World Leading Psychologist: How To Detach From Overthinking & Anxiety: Dr Julie Smith | E122 | Transcription
Transcription for the video titled "World Leading Psychologist: How To Detach From Overthinking & Anxiety: Dr Julie Smith | E122".
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- I can't stop now, I can't stop doing this. - Dr. Julie Smith, she's a clinical psychologist with more than three million followers. How is she dealing with stress, pressure, burnout, overload? - We're subjected to these kind of ideals. We're trying to do everything perfectly and it's impossible. Those things that we end up doing habitually are the things that work instantly. Go into the fridge or grab a wine or whatever it is. And actually the things that tend to work in the long term are hardest in the moment, like sitting with it and feeling it and using skills to get yourself through it. I just love that therapy. It's great for looking at the patterns and the cycles that people tend to feel stuck in in their relationship. And it's incredible how life-changing that can be for people. - Without further ado, I'm Stephen Bartlett and this is the Diaries CEO. I hope nobody's listening, but if you are, then please keep this to yourself. Could you do me a quick favor if you're listening to this? Please hit the follow or subscribe button. It helps more than you know, and we invite subscribers in every month to watch the show in person. - Dr. Julie Smith, I had some time to read as much as I could about your story.
Life As A Therapist And Advice On Mental Health
What made you want to help people? (00:58)
And with a lot of my guests, there's often tons of backstory online about their personal lives, they're upbringing their childhood. That didn't seem to be the case with you. And I think one of the things that, from getting further and further down the road with your story, I thought was really wonderful was typically when people are successful and they reach the levels of success that you have in their disciplines. We tend to want to point to some kind of anomalous childhood where something traumatic or really significant happened, that shaped them and made them obsessive or overly dedicated or passionate. Was that the case for you? What was your childhood like, tell me? - Yeah, so no, there's no sort of major trauma that triggered my kind of mission to do anything. So even had a few questions recently about, why was even interested in psychology. And actually, I've always been fascinated by people, by humans, and I read a lot as a child, but actually everything I read was about normal people in normal life situations and sort of development of how people become who they are. And that's always fascinated me. And actually, I started studying psychology because I found it really interesting. You know, there was a new A-level available at my school, my college, and so I thought, well, that sounds okay. That sounds great, let's try it. And I was just fascinated by it. And so I kind of went with that and went to university because everybody else was going. And it seemed like that was what you do now. And so psychology felt like, you know, an interesting thing to do. I had no idea really what jobs could be at the end of it. I just kept following my interests all the way along. And actually, when people ask me advice about your careers and finding your passion and all those things, that's the only advice I give people really is, you know, follow your interests, do the thing that excites you or that inspires you. And you don't have to have this epiphany moment that transforms your life and makes you passionate about doing what it is you're doing. If you follow your interests, you're much more likely to end up somewhere in a job that you love. - Having done this podcast for quite some time now, it's almost a bit of a psychological, I don't know, but it's almost a bit of a psychological journey with each guest, but it sometimes it also feels like therapy. And I'm starting to learn more and more about humans, generally, the more and more of them that I get to speak to, especially because I tend to be speaking to people that are considered to be anomalies. In your experience, having understood the nature of the human mind and how we think and how trauma and all of these things in mood and decision-making are all intertwined together. What have you learned just more broadly and generally about the nature of human beings and how we come to be the way that we are? I know that's a big question, but it's one of the ones that I actually, I'll tell you what I've learned, okay, 'cause maybe that'll give you a bit of an indication as to what I'm referring to here. One of the things I thought before I started doing this podcast and speaking to people a lot was, I thought we were all just so fundamentally different. And I thought that my job would be to find out all the ways that all these successful people are different, but I think over time I've actually learned the opposite. Fundamentally, humans are quite predictable in terms of how if you poke it like this, typically, like X, Y or Z will happen. Yeah, I think there is a sense of predictability, isn't there? And certainly you would go with that in terms of the sort of work that I do and working in therapy, there are certain patterns that can be predicted, and that's where your models of therapy develop because you can predict that if certain things are happening, then it might develop into this pattern. But actually, while there is predictability, people will always surprise you as well. So even as I work with people one to one in therapy, no two people are ever the same, and you can never assume anything because everybody has that unique story and the new unique set of experiences that they've been through, and their unique set of coping strategies and how they'll then get through that. So I think predictability to a degree, but never assume anything because people will surprise you. - And how did a clinical therapist like yourself, and you know what question I'm gonna ask you, to find their way onto TikTok, you've got millions and millions and millions of followers on there.
How did a therapist make it onto tiktok? (05:32)
- Yeah. - It's not, I mean, we were saying before we started recording, TikTok is typically a place that you assume 16 year old kids to be dancing. You don't assume clinical psychologists to be giving mental health advice. - Yeah, absolutely. And that's where, you know, you talk about anomalies and stuff. I guess I have felt like I've been sort of swimming against the tide in my chosen career and the area that I work in, in that it's usually a very private, quiet kind of career choice. You're working with individuals, it's confidential. You work with one person at a time. And in that sort of area of work, actually very few people are even on social media because you have to protect your own privacy and confidentiality agreements and that kind of thing. So to even put stuff on social media felt quite scary for me because, you know, your thought is what my peers gonna think? Is this, you know, what's this gonna cause for me? But every time that I had someone else come in for therapy who found the educational aspect of it so helpful, I would go home and say to my husband, "Why do people have to pay to come see people like me to find out that bit of information about how their mind works so that they can deal with their anxiety better or so that they can, you know, function in their relationship better. You know, there's some, there's a set of kind of knowledge there and skills that are taught to people in therapy, but they're not therapy skills. They're life skills and people can use them every day. I use them every day to help me get through everything life throws at me. And I just felt that it was unfair that that knowledge should be kept and hidden away in the therapy room. So, you know, my husband being the person he has said, "Well, go on then, do it, you know, make it available and put something on YouTube or something like that." And so we did. We kind of half heartedly made a really rubbish YouTube video and then at that same time he discovered TikToks that he found the @Somel recommended to him. He found it. It was full of kind of fun dancing, loads of really cool comedy and we were sort of scrolling through it, laughing, instantly just, you know, falling down that rabbit hole of scrolling. And he said, "Well, you know, go on. Make something like for 60 seconds. See what information you can get into it." And I said, "Well, then no, you can't cut it down to that, you know, a small amount of time. It'll be impossible." And I'll probably get trolled out of there because no one is talking about that kind of stuff. There were young people expressing their distress on there and talking about their mental health from a personal perspective, but I couldn't find anyone who was kind of sharing education around it. So, reluctantly, you know, got persuaded and had to go and almost instantly, the response was just overwhelming. People were messaging saying they were checking in every day to see what the next video was. Or, you know, and there's this real misconception as well that all my followers in there must be this young group of people and, you know, a lot of the messages I get from parents and even grandparents who are saying, "Oh, this concept you explained was really, really useful. I'm working through it with my daughter or my grandson and it's really helping. Thanks so much, you know, where's the next one coming from?" So, I kind of felt like when we started, it was going to be this one-off thing, like, okay, "Oh, you know, I should, you know, practice what I preach and have a go." And I assumed that we would kind of delete the account and it never happened. Two years later, here we are, kind of threw in half a million of us later. So, yeah, I mean, it, there was no kind of set game plan for it, but it just felt like the right thing to do it, to kind of put that information out there and see if people were interested in it. And it turns out people were quite hungry for that kind of information. You know, people wanted not only to talk about mental health, but they wanted some evidence-based sort of quality tips and knowledge that they knew were coming from a, I guess, a good place. Couple of questions there then. So, the first one is, "Are you still seeing patients one-on-one?" Yeah, so I still have a few. I had to stop taking on anyone else new because I was sort of bombarded with requests and, you know, writing the book and everything has taken up a huge amount of my time. So, I've kept that really limited. But, yeah, I kind of still want to keep that going. I'm just, I'm in the process of trying to work out how to manage that around doing such public things. So, yeah, that's gonna be a real transformation for me. 'Cause that's one of the things I've always sort of contended with when people have asked me if I do like one-on-one coaching and stuff. My kind of default mindset is, well, if I spend an hour, I'd rather make a video that I think can reach millions of people than sit with one person on their own. So, I was wondering what your relationship was with that one-on-one stuff. Yeah, I mean, in some ways, I do miss some of the one-to-one stuff that I do or did do. And so, that's why I've kind of held on to some of it. Because you just cannot be being one-on-one with someone in a room and developing that depth of relationship with someone where that therapy room becomes their sanctuary and that's an incredible privilege, that kind of work. And I love it. But there is that sense of, OK, I could sit in this room and work with one person at a time, or I could make a video and share this idea with potentially a couple of million people, which has become a real passion. And I recognize that it just didn't interest me. The numbers and the kind of business side of it just didn't really figure for me. It was genuinely just the feedback, the messages and the emails. You know, I was going through them and thought was, I can't stop now. I can't stop doing this. So, people are checking in every day to see what the next video is or asking for specific topics because they're genuinely struggling with something. If I can help in some small way, then I really should. So, in terms of that feedback that you're getting from social media, I've come to learn that it's not all great. I'm not saying the feedback isn't all great, but the general stress and pressure and expectation and constant feedback can be detrimental in many ways as well. Talk to me about your relationship with having millions and millions of people that can message you at any time, letting you know whatever they're thinking and how you process that. Yeah, do you know, it's been really tough, actually, because I'm naturally a very... People following probably wouldn't believe this. I bounce around in my videos, like anything. But I'm actually very introverted, shy person. You know, my ideal day is kind of at home alone with a book, probably. And so, you know, the idea of being public and being seen by people was not a comfortable one. It's something that I kind of endured for the cause, if you see what I mean, for the idea of, oh, this could help someone who's in need. So, that's something I've had to work through and do a lot of kind of practicing what I preach, you know, being uncomfortable for the sake of something that I value or that I believe in. And yeah, I mean, I did a video on the mental filter, this kind of thought bias that we all have, and used the example of, you know, with the kind of comments and feedback and stuff like that, that you can have 100 positive comments and you will scroll through them to find the one that's not positive, even if it's neutral, you know, or, or, gothabird negative, because you're, you're built to do that. You're built to look for any signs that this is not okay, or that it's all going to collapse and everyone's going to hate you. And, and so actually doing the whole thing has, has made me practice what I preach because I have to, because it's not an easy situation to be in. Is it you're vulnerable when you're putting yourself online, or you know, as much as, as I do, when you're putting yourself out there, it's a vulnerable place to be. And a lot of people look on and think it's easy and, and it's, it's really not. No, I have a new fan respect for everyone who kind of, you know, is brave enough to do that. What you were describing there, that scrolling through comments, looking for the bad one is something I think we can all relate to, because I will get 99.9% like great comments.
