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Calm, Confidence, and Curiosity, with Cindy Tsai

Calm, Confidence, and Curiosity, with Cindy Tsai

We sit down with #1 bestselling author Cindy Tsai to discuss burnout, slowing down, and her book, "So Much Better."


0:00:29.9 Maricella Herrera: Hi everyone. Before I get to the episode, I want to take a moment to address the United States Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe versus Wade on June 24th, which stripped away the right to have a safe and legal abortion. Restricting access to comprehensive reproductive care, including abortion, threatens the health and independence of all people, which we have already seen with abortion bans and restrictions in countries like Poland and Malta. This decision has dire consequences and could have harsh repercussions for other landmark decisions within the United States. I encourage our audience, American and otherwise, to learn more about what you can do to I encourage you to speak up, take care, and spread the word.


0:01:15.2 Intro: Welcome to the Ellevate Podcast, Conversations with Women Changing the Face of Business. And now your host, Maricella Herrera.


0:01:35.6 MH: Hi everyone. Welcome to the Ellevate Podcast. I'm your host, Maricella Herrera, and I am here with my colleague Pranita Balusu. How are you, Pranita?

0:01:42.6 Pranita Balusu: I'm good again. Can't complain.

0:01:46.8 MH: It's the end of summer, the beginning of October. Time is flying.

0:01:52.6 PB: Oh, yeah. Always. I feel like time just speeds up as life goes on.

0:01:57.0 MH: Yeah. Wait till you get my age. [laughter] Yes, it does. It really does. I've been thinking about how this year's pretty much done and there's a lot that's happened.

0:02:13.1 PB: Oh, yeah. Yeah. What's been going on with you?

0:02:17.2 MH: Well, I'm still same old, same old, working a lot. I've been actually traveling quite a bit, so I just came back from a conference in Puerto Rico, which was really great to be there and be able to see some of our chapter leaders and just hang out. And I am going to Denver in a couple of days and then to Miami. So it's been a lot of crazy travel, which is... It's, a little exhausting, particularly because I am still training for the marathon, which is in a month from now. A month...

[overlapping conversation]

0:02:54.4 PB: Yeah. How do you manage to do that while you're traveling? I guess you can't stop, obviously, right?

0:03:00.0 MH: Yeah, I really can't. Like if I wanna do it, I can't, especially now that's a month out. I can't really stop. So I either try to move... I move the days of my training or just do it somewhere wherever I am. That's a good thing about running, right? Like you can just do it wherever. [laughter]

0:03:18.4 PB: Yeah. Yeah, that's true.

0:03:20.3 MH: But it has been hard. I actually, I'm glad it's... I'm both terrified and happy that it's coming to an end. But anyway, because I've been doing all this travel and because I've been kind of running so much and all this stuff, I'm kind of running out of things to listen to.

0:03:38.8 PB: Oh, yeah. I know. I was thinking this the other day when we were talking about what music you listen to. I feel like I get bored after maybe a half hour run max. Yeah.

0:03:49.2 MH: Right. Yeah. So I've been listening to a podcast I discovered it's called, I wanna get this right, so I'm gonna look it up because I am very much into it. It is called This Is Actually Happening.

0:04:07.8 PB: Okay.

0:04:08.3 MH: Have you heard of this?

0:04:09.4 PB: I haven't heard of that.

0:04:11.0 MH: Oh my God, it's so good. So it's people telling their stories of things that you... They're kind of... You can't believe they're actually happening. [laughter] You can't believe that it happened to someone. So there's like someone who left a cult and there's talking all about her story, and then someone else... I listened to one from this disability activist who was an artist, a dancer. He was amazing. And then one day he woke up and he couldn't move, and all the story of both his disability and his recovery. I heard someone else who had like bad... Wanted to experiment with psychedelics and ended up being overdosed by the person who was supposed to be taking care of her. It's just really authentic because it's just the person telling their story. It's really, really great. I highly recommend it.

0:05:11.0 PB: Yeah, that sounds super interesting and it's really cool that people have a platform to share their stories with everyone. That's really cool.

0:05:23.3 MH: Yeah. This is actually happening. I suggest you take a listen. Anything you've been listening to or reading or watching or what have you been into this week?

0:05:34.8 PB: Yeah, that's a good question. I feel like whenever fall comes around again, I become just really introspective and nostalgic and sentimental. So part of that is kind of moving away from my typical cycle of podcasts, which is more like political focused and more into podcasts that are centered around yourself and building your confidence or thinking about what changes you wanna make in your life. So I think my top two right now are the Lazy Genius podcast. I don't know if you've listened to that.

0:06:15.7 MH: No.

