68: External Approval and Achievement at the Expense of Your Well-Being: A Conversation with Dr. Jillian Rigert

What happens when you subconsciously link your worth with achievement and external approval? It’s common in these situations to lose sight of your own identity, your values, and you give your power away. However, you can get your power back. If you’ve been in the habit of pushing yourself in the name of achievement and approval from others at the expense of your own well-being, this episode is for you.

Dr. Jillian Rigert is a Life and Leadership Coach, an Oral Medicine Physician, Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Radiation Oncology, Air Force Veteran, Dog Mom, and YouTube enthusiast dedicated to supporting people as they lean into what it means to live in alignment with their core values and create the life that they deeply desire.

Tune in this week to discover the problem with doing things just for other people’s expectations while neglecting your own basic needs, core values, and the people you love. Jillian doesn’t hold back in sharing some gut-wrenching stories about the reality of giving 110% for external approval and shows you how to find your way back, start being true to yourself, and begin to live with integrity.

Habits on Purpose with Kristi Angevine, MD | External Approval and Achievement at the Expense of Your Well-Being: A Conversation with Dr. Jillian Rigert

What happens when you subconsciously link your worth with achievement and external approval? It’s common in these situations to lose sight of your own identity, your values, and you give your power away. However, you can get your power back. If you’ve been in the habit of pushing yourself in the name of achievement and approval from others at the expense of your own well-being, this episode is for you.

Habits on Purpose with Kristi Angevine, MD | External Approval and Achievement at the Expense of Your Well-Being: A Conversation with Dr. Jillian Rigert

Dr. Jillian Rigert is a Life and Leadership Coach, an Oral Medicine Physician, Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Radiation Oncology, Air Force Veteran, Dog Mom, and YouTube enthusiast dedicated to supporting people as they lean into what it means to live in alignment with their core values and create the life that they deeply desire.

Tune in this week to discover the problem with doing things just for other people’s expectations while neglecting your own basic needs, core values, and the people you love. Jillian doesn’t hold back in sharing some gut-wrenching stories about the reality of giving 110% for external approval and shows you how to find your way back, start being true to yourself, and begin to live with integrity.

Are you ready to start your own coaching journey? If what you heard this week resonated, why wait? To get started with private coaching, schedule an appointment to chat with me by clicking here. Or if Internal Family Systems is intriguing to you, I invite you to sign up for an Internal Family Systems session! Finally, if having a community and working alongside other women physicians lights you up, get on the waitlist for my group coaching program! 

What you'll learn from this episode:

  • Why living for the expectations of others leads to a loss of identity and the destabilizing effects of this.
  • The grief that happens when you release your grip on your old identities, and how to deal with it.
  • Why not giving yourself rest and permission to pause during a big transition will lead to burnout.
  • How you may be using other people’s opinions and expectations to guide your decisions without realizing it.
  • A quick way to start identifying your core values and areas of alignment, and where you’re feeling friction and resentment.
  • Why your world is always a reflection of how you’re valuing yourself.
  • How to set boundaries set from a place of self-compassion.
  • The importance of being clear on your identity and grounded in self-worth.

Listen to the Full Episode:

Powerful Takeaways:

05:26 “I was a person that I didn’t really relate to anymore.”

08:31 “Thinking back to what led me to lose my identity, I was living for the expectations of others.”

14:33 “Depression, now, is a sign for me to check in. What are our habits telling us?”

18:44 “What people lack is self-compassion.”

22:06 “When I developed self-compassion it was like putting glasses on, where I could see how I was mistreating myself and how I was being mistreated by others.”

28:09 “What has been best for me to ground myself in my mission and my purpose is to know my internal why.” 

29:39 “Awareness is the first step.”

32:14 “Ask yourself, why do other people’s opinions about me matter more than my opinion about myself?”

Featured on the Show:

Related Episodes:

Full Episode Transcript:

Welcome to Episode #68. This is your host, Kristi Angevine. Today, I get the pleasure of having a really moving, impactful conversation with Dr. Jillian Rigert about what can happen when you subconsciously link your worth with achievement and external approval, and you lose sight of your own identity.

Jillian's experience is rife with challenges, including depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, and anorexia. Her story is simultaneously heavy, and uplifting. And I know it's a conversation, it's going to speak to so many of you. Let's get started.