Dealing with rejection (14:13)
And then it'll be, as you say, the one that's either that's critical, or that feels personal. It's if someone's like criticizing something that I've like done, I don't really care. It's when it's when they are criticizing who I am, I think I find it hardest. And so I wanted to understand why that was. And I started doing some reading and some writing about this topic and understanding the nature. If we go back in our like, in our history as humans of rejection and what that used to mean when I was a human, the idea of being like, dispatch, like kicked out of my tribe. Yeah. And the threat that that would put me under, if I was removed from my tribe and this idea of rejection. And really like a lot of rejection, this is kind of what I came to, came to the conclusion of. When someone says something like that, it's almost like, for me, it feels like a threat of rejection, a threat of being expelled from the, you know, from the tribe or whatever. Obviously not, obviously that is not the truth. But deep within me somewhere, that desire to fit in and be accepted by the tribe is still there. So having millions of people being able to give me feedback and some of them seemingly rejecting me from the tribe or saying that I don't fit or they, whatever, is difficult. Is that like, that's a lot of words, but does that make any sense? Yeah, because the feeling comes before the rational thought about it. So, you know, your, your body has that reaction before you're able to consider that, you know, this isn't your, your only community or this isn't your family or people that are sort of your dependent on and that kind of thing. So I think the feeling will always be there and it's always difficult, isn't it? But then you can override that with what comes next. So it's all, it's not about never having that feeling. And, and I hate when people kind of say online, you know, just to stop caring what everybody thinks. And that is impossible because you're built to care what people think of you. And, and you probably wouldn't function in a society that, well, if you didn't care what anybody thought of you, it's about how you then manage it. So when those thoughts come along about, you know, negative comment, it's what do you do next with what comes up? So, yeah, it's really about how you kind of respond to, to the thoughts that come up after. And is it, is it in those moments of rejection? Is it really like the story we tell ourselves about what that rejection means to us? I'm thinking now more broadly about romantic rejection. My, you know, I'm dating someone, she says you dumped, like the harm surely isn't in the separation. Surely, for me, it's always felt like, I, when I got to the point where I realized that it was more Steve's subconscious brain is telling himself he's a scumbag and not beautiful and not smart because of this rejection. Is that really where the harm is done? Like that self-inflicted, self-story. Yeah. So, I mean, rejection is difficult for everybody, isn't it? But, but certainly if, if rejection taps into what we call a kind of core belief, so if someone grew up with a core belief around being unlovable, for example, could maybe their parents were inconsistent in their care, for example. So they, they, you know, and you don't think about these beliefs consciously all the time. You know, they're not at the forefront of, of your thought processes, but they will influence how you feel and they'll influence how you behave and the choices that you make. So what happens is when we have a core belief that is sort of damaging one or detrimental one, we develop sort of rules for living around that that help us to keep it at bay. So it might be, you know, if I can just be the perfect business owner and the perfect boyfriend and the perfect dad, then no one will reject me and everything will be OK. And so you set yourself these, these rules for living that at some point, inevitably you break all those signs that you're not going to be able to keep up with them. And what that does is when there's signs that you're not going to keep up with those rules for living, you then it kind of triggers that core belief to come to the forefront. And that's when you get that rush of kind of psychological distress, because it's a distressing thing to believe about yourself. And so that's when it can cause people real problems when, when that sort of damaging core belief is being triggered on a regular basis, for example, maybe because it's a turbulent relationship or whatever the situation is. And that's when you can work not only on the present stuff, but on the core beliefs and, and looking at how those are playing out in relationships. And how do you get to the heart of understanding what your core beliefs are? Because I went through life and I think I got to about 24 years old without being in a relationship. And when I asked myself what my core beliefs were as it relates to relationships, I realized that they were heavily shaped by watching my parents, like toxic relationship. And this belief that relationships were prison. I, because my, I thought my dad was in prison for my child, tired childhood. That's what I thought. I thought he was trapped in prison because he was in a relationship with my, with my mother, because they were very argumentative, shall we say. So it wasn't until I was 24. And I think because of journaling and writing and really this podcast that I was able to realize that I even thought that. And I was having this like avoidant behavioral pattern where the minute I would pursue someone romantically and the minute they would accept my advances, I would run for the hills and try and dissuade them out of being in a relationship with me. And I had no idea that core belief was in the back of my control center of my mind. Yeah, absolutely. And there's, there's a really fascinating therapy called cat therapy, actually. So it's cognitive analytic therapy, just CAT for short, but that really, that's just a fascinating therapy where it looks at the relationships that you have when you're younger. So when you're growing up with, with parents or siblings or family. And in those relationships, you learn how to behave in the world, right? You learn about, you know, who I am, what to expect from other people and what to expect from the world at large. And then you develop kind of survival strategies or coping strategies in, for example, in any difficult relationship like that, you learn how to cope with that. And you have these kind of safety behaviors. And as you grow up, you're in a different situation, right? You're not dependent on parents and stuff like that. But those survival strategies, all those safety behaviors continue and they get played out in your adult relationships. And, and I just love that therapy. It's great for looking at the patterns and the cycles that people tend to feel stuck in in their relationships and how that reflects those early life experiences that are essentially outdated coping strategies. But it's really difficult. You know, if something's been a lifetime of habit, you can't just break that by telling yourself to do that. So it takes time and it takes practice and, and you've literally kind of map out the cycle so that you, you learn to sort of acknowledge it in hindsight, first of all, so you say, okay, last week that happened and that happened. And yeah, I went around the cycle and then eventually you've done that enough that you start to recognize it when you're in it. So as you're about to do something, you think, hang on a minute. I know what this, this is predictable. I know what I'm doing. And in that moment, you then get this chance. This is a beauty of kind of awareness is you then get this chance to choose whether you go with it and sometimes you will and you'll go around the cycle again. And sometimes you'll do this other thing that you've already worked out. You need to do and you break the cycle and, and then you get the benefits of that. And, and so it's this really kind of long process of sometimes going around the cycle again and then sometimes breaking it and finding this new life that you can create in, in your relationships and stuff like that. So, and it's incredible how life changing that can be for people. If someone can't afford to go to cat therapy or whatever, is there, is there a way at home or within their own life that they can sort of achieve the same outcome? I think I don't think it's a replacement for it, but I think definitely things like journaling and, and reflecting on experiences and trying to look at patterns of behavior. So, you know, I always find that, I don't know, when I'm with my boyfriend, we argue about this after I do this. And, and then you can literally sort of work it out on paper, just writing things down. What happened? Then what happened next? Then what happened next? How did I feel? How do I think they felt? How did then I feel when they said that? And you're really kind of just going through it. But keep doing that, you know, just doing it once won't necessarily open up everything. But when you keep doing it, you can work out patterns and the themes and, and then when you start to get, you know, and sort of knowledge of that cycle, you can then, you know, begin to look at what's different. But sometimes it's really difficult to just know how to break the cycle. Sometimes that's a really difficult part of therapy for people is working out, well, where can you break that cycle? Where, where can you exit and do something different? And what is that different thing? Because if you knew, right, you would just do it. So, it's not easy. And I think, you know, maybe it's, maybe that's another book to write, isn't it? It's talking about that relationship stuff because it's so important to people. And, and, you know, sometimes having good friendships and people that you trust to talk through these things with can help to give you that other perspective, you know, kind of fact-checking some of your own, because when you're in it, it's so hard to see the wood for the trees, isn't it? You're kind of, it's so much easier once you've got stuff down on paper and you're kind of looking at it, you've got that bird's eye view. And that's really the process of therapy. So if you can recreate any aspects of that with a really trusted friend or loved one, then that could be helpful. I don't think it's a replacement for therapy and the model and the training, but it's certainly something. When you grow a big platform very quickly, there's a lot of other sort of, I guess, psychological things to contend with.