0:06:15.8 PB: But they're really fun. They just have kind of life hacks for anyone, really. So it's kind of cool to listen to what they say. And then my other favorite is Kara Loewentheil's podcast, and she's a confidence coach. But I think she has really specific topics and things that not a lot of other people are necessarily talking about. So I think her latest episode was on conditional self-esteem versus making sure that your confidence is unconditional and not tied to your success or where you are in life. And then the one before that was about dual socialization, which is what a lot of immigrants go through when they move to a new country. So even people who grow up as children of immigrants who are socialized in two different cultures at the same time and the kind of conflicts that brings in your life and how to navigate those. You're gonna talk right now.

0:07:19.4 MH: I haven't listened to that episode. I have listened to some of her stuff. I had to look it up because I was like, "That sounds familiar." And then I saw it and I'm like, "Yep, that one I listened to." But the dual socialization one, I will listen to that because I can relate. I mean, I understand and I'm sure you can too.

0:07:45.4 PB: Yeah, yeah, exactly. It was like she was speaking to me and I'd never heard the term before, even though you're kind of aware of what this means in your own life. But it was really cool to hear her take on it and her panel's take on it.

0:08:02.1 MH: Yeah. I can't imagine what it would be like. So I'm an immigrant, so kind of I was socialized and then had to adapt, but being socialized at the same time in different cultures. Like I see my nephew and he's a baby still, but he's living in London and he's going to grow up with both... With the London culture of where he's living, the Spanish Salvadorian culture from my brother and our family, and the Latvian culture from his mom and her family.

0:08:35.6 PB: Wow.

0:08:35.7 MH: And so that kid, that poor kid is gonna be very confused.

0:08:38.5 PB: Yeah. That's a lot of cultures.


0:08:43.6 PB: I know. I think even me with my two cultures, Indian and American, I feel like I... I'm still uncovering all kinds of nuances that I didn't realize were impacting me, but yeah. Your nephew though. [chuckle]

0:08:58.9 MH: Can you share what, something.

0:09:01.7 PB: Yeah, I think...

0:09:03.1 MH: I'm just curious.

0:09:04.1 PB: I don't know. I guess one of the things that I thought about recently was how... And I obviously don't wanna speak to all Indian Americans, but a lot of my friends even, one of the things that's really hard for us is taking any kind of risks in general, especially when it comes to a career, but overall, it's kind of like our parents took up all the risk that was allotted to our family when they just came here and everyone has that like $20 in my pocket and only the clothes on my backstory. All of our parents kind of have that story that they tell. But yeah, I think that's one of the big things. They just took such a huge risk where it feels like we cannot, even though that's a big thing in United States is making sure you're taking risks and pushing yourself and we kind of get like the opposite message.

0:10:00.9 MH: But I can see how that makes sense, you know? If they took the risk, you don't wanna screw it up.

0:10:06.6 PB: Yeah, right. Exactly.

0:10:09.0 MH: Like you feel like you have a big responsibility. [chuckle] Well, today our guests actually, we talk a lot about kind of how to reset your mind and feel more calm and just take a few minutes to yourself. Her name is Cindy Tsai. She is a physician, she's a mindfulness teacher, she's a life coach. She is also the co-president of Ellevate, San Diego. So someone very close to our Ellevate family. And she is fantastic. I mean, we had a great conversation. We ended up doing some mindfulness exercises because I was, when I was talking to her, kind of in a moment of a little bit of overwhelm. So it was... [laughter] It actually worked out perfectly. So I really hope you enjoy this conversation and we can go to my conversation with Cindy.


0:11:28.2 MH: Welcome. I am so excited today to be here with Cindy Tsai, board certified physician, mindfulness teacher, author, coach, and very importantly, co-president of Ellevate San Diego. [laughter] So, Cindy, I'm so, so happy that you're here.

0:11:52.1 Cindy Tsai: Thank you so much for having me. I'm really happy and excited to be here.

0:11:55.6 MH: So could you give me just a little bit of personal background? We always like to get our listeners to know the person who's on the other side.

0:12:06.8 CT: Absolutely. So for me, ever since I was young, I was very health conscious and I would do things like opt for water instead of juice or soda. And I just really wanted to be healthy and well. And so it led me down a path of wanting to become a physician. And so I worked very hard, going to all the top schools like Hopkins and Dartmouth, and really wanted to just become the best physician I could be. And I was very much a high achiever, a perfectionist [laughter], and went through all the steps, checked off all the boxes, and was working as a primary care physician and a medical director after all the years of training. And I think it was really gratifying to be a physician, but along the way, I got sick myself and burnt out and really saw the impact of chronic stress on the body. And so I really wanted to do more than prescribed medications as a band aid. And in my own healing journey, I learned so many different tools and techniques, I explored, I trained and all these different other modalities, and I really focus on taking that integrative approach to wellness. And so it's really been such a great journey and experience to be able to share all of my resources, trainings with others, clients. And I'm happy to share it on the podcast today as well.

0:13:47.9 MH: Thank you. And was it a mind shift for you? I mean, being such a high achiever and I get it, and then just kind of hitting that wall of burnout, how did you have to change your thinking?

