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Awakening to Your Authentic Self

With Dr. Shefali Tsabary, Psychologist and Best-Selling Author

Dr. Shefali Tsabary
Season 3, Episode 12 | June 15, 2021

Do you do things for the image of it or because it feels right to you? Psychologist and best-selling author Dr. Shefali Tsabary explains that people — especially women — are often conditioned to sacrifice authenticity for goodness, putting others before themselves. She breaks down why and how this happens, as well as ways we can pursue a more free and true version of ourselves.

Dr. Shefali Tsabary — who goes by Dr. Shefali — is a clinical psychologist in the New York area. Specializing in the integration of Western psychology and Eastern philosophy, she brings together the best of both worlds for her clients. She is an expert in family dynamics and personal development, teaching courses around the globe. She has written five books, three of which are New York Times best-sellers, including her two landmark books The Conscious Parent and The Awakened Family. Her newest book, A Radical Awakening, is out now. She’s also appeared on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday series.

In Dr. Shefali’s latest book, A Radical Awakening, she speaks to what she calls “the triple threat,” which is our conditioning to seek approval, validation, and praise from external sources rather than from within ourselves.

“With that conditioning, we create this unrealistic standard in our own mind,” says Dr. Shefali. “We become our own inner perpetrators, where we’re unrelenting against ourselves to fulfill that mandate. Our messaging is so faulty that it needs to be rewired. We need to practice what it means to put ourselves first and stop this dependency on other people’s opinions of us — that’s the way to set ourselves free.”

Look to this chart to assess if you might be falling into the triple-threat trap, then listen to the episode to hear more from Dr. Shefali about why this happens and how we can work to move to a place that’s more loving and authentic toward ourselves.

What we seek From external sources From the self
Approval I want to make sure other’s needs are taken care of first. I put my wants and needs first.
Validation I feel good about myself when I know everyone is pleased with me. I feel good about myself, regardless of others’ opinions.
Praise Others celebrate me. I celebrate my truths.

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With Dr. Shefali Tsabary, Psychologist and Best-Selling Author
Season 3, Episode 12   June 15, 2021

Do you do things for the image of it or because it feels right to you? Psychologist and best-selling author Dr. Shefali Tsabary explains that people — especially women — are often conditioned to sacrifice authenticity for goodness, putting others before themselves. She breaks down why and how this happens, as well as ways we can pursue a more free and true version of ourselves.

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With Dr. Shefali Tsabary, Psychologist and Best-Selling Author
Season 3, Episode 12   June 15, 2021

Do you do things for the image of it or because it feels right to you? Psychologist and best-selling author Dr. Shefali Tsabary explains that people — especially women — are often conditioned to sacrifice authenticity for goodness, putting others before themselves. She breaks down why and how this happens, as well as ways we can pursue a more free and true version of ourselves.

Listen >

Transcript: Awakening to Your Authentic Self

Season 12, Episode 12  | June 15, 2021

Jamie Martin

Welcome to Life Time Talks, the healthy-living podcast that’s aimed at helping you achieve your health, fitness, and life goals. I’m Jamie Martin, editor-in-chief of Experience Life, Life Time’s whole-life health and fitness magazine.

David Freeman

And I’m David Freeman, the national digital performer brand leader for Life Time. We’re all in different places when it comes to our health and fitness, but no matter what we are working toward, there are some essential things we can do to keep moving in the direction of a healthy, purpose-driven life.

Jamie Martin

In each episode, we break down the various elements of healthy living, including fitness and nutrition, mindset and community, health issues, and more. We’ll also share real inspiring stories of transformation.

David Freeman

And we’ll also be talking to experts from Life Time and beyond, who’ll share their insights and knowledge, so you’ll have the tools and information you need to take charge of your next steps. Here we go.

[MUSIC]

Jamie Martin

Hi, everyone. I’m Jamie Martin.

David Freeman

And I’m David Freeman.

Jamie Martin

And we’re back with Life Time Talks and another guest-hosted episode that we’re excited for all of you listeners to tune into. But before we get to that, David, how are you? What’s new with you? I feel like I — you know, we talk to each other all the time, but we never really check in here.

David Freeman

Yeah. Well, I’m doing amazing. Anytime I get to connect with you guys, that’s a plus in my book. The kids are out of school, so we’re getting into summer now. Keeping them active as you know being that they’re now at home, they just want to go electronics, electronics, and just play and be loud all day long, but outside of that, we are blessed.

Everything is good, and I mean, now when we think about the transition to bring the special guest that we’re talking about with Miss Courtney, something around this topic and this episode that’s going to resonate with a lot of our audience. I’m super excited to share that, so with that being said, Courtney Lewis Opdahl. Yeah? You remember that? You remember that name, you all? So, managing editor of Experience Life is here with us to talk about the interview that she actually had with Dr. Shefali Tsabary who is an award-winning writer, clinical psychologist, and an author of several books including a just-published book, A Radical Awakening.

Courtney, thanks for being here.

Courtney Lewis Opdahl

Thanks for the introduction, David and Jamie. I’m happy to be here with you again today and to share Dr. Shefali’s work with our listeners. I greatly enjoyed reading her books and speaking with her, and I know there’s so many powerful insights in her message that our audience will really appreciate.

