Clint Murphy 00:11
Welcome to the growth guide podcast. I’m your host Clint Murphy. Every week I talk to authors, subject matter experts and millionaire mentors to share the lessons that will help you and me be better, achieve more and become financially free. Today, I had the pleasure of talking with Dr. Kristen Lee. Dr.Krisis an internationally reconized award winning behavioral science clinician, researcher, educator, and speaker. Our conversation was about her new book,Worththe Risk: How to Microdose Bravery to Grow Resilience, Connect More, and Offer Yourself to the World. Let’s get into the show. Dr. Kris, welcome to theshow where I’d love to strt off for our listeners who may not have met you yet. Can you give them a brief introduction to who you are, and then we will dive into your book, Worth the Risk?
Dr. Kristen Lee 01:00
Yes, I’m delighted to be here. It’s so good to see you and to greet your audience. I have spent my life as a psychotherapist, and I am a behavior science expert. And on a fun note, I am also a comedian. I love the power of humor, as a force for healing.
Clint Murphy 01:31
I love the sound of that. So we’ll probably get a little bit of a flavor through of that throughout the conversation, although it is definitely serious topics. But it’s always fun when there’s a level of humor that goes in it. Where I’d love to start with you in your book is the concept of a “what is” life versus a “what if” life. And it seems most of what we’ll be talking about today is trying to get us to that “what is” life.
Dr. Kristen Lee 02:02
Indeed, it’s one of my favorite framings. And that’s a major message through the book, as you know. And you know, just to put it simply to start our conversation. I think we all can identify what living a “what if” life is, it’s living in a state of fear. It’s living in a state of either ruminating over the past. What if the pandemic hadn’t happened? What if so and so hadn’t ghosted me? What if I had finished school when I thought I should have so living in that kind of mind space can be very erosive, it can be unhealthy for us. On a similar note, we can “what if” ourselves by saying stuff like, well, what if so and so gets elected, or the next pandemic comes? Or what if people don’t like me or so and so breaks up with me or so it’s living in a state of constant anticipatory anxiety over the future. And so that what iffing, what we know from the science of human wellbeing and resilience is that when we’re always living in a “what if” place, it prevents us from being in a”what is” place, right. And so this isn’t just a fun play on words, “what is” is, is not always easy, because “what is”, is about radical acceptance, accepting that life is difficult. That is hard, that there are lots of things that do fall outside our sphere of influence, or our locus of control. But when we realize that, then we can say, well, what is possible, and what is true, and what can be harnessed, and we accept the difficult aspects of our lives. But then we also become more expansive, in how we think about it and we realize that we have more than we can imagine, you know, at first glance, to be able to harness and use in order to make progress.
Clint Murphy 03:53
And how I love that you approached, it is contrasting, choose this over this, whether it was a mindset, or a behavior. And so I thought what we might do is work our way through some of them, give the readers or listeners an idea of what’s there, and then they can go go get them all when they grab the book, Kris. And where I thought we might start is this idea of agency over complacency. And you had a beautiful quote on that when you said “when we reflect on our relationship to agency, it allows us to work towards becoming architects of our experiences, ones whose blueprints are stamped with our very own signature in the corner, along with our biggest, truest fullest, muddiest fingerprints all over them that prove we’ve taken initiative and ownership. Micro-dosing bravery in this way gives us the strength to reject downloading someone else’s template for living, we know it’s not an option if we want to live truly and fully.” So a couple of things on that. One throughout the book, he talks about this concept of microdosing bravery to make a change from this behavior to this behavior. So if we can chat a little bit about what you mean by microdosing, most people, when they hear microdosing, they’re usually thinking psilocybin or LSD, but will will switch them to resilience. And then the second part is just diving into that quote about agency in our blueprint,
Dr. Kristen Lee 05:34
I think it’s one of the most poignant and powerful discoveries of modern brain science, you know, and think about how we leverage what we understand about the human psyche, and about our capacity to change and take this agency. So, you know, this is a word in psychology we use, that could also be interchanged, like I said, you know, with initiative, or to kind of harness that gumption or to take action. And all of us as beings are wired to do that. And I love metaphors and that metaphor, being the architect of our own experience was something that came through and through writing and the research and the work I do, and you know, so many conversations with people who felt like they had so little that they could do. I think we’re seeing right now, a lot of hopelessness, a lot of overwhelm, a lot of competing priorities. And it’s hard sometimes to like focus in on what we can do, and not sort of marinate in a lot of the anxiety and trauma today. So when we think about ourselves in this life, as architects, we think about, okay, maybe someone else handed me a blueprint, that just wasn’t the kind of life I wanted to live, what kind of house I would want for me. And then, as you know, in the writing, I talk about families of origin, communities of origin, you know, where we’re raised, and we’re socialized with these so called ideals, about our identities and the beauty. So I research resilience and identity. The beauty of what we know about our identities, is none of us are one precise thing. But society does try to kind of corner us into boxes, or, you know, well, what do you do for a living? And what’s your deal. And so, you know, being the architect of our own experiences, saying, I don’t want the standardized template for my life, I don’t want to like fit into this one narrow pigeon holed in this particular way. I want to be more expansive, I want to let my creativity flow, I want to be more imaginative. And I want to be led by my own values, not the values of society that says, fake it till you make it, you’re not successful. Do you have the Tesla and the red bottom shoes and the letters after your name, you know, you don’t have your own nonprofit by the time you’re 20, you’re a failure. Right? So there’s a lot of that, that we have to say, that’s not part of my blueprint of success or well being. And then similarly, our families, you know, I know so many of my students I’ve worked with, they’re like, you know, my parents want me to come to the US, study and become a doctor. That’s the only like, valid thing. And sometimes they have to say, Well, no, I have these other interests, or these other passions or talents. So I think for all of us, our first step, in taking agency is discovering what those messages have been, and what we can learn from them, and what we can unlearn from them. I think of all your legacy work on learning and growth, and sometimes it’s not just learning new stuff, it’s unlearning those old paradigms, they kind of haunt us, they rent space in our head, they beat us into thinking we’re only good according to these narrow definitions. When we want to embrace a different way of being we have to say, I don’t think that really will work for me. And sometimes that can get uncomfortable. And that’s where the microdosing part comes in.
Clint Murphy 08:57
Yeah, absolutely can get uncomfortable because generally, when you think about it, when we’re creating that new version of ourselves, when we’re unlearning the old version, the old us is dying, the new us is being born and so many people have a fear of giving up that old self, he morning of who I was, and they want to hold to that, and something you talked about that’s super important there is because so much of how we’ve been conditioned or even programmed, television, news, newspapers, school, this is how you should think, this is how you, what you should believe this is how you should act. A lot of that is in our conscious. And so much of that is in our subconscious, so we’re not even aware that we were programmed or we were trained or socialized. So what are two or three ways that when you think of the people you’re working with or our listeners that you say, how do they go back and see this conditioning and this community and parenting and say, well wait, this is how I was trained. But how do I want to take ownership of my life? Because I have to know, before I can own who I want to be, I have to know who I’ve been trained to be. So how do we get them there?