0:14:02.3 CT: Yeah. Well, for me, I think it was definitely when I got sick. I mean, just imagine waking up one day, not being able to see.

0:14:13.1 MH: Oh.

0:14:13.2 CT: Yeah. So for me it was very dramatic to go from healthy to sick overnight, right? It's like I was doing fine.

0:14:22.0 MH: So you could not see anything?

0:14:24.3 CT: So what happened was it just... Everything was dark and blurry when I opened my eyes and I had put on my glasses, I was rubbing my eyes and just so confused, right? And as a doctor, I was wanting... The first thing I wanted to do was to figure out what was wrong and diagnose myself and running through all sort of diagnoses, right? Is this diabetes? Am I having a stroke? Is this cancer? Like what's going on? And then going to see different doctors, and thankfully after a few days, really getting a diagnosis and answer and starting treatment with really serious medications in use. I had an autoimmune condition impacting my eyes that could have led to full blindness if I hadn't gotten prompt treatment. And so that was terrifying to be having to deal with a health scare like that. And it really prompted me to slow down and to notice what was I doing. I think it was... I think about wellness as the whole picture. Yes, mindset's really important, but it's also all of your other practices, right? Like physical, what are you feeding your body, how are you resting? Are you sleeping? Like all of these things would... Eating, all of these practices, it's really taking that mind, body, spirit approach to nourishing all of you so that you can do well.

0:16:05.7 MH: So not one more important than the other, but really a balance of all the things?

0:16:11.3 CT: Yeah. I think that in different times of your life, certain things will probably take more... Certain things will be more in the forefront than others and that makes sense, right? But I think, it's just still not losing sight of the other components, right? It's so much of not just looking for that quick fix, as I actually will be talking about in my upcoming TED talk next month.

0:16:43.1 MH: Ooh, I wanna hear more about that.

0:16:44.0 CT: [laughter] Yeah. And I talk about how the quick fix is not a fix, right? And how a lot of times I think we do reach for that quick fix. We wanna just go, fix it so it'll go away. I mean, I know for me, when I first got sick, it's really just like, "Yes, give me the meds. I don't wanna deal with this." And then recognizing that it could definitely, especially in acute, urgent situations, you wanna grab, you wanna have a fix, you want it to stabilize and be okay, but in the long run, it's so much more helpful to go to the source, to learn, to listen to what's going on, to take a moment and be present. And I think in our world today, it's much easier said than done. [chuckle]

0:17:35.3 MH: Yeah. I mean we see and we hear about the almost burnout epidemic right now, right?

0:17:41.3 CT: Yeah.

0:17:42.0 MH: With the pandemic and with everything that's happened in the last few years. I mean, the number of times I get asked or hear the word burnout come up is quite crazy. And when you think about something like what happened to you where it's very physically present, there's a problem. What do you think people should be doing to avoid getting to that point?

0:18:09.7 CT: Yeah, I think it really... This could be a big mindset shift because I think yes, burnout is very much a systemic concern and problem, but I also think that we can be proactive ourselves, being very intentional about our self-care. And when I say self-care, I know we hear and throw that term around a lot. [laughter] But I really think of self-care as taking care of and nourishing all parts of your mind, body, and spirit so that you can live with ease. And I think so often we might think it's just maybe exercise or getting sleep. And it's also... It's all of it. And it's about doing little bits and pieces throughout your day. Making sure you're having fun, you are being joyful and practicing gratitude, all of these things. So that essentially you're filling your cup up, you're recharging as you go through your day, as you go through your weeks and months, so that it's not like one day you wake up and you're like, "I'm exhausted, I can't get up." And then you have like physical ailments and pains, and then you're forced to really just stop everything you're doing. [chuckle]

0:19:38.0 MH: It really is about the prevention of it then.

0:19:43.4 CT: Yeah, I would say so. I really see self-care as a lifestyle and mindset to incorporate into your everyday.

0:19:55.6 MH: So tell me a little about your book, So Much Better. What inspired you to write this?

0:20:05.6 CT: Yeah, so I wrote the book after working with many clients on these very same issues about burnout, self-care, self just... Especially women who are very successful, but still deal with things like imposter syndrome, that loud inner critic and all these things. And so I came up with a process that I call the Inspiring Success Story method, which I outlined in the book. So the book is called So Much Better and it's life's changing strategies to develop calm, confidence, and curiosity, to become your own inspiring success story. And it's a book that's... It's a self-help book that's based in mindfulness, and I share different tools and techniques so that people can learn these very helpful strategies and see a dramatic shift and improvement in their life so that they can feel so much better.

0:21:09.8 MH: Can you share one of those strategies with us today?

0:21:12.5 CT: Yeah, absolutely. So I like to break it down in terms of the three different pillars of the calm, confidence, and curiosity.

0:21:21.3 MH: Actually, before we go in there, I actually do wanna ask you. Calm and confidence, I can see them and I can...