Welcome to Habits On Purpose, a podcast for high-achieving women who want to create lifelong habits that give more than they take. You'll get practical strategies for mindset shifts that will help you finally understand the root causes of why you think, feel, and act as you do. And now, here's your host, Physician, and Master Certified Life Coach, Kristi Angevine.

Hello, hello. I love that we get to have a virtual date every Wednesday. If you're new here, thanks so much for tuning in. I always encourage new listeners, if they haven't yet done this, to visit the early episodes, particularly Episodes 1-7.

The way I talk about habits here is different than what you might have heard before. And these episodes set the tone for how you can examine your own patterns, so you can be truly intentional. Then, if you like what you hear, it would mean so much to me if you took a minute and left the podcast a review.

If you've been listening for a long time and haven't yet left a review, you can literally press pause right now and do one before you finish the episode. Leaving a review helps so much because reviews help the podcast be more discoverable so other people can find this information.

Next, I'm going to plant a little seedling of an idea for you. Whether you're new or a longtime listener, if you want help to start applying what you're learning here, at the end of the episode, I give you three ways that we can connect, so you can get my personal guidance to efficiently make the changes that you want to make in your life.

Now, the habit we're diving into today, is the habit of pushing yourself in the name of achievement and approval from others at the expense of your own wellbeing and your own interests. Joining me to put a face to this habit is the lovely Dr. Jillian Rigert.

In addition to being a life and leadership coach and an Air Force veteran, she's an oral medicine physician, a dentist, and a postdoctoral research fellow in radiation oncology. Jillian and I talk about the pattern of doing things for other people's expectations, while neglecting what's most important to you; your basic needs, your own core values, and the people you love.

Jillian doesn't hold back as she talks about what it was really like to always be working really hard and giving 110%, to prove that she wasn't selfish or lazy. Listen in, as she shares some incredibly gut-wrenching parts of her story, and how she ultimately figured out her way back to being true to herself.

Kristi Angevine: Welcome everybody, to the podcast. I have a really wonderful guest that I've been hoping to get on the podcast for a long time. I'm with, today, Dr. Jillian Rigert. Jillian, for the people who don't yet know you can you just introduce yourself?

Jillian Rigert: Absolutely. I'm so grateful to be here. I love your podcast. So, thank you so much for having me. I'm Jillian Rigert, and I am an oral medicine physician currently working in radiation oncology as a research fellow. I'm also a coach within the institution, and helping people to lean in to their true self and make sure that they're living within their integrity.

Kristi: Can you just tell our readers… I'm in Oregon right now, it's been raining all night long. Where are you in the world? And what's it like where you are right now?

Jillian: I am in Houston, and it's a little bit cloudy. But of course, this is a great time of the year to live in Houston, Texas.

Kristi: Amazing. For people who know you this is going to sound very familiar. And for people who don't, I highly recommend that everybody go listen to your TEDx Talk and read your KevinMD articles because it gives them a very beautiful slice of where you came from and what's going on. We'll link all those in the show notes.

But you have a really powerful story. And interestingly, you and I have been connected a little bit over the years as we were both going through our own personal journeys for things. But your story includes things like depression, burnout, your journey with anorexia and suicidal ideation, and making these massive changes in your career. I think, of course, everybody should check out how you describe them in these other ways.

But where you are now, you do this great job of normalizing talking about and focusing on, really prioritizing, mental well-being and mental health. So, can you just tell the listeners a little bit about how, from where you came to now, you were drawn towards coaching specifically.

Jillian: If people don't know me, my backstory is I started my career trajectory very fast tracked into the Air Force and trained to become an oral maxillofacial surgeon. When I was in surgery, we don't really know how it's going to affect us to be a resident until we're doing it. During forced sleeplessness, I was a person that I didn't really relate to anymore, and I developed pretty pervasive suicidal ideation.

The discomfort and inability to talk about it is what led me to cope and numb with anorexia. And I got to a point where I was so unwell that I was medically discharged from the military, and I lost that career. That was a core part of my identity. At the same time, I accepted it would not be sustainable for me to continue and be a surgeon.

Anorexia becomes an identity, and so at this time, I was in the hospital for anorexia, trying to become nourished enough to identify if I was going to fight to save my military career and what I was going to do about surgery. At that time point, it was a complete loss of all the identities that I thought made me who I was.

And so, realizing how destabilizing that was, and how that fed into the suicidal ideation and sense of worthlessness, I thought, we need to challenge this. Otherwise, we're going to continue losing people that think that their career is more important than their life. That's where the article comes from on KevinMD, “I Risked My Career to Save My Life.”

