I was recently asked to speak at the amazing “Permission to Shift” event hosted by the wonderful Anna Lang.
Here’s the transcription of the episode, and the full talk can be found at the bottom of the page – I hope you all enjoy it.
Our guest is the glorious author Sue Belton.
She works with senior managers and CEOs of high-pressure industries to improve their leadership style, increase their performance, build resilience, and create sustainable change.
Formerly a producer and director for the BBC’s world-renowned documentary department, Sue worked on some of BBC One’s highest-profile programs, attracting audiences of up to 10 million people, developing program ideas, managing and running teams, budgets, and locations.
Sue comes from high pressure, a corporate background where ideas, leadership and delivery, and resilience are key. Sue is a professional certified coach with the International Coaching Federation, trained with the prestigious American Co-Active Training Institute, and has been helping people get unstuck and make meaningful changes to their lives for the past 14 years.
Sue is also part of The Younger Self Letters. You can see her story in that book as well. And so congratulations on being a New York Times or sorry, USA Today, number one, bestselling author.
It is an incredible treat to welcome Sue to the Permission to Shift the main stage.
Thank you. And I don’t know. Oh, thank you very much. I’m getting a bit hot already. I’m feeling ooh; I’m feeling the energy.
Well, I’m glad you’re feeling the energy. So we have an incredible session lined up with you. Do you want to share with them the treat of what we are doing or what you have planned for them today? Or do you want me to do it?
No. You go for it. I thought we were just going to, you were going to ask me questions. We’ll take questions. I love just going with whatever comes up in the space.
Okay. Well, we’ll ask you the first question and then we’ll do… because I know we had talked about a few things offline. So, first question before we get into the meat of it.
Can you give our audience a little bit of an idea about the shifts you’ve gone through to get you where you are today?
Yeah, I was in a full-time job, really working hard at it. I was a typical overachiever, workaholic, everything-aholic, lots of other things-aholic, and working really hardcore.
It wasn’t until I had my daughter, and I took some time out, and then I had to return to work, which went disastrously wrong and I suffered OCD.
I was on medication, anxiety, but basically what was going on was that my life that I’d spent my 15 years building up didn’t fit me any longer and certainly did not fit how I wanted to raise my daughter.
So, it was that whole kind of midlife crisis thing that was triggered by that.
I was lucky enough to find a coach and have a coaching session in which I was completely shifted from a place of desperation. It was from an awful place that I was in, to a place of hope, and actually being able to see that I could make some choices and I could change things. To going from a real desperate place to that in, it was 45 minutes on a phone. Back in the day, there was minimal, there was only Skype, but there was no Zoom and there was no Teams.
Yeah. Can you tell us a little bit more about that? So you got on this call, you had this shift, and then what?
Well, that’s the thing about change. It’s actually quite scary, isn’t it? Because it’s much more comfortable being in literally the pit and going, “Oh God, I’m stuck.” And not doing anything about it.
So, the next bit was the biggest phase really. The next bit was, I was like, “Wow.” So I could see what it was for me, but I was like, this is gold. This is incredible. What the experience I just had is incredible.
And so as I went on my own journey, I was, hang on a minute. And that’s when I decided to start building my business. And I had all the fears.
I was brought up in a household where I was told you have to have a salary. So I daren’t even become an independent TV producer, make my own films. I was too scared. That’s why I stayed at the BBC. So I literally went about from going, “Okay, I’m going to do this.” and I had no safety net, to doing it. Going on my own journey and then starting to do that for others as well.
That is incredibly powerful. And especially after Adriana, who says, “Believe in yourself and go out for it.”
What type of foundation did you have to put under yourself to stop yourself from doing the second guessing and going too far into your head?
That has been my biggest journey and that one, I’m still a work in progress on that. But I would actually say that’s the biggest one to work on. Your self-belief, bolstering yourself. In order to do that, that is the one thing, if you don’t work on anything else, it’s your self-belief. Because everything comes from that.