0:21:27.9 CT: Yes.

0:21:29.6 MH: We talk a lot about those two. But curiosity, where did that come from? How does that fit into our self-care?

0:21:38.7 CT: Yeah, I think it's... Well, so when I talk about the three pillars, I do think they're all connected and it's important to be able to practice all three. And so with calm, it's about regulating your nervous system so that you can be grounded and secure. And then with confidence, it's about developing that strong sense of self-belief, and you really unlearn old programming and beliefs and rewire your brain. And then with curiosity, it's about finding creativity, fun, and connecting with your true self and wisdom. And I always like to remind people that we all have our own gifts to share, but then when you're disconnected from your true self, think of it like you're walking in a maze, you're blindfolded, so you're already lost. And on top of that, you can't see. And so I think a lot of times we think yes, you wanna be calm and confident. And yes, that's really important. You probably would be able to handle high pressure situations, you'd believe in yourself, but then you're probably so focused on the doing that you lose sight of the bigger picture, or you don't have fun. You run out of ideas and you're losing connection to who you really are. And so that's why the curiosity piece is missing and so important to also incorporate so that you can have this very well-rounded approach to living with ease.

0:23:24.2 MH: That makes sense. As you put it like that, when you put it like that, it makes a lot of sense.

0:23:29.6 CT: Great.

0:23:38.0 MH: I'm the type of person, I'm not gonna lie, I'm an over-thinker. My brain's always going. The only moment I kind of get myself out of it is when I'm running, and listening to some stupid podcasts or something that just lets my brain stop for a minute. How could we... What strategies would you say we should be using or I can be using to slow down? I think of it like the hamster and the hamster wheel kind of in my head.

0:24:08.4 CT: Yes, definitely. Yes. And I see this a lot. And for me personally also just being having gone through so much school and training, like I was always very much in my head. A lot of thinking, very busy up there. And so I think the key is really to remember that the mind and the body are connected, and techniques to help you get into your body, to help you slow down. And so for some people it's things like exercise, movement, you mentioned running, stuff like that. And the reason I say why it's so important to really reconnect to the body is because our body has its own intelligence, and we really need to learn how to listen to these messages. I think so often we're just... I've definitely experienced this where I'm just like, "I'll just keep going."

0:25:19.2 CT: Even though it might be 8:00 PM, late at night, and I'm like didn't eat dinner or, "Like, whatever," and I'm just like, "I'm fine. Keep going." It's like, "I'm gonna power through." And then meanwhile, your poor body is exhausted or hungry and then all of these things. So I think it's really about learning to listen. And so common practices, I mean, things like breathing, just being very intentional about that, of like this very simple breathing technique I share. It's called cleansing breath, where you take an inhale through the nose and then you exhale through an open mouth with a sigh, just like releasing that. And taking a few breaths throughout your day is a great way to reset your system and to just even pause to be like a quick check-in of, "How am I doing? What's going on?" And then also another simple technique is something called grounding, of really just feeling your feet on the ground and feeling supported in that. And just taking a pause from your head and actually getting into your body again to be like, "Well, what does it feel? What does this shirt feel like? What's the temperature?" Really engaging your senses is a way to help you reconnect to your body.

0:26:53.0 MH: You're not seeing me, but I'm doing what you're saying. [laughter]

0:26:57.7 CT: A really fun exercise to quickly do this, is actually... I call it the five senses exercise. Basically what you do is we're gonna count down from five to one. And so I want you to first, wherever you are, get comfortable, and then just starting with five things that you see right now. Pick out five things you see, and then four things that you feel. Anything. Clothing, temperature, whatever. And then three things you hear. I know we're recording right now, but whatever comes through. Two things you smell, and then one thing you taste.

0:28:02.4 MH: That really makes you pay a lot more attention.

0:28:06.3 CT: Good.

0:28:08.3 MH: Really the smell one and the feel one were particularly like, "Oh."

0:28:13.4 CT: Yeah. And so it's such a simple exercise that I would encourage people to try it out. It's like if you're feeling... Especially when you're so overwhelmed, maybe you have 2,500 emails to get through and 30 texts and five missed calls, all these things, on the Slack messages, it's non-stop. And just take a breath, and do this exercise, and be like, "Five, four, three, two, one." And what it is, is it's a mindfulness practice that helps you get into the present moment and to get you and back into your body. And it breaks that cycle of a busy mind, if that makes sense. So that you can kind of reset and feel more calm.

0:29:02.6 MH: And it absolutely like... Just doing the breath and paying attention, it really did kind of calm me down a little, I'm not gonna lie.

0:29:13.0 CT: Good.

0:29:14.5 MH: I'm a little wired. And so that was nice.

0:29:17.6 CT: I'm glad. [chuckle]

0:29:19.8 MH: The term mindfulness, I feel, is also one of those that's thrown around a lot. What to you, in your words, how would you describe mindfulness to us?

