The Women in Medicine Badass Radioshow

Episode #24: Getting Your Life Off Auto-Pilot

Show Notes:

Welcome back all you women in medicine to another episode with me and I am really excited to talk to you today about how to get off of autopilot. When I talk about that what I’m really referring to is how so much of what we do in the way that we interact in the world is habitualized that we don’t even think about it.  And what you might notice is that you have some patterns that you repeat over and over again and perhaps there are some ones that you would like to change or break and you find that you’re kind of stuck. And so that’s what we’re going to be talking about today and I’m going to break this up into three categories. So when we talk about being on this planet in this autopilot sort of way, I want you to think about it in terms of your thinking patterns, in terms of different negative emotions where you feel stuck, and thirdly in terms of self-sabotaging behaviors.

Now let’s take a look at thinking patterns. When I talk about thinking patterns, I want you to understand what I mean by that. And really what we’re talking about here are ways in which you might be thinking that falls into a certain category. 

So I’ll give you an example. If you’re the kind of person who’s always feeling guilty or frustrated, it usually is because you have a thought that things should be different than how they are. So if you tell yourself, “well, I really should have thought about that” that is going to lead to probably some guilt or frustration with yourself because really what you’re saying is “I should have but I didn’t” and so how is that going to make you feel? Probably either frustrated with yourself, depending on the scenario, or guilty that you missed whatever it is that you should have thought of. 

And same goes with if you think about other people and what they should do then you’re most likely to feel pretty frustrated. And this, again, points to the relationship between thoughts and feelings and that’s why when I say if you’re feeling frustrated or guilty it’s probably something that you can trace back to a thinking pattern around shoulds and musts, right, this is what I’m talking about.

Another type of thinking pattern is catastrophizing. And this is when we think about the worst possible scenarios and we become super anxious. We start worrying about all the things that could go wrong and I have a lot of clients who do this. They spend a lot of time and energy thinking about, “Well, if I go on vacation, what if I miss the flight or what if I lose the luggage and what if…” you know, they think about all the things that could go wrong instead of like, “Oh this is so exciting that I’m going on vacation.” And imagine if you’re doing that for your vacation you’re probably doing it for everything in your life even the things that aren’t so worth looking forward to, right? So just notice if you’re somebody who does this a lot. And also one of the things I talk to my clients a lot about is the fact that when you’re the kind of person who catastrophizes chances are that 90% of the things that you worry about will probably never happen. 

One exercise you can do to really become more mindful of this thinking pattern and to slow yourself down enough to get off of autopilot is to write down what it is that you worry will happen and then come back and write down what actually happened. And when you do this exercise, you’re able to take note of last 10 things that I hypothesize or that I predicted are going to happen in a bad way actually never happened. And this helps you to be more mindful. The next time you catastrophize, if you have this data you can say, “You know what? I was wrong 10 out of 10 times in the last week, so probably whatever I’m worried about now is not going to happen” and then you are able to overcome that mindset. 

And the third thinking pattern that I want to share with you today is around judgments. Now we’re all judging all the time. That’s just how our brain works but it can become this really autopiloted thing that really create a lot of negativity in our lives and the reason I’m bringing this up is because the more mindful you are, the better you’re going to feel. And so notice that your mind might be doing that and bring yourself back from that. 

Because what happens is if we’re constantly judging ourselves then we’re going to feel more insecure. We’re going to have more social anxiety. If we’re constantly negative about other people, then it’s going to create a lot of distance between us and others where we feel superior or we feel like they’re not good enough or we feel like we have a right to laugh at somebody or whatever the case may be. It might feel in the moment like you’re more powerful, but ultimately you’re living in a very negative headspace and so just notice if your brain is doing this and just bring yourself to a place of neutrality where you just notice things without judgment. This might be hard but I think it can help you to really change your overall feeling in the world so I encourage you to try it. 

So to recap, so far we’ve talked about three kinds of thinking patterns. We talked about shoulds and musts that bring up guild and frustration. We talked about catastrophizing which bring up a lot of anxiety and we talked about judgments which brings up insecurity and negativity. 

The second category we said we’re going to look into is when you feel stuck in negative emotions. So we’re going to talk about three specific things here as well. The first one is anxiety because this is where so many of you are really struggling. 

Now I have clients who really struggle with anxiety and it really isn’t about the situation that they’re facing, right? Sometimes we tell ourselves, “It’s because I don’t like what’s going on in politics” or “I really don’t like the current situation with my boss” or, you know, “something is going on right now with my kids and I’m really anxious about it.” And we tell ourselves this and sometimes that’s true, but for the most part what I find is that people who tend to be anxious, will always find something to worry about because ultimately your brain believes that this is helping to keep you safe. So it’s kind of like this protective mechanism. And so it serves a purpose. And what you need to do if you want to override this, if you want to get out of this autopilot mode so that you’re not constantly feeling anxiety, is you have to really look at — is this truly keeping me safe or is this ruining my experience on this planet? 