David Freeman

Powerful insights. That’s the takeaway I just heard from you. Powerful insights. So, if you can, tell us a little bit about your conversation with Dr. Shefali and a few of your own top takeaways.

Courtney Lewis Opdahl

Oh, sure. Well, I was really excited to talk with Dr. Shefali about her work in parenting as a mom of two little kids and her book, The Conscious Parent. I think you’ll both welcome that exchange as parents yourselves. She offers a really kind and compassionate approach to how we act as guides for our children and see them as our teachers. And for me, and I believe many parents in western culture, we often think of this parent-child relationship as one of hierarchy. I’m the mom. I’m in charge, you know. I’ve said that many times to my kids, but then it leads us down this path of trying to control our children, and you know from raising kids, that these young, spirited people they sense that, and they rebel against it. So, for Dr. Shefali to say in her book she understands that but she’s trying to help us parents stay present and connected to our children, but also acknowledging the difficulty in doing that when so many parents are working and trying to manage it all, and we know those children’s developing brains, that inevitably means they’re going to have tantrums and meltdowns, so staying present can be really difficult.

One of the other things I loved, too, is that we move through her work you see from a awakened family, a conscious parent, you get to a radical wake in her fifth book, and man, this is just a very linear natural extension of mothering once the children have become more independent and maybe they’ve left home and living on their own. She really challenges women in this book. Though there are many takeaways in here, also for men and for nonbinary individuals, she asks women to examine how have we been trapped in this triple threat of what she calls the triple threat of approval, validation, and praise. So, for our listeners, I see this as a direct question to our health pursuits, too. Are you on a path for yourself to feel your best, or really are your goals about gaining approval, validation, or praise from others, and as we, your listeners, know from this podcast that the former is what really brings that lasting result, doing this for yourself to bring out your best life?

What really stood out to me, too, with A Radical Awakening I think was this deep connection to truth, and I know there’s been a lot of talk in the cultural vernacular right now about awakening and wokeness, but what we’re trying to do here and what I think what she’s trying to do instead of just examining the pandemic or racial injustice, she’s really talking more about this kind of awakening that she’s talked about for a long time. It’s about this consciousness and awareness. So, what I clarified with her was that this awakening that she had, and she shares in her book, and she’s very honest about it, this term of awakening for her is really about understanding our own truths and what is not working and what’s working, asking those questions of ourselves. Sometimes you come to it at a crisis in your life. Sometimes you come to it when they say the rock-bottom moment. In psychology, they say that, but I think what it’s really interesting is the quest that I personally loved and taken up as a journalist professionally trying to find that truth. What is the truth? And then part also as a spiritual seeker.

When I’ve tried to do for 10 years ago when I started writing my blog for Coming Clean. Coming Clean the whole thing was just about being really honest and saying, what’s not working. I was coming out of a time when I was overworked. I came out of a layoff from my old business. I was starting my own business, and I was just unwell. I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t vibrant, and I knew that. I had to admit that, and when I did that, I started making these shifts that were lifestyle shifts that helped improve my health, my fitness, my well-being, but it’s hard to do. We get comfortable in these familiar patterns, right. It’s scary to change. So, for her to challenge readers in that way to ask them when they’re reading the book, what’s really not working? I think that’s a big question that we have to ask ourselves, and that one that I know our listeners will really tap into here.

So, and I think, David, you probably have this experience, too. I know our readers give us this, members give us this, but you probably see this, too, with your clients when doing personal training.

David Freeman

Yeah. They associate health to a look, and it’s actually a feeling, like how you actually feel, and we do associate a lot of things to aesthetics, so when you actually start to break down and start again to the inter-workings as far as what it means to be healthy, that’s what the foundation is. Healthy comes before fit, and I always joke around with this as far as when we were playing sports in school. You were a student before an athlete. You’re student-athlete, but you got to be healthy to be able to get to fit.

And I always talk about mental healthness yields physical fitness, so, I mean, I love how you painted that picture, and I actually want to acknowledge what you said a little bit earlier as far as coming clean. Just being able to be vulnerable and put that out there, that in a sense is a source of reflection, and if you want to call that being awakening or woke, that’s a beautiful thing, so I appreciate you sharing that.

Jamie, what are your thoughts?

Jamie Martin

Yeah. Just listening to you talk, Courtney, and also being pretty familiar with Dr. Shefali’s work, there’s so much in this about standing in our truth and being authentic to ourselves, and Courtney, you said it. So often we’re trying to do things to satisfy others, or as she talks about the concept of goodness that we’re trying to seek for others or for others’ approval, and I think this is a really interesting kind of wakeup call for so many of us about who are we, and then permission in some cases to really stand in our truths and who we are and being authentic, and I thought about this a lot. I know a word that she uses, and I think we’ll hear in the episode is languish, like the state of, you know, just not feeling quite right, being kind of in this space of I’m not great. I’m not terrible, but it just here, right, just existing in some cases and not really thriving, and I think how do we tap into what that is and understand the why there, but then also do it for ourselves? Get out of that for ourselves, and I’m really excited to hear from her on that, and also to hear from her . . . she’s going to be on the cover of the upcoming September issue of Experience Life and hear more from her on that, so those are kind of my takeaways.