0:29:34.9 CT: Yeah. So for me, I see mindfulness as a process of paying attention to the present moment without judgment. And it sounds simple to pay attention and be in the present. But I think the really key part is the "without judgment" piece. And so often... I think we're human. We have this tendency to put our own assessment on things. And when I say without judgment, it means like when something happens, it just is. It's a circumstance. And so it's not good or bad. And just recognizing, realizing the moment you're like, "Oh, that's a good thing," or, "That's a bad thing," or, "This sucks," that's our own judgment. That's like we're putting our own filter and lens on it. And I think that, depending on how we do that, it really impacts how we feel.

0:30:43.9 CT: And so I think about mindfulness as this practice that's present, that you do throughout the day, and anything that you do of just becoming this observer. And I think it's so powerful as a mindfulness teacher and all these things that I teach is just when you're able to create this space and become this third-person observer, it's a lot more neutral. And when you have that space and gap, you almost have more control in a way 'cause you can choose how you want to respond instead of immediately jumping to conclusions of, say if somebody cut you off and you're driving, you're in a rush, and you're like, "Oh my gosh." Getting all worked up. And then instead it could be like, you can take a breath and notice, "Oh, okay, they just did that, and what does this mean? What am I making it mean?" And I think it really is so powerful because then you are in control. You get to choose your response as opposed to immediately reacting and jumping to conclusions, which oftentimes, especially when you're already stressed out, goes down a very negative thought spiral.

0:32:08.2 MH: Right.

0:32:09.1 CT: Yeah.

0:32:11.3 MH: I really like the way that you're explaining this, I have to. Say thank you for that. It reminds me... Little known fact, but I grew up studying Buddhism, so I'm a Salvadorian Buddhist. And it does remind me of that separating the ocean from the waves, realizing that the ocean is still the ocean, and the waves are just things that are coming on it. And it's so powerful to take a moment to think about that and, like you said, create that. So it's... I don't know, it really resonated with me.

0:32:54.0 CT: I'm so glad, yeah. And I think it's really just... It's about being intentional with everything, really. And I think so often because we're on autopilot, we have busy lives, a lot going on, we seldom give ourselves permission to pause.

0:33:16.0 MH: And I will say, us women are worse.

0:33:19.8 CT: Absolutely, yeah. I think women, we're so loving and caring and we take care of everyone else except ourselves. [laughter]

0:33:29.8 MH: Oh yes. [laughter]

0:33:31.0 CT: Yeah. So I think that's why it's really important to have these conversations and to normalize these conversations. It's being vulnerable. And also, I think in corporate culture, wherever you are being a leader, being a team member, it's advocating for yourself. It's having these conversations. It's knowing that you're not alone, and it's learning to be kind to yourself, having that self-compassion and bring in that self-care so that you can be well.

0:34:07.7 MH: And you just said it. As a team member, too, it's so important that, as a leader, that other people see that you are human, that you are being kind to yourself, that they have permission to do the same. I think sometimes we forget how much we can impact other people.

0:34:28.1 CT: Oh, for sure. We're all connected. [laughter]

0:34:33.8 MH: There was something I was gonna ask you. Let's see, let's see. I was gonna ask you... Oh yes. One thing I've been thinking a lot about and reading a lot about was this... I'm in this a little bit of a fight with time, and how the adage of we're all busy and we have to be productive, and optimize your time. And so I'm trying, I'm really, really trying hard to think about it less as optimizing time and more about optimizing energy. And you mentioned it a few times, there's 25 emails or 25,000 emails on your inbox like there is in mine right now. Or you're kind of in a state of flow and then something comes up. You're stuck in traffic or something's happening that just pulls you immediately. You might be high-energy, but it pulls you to this quality of energy that's so negative that it's when you need to break the cycle. And I'm not sure why I'm telling you this. [chuckle] I think my question was coming to if you've given any thought about that, how people can optimize their energy a little bit more productively.

0:35:58.0 CT: Yeah. Well, I think the message I hope people are getting is that everyone is different. And so the things you need are different. And the reason I... I like to share so many different tools and techniques because for one, I like to try things myself. I do it myself, I do this work, I see what works. But I also want other people to have all these different resources at their disposal. And I think it's important because depending on the situation, different things will work for you. And so for example, self-care practices will probably shift depending on where you are in life, how much time you have and all these things. But I think what is coming to me is this idea and just recognizing that this is all a process and it's a practice. And I think it's about... I think it's great to take some time to reflect and think about, "Oh, I do feel really good when I run," or, "I feel really good when I take a walk outside in the sun for just five minutes."