After I left oral surgery, I ended up completing a residency in oral medicine. I was still severely burned out. Because one thing I want your listeners to know, is if they are burned out and they’re career transitioning, breath is so vital. And we often don't give ourselves permission to pause.

But the consequences of that for me, were that years later, I hit even further rock bottom. I really lost my life in 2021, when we connected. I’m so grateful, because people like you that entered my life during that time, kept me moving forward. It is unbelievable how you can go from such a deep low, and really change your life around in a year.

And so, you asked me how I got into coaching, and that was the only thing I hadn't yet tried. Of course, I found you in Dr. Sunny Smith's group for EWP (Empowering Women Physicians). And I thought, “Wow, that's the one thing I didn't try.” And it gave me just enough hope to move forward.

Kristi: Just hearing that, I mean, I just want to take a pause to say thank you for sharing something like that. I know you are tremendously transparent, and you value the practice of regularly being vulnerable, and sharing what is oftentimes not given words to normalize this discussion. So, thank you for doing that.

Because I know somebody listening to that last little couple minutes of what your story is, somebody out there is going to go, “Okay, I'm not alone. And the transitions that I'm experiencing right now, are completely normal.” So, thank you for saying that.

The thing about coaching, that you said, that I think really nails it is that it was something that you hadn't yet tried. And yet, as you and I have discovered, coaching is such a synthesis of so many different fields. And it's so tremendously pragmatic and practical, that once you find it, if it's a fit, it generally gives you such great tools. So that you can go from sort of floundering and what the hell works, to I now have techniques and tools and approaches that can be like my scaffolding while I'm feeling a little bit unmoored.

Jillian: In thinking back to what led me to lose my identity completely, I was living for the expectations of others. And what coaching did for me… I had been in therapy. And of course, you can do coaching and therapy at the same time. Therapy helped me to resolve some things that were happening in the past. Coaching helped me take back ownership of my life. And in that, I realized that it was so empowering, and that I could stop living my life for others.

Of course, we live in service of others, but just not relying on doing things that I thought society expect me to do, at the cost and the negligence of my own desires. And so, that was the thing with coaching. When we’re in a toxic work environment, or when in healthcare, we can develop that learned helplessness; we can lose our sense of power. And coaching can help us get our power back.

Kristi: Can we talk a little bit about the identity shift that happens when you go from making decisions based on external inputs to listening within? Because the thing that I noticed, is that one of the things that I had to deconstruct for myself, and that so many of my clients in Habits On Purpose for Physicians Small Group have to sort of unpack, is that they have insidiously used these external metrics, other people's values, other people's opinions, to guide their own decisions.

And they, me, many of us, slowly, maybe not even realizing it, link personal worthiness to achievement. Like, even as simple as linking how things are going at work. And then, it shows up in all these variable ways. Everybody's, it looks different. So, it's so easy to miss.

You might pick a career that you saw as socially esteemed, even though you might not have picked it if it didn't have such a social esteem to it or you might not even like it. Or you might feel incompetent or ‘less than’ when something just doesn't go well at work. So, can you talk about how somebody listening to this hears what you're saying, and goes, “Oh, I might be doing that, outsourcing my values to other people.”

Jillian: Yes, and I'll share my introspection for how it showed up for me in case other people can relate or identify. And, of course, we're not talking about therapy, but I do want to share it because I think other people can identify. Since I was young, I had always found that that was the way that I could get noticed or appreciate it is through my academic achievement.

So, I learned, if I perform well, then I get a lot of attention, or I get a lot of approval. And I sought the approval of my family, of teachers. And that's where it started to develop as my worth. So of course, we get that positive reinforcement. And then, as we go into medicine, it becomes a necessary part of our career trajectory, because we are told that we have to get good grades in order to be able to pursue the careers we want.

And just as you said, if dentistry or medicine or oral surgery or the military didn't have a prestigious component to it, would I have done it? I don't think so, because back in undergrad, I was really interested in psychology. But I came from a family that didn't really value mental health. And so, I was in that state of conflict. And at that time, I felt it. So, there are flags. I was like, “Ooh, I'm pushing myself to do something,” and I was constantly telling people what I was doing for that validation.