A little bit more background about Dr. Shefali, and then we’ll have some final thoughts here. So, Dr. Shefali, for those who may not be as familiar with her, as David mentioned, she’s a writer and clinical psychologist in the New York area. She was born in Mumbai and received her doctorate in clinical psychology from Columbia University. She specializes in integration of western psychology and eastern philosophy, and she brings together the best of both worlds for her clients. She’s an expert in family dynamics and personal development, teaching courses around the globe. As Courtney mentioned, she’s written five books, three of which are New York Times bestsellers, including her two landmark books, The Conscious Parent and The Awakened Family. Her newest book, A Radical Awakening is out now, and if you’re a fan of Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday series, you may recognize Dr. Shefali from her appearances on that as well.

So, she’s got quite the resume, quite the, you know, the books, you know, the status and the representation she’s had out in the larger world. She’s got quite a bit of knowledge.

Courtney, any final thoughts before we dive into the episode?

Courtney Lewis Opdahl

Yeah. I think, Jamie, what you said about that permission, too. I really hope that our listeners come to this podcast with open minds and open hearts, so they can really absorb what Dr. Shefali shares. While she does push us to acknowledge those hard truths, I think listeners will find that permission to acknowledge that and to realize that they can step into their own power and have their best life, so I hope that that’s what listeners take from this and that when they read the story in September’s cover story, too, I think they’ll get the same sense of knowing that when they make those acknowledgments, that they can move forward in a better place.

David Freeman

Well, with that said, you all, open mind, open heart. Be present, for that’s the gift that you’re about to receive from Courtney and Dr. Shefali.

[MUSIC]

Courtney Lewis Opdahl

In talking today, we’re going to talk a lot about your new book, your fifth book, A Radical Awakening, but I want people to also know that there’s so much beauty in The Conscious Parent which I wish I would have read during maternity leave, but it’s so wonderful, and Awakened Family, also great.

So, we’ll start with the big question of how do we become awakened?

Dr. Shefali Tsabary

Well, typically people become awakened unintentionally, kicking and screaming when things fall apart in their lives so if we don’t want to do it through trauma and we don’t want to do it through hitting rock bottom, then we do it because we are seekers. We do it because we want to uncover why we’re behaving the way we are. So, either way, either through pain right through intentionality the way to become awakened is to have a curiosity, a desire, a seeking within ourselves to understand why am I the way I am, why do I behave these ways, what people do I attract, and what patterns do we play out because this will take us to an awareness of how our childhood templates have created a foundation upon which we now survive or thrive, and our curiosity will allow us to become aware of these patterns.

Courtney Lewis Opdahl

I think that’s really lovely in the times that we’re living in, too. I think the pandemic has kind of given us this pause, and I think I want to clarify, too, for our listeners and differentiate this a bit, too, because we’ve seen this kind of in the cultural vernacular of awakening, either for people trying to find answers for the pandemic or they’re maybe becoming more enlightened around systemic issues of inequity, so I wanted to kind of clarify this. Radical awakening seems to come back to this individual quest, the true self and identifying that. Is that correct, is that kind of the clarity we have here?

Dr. Shefali Tsabary  

Yes. Yeah, and it’s connected. So, I wrote this book, A Radical Awakening, and it says turn pain into power, embrace your truth and live free because unless we awaken from the micro, the macro will never awaken. So, you’re right that in the pandemic and the BLM movement and all the other unrest in the world has kind of forced us back into our homes and what I would wish for people is that they go back to their inner home, the home within that they have absconded a long time ago.

You see, pre pandemic we were living really manically-driven lives with incessive doing, distractions, and rabid achievement, and the pandemic put a screeching halt to all of it and it disoriented us. It kind of created this traumatic pause that we were not ready for and we felt displaced even though we were actually being invited for the first time in decades to really sit with ourselves. But that felt very displacing because we’ve not been sitting with ourselves.

So, this book, A Radical Awakening, is for women especially designed to take us back into the parts of ourselves that we have left behind eons ago and reclaim that empowered, sovereign voice in a knowing inner connection because when we women awaken we raise our children, we are the connectors in our community, then we can salvage the lost parts of others and allow them to start their journey. So, it does begin on an individual level which then bleeds into the macro.

Courtney Lewis Opdahl

I love that because I also relate it a lot to so many parts of your book and I appreciated your disclaimers, too. We’re talking a lot, too, for our listeners about kind of binary male/female but there’s a lot, we acknowledge there’s a gender spectrum, too, and I think there’s a lot in both parts of this where you can see it, but when we talked through the book about women there’s this moment that you have and this beautiful symbolism that comes out of like a nearer critical, almost near death but not situation with a car accident and I’ve had my own car accident at 18 that really awakened me up and then more recently I had broken my ankle when my daughter was one. I was rushing around the house, slipped on the stairs wearing socks, and you know, carpeted steps and broke it, and I remember my friend, Pilar, saying well, that’s the universe. That’s telling you to slow down.

