Personal growth may sound so fulfilling and such a great path to follow. However, there is a side to it that not many people realize or want to admit. From discomfort around taking responsibility to the victim mindset, there are “ugly” aspects of getting to empowerment. In this episode, Cassandra Powell shares the personal responsibility we have to fulfill, the biggest shift when it comes to connecting, and what personal growth really means. She shares how the goal is not to be “fixed” but to be fortified. Cassandra also talks about asking what people’s needs are, how our circles can be a mirror of ourselves, and managing the flood of advice on social media to meet your needs. Personal growth is indeed not always rainbows and butterflies. But it is still a path that is very much worth, and even necessary, to take. Tune in now and learn how to reframe yourself!
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The “Ugly” Side Of Personal Growth With Cassandra Powell
I sat down with my guest, Cassandra. We ran into some tech issues, and it showed so much about her as a coach and the work that she does because before we officially started recording, she asked, “Are you okay? Do you need a moment to breathe through the frustration?” I love that question. I don’t know if anyone has ever asked me that as a guest tuning in, and being so aware and present of people’s needs, asking them questions, and checking in with somebody. It is so amazing.
I feel like that’s going to be woven into our conversation very organically. It was nice to begin with too. As I mentioned, Cassandra and I spent so much time talking, almost an hour, before we started recording. It’s been officially an hour since we met for the first time virtually, beyond our email back and forth.
I already knew from the back-and-forth email, Cassandra, that you are a very compassionate, self-aware, empathetic and caring person, and many beautiful qualities. Spending the time getting to know you in all our little tangential conversations, we might explore some big subject matters. I don’t know what direction we’re going to go into, but I can’t wait. Thanks for being here with me and showing up that way.
Thank you so much. I love it. I’m excited. It’s so true what you bring up about asking what people’s needs are and things like that because it can be awkward. It is that vulnerable step of saying, “I’m here with you. I’m present. I’m observing this. How are you?” We don’t want to step on people’s toes or make them feel uncomfortable or anything like that. Sometimes the thing of even just offering to help someone can be uncomfortable because what if they say no? What if they think I’m thinking this or that of them? Ultimately, the base root is caring for somebody. I am equally as excited to talk with you. Thank you so much for having me on.
Those statements are powerful around the discomfort of asking someone if they need help. I can relate to that. I don’t think I’ve ever thought about it that way consciously. I’ve experienced it even before. We were talking about asking about people’s pronouns. I was saying to Cassandra how I sometimes hesitate to ask in the context of a professional setting. With the show, I treat it very professionally and I take it very seriously. My aim is to help the guest feel comfortable on the show because we’re going to talk about so many uncomfortable things.
The very least I can do is make sure that they feel comfortable in the discomfort. Even that, it’s not my responsibility to make someone uncomfortable. I yearn for it. With the pronouns, for example, sometimes they don’t ask people what their pronouns are. Similar to what you’re saying about offering help, I’m afraid that they will feel uncomfortable being asked that question because not everybody is in that belief system or state of awareness around different pronouns. Even though that’s in alignment with my values to ask, I will hold myself back because of fear of making someone uncomfortable.
We’re already talking about one of my favorite things. A couple of different examples of this are what I found with my coaching clients. It’s a lot of reminders that it’s not your job to make them feel comfortable. It’s not your job to manage their emotions or to manage their expectations. When we go to that, people automatically think, “You’re a jerk then. You’re not doing anything.” It’s like, “No, it’s not my job to manage it. I can facilitate. I can do my best. I can communicate. I can care. I can show up, but it takes two to do that.”It's not your job to manage other people’s emotions, expectations, or disappointment. Click To Tweet
It takes a person willing to also be vulnerable to meet you there to say, “I don’t talk about my pronouns because blah, blah, blah,” or “Yes, thank you so much.” That’s a lot to be on the same page with somebody else so quickly. I know I’m still getting to know you, but for people like us who crave authenticity and connection, it’s more worth it. I feel like it’s an easier risk to take because that vulnerability fosters that connection, but not everybody is ready for that. I think that can be at this point. That’s when we step into, “Let me fix things. Let me manage. Let me control. Let me tweak.” It’s like, “I can’t.” I can do my best and somebody can still think I’m a total jerk.
This came up for me, and so it’s a little helpful for me to hear this from you. It has come up a few times where with communication, and I’ve recognized that I simultaneously thrive in communication because I feel so open and willing to be vulnerable. I’m okay with getting uncomfortable. What is challenging for me is other people’s reactions to communication. It’s challenging because as I said, I aim to be kind, caring, empathetic, and all of that. Because it takes two, I have to remind myself that I’m not in charge of somebody’s reactions.
One thing that’s scarring and confusing is what came up one night. I went out to dinner with some people that I know very well. Having very open and fun conversations, getting into some little deep things and checking in, I was asking some questions about one of the person’s lives and what was going on with them. I have a tendency to be very unfiltered. I tend to try to censor that because a lot of people are uncomfortable with straightforward questions.
