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  • Kim Meninger

Aligning Your Life & Career

Updated: May 12, 2023

Aligning Your Life & Career

In this episode of the Impostor Syndrome Files, we look at how many of us struggle to align our careers with our core values. If you’ve ever found yourself, consciously or unconsciously, engaging in inauthentic behaviors or uncomfortably adapting to the way others do things, you understand the effects of this on our bodies and minds. My guest, Emily Smith, shares her personal journey as a high-achieving, highly sensitive woman struggling with burnout and self-doubt and the steps she took to get to a much better, more aligned place. She also shares strategies you can use to better navigate your own career.

About Emily Smith:

Emily Smith is the go-to mindset and success coach who helps high-achieving women move past their inner blocks to achieve personal & career alignment.

Emily works with her clients through 1-1 customized coaching, online courses, and retreats.

Emily is a published author of Wholeness Within and the Guide to Wholeness podcast host whose expertise has been featured in Bustle, Thrive Global, Highly Sensitive Refuge, and Authority Magazine.


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Kim Meninger Welcome, Gorick. I am so excited to have this conversation with you today. I know you and I have been chatting over time. And I’m really excited to bring this to a listening audience. So before we jump into the meat of it, I’d love to invite you to introduce yourself.

Kim Meninger Welcome, Emily, it’s so great to meet you. I’m really excited for our conversation today. And I’d love to start by inviting you to introduce yourself.

Emily Smith Thank you, Kim. I’m so excited to chat with you today too. And I will share that I’m an author and career embodiment coach for high-achieving highly sensitive women, helping them to embody more of who they are, so they can create success in their careers and their life. And I do that through a few different modalities that we’ll talk about and dive deeper in.

Kim Meninger That sounds great. And I know you work, too. So you clearly have a full plate.

Emily Smith Yes, yeah. And then I work full time in marketing and branding. And yeah, that’s how I got connected with you. I’m involved in like different events and went to the West event and loved your presentation.

Kim Meninger Oh, thank you. And I’m curious what led you down this path? Because you mentioned high achieving highly sensitive women. And I would probably count myself among them. And I’m curious, is that your story too? Or what drew you to this population?

Emily Smith Yeah, it’s definitely my story. I graduated business school. And I think I entered a lot of competitive type of work environments, where I felt I had to change who I was to advance. And so I tried to fit into the mold of being very masculine. And maybe like, bitchy, too, I think is like, you know, what they say is like a powerful woman. And I just tried all these things that were not in alignment with who I am and climb the ladder. And, you know, I just had success at an early stage in my career, but I really felt so disconnected from myself and did not enjoy what I was doing. So I had to really step out of that, and then get clear on what do I actually want to do in my career. And what I found from doing that is it was a healing journey of like, recognizing my qualities in myself that are soft and sensitive, and really embracing those and using that to create a career path for myself and to just accept myself as who I am.

Kim Meninger So I think that there are so many people who can identify with what you’re describing because there has been this traditional mold that whether it’s been explicitly verbalized, or it’s just this sense that we get that that’s the expectation, right? And it certainly makes it harder, I think, for women, because we may also receive backlash for engaging in some of those more masculine behaviors. How did you know that you were doing this and that it wasn’t working? Like Were you conscious of the adjustments you were making? Like, were you? Were you like intentionally doing things? Or were you more so unconsciously responding to implicit pressures? Like, how would you characterize your…

Emily Smith Oh yeah, I would say it was unconscious for a long time. And, you know, I would work, I worked in the same company, I guess, like five years right out of school, and I just kept wanting to move and I was like, Okay, I’ll move into a different office. And they were a global company. So I worked in their London office, and, and I was like, Nope, it’s not working there. I’m gonna go to the New York office. And I just felt like, I had to keep changing. And even when I left corporate and I did more freelance work, I worked at a few startups, I was just going through that same pattern of going into a workplace where, you know, it was like, very competitive for women. And I’m in marketing. And it seems to be these companies I was in they were mostly men. And it’s just really interesting now how I was able to get clear on my strengths, what I want out of a company, and now I work at a certified women-owned business where the whole leadership team is made up of women, and it’s just night and day from my past. And so yeah, it was very unconscious for a long time.