I’m not really sure what that message is for you, and I think it’s hard in a moment of pain to really sit there and try to find the messages, so I’d love for readers to understand that moment for you when you had that moment where you veered off the road and what happened there for your radical awakening.

Dr. Shefali Tsabary  

Yeah. My daughter was young, you know. I think when we women become mothers we get so lost in the doing of the perfect mother that we do lose our center. It is a hugely disorienting process to give birth, especially if you’re a biological mother, our body goes through so many changes. Those initial years we feel like we have to be the best, we have to be the most nurturing, and we get lost in that, especially if we then put on ourselves the pressure to go back to work or be skinny again or whatever we put on ourselves.

So, I, too, in my daughter’s early years I was doing a PhD program, raising her, trying to be this amazing person, and I was exhausted so I feel asleep at the wheel, it was high traffic, and I just veered off the road without even realizing and was inches off a tree when I got jolted awake and I saved the crash, but it was such a wakeup call to me that I had really lost myself in this motherhood, in this achievement, in life-hood, and I knew that I was in trouble.

So, our life is constantly speaking to us. You know, the universe is not speaking to us, it’s our own discombobulation that is showing up in car accidents, in forgotten calls, in misplaced things, in overbooked schedules, you know. Every time I overbook and I do too many things at once I make a mess of it, so this is our own inner state of chaos screaming to us saying hey, wake up. So, I called that chapter in the book A Radial Awakening, Soul Erosion because I was eroding my soul for the sake of the doing and for the sake of recruiting myself to be this absolute perfect image of what I thought a wife, a mother, a super achiever should be, but in all of that I lost my essence, you know? I was going to kill myself.

So, at some point in our lives we have to kind of be jolted, and sadly like I said in the beginning, we typically wake up through trauma because it jolts us into realizing that now we’re hitting a real deep abyss, a real rock-bottom moment where if we don’t make actionable changes in our lives we will be on this hamster wheel of just spiraling out of control.

Courtney Lewis Opdahl

And I think so many people have these wakeup moments as you mentioned in the book, especially in therapy, it’s like that rock-bottom moment where you have the aha, I need to change, but I think others are just feeling this, kind of this, the word has been thrown around, the languishing, like it’s just this listlessness, and I see it as what you talk about in your book about disconnection you know, to that true self and so I’d love to talk about it with people who don’t you know, feel like maybe they haven’t had this crisis, they don’t identify their traumas but they still feel like they’re just missing something. How can they get to this place where they have this awakening if they’re not having a crisis moment?

Dr. Shefali Tsabary

Correct, so a crisis moment is a friend in a way because it’s so clear. What you’re talking about is even more scary because it can continue for eons because it’s that phenomenon of 60 percent good enough, you know? It’s not terrible but it’s not amazing, but it’s OK. And the OK is languishing and just sitting on the couch day in and day out, just going about your motions robotically, feeling this anguish, this low-lying anxiety but not really hitting a wall, right? That’s even more painful to me, I’d rather hit the wall already.

But the wall is coming, the wall is coming, it’s just taking a long time because the person is just staying under the radar. So, if someone listening to this feels like they are that person languishing, kind of losing their sense of vitality, their sense of you know, this enlivened empowerment where they feel in charge of their choices, then I would say that’s a wakeup call, right? Day in and day out of nothingness, of disconnection is a wakeup call and we need to see and read and observe and notice the signs clearly for what they are. You know, there’s crisis point trauma which is acute dysfunctionality, and then there’s this languishing, ongoing anxiety, low-lying anxiety which is also its own kind of sign and signal and gateway to you saying hey, why am I eternally disconnected? I go to work and the hours take forever.

You know, if our hours take forever, if the days seem to drag on, if it just seems to be just one boring moment after another, that means something. That means we’ve disembodied ourselves from the present moment, we’ve disconnected for a reason. We’re not plugged in. Either we’re scared to plug in, the places and the things around us are forcing us to have a mask, forcing us to numb ourselves because we’re too scared to show up. Either it’s too scary or we simply can’t show up, like there’s no opportunity, and that’s a problem.

So, in my life when I feel those languishing moments I immediately look around me to see what I need to shake up, stir up, change up because it’s not OK to languish through life, you know? For me now on the other side of the dark tunnel of change I feel like my days are too short, you know? Like wow, it’s already 6 o’clock in the evening. For me it goes by so fast because I’m fully engrossed, fully in flow, and that’s what the concept and phenomenon of flow is and we want more flow in our lives.

So, again, these are wakeup calls. Again, people need to be willing to say I don’t need to live a life like this. That’s why people who are awake are a great service to others because they’ll see that person and go, I want to be like her or him, I want to be full of energy and vitality. How do I get like that? And if you’re constantly seeing role model after role model on TV and you’re feeling hey, I’m not like that, take yourself to a cultural therapist and take a self-help course and maybe you’ll begin to realize why you’re not plugged in.

Courtney Lewis Opdahl

I thought one of the things that was really great with your book, too, was that this measurement that we have, especially as women, is perhaps . . . let’s see, and based on this triple threat, right? So, can you help our listeners understand what we kind of face when we are trying to seek this when you talk about validation, praise, approval?