This has been a big theme for me. I can think of multiple times this has come up where I’ll ask somebody something. If someone else is there like a third party, I can see them getting uncomfortable or they’ll verbalize it to me. That’s what happened. One of the other people that were there said to me privately, “I was uncomfortable with what you were saying to the other person in this conversation because they seemed uncomfortable.” I was thinking about it. I said, “I don’t recall asking anything that seemed out of bounds.”
I realized there are three people there and they were all having different experiences. There’s me in the conversation asking questions. There’s my perception of the person I was asking the question to and trying to notice what was going on for them, and then there was this third party that was watching that second party’s response to my questions and interpreting that.
I got in my head about it and I thought, “Should I ask that person I was talking to how they’re doing? Should I check in with them? Should I apologize?” I found myself also wanting to manage their emotions. Ultimately, I decided to let it be because it was not my responsibility to manage how they reacted to my questions. It’s also not my responsibility to change because a third person said they didn’t like the questions I was asking. It was interesting.
It is interesting. I love that you bring that up and you bear it with your values because even hearing this story and having listened to your show and knowing you to the degree that I do, that’s what you’re about. It is having these uncomfortable conversations. I love what you said. It’s like, “I could check in.” If it bothered you, check in like, “How are you doing?” I connect. I think apologizing is different because we don’t know what their experience is. Ultimately, we empower people when we allow them to stand up for themselves.
When we give them a chance to say, “That makes me uncomfortable to talk about,” or “This seems strange to me how you asked that. Could you reframe it because I felt a little attacked?” We give an opportunity to practice healthy and empowered conversation and communication by not feeling like we have to tiptoe. Be caring and considerate, but practice that. On your end, it also gives you a chance to show up and say, “You felt funky about that. What is an authentic way for you to touch base on?”
I love that story because it’s a perfect example of finding that. We were talking before this about that weird gray area and everything of finding that gray area of, “What is within my behavior that doesn’t feel right? What is something that is outside of my control that is somebody else’s projection on me or something that can be actually talked through?”
The gray area. I have to do a little callback because you have a gray tabby. That’s where immediately where my mind went, thinking about your cat. I’m like, “Somehow the cat is going to weave itself into our conversation.” When I think of the gray area with you, I’m also simultaneously thinking about your gray tabby cat, but that’s a little side note for fun. It feels delightful to bring a cat into a conversation or any animal.
I love that you pointed this out about for someone like me who grew up trying to manage. As I’m studying things like trauma, relationships and childhood, I’m doing a lot of research on those subject matters now. Something that comes up over and over again is how some kids were inadvertently raised to feel like they had to take a lot of responsibility and manage their parents’ emotions. That makes sense. That rings true for me. I’m still processing that thought and working through how or if that showed up in my dynamic with my parents.
It sounds right because of my history of trying to people-please and be a perfectionist, “Let me try to make everything perfect. Let me try to please everyone.” That feels safe and comfortable to me. It feels unsafe if I don’t do that. For example, one night was triggering for me because I am afraid that I didn’t please somebody and I want to try to make it better.
There’s another conversation that happened months ago. I was talking about racism with a Black friend of mine. We’d never gone into it. I’m curious about how I can be an ally. Although I’m still trying to figure out if ally is the right word. I want to understand how I can be less racist, to be honest. What can I do to acknowledge the history with myself and others, and participate in a less racist world? It’s uncomfortable to have those conversations. Yet, I was leaning into this with a Black friend of mine.
A White friend of mine was also there. Later, this person said to me, “I was uncomfortable with some of the questions you were asking about racism.” This person was saying it to me as if I interpreted it like they were trying to correct me or maybe even say, “You shouldn’t have done that.” I felt similar to what you said. I came back to that value of the reason I asked those questions because I trusted that my Black friend would let me know if they felt uncomfortable with the questions I was asking.
It felt complicated because my White friend was almost saying that maybe that person didn’t feel comfortable telling me that they were uncomfortable. It’s confusing because you simultaneously want to empower somebody to let you know when you’re crossing a boundary. What if they’re not there yet? Do you play a role in helping them? Do you just let them figure it out and take ownership of your role only?
This is amazing because you’re right. This is all the gray area, especially with racism. The thing that I have learned is it’s not their responsibility to educate us, me being a White person. I don’t know if you’re listening to this. It’s not the community’s responsibility to educate us. What I’ve had to learn has been very humbling in my educational process. It’s like I’m going to mess up. I’m going to make mistakes. That is going to happen. I can either be so worried about making mistakes that I don’t try. Therefore, I don’t grow and learn or I make mistakes and I learn from them.We can either be so worried about making mistakes that we don't try, and therefore don't grow and learn or make mistakes and learn from them. Click To Tweet
In those situations, maybe where you are in your journey is saying, “I have some questions. I know this is not your responsibility. Do you have the emotional capacity for this? Is this something you’re interested in engaging?” Paving that way, knowing that it’s something. I also think that’s, “It’s a couple of different things.” It’s active consent. This reminds me of a story. If you don’t mind me telling you this, I’m in Philadelphia and I was crossing the street one day. I saw a woman who appeared to be visually impaired with a walking cane trying to cross the street.