0:37:19.0 CT: Like whatever it is but really noticing what works for you and making sure you're integrating, building that into your every day and then that way even when those fires or whatever things come up you have tools to go to and also you have ways to kind of reset yourself. 'Cause that's the key, 'cause you gotta be able to just recognize that hey, you're not feeling good. And it's a practice, right? In the beginning, it's probably gonna be maybe a few hours after you're like, "Oh my gosh, why am I feeling so bad?" And then you'll be like, "Oh, it's probably because when this happened, when whatever, when I got the call about whatever." And then the more you practice it the easier it gets and then you're gonna be able to shorten that time and you'll be like have that discussion and be like, "Oh wait, my chest is feeling tight," or "Wait, my shoulders are tense," or "What is going on?" And then again, really getting back to that mind-body connection of seeing our body as a way to communicate with us how we're feeling in that moment and really integrating it all together so that you can feel better in every instance.

0:38:48.0 MH: And it sounds like that's the curiosity to, right? Paying attention to and thinking of why am I feeling this way?

0:38:56.3 CT: Yes, and it's about really being open and non-judgmental, right? 'Cause...

0:39:03.0 MH: It's so hard.

0:39:04.7 CT: I know, 'cause so often we're like, "Oh my gosh, I shouldn't be feeling this way." Or especially I see, it's like you're exhausted and you really can't go to that social engagement and then you're like, "Okay, I should probably say no," and then you're doing it and you're feeling guilty and all these things. And so it's... I think we know intellectually but I think it's also, it does take courage to practice this, to do this, but I promise it gets easier the more to do it.


0:39:39.3 MH: It takes courage to be vulnerable because I do think that that is being vulnerable. Admitting to yourself that you're not a super woman.

0:39:49.3 CT: Yeah, and I think that's why I talk a lot also about the practice and skill of self-compassion.

0:39:55.9 MH: Tell me more.

0:39:57.9 CT: Yeah, so it's this practice of being kind to yourself or learning to become your own best friend. And...

0:40:06.2 MH: It's so hard.

0:40:09.0 CT: I know, I think for women, especially too, we're so quick to support our friends, our colleagues, and our kids and then on the other hand when some things don't work out for us we're judging ourselves. We're like, "Oh my gosh, you should have known," and this inner critic and all of that. And so I like to break down self-compassion into three components based on research or Kristin Neff's framework, she's given a TedTalk, she's written multiple books about this, but she breaks it down into number one, mindfulness or just being present, paying attention on purpose. Number two, common humanity, this idea that you're not alone, you're human, and all humans go through life and things happen. And then number three is self-kindness or just being kind to yourself. And I think it's important that... Kindness is actually, it's an active thing that you can do. It's not this passive thing that just happens. So we can think about...

0:41:19.3 MH: How so? Yeah, tell me more about that, 'cause that's a very interesting... I had thought of kindness as an active thing but you do practice kindness so I guess it is an active thing.

0:41:32.5 CT: Yeah, so I think about just thinking about what would feel good to you and especially in the beginning when it feels awkward, I would say think about what you would say to a friend or a loved one who's going through a tough time, what would you say? And then turn it around and offer it to yourself. That's the simple practice of just being very intentional and being proactive about it and so really the three components are helpful where... I can share a quick exercise if you wanna try this out.

0:42:08.5 MH: Yes. I'm all into the exercises today.

0:42:11.1 CT: Awesome, yeah, I love sharing practical tips. So that the people can see the benefits right away. So yeah, so think about a difficult situation in your life right now or something that's been going on and so really just breaking down the three components. The first part is mindfulness. So this acknowledgement of what is and paying attention to the present moment. And so you can say to yourself like, "I'm having a hard time right now." Just noticing what is without judgment, or you can say, "This hurts, this is stress." Just like whatever statement feels most natural to you, you can just kind of keep that in the back of your head. And then the next part is...

0:43:01.9 MH: Not this sucks just it is what it is.

0:43:07.7 CT: No, you can say this sucks. I think it's 'cause that's essentially... It's just acknowledging what is. I think we are wherever we are, right? I think it's all a practice. So it's helpful to just acknowledge it so that we can actually do something about it. So just saying, having that mindfulness awareness and then the next part is common humanity. This idea that it's something that happens to everyone. And it's innate to all humans, so a phrase I like is, "Everyone goes through this sometimes," or, "I'm not alone." Or another common thing I hear is, "We all struggle in our lives. Other people feel this way too." Like whatever it is, but I think it's helpful to have this reminder that these experiences are what make us human as opposed to making us abnormal, inadequate, or deficient. And then the last part is expressing self-kindness or being gentle with yourself.