Dr. Shefali Tsabary

Yeah, so as young girls and I’m sure every woman who’s hearing this would relate, as young girls especially we are really robotically-trained to be very, very good and good not only in our behavior but also very good at seeking love and worth from the outside, from our parents, and what I call the triple threat in this book, A Radical Awakening, is what you just said. We seek more than anything to receive approval, validation, and praise from the outside world. And approval means do you give me permission to exist, validation is do you honor my existence, and praise is you celebrate it, and because we’ve been as little girls trained to put everyone before us, a good girl is one who makes everyone happy and doesn’t rock the boat and isn’t too loud and rambunctious like her brothers and is really obedient, and that’s what we’ve associated with virtue, with holiness.

So, with that conditioning now we create this unrealistic standard in our own mind. We become our own inner perpetrators where we are unrelenting against ourselves to fulfill that mandate. I know for myself every time I broke that mandate of the good girl I literally was terrified because my own internal oppressor kept yelling at me you know, that’s not what good girls do and you are not virtuous, you’re not nice any more and you’re not kind.

So, our messaging that we’ve indoctrinated is so faulty and it needs to be really rewired within us and we need to practice what it means to put ourselves first, what it means to not depend in an infantile way on the approval of our husbands, our partners, our fathers, our bosses. We need to stop this childish dependency on other people’s opinions of us and that’s the way to set ourselves free.

Courtney Lewis Opdahl

I think about that kind of familial pattern that happens, too, so often and you talk about this in the book and I think that’s probably a huge challenge for so many people of if I’m a barrier breaker, if I want to take a different path, if I want to break any of these untruths and legacies within my family that don’t serve us that I’m going to be like you said, I’m now bad, I’m not the good girl, I’m not following the rules, and so I think a lot of people just don’t want to push. They don’t want to push that boundary. How can we feel more empowered to do that? What’s the service in doing that for ourselves to the breaking that generational messaging?

Dr. Shefali Tsabary

It’s so hard to break it because it’s so embossed in us, right? So, to create boundaries, to say no, to be considered selfish, self-centered? You know, that’s the first thing people say about good girls who want to now take charge of their lives, they’re suddenly made to feel like they’re the know-it-all. You know, we’re kind of given a name right away and that scares us because all our life we tried to not be, and so I write in the book, one section is called “Embracing the Queen Energy” where you embrace yourself in power because our fear of being “the bad girl” keeps us from being authentic.

So, I talk in the book that we need to replace this idea, this foolish, foolish idiotic, lunatic idea of the epitome of the good girl, the perfect girl, and replace it with the authentic girl, and when we keep that vision in mind, that nope, I don’t want to be a good girl any more, I want to be authentic, now we completely change our North Star. Now the North Star isn’t the approval, validation, and praise of the other person, it’s how do I feel about myself, did I speak my truth? And you literally become so bold because you realize that your relationship with yourself has been ignored all this time by you. You have literally discarded yourself all these years and you realize wow, why have I been putting other people before me? Are they really more important than me?

So, I in my life began to practice putting myself front and center in the top of the line and yes, my family could also be on the top of the line but I wasn’t going to be at the back of the line any more. And oh my goodness, they all protested. My daughter thought that somebody had taken over my body, but I slowly began to teach her that I’m also of great import and I am of also great value and I am not going to tolerate being ignored, discarded, dismissed any more by anybody and that took a little bit of adjustment and protesting, but soon people come on board because you mean it.

So, laying boundaries that are sacred for your self-honor is the most sanctimonious, holy, sacred thing in the world to do. The most virtuous thing is to stop lying, pretending to be good when you really want to say no and you keep saying yes, that’s a lie, and I just decided in my life for example, to stop lying and this book is giving permission to other women to embrace that Queen sovereign energy and by doing so something miraculous happens. You begin to ask and challenge the people around you to step up to their game, to own up to their own infantile expectations of you and you kind of leave them there with love and compassion, to figure it out. You stop saving the whole world, and this is so crucial for us good girls is that we need to step away from the role of this empathic savior and just save ourselves because we’ve been ignoring ourselves and that in itself is a codependent lie, it’s an enmeshment, it’s a mask. It’s not because we’re good, it’s because we are afraid.

Courtney Lewis Opdahl

I think fear is just, it’s such a through line here, too, because there’s that message of being able to stand in my power and to own my truth and be authentic, and I think that as you said, it’s challenging to do for so many women because we’re taught to have this life of servitude and passivity and that’s all kind of in the greater picture of the patriarchy that we want to just always follow these lines. I know, too, as a woman of color like that’s very challenging for me of like fitting into a mold and not breaking at all can be so difficult to say it’s best for me to use my voice and to stand up and to help lead and guide, and to break that barrier for so many people can be such a big challenge. I think we’re in a moment right now where we’re starting to really encourage our youth to do this, too, and to do it with each other so I’m grateful for your book for that because I think that’s such a strong message to continue to send to the next generations and I hear you when you say there was a push from Maya, I think is your daughter’s name, right?

Dr. Shefali Tsabary

Yes.

Courtney Lewis Opdahl

Yeah, so there was the push from her of like what’s happening here, and for other women around you I could imagine, too, that could be a real wakeup for them of like maybe I’m not doing this and I could and should.