So, we'll talk about dentistry for an example. I thought everyone was so proud of me when I was becoming a dentist. But then in dental school, people weren't saying anything. Like, they weren't that proud. And then when I became a dentist, what do people say to you?

One, it used to have, according to, I don't know myth or truth, about the high suicide rate. There used to be suicide related to amalgam use. But anyway, that's no longer said to me, because of the suicide risk so many people are facing right now.

But the patients in my chair, what would they say? “I hate the dentist.” And when they kept saying that to me, over and over and over again, it really showed to me, maybe I got into this for the wrong reason. And that was quite destabilizing.

Kristi: I think for anybody who's listening to this, and they are hearing this and wondering, “Huh, is that me?” Just even that question can invite some reflection. So, this brings up one of the things I've heard you communicate so, so nicely, is the importance of getting clear on your own core values. The things that you, just for you, really like and really value.

And defining your core values can be really daunting when you’ve repetitively outsource them to others, and maybe not even realized you've been doing it. Which I think is a key component. Like you might do it, but not recognize that that's where your approval or worth came from, or that's where your decision making came from.

One of the things that I recall you talking about is that you said that a quick way to identify these is to look at your life and basically, simply, identify where you feel in alignment. And then, what I love, is where you feel friction or resentment. Can you talk a little bit about this?

Jillian: Yeah, that especially comes when people are realizing the awareness of, I'm living for others. And then what? I think that's very challenging. It's not all of a sudden, poof, now I feel better. I'm living in alignment.

I feel like there's a grieving period, and actually kind of feels worse, from my experience, before it gets better when you start to strip away the things of, I was constantly seeking approval from others. And so, then when you take a step back in your life… It can be a slow process. When I think about changes in our career, we might want these grand changes, but it really starts with taking small steps. And what's the next best step?

And so, when I was constantly doing things, what I caught myself doing is… We talk about people pleasing in medicine, and lack of boundaries in medicine, and I was like, gosh, I would drop everything I was doing at a blink of a hat to meet someone else's needs, at the cost of my own. And I was starting to get severely depressed.

I talk about depression now, and anxiety now; it's kind of a sign for me to check in. Where it used to be like, “Wow, I'm so broken. How did I get depressed? What is this telling me?”

Something that you do well on your podcast, it's what are our habits telling us? What role does it serve in my life? And so, it does take a little bit of time. It's so helpful to talk things out with a therapist or a coach as you navigate what are your behaviors now and get a little bit challenged, so that you can have that time to pause and do some introspection.

Kristi: Yeah, I love how you put it, that it's a sign, whether we're feeling depressed or they're feeling anxious, panicky, distressed, dismay, anything, is sort of that nice indicator to check in. As opposed to, which is not easier, but the very rapid habit that we can have of, oh, these feelings mean there's something uniquely wrong with me. I'm broken.

It's such a common linkage of, if I'm feeling this, there must be something wrong with me.

Jillian: Yeah, yeah. I faced a lot when I was so depressed in surgery. I'll have an article coming out in a little bit about what wasn’t right with me when I developed depression. I wasn't sleeping, I wasn't eating, I wasn't exercising, of course, I developed depression. If I hadn't, as a surgical resident, then that would probably showcase that I was probably not human.

Even just thinking about surgery, I have a lot of people that come to me that aren't sure that surgery is for them. And so, when we ask, there is that “five whys,” and you're trying to get to the core of, why did I choose this profession? And sometimes it comes because we thought that we had to work as hard as possible and sacrifice as hard as possible.

And this shows up for any role, not just professionally. It could show up in being a parent or whatever it comes into relationship. Am I sacrificing enough to prove I'm not selfish? Am I working hard enough to prove I'm not lazy? Because society tells you, you should avoid those things at all costs. Just questioning, what's the root reason why I'm pursuing these paths? And how is it serving me?

Kristi: For people who don't know the “5 Whys”, the short summary is, anything that you want to understand better, you ask yourself “why?” Like, why did I choose this? Why is this hard for me? Why do I want this? And then you give your first answer. And then you ask yourself, why, again. Like, so what? How come? Why?

You just keep asking, with every single answer that percolates up. You inquire why, why, why until you sort of unpack that to the core of what's behind it. It gives you so much clarity.

Jillian: Yeah, and there's a lot with the psychosomatics, too. So, as in Martha Beck’s Wayfinder Training, we did a lot of embodiment. As a person with a history of anorexia and challenges connecting with my body… Our society has gotten disconnected from their body. So, it might be hard to check in with your body to see how you're truly feeling.