The experience that I’ve seen with a lot of my clients is that it really is a huge energy drain for them to be anxious all the time. Yes, they feel like it serves this function to keep them safe and usually you do this because you don’t believe like you are safe on the planet. You feel like it’s maybe a dangerous place and you feel kind of insecure in some ways, but this is probably not the best way to go about it. And the reason, in the same way that we talked about in the catastrophizing example, is that the majority of things that you worry about actually don’t happen. And so it’s just ruminating on things that have happened and worrying about them happening again, or worrying about things that haven’t happened and probably never will happen. And so, again, if you really want to keep yourself safe, I would maybe rethink this and how to feel more secure in your environment. And for the most part, what I think it really is, what it boils down to, because anxiety for the most part can be a lot of physiological symptoms, and so just work on grounding.  What are some things that can help you feel more grounded? Maybe it’s just taking a few deep breaths? Maybe it’s about being in nature? Maybe it’s giving yourself some time to reflect and meditate. Whatever works for you where you feel like this is really grounding for you then that would be a better solution to your anxiety than constantly worrying about things. 

Another way in which we can get stuck in our negative emotions is with this sense of insecurity. So again, this is very similar to the anxiety example, but anxiety can be about like things going wrong. And typically people have this idea that, “Even when good things happen, I still need to be on guard because you never know when that other shoe is going to drop.” With insecurity it is less about anxiety but just feeling like something is wrong, that no matter what’s happening you really aren’t safe. So you have to be hyper-vigilant. You have to always keep your eyes wide open and it makes it really hard for people to feel like that they can relax. So it creates a lot of tension in the body and it really is exhausting. And again, I would say if you can just calm yourself enough to feel like you really are safe, take a look at your surroundings and ask yourself “Am I really in danger? What’s happening?” I have a lot of clients who feel like this when they’re sitting at home. there’s nothing happening, 

Question the thoughts that are coming up in your mind and when you’re noticing these emotions, you can trace them back usually to a thought that is a worried thought or a catastrophic thought. 

So just notice what’s happening, why it’s happening, and do something different to change it, to get yourself out of that pattern. 

The third kind of way in which we get stuck in negative emotions is when we feel a sense of inadequacy. Now I use this as a feeling because people often feel inferior, they feel inadequate, they feel unworthy in comparison to other people. And surely this comes from a belief that you’re not enough or you’re not deserving. So it is a thought, it is a belief but it’s also a feeling that we have like “I feel different, I feel like I don’t belong, I feel like I don’t deserve to have happiness” and as a result of that I sabotage, right, which we’ll talk about sabotage in a minute. So this is really something where when you are aware of it, this is where you can start to practice perhaps a mantra where you tell yourself over and over again “I am enough” or “I am safe” or “I am deserving.” You know, practicing these little matnras can sometimes help. Now, it doesn’t help for all the people all the time but there have been countless individuals who I’ve found this really makes a difference for. 

One of the things that I like to do with my clients is ask them, “When you tell yourself that you are enough, how strongly do you believe that on a scale of zero to a hundred?” Usually they say about 25-30%, so it’s pretty low. And I say, “ Okay. Well, just go ahead and practice saying that to yourself every day” and I’ll check in with them once a week and say, “How much do you believe that now?” And what’s so interesting is that for a lot of my clients, they’ll actually go from about 25 or 30% on week zero to sometimes 50 or 70% by week two. So usually this works pretty quickly. It’s just that your brain needs that repetition, so that is something that can help you get out of that stuck place of negativity. 

And lastly, let’s talk about self-sabotaging behaviors and there are three that I want to mention here as well. The first is procrastination. Now, if you are somebody that procrastinates, it’s usually because there is an underlying fear of failure. So when you think that what you’re going to do might lead to failure, then you’re going to put it off. Or if it’s too hard for you or it doesn’t feel pleasant, then you’re going to want to prioritize some sort of activity that leads you to feel like good, right? 

So it’s like if I have to say to myself — do I want to write that report or watch that Netflix movie then I’m always going to want to watch the Netflix movie, so it’s not really a fair question and that’s always going to lead to procrastination, which is a problem because then I’m still going to need to write that report but now I don’t have as much time. And then what do we do? We then lie to ourselves and we tell ourselves, “Well, I work best under pressure.” And I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this from my clients and it’s always a lie. They always tell this to themselves because they’re perfectionists and they don’t want to do things that are uncomfortable or they fear that whatever they’re going to do isn’t going to turn out because it’s hard, because it’s uncomfortable and so they put it off and then they say, “Oh well, I work best under pressure.” 

I just had a client do this. She wanted to look for another job but she didn’t have any job that was that she was applying to immediately so she just kept putting off getting her resume ready. Well what do you know? One day she find the perfect job for her, as she put it, and she didn’t know when they were going to close the window for application. So she was working so hard on getting her resume ready for them very last minute, she would stay up till 3 in the morning for 4 nights in a row getting a resume done. And then, not only that, she was beating herself up for any mistakes she may have made because she was worried that it still wasn’t going to be good enough and that she should have done it a year ago and hadn’t…so notice again: we’ve got the should statements, we’ve got the “it’s not good enough” which usually is a reflection of how you think about yourself, and we have this whole procrastination, self-sabotaging kind of behavior. So they all really come together in a neat fashion. And I say this so that you can start to see how this comes together for you as well. When you recognize that this is the case, it can really help you get out of this loop. 

