Jan 23, 2024 | Podcast

Caretaking, Codependency and Boundaries with Liz Rohr

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About the episode:

I’m excited to have Liz Rohr back on the Prosperous Empath® today, where I’ll be sharing an episode that we originally recorded for their show, the Real World NP Podcast. If you listened to their past episode, you know that Liz is committed to embracing their zone of genius as an empath and avoiding burnout while staying committed to their values. Our past conversation was chock full of insights, and I am excited to expand on them and more today. We’re unpacking caretaking, boundaries, codependency and how to stop neglecting your own needs – something that is all too common for empaths. We get vulnerable as we both talk about recognizing how sometimes we take care of other people to feel good about ourselves and ways to shift this behavior pattern. You may take care of other people because you feel capable and ambitious, just because you can do something, doesn’t mean that you should do it. This is especially true as a coach, where you can only take care of others to the degree that you take care of yourself. If you’re practiced in stepping over your needs, it’s normal to feel like you don’t know what your needs and desires are, but we give you a practical framework to start developing your authentic voice and boundaries with yourself and others. I hope you enjoy this conversation as much as we did!


Topics discussed:

  • What caretaking is, how it manifests itself in relationships, and why you can’t fill someone else’s cup before you fill your own
  • Learning how to protect and hold sacred your gifts as an empath so you don’t end up using them against yourself
  • Why you should recognize your caretaking and codependency traits and stop always jumping in to be a hero
  • Normalizing that you may not know what your needs and desires are (yet!) after neglecting them for a long time
  • How to start enforcing your needs and boundaries in your relationships with yourself and others and start feeling well-resourced and cherished


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Click here for a raw, unedited transcript of this episode


Liz Rohr  00:02

Oh, I’m so excited for this conversation. I’m always excited for podcast episodes. I feel like I say that all the time. But I just, this is so fun. This is so fun. Thank you so much, Zach. Same way


Catherine A. Wood  00:13

I say like, every time like, I’m so excited for today’s guest. Like, I need to stop saying that.


Liz Rohr  00:21

It’s so good. Okay, so I guess this at some, some context. So this episode, at least for so I’m just gonna, we’re gonna be sharing this to both of our podcasts. But just what’s kind of framing it from the perspective of the real world NP community. For nurse practitioners, it’s a little bit of a different conversation than I’ve brought to the podcast so far. And I think that one thing that’s really occurred to me this year, especially 2023, is when we’re recording it, I think it’ll be published later. But one thing that’s really come to me is that with rural identity, the mission is not just about all of the nuts and bolts of what it takes to become a nurse practitioner in the real world of like, going from graduation to the real world. And like navigating, you know, diagnosing new conditions and how to do billing and coding like it is about that. But I think a such a larger part about it that I think we need to talk more about, especially after the pandemic peak, right, because we’re still in the middle of stuff. But like, I think that’s one of the pieces that I’m really feeling called towards is like, what is that? What does that healing actually look like? For caregivers, because I think it’s part of that larger conversation of burnout prevention, because at least for my community, what I see is that people go in with like, so much ambition. And, you know, such lofty ideals and goals and the spirit of it is so strong and and heartbreakingly what I see for people is that they go from this like bright eyed, bushy tailed perspective, into burnout before they get to that three year mark of competence. But I think like so I think that this, this is a different type of conversation, because it’s really touching on that deeper part. That deeper work that goes into the burnout prevention. It’s really not just about eating enough, you know, eating square meals, healthy meals, drinking enough water, getting enough sleep. There’s like actually a lot of inner work that happens. And I just It occurred to me that like you and I have done so much work together over the last couple of years. And I really wanted to talk about this concept of caretaking caretaking codependence boundaries. And like what does that even mean? What does that look like? And how do I guess like the the thing that it’s it’s coming to me is like, how do we healthfully be a caregiver? How do we be a caregiver in a healthy way? That’s like supporting our well being? And what didn’t? What is it? We just said before we started recording, losing ourselves without losing ourselves? Is that what we said? That’s what we said? Yeah. And it just I feel like so and just again, before we jump into the conversation, so for some more context, like, there’s this book that I recommend all the time, and nurse practitioners come to me about burnout and compassion, fatigue, and it’s called to wait for a stranger. And it talks about I again, I think it addresses that piece of like, what is it that adds to this experience of, of burnout, and people think that it’s this one thing on the top, but really underneath it, it kind of gets to that piece of why are you doing this in the first place? What does this mean to you? And like, Where Where are you coming from it? Like, are you coming from it in a place of like solidity and yourself? Or are you losing yourself in the caregiving, which is what is contributing? So that’s all the backstory. But I think that I think that this is relevant, whether you’re a nurse practitioner, you’re some sort of service provider or caregiver. But I would just love to talk with you just like a very informal way talking about like, I don’t know, where do you where do you want to jump in with that? What do you I mean, maybe like maybe what you would? What would you what, where do you want to jump in? Do you want to talk about like, what caretaking is, like the context of how this came up? Like I feel I guess one last piece of context is that when I was in the middle of this, and you introduced this concept to me, I was like, no idea that this was a thing. Like the way I was behaving in this in this way is just the way that I feel like I was socially conditioned, socially female, raised and then also being in a caretaking profession caregiving profession. It was like, Oh, this is just what we do. And this is what all society tells us to do. And then you were like, oh, no, this is a thing. This is this specific way that you’re acting is a is a phenomenon, and it can’t be this way or could not be this way. So yeah, would you jump in? What do you what are your thoughts? Okay.