And that's where it's great to have a therapist and make sure you're connected when you're pursuing this path, because a lot can truly come up. You might realize that that internal discomfort, you might want to start avoid the discomfort as you're leaning in to what you truly want, and grieving maybe, what you thought you wanted. I just really wanted to say that.

And there's a book by Martha Beck, The Way of Integrity, that is a good resource if you're trying to identify, what signs in my life could be pointing to the fact that I'm not on the right path? And how can I really tune into myself, to appreciate that I'm getting better in alignment?

Kristi: You've mentioned, a couple times, something I think it'd be important to just focus on a little bit. And that's the idea of experiencing grief when you're making a transition. You talk about grieving your old life. And one of the ways I see this show up for people is when they're trying to change a habit. Whether it's perfectionism, people pleasing, or drinking, scrolling, eating more than they want, whatever it is.

Sometimes, when they are considering how they're going to stop, they grieve those defining features of that old life and those old habits, and the person they were when they did whatever, or thought whatever. And it's almost like the rules that guided them; patients always come first. I need to always say yes, because that's how I'm a team player, that's how I show that I care; that releasing the grip to some of those rules, is part of that grief.

So, I'm curious, for you, what do you see as the most challenging part of that grieving process?

Jillian: I think what people lack is self-compassion. When I left surgery, it took me five years to tell people; I wasn't immediately vulnerable. And I realized I was isolating because I was feeling a lot of guilt and shame. I had zero self-compassion for anything I was thinking about myself. I think about challenging your thoughts or meditating.

But if you haven't ground yourself in self-compassion, you can actually do more detriment because you're using your thoughts against yourself. So, when you're appreciating and grieving, just give yourself so much self-compassion.

Kristin Neff gives resources for how to develop that, for a lot of us that haven't yet developed self-compassion. And Brené Brown, I was here in Houston, which she's been in Houston awhile, but I had a chance to listen to her. And she said something profound to me, that really helped me to lean into self-compassion. She said, the core trait that people have, that have strong mental toughness, is self-compassion.

Yet in medicine, how are we trained? We are trained to beat ourselves down, to build ourselves up, because that's what makes us stronger. But that's not accurate. We break ourselves down. And for me, somebody that's hyper self-critical, as many of us are, I stayed down. And then, when I thought so negatively myself, it became like a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I was like, “I don't belong here. I don't deserve to be here,” and then I would make that true, because that's all I would focus on. I wouldn't hear people giving me positive feedback. I just wasn't ready to receive that.

Kristi: I think this is so important because that habit of self-compassion, of purposely talking to yourself and treating yourself with warmth and kindness and understanding, it's not something that always comes naturally. It's not something that you and I were taught in training. We might have been sort of encouraged to show compassion to others, and just naturally felt it towards others, but towards ourselves usually, it's like a mismatch.

I love that you brought up that there is actually so much data to show that self-compassion is highly effective, in terms of treating and preventing things like burnout, helping with resilience and persistence, and so much more. But so many people listening to this podcast, they hear self-compassion, and they're like, “Okay, that's the epitome of wimpy and soft and fluffy.”

Jillian: I say that I in my TEDx talk. I thought it was soft and weak.

Kristi: It's just, yeah, soft, and weak. And that's something that it's great to show to others, but if you need to show that towards yourself, it's a sign that there's something wrong. Like, “You can’t cut it. Suck it up, buttercup. Pull on your big girl panties, and just deal.” That sort of mindset can get in the way of self-compassion. Because as soon as you need self-compassion, it’s weak, right?

So, when you think about that obstacle that somebody might have when it comes to self-compassion, what can people do? When they experience it like that?

Jillian: I think, challenging that belief and seeing how that belief serves you. And there's, of course, Adam Grant, who's telling us all rethink our previously held beliefs. Before self-compassion, I worked for free for five and a half months. There's a quote by Danielle Laporte that says, “The world reflects back at you how much do you value yourself.”

I realized in that moment; I didn't value myself. And the external cues of how I felt about myself were showing me I was being taken advantage of. I was working for free, and you can't pay your bills for free. I was like, why is this happening? When I developed self-compassion, it was like putting glasses on. Where I could see how I was mistreating myself, how I was being mistreated by others.