Kim Meninger And what effect did that have on you like, how did you? How did it make you feel? Was it, were there physical consequences, emotional consequences, like what? How did you get to a point where you said, this is no longer working for me?

Emily Smith Yeah, I love that question. I, yeah, so I hit burnout a few times, and it really wasn’t until my dad passed away in 2016. Where that was like a wake-up call of, you know, life is short, and it’s like, why are you wasting time in In a situation where you’re not happy? I still had to go through it a few more times to really get the lesson. But I would just find that my body would just be, I had burnout, adrenal fatigue, I was constantly sick. And I just started making these changes to my health, like I was going to meditation and therapy and yoga. And I was doing all the right things. But then I realized, oh, like the main part of my life, like a huge part is the career and that is still not in alignment. So I have to work on that and make sure that’s right for me. And that’s really the subtitle of my book is One Woman’s Journey of Creating a Life and Career in Alignment. Because that was the ultimate piece where it was about healing and knowing I was worthy of having a career that I enjoyed, and was respected in.

Kim Meninger And throughout the course of this journey, did you doubt yourself, like, as you’re starting to realize this isn’t working for me, I know suffer so many of us when that disconnects, starts to surface, the natural tendency is to say, oh, there must be something wrong with me, right? Like, I’m not good enough. I’m not doing this, right? Whatever the case may be like, how did you manage the self-doubt? Piece of your story?

Emily Smith Yeah, oh, my goodness, I really, I think my self-doubt was hit the hardest, when, actually, in my role in London, I was like, go from that role. And I must have been 23. And at that point, I thought that was the worst moment of my career, my life. And I worked at this huge company, that, you know, most people would die to work there. And I was like, I blew my chance, I don’t know who would ever hire me again. And, and I really had to rebuild my trust in myself of making the right decisions. And also my self-worth. So what I found was by doing freelance work in marketing, and by even starting my business, I started that from my own healing journey and coaching others in their wellness and living a more balanced life, I found that I was able to regain a sense of perspective of like, okay, look at this, like, I can recreate, and I still have these skills, just because that happened to me, I was able to move forward and then come back to working full time in a healed way. And I think that is so important, because a lot of people in the last few years, I think, left corporate because of these kinds of workplaces that were toxic, or they were burned out, and they never wanted to go back. And it’s like, you can go to the right place, you just have to be very clear on who you are, what you value and what you’re willing to settle for and what you aren’t.

Kim Meninger I think that’s really important, too, because I think, sometimes, and at least this was the case for me. So I worked at one company for most of my career. And so I didn’t know what I didn’t know. And so you start to think that this is just the way things are, you don’t necessarily realize, oh, there may be other companies out there that have different values or different norms. And so it can be really easy to start to feel like I’m the crazy one.

Emily Smith Yes, totally, yeah.

Kim Meninger So I love what you say about start with you, right? Who am I? And what do I want? And then think about what environment is going to be best? Like, what, what can you share about? And I’m sure you say that in much more detail in the book. And I’m sure it’s, it’s a very complicated answer. But are there specific things you would recommend for people who are listening and thinking that’s me, and I don’t even know where to start in thinking about how to get from point A to point B.