So that’s procrastination. I was telling her that, “Even though you’re telling yourself that you work best under pressure, that is a lie” and when she was able to see, and it is really fascinating, she was able to tell herself that “I only do things that I’m good at” but she couldn’t actually able to say to herself that she doesn’t do things that she’s not good at, but she then realized that that’s what it actually meant — that she was avoiding anything that she felt she might fail at because of that fear of failure and that’s where the procrastination really comes in. 

The second way in which people sabotage is they play small because they have a fear of success. So I had a client that I was working with and I gave him an exercise that was really going to help him overcome his stuck points. He wanted to become more responsible for himself, really meet his goals, be great at problem solving so that he doesn’t get stuck. And so I created a recording for him that had all these statements of a really going to condition his subconscious mind to get on board with this new plan, this new idea of how he was going to be in the world. And a first he started listening to it and it really started to take effect. But then he stopped listening to it. When I asked him what happened, what was getting in the way, he said he started to really worry about “what if this works?” So this is that fear of success where you worry about, “Well, success means that I might have to change.” It is something that is unknown and that brings up a lot of anxiety for people. So just notice if that’s something that you’re doing and then that means that you need to work on that fear, okay? And you need to think about what will it look like on the other side” “If I have that fear but overcome it, what will that look like in my life? What is so scary about change if I’m unhappy with what I have right now?” So a lot of this is a lot of deep mind work but also a lot of limiting belief work. That’s some of the things that I’ve been working with my clients on which I’ll tell you about at the end. 

And then the third example of self-sabotage is people-pleasing. And this is why we fall into this trap… we want people to like us and we believe that we have to sacrifice our needs and say yes to them while saying no to ourselves in order to be likable. And if you really think about why we do this behavior, it’s because we have a underlying belief that we are not lovable or we’re not enough the way that we are, so we have to overcompensate

And what happens with people-pleasers over and over again which is what I’m saying all day long with my clients is that they build up resentment. They are really resentful about the fact that: a) they’re not getting their needs met, b) they’re waiting for reciprocation which often doesn’t come. They feel like they’re constantly giving, giving, giving and not getting anything sufficient in return. And what I would tell you if this is you is that people-pleasing is not the answer. If you want to be liked for who you are, you have to show up authentically. You cannot pretend to be somebody you’re not. You cannot pretend to enjoy doing something for someone else that you don’t enjoy doing and it’s not fair to the other person. You’re not showing up authentically and then they think they know you when they really only know this facade. So how can you expect to get close to people, how can you expect to have that intimacy when you’re not being yourself? 

So stop telling yourself that you’re not enough, that you are not likeable or lovable the way that you are, and that you need to change to be what somebody else is looking for in order for them to like you. What I tell my clients all the time is that “If they don’t like you for who you are when you do show up authentically then it’s not a match.” The answer isn’t for everybody to like you. It’s okay for some people not to like you in the same way that you’re not going to like everybody out there, alright? 

So I hope this helps you bring some perspective to why you might be stuck in a thinking pattern, in negative emotions, or in some self-sabotaging behaviors right? It always comes back down to the way in which we engage with our mind and how we process our emotions and whether we’re able to see the connections amongst all these three aspects. And when you notice these things you can slow down the process. You can be more mindful. You can start the challenge your mind. All of these are really going to be helpful. 

And ultimately what I think is the key is working on your beliefs because that is the beginning of this cascade, as you’ve seen. The way in which we interpret events comes from our beliefs and those interpretations are what lead to the feelings and the behaviors.

So with that, I want to share with you what I’m currently working on which is my new project, and that is a new membership site. It’s called The Priming Lab. Basically what we’re going to be doing in this membership site is we’re going to be working on priming your brain to really change your subconscious. 

So your programming is basically the beliefs that you currently hold and those are the things that start this whole cascade that we just talked about. If we can work on a deep level and get you started to change on that deep level, everything becomes easier afterwards. So then you don’t have to struggle with your thinking patterns, and then you don’t have to stay stuck in negative emotions, and you don’t have to feel frustrated about staying in these self-sabotaging behaviors and seeing what you’re doing and not knowing how to get out of it, right? We start from the top. So this is really exciting work and I encourage you to check out what we’re doing. 

Go to and join the waiting list. We’ll let you know as soon as there’s an opportunity for you to join the rest of the tribe. And I really look forward to working with a lot of you. I know you’ve been listening to the podcast. You’re enjoying learning all of these things. And if you are ready to really work on a deep level, this is your opportunity to do this because you really don’t have to do it alone.

Meanwhile join me next week as I share what you can do to manage information overload. So if you’re feeling overwhelmed, keep it together for 1 more week, will you? Stay tuned. Have a wonderful week meanwhile. Take care.

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