The consequences of having a big platform (23:46)
One of them is imposter syndrome. Yeah. One of them is the, the, the claim, which will be leveled at you. I'm sure that you got lucky. How do you deal with and contend with all of these, these thoughts? I'd say lucky's pretty hard work, isn't it? You probably know that. Yeah. And, and you know, there's an element of that. I think, you know, there was probably a timing thing for me in the, you know, this huge pandemic started and lots of people at home tapping into new social media platforms they hadn't before. I think it's been uncomfortable all the way along. I think, because it's been new and I've been, it's very public and that's way out of my comfort zone. You know, I hadn't, um, I'd been in such a kind of small, but I live in a small town. I had a small, you know, one man band private practice, just me. And the whole reason for that was so that I could balance it around my children and be the mum I want to be. It was all very kind of organic and, and suddenly this, this thing started to happen and become a bit of a roller coaster. How does it feel to know that the more successful you become at what you do, the more public you're going to become to the point where you might be in the Daily Mail every week. And, and you know what? I've had quite a few moments, you know, I've not even really told you on this, but I've had quite a few moments along the way and where I've really, really questioned, do I even want this? And, and I kind of told myself that as soon as that, all that feedback, nice feedback from genuine people who were saying, thank you so much. You know, what's next? I was kind of waiting for that to stop so that I could stop because it's really not been easy. You know, I've been, I've got three small children and it's really, really important to me to be present for them. So I wanted to keep it as balanced as I could, which has been nearly impossible. So I was getting up at like five in the morning to make videos for TikTok in the dark before my kids got up and stuff like that. And it's not been, you know, it's not been an easy ride. And so it's kind of, you know, it's been hard work. And I think I kept going because I felt like it was temporary. I felt like at some point everyone's just going to think, yeah, this is boring now and we'll stop. And we would have helped a few people and that'll be great. I mean, maybe you could advise me on that. Well, no, I'm watching you because I'm literally going through the same thing, which is this realization that I've had more recently, especially with the success of a podcast than joining Dragon's Den that, and then like there was, there was a like a really critical piece written about me the other day. And it's like totally baseless, but it says it basically implies that my last company was like Guantanamo Bay or something. And I was thinking this is going to only continue to get more and more and more. And I'm going to have to contend with more and more noise as I become more successful at the thing I love doing. So what do you do? Do you stop? And I do feel like a sense of mission and cause with what I do as well. So do I stop that, which feels in some degree a little bit selfish maybe and just focus on like making my life very private. I can go to a Bali and buy a big mansion and just chill. Yeah. Or do I carry on doing what I'm doing and realize that an unavoidable consequence of it is I have to log online every day or I have to open my emails every day and just see so much noise, which is difficult because as you say, I want to have a relationship. And I noticed specifically this weekend when I was like speaking to lawyers and doing all this stuff because of this article or whatever that I hadn't spoken to my girlfriend. And I'm like, the thing that actually matters the most to me, the person that provides me with the most like stability and love is the thing, as you said, the most important thing you say in your book is the thing I'm rejecting for the sake of noise that doesn't like, you know? Yeah. And I think that's where it almost goes against the grain again, doesn't it? Because we're kind of taught to believe somehow there's this undercurrent in our culture that you should strive for, you know, riches and fame and those things because they'll somehow make everything good. And actually they make things harder as well. So, you know, while some people can really enjoy that and they'll really feel that that's where they want to be, there isn't this narrative where people say it's okay not to because those people have been quiet and going off, you know, so and doing their own thing. So we don't hear that narrative of it's okay not to be extraordinary or it's okay not to stand out from the crowd or it's okay to want a quiet life or a private life. And, you know, I'm as much a victim of that as anyone else because, you know, when I'm not wanting certain sort of public things, I question myself, you know, what am I doing? Am I, is this right? Or, and it's often, you know, about your own values, isn't it, and how you want to live? And, and I guess all the time that you're questioning that and reflecting on it and making choices, none of them have to be permanent. There's this idea that, well, if I don't take the opportunity, it's all over. Probably not. So, you know, you can kind of play around with it, can't you? You could probably have, you know, six months off to go and hide away somewhere on an island and you could come back and, and experience public life again so that you could almost, you know, work out what is it that I like and want about each one and how can I create a balance for me? But yeah, we just thought that we need to just strive for extraordinary and out of the crowd. And, and I think we have to question that. Where are you at the moment on this topic in terms of deciding, you know, how much of, you know, how much attention in this audience you're building, you want to build versus the, the privacy and the family and the things that so clearly much more intrinsically aligned with your values? I think I'm, I'm getting there to a sense that, in a sense that I need to stick to the reason that I started in the first place. I think I have to keep that sense of integrity about, you know, I started to be helpful. And the thing I love doing, you know, the thing I loved about writing the book was researching and learning about psychology and keeping up with the research. And that's kind of stuff is the stuff I love to do. I love to learn about people and then to share that knowledge. And so I guess as long as I'm doing that and trying to sort of protect my children at the same time and, and, and live a normal life, then, then that'll be OK. But all of these things are a balance. I don't think there is a clear set answer to any of these things, are there? You know, like you've had that experience with the paper and, and that's made you kind of maybe step back a minute and think, wow, how much do I want this kind of thing? And, and it doesn't have to, you know, make you do a 180, but it can make you just acknowledge and learn. I don't want to go too far in that direction. This is what I want. And, and I feel like it's that with me. You're constantly just edging from one sort of position to another. And you've got to learn in them. You've got to learn from the experience. It like on the job, right? Yeah. These are these are not lessons that I could have learned from someone just telling me. Yeah. And in fact, we've probably both grown up in a world where people have warned us about the things we're experiencing and we didn't listen. We didn't understand until we felt it. And if you try and convince some 10 year old kid, you probably don't want to be famous. You're right. OK, whatever. So you have to learn these things. Yeah. Quick one. For many years, people have been asking for a coffee flavoured heel and quite recently he'll release the ice coffee caramel flavour of their ready to drink heels. And I've just become hooked on it over the last couple of weeks. I've been on a really interesting journey with heel, which I've described and talked about a little bit on this podcast. I started with the Berry Ready to Drinks that I moved over to the protein and salted caramel because it's 100 calories and it gives you all of your essential vitamins and minerals, but also gives you the 20 odd grams of protein you need. And now I'm balanced between them both. I drink mostly the banana flavour ready to drink. I've got really into the ice coffee caramel flavour of heels ready to drink. And now I'm drinking that as well as the protein. Make sure you try the new ready to drink flavours that the caramel flavour is amazing. The new banana flavour as well is amazing. And obviously, as I said, the iced coffee caramel flavour has been a real smash hit. So check it out. Let me know what you think on social media. I see all of your tags and Instagram posts and tweets about your back to the podcast.