In my head, I’m freaking out because I’m like, “You can’t see the light. What is going on? Are you going to cross this?” While I’m toiling and in agony in my head about, “Do I help? What is she going to think if I do?” This man who I know is on hard times, I’m assuming he’s homeless or without a home, runs across the street. Without hesitation, he comes up to her and escorts her across the road. I’ve seen this man. He’s awesome. I’ve seen him around all the time. I was so humbled at that moment that this man literally did not hesitate. He went and helped her.
Being the person I am, I’m agonizing about this. I’m like, “Do better. You can learn.” I am not kidding you, two days later, another visually impaired woman is walking across the street with a cane. It’s coming down and I’m like, “Universe, this was a sign.” I run up and the thing that I was concerned about was like, “What can I do?” My concern is that they don’t want help. What do you do? You ask, “Do you mind me helping you across the street?” She was hilarious. We had a wonderful time and she made a joke. It was a positive experience. The thing that stopped me was that act of consent. It’s so weird because if we realize that we’re allowed to make mistakes, and if we have the intention of growing from them, then we will. That’s okay.
There’s so much in that because my mind goes to two sections. One is you’re right. Let’s ask everybody, but some people are uncomfortable with you asking for consent. That’s why it feels confusing and challenging to me. Some people are so thrown off just like what I’ve experienced with the pronouns. To me, that’s consent. Instead of assuming what your pronouns are, let me ask you for clarification.
Sometimes, in asking for clarification or consent, people are very uncomfortable that you’re asking. I get even more in my head because I’m trying so hard not to make them uncomfortable. I get stuck. In that position with that woman, part of me was like, “What if she’s offended that I’m asking if she needs help? Did that come up for you at all?”
That was the number one thing. What if I jump in there and she’s like, “Girl, I don’t need your help. Back off.” My thought was if I ask her, she’ll say no. If she doesn’t and it hurts her, then that’s some work she needs to do. I’m doing the best I can. You got to take it and you got to do your work. I’m not going to do it for you. It’s interesting you bring that up because I love that you said all of my favorite words within 30 seconds, which are people pleasing, perfectionism and boundaries. I’m like, “Yes.” That’s what I work on in my private practice. It’s my favorite thing.
One of my favorite mind-blowing things about people pleasing is it’s a form of manipulation. It is manipulation because we’re trying to control the situation, how people are reacting, and if they like us or if they don’t like us. I feel like in those times, we’re asking for that consent and the other person is uncomfortable. It’s like we’re doing everything right. It’s like, “Why aren’t you doing your part?” In reality, that’s us trying to control it again. Going back to your values, it aligns with your values. You’re coming with an intention of communication.
They’re allowed to be thrown off. They’re allowed to be offended and upset. I think that’s when the best conversations happen. What comes in is our response to that. We can either react or say, “I just hit a nerve. Let’s love. Let’s connect. Is that uncomfortable for you? I’d love to know why. I’m here if you want to talk about anything.” I don’t know.
That would’ve been very useful for me with this third party. That would’ve been an interesting thing to explore. I found myself getting a little defensive when they said that they felt uncomfortable with the questions I was asking. I’m like, “I wasn’t asking uncomfortable questions. It was that person’s response.” That’s where my brain went. What if I had asked this third party person in that scenario, as well as the one in the past racist-related conversation? What if I asked those third-party people, “Why were my questions to another person uncomfortable for you,” and dug into that to better understand it?
I feel like there’s often an opportunity in any relationship, romantic, friendship, professional, or with strangers or whoever we’re in a dynamic with. There’s an opportunity to notice our own triggers and our defenses. When I get defensive, maybe that’s an opportunity for me to examine it versus leaning into it. I could examine it within myself but if I feel defensive with somebody else, I could even say out loud, “I feel a little attacked. I’m getting defensive now. Can we explore this together?” The consent then comes into play too.
I love this, “I’m feeling a little defensive now and would rather be on the same team. What’s going on?” That curiosity, especially in relationships, to take that step and say, “I want to be on the same page. I want to choose curiosity and connection. How do we get there together?” It’s a game-changer.
I like those. These are the questions that come up since you and I both do coaching. When I started going through my coaching training, which is not long ago. I felt like my whole brain opened up because it put me in a place of asking questions versus making assumptions. It’s been a very healing experience for me to learn how to coach effectively. I’m very good at questions in general. I love questions because of my natural curiosity but it’s the type of questions I’m asking and not leading somebody in the direction where I think they should be. That was a game-changer.
“Let me not assume that you want something. Let me ask what you want.” If I can’t quite get there, in my brain, I could ask, “I have two options for you. Do either of them feel good or is there another one I haven’t thought of yet?” It changes everything when you get into that questioning versus assuming mindset.