Dr. Kristen Lee 10:25
I love how you put that. I think, you know, it’s a coming of age question. I think for everyone in our development, we realize that there are things we can learn from, you know, the things we’ve been taught. And it can be like negative things that have been modeled or difficult things we can learn from that. And we can learn from the positives. But I think one of the developmental tasks we all have, you know, to live a life of engagement and connection, of agency is to clarify ourselves like, right, to your point. I love how you said that. And I think we have to ask ourselves, sometimes provocative questions, therefore, then we have to say, what is our value set. And sometimes again, it’s like pruning away a lot of the noise or like, everything that’s accumulated, and really coming to like that point of clarity. So, you know, there’s some practical ways to do that. I mean, for me, as a writer, writing has helped me a lot to create psychological distance from the things that haunt me or bother me or that I may have blind spots around. And that happens to be like a particular tool that I go to, to help me you know, use my best critical thinking lens and to do that unlearning and relearning process. So that’s one example. Another example, is a wonderful tool called the Values and Action Inventory that I talked about, and what the risk that allows someone to actually figure out their character strengths and their values. And it really shows you the things that really align with your truest self and your values stack and therefore then, you know, like, let’s say, Clint, I came up with, one of my predominant things is creativity. So let’s say I’m in a situation where my job is very rote, everything’s very prescriptive. There’s not a lot of creative energy involved, then I know there’s going to be a disconnect, I’m going to feel a level of cognitive dissonance. I’m going to feel underwhelmed. And by the way, burnout, which is an area that I focus a lot on my work isn’t just a condition of like overstimulation, overwork, the constant hustle and grind. Burnout has also been connected with underemployment, being underwhelmed, and not having like our true gifts. And like we’re disengaged, almost like the quiet quitting stuff, I think shows reveal some of that there within what’s happening in the great resignation and quiet quitting. And my point is really like when we’re disengaged from our truest values, our true self. And we’re not like, you know, we’re being underutilized, for example, at work, or like, people are dismissive of our strengths and our qualities that’s very disparaging, and demoralizing. And a lot of people feel burnt out because of that, because they’re under challenged, or they’re misaligned.
Clint Murphy 13:17
Yeah, It reminds me of the I want to think it’s Yorks Dot Curve with stress, where if we don’t have enough stress, we’re not performing at a strong level. Once we get to too much stress, we drop down and we’re not performing. And it’s so what is that optimal amount of stress, or you might even call it engagement that gets us in that optimal zone where we are performing, because it sounds like it’s almost saying that boredom side of the curve or the dissatisfaction can be just as bad as the overstimulated burnt out, exhausted side, they ended up in the same spot.
Dr. Kristen Lee 14:01
Indeed. And I think that’s a discovery that sometimes people are kind of delighted to hear about, because not because it’s a good thing, but because it’s like, Oh, that makes sense. And that explains a lot. And I think it’s one that we should keep an eye on. I mean, it’s not like we can always craft every situation for our control, in a lot of Worth the Risk, I talked about how much falls outside of our locus of control, but let’s say for example, someone’s in a situation at work, where it’s about things are flat and stagnant. It might not be possible to quietly quit or to resign, but it might be possible then to like, do a learning or enrichment activity, or like pursue something outside of work that’s invigorating, and enriching. And like so it’s being creative about what we craft for ourselves too. An architect, right, of our own experience is like there’s an art to it, like discovery and innovating and it eating possibilities, rather than being like, Oh, this job sucks, I’m never going to you know, like, so that might be true at the moment. And maybe change could happen eventually. But until it does, it’s looking at what else is possible that could like add some good stimulation to my life.
Clint Murphy 15:17
Yeah, and it’s an excellent example of why I started this podcast. I mean, we go back to 2021. 2020, was when I had the idea. October, November 2020, kids activities are canceled. Friendship circles are put in place and you’re not, you’re supposed to shelter in place. And so you go through the whole list. And if you lived a fairly active engaged life with your activities, and the kids activities, it was full, and then all of a sudden, it was zero. And that boredom, it was debilitating. And instead of choosing, which is the next thing we’ll talk about, instead of choosing to numb that with alcohol, food, shopping, drugs, whatever it was, what is a healthy outlet that I could choose, that would move me forward in life and have progress, which is your number two progress over posturing. So some of the things you talk about here, this idea of some people take it a little too far with the kegstanding and living that risk crazy life and others choose to not even act at all, and instead, let fear run their life. And so they’re afraid of x or they’re afraid of y. So what I thought would be great to understand here is, What are the dangers of taking it too far with the keg standing? And then what are the fears that you most often see that hold people back from taking progress in their life? And how can we overcome those?
Dr. Kristen Lee 16:57
Right, no and this is that big shift and the unlearning like, like you said, choosing progress over posture in a way that I often will put that it’s better with looking foolish than to feel bad. And a lot of us, I think, are being baited in this world to kind of like, show up very curated, show that best presentation, and it doesn’t tell the full story. So in that, you know, I want to encourage everyone that’s thinking strategically about this, right and really wanted to get to a better place of actual peace and of, you know, a sense of living according to our values and being more resilient. It’s not the grand gestures. So I talk about that, where I say, it’s not like these jaw dropping courageous feeds. It’s the unassuming grassrootsy brands of bravery that helped move us forward. And so that’s why I use even the metaphor, micro osing, like you said, it’s not about psilocybin, microdosing bravery is like breaking things into very small, manageable ways of showing up. So I use the example don’t keg stand risk. And a lot of people like to have loved that they’re like keg stands, I hadn’t thought about that in a long time, or what is a keg stand. It’s this whole thing of people thinking they gotta get up in front of an audience and be brave and strong and tough and get everyone to cheer for them. Right. And that’s not what bravery or courage or facing fear or anxiety is, it is the small strategic steps that we take to show up in our values to be more brave, little by little and just like micro dosing, it’s that whole, you know, digestive thing, you do a little bit and you digest it and you feel uncomfortable with the uncomfortable, and that’s okay. And then you know, you process through that, and then you get your nourishment from that, and you get your bearings. And then you’re ready to take that next step. Like, you know, think of I started the book by talking about one of my favorite comedians Ms. Pat. And I mean, what an exemplar of recovery and of resilience. And she had gone through, like, tremendous trauma. And then someone said to her, you know, you’re really funny. Have you thought about stand up comedy, and she thought it was absurd. But then, you know, she finally took, again, a little micro dose of bravery, got, you know, got to an open mic. And then from there, she became like, you know, a famous comedian, you know, very, like, she has a lot of impact. And I’ve seen her perform a few times, and I’ve read her work. And one of the things that strikes me, you know, she talks about all these really difficult, traumatic thing, but everyone’s laughing. It’s her art form. She’s brilliant. But in her act, she says, we all need to have the courage to tell our stories and to tell our truth. And that really just she had me at that I thought it was so powerful. And I think ultimately, for anyone listening, sometimes people could look at her and think, oh, it just looks so easy, but it was probably like she’s probably shaking the first time she got up there on the stage or anything that we’ve gotten more at ease within our lives even like after the pandemic, the first few times you go in public, right? It’s like, oh, it’s like exhausting, over stimulating. It’s all the things. And then you go back and retreating, like, oh, I don’t know if I can do this, and little by little, and those are principles of exposure therapy. By the way, the best remedy for anxiety and fear is small doses of it. That’s what helps us get our traction. It’s like, and it’s so counterintuitive, because we just want to, you know, be like, no, I don’t want to do this. But before when we were talking, I wanted to emphasize that none of us are at the mercy of our automations. We’re not at the mercy of those automated fear filled responses. But again, it takes us kind of like coming, putting ourselves to task and saying, I don’t need to be Mufasa right now, I feel like the Cowardly Lion, I feel not brave. But what’s that one thing I can do to inch closer to it. And again, that’s getting comfortable with the uncomfortable, which I don’t like to be uncomfortable, I don’t like to suffer. But I know when I am uncomfortable and when I suffer, I learn a ton, I grow a lot and it breeds a lot of empathy and allows me to do the work I do and connect with a whole different lens, because of the suffering that I’ve done.
Clint Murphy 21:20
And so I did love that when you talked about automation over regulation in the book, you came to your realization while you were in my backyard. So I’m in Vancouver, so you were here and you were up at Whistler and, and you have a fear of heights. And so you were going to do something that involved heights, and that automation just took over. And so for our listeners who might not know what we mean by automations, can you explain what you mean there? And how can we choose regulation over automation so that we’re not stuck in that fear stage.