Catherine A. Wood  04:37

So I guess I want to just provide a little more like context of why this conversation is so important. Because, you know, as a coach, I work with a lot of caregivers in health care and also in the service providing industries. And I think one of the most important reasons that we all need to Get a grip, like to get a grip on our tendencies is for longevity. Because I see so many caregivers lead leaving their service providing industries because they haven’t found a way to be of service without losing yourself in the process. And so I think if you have a commitment to maintain your profession in the long term, without the burnout, without the compassion, fatigue, and without, like leaving the industry altogether, then present this conversation is absolutely essential. Yeah.


Liz Rohr  05:36

Really, really, really, really. And it’s wild, because I think the thing that strikes me about it is like, yeah, it’s just so it’s so prevalent, and it’s so hidden at the same time. So yeah, what were what how, I, for me, at least, the context of that, that arose was that I was I think it was like in relationship with somebody or like, and we were talking about like, oh, that’s caretaking? Do you want to start there and give like an example of what this looks like what exactly we’re talking about? Absolutely.


Catherine A. Wood  06:09

So caretaking is a tendency in relationships, where we are take care of taking care of someone else, in order to feel good about ourselves, in order to feel a sense of value, a sense of worthiness, really like to boost up our own self identity. Right? So it’s like I am doing something to you, or for you, in order to feel good about me. So whether it’s problem solving, fixing, helping, providing solutions, like I’m sure your community knows how badass of a business owner you are. So you have a killer, y’all. This is an amazing master business mind, like she is a visionary. And one of the gifts of being a visionary is you’re filled with ideas. And so you just want to, you just want to share like you want to share your gifts. And when you’re sharing your gifts and giving to others and filling up someone else’s cup, while emptying your own. That’s caretaking. Yeah, it’s an energy imbalance. It is a recipe for burnout or exhaustion or fatigue, or bitterness or resentment in relationships. And we so often think that when we care for other people, like we do this a lot I think in in romantic partnerships, I know I used to for sure. We think that our partners are going to show their love in the same way, like oh, I just need to give, I just need to help. I just need to, you know, clean up by them gifts like whatever depending on whatever your love languages or how you express your love like that your partner will reciprocate when in reality, like caretaking is often a function of our egoic minds of our fear based selves that haven’t fully developed the capacity to ask for what we need directly. Or to know what are enough, like what are enough. Maximum is like, like, I always say that we can we can give to someone else to the to the cap, where we don’t feel resentment, or a transactional like expectancy from our partner. Right. So when I so I imagine many of your, your listeners identify as empathic or are very heart centered, caring natured. So I’m very much an empath and I know you are too. And so we have a natural predisposition to give, to want to help to want to be of service to want to care for other people, which is a beautiful gift. And our gifts can also be our kryptonite, right? It’s like we have to learn how to protect and hold sacred or gifts, so that we don’t weaponize them against ourselves. And, and so the way I always say it is like I can give to my husband, to my clients, to my friends, to my family, and until that limit, where I expect something in return. Because when I pass that limit, then I’m not giving from a from myself like I’m not giving from my own inherent desire or urge to care or help or love. I’m giving because I expect something in return. And that is crucial.


Liz Rohr  09:59

You Hmm. So actually, I don’t know if I shared this with you. But I’m having another episode coming up about covert contracts and Drama Triangle, which is also part of this dynamic. So we can totally touch on covert contracts, because I feel like I could talk about that for ages. But But yeah, I think I think what I really love is especially so what I’m thinking about is for nurse practitioners, this may be a really novel conversation for people and, and I think it can be hard sometimes to parse out, it’s like, oh, well, I, that’s part of my job, like, I am a caregiver, like I’m here to help people and support them and guide them and all this stuff. And I think that’s why it also gets super messy, because it’s like, it is inherently part of the job that you are giving, and being of service. But like, so I’d love to break it down. Even more with like some examples, like, I don’t know, do you are there? Are there any examples you can specifically speak to whether like, I guess, if you’re speaking with the care, like the clients that you work with, who are in caregiving professions, like can you think of any examples of like, I learned really well from examples? And also like, what’s the positive and negative? Or what’s the opposite of each other? So like, what does a caretaking exchange look like? So maybe, for example, like if you had an example or thinking about a nurse practitioner, like working in the clinic setting could be an example of like, you know, caretaking in a colleague relationship caretaking and a boss relationship caretaking and a patient relationship. Like, there’s so many ways that this can show up, like what is what is the example of the quote unquote, healthier way versus the caretaking way.