It does because it makes something that’s limited and turns it into an opportunity and possibility. When it comes to connecting, that’s the biggest shift that we can have because the intention is to connect. It’s not to be right. It’s not to feel better. It’s not to control. We ask questions that bend as opposed to defend. That was new for me.
Bend as opposed to defend. That’s good. You said bend or mend. I also thought bend is interesting. You’re bending and you’re flexible. We’re like, “Which one do we want to do now?”
Do we want to mend? Do we want to bend? Do we want to defend? Do we want to mend, bend or defend? I’m sure there are other rhyming words we can think of. It’s true though.
It’s a real-time realization about these dynamics, which was something that you and I had intended on discussing. You seemed very excited about discussing getting our needs fulfilled. I’m curious how that comes into play with what we’re talking about now.
I think that the needs thing has been interesting for me. It’s something I am exploring and discovering myself. Especially as we have these platforms like Instagram that are blowing up, you have so much personal growth advice and self-help stuff. There are lots of different types of advice especially when it comes to relationships, where it’s like, “Don’t expect a partner to meet all your needs. Have them meet these needs. Have these.” It’s like, “Where is that line of something that is unrealistic?”
An unrealistic request from either a partner, a coworker, a friend or whatever type of relationship it might be. When is it that it’s a societal-based norm that is either a preference or a conditioning thing? It’s so interesting because especially when we talk about a commission, people will opt out of communication as opposed to having these uncomfortable conversations about what’s going on, how are you feeling, and what are your needs.
What I’ve been exploring and discovering in my own life is that part of the reason is it might be because when you have these conversations, you learn what the true deal breakers are and you have to make a change. Change is super uncomfortable. If we have these conversations and we’re like, “We’re not compatible,” or “We’re not as close friends as we used to be. It’s not worth the effort to see each other every Friday,” or whatever it might be, then we’re going to have to take action. Once you know, you know. That is so much harder than not having those conversations.
It reminds me of something I’ve been reflecting on as I’ve been reading this new book, which is so new to me. I haven’t even memorized the name yet, so let me pull it up. I think it’s called Overthinking About You. Have you heard of this book? It really appealed. That’s what it’s called, Overthinking About You: Navigating Romantic Relationships When You Have Anxiety, OCD, and/or Depression by Allison Raskin.
Allison makes some wonderful points. The chapter that I’ve been reading or listening to in the audiobook was interesting. I believe her pronouns are she. Allison was talking about communication breakdowns and relationships, and how sometimes we avoid talking about the tough things, but we don’t even give the opportunity to people. We might shut down, be quiet, ghost, and all these typical common things that happen in relationship dynamics, especially these days.
It’s how those don’t give the other person an opportunity. If you don’t share your feelings with someone, they don’t give that person an opportunity to react to your feelings and to understand your feelings. I thought that was interesting because I immediately started thinking about times in which I shut down. That’s a coping mechanism for me. When I feel uncomfortable, I’ll get very quiet. I’ll shut down sometimes. I might stop talking to somebody. I do that as a protective mechanism. What I’ve been reflecting on is how much that might have limited somebody because I’m assuming that my needs won’t get met if I share them. I think that’s what’s going on there.
What feels uncomfortable about having that conversation?
One of my core wounds is not feeling seen or heard. Being misunderstood is a big thing for me. I’ve experienced it so much. I don’t know if that’s the result of being a people pleaser or maybe I became a people pleaser because I often feel misunderstood. I think, “If I can get this person to understand me, I’ll feel safe. Maybe my needs will be met.”
Safety feels at stake if you’re misunderstood. What do you get from that safety if you are misunderstood? What is being understood? What type of safety does that give you?
That’s such a beautiful question. Perhaps connection is like a sense of bonding and security.
Hearing you say that from everything we’ve talked about, shutting down immediately closes any chance of connection. That’s the thing that you’re yearning for and the thing that you’re trying to over-control by saying, “If you’re not going to give it to me, then I’m going to shut it off. I’m going to take what control I can. God forbid, do not give it to me,” and you feel that disappointment. You’re not alone in that. That is a very hard thing because we all do want connection. It stems back to what we’re talking about at the very beginning of still being vulnerable.
It’s like Brené Brown’s research. Everyone is expecting the other person to be vulnerable first. If we want to live an authentic and brave life, it means being vulnerable. That’s got to be built in automatically, and that choice for connection. A lot of the work that I do is building that internal foundation of let’s acknowledge that. There’s that fear and pain, but what we affirm is, “No matter what, I’m going to be okay. I will always get my back. I will always take the steps, make the efforts, support and love, and nurture myself to find those connections that are rewarding. If I am rejected or I don’t get that here, I’m okay. I’m safe.” It comes from me and gets fortified by you, but it doesn’t originate in another person.If you want to live an authentic and brave life, you have to be vulnerable. Click To Tweet
You added the word rejection in there and that’s a big thing. A lot of us are avoiding rejection. I can’t remember if it was in that Overthinking About You book or not. I heard about how rejection is such a threat to our survival. It’s like our deep fears of being rejected, outcast, and not surviving because we’re rejected. Most of us experience fear of emotional survival, “If I get rejected, it’s going to be so painful. I won’t be able to survive emotionally.”