Dr. Kristen Lee 21:58
It’s such a cornerstone aspect of our lives. If we can do this, we can really give ourselves a leg up. So choosing regulation over automation is realizing that our brains are pattern recognizers, and those patterns that we recognize is our brain predicting what it’s supposed to feel in a particular moment. And that is highly influenced by our body budget, and our level of emotional regulation. So to color that in, let’s say I’m highly sleep deprived, I’ve just had a really hard interaction with someone, I’m hungry, I’ve got low blood sugar, you know, like the hangry thing, right? We’re gonna be less regulated, if we’re living in a state where we’re flying by the seat of our emotional pants. And we’re not being mindful, we’re not taking time to breathe, meditate, you know, just take a hot second in our day to regroup and toggle away from the stress, we’re going to be more likely to be dysregulated. And therefore, then, when those automatic things come up, we’re going to be less equipped to be able to say, wait, this is like old habits doing the talking, or yeah, I feel super scared, or anxious, but that’s just the anxiety doing the talking, and I am okay. And I notice these sensations in my body, but I’m okay. And, and so automations are just a discovery of modern brain science that show us, our brain is kind of an unruly puppy. But it can be trained, you know, we can pull it back in, we can use the awareness that we have to evaluate what’s happening, and to create different circumstances for ourselves that are more regulated and more expansive than just like flying by that like automated kind of reaction, the impulse.
Clint Murphy 23:51
Yeah, it sounds a little like we need to have that ability to recognize in the moment, what is this that I’m feeling? What’s coming up for me? And do I want to choose what it’s saying? Or do I want to choose something else and now that we now that I say that one of the big things that comes up for me through them all, is we’re saying, choose this over this, choose this over? Because we’re saying you have a choice, you don’t have to do one or the other you choose in each situation of your life, what you’re going to do.
Dr. Kristen Lee 24:51
And I think that you know there’s if we think about it, even to just bring it to another level of like the bio psycho social lens as we think about ourselves in context. We understand there’s genetic predispositions. There’s human biology that plays a role in our emotional regulation. There’s our own psychological coping resources, the skills that we have, the knowledge we have. And then we have our social context, right? So if all of us can see right now, we are all living in what’s been called the age of anxiety, where burnout was reclassified in 2019, by the World Health Organization, not as its prior framing as a health condition. But now a condition of modern life and of the modern workforce, mental health issues, again, being called a global crisis, an escalating global crisis. And a lot of that was even before the pandemic, so we are definitely at a place that’s calling us to task and to action inventive, very clever and very, you know, onpoint architects of our experience, because it’s so erosive, and it’s so intense to live in this context. And again, so part of what we can do, we’re thinking about, you know, being more courageous to face what needs to be faced, right. And living this “what is” life is giving ourselves every advantage that we can. And so many times the anxiety and fear points us in the direction of like rumination, it points us in the direction of like crawling into fetal position, it makes us be risk averse, it makes us not want to, like let’s say, you know, we have a tough relationship ending, we don’t want to get back in the game and start dating, we don’t want to get hurt again, we don’t want to go out because what if we get a germ, we don’t want to speak up at work, because what if we get fired, right? And then we become like, almost like paralytic, we become to the point where we’re really not living fully and living in ways where they were able to live. So I would just say to anyone, if you’re struggling, I want to make the important distinction. It’s not your fault. It’s not a moral failing, it’s not like just like, a toxically positive, like, Oh, you just need to choose like, you know, it’s not like a Motivational Monday thing, like, we’ll just choose this over that, I would never want to minimize or oversimplify the complexity of all our life. So that’s why I’m connecting the dots to the biopsychosocial lens, some of these bigger contextual factors in our life, so that we can understand there’s a lot at play, and we are swimming upstream against a lot, but it doesn’t mean that we, you know, we’re gonna go wander, like, we’re gonna go underwater, and there’s things we can grab on to, to help us get to shore and dry off and get our bearings. I love to mix metaphors, I have so many metaphors.
Clint Murphy 27:39
I mean, an important thing in there, too, is you talked about where the world was in 2019. And over the last three years, with the isolation of COVID, with war in Ukraine, BLM, everything we’re seeing on the news, the mental health epidemic has just expanded tremendously. That isolation, amplified mental health challenges across the board, people who were already anxious, now super anxious, you were depressed, more depressed, you’d never experienced anxiety and depression. Now you’re experiencing. I’ve talked about it on the show is an interesting one that a lot of people are seeing is men in their 60s 70s and 80s, who have never talked about mental health in their life. All of a sudden, they’re talking to their kids and saying, I’ve got something going on here like I’m, I’m anxious, and they’ve never talked about mental health in 70 years. And now they’re telling you I’m anxious. I mean, it makes me a little emotional to think that they could go 70 years without being able to talk about that. And then all of a sudden, it takes COVID for them to say, hey, something’s bubbling up inside here. And what have you seen from a mental health perspective over the last three years? And what are some of the things our listeners should be thinking about or reaching out to help them at this time?
Dr. Kristen Lee 29:06
I would echo your sentiments wildly that this is a watershed moment. We see simultaneous heartbreak. And I think we’re heartened like to your point that people are feeling this awful that they’re feeling like this level of trauma and distress. But on the other hand, the fact that they’re willing to say I’m not okay, is oftentimes one of the most critical aspects of then finding community, solidarity and treatment and support. What I will say, being in the frontlines of the mental health crisis before and during, throughout COVID. I work on a college proudly at Northeastern University. I actually live on the campus supporting students. So I’m in the frontlines there. And then one day, I maintain my practice as a scholar practitioner, and therefore I consult with companies around the world. I do keynotes, sessions, workshops, and consults on on how to build safe and healthy mental health cultures that work in university settings. And I will tell you that every step of the way you just see immense suffering, a level of acuity that is like off the chart, you see a lot of carnage, a lot of distress, a lot of tragedy and trauma. But again, there is paradoxical nature to it, because now we see, honest conversations are emerging, candor is happening, people are becoming more inclined to ask for help. It’s a moment in time that again, begs the will of policymakers, of leaders, of every citizen, all hands on deck to say, it’s not just old school 1950s stigmatized mental health condition. This is our human condition. This is our shared humanity, and everybody is suffering. Everyone has a story right now, anyone that’s listening out there, you know, every time I give a talk, I get pulled over, you wouldn’t believe how bad my mom is struggling right now, you wouldn’t believe my sister, she’s almost unrecognizable. I haven’t talked to my friends for six months, I’m worried about them. You know, everywhere I turn, people are telling me that they are seeing a, you know, an extraordinary level of distress. And to that end, what I will say is, I think we have to look very closely at the discoveries of brain science, we can also look at the strength of humanity over time, we are not the first generation to suffer like this, even though now we have a billboard in our hand every minute with breaking news, you know, telling us, it’s the worst it’s ever been, it is bad. But it’s not the first time in any culture and circumstance across the world for suffering. And as human beings, we are wired for adaptation, we are wired for resilience, even if we don’t feel resilience, if we feel like we’re a hot mess and we can’t do it. It doesn’t mean we’re not resilient. And that’s a big part of my research. And a big part of what I do publicly, is to bust those myths of resilience that like our resilience is like the bootstrap or suck your luck, you know, suck it up. bite your lip, you know, don’t let anyone see you sweat unless it’s to show up your hot yoga class. No, that’s not the resilient person, the resilient person is the one crying uncle saying help, I need help, I’m struggling and I need help. And we know from the research that resilience is a process not a trade, you’re not born with it. You know, it’s not just because someone’s like tougher or smarter than someone else. Everybody has the capacity for resilience. But what we have to do is leverage what is and the “what is” is also what are our protective factors? Who do we have is that their friend we haven’t talked to for a while that we know if we reached out there would be a good listening here. Is there a program at work where they’re offering free therapy, I can tap into that? Is there a book I can read, a podcast that I can listen to? Is there a meditation I can go to for five minutes, and it’s looking for any possible thing that we can do, that can have that positive cumulative effect on our mental health because all the other stuff has had a negative cumulative effect day after day, breaking headlines. And then this happens, and this happens and more loss and more scary. And that adds up and has an erosive effect. But on the converse, if we invest ourselves, not in the, you know, superficial Instagram, self care, mani pedi chocolate cake, salt bath, treat yourself, that’s not the kind of self care I care to discuss, because it’s very marketing. It’s very creepy sales. It’s very like, it just has issues. For me, I look to the science of behavior change and the science of resilience, which tells us that when we create these protective factors, when we nurture them, when we have the right habits, mindsets and behaviors, that’s how we get to a better place. That’s how we build our momentum. That’s how we build our courage. That’s how we override that anxiety. And that’s how we then take that progress, and move it in a way that helps other people. You know, think about what a gift that is, for example, if I say to you, I am an expert in anxiety and I have anxiety, I’d say nine out of 10 people you tell it to they say that’s a big relief to hear that because if you’re an expert and you struggle then I don’t feel so bad about my struggle. So we can have to have candor with each other, like there’s a lot going on, and there’s a lot we’re experiencing. But I think we also have to realize the amazing strengths that we have and the hardiness and resilience we can enact through our behavior.