Catherine A. Wood  11:34

So a quote, and I love that I will totally provide some examples. But by way of context, a quote that comes to mind for me, as I think about this concept, is something my mentor once said to me, and he said, if you’re doing something for if you’re doing something for me, without including me, you’re doing it to me. And I feel like that is that sums up caretaker. Right? It’s like so, so in a in a collegial fashion, right? Like, if you have a colleague who is under resourced, maybe they don’t manage their time, well, or maybe they don’t get their paperwork done. And you jump in to over function for them, whether it’s to like, help them manage their time on their behalf to let them know that they have like an a client coming up or right, you’re like you’re doing it for them, right. So you’re kind of you’re you’re making


Liz Rohr  12:34

an assumption about what their need is, yeah, you’re making an assumption about what their need is, and you’re like taking care of them as if they don’t have the ability to take care of themselves. Throughout it through through a positive spirit. But like, yeah, go ahead. Yeah,


Catherine A. Wood  12:47

absolutely. So you’re like literally jumping in to be the hero or the heroine, and like, do something for them, which is actually their job description, like their responsibility, their obligation to clean up after themselves, or get all of their paperwork in or, you know, manage their their client appointments. Right. So like, that is caretaking. So you’re essentially, you’re not relating to someone as your equal, you’re relating to them inside of a power dynamic, where you assume that you know better, or you could do it better. Or you can do it with less efforting. Or it will be easy for you to just jump in and help. Yeah, no, I think that’s how it shows up in the professional. But in the I think in the personal, it can be so much more. I don’t know like, just very, very like transparent because if you see a home dynamic, where one of the partners is a caretaker, it’s typically the female identifying partner. Like there’s there is a sense of over functioning in the relationship where there is imbalance between household responsibilities and duties. The caretaker typically does more in the house, maybe she she or they multitask better, or can handle more things or just just take on more burden in the household because they’re capable of it, where they can do it or like that’s caretaking.


Liz Rohr  14:35

Especially if you’re jumping, if you haven’t had an explicit conversation about, hey, here’s my responsibility. Here’s your responsibility. It’s like, Oh, I’m just gonna take a guess. I’m going to assume that you need this or you want this and I’m going to do it for you either because I feel like I’m more capable. I’m trying to show you my love or I have a hidden agenda expectation of like, if I do this thing, it will mean that you see that I care for you. Whether that means X, Y or Z like that, that I feel like it’s like an undercurrent of this dynamic is like, there’s so much more involved than just like, trying. And it is like, I feel like I feel like so many people I’m so I so appreciate those examples. I feel it’s so resonant for people, especially what you said about doing something because they can, because so many people, especially in the real world, MP audience, I think identify with that place of being so capable, being so ambitious, that it’s like, oh, yeah, no, I can do that. I can do anything. I can do whatever. But it’s like, okay, well, why are you doing it? Sorry, go ahead.


Catherine A. Wood  15:34

I just want to give an example of that, because I experienced like a very small example of this just before we hit record on this podcast. So my in laws are visiting right now. And they it’s so we recorded this episode right after the Thanksgiving holiday, right? So they’re going back to Michigan. And their flight is this afternoon. And my husband wanted me to drive with him and then to the airport. And I was like, and I could write because I am an entrepreneur, I have so much flexibility in my schedule. And just because I can doesn’t mean I should. And I think that caretaking persona, we often forget that just because we can doesn’t mean we should and so I was like, and my husband knows that I had the time and my calendar so I could go with him to the airport. It’s an hour drive. And I didn’t want to like it wasn’t actually in service of me to take two and a half hours out of my afternoon that I had carved out to, to like, have some quiet time after hosting my in laws for an extended weekend. Like I’m an introvert, I need that time. So I lovingly told him that I wasn’t gonna go with them. And it’s hard for him to year right. We’ve been together a decade and it’s still hard for him to hear sometimes me assert that boundary when I’m so often a yes. And I I also just want to acknowledge that even after a decade plus of practicing breaking up with my caretaking habits, like I still felt that pang of guilt. I’m not gonna lie, like I still felt guilty, like I Oh, I should go. But then I like checked in like, what is actually in service of me in this moment. And it’s to stay home and to take care of myself. And, you know, he’s learning and he agreed, so we sent them an Uber and we’re both home. Yeah, I think that’s what it looks like.