And the biggest thing that I had to do was to put myself first. Do this selfish thing that everybody talks about. But actually, do the basics. Take care of myself, love myself. Self-compassion can control me.
Loads of people think that self-compassion means you’ll end up on a sofa watching Netflix all day eating a tub of ice cream. Actually, self-compassion is motivating, will keep you focused.
Whereas a lot of the people I work with, who are my tribe, my people, type A personalities, hardcore, think that if you’re self-compassionate, it’s passionate towards yourself, you’re letting yourself off the hook. Whereas actually, it’s the opposite. It’s the best thing. And there’s loads of science and studies and Kristin Neff is the queen of self-compassion. That’s the biggest thing.
So let’s talk about self-compassion because that’s a huge foundation on which you build your health. It’s massive for your being able to exist normally. Can you speak to this a bit?
Yeah, I didn’t catch the whole previous call. But it’s just the things we say to ourselves. Just the meanness, the cruellest, and we say them all the time. We call ourselves names like you stupid cow. All of the things that we actually say to ourselves in our heads on a daily basis. So what you can actually do is counter that and really switch that.
- What’s the kindest thing I can say to myself right now?
- What’s the kindest thing I can do for myself right now?
- What would I say to a dear friend?
I would not say, “You stupid blah. Look what you’ve just done.” And beat yourself. You wouldn’t do that. But we do that to ourselves every single day.
Do you have a method for interrupting when the voice starts that you use?
Yeah. I’ve kind of… No, I don’t need to be careful here. We’re Overseas. So look, the way we’re conditioned, who we are brought up by, those voices often become internalized. So I was brought up by a sergeant major in the army. And a lot of the things, he’s very hardcore, only because he wanted the best for me. And often these people do, but those voices become internalized. So every time I hear, “Uh oh, this kind of voice,” I go, “Okay, thank you. That’s very interesting.” And come back to myself. What’s the kindest thing I could do for myself?
Or, you know, literally, physiologic, somatically, when we talk about the body and the body’s own capacity for healing, actually giving myself a hug. Actually, yes, so it is. It’s that I hear that voice and I go, “Okay. Yeah, thanks very much.” So it’s the separating it out.
Or you can go a little bit more subtle. All the stuff around imposter syndrome is very mainstream now. It’s very well known, imposter syndrome.
And that voice hits you at three in the morning, as it estimates like, “Oh my God, you can’t possibly do that talk. You can’t possibly, you’re not an expert on this dah, dah, dah, dah.” It’s, “Are you really sure about that? Are you really sure you’re unable to do that? Haven’t you already done something a little bit similar?” Just that kind of sense-checking habit in a really subtle way. That is another fun time.
That is the best thing that I have found along my journey. And that was from work with my own coach that came from.
I love this. Could you walk us, can we spend five minutes with our group here and actually get them to write some of this down and go through this process? Because of what we fire together, we were together. Let’s do it. Let’s do it.
So can you walk them through that one more time and end with some prompts and get them writing?
Yeah. So if you have something that you tell yourself you can’t possibly do, and if you’re happy to write it into the box, write it into the chatbox. You can’t possibly do that. “I can’t do that because I am not experienced enough“. Good enough. Or “I don’t know this”, or whatever it is, you’ll have one because you’re human. We’re all human. We all have them. So if you’re happy to share it, share it. If not, just write it in front of you. And then do you want me to put the questions in or are you going to put them in as I say them?
So the first question would be and see which is most relevant to you. Are you really unable to do X? Whatever it is. So try that one on. Another question might be, are you sure, are you 100% sure you have no experience of whatever it is? We’ll just wait for that one to go in.
The last one is, haven’t you actually done something like this before? Something similar? What did you get on now?
That imposter voice commonly hits you at three or four in the morning. And it’s like, “So anxiety wake up. Oh my God.”
I got one of my biggest ones when I was asked to do a talk about imposter syndrome. Ironically. Here it is. Work in progress. Hits us all.
Have you written one, Anna?