Clint Murphy 34:32
There’s so many ways we can take that and talk a little bit about because you just talked about you know, we are not our label because for and this is choose solidarity over a stigma. You know, for the last 19 years I’ve been living with depression and so many of your so many of these sections hit home like wait till we get to the burnout. Well, I’ll probably break down. But so you choose solidarity over stigma and you know, for 19 years, I wouldn’t talk about that, because I was worried about the stigma. And when I was diagnosed, I was also diagnosed with ADHD, which likely meant I was living with that one my entire life. And, you know, when I talked to my mom about it later, she said, yeah, we thought something was there, and we didn’t want to medicate you. So we just put you in every single sport we possibly could and burnt out your energy and taught you to love to read. And so you were either exercising or you were reading, I didn’t do school, I just cruised along at a B average, my entire life, barely showing up. But I had that sport, and I had reading, which later served me in life, but the not being willing to talk about it, because you were afraid of that stigma, and then seeing, you know, realizing, oh, because of these conditions, or challenges, or just parts of me that there was a level of quirks or quirkiness, and then even in the workplace, those get picked up on and they’re picked on a little and then you start to realize when you do the work, well wait a second, I’m effectively getting picked on because I have a challenge that is part of my life. And so that never feels good. So your willingness to talk about it is lower, but then when again, coming back to COVID, the realization that if I don’t share with my team, that as a leader that I’ve dealt with depression, I’m dealing with depression, I’ve dealt with this. I’m here if you want to talk about it. If you’re not willing to put yourself out there, then you’re not going to have people willing to share what’s happening for them. So that’s one thing. So I appreciate you saying that. And then I wanted to share because you had a quote that resonated that I think would be great to talk about was that “basic 101 mental health hygiene protocol, suicide prevention, symptom awareness, and evidence based strategies have typically been left off of society’s teaching agenda. We’re taught to floss, memorize the periodic chart, and properly spelled two, too and to. But most of us were never taught the difference between a bad day and a manic episode or a proportionate reaction to stress versus a sign it’s time to hit up a therapist. We don’t know what a panic attack is, until we’re in the ER, or that there are many universal precautions we can take to prevent an escalation of symptoms and protect our brains”. So this one was a multi parter, I thought what we could talk about are, what are the risks we have of medicating people, the over medicalization of the human condition. You had a beautiful idea about burning our normal disguises, and how can we move from stigma to solidarity?
Dr. Kristen Lee 37:51
Well, I just want to start by applauding your courage and your candor to because you have such a level of influence. And I think, you know, particularly from a gendered perspective, you brought it up, as well as seeing like, older men saying, you know, I’ve been suffering 50, 60 years, I think that that piece, you know, and the discussion around toxic masculinity has been an important one, you know, to really emphasize, because we know from the data that a lot of times men are very reluctant to access health until, like, they’re at a very advanced stage. And we know prevention is less costly than repair, you know, we want there to be a level of safety. So I just want to start by applauding that, you know, I have found in my work that the benefit of psychoeducation of naming phenomenon, understanding how the brain works, understanding the effects of our environment on ourselves, understanding what we can leverage is so important. And unfortunately, there is this element of over medicalization. And even now, like a Tiktok phenomena, I was speaking to some of my therapist friends about this. And you were saying for yourself as a person that struggled kind of in the dark all that time with depression and, and being on the ADD spectrum. It’s such a pivotal thing to like, discover, okay, this is a framework of understanding that helps me really understand myself and my behavior. But a diagnosis, you know, I say like, you are not your label, a diagnosis isn’t our identity. And I do worry that our culture, that eagerness to sort of understand ourselves, which I think is a very, I see nothing wrong with that at all. But to be clear, I think when we internalize it, like I’ve worked with people who, for example, about bipolar, and they will say to me, I’m bipolar, and I know it might be like a little bit of a funny thing, but I’m like, you’re not bipolar. This is your name, you’re so and so, you’re not bipolar. And it’s my way of kind of saying, none of us are labels and diagnostic frameworks can save and change lives and they can be extremely valuable tools. But they’re not the end all be all. And that’s true for medication as well. Medication can save a life, it can be life changing. And you know, we’ve got all the science behind it. So I’m for medication 100%. But what I do know, like, let’s say, for example, we take a D spectrum, that’s a matter of executive functioning in the brain. And what I’ve seen at times when I, when I was doing my clinical practice, sometimes the patient would come in and say to me something like this. Yeah, in seventh grade, my parents just started giving me Ritalin. And then I would ask, like, you know, well, did they tell you why? And they’re like, well, it’s probably because I was acting up in school, right? And then they like, say, they were like, in their 20s, at the time, and they had gotten off the medicine, but they never felt right. I never understand. I’m like, Well, did anyone ever work with you and give you like strategies and tell you about executive functioning and, like, tell you about the importance of exercise and lifestyle medicine and like, you know, give you that psychoeducation part. And I would find it to be rare, that would happen. I think that’s when I first wrote my first book, I’m like, I wanted people to have access to these resources. Because I knew for myself as a person with lived experience of anxiety, with a lot of ADD tendencies. And a lot of, you know, I’ve had depressive episodes, I felt like getting the training I had, and then having, you know, access to all that information was a real major, major aspect of my own healing and recovery process. So I’ve always been obsessed with getting these understandings to folks that it’s not just your diagnosis, or like a medicine, again, all those things are essential. And I’m for them 100%. But as when we think that after that, that’s just our identity. And that’s just it. And I think sometimes the other thing is because of the stigma, and discrimination against people with lived experiences of mental illness, they feel like it’s who they are. And like, that’s how they should be seen. And so that’s the piece I really try to debunk. And get us all to the point where we say like, is anyone even normal, is anyone well, is it even a thing right now. And have more candid conversations so that we see ourselves according to the science, which says we’re all vacillating in and out of episodes across our lifespan. And that’s the human experience.
Clint Murphy 42:15
100%. And it’s a spectrum. And the way I’ve always defined it is that I have depression. I have ADHD, but depression and ADHD, they don’t define me, I define me based on the choices I make in life. And I never want to minimize someone’s depression may be way worse than mine, their ADHD may be way worse than mine, they may have trauma capital T compared to my traumas. And so you never want to minimize what people are going through. The area I’ve always been challenged by is what you were hitting on though, where you take that label, and you say I am this. And so I can’t be anything else. I can’t be successful at x, y, or z, whatever their own definition of success is. I can’t be that because I’m this and that’s where I think it gets problematic. Because the other you know, flip the switch. The other part people don’t realize is and you talk about this. With a lot of these challenges. I’m always reminded of Queens Gambit, when they said there’s two sides to a coin. With ADHD, I may have lower executive functioning. But I also have 10 times the energy of the average person. And so where is that a bad thing? Or is that a superpower that lets me just go go go until, I will talk about that after, fall off the rails. But why define ourselves by only the aspects of the label that are bad? Instead of saying, well, sure, that sandwich from Starbucks might not tick all the boxes on the nutritional label. But hey, it’s high in protein, why don’t I focus on the protein in that sandwich?