Dr. Shefali Tsabary

Well, yes. I think when one woman awakens she kind of lights the pathway for other women to begin to examine their own lives to see where they are sacrificing authenticity for goodness, where they are entering martyrdom for the virtue of it rather than for the honesty of it, and how they’re just playing a role that they’ve been conditioned to play because their parents told them to play it but they haven’t ever stopped to rehaul, to rebirth, to restart and I think we deserve that, that opportunity, but only we can give it to ourselves.

If we don’t give ourselves the opportunity to repush the start button then we just keep going on that conveyor belt endlessly robotic, constantly reactive playing that role and it becomes the more we play it the harder and harder it is to get unstuck from it.

Courtney Lewis Opdahl

I want to talk a little bit about approval with you because I’m seeing this with the health and fitness industry, this is a challenge we always trying to get into is are we seeking health and fitness for ourselves or is it because we want to appear a certain way for others? Is it the look of health, is it the feeling of health? And we tend to come back to this a lot at Lifetime about healthy way of life. It’s really about how you feel, the holistic process of your health and fitness, but it’s a hard sell I would say because it tends to be flashier to see people looking to fitness. There’s a look to it, there’s an appearance to it.

So, I wanted to talk a little bit about this kind of conflict and approval from others versus like approval of your own actions and behaviors that are healthy behaviors and kind of get your take on how that can turn up in your health journey.

Dr. Shefali Tsabary

Yeah. I mean, all of us can get seduced into wanting the look of it and some part of it is normal that it’s going to fub off on us, but I think when we become enslaved to the look of it to the point where we must have that look and if we don’t have that look that means we feel bad about ourselves, then we are going to run into a quagmire. So, my own life you know, there are weeks that I’m super fit and I’m doing all the things I need to do, and then there’s some weeks where I completely need to not do it because I’m doing too many other things.

So, life is meant to be periods of rest interspersed with periods of great activity and I’m not a firm believer of just endless activity, even though if you saw my life you’d be like [inaudible], so but I do intersperse rest. I do know when to take time off and I do know when to drop things from my schedule because I’m not in the relentless pursuit of anything at the detriment of my sanity. So, again, it’s to the degree, right? To what degree you know, do we indulge in wanting a look, and a look is fine but when the look subsumes and supersedes the feel, then we are kind of acting out in an insane way. We are detrimental to ourselves, we are waging war against ourselves.

So, again, we can live or die by anything except our true, authentic, peaceful sense of belonging to the present moment. If anything is constantly robbing us from belonging to the present moment it needs to be severely deconstructed and unrooted from our lives.

Courtney Lewis Opdahl

I think that’s important for people to remember and I think of like I had a trainer who I said I don’t like running you know, I just don’t want to do it. I hate it, really, do we have this? And he said, well, let’s not run, then. Let’s find something that you want to do, that you feel good doing and that you feel like empowers you and feels like a good place for you to be, and I think that if people can take that moment to say what’s good for me in this moment, what’s feeling right for me in this moment and be really present for it, they could find a better place for joy in movement versus like the need to check it off a list, to make it part of this you know, protocol we have that makes us a good woman all around you know, we’ve checked all those things off our day.

Dr. Shefali Tsabary

Right. We have to listen to our bodies, we have to be in flow so the days that you could run for five minutes, the days that you walk for an hour, the days that you just go you know, just around your block or just in your kitchen and then you lift a few weights, there is no prescription but again, just like with all the other standards we think there’s a way to be and we disown ourselves, we don’t pay attention to what our body needs, and in that we get exhausted and then guess what? We’re going to die anyway so why die exhausted? You know, that’s what I say, why not die happy and peaceful?

So, what if it’s a little bit unfit, you know? It’s OK, you don’t have to kill yourself, and nothing should ever come to the detriment of your inner sense of peace in the moment. So, this is all about attuning, this is what my whole book, A Radical Awakening, is about. Constantly attuning to yourself and being authentic to yourself and not doing things for the image of it but for what feels right for you.

Courtney Lewis Opdahl

Right, it’s that tapping into the intuition that you have, too.

Dr. Shefali Tsabary

Yes.

Courtney Lewis Opdahl

Which isn’t really practiced in our culture we have to admit, which your book really, really I think explains so well that we aren’t familiar with these concepts here. We tend to go, go, go and less about what we really need or what’s going to serve us best.

I did want to talk a little bit, too, about, just a little bit about The Conscious Parent because I love it so much. if I could just kind of connect some of the dots because I think Radical Awakening for women in general, I think there’s a nice thread here because of this concept you talked about, too, of the birthing of the children, if you have you know, a child biologically. I find that process, the growing, the birth, the nursing, the connection there, the extension of my body you know, so then it’s this thought of like well, they’re my child, and I love how you talk about is like this ownership and this control that we have to learn how to relinquish here.

So, could you kind of explain just so people who haven’t heard about The Conscious Parent what a conscious parent is?