Having the right values & goals (32:11)
One of the things you spoke about there is about values and much of your, you know, much of what you talk about in your book centres around understanding what our real values are and our goals and what we should be aiming for and how to deal with certain situations. Your brand new book. Why has nobody told me this before, which I love, by the way, for many reasons. I love it because you don't have to read it all in one sitting. You can skip to the key parts that are relevant to you. As, as is the case with all your content, it's super inclusive. So it doesn't feel like I've been, I've got psychology books on my bookshelf over there that are, you know, I have to like, I have to do one page at a time and like have a massage to get for each paragraph because it's difficult. But this is super inclusive whilst also being incredibly important in its subject matter. So values and goals. What is the difference? What is the value? Sure. So the way I would talk about sort of values and goals and therapy is really around a goal is something that you, once you achieve it, once you get there, it's done. So, you know, your goal might be to get through your exams. OK, exams are over, you're passed, done. A value doesn't finish or end. It's a pathway. If you imagine your life as a journey, for example, it's a path that extends the whole of your life and it's something that you choose to always stay close to when you can. And I think, you know, life will always take you in different directions. So sometimes life will pull you away from a particular value. But it's really about always evaluating and knowing where that path is so that you can pull back in that direction. So, for example, when your, you know, your career starts to take over because it's so busy and then you think, oh, I'm sweating my girlfriend all week. That's you going. That path's too far away now. I'm pulling back. I need to head back in this direction because this is important to me. And so it's a kind of, you know, winding path where you're, you're, you're, you're, sometimes you're pulling away from it. And sometimes you're going back towards it. And something that I included in the book was these sort of little values check-ins that I would do. And we do in therapy where we look at, OK, just look at the different areas of your life. It doesn't have to be rocket science. It doesn't have to be really kind of airy-fairy. It's looking at, OK, what's important in your life? You might have family, intimate relationships, health, creativity, you know, lifelong learning, career contribution, those kind of things. And then you could literally kind of split it up into boxes and put in each box words. Not about it's what's really crucial is it's not what happens to you. It's not what you want to happen to you. It's how you want to respond to things, how you want to be in that area of your life, what kind of person you want to be. So let's say you were looking at your romantic relationships. What kind of boyfriend do I actually want to be? You know, what kind of partner do I want to be? What do I want to represent to that person? And how do I want to come at difficulties? How do I want to sort of respond to problems that we face? And, you know, that kind of thing. So it's all looking at the attitude that you bring to that situation in your life or that area of your life. And you might come up with words that then kind of resonate or, you know, maybe, I don't know, in maybe in your work life, maybe enthusiasm is a word that you just hold close to you. And that becomes one of your values. And so you can then sort of exercise that's in the book is you can almost rate, OK, how important is it to me to be enthusiastic in my work? Maybe it's 10 out of 10. That's really, really important to me. And on that same scale, then how much do I feel like I'm living in line with that this week or today? Two out of 10. I'm pretty tired. Can't be bothered today. This job's really boring today or whatever. And so when you've done those, you've opened up a discrepancy between that. OK, this is really important to you, but you're not living in line with it. Why? What's going on? Not in a way that you can then be really self critical. That as a tool to say, yeah, my girlfriend's really important to me, but I haven't seen her for four weeks. Why? What's stopping me from jumping on a plane right now? OK, let's do that. And then, you know, when you start to do those things and you're coming back towards your value, the sort of rating for how much you're living in line with it would go up. And so doing that kind of exercise is really just a long, long-winded way of saying you can look at what's important to you. You can just do a really quick measure up of how much my living in line with it and what errors of my life do I need to pay attention to because I'm not living in line with it. So it can be kind of quite simple and a fairly quick exercise, really. I am. I was actually watching a video last night and there was a guy on YouTube. I don't know how I managed to stumble across it. The video had like 2000 views. This is not anybody anybody would know. But he was sat in his car and I found it really fascinating because I don't know whether it's insane or not. But I found it fascinating because he exhibited certain like narcissistic delusions of grandeur in talking about what he wanted to become and what he wanted from his life. And it got me thinking that it's quite difficult to understand whether something you say or write down or aiming for is a value or if it's just based on like an inherent deep childhood born in security. Because if you'd asked me at 18 what my values were, I would have said a million pounds, a Lamborghini, like I would have I would have defaulted to these things because those were the things that would have like scratched my like insecurities. Right. Yeah. But as I've as I attain those things and had more chance to reflect on what actually makes me feel good and fulfilled and complete. I would have said family connection, you know, health to very different things. One's cause based one is just an insecurity. So how do we know the difference? And you don't. Right. Because you know, you always a horrible answer. But you, you know, maybe you had the aspiration when you were younger and you went with it because it's all you knew at the time. And then you learned some, you became more wise and your values shifted slightly. And that's the thing. That's why I talk about doing sort of quite regular values, check ins, because depending on your life, you know, stage and what you're doing, your circumstances, your values will change. You know, my values transformed when I had children and, you know, probably sort of flipped them upside down really. And, and that's OK. It was, I could never have known that that would be, I couldn't have prioritized my children before they were there anyway. You know, and, and for example, you might not have been able to know that you would feel differently now back then at that age. You didn't have the capacity to do that. You hadn't had the life experience. So it was OK. You know, there isn't this sense of there is this right path. And if you get on it at 17, you'll be all right. You know, the whole process is a learning process. So it's OK to change direction. It's OK to discover this is not where I want to be, but I've learned something. Here we go. Let's change direction. Let's go in this direction. And now I've got the knowledge of where I don't want to be. Speaking of changing direction, then, a lot of what's written about how we change direction is you've got to make this like big grand decision in your life.
How do we make meaningful change? (39:04)
And then today you've got to go in that direction as if it was like a 90 degree turn. And this can be quite terrifying for a lot of people because it's not easy to do. You talk about this in the book. You talk about habits and things like that and how we make change in our life. What have you learned in your, you know, your experience as a clinical psychologist about how people do actually make meaningful change in direction in their life? I think something I've learned is that. Big meaningful change is not made. Drastically and quickly, you know, sustainable changes made carefully. And there's this process of it's not just action. There is a lot of kind of reflection and then there's a bit of action. Then there's a bit more reflection of like we tried that. How was it? You know, do we need to change direction? You know, we keep moving. So it's a kind of bit by bit by bit. But we greatly underestimate how powerful and sustainable that can be when we do it bit by bit. And, you know, develop habits, for example, and constantly reevaluate and check in on which direction we want to go in. So I think something that I've learned and certainly actually in my NHS work, for example, the type of work that I was doing, it took time. You know, if someone's really poorly and there's a lot to work through, that takes a long time. And that's OK. That's kind of how we work.
How do I change my mood? (40:36)
It takes time to heal and things like that. So I think I learned to sort of acknowledge that, you know, everything has to be done yesterday. You also talk a lot about a new book about how we can turn bad days into not so bad days, I guess. And this relationship, which I find really fascinating between the decisions we make on mood and our actions and behavior and how they're all like fundamentally linked. And I was thinking, I remember when I was writing my book, having a particular moment where I was in like a bad, I was in like a not a good mood. And I was trying to understand what, how to kind of hijack that to get back to a good mood. Do I go for a run? Do I just focus on my actions? Do I have to think my way out of my bad mood? What would you say to all of that? I think thinking your way of a bad mood is is difficult and often takes quite a bit of practice around using specific skills and stuff like that. Sometimes the quickest way to impact on your mind is through your body. So things like exercise, music, using your voice, like singing and stuff like that, things like that can create quite big shifts in the moment, but also human connection. So, for example, you know, if you've been, you know, kind of pent up intense and then or you felt unsafe and then someone hugs you and you burst into tears and it's that kind of shift of emotion. And so, you know, things like human connection, movement, music, you can utilize those to good effect. You know, if they, different people are different. And so, you know, one thing will work for one person and something different will work for someone else. You know, I don't know. My husband likes to listen to kind of really like old school, New York hip hop and stuff. And that puts him in a great mood. It puts me in a terrible mood. So it's kind of, you know, that everyone has a different experience of things like music or exercise. But if you can understand your own experience, what works for you, then definitely then utilize those to create even small shifts in the moment because a small shift can just change direction and then other things can help to kind of move it forward. What about sleep?
How important is sleep? (42:46)
How important is sleeping in terms of our mood and mindset? Oh, so important, so important. And, you know, that's kind of a battle I've been going on because, you know, with this kind of work and the demands of, you know, creating content alongside having three small children, it hasn't been unusual for me to kind of be up in the night with children and then be getting up at five to make videos before I take them to school. And like, you know, just it's not sustainable, that kind of lifestyle. And but I notice if I've not had enough sleep for, you know, a few days, it will impact on how I feel and it'll impact on my performance and how effective I am at work and what I'm doing. And so, you know, you have something you just have to take seriously. I think and something that I don't know in our culture, there's this kind of shift towards what's the saying? Like you sleep when you die and all that rubbish, you know, that kind of, well, you will die sooner if you don't sleep. So, you know, that's that's way this up. So it's one of those things. It feels like when there's more to be done than can be done, it's so tempting all the time to to ditch on that bit of extra sleep that that, you know, would be good for you. But it's yeah, I think it's something that we all have to just always remind ourselves. You've got to you got to come back to it and you've got to you've got to give your body what it needs. Do you feel like you've got that balance now? I think it's always I think it's always a tightrope, isn't it? You know, like you something will happen and and there'll be a late night or an early morning and that shifts again and there's no recovery because, you know, children waking up early and stuff. I think while I've got a balance, I hate the idea that I might perpetuate this notion that I've got it right and that, you know, just do what I do because I've got this perfect life and it's absolutely not that way. And that is something that I think is detrimental, you know, in kind of social media and things like that that can really catch people out is the idea that you look at someone online and you assume that they have it all sorted and that they don't have problems and that they don't struggle with normal human stuff that we all struggle with. And so I've tried to sort of keep that honesty all the way along, but yeah, these, you know, these are great tools and they really, really help, but it doesn't stop life throwing stuff at you. It doesn't make you invincible. And I say that in the introduction, isn't the key to a problem free life?
How to stay motivated (45:12)
It's an arsenal of tools that you can use to face those problems with that will ensure you can kind of get through it. Talking about all of that, so, you know, the success you've had and the impact it's had on, you know, your life and having to wake up sometimes if God knows what time to film a TikTok video. One of the things I read about in psychology is this idea that our motivation can start to diminish when something becomes extrinsically motivated. So when some when you're paid to do something, your motivation to do the task weirdly diminishes, even, you know, even if you enjoyed it before being paid to do so. So have you felt that in your life that now that TikTok and making videos has become work, the motivation to do it is is shifting at all? It can do. I think there's there's the temptation for it to do that, isn't there? When when things shift. And that's why I think it's been so important to me to keep in mind. I had I think if I didn't have that initial reason for, you know, I wanted to share this, this really good information that's usually locked away in the therapy room. I just wasn't me. So it wasn't it wasn't enough of a pull. You know, I didn't have any interest in being kind of public person, that kind of thing. So it wouldn't have been enough for me to work that hard on it. And it's yeah, as long as I keep that that thought or that value in my mind about, you know, sharing knowledge that can help people with their mental health, then then that enables me to keep going. But has it shifted? And when in terms of becoming less motivated, yeah, I'm feeling more and more like work. No, I think there was a period where it felt like just a grind of work when not the writing, I loved the writing, but then there was obviously this pressure to keep, you know, putting content out there and I can't just disappear for six months and that pressure felt like, but I think that was a symptom of overload of just, okay, I've got to write a book, I've got to be a mum and it's locked down and we're homeschooling and I've got to get video on every day. And, you know, that for me, that's a sign of overload and that in turn influences your motivation in the moment. But I guess I'm aware that motivation, something I can't rely on anyway, it's a feeling and it comes and goes. So some days it will feel like a grind. And other days it will feel really exciting, you know, coming to do this. And I meet you and that stuff's kind of really wonderful. And some days, you know, I'm in my therapy room on my own with a camera going, oh, I've got to say something profound now, you know, what? Find something. So, you know, and I think it's awareness of every job has its ups and downs. I can't rely on feeling like it all the time. I have to remember why I started it and the values behind it to keep me going. What have you so that term overload was interesting because I've never really heard of someone describing it like that.