Dr. Kristen Lee 44:08
I like how you put that. And I think it just it’s knowing that our strengths and our struggles are intricately linked. We’re like intense in a certain way, that intensity can serve as well or it can get in our way. And that’s part of that waiting automation or avoiding those repetitive habituation and saying, well, let me look at this in a different way and how do I taper and how do I harness it to use it as an advantage? And then the other thing is, like, you know, we can put a lot of things into place. Right? There’s a lot of tools of today. That is one thing we have a real advantage with. So there’s a lot of tools to help us organize ourselves or, you know, to get to a place of homeostasis and regulation. And I think that’s just so vital. But I think you asked a question earlier and it like kind of like, well, how do we start with this? I feel like if we’ve internalized a lot negative labels about ourselves. And we have blind spots when it comes to our own inherent worth, value, strength, beauty, capacities, then you know, we gotta look at that closely. And then just, like one little footnote here is I love how the conversation around post traumatic growth is happening. Because there is a lot of trauma at hand, and I don’t want to be toxically positive about it. But we do grow so much through trauma, and we can learn and that can be, you know, something we can use as a catalyst for ongoing healing and change.
Clint Murphy 45:37
It’s interesting that you bring that up, I have a guest coming on tomorrow that that’s our whole conversation is about how to heal through trauma and trauma growth, and her experience doing that. And so that’s fabulous that, that you brought that up. And something else that jumped out at me, and I’ll give you an example because I forgot it because we were talking so much on the one point is the idea you bring up of burning disguises and for people who aren’t listening, they may not be aware that as a neurotypical person, and I’ve only started reading these terms recently, because my, my youngest son was diagnosed with ADHD, so I never read about it for me. But for him, I don’t want him to, you know, I want him to be able to deal with it in a better than I did, in this idea of we wear masks. And you know, I’ll use myself as an example, again, I was in a role a number of years ago, I’ll say about , 8, 9 years ago, and I was up for a promotion, and get to the C suite. And I was given feedback that certain of my behaviors, were a little erratic, a little quirky. And so could I try not to fidget as an example? And could I do this? And if I had a beard, and I would be scratching my beard, could I not do that? So for weeks, I just didn’t move? Right. I just did exactly what the person said. And they commented, hey, that, like you’re doing super well, here, like, now you have that presence for this role. How do you feel, and my response was, and I think this is why you say burn your masks is, I have never been more exhausted. Because you’re for a neurotypical person. That’s how you are. For someone who is different like that fidgeting is just a way to get that excess energy we’ve been talking about out without bouncing off the walls, and it’s a way to increase my executive function. If I’m channeling my energy into my fingers, I’m not speaking or misusing the space, if you will. And so to shut that off, requires constant attention the entire day, that you’re not doing that behavior, which I think is what and that I don’t think can be healthy. And so unless we burn off those disguises, and live truly as ourselves, that can be challenging for people. Is that ringing true to what you were meaning there?
Dr. Kristen Lee 48:13
Yeah, I mean, I’m cringing to think that you were treated that way. And I think, for anyone who’s listening, if you’ve been treated in a similar way, advocate for yourself, and for anyone out there that’s listening, that has influenced in a work or in a family situation, those punitive ways, those ways of like, oh, act normal, or act like everyone else is acting or like, that is just terrible. And so I think for any of us like to have that deeper understanding and awareness, and sensitivity, and kindness is essential. So I just want to call that out. Because, you know, just think of like, everything that’s represented in that, and how that can lead a person to be miserable and stigmatized and to internalize a lot. And it’s, I’m so sorry, that happened to you. I think that again, all of us and so much of my point in writing, what the risks, it’s not about learning for the sake of self or growth or discovery for the sake of self. It’s like when we do that, that allows us to be the leaders in the world. You know, I don’t like the word leadership. I’ve studied it, I work with leaders across the world. And it feels so fraught, because it kind of feels like it means authority or like, position of influence or power over. But I would assert that we are all leaders, we all have spheres of influence but it could be that you just have a good relationship with your postal worker and you have like a leader like you have an influence on them. It can be in any situation. We could be parents, aunts and uncles, grandparents, friends, colleagues, whatnot. It doesn’t have to be like a hierarchy. And I think all of us have to one of the biggest points of Worth the Risk is not being passive bystanders but active contributors in the world. People who revere the human spectrum that especially for marginalized and underrepresented groups, like here, we’re talking about learning differences or what might be called disorders or disabilities, which I don’t like that language. But this happens according to race, class, sex, gender, heteronormative grades like racism, sexism, classism, heterosexism, ageism, we’re talking about ableism, xenophobia. There’s so many ways in which the dominant group tries to say, well, here’s the standard, here’s the norm. Here’s like the standard. And if you deviate, then we out you. And those systems of oppression and discrimination and marginalization, marginalization have to be called out, because they’re very pervasive. And they show up in all kinds of ways. Sometimes we see examples like the murder of George Floyd as a very, like glaring representation of racism. But microaggressions happen every day, to persons of color in the workforce, and you’re talking about being neuro atypical, when it’s like, what if someone has like a laugh or something that, like, you don’t, you know, what can get picked on is just, it’s all a part of that system of discrimination. And I think that what I really hope people can realize is, a lot of times I think we feel like what can we do this, this polarization, this hate these difficulties in society, we often take our own respective courage, we can hold ourselves accountable to say, this is bull like, this isn’t right. It’s unjust. And I’ll do what I can to call things out. So like a micro dose of courage or bravery in a work environment, is not being a passive bystander. Like, let’s say, I’m your cube mate, I’m sitting next to you. And I’m hearing the boss say something to you. I’m going to speak up for you and say, you know, I might talk to you how you feel, obviously, I’m not going to like, but I might say, you know, that made me feel really uncomfortable with the way I heard you talk to Clint, I wish you hadn’t done that. I think that that was you know, really offensive what you said.
Clint Murphy 51:56
And a large part and this is why I love doing the podcasts and having these conversations a large part of it’s just education, too. I mean, you still read all those still see online on Twitter, all these people in their 20s, who tell you, Hey, you’re not depressed, you just need to go for a walk in the sunshine. It’s like, Well, you’re in your early 20s. How do you know if someone who’s dealt with heavy traumas in their life? Or just has the chemical imbalance? How do you know if they’re depressed or not? You haven’t dealt with it yet. And so many other scenarios where people haven’t dealt with a scenario aplaning on something that has nothing to do with them. It’s just horrible. But there are ways we can deal with it, the education and having the conversations and one of the areas that that brings us to you, we talked a little bit about trauma and in you had some good content on trauma that I’d love to go to it was I think it was Bessel van der Kolk, who you said you had a quote from them “beneath the surface of the protective parts of trauma survivors, there exists an undamaged essence of self that is confident, curious and calm, a self that has been sheltered from destruction by the various protectors that have emerged in their efforts to ensure survival. Once those protectors trust that it is safe to separate, the self will spontaneously emerge in the parts can be enlisted in the healing process.” And when it comes to trauma. One of the things I wanted to dive into with you is this whole concept that I’ve been learning more and more over the last two, three years of trauma, capital T, trauma, little T, and how trauma, little T people don’t even realize it’s happening. And it can just build up and if we will, compound as it builds, and we have these small t traumas in so some thoughts, there are the difference between acute stress and PTSD, and diving into validating loops to promote healing. And you talked about a concept called The VAR Method. So that’s a multi partner that I’m throwing out at you on that one, but small t little T validating loops and the wonderful Var method,
Dr. Kristen Lee 54:21
Of course, yeah, so small t, large T is the small t is more like, you know, things that are very difficult, such as like losing a job or the ending of a relationship, and those oftentimes, like, go untended, and then they add up, they can add up over time. So those would be examples. A large T might be thinking something like being in a war, being shot at, witnessing a violent event, something like that. I think we’re seeing a lot of fluidity in which we evaluate and understand trauma, particularly when it’s cumulative, particularly within like the course of the pandemic and understanding like, you know, being socially isolated, for example, are having like so much that we lose, you know, a loss of control, you know, those things can be really harmful to us and they can add up, what I do want to impress on everyone is that trauma doesn’t necessarily always lead to post traumatic stress disorder, we can, you know, again, like there’s different levels of acute distress. And there’s different ways in which it affects us. I think the key thing for all of us to remember is looking back to, again, the science of resilience and leveraging the protective factors we have, you never hear people say, oh, yeah, you know, I went through so much trauma, and it just magically healed in a flip of switch, we oftentimes, again, being the architect of our experience, who takes agency, look for pathways to heal and look for, like, I gave one example of EMDR and the different treatment modalities of today that are specific to help those of us who have lived with trauma. And so I think, you know, that’s just a big piece we all have to realize is, trauma isn’t something that, you know, can’t be mitigated and improved upon. Our responses to trauma are often really automated. And that’s where we need professional help. We need guidance, we need the right protective factors in our lives to help us move through. What was your last question, your last part?