Dr. Shefali Tsabary

So, I wrote this book, my first book, The Conscious Parent, to really transform the parenting paradigm because when I became a parent I realized that the parenting paradigm was all about controlling the children and this idea that because they’re yours you kind of get to do whatever you want and you can discipline them how you want and it was really an unmitigated green light to do whatever you want to these children, and when I became a parent and I saw myself being conditioned by that traditional model and I saw how not so nice I was to my child and how my ego was being vomited all over my child, I realized wow, there’s something wrong in the traditional model because I’m a good person, I love my kids but I’m I’m acting like a lunatic.

And I then set out to write this book, use my practice in spirituality and meditation and psychology to really turn the traditional parenting paradigm on its head and challenge parents to understand that you have to raise yourself and evolve and heal your own baggage before you can even dare to do this with your children.

Courtney Lewis Opdahl

And I think with A Radical Awakening and so much of that realization, too, of like how much pressure you’ve put on the child as your identity, you as the mother as your identity, and if you haven’t done the work and read the book, The Conscious Parent, you end up at this place where you read Radical Awakening and this is new to you. This is the thought of like wow, I’ve reached this point in my life where my child doesn’t need me, my child doesn’t seem like, they’re so independent which would be a good thing but also then who am I without being the one who serves them and tends to them and mom takes care of it all?

So, when women are coming to that stage, too, in their lives of what I do next, where I go next from here it almost seems like what you’re trying to tell us is when you go in, instead of go to the next thing looking out, looking in, you can kind of get in the better place. Is that what you’re trying to say?

Dr. Shefali Tsabary

Yes. You know, in The Conscious Parent I talked about how we mothers and fathers identify so much with that parent role that we are imposing on the child all our unmet fantasies and expectations because we want the role to be of a super successful parent so we have to create a super successful child and that means a child who’s never unhappy so that we feel super successful. And we think we really like can own them and we never stop to go within to ask what inside me is empty right now that I need my child to fulfill for me.

So, in the same way this new book, A Radial Awakening, really looks at the whole span of the woman all the ways that she’s given up her sense of self, her sense of identity, and how she has enmeshed her sense of worth in all these roles, so it’s very important for her that these roles are fulfilled and when these roles are not fulfilled then she feels a tremendous pang, a tremendous sense of failure, and it’s not true. It’s just because she had just devote herself so much to the role that that’s the problem.

She’s not unworthy but the role you know, cannot sustain itself. Our children are going to. mess up, our partners may leave us, we may put on weight, so the role of being the perfect mother, the wife, or the skinny person or whatever you want your body to be, when that doesn’t come to fruition we fall apart. But it’s not because we are faulty, it’s because our identification with the role was wrong and erroneous.

Courtney Lewis Opdahl

You talk a lot about the ego in the book, too, and I think that that’s helpful for people to understand kind of how the ego tries to, we think tries to serve us and then also really harms, too. Can you talk a little bit about what happens when we can kind of challenge that ego within us and how that can kind of open us up to some of these challenging conversations either with ourselves or with our family, and then our communities about how we kind of have those difficult spots to say maybe I don’t know, maybe I’m open and how we can get to those places?

Dr. Shefali Tsabary

Yeah, so this ego that I talk about is the false persona that we take on in childhood in order to get that love and worth you know, so somebody decides they’ll be the pleaser, somebody else is the comedian, somebody’s the rebel, and that’s the way we got attention or approval or even if you didn’t get approval we got attention, and we keep those masks on and we then embark on other relationships in our lives and we don’t realize that those are faulty ways of relating to other people because they were put on our faces out of a sense of scarcity, out of a desire for love and worth.

So, that’s going to always be the way we get love and worth and instead of giving it to ourselves we always seek for that love and worth on the outside and nobody, I promise you, nobody can give you the love and worth that you didn’t get in childhood. Everybody would just be a surrogate or a proxy. And when we are in relationship after relationship not getting the love and worth, one day we could wake up and say wow, I’m setting up the same dynamics and hopefully a therapist will then tell you it’s because you need to give yourself the love and worth. You are looking for it on the outside through a magic pill and it’s not available on the outside, it’s only available on the inside.

Courtney Lewis Opdahl

I think that’s important for people to remember, too, because there’s so many times where you know, we just don’t seek any guidance or that help. We find, like we said earlier, we find that place of like when I get to crisis then I will go to therapy, then I will do these things that could actually serve me sooner, and I’m just thinking of it because we’re speaking now in May and it’s Mental Health Awareness month and there’s so much stigma still around tending to your mental health, to taking care of yourself, and I would like to learn what’s your you know, kind of the benefits of being able to stop for that moment, to really dig in whether it’s you know, self-help books like your great A Radical Awakening or or if it’s going to therapy either virtually or in person, or community groups that are free to people just to kind of access what they’re not really willing to admit but they could admit, and as you say in A Radical Awakening what they’ll really find when they discover they can find their true selves.

So, as far as like the benefits of tapping into this mental health capacity of any of these, what can people learn from this?

Dr. Shefali Tsabary

Yeah. You know, I’m a therapist and I just feel like every client who’s come to me is not crazy, they are the most courageous, so anybody who wants to work on their emotional well being is really a super star because we all have mental health problems, all of us have emotional issues, all of us have baggage from childhood so to pretend like we don’t is an old permitted way of looking at mental health where you feel you have to be crazy in order to go for therapy or seek help which is such an outdated model now. I mean, now people are just seeking therapy all the time. It’s like if you can afford it, if you have the time, your coach or your therapist is part of your life because every human needs that other objective third-person to kind of mirror back what they’re doing and help them and help them to course correct and elevate.