We have a huge mental health challenge in our society now that’s leading to people taking their own life in some cases. They’re not surviving because the emotions became so painful. Maybe that’s one of the reasons. It’s not the only but that could be a literal threat to you, that deep pain. Rejection isn’t the only source of that pain but it’s such a big one. It’s like, “Nobody loves me. Nobody cares about me. I’m not worthy,” and projecting all of these things onto that sense of rejection.
We do attach so much meaning to rejection. I’m a huge advocate of the growth mindset, especially with how I coach on. One of the aspects that I lean into is rejections, failures or missteps. It’s data and information. The ways that we personalize it happen to an extent where it then becomes about me. People always want to get defensive here. Usually, I want to give them benefit of the doubt.
Usually, they get defensive and they’re like, “It is about me. I went in for that interview. I asked that person for their phone number.” It’s like, “You did, but do you think that person you asked for their phone number knows the extent of your beautiful, magnificent, and unique being in the five minutes that you talked? In those five rounds of interviews, do you think that they fully had the opportunity to see, know and understand?” No, there’s no way that they were looking at your capabilities, potential, possibilities, desires, dreams and everything. It’s a sliver of data that they got, but they gave you more data.
For me, it helps to bring it back to an existential level. People who’ve worked with me are probably rolling their eyes if they’re tuning in to this. They’re like, “There she goes again, bringing it down.” It is ground yourself and you. Close your eyes and take that deep breath as a human being here existing. We separate that personalization just a little bit. There’s so much that we can grow and change. Why would we attach so much meaning to that small piece of affection?
That is bringing up something interesting that I don’t think I’ve thought about before, which is the surface level. That’s where my mind went. This person has seen a fraction of me. I get very triggered by things that are surface-level. I have had that for a long time. Now, I’m wondering how this misunderstanding thing is connected. You are assuming something about me maybe by the way that I look. This happens a lot in relationships, dating or rejection. There’s so much talk about being rejected for how you look. I have to change how I look in order to not be rejected.
That’s something I think a lot about. That’s something I pick up in our societies. I talked a lot about the pressure that women take, biological or not, in a gender sense. It’s the pressure to dress a certain way, to put on makeup or do your hair. I talk very openly about how I don’t want to do those things. That ties into a distaste for anything surface-level. I never want to feel rejected at the surface level because I know I’m so much more than that.
I have a fear of being rejected for the surface level. Sometimes, I assume I’m being rejected from a surface level like you’re sharing somebody seeing five minutes of me. I crave going deep. I go deep on this show. I do everything I can to avoid small talk because I want to go deep. Maybe my desire to go deep and below the surface is my protective coping mechanism. Maybe if I can prove that there’s more to me than what’s seen on the surface in those five minutes, then I will receive the connection, the validation or the love that I’m craving instead of the rejection.
That’s good. I’m curious too. With this stain for being judged for the surface level stuff, do you think there would be a shift if all of a sudden, you felt accepted from the person’s surface level? What change do you think that would make or what reaction or response would that bring?
I feel a big desire for that acceptance. It’s interesting the phrase face value, like if I could be accepted at face value. If I didn’t have to prove myself, if I felt like I could show up as I am without having to do any sort of performance, without having to wear a mask, just show up and immediately be accepted. To me, that’s the ultimate experience. I find myself trying to accomplish that all the time, personally and professionally. What’s interesting about having this conversation with you is acknowledging the defense, the armor, etc. that’s there of assuming that I won’t be.
Maybe the shift is if I’m carrying around this assumption that this person’s going to assume something about me. Ironically, I’m assuming something about them. Before I even get to know them, I’m thinking, “They’re going to assume this, so I better quickly prove myself.” That’s been a big theme in my life. We’re talking a lot about romance but this extends beyond romance for me.
This makes so much sense, especially as you’re saying, it’s going to change your energy, the way you interact, and what you say to people. If that’s what’s resting on your shoulders, that’s a ton of pressure. I love what you said about what would shift if I knew I was going to go there and be accepted. What if instead of knowing you’re being accepted, you knew that no matter what their response was, you’re going to be okay? You are still okay. You’re still safe.
One of my favorite things working with people about is disappointment. It’s like we control our disappointment. We control our expectations. One of the things that I’ve been grateful on my weird life that I’ve had is that for some reason, at some point in my life, I took this concept in therapy of people project things onto you. I was like, “Okay. Yes.” It’s like I want to take ownership and I want to take responsibility. However, I get in a situation where if I’m super nice or friendly to somebody and they’re like, “Have a good day,” or whatever, I’m like, “They must be having a bad day. Maybe they accidentally took laxatives instead of their vitamins, and they’re dealing with that all day or somebody cuts them off.”We control our disappointment because we control our expectations. Click To Tweet
I don’t know why it always goes to bathroom issues but like, “They’re trying to get home to the toilet.” I’m going to make an excuse for them because that’s more helpful for me than assuming that it’s something wrong. Granted, I’m always going to check in on my behavior, but at a certain point, unless they’re communicating, “The way that you used that tone, I did not love it.” I go, “I can work on that for you. Perfect.” Unless that communication’s there, I am going to show up and do my best. I’m also going to give you space to not be showing up and doing your best and still accept you. What would it look like in your life if you accepted people in the same way that you’re wanting to be accepted?