Liz Rohr  17:37

Totally. Yeah. Cuz I’d love to, I’d love to tie in like, so we have this, like, I’m just trying to put myself in that place of nurses like because I just feel like I’ve done so much work in this area for so many years, that I’m just like trying to put myself back into my former, my former self of like, just being totally unaware of this. Like, I think that I think I love that you I love that you touch on. Because like there’s the phenomenon itself. There’s like this step of like, what is a different option? I guess I want to pause there real quick and say that like, none of this is in judgment. Like, I think for me, the purpose of me sharing this is that I’ve seen it so contribute to my own and other people’s burnout and lack of sustainability and care caregiving fields that I think it’s really important to talk about, and there are some people who will choose to operate in this way and not want to change and that’s totally fine. Right? Like, these are all different choices that we can make. And so if this is a dynamic that works for you, you’re happy or fulfilled, your relationships are all in agreement. Like that’s cool, right? But, um, but yeah, I mean, I think it’s like I think like That’s step one is kind of just like the awareness of what the what caretaking is, which is kind of a larger picture of codependence. And like, what are what does it look like to not do that? And then what is that journey in between? And I think that we’ve talked a little bit on on my podcast, and on my YouTube channel about when it comes to burnout and talking about boundaries. I think it can feel so murky for so many people. But yeah, like maybe let’s talk about so that’s a, that’s a great example of like, okay, here’s the thing that I could do, I’m going to check in with me, myself my needs, right? So if we kind of just even like break down that situation of what you just shared, it’s like, okay, don’t really want to do this. So I’ll just desire, right? Don’t want to. I also have some needs here. I have some physical needs. I’m exhausted, I need to recharge. You know, there’s underlying beliefs in there. And again, I’m putting this on I’m painting this as an example. Okay, so feel free to jump in like not to paint your own thoughts about it, but it’s like, it sounds like you have a belief about you know, I’m worthy of being well rested with my cup full. And that is a standard. That’s not like, Oh, that would be nice, you know, and then there’s another layer in there that’s like, you don’t you are comfortable enough in yourself. So that like, the guilt in there is proud. Like, if you want to talk more about this and say more about this, but I’m just tying it. I hear it so often in our audience of like, I feel like I feel the guilt of what I should do because somebody else’s expectations, which also like ties into like that kind of like agenda covert contract on explicit communication like, does that make sense? Like, yeah, we


Catherine A. Wood  20:23

can maybe we could like segue to talk about needs, because I feel like yes, they are so directly and secretly connected. Yeah. Because if I like if I think back to my own initial days of really coming to terms with my own caretaking and codependent traits, like, I wasn’t getting my own needs met for myself, on my own terms, and by my own volition, I was getting my needs met, indirectly, through caring for other people through helping through over functioning through being like the heroine who came in with the cape on her back, right, like, helping everyone like having time for everyone like being being really just like that. I mean, she was so obnoxious. Oh my god. And no judgement, like, I have so much compassion for her, because that’s exactly what I saw growing up, you know, like, I grew up in a bed and breakfast, like, we cared for people. 24/7, right. Like, we were always helping other people having a smile on our face. How can I help you? What do you need? Like, where do you want to go today? Like, where can I make a reservation for you tonight? Right? Like, it’s we always had this mask on. But so I I very much like, can identify with that part of me, that got so much validation, and affirmation, and approval through caring for other people. The reality was that, like, I didn’t really know who I was, like, I didn’t have a grasp on what my own needs or preferences or desires or boundaries were. Yeah. And I mean, it’s kind of brutally honest to say it this way. But I was using other people to get my needs met. And then I was blaming them for it, or getting resentful at them for it or bitter towards them because they weren’t reciprocating, or they were meeting me. When in reality, like, I didn’t have a voice, like, I didn’t have a voice to say like, I, you know, I want to, I want you to plan a date night, next week, and I don’t want to have to have anything to do with it. Or, like, I’m gonna clean the house this weekend and fold your laundry. But I really want you to go get the car fixed, and not even have to ask about it. Oh,


Liz Rohr  23:09

my God, this makes me so happy Pat. Because I just love how you can talk about it in such a light way. And I’m laughing because I so like, I see myself in that for sure. And I know that so many people will see themselves in it. And I think that like that bringing that levity to it is like it can be it feel so heavy, and it can feel kind of gross, like I think you’re talking about was like, Oh, I feel so yucky, like being actually kind of manipulative. And I was thinking that I was hopeful. Right? And it’s like, oh, no, like it gets to be light. It’s okay. Yeah.


Catherine A. Wood  23:37

And you weren’t manipulative and you weren’t helpful. Right, like, it’s just, it’s just, it is what it is. And it’s what we learned. And it’s that’s completely okay. And I think having not only a healthy sense of humor and levity around it, but also just a willingness to be transparent and say that say it like it is actually helps in overcoming that that really like unsustainable for many of us way of being in relationships, totally.


Liz Rohr  24:15

What do you what do you feel like is an inroad? Right? So if if we’ve kind of like started with like, what is caretaking look like? Like the foundational aspects that are embedded in it has to do with what our needs are. We’re not people, where do we take it from there? Like what is what is that next kind of concrete place that people can go in terms of like, oh, wow, I see myself in this conversation. Yeah, I’m neglecting my needs. Or like I’m curious to shift this pattern because I do feel really burnt out. What do you feel like would be next for for that part of the conversation,


Catherine A. Wood  24:45

so baseline to normalize that it is highly likely that you have no frickin clue what you need? And that is absolutely normal. You’re probably terrified about this. conversation and you’re like, gosh, I don’t even know where to start. I don’t know what my needs are. And I That’s exactly how I felt Liz. And I imagine that’s exactly Oh, yeah.