0:44:23.9 CT: And I like to put my hands over my heart and really feeling the warmth of your hands, that gentle touch and say, "May I be kind to myself?" Or something like, "I was trying my best." "May I forgive myself?" All these different phrases that... Whatever speaks to you. And so these are the three phrases that I recommend people have as just things that resonate with them and write it down, refer back to it frequently to help you build your self-compassion muscle. Again, it's all a practice. And it gets easier the more you do it. It might feel awkward in the beginning to be like be kind to myself, what does that mean? [laughter] But the more you do it, the easier it gets. And I can say that, for me, I've seen that since really incorporating this compassion practice, I've not only been more compassionate to myself but also it has radiated and extended out to others, to the world and I think that's really so important because we are all connected. And even though there's a lot going on in the world right now, I think it would definitely make things a bit easier if we all had a little bit more compassion. [chuckle]

0:45:54.7 MH: Oh my God. Yes. Compassion and we talk a lot about empathy. Well first off, I love that I actually did feel better. It's so hard to be kind to yourself, it really is. But then while you're saying compassion is a muscle and it would make everything better if we were to use that muscle more. We talk a lot about empathy and in leadership especially, we talk a lot about empathy but then empathy can also lead to burnout. So compassion is a really nice way to look at it.

0:46:35.0 CT: Yeah, and I think a lot of times when I first bring up this idea of self-compassion, I get some looks of confusion and then I also wanted to bring up some common myths about self-compassion, because I think these are things that can get us stuck. Where you might have this idea that self-compassion is self-pity and it's not. Self-compassion is not about feeling sorry for yourself, about yourself. It actually is about helping us be more willing to accept, to experience, and acknowledge these difficult feelings. And research has shown that self-compassionate people are actually less likely to have self-pitying thoughts because they're able to acknowledge. They're able to bring that kindness and so a lot of times self-compassionate people will have better mental health. They're more resilient. And then I think another one I hear a lot is also self-compassion would make you complacent. Like are you being too easy on yourself?


0:47:50.9 CT: And I would always bring this example of think about a time when you messed up in the past or when a loved one, when your kid messes up, it's like, how did you respond when someone shames and criticizes you versus when someone who's caring and open and compassionate and loving? And you can probably see that the caring response is so helpful 'cause it really helps us maintain our sense of self and confidence. We feel supported emotionally and that actually helps us keep going. It fuels our motivation 'cause we're not so defeated, in a sense. And then the last thing I like to talk about is that people think self-compassion is selfish and that if we're spending all this time and energy being kind, caring to ourselves and we're ignoring everyone else. So I think it's helpful to see compassion as this unlimited... This, it's unlimited. It's abundant, there's an abundance of love and compassion, especially when we're looking for it, when we're training to look for it, to look for the good. And when you're good to yourself...

0:49:10.2 MH: We're developing. Training ourself.

0:49:12.6 CT: Yeah, exactly. And when you're good to yourself it helps you be good to others because you feel so much better and you're showing up as your best self. And this idea of putting on the oxygen mask first and all of that, so I really just want to encourage people to try out self-compassion and see how it could benefit them and others as well.

0:49:37.7 MH: Cindy, I really, really love this conversation. I think I needed this today. So thank you.

0:49:46.6 CT: You're welcome, I'm so glad to be on and to share all of my tips and techniques so that we all can be well and be better leaders and inspire each other to be the best that we can be.

0:50:03.1 MH: Lovely. We are gonna do a quick lightning round 'cause Megan would not be happy with me if I didn't do it. So I'm gonna ask you some questions and you can answer with, in one sentence or less. Introvert or extrovert?

0:50:21.3 CT: Introvert.

0:50:22.8 MH: Dream dinner guest?

0:50:25.3 CT: Brené Brown.

0:50:26.1 MH: Me too.

0:50:27.6 CT: Really?

0:50:29.0 MH: I love her.

0:50:32.0 CT: Well if you get to have dinner with her, please invite me.


0:50:35.6 MH: Same. I have it as a mission, I need to meet Brené Brown. This is a mission I have set for myself. The amount of times I reference that woman is pretty embarrassing. [chuckle] Pet peeve?

0:50:56.1 CT: I feel like I don't really have too many, but let me think. Oh, okay. [chuckle] When you are going down or up... Going down an escalator and then the people in front of you just don't walk off and you're like... [laughter] You know what I mean? You're like coming, running into them and they're still standing there, 'cause they're looking on their phone or whatever.

0:51:23.1 MH: I know exactly what you mean.

0:51:28.1 CT: That came to mind.

0:51:29.9 MH: That's like walking in a New York sidewalk with this crowd. And finally, what's one question or thought you'd want to leave with our listeners today?

0:51:41.8 CT: Wow. I think it would be the reminder to give yourself permission to do what feels good to you and to know that there's no one way to do it and wellness is not just being free of disease or illness but it's really a standing practice of integrating all these different components: Physical, mental, emotional, spiritual well-being, so that you can have that sense of inner peace and ease. And taking a moment too to think about what does living with ease look like for me and what's hindering me from doing that and just really slowing down, giving yourself this permission, this opportunity to listen and to be present. So that you can be well and really share your gifts and help make the world a better place.

0:52:48.5 MH: I love that. I love that so much. Thank you Cindy.

0:52:53.3 CT: Thank you so much for having me. This was wonderful.