What is the cure for overload? (48:09)
Typically people say things like burn out or whatever else. What is the what is I guess the cause and or the cure for people that are feeling overload because I guarantee like 95% plus of people listening to this now, especially in the world we live in, will be feeling some sense of relative subjective overload in their lives, including me. Yeah, I think we're subjected to these kind of ideals of everything, aren't we? And, you know, for parents, there's this kind of all these images about what it means to be the ideal parent, depending on what kind of content you're consuming. And then there's these these ideas of the ideal business person or the ideal author or the ideal social media, you know, whatever. And because we're subjected to so many of them, we then just overextended we're trying to do everything perfectly and it's impossible. And then we feel terrible and we feel like we're failing or we're at fault rather than the culture that says, you can be anything you want to be. You know, actually, it's OK to decide this is what I want my life to look like. And that's OK. You know, it's just it's OK for it to be like that. And and for people to have goals that are smaller than others, you know, it's I think it's it probably leads to a much more psychologically healthy outcome. I kind of bring that back to a point that I mentioned earlier and I'm probably just asking this for my interest, but you're theoretically you're you're heading in the direction of maybe having 20, 30, 40 million followers. Yeah, I don't know. And then the demands on your time are going to be people are going to be offering you your TV show and they're going to be asking you to write seven books on a seven on a seven book deal and everyone's going to want you on loose women and ITV's good morning. You know, all of these it's going to be constant. So how do you how are you going to navigate all of that? Probably call you and say Stephen, what we're going to do. Advise me. I don't I honestly don't know and and the direction of travel you're going in, right? You're producing more and more content, which is going to grow your audience even more. Your books are smash here four times number one Sunday times bestseller. You're going in that direction. Yeah. And I guess in all honesty, my barometer is always my family. So my children and I will only ever do as much as I can do while I'm being the mum I want to be. I think and I won't always get that right and I haven't along the way. There have been times when I thought, no, this is too much. I need to pull back and things like that. So I think, yeah, that's my kind of centre point, really, because that is, you know, where my core values lie and that's the most important role I have as far as I'm concerned. And so I guess I will always use that as as the baseline. You know, is this going to have a detrimental effect on my family or not? And what can I do within that? Yeah. And that's kind of a values filter, I guess. Yeah. In many respects.
The balance of embracing emotions vs ignoring them (51:23)
With these feelings, we have these emotions we have. I've always contended with and I think society has a role to play in telling us how to manage the emotions we feel when we go through life. You know, on one hand, you have this sentiment where it's like kind of just shrug it off, ignore it, keep going, which doesn't seem to be possible with like deep emotions. Actually seems to be that you're just compartmentalizing it in the back cream and it's going to erode your brain from subconsciously. And the other one is that, you know, the other narrative we hear is to when you feel strong emotions to really like embrace them and to like, but that feels like it can be a bit too consuming that I might not get out of bed in the morning if I really sit and wallow in my emotions. So what is the balance of embracing emotions or kind of shrugging them off and ignoring them? Yeah. And actually it's quite sort of complex work when when you look at sort of what happens in the therapy room. You know, there are people who when they experience emotion, it's quite unsafe for them because the coping structures that they've had throughout life have been unsafe or dangerous ones. And so, you know, we'll never kind of advise people to just, you know, open the floodgates and allow everything in. It's very sort of careful and there's a process of gearing people up with the tools. And I often talk to people about this when they're thinking about going to something like a trauma therapy, right? So while that involves going over the trauma, no decent therapist would ever get you to do that without first gearing up with the tools to be able to cope with the emotion that comes up. So for anyone who feels like they, for example, kind of shut down emotionally and sort of block it out, you want to open up gradually to things and open up gradually to emotions that feel maybe less dangerous or less sort of overwhelming in small ways, in supported ways as well, so that you know you can manage it and it's not going to completely be overbearing. So, but I guess on a kind of day-to-day level, lots of people don't even recognise that they're blocking. They just recognise that whenever they've done something at work that's embarrassing and they feel awful, they just go home and crack open the fridge and they're just looking for anything. Or maybe it's going Netflix for the next six hours and block out the world or gaming or whatever it is. And so often it's hidden in the behaviour, people were saying, "I'm fine with the motion," and but it's made 50 a day and it's a kind of, you know, what's the function of this and that and the other. And it's always about looking at it with curiosity, not judgment, but curiosity. Why am I doing that? What's the function of that? What's it doing for me? And often it'll be some level of safety around something that's uncomfortable, but it's really key that there's no judgment there because it's something that we all do, it's human. And that's because our brains are so brilliant at taking over for us and doing something very quickly that we need to make things better. To make us comfortable, to make us feel comfortable in some way, even if it's some destructive medication or something. On that point of... We have a behavioural response to some stress or emotion we're feeling and maybe not confronting.
The stigma around addressing a situation (54:32)
I think I did that a lot. When people used to ask me how I dealt with running this big global business, 700 employees around the world, when times got really tough, I mean, on the worst days where there was no money in the bank and payday was today, those kind of days. I used to, I think I used to sell on interviews and stuff that I used to come up with all this nonsense about how I dealt with it and how I coped with it. But in hindsight, one of the things I came to learn was the only times I ever got sick or my skin ever got bad were two days after those really high stress moments. So on the surface, I was kind of shrugging off and playing it cool. But my body, as the famous book goes, held the score. My body would tell me, even if my conscious mind wouldn't admit it, my body would tell me. And then even more recently, I've noticed that in certain situations where I'm pretending everything is fine, I'll notice maybe my eating habits or my other habits get a little bit more extreme and out of control. And I always thought I was invincible. I always thought I was some tough guy. And I think people followed me well, but I don't know. But I think they saw me as that as being this kind of like, you know, mentally perfect, you know, resilient character. But even I've noticed that in my behavior, and it's been so interesting to just pay attention to it. It's sometimes difficult because especially if you do engage in these kind of coping mechanisms, shall we say, a lot, you might find them harder to notice. But for me, I don't. So when I see any shift in my behavior, like, I remember going through a pattern where I was just eating crap again. And I thought, why am I doing it? Oh, shit. Yeah. Because of that thing you've not addressed, that's playing on your mind every time you wake up. And then my skin tells me straight away. I get some like breakout on my skin. Um, men are the worst at this. I mean, that's what they say. They're the worst at talking about how they feel. Because the stigmas and stuff. Yeah, certainly. I mean, about 75% of my followers are female. But saying that of the male followers that I have, they're among some of the most engaged and asked questions and, you know, kind of new topics and, and, and, respond to repositively in comments and things. And, and so I think there is a shift in the right direction. And I think, I think social media has had a lot to do with that, actually, it's enabled people to start having a conversation that they wouldn't dream of having face to face with people. And certainly I recognized that in, when I was just working in my private practice, I, I wanted to do it around the family. So I couldn't do it all. So I kind of lift the NHS and I, I thought I would just work in like school hours and I'll manage it around that kind of thing. So I thought I would have to advertise and, and I never did. And that's because, well, therapy is a really private thing when you're really struggling. When it works and you get better and then you're doing fine and it finishes and you go off about your life and then you come across someone who's struggling and they go, that really helped me try that. And so actually all of my work was based on word of mouth. And, and I think that's happening more and more that people, once they struggle, work out a way to get through it, then believe in the, in the tools that they learned, whatever they were, they're willing to share that. And, and because they don't want to see other people go through the same thing. And I think that's a bit of the shift of that stigma that, that people are going, Oh yeah, I went through that or something similar. Go and try that. It really helps. And if people are sad at home and there's something that they know they haven't addressed, that's playing on their mind that they're thinking about a lot often and trying to just kind of compartmentalize and not, what would you say to those people? Like, because, you know, they might be seeing the, the behavioral symptoms of not addressing that thing. What would you, how do we, how do we get it out of the back room and prevent it from causing us behavioral self harm? Well, I guess, you know, some people will go to therapy because they'll have access to that. Others won't even consider it or have access to it for whatever reason. And I think whatever the situation, human contact and human connection is, is everything. If you can find someone that you trust to talk to and even let's say worst case scenario, you don't have anyone you can trust to talk to or you feel so awful about this particular situation, you can't bear to talk to anyone, write it down. Just use words, use art, whatever it is, try and get to grips with what could possibly be going on here, start reflecting on experiences, not with judgment, but just looking at what's happening, what happens here, what happens before that, what leads up to it. That's a lot of what happens in therapy actually is, you know, people will come in with a feeling, felt this awful thing. And then we'll look at, okay, what led up to that? Let's go back a week and let's work to it. And, you know, what made you vulnerable to that? And then equally what came after, what did you do? Did it make things worse? Did it help? A lot of those things that we end up doing habitually are the things that work instantly. And they're addictive because they work instantly, right? It's going to the fridge or grabbing the wine or whatever it is that they're addictive because they give us instant relief, but in the long term they keep us stuck. So they're the things that then get us in that cycle of the next time you have that feeling, you feel even more need for that, that safety behavior or that blocking behavior because it worked so quickly last time. And, and actually the things that tend to work in the long term are hardest in the moment, like sitting with it and feeling it and using skills to get yourself through it. So it's not an easy ride. I was expecting the 30 second hack to the 30 seconds secret. That's what this title is going to be of this video. It's going to be the 30 seconds secret to get yourself out of any bad situation and everyone will click it and they'll realize that there's a lot of nuance. Another thing that I get asked all the time, and I'm sure you get asked about all the time and something you wrote about in chapter 19 of your book is this topic of confidence.