Emily Smith Yeah, I really recommend and yeah, I talk about this in the book, these different assessments. And I work on this with clients, but looking at yourself from an objective view. So I love the MBTI I think it’s called 16 personalities now. And I also like this assessment called the Genius Test and it is a philosophy of Chinese elemental energy and like, which one you show up as well. fully, and the Gallup Strengths Finder as well. So, I think that this is a great way to understand what your inherent strengths are. And to value those and shift your focus there. So, that you know, like, okay, here is what I’m good at no matter what, because I think a lot of times, it’s, I don’t have enough experience to change and enough experience for someone to hire me, I don’t have the right experience. And if you are just clear on your qualities and skills that you can provide, and that’s really applicable to any job, that’s like, where you can start rebuilding and getting an understanding of how you work best and how your energy shows up best. Another assessment is human design. And that’s really about how you make decisions and how you manage your energy like which environments are right for you, what kind of tasks things like that.

Kim Meninger So I love that this can kind of create a more foundational understanding of who you are, particularly your strengths, because I think when you’re in an environment that doesn’t fit, it’s natural for us to focus on the negative, right? And so that might be either the negative of the environment we’re in, or the what we perceive to be our own weaknesses, deficiencies, etc. So I’m really, really happy that you’re talking about emphasizing the positive. Because I think what ends up happening is if you’re in an environment, that’s not a good fit, you’re not feeling good about yourself, you’re not feeling good about the job that you’re in. And it’s really hard to make that kind of a transition because you’re not coming from a place of power, you’re not coming from a place of strength. And so how do you sort of build that up, so that when you do start to explore other options, you’re in the best possible mindset?

Emily Smith Exactly that, exactly that because otherwise, you know, it’s just what I was doing is bringing my same self to different places and just getting the same results. And I realized, okay, we have to take a step back here and get clear on my unique strengths and not trying to fit myself into the role, the company, the culture. And instead, just be clear on what I want. And I think that’s where a lot of people and myself included, the people I work with, struggle with is like looking for that external validation and, and confirmation that, you know, you’re in the right place, but it’s, you’re the best person that’s going to know yourself the most and value yourself the most. So that’s a great place to start.

Kim Meninger So it would be amazing if a job description had the indicators of some of these assessments, right? It’s like I know who’s best suited to fits this personality. So but since we don’t always have that kind of information, what, what advice do you have for people who know that the environment they’re in is not the right one. And they don’t want to make that mistake again. But they’re not quite sure how to evaluate the next one to make sure that it’s not going to be a repeat.

Emily Smith Yeah, yeah, it’s so funny, because, you know, you could get really clear on where you’re at right now, and maybe find that you don’t need to leave. And you can shift a few things. And you can make changes internally. So I think that that’s another way to look at it. But I have everyone that I work with really make a list of what they did and didn’t like in their role and company and take what they didn’t like and just write the opposite. So you didn’t like that your manager was hovering over your shoulder, you were micromanage. So you like how in this role, you’re very autonomous in your new role, and that you get most of your tasks done on your own, and you’re really just managing up. So that’s just one example. But really being clear on what you didn’t like, is almost really helpful. Because it’s kind of that contrast where you’re like, Oh, now I know what I do want. Sometimes you have to learn that way of you know, getting what you don’t want.

Kim Meninger I agree with you, I think that’s a great way to figure out what you want because we’re always so quick to know what we don’t want. And so, yeah, that question of what do you want always feels so daunting, but if you say what are you then you’ll start to come up with answers right away and just flip it around.

Emily Smith Yeah, yeah, exactly.

Kim Meninger So do you recommend networking? Do you recommend asking certain questions in interviews? Like how do you know what kind? Now I know that I don’t want to micromanager. How do I make sure that the person I’m going to be working for isn’t a micromanager?

Emily Smith Yeah, I find that so much of so two parts of your question. I really like the networking informational interviews as a way to discover what you would like in a role that you’re not sure about. So it’s speaking to people in that industry. And then in the interview, I find that, you know, it’s really about your own self-trust and your instincts, because a lot of times, they’re going to tell you, you know, what you want to hear, they’re not going to give you like the full answer. But, you know, if you find a good company, they are going to be realistic with you. So I think being able to tune into your body and the sensations and your gut instincts is really helpful. Because if you don’t, you’re gonna just focus on the best things about the company or the salary. And I find that that’s what trips people up is like, they just saw all the, they have amazing benefits and a great reputation, and then they don’t check in with themselves, and then they end up in this role, and they’re unhappy. That’s like, the main issue that I see with.

