Enough and our free training series and also our Wellness Warrior training. We will see you for another episode. Thank you for reading and we will be with you for another episode!
Somebody said something that I felt was pretty accurate to describe our relationship.
They said that you and I because we’re friends that used to date, that our dynamic is like Jerry and Elaine from Seinfeld. Would you say that’s pretty accurate?
I feel like anyone who would understand the Seinfeld reference, that’d be an apt way to describe it for sure.
No one’s ever described us that way before, which I thought was sweet.
I dig it. I also think it’s interesting because someone would have to know what Seinfeld is.
Who doesn’t know what Seinfeld is?
Some young ass stupid Millennials probably don’t know what Seinfeld is.
Now that you just said that rude comment, I don’t think I could even share this.
That’s a rude thing to say.
Is it? I’m sorry.
I don’t want people thinking that you’re an asshole. I’m trying to promote this show. The truth comes out about Jason Wrobel.
Here are moments of being a judgmental asshole.
Maybe we all do, though.
The truth comes out. I have my moments, I do.
It’s funny how we get appalled by things like that when in reality a lot of us actually say those things behind closed doors.
I say that simply because I’ve had experiences with younger people where I’ve brought up seemingly obvious pop culture references and they were like, “Huh?”
That happens with everybody. I’m sure you didn’t get some references that older people brought up when you were of Millennial age.
I’m fine with them shaking their fist and going, “Young whippersnapper, you don’t know a thing.”
- Whitney Lauritsen
- Whitney’s cookbook
- Genius Foods
- Eco-Vegan Gal – YouTube Channel
- You Are Enough