Liz Rohr  25:11

Well, you gave me I mean, spoiler alert. You gave me an assignment. When we first talked about this a couple years ago, and you’re like, I need you to start putting post it notes around the house that says, What do I need? Well, I need chapstick, right? I think you did a podcast with this couple years ago to where it’s like, do I need chapstick? Or like in the moment you just named what you needed. You’re like, I need chapstick. I need a drink of water. I have to go the bathroom. We actually talked about. I have another podcast episode that talks about burnout with his burnout coach. And that’s one of her mottos is like pee when you have to pee. Like it’s just talking about what your needs are like, what do you what do you need right now and not delaying that you have to pee not delaying taking a drink? Right? I’ve been muting myself and coughing and taking drinks and like, I’m just taking care of myself. But yeah, continue to


Catherine A. Wood  25:53

slowly. So baseline, it’s so likely you have no clue how to answer that question. And that is completely normal. And okay. And where both of us were when we started on this journey. And one of my very first practices was the exact same practice that I offered, you like to literally put a post it note up, what do I need in this moment? Like everywhere in my house? And then so that’s the first step, just normalizing. And then the second step is acknowledging that you have probably been stepping over your needs for yours. Right? Like, like not peeing when you have to pee, right? Like I for so many years. Like, literally wouldn’t let myself pee until I finished a call or I finished a task at hand or I wrote a blog or I wrote a newsletter. Like how ridiculous is?


Liz Rohr  26:52

Totally, I mean, it’s, it’s also like, it’s just, it’s also so normal. Like that is like the life of a clinician is, especially when you have a busy clinic. So many patients so much work to do. It typically takes 30 seconds. I mean, maybe takes longer, but yeah, I mean, it’s not Yeah, it is absurd. I think being outside of it. And in the moment, it’s like, well, I don’t have a choice. I have patients who see this as busy their stuff to do. And it’s like, actually, you get to choose yourself, because this job is gonna exist, when if you leave it or if you stay, those patients are gonna be okay. Right. Like, it’s so hard not to get really wrapped up into the super significance of our work. But it but and also like, it’s not sustainable, like, and I talked about this in a couple of episodes. But it’s like, at least part of the thing for me too, was like, stepping into this choosing myself was like, I can’t do this, I can’t do the thing for the people that I want to do unless I take care of myself. And so to build that muscle of caring for myself, genuinely. It was like, yeah, like, I’m not gonna be able to sustain in this career and help all these people. If I don’t, if I don’t do this, I have to do this for them. Right. And that was like a proxy, I’m not there anymore. But yeah.


Catherine A. Wood  27:59

Yeah, totally. I mean, I completely concur. So I mean, a couple of thoughts that came up, as you were speaking is, like, when we start to reckon with our needs, I think it starts, we start to really come to terms with the fact that we’re humans, like we’re humans, and that we get to treat ourself with that same compassion, and generosity, and care that we extend to others. And most of us don’t, most of us are, are practiced are really like habituated and caring for other people at the expense of ourselves. And I think as caretakers and as service providers. So often, one of the greatest ways that we can contribute to other people is actually modeling the very habits and practices that that we’re teaching about, you know, like, even like last month was I had a doctor’s appointment in Cambridge, and I showed up 18 minutes late, and they had a 15 minute grace window for the appointment. I had scheduled this appointment six weeks ahead of time, after having rescheduled it two months ahead of time that like this was like a highly emotional appointment for me and I was laying and took me an hour and 45 minutes to get to the appointment, which is why I was late. And then I had to turn around and come back two months later. And when the doctors nurse told me that she wouldn’t see me that I had to come back. Right like I was initially like, so pissed, right? But then I had to like swallow my own medicine and realize like, oh, no, this is actually a doctor’s office where I want to go because they honor their boundaries. And I can really appreciate that right like she He didn’t care for me at the expense of herself or her schedule for the rest of the day. Like she honored her appointments and her boundaries around her business policies and her practice. And I really appreciated that after swallowing my own medicine.


Liz Rohr  30:20

I guess I guess what I’m wondering is, because I just Oh my gosh, there’s just so many places we could go in terms of the conversation. I wonder, do you feel like I guess I’m debating whether or not like, I’m trying to put myself in the in the people’s perspective of like, I wonder if, I guess if we can put ourselves back in that place of the novelty of it? Do you feel like it’d be helpful to kind of connect with other examples of how this shows up? Versus talking about the steps? I mean, we’ve given people a concrete step to think about right, what are my needs? Like, what do I actually need in this moment? And then like making the choice to honor that without thing, like, I mean, we can still be in relationship with people, right? It doesn’t mean that we have to just like be this total, like, I only do what’s great for me all the time, right? It’s like, we still get to be in relationship and choose to make compromises and stuff like that. But I guess I guess I’m trying to figure out what are your thoughts, especially with your audience to go for it late?


Catherine A. Wood  31:18

So okay, so, so, so far, we’ve talked about this idea that, it’s likely you don’t know what your needs are. And you’ve likely been, you know, getting your needs met through helping other people for a very long time, right. So these are, we’re just kind of like laying some planks here. Yep. So the next plank is to start to get into relationship with what your needs are. And also starting to build that self trust around the idea that you actually know what you need, you’re just wildly disconnected from your needs. Gosh, I was wildly disconnected from my own needs for so long. And knowing what you need in any moment is just like working out a muscle group at the gym that you haven’t worked out in a couple years, you start small, you do some reps, and then you gain strength and resiliency with time. So as you lean into the practice of getting into relationship with your own needs, you will gain more access to more and more of what you need. Right. And so like, even wait for it to just do that example. And this is like very moment, right? If I were to sit it, tune in in this moment and see what I need, like, I need to uncross my legs,