You know, I run a mastermind group, I have a women’s community, I do courses. I have so many people learning from me and I learn from them because it’s so important you know, where we support each other every single week and if we don’t have each other to check each other and to mirror each other, how are we going to grow? So, join a women’s community or join a mastermind or join a therapy group or join a self-help group. Join something so that you are kept in check and you grow and you elevate. I mean, that should be every human’s goal if they can afford it, if they have the time.

Courtney Lewis Opdahl

I think that’s great. I also want to make sure we acknowledge the men that are listening to this, too, and you do have a great chapter about men in your book and you know, for men who are looking to reach that level of consciousness or just to be great allies to the awakened woman, what do you advise for them?

Dr. Shefali Tsabary

Oh, we need our men so much. This book is as much for men, even though it’s centered on women, because we need our men to support us. We need our men to honor us, to help us to decondition from all that insecurity that we’ve been ridden with because of culture, and help us to feel beautiful in our own skin and don’t compare us and allow us to be heard and respected for our inner voice, and allow us to check you, you know. When you are out of line we women need to check the men and the men need to step back, and I think with more and more awakened women men will just have no choice but to step into line.

Courtney Lewis Opdahl

I’d love to see a vision from you, too. So many people are coming out of this pandemic with you know, so much trauma and loss you know, loss of experiences but then loss of actual lives, too, you know, and I think it’s been a difficult but important year for humanity to really kind of recognize what was working and what wasn’t working and what’s essential in our lives and necessary, and there’s a talk of this new normal you know, and people are trying to really understand like what that’s going to look like. What’s your vision for that, what do you hope to see for Americans as we move forward here in American society, how do we kind of shift our cultural conversation back to something that has this consciousness level?

Dr. Shefali Tsabary

Well, you know, to understand that on a macro level this country has had a lot of inequity that needs to be repaired and on a micro level there’s a lot of internal dysfunction that needs to be repaired, and my vision is that this pandemic has been a wake-up call for us to really stop consuming to the manic levels we were, stop doing to the insane levels we were, and truly enter a new-found sense of simplicity or narrowness, quietude, and connection. I think that’s the vision of this new decade that the pandemic is setting us off on.

Courtney Lewis Opdahl

Part of your book, too, talks about failure in this kind of, like leaning into some of these concepts and rethinking of whether it’s you know, loss of a job of this year, quitting a job, maybe ending a marriage you know, divorce rates have gone up and what that means for us on an individual level of how we can like rethink the concept of failure in that sense and what we can learn from it. So, what do you think we can learn from some of these experiences that maybe feel so negative in the moment?

Dr. Shefali Tsabary

Yeah, that there’s no such thing as failure, there are only missteps for moving in the right direction and you know, this is such a wonderful opportunity to course correct, to take that pause, to reevaluate our lives before we emerge out of this pandemic. It’s been such a wonderful opportunity to go into ourselves and really rehaul our lives. You know, I don’t believe in any such word as failure, it just doesn’t even occur to me because I see everything as unfeeling, evolving, transforming.

So, in that there’s going to be course corrections and it’s only coming out of more and more evolution so there’s no such thing as regret or failure.

Courtney Lewis Opdahl

I think that’s a great place for people to be reminded of the opportunities available to them when they’re willing to take that time to look. So . . .

Dr. Shefali Tsabary

Yes.

Courtney Lewis Opdahl

. . . I love that. Well, thank you so much, Dr. Shefali, for your time today and for sharing your insights with our listeners and readers. For our listeners to learn more about Dr. Shefali’s work, her books, and her online courses visit DrShefali.com. Thank you, Dr. Shefali.

Dr. Shefali Tsabary

Thank you for having me.

[MUSIC]

David Freeman

Thanks for joining us for this episode. As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts on our conversation today, and how you approach this aspect of healthy living in your own life. What works for you? Where do you run into challenges? Where do you need help?

Jamie Martin

And if you have topics for future episodes, you can share those with us, too. Email us at lttalks@lt.life, or reach out to us on Instagram, @lifetime.life@jamiemartinel, or @freezy30, and use the hashtag #LifeTimeTalks. You can also learn more about the podcast at el.lifetime.life/podcasts.

David Freeman

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Jamie Martin

Thanks for listening. We’ll talk to you next time on Life Time Talks. Life Time Talks is a production of Life Time, healthy way of life. It’s produced by Molly Schelper, with audio engineering by Peter Perkins, and sound consulting by Coy Larson. A big thank-you to the team who pulls together each episode, and everyone who provided feedback.

We’d Love to Hear From You

Have thoughts you’d like to share or topic ideas for future episodes? Email us at lttalks@lt.life.

The information in this podcast is intended to provide broad understanding and knowledge of healthcare topics. This information is for educational purposes only and should not be considered complete and should not be used in place of advice from your physician or healthcare provider. We recommend you consult your physician or healthcare professional before beginning or altering your personal exercise, diet or supplementation program.

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