For people that might have disordered eating, they might have an addiction, and anything that they're using to numb themselves, self-compassion, for me, has helped me a lot with my struggle with eating disorder, because I no longer have to take things out on myself. And when I'm self-compassionate, I nourish myself appropriately. I move mindfully.

And so, as you see how your life changes, it's a positive reinforcement cycle. And of course, then you just have to keep reframing; it's not fluffy. How much does my life change when I develop self-compassion?

You said about the compassion for others, Brené Brown said another thing, that I think people will resonate with, the message that she sent is, the people that she saw that were able to consistently give compassion to others, the number one thing they had were strong boundaries. That is a rethink moment right there.

Because we are all taught to people-please. We are all taught to stop everything that we're doing to meet the needs of others. But that's not sustainable. And when I think about boundaries, the challenge would be that some people use boundaries and then it turns more selfish, because they're not considering others. But it's not that, it's boundary’s grounded in a place of compassion.

Kristi: The image that's coming to my mind is, we always talk about if your cup is not full, it's hard to give to others. I’m picturing if we have this cup, it's like our allostatic reserves for what we can do. And if we have no boundaries, it's like our cup is a sieve and so it all just goes out. It's not that we aren't, in those moments, being helpful to others, in the micro moments, but if it's always going out.

Then ultimately, in the long run, we're not going to have enough to actually be helpful. And so, we'll be living under the illusion that we're being so, so helpful by always saying yes, and always putting ourselves last. When really, it's actually not going to be as effective and as helpful. And therefore, self-compassion is the way that you can be even more generous and more giving. If you want to focus on others, you've got more focus to focus.

Jillian: Yep. Especially when it comes to, we talked about the core values, when I didn't have boundaries, I showed up. You know, we think that people that love us will stay in our lives forever. And so, when I didn't have any boundaries, and would take all of my work stress, it showed up in how I treated… Not how I was present for my dog. If you know me, I treat my dog like a king. But how I would interact with my family, or not.

So, if people that haven't heard my story, when I was a surgical resident and I was dealing with depression, and my ex-boyfriend called me and I didn't pick up the phone for the first time in my life, because I still loved him. He passed away that weekend from an accidental death. And so, in that moment, that shaped how I show up in the world and how I honor, even if it seems unnatural to me to honor boundaries and honor self-compassion, I wasn't there for the one I loved.

That moment, I just always ground myself in that, and do I ever want to feel the way I did? When he was there for me, and I wasn't there for him. When we don't have boundaries, how are we showing up for the ones that we love? Because in my personal life, I realize I usually project my pain on the people that you believe are going to stay in your life forever.

Kristi: I think many people listening to this, understand, at least intellectually that our time, our quantitative time, alive is finite. And the quality of our life is also completely unpredictable. And even though we can intellectually get the idea of deathbed regrets, sometimes when it comes to actually really integrating that and knowing, as you have said, we might have some time, it might just be today, actually bringing that in, I think is sometimes challenging.

Like, there's a little bit of an intellectual nod to, yeah, I get it, carpe diem, live once, be true to yourself. And then, actually the reality of what we sometimes do.

Jillian: Yeah, and I've been there. I mean, even with having been faced with that life or death. I was told by physicians, that my internal medicine eating disorder training, I was critically ill, and I sat watching my heart rate beat in the 20s. I was just disconnected, disassociated. And disassociated from the fact that it could be the end for me, and what would that mean.

Even sitting in those moments, you get back into the state of your everyday life and going through the status quo. You have to be intentional, and it can be uncomfortable. For me, I have not developed my spiritual beliefs in a way that facing death feels comfortable. Where I'm like, “Oof, maybe that's a spot that I could develop. So that I can sit more comfortably in that space. So that I can maximize my life.”

Kristi: One of the things that I know you do a lot of work with revolves around personal self-worth, and really owning that and feeling comfortable with it. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Jillian: Yeah, so the development of personal self-worth comes from we identify a lot with what we do. And the question then becomes, what happens if that was stripped away from us? Even in psychiatry, on the crisis unit, when people lose their jobs, they become in kind of an existential crisis.

And if you ground yourself in internal self-worth, then even if outcomes happen that aren't great, you can start to overcome that with more of an optimistic mindset, without losing everything that you ever thought made you ‘you.’ Developing that core sense of self-worth, so that you're not constantly seeking validation.