Building Confidence And Managing Emotions
How do you build confidence (01:00:41)
It seems to be at the very heart and core of a lot of issues we do, we have in our lives the lack of confidence, but also it seems to be the cause of a lot of good things that happen to us if we have confidence. So quite people always ask me when I do Q&A's and stuff, they say, how do you build confidence? And there was this really lovely quote in your book that I really, really resonated with that said confidence cannot grow if we are never willing to be without it. So when people ask you that question, Dr. Julie Smith, what do you say? How do you build your confidence? Yeah, so I did a video on this recently actually where we, I don't know what we were thinking, but we used kind of balloons with a tube that went between the balloons and it had this idea that if one of those balloons was confidence and the other one was vulnerability, if you're only ever willing to be with your confidence. So if you're only ever willing to be in the situations where you feel confident, then it can't grow. It can't sort of grow beyond that, let's say, in the pandemic, being at home, you're confident at home, you feel comfortable at home, but being outside, you feel vulnerable. And so it's really hard to go to the supermarket and it's really hard to go out to a bar with friends now. And if you're not willing to be without that confident feeling that you have when you're at home, then your confidence can't grow. It's not going to grow sitting at home. And that's where in therapy, we talk about the most important stuff is the stuff you do in between sessions in your real life. And so for anyone, you know, I often say to people, if there's something that you really want to master, but it makes you nervous, do as much as you possibly can in manageable doses, because the thing that you do every day will become your comfort zone. So it will gradually become easier or you'll become more confident at your ability to do it. But the way that your brain works is through repetition. So the more you do something, the more your brain will get better at automating it for you. You talk about that same sort of the importance of repetition as it relates to anxiety as well. And I guess maybe this is the answer to the question we were asking at the start about how to deal with all of this noise. Maybe it's just more dealing, doing more of it. Yeah, because it's getting used to the feedback and what it means and what it says about us and how to cope with it. Yeah, you kind of you build up coping strategies for it over time, don't you? The more you do it. It's probably a mix of that and making clear choices based on your values rather than your feelings about how much of it you want to have. How important is it to make decisions not based on how you feel right now?
How important is it to not make decisions in high emotion moments? (01:03:21)
It's okay to do that sometimes, right? We all do it because we're human. But what happens is a lot of people will come to therapy when they've lost touch with their values for some reason. Maybe life has sort of pulled them in a different direction. And they're not totally aware of that. They're just aware that everything just feels kind of meaningless or I just feel lost. And I'm not sure why I don't feel the way I want to. And often when we when we act based on how we want to feel now or how we don't want to feel now, that's that short term stuff that will keep us stuck in the long term. Whereas if you act based on values, you can live a life of meaning. It won't always be comfortable, but it will mean something to you. And I guess when you're in the storm of a situation, the emotional storm of, I don't know, you've just found out that you've been cheated on or something's happened and you're you fall into that red haze of just rage and jealousy, whatever it might be, the question, I guess, from what you said, we should be asking ourselves is like, what are my values and how would, how do I behave in line with my deeply held values in this situation, irrespective of the fact emotion is telling me to go in, yeah, run over that person with my car. Yeah, absolutely. Emotions get such a bad rap, don't they? Because they kind of, you know, we're talking about things like jealousy and people say, you know, I just could never get jealous because it's an awful emotion or something like that. And actually, the emotion isn't the thing to judge. The emotion is information. It's your brain's best guess at what might be going on around you. And your brain sometimes gets it right and sometimes gets it wrong. And it's your job to work that out. And so to look at emotion with curiosity, wow, I'm feeling really envious. What's that about? How can I, you know, how can I work around this and work that out? And how do I want to then respond that to that? How, if I look back on this really difficult moment in a year's time, and I feel proud of how I dealt with it, how would I need to deal with it to feel that way? Not easy to do in the moment, because these moments happen quite quickly sometimes. And that's okay to make mistakes and then, and then move on. That's probably a different subject, but the emotions get judged. But if we can look at emotions with curiosity instead, which is a lot of what happens in therapy, actually, is being able to notice whatever's in the room, sitting with it, looking at it with curiosity rather than judgment. That's one of the things I've come to learn from doing this podcast is this idea that we are not our thoughts. And in fact, we can hold them out in front of us and analyze them for validity. But we don't have to like directly associate or identify with all of our thoughts. Because we got, I think we all go through life believing that the things that are being said in our minds are us saying them and are a reflection of exactly who we are. And that's incredibly dangerous, especially in high emotional situations, right? Yeah, causes people loads of problems when when we think that the thoughts that pop into our heads say something about who we are, or that we chose them in some way. And that's where this whole kind of, there's a lot of stuff online is there about only positive vibes and only think positive thoughts. And if you do that, you're setting yourself up to feel like a failure, because it's not the way the human mind works, and thoughts will pop into your head. And that's your brain offering up ideas, opinions, judgments, narratives, you know, memories, all that kind of thing. And it's what you do next with it, you know, and that's where people can really struggle with intrusive thoughts, for example. So they'll have a thought that feels bizarre to them or feels aversive in some way, and then judge themselves for having had the thought and try desperately not to have it again. And when you try not to have a thought, you're already having it, because you don't think about whatever it is. And so, you know, you're just setting yourself up to fail, if you think, if you're trying to control what thoughts come into your head. But if you allow them all to be there, and then you choose consciously what to do with them next, or how much time to spend with each one, then yeah, it's closer to winning. This is a two-part question, but have you found that people who have lower self-esteem have a more unhealthy relationship with failure?
Building self esteem by having a good relationship with failure (01:07:32)
And then my second question to that is how does one go about building their self-esteem? Is it evidence? Is it evidence-based our self-esteem? Like, even if the evidence is wrong, is it based on subjective evidence that we've acquired from our experiences? Well, you know, there's been a lot more controversy around the idea of self-esteem more recently, and the field. And, you know, self-esteem is based on this idea of your sort of evaluation of yourself. And so there was a lot of work done, like in schools and stuff years ago, around getting kids to think of what they were good at, and what they could achieve, and their strengths, and what they liked about themselves. And, you know, high self-esteem can be lovely in that sense, but it's not always useful, depending on what situation you're in. So it's not necessarily useful to think, "I'm great in a situation where I'm not doing great." You have to be honest with yourself. And so for me, a much more helpful way of looking at it is to look at it in terms of self-compassion. So your self-esteem can be low, but that doesn't mean that, you know, the story is over, and things are awful for you. If you can have low self-esteem, and if you then treat yourself with compassion, you're essentially doing what's best for you. My kids are young, but let's say I had, you know, teenage kids, and one of them wasn't doing well in school, and so didn't want to get up for school in the morning because they felt like they were just, you know, a failure at school. So maybe their self-esteem around school was low. If we went with that, then we would say, "Okay, well, let's leave school then. Let's have a day off. Let's go, you know, let's indulge this." Whereas self-compassion, or showing compassion to someone in that way, would mean, "Okay, what's the best thing in this scenario? So what's going to be most helpful to you and your future in this?" It's probably working out what's going wrong and getting to school and tackling the problem, right? So, yeah, self-esteem can be a sort of tricky subject, really, and that people put a lot into it, but it's one part of a bigger equation, I think. I guess it kind of links back to the point about confidence, which is, is our self-esteem based on a bunch of evidence we've kind of collected from our experiences about the world. So I might have low self-esteem as it relates to going on dates because of some childhood rejections, whatever, and I took that as evidence that I am unattractive and I've held that as part of myself story for the last 15 years, for example. I used to think, as you talk a lot about in your book, that as many people do, and as a lot of books have kind of promoted, that you could kind of just wake up in the morning and look yourself in the mirror and say, "I'm a rock star. I'm going to be a millionaire. You are beautiful. You love yourself." And you could walk out into your day and just be that person. But so clearly, and you'll know this from your experience many years of helping people, that it just doesn't work. And I can say that something to someone, they can read my quote on Instagram, and I just absolutely know it's never going to work because there's some kind of evidence that they've accumulated over their life that is way stronger and opposes nice fluffy words. Obviously, words provide very little evidence for anything other than a prompt, I don't know. Yeah, absolutely. So your brain works like a scientist with evidence through action. So, if you want to start to feel better about yourself, essentially the best way to do that is through action and doing things that not kind of flood the system and make you feel really vulnerable, but something that feels a challenge but manageable, and then you get this little kind of step up, and there's something else that's a challenge and manageable and you get this step up. But yeah, certainly with words are powerful, but things like affirmations I talk about in the book about how not completely throw them out, but to be sure about how you're using affirmations. So, if someone already feels lovable and they read an affirmation that says I'm lovable, it'll probably make them feel quite good for a minute and they can soak that in and enjoy that, and it'll be kind of short-lived impact. If someone has, doesn't believe that, if someone has core beliefs that they're not lovable and they're trying to repeat, I am lovable, it can almost be detrimental because it sets up this internal argument where your mind also chips in with the reasons that you're not, and then you start kind of battling it out in terms of, well, but what about this and what about that? And then you end up having your internal oil, so it can have a detrimental effect if that person is genuinely really struggling with low self-seam or low confidence and that kind of thing. So, I think affirmations can be more helpful when they're instructional, when they're about when this do this and it will help you get through this difficult situation. Sports people use them and stuff like that and to help them get through high pressure moments, but in terms of turning around core beliefs, probably not so much. On high pressure moments, one thing that I did recently, which I thought was very interesting and got open my eyes to a whole new world, was I did a breathwork session.