Kim Meninger I think that’s a good point. And I really am interested in hearing more about the embodiment piece that you’re talking about, you use that term. And then you just referenced that again, what does that, what does that mean to you? How to, how do we think about it from a more of a bodily perspective?

Emily Smith Yeah, so as women we are really tuned into our senses, and really using embodiment is anything but our mind in tuning in, in our decision making. So our body senses our sense of hearing sense of smell, and using that in embodying who we really are. And so when you’re living, disembodied, that’s when you are connected to external validation, caring what other people think, and focusing on their parameters for success versus yours. So embodying is really a body-based approach that I use with clients that somatic approach to tune in to the emotions that are there. And they have a lot of wisdom. And so you know, we’re we live in a society where everything is very logic and driven, and, you know, very thought driven, and sometimes that can get us really disconnected from our true power. So that’s the part in women leadership that I really focus on, especially as highly sensitive women, introvert women, we do feel everything on a deeper level. And our senses are very powerful. So we can tune into those to help us make better decisions.

Kim Meninger And you had referenced healing earlier. Do you feel like healing is an, a requirement for this process? If we assume that the experience that has led us to this moment has been something that has been problematic in some way, right? Do you see healing as a necessary step?

Emily Smith Yeah, I do. Because in whatever way that works for people, like some people work great with a therapist or a coach, or they’re on a self-healing journey. But if you’re not aware of your triggers, and the stories you tell yourself, you kind of act them out with people, and especially the workplace. It’s a therapist once referred to me saying, it’s like a social experiment of like, how are these people going to work together, and you’re gonna be able to own your side of the story. And, you know, clearly tell people what you need, if you’re very in tune with, you know, your stories that you’re telling yourself. And a lot of times, it’s like, those struggles for power. It’s like, we play out these stories from childhood. And that’s what I was doing. I think I was making feeling a little powerless early in my career and kind of putting all the power on whatever company I work for, or my manager, but really realizing like, you know, coming into your own power and sovereignty is about healing and having that understanding of yourself.

Kim Meninger And I think what you’re saying, At the most basic level is self-awareness, right? Because so much of this happens at an unconscious level. And I liked the way you talked about us playing out different dynamics from our childhood. And it’s not that we do that consciously right by we do. We sort of repeat patterns. Yes, it’s familiar to us. And so just the first step is Just recognizing that that’s even happening so that you can disrupt it.

Emily Smith Yeah, yeah, exactly. Just having that awareness is everything. And then you can use that to show up differently.

Kim Meninger How do I know? I’m just thinking there are probably people listening who are sure that they’re in this situation and are eager to take some next steps. How do I know if I’m in this situation but I’m not quite sure yet? Like, what are some things for me to be thinking about? What are some signals that I may benefit from doing the kind of work that you’re describing?

Emily Smith Yeah, so right, from what we’re talking about now, to play off of that, if you notice a lot of interpersonal conflict at work, sometimes that’s a sign that you need to step back and look at is this situation still benefiting you? Are you getting what you need out of it? Is it best for where you work? Because a lot of times, that can be a clue that something is off. And if you try to continuously work through something, and it’s not getting resolved, that’s a sign that okay, like, this might not be the best place or something needs to change. And if you also are finding that you have emotions that are much stronger than the situation that you’re in, so if you’re find yourself like really angry or crying, that’s a sign that you’re being triggered, and something needs to be looked at, for healing. And yeah, I would say those are like the two main ways to just get some insight on what needs healing what you need for clarity moving forward.