Clint Murphy 56:17
The last one was the idea of using validating loops to promote healing, including The Var Method.
Dr. Kristen Lee 56:23
Yeah. So here’s the thing with validating loops, that just means think of the word validation. If you come to me, Clint, for example, and say, you know, I went through this breakup, it’s been very traumatic, and I’m like, oh, don’t worry about it, you’ll get over it. Or if someone comes to me and says they were abused, and I say, don’t ever tell anyone what happened, that’s a very invalidating thing, or minimize and say, Oh, well, like suck it up. That’s not that bad. You’re just being difficult. You just want attention. Those would be examples of invalidating loops. And it could actually reinforce the trauma someone’s gone through. I gave the example in the book of Tara Westover, who wrote the book Educated and talked about her very traumatic upbringing. And her whole family of origin was like, nope, it didn’t happen. Don’t talk about it, swipe it away. So validating is like, let’s say someone I care about comes and they open up and they describe a trauma would be to listen, wow, that sounds really hard. I’m so sorry that happened to you. I applaud your courage for telling me that, I know it took a lot to tell me, that sounds very hard. So when we hold space for people through validation, and then we create that dialogue, and by the way, validation loops don’t just happen interpersonally they happen within ourselves as well. This year, Merriam Webster named gaslighting the word of the year of 2022. I think we gaslight ourselves. So gaslighting, we get set ourselves by definitions, like when people try to make us think we’re crazy for how we feel, when we do that to ourselves. And we need to use validation loops within and then find the people that know how to offer that. And then finally, the VAR tool comes out of Active Minds, which is an amazing nonprofit, I’m affiliated with that focuses on mental health, reducing stigma, creating access and honest candid conversations. And this tool stands for validation, acceptance and referral to color it in, let’s say, we’re in a work environment. And you have a colleague that comes and says they’re really struggling, you would say something like, that sounds really hard. And then the appreciation part would be it took you a lot of courage to tell me that. And then the referral part would be, you know, have you ever thought about calling EAP, you know, I know a lot of people, myself included who have benefited from that. So it’s just like a micro example, that validation, appreciation of someone’s courage and referring them, helping them get the more resources around them that will be protective and helpful to their healing process. You know, that’s a good tool for teachers, for anybody who’s just trying to hold space and help someone who’s going through a lot. If you’re like, oh, it’s not so bad. But I think you’re just overreacting, that’s gonna really not do much to help the person find their way towards recovery and healing.
Clint Murphy 59:13
And the other part that that does is if you think about mental health, and I think a lot of people were hit pretty hard this week with the news of the Twitch, Ellen’s DJ, former dancer from So You Think You Can Dance who committed suicide, and with a lot of you were talking about earlier with older men and trauma, and a lot of times men won’t talk about depression until they commit suicide. And the challenge you have is when you, part of the invalidation, if a man in your life comes to you and says, hey, I think I may be feeling depressed. That first person who says, oh, don’t worry about it, and then just kind of glazes over it. Now that invalidation, you’re not going to bring that up to that person ever again, and you may not bring it up to anyone. And now you’ve closed that access port for that person to go from what’s happening to help. And that’s a danger I see for a lot of people who go for that first request for help, and they get shut down.
Dr. Kristen Lee 1:00:28
I think you’re right. And I think, you know, given the complexity of Mental Health, and the way in which people are suffering, I think that again, like all of us to learn some of the sensitivity is essential. What I will also say is that we don’t need to be trained clinicians, we don’t need poetic interventions, we don’t need like these grand gestures, sometimes just asking someone if they’re okay, and being willing to listen, and listen to the point where we can help nudge them in the direction of greater care and resources can be worth its weight in gold. I think that a lot of times when I work with companies, for example, you know, they want to kind of keep business, you know, as usual, they don’t want to, like, enter into too many delicate or complicated, they don’t want to open up a can of worms is what sometimes I hear. But yet, we know, like, if people feel safe, what we know is that people feel psychologically safe and cared for and that they’re being treated like human beings, that goes such a long way in someone feeling like, you know, they can tap into the resources that are there. So I think that piece is is vital. At this moment in time, I think a lot of companies, a lot of schools, people are really looking to change their mental health cultures within their own respective ecosystems. And to create cultures where it’s normal to ask for help, it’s normal to get help for people. And it doesn’t mean like it all has to turn into like a Zen retreat or touchy feely thing, or 10 hours of therapy. But if we can, at least, like have that baseline skill set to listen, and help someone see their worth and their strengths and see their courage, and that healing and recovery and treatment really can help us, they can like get that message across. That’s essential. You know, because we don’t have to be clinicians. I mean, again, like some of these situations can be really precarious, and really scary. And I think a lot of times we feel like, well, we don’t want to make it worse, like sometimes someone’s mother could die at work. And then you’re like, Well, I don’t know if I should bring it up. It’s like, we’ll just ask them, Do you want us to bring it up? Because we want you to know we care? And how do you want to go about it, because a lot of times, it’s that instinct to just say nothing and do nothing, or like brush it off. But sometimes everyone like needs to be able to say what they need. And that’s kind of the architect thing to for ourselves is advocating. You know, I know for myself, I’m a therapist, I’m used to people coming to me for help. I’m a teacher, that’s my life’s work is this. So I’ve had to learn the skill of asking for when I need something because I tend to like I said, I do comedy, I tend to be kind of fun loving, and pretty high functioning. Like, I don’t think it’s easy for people to see like, that I’m struggling too. And I have asked for that too. And that’s part of why I have my whole public platform. My message is very wrapped around my own lived experience, and helping by sharing my story, how that will help other people find their own story and and know they’re not alone. I think the biggest lie that anxiety, depression any of our sufferings tell us is you’re the only one. Don’t tell anyone. Don’t embarrass us. But that’s just a fallacy that gets us nowhere, hiding never serves us. We need to find space where we feel safe, where we can tell the many sides of our stories that on one hand, we could be excelling. And we could be, quote unquote successful and all at the same time, we could feel like we’re a hot mess, and the other shoe is gonna drop. And it’s all okay. And it’s all of our stories. And it’s nothing to be ashamed of.
Clint Murphy 1:03:50
I’m laughing a little because that brings us to the next one, which felt like a therapy session when I read it. Oh my gosh. So I’ll read a section of your book, and then I’ll share a little. Hopefully it won’t be a TED talk, and then hand it over to you with a couple of questions.
Clint Murphy 1:04:07
Yeah, it was around the cultivate over achievement. So you say “the cult of over achievement breeds this: people who are doing everything, but think they’re not even close to doing enough. Underperformance dysmorphic disorder is everywhere we turn, the most educated, advanced, accomplished group of society suffers from an obsessive focus on the perceived faulty belief they’re accomplished let downs who are failing miserably, even when they’re doing the most they spend hours ruminating and compulsively comparing themselves to fake and inhumane standards of success. They are consumed at every waking moment. With being seen as flawless and exhibit extreme signs of mistake aversion. Perfectionist dark thoughts and behaviors are frequent and unrelenting. UDD is marked by a loss of sleep, peace, serenity, sense of self and sanity, highly contagious, disruptive to meaningful social connection.” So this is something I’ve suffered from pretty much my whole life. And no matter how much I do, or what I achieve, it never feels like I’ve done anything. And so on a self comp, it seems strange to people because I’m very self confident. Because I know at this stage of my life, anything I want to do within obviously, certain reasons I can do. And that’s from doing that, and from doing it over and over and over again. But what I don’t have is any self regard, which is giving myself any recognition for anything I’ve ever done. You finished an Ironman? Oh, yeah, well, yeah, I mean, it was just a, I just ran and rode a bike and swam a little, or you did an ultra marathon? Well, I’ve just put one foot in front of the other for 10 hours. Like, there’s no regard for achieving something. Social media, podcas, money, it doesn’t matter what it is, it’s always it’s not enough in what that ends up doing. Like you nailed it, you get to a point where, like, you’re trying to do so much and you’re trying to be better than you were to the point where you’re just mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually exhausted, you’re like, I know, I need to do more, because I’m not good enough, but I can’t, I’m too tired. And so what’s the difference between that anxious over achievement and healthy achievement? And how do we choose being overdoing?