Using our breathing to manage anxiety (01:12:36)
Okay. Have you ever done breathwork? Not a huge amount of it, but it's getting more popular, isn't it? Yeah. And I just got really intrigued by this idea that breath can have a really profound impact on mood, how we're feeling and specifically as you write about it in your book, Anxiety. Yeah. Talk to me about breath and the role it plays and how we can use our breathing to make ourselves feel less anxious. Sure. So, it's one of the probably the first things that I will go through with someone, because you'll get people who come along with therapy and in that first, you know, it takes time, right? You have to get to know each other and they're trying to communicate their story and then a whole week goes by before you see each other again. And actually, people often go to therapy when they're in a really bad place. And so, they'll often be saying, "Is there something I can do in between sessions that's going to help me get through to next week?" And so, if that person is struggling with really high anxiety, that one thing that I'll, you know, is very quick to teach, that they can take away is something like a breathing exercise, because it's one of the quickest ways that we can, you know, slow the anxiety response. So, if you're anxious, your breathing will be fast and shallow. So, kind of... Yeah, yeah. And if you do that for long enough, you actually start to feel quite panicky. Yeah. And that's because, you know, your heart and your lungs are connected, so your heart's going to start pounding to get all that oxygen around your body. And you'll kind of start gearing up into action. So, if you can slow your breathing down, you can slow the whole process down. I think I mentioned this in the book. I've certainly done videos on it, is sort of box breathing or square breathing, where you just... If you're out and about and you don't want anyone to really know what you're doing, if you're on a bus or a meeting, pick something like a door or window or something. It's kind of box shape. And you start with a kind of bottom left corner. And as you kind of trace your eyes up to the top corner, you're just counting in as you breathe in and you just... Maybe like four seconds. And then as you trace your eyes across the top, that will be a pause. So, you're just holding a breath for four seconds, and then you come back down with an out breath for four seconds and then hold. And so, you're just kind of breathing in for, hold for, out for, hold for. So... And it's just one way of when you're out, to give you a visual focus that can help you to just monitor, okay, and now I'm breathing in, now I'm breathing out. Because when you're really, really panicking, actually breathing slowly can feel really difficult to do. So, you can use that kind of visual. But also more recently, some great research has been coming out about how to kind of... It's helpful to extend the out breath. So, if you can... It doesn't really matter what the numbers are. If you can make that out breath longer and more vigorous than your in breath, then that's going to help calm that response fairly quickly. Why does all of this matter? Because... So, my girlfriend started talking to me about breath work and she started studying it. And so, I went along kind of reluctantly, what is this nonsense to this breath work class? And the guy sat me there and started talking to me about the prehistoric reasons as to why when we're in high stress situations or feeling anxious, our breath changes. And when someone explains it to me in scientific terms, I buy in. And the way he explained it to me from like, you know, if you're on 10,000 years ago and you're in the savannah with Vafrica and Alliance running towards you, your body prepares you in many ways for that fight or flight response. And the problem is in the stimulated stressful world we live in, we're kind of like living in fight or flight a lot of the time. And so, after hearing that from him and practicing a little bit, I've become really, really aware of the fact that when I am stressed, my breath basically, it feels like it's stopped. Like, it's so shallow. And so, now I override it. And it's been such a revelation in my life to try and override, you know, because you almost you don't see it, you don't know what happens. But for me, I get the alert, which is the feeling of tension in my body and kind of stress. And then I can do something about it. But where does this, you know, was he right? Is that where all this breathing stuff comes from in like meditation? Well, yeah, because you can't, you know, you don't have that kind of anxiety off switch, right? You can't directly choose to slow your heart rate. But because it's linked to other things that you can influence, you have to use those as avenues in to sort of slow the whole process down. And that's where, you know, we really underestimate things like breath work and slow breathing, because they seem too simple. And, you know, we want something complex or, you know, I want to pay for it. Yeah, exactly. And then we can kind of believe in it. And actually, we have the power to do some of these things that make such a difference. And that's really where this whole thing grow out of was, you know, people saying to me and they're like, why on earth has nobody told me this before? This is not rocket science. And it's changing everything. And this is brilliant. I want to tell everyone I want to, you know, and, and, and actually, there's a lot of the messages I get as people saying, I've told my nan, I've told my auntie, and we're all doing it together. Thank you so much. This is really, you know, but sometimes they are just really simple things that you then don't forget. And once you've got that tool, you've got it then forever, you know, no one can take that from you. That's why I wanted to talk about it a lot, is because it's had a big impact on how I feel in those high stress moments. And I just wish someone had said that to me earlier that and yeah, you're right, we're searching for complex solutions to these feelings we have in life. Over the years from doing this podcast and just general research, it's becoming becoming more and more apparent that really what I need to do is just to live more like a human being. And in fact, the world I'm living in is doing the opposite of that. It's making me live like some kind of cyborg that doesn't have emotions and everything. I mean, you talk about, I think it's chapter five of your book where you talk about the basics and sleep nutrition connection. These are all things that exercise. These are all things that human beings have always done. And in fact, the avoidance of those things in the modern world is causing us all of these like symptoms that we're diagnosing as flaws or signs that we are broken. And I have a chapter in my book, which is called just the journey back to human, as if like at some point we took a wrong turning and we actually just need to get back to being humans again. And I felt that in your writing. But I imagine, how do you feel about all of that, this idea that we've kind of what it is to be human? Yeah, because it feels like it feels like you have to battle to do normal stuff, to do human things. Exactly. And it is because of I guess the sort of media that we consume that tell us, you know, you've got to do more and be more and have more and earn more and spend more and it's sort of this treadmill that keeps speeding up. And everyone's going, why am I so worn out? Like, what's going on? And then they blame themselves for feeling worn out. When actually it's this environment that and all these kind of pressures that sort of make that worse. And so yeah, I mean, and that's where, you know, like when you ask me about kind of, you know, what's next and how do you cope with all that, it always has to come back to you know, we're in privileged positions, right, where it can feel like you don't have choice, you have to just keep going. But actually, the thing about privileges that you then get to choose, what's going to be most healthy for me here, what's going to be most meaningful and give me the life that I want to have and say that you're basing your decisions on your own values rather than somebody else's. It's very true. And I think that's maybe one of the real thoughts that is quite liberating from the potential stress of the situation, which is it is always a choice. And you'd rather probably rather have the choice, right? Because else you'd probably still be striving to get to a position of privilege and choice. Yeah, because there are people that don't have choice, right? And that's where something else to wear in the book is about how people talk about, "I'll just eliminate your stress." And you're okay, you know, say that to the single mom who works 40 hours a week to keep a roof over a kid's head, or you know, that lots of stresses can't be chosen, or you know, maybe you're waiting for results from the doctor about some test you had, and the stress is just hanging over, you know, those sorts of stresses, you don't choose those. They're a normal part of life, and there are tools to kind of deal with those. But when there is, you know, there will be certain parts of life where we can say yes or no, and that's when we need to exercise that control, I think. Death. That was a big turning point.
Is it important to understand we’re going to die? (01:20:53)
That was not a transition. You talk about death in your book, and it's funny because I sat here with my previous guest, and he talked about the importance of accepting your own kind of mortality, and the change that can have on you. What is your position on this topic? Do you think it's important to understand that you're going to die, and if so, why? Yeah, and it's something I kind of got, you know, up to my neck in when I was sort of researching for the book and stuff like that, because I included a chapter on grief, and loss, and and then I started to kind of read more widely about, you know, dealing with your own impending death, and you know, for people who have sort of illnesses and things like that, when they know that death is coming, and so I just got really kind of into all that stuff, and there's some great work out there by some brilliant people around, you know, dealing with the idea that it's all going to end, and the idea that that can be a source of meaning, it is a source of fear, right? Everybody has to deal with that fear, but it can also be a source of meaning in life today, so it can be a reason why you get up and you go with that value of enthusiasm today, or it can be a source of, you know, that's why I get up and I practice gratitude, or why I always tell my god, I love her every day, or whatever it is, that it can can also be a way to live well. There's a book called Influence, which, and one of the five principles of influence is this idea of scarcity, it's really a marketing book, it tells you how to make people believe things have more value, and one of the ideas in it is that you convince them that it's scarce, which is why if you go on booking.com it will say one hotel room left, 75 people just looked at this hotel, they're about to book it quick, and that convinces people that the thing is of more value, and I think for me, death does that. I actually have a santimer over there on the next little white head for that very reason, and I talk about it in my book a lot, because I do believe that most of us don't go through life actually believing or realizing that things are finite, and once we do, we realize that they're scarce, then we will attribute more value to them, which means that every moment is so unbelievably more precious, and that can help you filter out, you know, the decisions you're making. There's so much, there's so many studies been done when they interview people on their death beds and ask them about what really mattered, and I want to get to the point every single day where I'm making my decisions from the ledence of deathbed regret, if that makes sense. I think that will probably keep me more in line with those values you talk about. Yeah, absolutely, and actually it's an exercise that's done in acceptance and commitment therapy where you talk to people about, let's say, you know, you reach the ripe old age of 104, and you're sat in your armchair, and you're looking back on the chapter of your life that is to come, what would it need to include for you to be looking back smiling and feeling like, yeah, did it right there? That was how I wanted it to go. So not necessarily what you would want to happen to you, but again, it's how you would want to live and the attitude that you would want to face life with. How would you answer that question? Me personally, if I can touch people's lives with something that's positive in a world where you can, you know, your life can be touched by so many things that aren't positive, while at the same time still being the parent that I want to be and being present in my children's lives and being a positive impact for them, gearing them up for their own adventures, then yeah, they'll be prickly to them. In the book, you say, when it comes to a happy life, relationships beat money, fame, social class, and all the things we're told to put everything to, I talked about the neglecting my relationship over the weekend because of some of these things you've described here.