That’s such a brilliant question because it’s something I explored in therapy. Sometimes I feel surprised at these realizations because I spend so much of my life focused on personal development and well-being. Sometimes I’m caught off with despite all this work I’m doing, there are still things that I’m not recognizing as patterns within myself. One of them was the judgment. I was expressing to my therapist how I felt triggered by this website that he had referred to me. I was trying to describe why. It’s like, “Why was this website triggering?” I said, “It feels like this website’s rigid and I don’t like that.” Through the conversation, I realized I was projecting things like it was my own rigid thinking.
It was interesting because sometimes those judgments we have towards other people come out of this self-righteous place like, “They’re doing something bad. I don’t want them to do something bad.” That in itself is exactly what you’re feeling uncomfortable by. It’s such an interesting thing to explore because it’s also so basic in the psychology of people being a mirror for ourselves. Sometimes it’s hard to figure out what is being mirrored. We’re so caught up in it that we don’t even notice the mirror.
That is so true. I love what you said and it’s very relatable because even if we know it’s a mirror, what in the mirror am I wanting to pay attention to? What is it trying to reflect back? Sometimes it feels like one of those funny house mirrors where it’s like there’s a picture there. I can’t quite make out what it’s trying to show but I know it’s there because it’s not always obvious. Sometimes it is an insight into some trauma that we don’t know is still raw or something that’s sensitive that we haven’t given ourselves time to sit with. I love that perspective of, “No, it’s still a mirror. You can put a cloth over it and put paint on it, it’s still going to be a mirror however you disguise it.” It does. It takes that courage to look at it and say, “Again, I’m allowed to make mistakes. It’s safe for me to make mistakes.”It takes courage to look in the mirror and admit you are allowed to make mistakes. Click To Tweet
Going with the mirror metaphor too, one interesting exercise that reminds me of is we become so used to looking at reflections of ourselves. If you look in the mirror, there are things about yourself you’ll forget about that you won’t even notice anymore. One of them is I have a scar on my right side. I don’t even notice the scar. Only a few times in my life will I remember I’ve had the scar since I was ten years old.
When I look in the mirror, it’s covered up. I have to zone in and focus and go, “There’s the scar that I forgot about,” and yet I’m looking in the mirror often enough that it’s something I’m not even noticing that’s right in front of me because our brains will cover up something. It’s like covering up information that we either no longer need, no longer serves us or don’t want to see. Simultaneously, we will fixate on things. Sometimes we are so self-critical that when we look in the mirror, all we see is negative. We completely tune out the positive because we don’t want to see the positive. We want to be self-critical or self-sabotaging or whatever. The mirror is such an amazing exercise for us, literally and figuratively.
I was thinking the exact same thing, especially with body dysmorphia stuff. It’s like I’m going to fixate on these three pores as opposed to my beautiful eye color or the awesome eyebrow shape I have. That’s what’s going to take my attention. That’s what’s going to challenge and question. It’s so true. We hyper-fixate or ignore the things that are like, “This is something that I want to pay attention to or something I want to address or I draw attention to. Maybe if I look in the mirror and do jaw massages instead of trying to pop this weird blackhead by my ear. What is better? It’s not a true story at all.
How is my time better spent? I’ve calculated the amount of time that I’ve spent maybe looking in the mirror and fixating on things that are not perfect, what could I do with that time over my whole life? I’d be terrified to know those statistics. To be honest with you, I would be terrified because not only is it higher than I want but what a waste. When I had that reframe and I started thinking of it like that, I spend a lot less time being critical of myself and a lot more time focusing on the things that I do want but I enjoy being an active participant in life. Why not?
It’s all connected too. I feel like I’m going to learn so much by exploring that question you asked. That led me to think about the assumptions because I know that I carry shame around my appearance. I feel resentful because I feel like that shame came from an external reaction, and that’s worth examining.
It’s a lot to figure out because it’s been building my whole life. As a woman, for instance, there’s so much around beauty and our worthiness as women and as human beings. It’s so much to carry. My yearning to go deep and to be valued beyond that appearance, that’s all tied into these values and all that. That has led to it feeling uncomfortable looking in the mirror and examining myself. It’s hard for me to focus on the things I like about myself.
Many people struggle with that and it’s sad to me. What if part of the healing process for that is continuing to acknowledge that I feel unsafe? I feel like there’s a threat to my survival here. How can I help myself feel safer but simultaneously feel less judgment of myself? That’s what I’ve control over. To your point, we can project all this control onto other people pleasing them, manipulating them, and all these things that we do in our personal relationships. If we can do that inner work of self-accepting, it’s hard but it can be done. We do have control over it.