Dr. Kristen Lee 1:06:45
Well, I think, you know, you’re also describing, by the way, a hallmark feature of ADD spectrum and a lot of spectrums, and that feeling underaccomplished, or minimization of strengths of oneself and magnification of strengths of others. So that’s just a sidebar. No, I’ll tell you this underperformance dysmorphic disorder, I made this up in my writing, based on my research. And it’s like, everywhere we turn, we see it. We’re doing the most and we feel like it’s not even close to enough. I see this in teachers who are trying to help students during the pandemic. And they’re heroes, and they’re doing everything, and they still feel bad, like they’re not doing enough, you see that everywhere we turn in terms of image driven society, everybody is suffering in these kinds of ways. And I think part of it again, if we step back, we see that we’re living in a hyper competitive global environment. Economies are very difficult. There’s unprecedented opportunities to go after. And I think even like, I don’t know how you feel about this ,but I think of and I’m not like being negative against Gary Vee, but I think about like his prototype, like the entrepreneur hype out there, like you can do anything. And you just like, you know, just hustle and grind and like, do these things. And like, there’s so much coming at like, really young people, especially like, just start your own enterprise. And it feels like it looks glamorous on the outside. But underneath it all, it’s a lot of work. And it’s a lot of hustle. And it might not be that glamorous underneath it. So again, I think the stuff we’re seeing, like seems so attainable, and we get down on ourselves because we’re not moving as fast as we should, or we’re not getting as many likes or like followers as we think we should. So I would just say I think that if we want to strive for healthy achievement, we move from the me focus to the we focus, we realize that what we accomplish is for the greater good, not just for the sake of selves, we realize that we want to strive in the world to take our strengths, gifts and talents and use them for passion and purpose, we realize that nothing’s worth getting sick over, we realize that we can strive for excellence and rigor and take striving for upward mobility, and taking advantage of the opportunities of today. But it’s not again, just for us to like have the Tesla and red bottom shoes. So this is all because we’re of the hedonic treadmill in psychology. That’s where UDD comes from. This is dopamine in our brain, you get the 10,000 followers on the podcast, you’re going to want 25, you get the endorsement of so and so you’re going to want the endorsement of the person that’s three levels ahead, you get the promotion, you get the 30%, you’re going to want your salary, you’re going to want more, the brain is wired to always want more, the anticipation dread of the brain is dopamine. So we’re always on that chase for that high or that next big thing and that sabotages our ability to actually enjoy the “what is”, the present moment what is true and appreciate. I mean, I think not to go on a rant but privilege. Like if you look at like you mentioned Ukraine, if you look at what’s happening in Sri Lanka, for example, you look at what’s happening in Argentina or Ethiopia. We have to realize like some of this hustle grind culture and get more and like consume and like be a commodity, you know, it’s, we’ve got to look at the greater suffering of the world and see ourselves within that and see that we don’t need more, more isn’t more. And then we can like strive to do well and stay well in life. But a lot of that what science shows is that it’s how we contribute positively in the world, not where we hoard for ourselves. So I feel like we have a lot of really, like, whacked messages out there about success. And I think this Underperformance dysmorphic disorder is like pathetically prevalent, and all of us, it’s not our fault. But it is our job to look at it more carefully and say, you know, just like the person who’s gorgeous, and like, they’re like, oh, I have this pimple here, or like the person who is like, super buff, and they’re like, I look like I’m 300 pounds. Like, it’s dysmorphic disorder, it’s this whole blind spot, our inability to see our beauty and what’s true. And I really want to encourage everyone out there that is that perfectionist that you can be a healthy achiever, but you have to have that level of self compassion and awareness that you have to set a reasonable pace that’s sustainable, and its value aligned.
Clint Murphy 1:11:20
And you talked a little bit about in there this concept of changing our or reframing from, what will the world offer me to what will I offer the world? And people might pan us and say, it’s a bit JFK, but I’m gonna give you time to explain it. Because I really appreciated what you had to say on this one, can you share what that reframing can do for us and how it can positively impact our lives?
Dr. Kristen Lee 1:11:46
Yeah, and I’m laughing because I even call that out on myself. And I’m like, this is not just a JFK spin off. I just, it’s like it is the pivotal thing. We often want love from the world and we want this, but what if we could embody the things that we want to be and realize that that becomes a reciprocal edification, which is a fancy way of saying like, then we’re having an inter beingness with each other, and the ebb and flow of like, we’re not just here to be takers, but we’re here to be givers. And we’re here to like, figure out how we harness what we have and what is for the best, you know, life is so hard. There’s so much suffering. And then there’s also simultaneous joy and beauty and like, moments we can co create together. So I think if we’re just always like, well, I don’t have enough, and I need this and I need that to be okay, we’re going to find ourselves sorely disappointed most of the time, but if we’re like, okay, like, what do I give? How do I contribute? How do I grow so I can have more empathy and compassion for myself and others, that can mean a lot. And I will just offer like a little asterisk footnote and say, this doesn’t mean we let people walk all over us. It doesn’t mean we can’t advocate for what we need. It doesn’t mean give up your boundaries with people, it just means that we have to find the relationships that are protected where that reciprocity exist, and where we negotiate that we find those spaces where we’re safe. And we find those spaces where we’re valued. We value ourselves, and we demand being valued, as well.
Clint Murphy 1:13:17
And so when it comes to that, right, so we want to have boundaries, we want to be healthy, we want to recognize our strengths, and live our life fully. And there’s that fine line between confidence and arrogance. And so how can we architect humility and confidence and recognize the difference between owning our strengths and being arrogant?
Dr. Kristen Lee 1:13:45
I love the question. I sometimes I had a student once called it humilidence, the blend of humility and confidence. And I thought that was like, such a great word fusion, I think we just have to realize that seeing our strengths and value and being self compassionate with ourselves, helps us to spread that along to those we influence as well. And I think as long as we’re not trying to, like, you know, brag or like advance ourselves for the sake of ourselves, or like, be the best. I think if we’re about forging honest, authentic relationships with people and we live in that genuine space, it becomes less about performance or like being rated or liked, you know, none of us are avocados not everyone’s gonna like us. And it’s not about being liked and wanted and like fitting in maybe it’s about embracing our weirdness and like just embracing like, how do we find those fellow travelers out there that like want to live in this kind of like way that is way better than what’s being offered and the standard fare? So I think that can help like and then I think just having good accountability people like talk to people and if they feel like you’re being like to brag malicious, they can I’ll give you feedback about that. But I think it’s okay to own our strengths, and also recognize that we all have strengths. And we all have challenges and to be empathic with ourselves and each other.
Clint Murphy 1:15:12
I love that. So one last question to throw at you before we have time for our final four segment, just 4 rapid fire questions, is, we’ve talked throughout the show about neurotypical non neurotypical, different biases, racism, different isms that are out there. And so in the later section of the book, you talk about the concept of tolerance, acceptance and reverence. And I’m wondering if you can talk about the difference between the three? And how we can use those to choose values over passivity?