The importance of relationships (01:24:39)
So from your practice, what have you come to know about the importance of relationships, whether romantic or platonic? I don't think there is a therapy session I've ever conducted without coming to relationships at some point. It is the fabric of us, isn't it? It's what we live for in many ways. And that's why I included it in the section around meaningful life because I mean, I touch on it and it's such a huge subject that you could write reams and reams of books on relationships because they feel so complex sometimes, don't they? We're constantly making mistakes, and not getting it right, and having to reevaluate and shift. And no one, again, it's one of those things no one gives you a manual for it. And yet when it's going right, life feels incredible. And when they're going wrong, everything feels like it's falling apart. And so, I think it's an area certainly that I want to move into more and more because I see the value of it and I see how it just makes all the difference for so many people. Human connection is all sort of inbuilt stress resilience mechanism, if you like. So, if you're feeling something, if you're feeling high in stress, for example, and you have a good quality human connection or contact with someone, changes the way that your body deals with that stress. I mean, that's no tablet, that's no nothing. It's how we're built and we're supposed to live in groups together and look after each other. And even in our kind of very individualist society where it makes us value other things and pulls us away, we have to keep reminding ourselves of what it means to be human being, I think. Although life doesn't give you a manual for how to navigate a relationship, social media at least sets an expectation of how a relationship should be, specifically a romantic relationship. And this causes a lot of problems. We don't get the manual, but we get this expectation. Perfect. Well, the time, right? And you talk about this and there's a section in your book about the relationship myths, which I was reading through. And the two that I really wanted to touch on was the first one, which you've kind of alluded to there, which is love shouldn't be hard. And I, in my current relationship, we ended up actually breaking up because we encountered an issue and I don't think the world at my very, very naive age of 24, I think at the time, told me that relationships had issues. I'd only ever seen from social media perfection. So I, the minute my relationship was good, but challenging, I thought it was disposable, right? Because social media has made perfect look so normal. Yeah. And the second one is, which I find really interesting and people find this one quite controversial, which is this idea that you don't always need to be together. Me and my girlfriend are very, very good. Like we're very, very comfortable with each other to the point that and people will find this a bit shocking. If we go away somewhere, like we go to another country, we will often have separate bedrooms. And because she will have her own space where she sets up all of our stuff, she likes to meditate and put her crystals out and all of this stuff. And I'll have my own room, my own bedroom, and then we'll sleep in the same bed, but we have our own space. And also, even if we go on holiday for a month, we might, I might say to a halfway through the holiday, babe, I'm going to go in that direction for five days. I'll see you then. I'll see you in five days time. And we've got to a point where we're really comfortable with that. But I can't think of another relationship I've been in, where any of those things would have been greeted with anything, but like, anger or like, what? You know what I mean? Yeah. And I think sometimes that response from people comes out of our insecurity about what's right, because nobody sort of talks about these things, or they haven't historically. And so nobody really knows if the way they're having their relationship is the same as anybody else. And are we getting it right or wrong? And so, often there can be these knee-jerk reactions from people about, oh, that doesn't sound good, because that's not what I know to be through. And then it becomes diversity, it becomes sort of difficult for people to handle, doesn't it? If your experience is different, am I wrong? And people get really kind of upset about that. And this probably is destroying more relationships than we know. This social fake expectation of how it should be going for you. Whereas, in fact, much of what I read about in your book, and even this idea of having more words to describe how you feel, treating these things in a non-binary way, but just like reflecting on how how do I feel, not has he ticked the box of sending me roses today, but how do I feel? This seems to be a much better way to navigate through life. Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And going with what you're dealing with at that point, rather than the world says, we should be having dinner tonight, and you should be buying me 10 roses. Therefore, we're getting this really wrong if it's not happening. And there can be all manner of reasons why that might not be the case at any one point. And that's okay, isn't it? But yeah, it's looking at, if I'm not feeling loved, is it just about, because I've set a standard, and I've applied some standard to this other person that they're not fulfilling? Or am I feeling unloved generally? Is this the sort of last straw type thing that there's a buildup of resentment because I haven't been expressing my needs? And then, Valentine's Day feels like the valid time to do that because everybody else gets roses. You know, it's kind of, it's a difficult one. And how in your work, how often do you see that the relationships we have with others are just a reflection of the relationship we have with ourselves? Yeah, I mean, hugely, it can be really difficult when people, for example, when people become depressed, and their relationship with themselves becomes very poor, and they're talking to themselves in a poor way, they believe awful things about themselves, it can become really difficult for them then to sustain or manage their relationships in a positive way. Because they don't feel worthy of that relationship, for example. I don't know so much about, you know, people say, don't love anyone else until you love yourself and stuff like that. Because again, it's this kind of standard, isn't it? Of like, I've got to be so okay with myself before I'm allowed to have a partner, life doesn't work like that. We all work on it for years, right? And there are times when it's really pushed to the brink and you're tested and, or you know, your relationship with yourself deteriorates because something's happened. And that's okay to go through that journey, and you can go through it with someone else. But yeah, I mean, if you're struggling with you, then it's likely that you're also going to be struggling in your relationship, which then has a knock on effect to you again. So it's sort of a bit of a cycle. We go through life, you know, especially because you're on this, you know, you're doing a lot of media at the moment, because if you're a book and you're having a lot of interviews, one of my guests, when they wrote a really profound question in the diary, we'll get all of our guests to write a question in the diary for the next guest.
Are you happy? (01:32:07)
And they wrote a really interesting question, which I always like to ask guests now, and an awesome to give me the total honesty and the answer, which is, are you happy? Yes. Some of the time. And I would say that because there's this idea that happiness is either there or it's not, it's constant. Like, some people have it and some people don't. It's a feeling like anything else. And sometimes I'm really happy, sometimes I'm ecstatic. Other times I feel really sad or frightened or stressed. And that's okay. Generally, I'm happy with the setup of my life and positive things are happening. And all of, thank God, you all of my children are healthy and safe and all of those things. So yeah, I'm pretty grateful for my lot at the moment. But I wouldn't say, you know, I've found the secret to happiness. And then that is a constant and here I go. I know life's going to be a roller coaster because it's for everybody. And there will be times when I'm knocked back and I don't feel happy. And I know that I'll have my own back when that time comes. Okay, the question. Okay. I think I understand it because they've underlined one of the words.
The last guest question (01:33:33)
So the word that they've underlined, I'm going to emphasize. Okay. What would you do differently if you didn't have to do anything? If I didn't have to do anything, I'd probably spend more time at the beach. That sounds bizarre. But I love being outdoors with the kids. I love being at the beach with them on the coast or in the forest. With a dog. And I would probably do more of that, I think, just being outside and letting the kids be kids with, you know, hitting trees with sticks and kicking stones and like, you know, just the fun stuff probably. Probably do a bit more of that. What's stopping you doing that now? Um, that they'll have to go to school and we have to go to work and, you know, they've got skills to learn and clubs to attend. And you know, it's the kind of normal life stuff that you get busy with, which is still just as meaningful. But I think, you know, if there was a week off of school and clubs and stuff like that, then that's where we'd go to, I think. Thank you. Thank you for your time, your honesty and your brilliance. The book, as I said, it's an incredibly important book, not least because of its, of its, uh, its basis in, you know, more than a decade of knowledge and practice, but also because it's so inclusive and it's so easy to read. And I know it's going to help a ton of people, especially people that don't like or intimidated by the prospect like me of sitting down and having to read 700 pages or whatever in one sitting, a book that you can nip into and nip out of over time is so, um, so holiday-worthy. And so like travel-worthy, which is pretty much where we'd all of my books. So thank you for writing such a brilliant book. Thank you for being such a brilliant person. And although I know it's, it's challenging at times, I would just reiterate the fact that you are helping many, many, many more people than you'll ever get to know or meet. And I think that's, um, that's a very important cause that you're saving. So thank you. Thank you so much. And thanks for having me. It's an absolute privilege to come and talk with you and I can have a list of my own questions for you. So that's for another day. But thanks for- thank you.