That ties into something I know we wanted to address, which was discomfort around taking responsibility and the victim mindset. Also, what ties into this conversation around appearance is the “ugly” aspects of getting to empowerment. Even the word ugly feels triggering or uncomfortable to me because it’s like, “I don’t want anything to feel ugly. I want to see the beauty in everything. Let’s see the beauty in myself,” but ugliness can still exist outside of ourselves. I’m curious how you think we can move through those discomforts around responsibility, victim mindset and empowerment.
You’re spot on. It’s a very common shared feeling of what actually is ugly. Even going back to what we were talking about before, one of the shifts that I like to embrace is there’s body neutrality as well as body positivity. On top of that, I like to switch into this mode of what if I treated myself like I was the standard for beauty. What if it’s all made up? There’s nobody forcing me to think anything otherwise. The most bating thing for me is that we have a society that almost strips people of their ability to find beauty in the things that they do. I know people who love big noses. They think they’re sexy and strong and powerful, yet we have the societal standard where it’s like, “That’s not ideal.”
Who put this garbage out there that prevents us from seeing beauty? The transition for me is like, “I might not fit all of these things. There’s somebody out there that’s going to like it.” I would rather walk around being like, “Give it a look,” and maybe that’s in a more playful way but that goes into taking responsibility for how do I respond? It sucks that we are in a society that values these certain strict confines of things. If I don’t fit that, it’s going to be something that I think about, but it’s also something that I choose to think about to a certain degree. We have a certain amount of control over how much we choose to engage.
I think that this is where mindset works. It’s that neural reprogramming. It’s the neural rewiring that we do of saying, “I used to go to the mirror and do this. I used to think this way. I’m going to start to shift this. I’m going to rewire these neurons that have been firing and getting awfully comfortable firing in that way. I’m going to shift to the discomfort,” but we have to make that choice. When we’re talking about the uncomfortable side of taking responsibility, especially with mindset work, it’s not like weightlifting where I start with 5, then I move to 10, and I will be stronger.
It’s all in our minds of I have to hold myself accountable to say, “You are better than thinking like this,” in the sense of you deserve love and acceptance. You are worthy of having good thoughts about yourself and putting a boundary up to say, “This is a societal thing. This isn’t a me thing.” Especially with the victim mindset, it is an awfully comfortable safe place to be because it abdicates our taking responsibility and growing and moving forward. I’ve got to be honest, if you are victimized, it sucks. We are never justifying another person’s actions ever.
We are never saying, “It’s okay what they did.” No, that’s not a part of shifting out of a victim mindset. Being victimized doesn’t even give you a victim mindset. What we’re saying with the victim mindset piece is we want to empower you to take action and have control where you can. This horrible thing happened. What do we do about it? What is within my control? This is where we get into the more “ugly” side of personal growth because it isn’t rainbows, sunshine, and butterflies. Even with my mindset clients, they’re like, “I hear so much about positive thinking.” I’m like, “Honestly, screw your positive thinking. I’m about helpful thoughts.”
Usually, the more encouraging and positive thoughts are more helpful, but if we are distilling things down to data and if we are looking at what’s helpful, is it helpful for you to wake up every single day to say, “I’m an ugly, lazy piece of sh*t?” Probably not. Is it helpful for you to wake up every day and say, “I’m proud of you. You’re growing. You’re changing. There are people out there that will love you. We’re safe no matter what happens. I’ve always got your back. I’m going to protect you and look out for you.” I’m going to guess so. I’m going to guess you’re going to be more aligned with the life that you live, and take the chances that get you there than if you’re saying the other stuff to yourself.
The ugly side is that truth, and this is coming from a girl who bathed in the victim mindset. I created an entire spa around the victim mindset so much. I can’t even go into details about it. You got to get sick of your own sh*t enough to say, “I can be victimized. I can have a rough hand but I’m so sick of living there. I want to change.”
It’s something I feel like a lot of people yearn for and they have so many tools and ideas but as a coach, that in itself can be so overwhelming to know where you want to be. You mentioned all the different tips and things, a piece of advice we hear on social media. That can be overwhelming. It comes down to figuring out your own personal starting point. You’ve mentioned the values a few times. A core part of the foundation is being clear on your values. I did that exercise with my therapist and it’s something I returned back to. It’s so lovely that you are getting to know me, Cassandra, and you are able to notice some of my values and remind me of them. That’s so helpful.
It’s understanding our strengths and piecing this together because this is hard work. It’s a shame that so much advice in the wellness world has made it seem simple because it’s not at all. As I mentioned, I do this work every through coaching, podcasting, and personal research. I’m still surprised in my therapy sessions like, “I didn’t even notice that.” How are you able to shift something if you don’t notice it? I’m so grateful for people like you, Cassandra, that support people with this work through your coaching.