Dr. Kristen Lee 1:15:50
Yes, that’s like probably my favorite aspect of the book, honestly. And I think when I contracted to write this book, it was when George Floyd was murdered. I’ve always worked in the space of mental health and social justice and social change, I don’t think we can have a conversation about human resilience or well being without understanding the catastrophic effects of all of these isms. And I have found like, in my own work, my own learning process teaching and thinking about these concepts, sometimes people will be like, oh, let’s promote tolerance. I’m like, well, we tolerate it like a crashing app, or like overcooked vegetables or like annoying things. But we can do better than just tolerate each other. And then I also have taken issue with like, when people say, well, like, unconditional acceptance, let’s accept someone, I still think that holds a dominant level positionality like, Okay, I’m right and I’m better and I’m good. And but I can still accept you. It still feels very, like cringe worthy.
Clint Murphy 1:16:48
Yeah, I don’t like what you do, but I’ll accept it.
Dr. Kristen Lee 1:16:51
Yeah, like it’s like still saying, like, I’m better than you. Where reverence is like that complete awe for our shared humanity, particularly for anyone who’s been marginalized or discriminated or violated against so like, for example, BIPOC persons or LGBTQI. Right? Or, like we’ve been talking about neuro atypical, right, so anyone that has had these very fraught, and damaging experiences very traumatic experiences because of their social identity categorizations. From the dominant group, like being like difficult and oppressive, we should have a particular reverence for anyone who has endured those lived experiences. And I think what we can do is let curiosity guide us like being really interested in people’s lived experiences, honoring them, listening to their voices, upholding their voices, fighting hard for equity, fighting hard for change, and advancement of social justice. So reverences that complete, like loving, deep, deep human regard in awe for one’s experience, identities and their resilience. And that’s what reverence I think that needs to be the gold star across companies, schools, houses of worship, everywhere we look, we need reform and paradigm change to move from tolerance and acceptance, to reverence, full reverence.
Clint Murphy 1:18:15
Love it. That’s so many great things for people to pick up in your book. And we’ll have that in the show notes. Do you have time for 4 rapid fire questions?
Dr. Kristen Lee 1:18:24
I love it. This is fun. This brings up like the Family Feud in me like I used to love that show.
Clint Murphy 1:18:29
Oh, yeah. I mean, not quite as good as Family Feud, but it’s close. So for you, what’s one book that’s been a life changer for you?
Dr. Kristen Lee 1:18:36
I love Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino, she’s just so good and talking about the phenomena of self delusion. And looking at a lot of these social issues today that are really harmful.
Clint Murphy 1:18:48
Trick Mirror. Okay, I’m gonna check that out. I love that. And what’s on the bookshelf right now? What are you reading today?
Dr. Kristen Lee 1:18:55
I’m reading like 17 books, including a book called Life is Hard, which I really like. It’s a philosophy book. I’m reading books about behavior change. And then I always love like comedians, like Samantha Irby, just to give me some good reverent moments and reprieve.
Clint Murphy 1:19:12
You know what I keep telling people because they they’ll see Kevin Hart, for example, and enjoy his comedy. And what I really enjoyed was not his book, but his audio book. Because if you can have a comedian narrating their own biography, the ad libbing, it’s like watching a comedy show while reading the book, so if there’s any comedian’s books, see if they narrate their own book and try that as an audio book. It’s a totally different, different way to experience a book. It’s beautiful.
Dr. Kristen Lee 1:19:46
I did that with the Gilmore Girls, the actor, the mom in the show Gilmore Girls, I can’t think of her name. She’s like a really good narrator. I want to give you like a little tiny fun fact. The narrator for Worth the Risk is like she’s done like for her I read books and I got to select her, you know, she auditioned. It’s so good. So for anyone that likes audiobooks, the Worth of Risk version, she’s so animated. I feel like she really captured my voice and everything that I wanted to come out because the book is like, as you know, it’s brain science. It’s heavy duty concepts. And then it’s all this like a reverence and humor and story and weirdness and like it was voted the next big idea book club nominee by Malcolm Gladwell, Adam Grant, Susan Cain and Daniel Pink, like, it’s definitely like, I pride myself on it being like, not just a typical kind of like self growth book. But one year is like a little bit out there, but hopefully in good ways for people.
Clint Murphy 1:20:41
Absolutely agreed. The last point on voice authors. Have you ever heard Neil Gaiman speak?
Dr. Kristen Lee 1:20:48
I don’t think so. So he wrote Stardust, Graveyard, and he narrates his own books. And it just feels unfair that you can be that good of a writer, and then have a voice. He wins awards for book narration. And but he’s known as an author. I just want to listen to every book he’s ever narrated. I have to check it out.
Clint Murphy 1:21:14
Yeah, if you check out the graveyard, and Tim Ferriss was the one who I first heard that he said, he listened to that and listened to every one of his but it’s unfair, that someone could be that good at so many things. What’s one thing you’ve spent less than $1,000 on in the last 12 months that you thought, hmm, I could’ve really use this sooner.
Dr. Kristen Lee 1:21:35
My writing pad. It’s called Supernote. For those who write, I always their aesthetic. I’m very particular about my bold 1.0 jet gel pen and like paper, and I’ve always had a lot of notebooks as a writer, this has been an amazing tool I write every day as a practice for my professional work to keep me organized. And it was probably the best money I’ve ever spent and I was a little bit of a hard sell, I didn’t think I could wean off of paper and pens, but it writes just like a gel pen. And I love it.
Clint Murphy 1:22:05
Super Note. And so you write on that. And then it turns it into text and you just kind of bing it to yourself.
Dr. Kristen Lee 1:22:12
You can make it into a PDF, so I can like turn it into a file and it makes it into a PDF.
Clint Murphy 1:22:17
Wow, I need to check that out.
Dr. Kristen Lee 1:22:19
And I have my Kindle on it, too. You know, there’s a lot to it, I would definitely check it out. I’m obsessed with it.
Clint Murphy 1:22:25
Yeah. Because you what people don’t realize is when you write, you tend to be more creative. And I find better as a writer when you write with your hand, then you do when you’re typing. And so if I could actually start to write my Twitter content by hand, it would go next level. I love it. And then the last one is because we talked about growth. What’s one mindset shift, habit or behavior that you’ve changed for yourself in the last 12 months that’s had an exponential positive impact for you.
Dr. Kristen Lee 1:22:59
I think it’s me going like deeper into performance art in comedy, because I felt like my whole life, I was trying to get people to take me serious. And then going into comedy, kind of like, I felt like, oh, no, people are gonna think I’m weird, or like, is it gonna undo like, you know, the serious side of my work. But for me, it’s created a lot of community, a lot of connection. I have my own live comedy show that benefits mental health. And it’s just been like, probably one of the best things I’ve ever done to like as a protective thing and something that brings a lot of joy and elation.
Clint Murphy 1:23:29
Oh, that’s wonderful. It’s a great answer. And so being willing to step outside the comfort zone and try something that’s different than we normally would. Dr. ris, how can our listeners find you
Dr. Kristen Lee 1:23:40
They can find me all over social media @therealdrkris with a K, not thefakedrkris, therealdrkris. And they can also find me on my website, which is KristenLee.com. There you can connect with me on all the social media I am on Tik Tok as well at Dr. Chris comedy Therapy, but my website is the very best way you can sign up for my newsletter there and learn more about worth the risk. And you can also see my TEDx talk, The Risk You Must Take
Clint Murphy 1:24:09
We went pretty wide and deep. Is there anything we left out that you want to make sure we leave the listeners,
Dr. Kristen Lee 1:24:16
I just think you’ve been the embodiment of like candor and legacy leadership. So I think listeners should just like really think of that through as an example. And then, you know, think today about one micro dose of bravery that you could take like one small act of courage, one way you want to reveal yourself more now, you might not go on a stage and do it. But maybe you tell one of your best friends, something about yourself they don’t know. So I just encourage this micro dosing of bravery construct and just give yourself time to trust that process that it will add up and it will nourish you and give you the traction you need.
Clint Murphy 1:24:51
Perfect. Thank you. And thank you for being on the show today. Dr. Kris really appreciated our conversation.
Dr. Kristen Lee 1:24:56
Likewise, Clint, it’s been a true delight. I wish you and your audience all the best.
Clint Murphy 1:25:06
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