0:52:56.9 Megan: Hey everyone, it's producer Megan jumping in to say that right now, you could get 20% off Ellevate membership with code PUMPKINSPICE. The offer ends October 10th. So if you're feeling the fall vibes be sure to head to and use code PUMPKINSPICE, all one word, for 20% off a pro or executive Ellevate membership.

0:53:21.3 MH: Welcome back. What did you think?

0:53:24.8 PB: That kind of stuff is right up my alley, I think I'm always looking to bring more calm into my life. It came at a really good time too. So I love that conversation.

0:53:36.9 MH: It sounds like it is right up your alley during the fall, considering the podcast suggestions you...

0:53:41.2 PB: Yeah, exactly, exactly. Very aligned with what I'm looking for.

0:53:47.2 MH: I think we all need more of that.

0:53:49.1 PB: Always.

0:53:50.1 MH: We really, really, really do. We're all always trying to keep going, keep going, keep going and it's not helpful. It's good to take some time for ourselves and it's good to take some time to invest some time in the things that we really care about.

0:54:06.2 PB: Yeah, and it's one of those things where you know you should be doing this, you know you should be focusing on mindfulness but it's a lot harder to take those active steps to actually incorporate that into your life.

0:54:19.3 MH: It is hard, it is hard. We make it easier though, in a way. This is the perfect segway. If you wanna take an hour of your time during the week to kind of recharge with other people, talk about a topic, get some insights, really it's quite... It doesn't seem like it would be a recharging experience when you think about coming to learn about a topic and then discuss it with other people you don't know, but it is a recharge because everyone is so absolutely nice. And I'm talking about our round tables, we host them every week for our Ellevate community, we chat, we get advice, we get to know each other. You realize you're not alone. There's a lot of times where we think we're facing these huge obstacles all by ourselves but you're not. We're all going through similar things. So if you're looking for some support you can join us on Tuesday at 1:00 PM to the executive roundtable. And that's 1:00 PM Eastern for our executive round table. I'll be there, I'm there every Tuesday and we will be talking about embracing an innovative mindset. Our rising leaders who meet every Thursday at noon, will be talking about the career reset since it's the end of the year and we're kind of going through all that and our entrepreneurs are talking simple self-care. Did you have a hand in that one?

0:55:56.0 PB: I did, yes, I definitely did. And I think it came at the perfect week, very in line with Cindy's conversation.

0:56:03.9 MH: Yeah. It'll be great, I love that. We're gonna celebrate our first... I hope I don't do another "what?" "really?", but I probably will. We celebrate these every week, both on our podcast, on our social media, we like celebrating people who are creating new things or creating new pathways, doing things that should be normalized and not be these surprises, but we are happy, happy, happy to celebrate some of our history makers this week. So I can start with Odette Aquitania Ricasa became the first Filipino to visit every country in the world.

0:56:55.2 PB: Iga Swiatek became the first Polish woman to win the US Open.

0:57:03.6 MH: Angela Koogler became the first woman to serve as a chief of the boat for the US Navy.

0:57:10.3 PB: Tiffany Overton became the first woman to drive solo around Australia in a non-Tesla electric vehicle.

0:57:19.2 MH: That's very specific. Madonna became the first woman to earn Billboard 200 top 10 albums in every decade since the '80s.

0:57:28.3 PB: Oh yeah, go, Madonna. Princess Anne became the first woman to attend the Vigil of the Princes. That was impressive.


0:57:42.9 MH: Yeah, first woman to do something. I'm guessing our Royal family is making some changes, which is good.

0:57:50.4 PB: Yeah, about time.

0:57:52.5 MH: About time. About time. Well, thank you so much for being with us today. Pranita, thank you for joining me and being my co-host these last couple of episodes. Hope you had some fun.

0:58:04.5 PB: Absolutely, thank you for having me.

0:58:09.4 MH: We have to have you as a guest to talk about the gender wage gap though.

0:58:13.5 PB: Be careful what you wish for.

0:58:15.1 MH: We'll make that happen. We'll make that happen. In the mean time, next week I have... I had a great conversation with Amanda Cotler, she's the Director of Operations for Axel lifestyle, a global active wear brand that uses anti-bacterial fabric. They're really great, actually. Amanda sent me a t-shirt because she heard I was... Because we were talking about my training for the marathon and it is amazing, I really do love it. Amanda's also one of our chapter leaders, so we have lots of fun talking, different things and we even do a little bit of improv during the chat. So I hope you can join and listen in next week.


0:59:00.3 Outro: Thanks so much for listening to Ellevate. If you like what you hear, help a girl out, subscribe to the Ellevate Podcast on iTunes, give us five stars and share your review. Also, don't forget to follow us on Twitter at EllevateNtwk, that's Ellevate Network. And become a member, you can learn all about membership and all the great things that Ellevate Network is doing at our website That's E-L-L-E-V-A-T-E And special thanks to our producer Katherine Heller, she rocks and to our voice over artist Rachel Griesinger. Thanks so much and join us next week.