I love all of this so much. The expansion, the knowledge, the different ways of looking at things, your perspectives. And especially impromptu things like this that are so powerful. Alrighty. We’re moving you. Let’s go. What’s next?
So did you want to do anything with that? Or did you want to move on to the next piece?
Ah, wow. Beautiful, Marie. Thank you. “I’m scared to go on YouTube to be able to handle a thriving business of clients“. Yeah. James, you wanted to step in and speak?
Yeah, sure. Thank you. This one was really eye-opening. It was fun because we were coming off of the money discussion.
So I just picked something from work and I wrote down something crazy. “You can’t close a hundred million dollar deal“.
And then you lead in with those questions. Are you really unable to do this?
I started thinking like, “Oh, actually, I mean, yeah. I mean, I’ve done smaller deals. So then why not the bigger one.”
And then by the time we got to the third one, “Have you done something similar?”
It’s like,” yeah. You know what? Like the pieces are all the same“.
So I really liked that perspective shift. It became just a matter of scale as opposed to a complete impossibility.
Beautiful. Thank you for sharing. Thank you. You’re welcome.
And just to give you all context, what’s happening is when you’ve gone to that really fearful imposter syndrome voice, you’ve gone to the limbic system. That full on fight-flight fear zone. You’re not rationally thinking. And then with those three questions, what you’re doing is you’re engaging the prefrontal cortex. You go, “Oh yeah, I have done that. Oh yeah. Oh, that is.” So you’re coming out of that real fearful place back to the executive function here in your brain. So that’s what it’s doing. It’s taking you out of that fear about amygdala hijack. They all call it in neuroscience.
And thank you for that, Maria. Yes. Did you want to, Maria are you happy to come on and say what you’ve got from the questions?
Are you really unable to do it? I could do it.
Yes, you can. Are you sure you have no experience?
It’s the backdrop or something behind me. It’s a small space. And I feel so closed in, in a box. That’s my thing. Anyway, I have a lot of experience, but not with computers. And I probably could use a coach.
And what do you normally do when you don’t have experience in something?
I look for somebody to help me. But I have to find the right one. There’s so many out there.
There’s so many out there and be careful with that ‘right.’ Got to find the right one, the right thing. It’s got to be perfect. Let’s do some research. Find three people to speak to them. And how many have actually done things like this before?
Yeah. I’ve had life coaches. And quite honestly, they didn’t help me. I’m afraid. Because everything, I don’t want to seem like… But I really am on a budget. So I’m afraid to make the wrong choice.
Sure, sure. And just to speak to the fear. Because the fear, as we all know probably by now, is the biggest blocker of anything. Fear is the biggest blocker for all of us because we’re all human.
So I would say to you choose something really, start small, specific, you can do, a step you can take. Because there are loads of coach training schools out there that have coaches who are training. And do some due diligence research. But you’re a creative, resourceful woman. What have you done before to find out what you need for something? What have you done before?
If you didn’t know what to do, how to find someone. You’re on a budget. You’re fearful; you’re on a budget. You need to get a coach at a reasonable rate. What have you done before in your life to find something out?
I’ve gone to the libraries. I’ve asked people that have already done it before. I’ve tried lots of different things. And I’m still like-
What I’m hearing, Maria is that you are creative, resourceful. You know how to find stuff out. My request to-
Half my friends tell me, I’m sorry, I interrupted. I have a habit of doing that. Yeah. My friends have told me, “You’re so tenacious.”
There you go. That is the biggest quality skill that will serve you well in life. Tenacity. Seriously. You have that, you’re sorted. So my request for you is you fully step into your tenacity in this.
I’m going to. I need a coach.
My request is you employ your tenacity and you will find one. Yeah.
The other thing that I highly recommend is when you talk about self-belief, imposter syndrome, not feeling good enough, to speak to that imposter voice, you need to collect evidence that will disprove the voice.
So what this is is an acknowledgement book. So I collect emails, cards from clients, from friends, from people who are giving me positive feedback. My qualities, skills, things I’ve done for them. Things I’ve helped them achieve. These are emails coming from clients. Pop them in there. All go in there. Collect evidence. Written evidence, preferably.