Liz Rohr  32:38

like, I’d have my


Catherine A. Wood  32:41

desire for both feet on the ground. I’ve kind of want to sip a water was having a SIP to Gosh, after we get off this call, I want to go cuddle with my puppies who’ve been so patiently sitting behind me. And I want to close my laptop for the rest of the day. Because this is the only other thing I have to do today. And let’s see what else. And tonight, like I actually want amazing quality time with my husband, because I feel like I’ve been sharing him all weekend. Now, I will say that, like, that probably took a couple of years. For me to be able to list out all those things. And those are pretty simple. But when we become so predispositioned in our relationships to, to defer our own needs to the needs and preferences of other people, we actually have to like, take the reins back. Right, like and I think such an easy example is like, think about when you go out to a restaurant. Oh, this used to be such a contentious topic. I was just gonna say that. Yeah, go ahead. Like, because my husband is a huge foodie and, and he would always want to go out to dinner when we first started dating. And and he would be like, What do you want? And I was like, no, like, what do you want? Now? What do you want? And it was like such a hot button. And it was so hard for me to actually pause, tune in and come up with two or three restaurants where I would be delighted to go out like, for so many years, all we had was pizza or calzones because that’s where we finally ended because I wouldn’t just pause. I want to sell it tonight. It’s so tragic, right? Yeah.


Liz Rohr  34:49

I just really love that you’re giving these examples though because I feel like I’ve done a lot of work on this too. And I feel like I’m at that point to have like I can name those things. But then like I just love that. That was so those things are so simple. And it’s so hard. Like, I just really love that you’re normalizing that, because I think there’s just like also a lot of shame around it of like, oh, yeah, like, and also this deservingness piece, I think that that’s like a real sneaky thing. And they’re like, I don’t deserve those pieces. So it’s, it’s, I love that I love.


Catherine A. Wood  35:22

Okay, so let’s take it to the next level, because I feel like in the, in the journey of kind of coming to terms with your own caretaking tendencies. It really requires you to get into relationship with yourself. Yeah, I think one of the consequences of being a bad caretaker and sometimes being codependent is that we don’t really know who we are. And it can be really hard to enjoy. Yeah. Resting, enjoy spending quality time with ourselves, taking ourselves out on a date, and not being helpful, or, like productive, right, like breaking up with your productive, your productive tendencies, and learning how to enjoy rest, or doing what you love, or pursuing a pastime or a hobby is, is a real journey. And it’s also incredibly liberating. And I think it can be the path for many of us who identify as givers, too, to, to really find that balance by getting back into relationship with ourselves.


Liz Rohr  36:56

Yeah. And that’s really novel, I think, in our culture, like, at least and I just don’t feel like that’s something that’s talked about in the US. Yeah, it’s, it’s, yeah, people’s own individual humanity is is really glazed over.


Catherine A. Wood  37:13

I don’t I don’t even know if I ever told you about, like, my own journey with like, discovering my codependency, because it really it was like, it started in the area of romance. Like I lost myself in, in all my romantic relationships prior to meeting my husband, every single one of them, like I didn’t like because guess who I was. And it started in it started working with my own therapist to like, come to terms with my own bitterness and resentment about how I was royally not getting my needs met and my relationship to ending to ending that unhealthy relationship, and then kind of that’s kind of where coaching started. And I was like, Okay, now what do I want? Like, I’ve let this go now what do I want? And and I was so grateful for it, because really healing, because because I don’t actually know if we labeled this, but the caregiving trait for when it is unhealed is it’s a it’s a self abandonment wound. Right? It’s like we abandon ourselves, when we are routinely giving and taking care of other people. Yeah,


Liz Rohr  38:39

like the over involvement in terms of assuming what people need, what we think that they need, or what would be best for them jumping in and doing that without having a conversation about it and doing it to them. And then I think the other piece like just to tie those kinds of ideas together because people I think a lot of people are familiar with the concept of people pleasing, where it’s like someone asked or something and you’re just like, Yeah, okay, because I’m just like trying to make you happy kind of thing. But yeah, all of these pieces like people pleasing is self abandonment. You’re just you’re you’re totally abandoning yourself and your own needs and your own wants in favor of somebody else. And then I feel like the caretaking adds that other layer of like, not only are you abandoning yourself yourself, but you’re also like making all of those assumptions and managing little hands as well.


Catherine A. Wood  39:28

Which I feel like ties in this third part of the journey which is voice Yeah. And boundaries. Because when you when you start to get into relationship with yourself and like for me, when I started healing, that unhealed part of myself and my own kind of self abandoning in relationship and romantic relationship, and when I got out of it, I started taking myself out on weekly dates to figure out like, who am I what am I like, am I Like,


Liz Rohr  40:00

what do you want to do? And what do you like doing? Yeah, totally.


Catherine A. Wood  40:03

And then, and then the voice part came in, like, how do I start including other people in what I want to do in what I want to eat and how I want to spend my time and how I want to be loved, be cared for, like, even be respected in, in business. Right. And I think that the voice part is often kind of like, the third chapter of this journey.


Liz Rohr  40:35

Absolutely. And,


Catherine A. Wood  40:37

and I think boundaries is a way to start, including people, including people and getting back into relationship with other people in in the professional as much as in the personal realm in a healthy, more sustainable way.