Also, as I mentioned to you privately, I love your personal growth subscription box company, CoachCrate. I haven’t received it yet but I’ve seen it. I thought, “That is so cool.” I’m curious how you use that as a tool to support people. Is that part of your coaching? Is that separate? If somebody’s looking for physical tools because some people don’t want the emotional tools. They want the physical stuff like the journals. I’m into aromatherapy as a tool. What is in the CoachCrate subscription box? How do you use that as a tool to help people work through these tough things?
I love that use of language because that’s how Coach Crate was born. It was because I knew that there are people who either didn’t have access to one-on-one coaching or it wasn’t their style. It is about that accessibility and so, essentially it is a personal growth box. You get a personal development book guide that’s made by me. It’s what we do. It’s having this conversation and exploring deeper questions like, “I have this book, but how do I actually use it?”
Reading it is great but I want you to think about it. I want you to explore. I create an entire coaching plan that’s like, “We’re going to use it too, so look out.” We’re going to read it, explore it and implement it. Inside is switched to a quarterly system now. It’s a couple of books, a book guide for both of the books, and products that either assist in that growth or support and nurture.
I have that little extra time or connectivity handles, aromatherapy, and all of those things to just make you feel good a little bit while we’re being so uncomfortable. How can we have this so that it’s a combination of both the uncomfortable work, but then also the pleasurable side of this, which I don’t think we talk about enough? I’m a huge proponent of you’re not broken. We’re not doing this to fix you. We’re doing this to enrich your life. We’re doing this to clarify, to strengthen, to fortify, and all of those things.
I think that message gets lost along the way of you need to fix this. It’s like, “You’re great. Are you good? What do you want to be doing better?” In my coaching, a part of what I do is let’s work on these things but let’s also work on you being good, and going back to that present stuff. CoachCrate addresses that, and workshops and a community to connect with. It’s that starting spot of that journey and that extension.
That’s such a powerful offering that you’ve developed because I identify how hard it is to get started, and how hard it is to keep the momentum. That’s something that I’ve felt surprised by as I’ve embarked upon coaching myself. It is recognizing how challenging this is and then noticing that within myself that this is not a quick fix. It makes me sad that so much in life is positioned as a quick fix. It feels like a capitalistic mentality like, “Let’s tell somebody that they can fix themselves. Let’s get them to think about that so much. If they buy this one product or service, everything’s going to be fixed.”
Instead moving towards a supportive place where people want some comfort and accountability. They want someone there to root for them, and we’re going to walk through this together through the hardships. I sensed that about you, Cassandra, when you and I were first going back and forth through the written word, and noticing how you provide that support. You’ve been so supportive of me in this episode with your questions, which is so unusual.
It’s very rare that guests ask me things and dig into things. I’m very grateful for that. I imagine that the audience has taken away so much. There are so many little nuggets here. If they haven’t received what they’re looking for yet, they have this whole introduction to you and the work you’re doing, the content on TikTok I saw, which is so cool. I love TikTok. What do you think is the next step for somebody who’s here and wants more from you? Where would you direct them to begin?
First of all, thank you so much for all the kind words. It’s been such an honor to talk with you. Thank you for exploring this stuff with me and for being uncomfortable and brave with me. I appreciate that. As far as connection, connect with me. Find me on Instagram or TikTok. Send me an email. I have group coaching things that work on what you were saying like, “How do I get started and how do I keep going?” It’s an app where we track what your goals are. I do one-on-one coaching. I do CoachCrate and I would love to talk. Honestly, I do what I do because I love people.
I can relate to that. I love to talk. I love getting to know people. That’s why you and I are able to have this dynamic together. Cassandra, it’s been so wonderful getting to know you during the recording before we even started. I’m already looking forward to connecting with you in person. For the audience, before we even started, I was like, “I want to know where you live,” because when I do one of my annual road trips and visits to specific cities, I would love to connect with you. That’s so exciting.
I’m grateful for your presence here for me and the audience. I’m also excited to see what’s to come, Cassandra. For someone who might be interested in CoachCrate and who wants to get in touch and start talking to Cassandra, that is in two places to make it easy for you. One is right below the podcast player in the description. There is a link there to take the next steps. You can also go to Wellevatr.com. Eventually, the video will be up there. It will all be contained in one place including the links for Cassandra and all the wonderful things that she does in this world. I hope you check that out. Thanks for joining us. Thank you again to Cassandra.
Thank you so much.
- Overthinking About You
- Instagram – CoachCrate
- TikTok – Cassandra Powell
About Cassandra Powell
I’m Cassandra! I help passionate people accomplish big goals while increasing daily satisfaction and happiness. I help my clients move through fear, resistance, and discomfort to take action. I have been coaching groups and individuals for 7 years and helped hundreds of people shift into more empowered mindsets. I also run the personal growth subscription box company, CoachCrate. I’m always ready with a personal growth book recommendation and a nerdy reference! I’m from the foothills of Colorado but live in Philadelphia with my gray tabby, Nali.
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