So when that voice hits you, you can just go, “Okay, really? Is that really true? Oh yeah, no, look. This person says, otherwise; this person says otherwise”. But it’s got to be from credible sources. And this is from the coach that coached me in that 45-minute session, 13 years ago. She gave me this.
Wow. So Sue, what are some of the other transformations? We’ve just had a little taste of the transformation that you offer.
What are some of the other transformations that you help your clients through?
I would say self-belief is the big one. But typically people come to me when they are at that point in their life where they’re having that moment, the midlife crisis moment.
The self-actualization moment where they go, “The life I’ve built for myself, when I’ve spent 15, 20 years building for myself, it doesn’t do it for me anymore. I’ve lost my mojo. Why am I getting up from bed? Is this all there is?” Those people. And they’re in that situation, and they’re working hard. They are working harder. They are numbing their feelings with alcohol, shopping, sex, drugs, social media now.
Numbing the feelings because they can’t be with them. They don’t know what to do with them. And they don’t know how to get out of that situation.
So I work with them to get clear on what it is that would make them feel happy, fulfilled, whole, honouring their values, their purpose. And then how to take those active steps towards it.
And fears. As Maria says, fear is the biggest blocker to get through. So really cracking open that fear. Really working through it.
But for most people, it’s a big leap. It’s small, incremental steps. Because the neuroscience behind that is you’ve got to keep your brain feeling safe. Otherwise, you go straight back into fear. Got to really work with your brain chemistry on that. And you’ve got to give yourself time and space because it takes a lot of energy to create any new neural pathways in your brain. Any change needs a new neural pathway. People just don’t create time and space. It’s important, but I’m not creating time and space.
When we start to go into numbing. So you say let’s create time and space, but we don’t do that. We start trying to be active so that we don’t have to feel what we’re feeling, and we can avoid what you just said. Avoid those feelings. Because they’re just crappy and uncomfortable.
What do you recommend we do to move ourselves through that space in a healthy way?
In a healthy way? I would say the first thing is, is counter-intuitive, is to sit with your feelings. And I know that sounds like a horrible thing, but it’s processing. It’s actually because emotions are signals of the body.
I was speaking to a friend the other day. I got her into having a morning routine. Morning routines are the bomb. They will change everything if you have a morning routine. And she had severe anxiety. Her blood pressure was through the roof. She’d gone to a doctor. She was about to be put on statins, drugs. She’s my age. She’s 49. She was about to be put on that medication. The whole lot of it. She’d be given a blood pressure monitor. She was in a really bad way. I got her to start doing a morning routine.
So getting up half an hour early, meditating, journaling, some exercise. She now swims in an open-air swimming pool every single morning. Her blood pressure came down, bang, straight. She’s out of the danger zone. As soon as she started letting go of that routine, she’s got two kids, a husband, busy life, the anxiety and the blood pressure came up straight away.
I was seeing, this is your body telling you what it needs. And most of the time we ignore the signals until they get so loud that we end up with heart attacks, strokes, blood pressure, in hospital. I had clients in really bad ways. It takes that. But it’s just your body telling you what it needs. And she goes, “I need…” I said, “What is this telling you?” She said, “I need to slow down.”
I think we have enough time. Can you run us through? I know we did an awareness exercise with Lynn. This is a little bit different. But since we’ve been in the awareness zone, I think some things might be able to come up for some people.
Would you be able to quickly walk us through that? Be with the Emotions and then what comes up.
Okay. So if you just take a deep breath and go to an emotion that you’ve had. So a situation that’s causing you anxiety. Or something that you felt recently that was an unpleasant thing.
And allow the emotion just to rise in your body, wherever it comes up. And really allow it. And if you can, name it. Internally, give it a name. Whether that’s fear or panic or whatever it is, give the emotion a name. And then allow it to really flood through your body. So let it expand. And really, this is very counterintuitive, I know.