Liz Rohr  40:59

Mm hmm. I love that. You know, I love a framework. Step one, two and three, recap the steps again, what was the first step?


Catherine A. Wood  41:08

So the first step is normalizing that you likely don’t know what you need, and getting into relationship with your needs. The second step is learning how to enjoy spending time and being with yourself. And the third step is learning how to include other people. Yeah. It’s like communicate boundaries. And yeah, like, be authentic, be self expressed.


Liz Rohr  41:44

Yeah, totally. Oh, my gosh. So many things. I want to say, um, I guess I one thing that’s occurring to me, and maybe this is like a topic for another time, or too big of a thing, or maybe still in process. But I think you and I sort of touched on this recently of like, the experience of being a more boundaried person in relationship with people who are not on that same journey. Do you know what I’m referring to like? Like, I think one thing that’s been a little bit jarring for me, and I’m more comfortable with it now. But it’s like, I think it’s just a really interesting, dynamic, once I’ve made those shifts in terms of the boundaries and being self honoring with people who are not necessarily in that, in that place. Do you have any thoughts about that? Any, any? Or is that too big of a topic? Like? I don’t know.


Catherine A. Wood  42:30

I mean, I think like some high level thoughts are, if you are a giver, it is likely that you attract takers. pause on that one, okay. Right. Like, it makes a lot of sense because opposites attract. And we all need that polarity in our relationships, both personal and professional. So it is highly likely that you will attract takers, you will attract people who benefit from your generosity. So that’s like, that’s, I think starting there is really important. I also think that as you become more boundaries in a self honoring way, it’s also very predictable and normal, that you will outgrow some of your relationships, that you will let go move past grow beyond, right. Like, even if I think about myself as a coach, as I’ve been coaching the last decade, like I have evolved, the types of people that I attract into my practice, based on the work that I’ve been doing and the conversations that I’m in and the energy that I exude. So, I think that’s totally normal. And it’s also really heartbreaking. You know, like, I’ve lost some really dear people in my life because I showed up in an unhealthy way. And I just gave and gave and gave to no avail. And, and I also trained the other people I was in relationship with to expect that, that that’s the norm and I created that norm. So it’s on me. Yeah, and some people as we grow and as we elevate our own boundaries around what we are willing to give like where our line where our boundaries, where our capacity stops, some people will rise to the occasion and meet us and be willing to reinvent and and uplevel relationships and some will not. And we don’t get to control that either. Yeah,


Liz Rohr  44:56

yeah. Oh, Um, well, I want to I want to be mindful of time. I think like one thing well, couple you can you can share what you think I think one thing that I would really love. What I love to do is like have if people are interested in like learning more about this or exploring this more, are there any resources you can think of? That you would recommend? Or? I don’t know, I didn’t prepare and prepare you for that question. But just offhand.


Catherine A. Wood  45:25

I mean, you know, me like I’m such an avid reader. Yeah. I think a couple of, of books, I’d recommend totally, whether you’re a reader or you enjoy audiobook. So the first one that was like, a really earth shattering for me, was a book called codependent no more by Melody, Beatty. Melody comes from the recovery world. So she uses a lot of jargon, based on 12 Step programs. So it’s definitely a book where I would invite you to take up like to give yourself a healthy dose of permission to take what supports you and leave the rest. But her principles are like gold.


Liz Rohr  46:11

Really, I really didn’t read that, too. Yeah, it’s really, really eye opening.


Catherine A. Wood  46:15

And love that book. And then, more recently, in our mastermind, we read living nonviolent communication by Marshall. Rosenberg. Yep. Which I have you. You’ve read it, you’ve read


Liz Rohr  46:29

the book. So I’ve read I haven’t finished it actually. But nonviolent communication, it’s actually on my desk right now. Nonviolent Communication, I think is the first book and then living nonviolent communication is a second book by that person.


Catherine A. Wood  46:41

So I love the second book, because it’s, it’s more practical. And he literally he he workshops, it’s, I mean, it’s a very business savvy book, like he literally has many of his conferences and workshops and seminars transcribed. And he takes the work he does with attendees, and he inserts it into a book. So business model. Wow. Yeah, totally. But I also really love it, because he actually walks you through how these conversations go. And how this book specifically relates to our conversation, is that his framework, like the framework of nonviolent communication, is based on this very foundational concept that most of us are have tragically unmet needs. Yeah. Yeah. And because we have tragically unmet needs, we create harm in our relationships. We create resentments, and bitterness. And I mean, conflict, right. He’s done mediation in many war zones. But it’s based on this foundational concept that most of us are, have tragically unmet needs, we are tragically disconnected from our needs. And the whole model in his book is a framework around helping us to get reconnected with our needs, and learn how to connect our needs with our feelings. And then make requests. Yeah,