With our current day… I'm trying to say this in a way that people might identify in how it might show up in their life. In social media, of course. And then our profession, having an identity that might be prestigious, and who are we without that, it might keep people stuck in their role a little bit longer than they need to be. But social media is one glimpse of, if I'm not getting all the likes, if I'm not getting all the downloads, if I'm not getting all the connections, then who am I? And we compare a lot.

What has been best for me to ground myself in my mission and my purpose, is to know my internal “why.” So, if I'm doing it to get the likes, I'm doing it to get the subscribers, or there's a lot of people that are looking into coaching and that they might be doing it because they need an income. But I would ground yourself in your core “why.” How you can help yourself. How you can serve others.

If I'm living true to myself, then the impact of what people say, if it's against what I'm doing, or it's pushing back, then I can look more insightfully. Hmm, how much is true with what they're saying? And not completely derail if I'm having a lot of criticism, which is new for me. Because in the face of criticism before, with lack of internal self-worth, I would get very suicidal thoughts. So, that's the risk of not grounding yourself in internal self-worth.

Kristi: Gosh, that's such a powerful statement that you're pointing out. Something as simple as social media, where oftentimes, many people may not be even aware of that subconscious valuing of likes and comments. And noticing how it makes them feel based on how they're thinking about what they're experiencing there. How, to strip it all away, that self-worth, can be like… I'm picturing like a house of cards. It just doesn't take much to kind of make it go down.

Is there anything that you can think of, for somebody who's listening, who’s like, “Maybe I do have some self-worth work to investigate,” that might be a first step in that direction?

Jillian: Yeah, I think the awareness is the first step. If you're not sure you have a social media addiction or problem, well, try some days without it. “That's hard for me, without being on social media.” I'm like, “Why is that?” And we're thinking about when people say something and it really hits your pain point, “Hmm. Isn't that interesting?” Have a curious mind toward yourself. And of course, grounding yourself in self-compassion.

Like, “I can't believe I'm online all the time.” We think about this middle school drama, “I can't believe everything that they’re saying really matters to me, but it does. And I can have compassion towards that.” And say, what needs to be true for me to feel better for myself?

One thing I noticed with social media, is it becomes like an addiction, which people know. But after I get off of it, you can check in and say, “Do I feel better? Or do I feel worse? And what happened?” That's a good way to check in.

Kristi: I think that right there is so great. That people can do it with almost anything. This week, I would just invite people to try that. With anything that you do, when you're done with it, check in: Do I feel better? Do I feel worse? And if you can remember to even do it while you're in the middle of something, like while you're exercising, while you're charting, while you're scrolling, while you're eating. Do I feel better? Do I feel worse? Do I feel good? How do I feel?

That just highlights that the awareness is essential. Awareness and understanding precedes all change. And that's such a concrete way to bring that in. I love that.

Jillian: I also think just going in knowing that not everyone's going to like us. No one really, truly knows us that well, but not everyone's going to like my messages, especially anti-diet culture messages, or I have pretty deep existential crises. And maybe it's a little that people don't want to go into an existential crisis with me.

People don't enjoy, even in my family, my mom's really funny, she doesn't love that I talk about anxiety, existential crisis, mental health. So, our flavor of the conversations aren't going to be for everyone. And that's okay. Now, I used to think, “Oh my gosh, if this person doesn't like me and validate me, then I'm going to complete loser.” So, ground yourself in your internal why, and keep showing up and using your voice that’s authentic to you.

Kristi: Yeah, I think that is key. Being just aware of other people's natural responses to some of our things and recognizing, of course, I'm not going to be everybody's cup of tea, even people who I just absolutely adore. Totally fine. It's okay.

Jillian: Yep. That’s where self-compassion really helps too. It’s okay, and I can still love myself and value what I have to say. Because I think one thing for me, that I noticed, why do other people's opinions about me matter more than my opinion about myself?

Kristi: It's such a powerful question, right? And so, yeah, anybody who's listening, if you're just taking a moment here, this a perfect time to press pause and just answer that question for yourself. Why might that be? A lot of my listeners are really good at beating themselves up and being hypercritical.

I'm just going to throw out the explicit caveat that the tone of asking that question isn't, why might that be? What is my problem? The tone of that question, you have to be very deliberate about, why might it make sense? There's a part of me that really does value these external things more than I value my opinion himself. Why? How come?

So interesting, right? And there's such good answers out there. There’re things about socialization, messaging that we've all inherited on a more generic level, but each of us has our own unique reasons. I’m like, why? That’s kind of interesting.