Really allow it to flood through you. Don’t resist it. Don’t try and stop it. If you get any tears or any responses, just allow it to come for now. And then ask this emotion, “What is it trying to tell you? What does it want me to know?”
And then feel free to type. Open your eyes if they’re closed and then write down what the information was from the emotion. “What does this emotion want me to know?”
And then the next step would be one action you will take on the back of that wisdom. Just one action. My well, specific, measurable.
If anyone is happy to share the wisdom they received from the emotion, just jump in. Are you happy to jump in, Sujit?
It told me, I don’t know how to put this in words. I have been doing well until now. So that was the emotion of not doing good enough. And not the wisdom. The negative thing was, okay because of that, you will not do good enough and you’ll not do good in the future too.
Okay. So that means you’ve gone to your head because that’s a thought. Come back to the emotion. What was the emotion in the body? I can see you thinking again, and this is common. We go to our heads. It’s a much safer place to be. And my request is you go back to your body. What was the emotion in the body? If you’re happy to.
Could I say disappointment? It’s a sort of negative emotion.
Yeah. Well, yeah. That’s what we put on it. So disappointment. That was the feeling. Yeah. What might you do? What did that disappointment want you to know? Just stay with the disappointment. Not any thoughts you’ve had around it. So back to the disappointment. What is it here for? What does it want you to know? What’s it here for? What’s it trying to tell you?
That I need to do better?
If you were allowing kindness in Sujit, what wisdom might you take from that emotion?
Honestly, I’m getting a sort of a block as to what to think or you know?
Yeah. Really, really common. My request would be because you’re going to your head because there’s a block. So there’s something stopping it. Normal. We all do it. It’s very difficult to be with our emotions, especially negative ones. My request for you would be to have an enquiry. So an enquiry is for you to ponder, not answer immediately. Put up somewhere. Think about it over time. Preferably journal in response to it. That enquiry for you would be… And if you take this down and have it, if you want it, what is disappointment? What is it to be disappointed?
So if you write that down and take it, if you’re happy to, to think over the next few days, over the next week. So you can use that and tap into the wisdom.
So my request would be, and this is for everyone, to journal about it. I highly recommend three pages. You know, The Artist’s Way, doing three pages of stream of consciousness journaling every single morning as soon as you get up. Before you have time to rationalize and put it in a box.
Does everyone here know what stream of consciousness journaling is?
You just write. You just write. No one’s ever going to see it. Do not read it because it will not make sense. It’s just a pure stream of consciousness. You just write. No thought. No structure. No saboteurs telling you it’s stupid. None of it. No one’s going to see it. Including you. Don’t read it.
And I also find, if I may, that it’s very useful. If you are writing in gobbledygook, don’t try and make it make sense. Because that’s thinking. And it can be quite hilarious. I was doing it this morning, ended up writing in, I don’t know what the heck I was. Four-year-old. It was awesome.
And you can have some incredible realizations. Don’t put pressure on yourself too, but I’ve just started doing morning pages in the past couple of weeks. And it’s amazing what comes out of it. So I just want to come back to you, Sujit, just to check in with you. Do you have what you need for now around that?
And just to let you know, Sujit, completely normal. It’s very difficult to go to our emotions. We’ve tried, we’ve been conditioned not to. And we’ve been conditioned to make sense of everything. So that’s all that was happening there. That’s just to help you tap into that because there will be wisdom in that. It’s data from your body. Our emotions are just data.
Shame is the biggest one of all for all of us. And unworthiness. Absolutely. So again, if you were unable to tap into the wisdom, my request is you do a journal to tap into what that is.
There is. It’s a great group. And I know before we go, it would be an absolute crime if you didn’t tell them about your book.
Oh yes. So this is my book. Change Your Life in Five. And that exercise we just did is in there actually. So that is in the section on emotions being data in the body.
Oh, that’s so beautiful. That is so beautiful. Well, before you go, I do have a question for you. My last question.
You were standing in front of your younger self at a time when you needed to make a big shift. What do you say?
Don’t worry so much. Don’t worry so much.