Liz Rohr  48:18

I was gonna say in terms of to sum it up. Well, this is the main piece that I’ve been using in my personal life, which is, it’s like, whenever you’re communicating with somebody about a need, it’s like, first step is I notice, I noticed that blah, blah, blah, I feel, here’s how you feel about it. Here’s what I need. And what’s I think, then interesting is to in these conversations I’ve been having with people is like, what does it need actually mean? And it has to do with like me myself. It’s not like, oh, I need from you to do blah, blah, blah, yeah, no, no, that’s a clue is not a need. That’s not a request. So I need to feel safe in this conversation. And I would request that you lower your voice. Right? We’re willing to would you be willing? Yes. Yeah. So yeah, we just we just use a straight up I request. And then, and then the other piece of it, and I and I’ve talked about this with wheeze I feel like you and I’ve talked about these, but we’ve talked about how the book doesn’t I don’t know if it necessarily addresses this. But like, just because someone makes a request does not mean we have to do it. Right. And that comes back to that self honoring piece of like, yeah, that would feel really great for me if you would do blah, blah, blah. But like, I don’t have capacity, I don’t have interest. I don’t have desire, I don’t have ability. And like that’s how we get to be separate people who come together and like respecting each other’s needs.


Catherine A. Wood  49:32

Yeah. And I think that comes back to your AV other topic that you love around covert contracts. Because when we make a request, but the other person hears it as a demand more that it will be a problem. If they don’t agree, well, then that’s not a request, like that is a demand and that’s on us. And I also think just to normalize that, because in our society so many of us have tragically unmet needs, there is a lot of built up resentment, and hurt in in many of our closest relationships. And I think now more than ever, with the pandemic and the imbalance of, of household responsibilities and caring in the home. So there’s a lot of built up anger and pain there. So it’s highly likely that as you start to practice asking for what you need, it’s likely not going to be met with an open heartedness or willingness or generosity at first, right, because there’s going to be this like, just very natural expectation that Oh, you don’t really mean that. Or you actually like this is not actually a request, like this is going to be a huge problem if I don’t align or given. So it’s, it’s a practice, and it takes time. And I think a really good gauge is a gauge to know you’re on the right track, you will literally feel the difference in your relationships. When you’re practicing NVC nonviolent communication when you’re practicing NVC in the household, and your partners, or even your children start to energetically like know that they can say yes or no or a counter offer to your requests. Yeah, that that you’ve created a shift. Yeah,


Liz Rohr  51:27

I love that. Yeah. And I think just also just, I think one thing that you’ve helped me so much with is just radical transparency of what’s the, you always say the same way, and it’s not coming to me, but it’s like a being self revealing, I think is how you say it, but it’s just like, even like, so in my personal relationships. I’ve started using MVC framework, especially for difficult conversations. And I explicitly said to them, Hey, I have this new model of this thing that I’m gonna practice. I’m here step. Like I’m comfortable saying that, but just being transparent, even if like, it’s not like, oh, like a guessing thing of like, why is she started all of a sudden talking like that, right? Like, no, like, I’m going to use this framework, it would be really, really meaningful for me my request, right? When I put that through, if you would practice doing this with me kind of thing, right? Like, we can just be transparent about, hey, things are shifting. For me, I’m practicing this new thing. And let’s be communication about it. Yeah,


Catherine A. Wood  52:22

I mean, just to like normalize this, because I’m mindful of your audience. But when we start to shift in our relationships in one area of life, it affects how we show up, and who we be everywhere else, right. So imagine if you create this massive shift in your home life, where you are feeling well resourced, and cherished and appreciated by your spouse. Imagine the domino effect of how that impacts the grace and the compassion, and the self honoring that you can extend to your patients and your clients and, and your colleagues and how you show up for your work. And then how you leave it at the end of the decade, because you’re getting more of your needs met at home. So naturally, it’s going to require you to get less of your needs met at work. Yeah.


Liz Rohr  53:17

Oh. Can we mic drop there? That’s so good. Thank you so much cat. Um, I mean, I know you primarily work with entrepreneurs. And so maybe my people. Like, I feel like people just would love to hear your stuff. And so is there a place that people should check out all of your work so they can learn more from you and just hear your magical wisdom?


Catherine A. Wood  53:44

I mean, I feel like the podcast is the first place I send people because I think you get the most intimate experience. So my podcast is the prosperous empath. And I think that’s a great place to take what supports you some of the topics may not feel as relevant but others absolutely will.


Liz Rohr  54:01

Totally. Thank you so much. You’re the best.



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Exploring Sensitive Leadership with Nina Khoo

On this week’s episode of the Prosperous Empath®, we’ll explore how to effectively lead as a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP), mitigate challenges, and work with your strengths. I’m thrilled to sit down with Nina Khoo, a Sensitive Leadership Coach and a Master NLP Coach who helps HSPs understand and embrace their unique wiring so they can become confident and empathetic leaders. It’s common for Highly Sensitive People to believe that they’re not capable of effective leadership and struggle with overwhelm, perfectionism, and second-guessing. Nina and I uncover how our greatest strengths can sometimes be the traits we feel most self-conscious about and pose a central question: How does a Highly Sensitive Person protect their gifts as a leader? As an empath and an HSP, your brain is physiologically wired to take more information in and process it more deeply, which can be an incredibly powerful leadership skill. Yet, it can also lead to overwhelm and self-criticism. Through our conversation, you’ll learn how to approach leadership in a more sensitive, empathetic, and compassionate way so you can own your gifts and make a bigger difference in the world  

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