Jillian: We could talk a lot about the self-criticism, too, and what role that has in people's life, and how does it affect how they show up? Because self-development is a huge thing right now. We could self-help our way forever, and always be nitpicking at ourselves. But how often do we give ourselves a moment to appreciate where we are? And that self-criticism turns into a very negative viewpoint for me.

I was at a conference recently, and it was virtual, but it was such a profound conference; by BetterUp. It was called Uplift. A theme that kept coming up is that the people who succeeded in the military and showed… We don't love the word resilience, but they did use it. So, we are all resilient enough, but the people that really thrived, what their trait was, was they were optimistic. And this isn't the toxic positivity type of optimism.

But what I realized is, I was hyper self-critical and very catastrophic in my thinking, which prepared me well for worst case scenarios. But then I asked recently a question, what if it all works out? And that's a question that I was like, “Wow, I don't actually ever think it's going to,” and that likely played into why I increased my own suffering while I was a surgical resident. Why I thought I didn't belong when it came to the military. Because I'm very sensitive, which I now found to be a strength.

But when we talked about self-compassion and sensitivity, society previously told me that that was a weakness. And had I checked in and said, “Is it? Or is it why people connect on a deep level with me because they feel safe?” So, just constantly be checking in and say, “Where did this come from? And how is it serving me now? And what needs to be true in order for me to modify it? So, I can live the life that's true to me, and, of course in alignment with my core values?”

Kristi: This is so beautiful, Jillian. As we’re wrapping up, I'm wondering, we've talked about almost like a high-level overview of all sorts of things. And I think what you do so well is you have this natural strength of just going very quickly to things that are deep and practical. And so, I would encourage anybody just to relisten to this whole podcast and take those little things, those little pearls that you've left, and just really sit with them.

And by sit with them, I don't mean you have to sit on your meditation pillow, for those of you who are listening thinking you don't have time. But I mean, just on purpose, choose to think about some of these ideas. Just for even a couple of minutes. Just to let yourself sort of soak in what might be there for you. I'm wondering if there's anything that we've missed that you might want to add?

Jillian: I would love your audience to check in and say what questions they have, what comes up for them? And of course, we can pick back up on whatever they reflect back and would like a deeper discussion on.

Kristi: Yeah. How can people find you? If they want to find the articles, your YouTube channel, how can they find you?

Jillian: Yeah, they can look for my name, for the YouTube channel. And the YouTube channel is “A life true to you.” It's a great way to be part of the community. And then, a lot of my articles are on KevinMD. I really support what he's doing, so I would go check out KevinMD.com.

Kristi: That's perfect. Well, thank you so much for spending your time and sharing all of your wisdom. I know it's going to make an impact. It's going to help somebody who's listening realize that they matter, their thoughts matter, their experience matters. And this can be an inflection point where they can start taking some those practical steps towards minimizing deathbed regrets, and living more intentionally. Thank you so much for your time.

Jillian: Thank you so much for having me.

Kristi: Like what you're learning on the podcast and want to start applying it? It's so easy to consume really interesting information and never actually apply it in real life. Trust me, I know. This is where coaching can be a great resource. It helps you bridge the gap between theory and your lived everyday reality.

So, if you're interested in getting my expertise to help you unravel the root causes of your habits, so you can be more intentional with this one precious life, there are three ways to do so.

To get started with private coaching, where you get my expert guidance to understand the root causes for why you think, feel, and act as you do, so you can stop living on default and start being truly deliberate, you can learn more at HabitsOnPurpose.com/consult.

If you're interested in Internal Family Systems work and want to just dip your toe in with a single coaching session, I've got you covered there too. Internal Family Systems is a model in psychotherapy that sees the mind as comprised of many distinct parts that interrelate, like a family may relate. And right now, you can still sign up for a single session, using Internal Family Systems informed coaching, at HabitsOnPurpose.com/IFS.

Lastly, if you're a female identifying physician, and you want a community where you work alongside other physicians, the next Habits on Purpose for Physicians CME Small Group Coaching Program starts this summer, and you're going to want to get on the waitlist for it. You can learn all the details at HabitsOnPurpose.com/HOPP. I'll talk to you next week.

Thanks for listening to Habits On Purpose. If you want more information on Kristi Angevine or the resources from the podcast, visit HabitsOnPurpose.com. Tune in next week for another episode.

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