Kim Meninger So I think that also speaks to the self-awareness piece, which is really checking in with yourself, right? Like [Yeah]… Is this working for me? And I don’t know that we necessarily have built-in mechanisms for doing that. I think that is a practice that we could all benefit from introducing, even if things feel great right now. Because [yeah] if you don’t have it, even when things are good, like you don’t know when things shift, right?

Emily Smith Yes. Yeah, exactly. Like you want to know what feels what being in alignment feels like, what it feels like, not being in alignment. So you need to have that awareness of that barometer. And that can all play into becoming more self-aware and having these practices that are body-based to like, bring you back into your body being present. A lot of the times we aren’t present, and we’re, you know, on social media, or just really busy on the hamster wheel, and we just stay in this constant state of distraction to kind of avoid that difficult emotion or realization that’s like our default to avoid pain.

Kim Meninger Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. So are there things that you do to stay present? Like, do you have tips or tricks that you could share?

Emily Smith Yeah, so I love breathwork. So that is something that anyone can really do on their own. And it’s a really great clearing practice I find. So if you have an emotion coming up, and you don’t even know where it’s from, you can just clear it with your breath. And that really goes in your lungs and your belly where you store so much emotion. And it helps to release that by accessing a non-ordinary state. So it’s very good for trauma, informed healing. And I also love dancing as like a movement practice and just letting the emotion move you and release it and just do this on your own in an enclosed space where it’s private. And you’ll find by just doing this, that you can move things out. And especially as a highly sensitive person, it’s really hard to sometimes express an emotion in speaking or writing it like it still kind of lives in your body. Yeah, and

Kim Meninger I’m curious, now that you’re on the other side of this, right, you’re, and we don’t have to overly personalize this, but we’ll just I’m just using you as an example. You, you’ve done this work, you’re still working, you’re working in the better environment. What does not perfect, there’s a reason why we call it work, right? So there’s going to be good days, there’s going to be bad days. How do I know that I’m just having an off day? How do I know that? This is something that maybe I need to think about personally versus I’m in In an environment that doesn’t work for me, like how do I keep things in perspective?

Emily Smith Ooh, I love that I think that is so important right now is there’s been a huge, I guess, awareness of what people need in a role to be happy, and should they stay, should they go, I think it’s just being really clear on what your values are. And those can change over time. So I’m finding a lot of people that started new jobs in the pandemic, or 2020, like now, they’re kind of like, Oh, my values have changed, because that was a really different time. And so I think it is coming back to your values and reassessing those, and figuring out if where you’re currently at can meet those. And if they can’t, and I think it takes a lot of courage to, you know, speak up at the company that you’re at, and get your needs met in different ways, but it’s totally necessary. And you, you know, resolve things, and you can have a career of longevity, instead of, you know, not expressing your needs and leaving and just starting over somewhere else. It’s having the clarity on what you want, and then the courage to approach different conversations with your manager, the company at large. And that’s gonna get you clear on, you know, if it’s going to meet where you want to be in a year or two years. Get you clear on that.

Kim Meninger I think that’s a really good point, too. Because if you think of work as another relationship, [yeah] you can’t get what you need from the other party without being really honest with yourself and them about what those needs are. And so I think a lot of times, we suffer in silence, either thinking, we don’t have the power to do anything about it, or not having the courage, as you said, to advocate for ourselves. And in either case, what ends up happening is we either stay miserable in a current situation for whatever period of time, or we leave. And more often than not, if we haven’t figured out how to navigate this end up in some other similar situation, that may start out, okay. But eventually, it gets us back to where we started. And so I do think courage is such a big part of this conversation of like, once you know what you want to be able to share that with your manager or, you know, other influencers within your organization because the worst that can happen is they say no. And what that is, is more definitive data. [Yeah] Then use for your own decision-making.

Emily Smith Yeah, that’s an answer to exactly. And I love what you said about viewing it as a relationship because it really is. And I think a lot of people that I work with, it’s my goal for them to stay where they are if there are certain things that can change. I think when I talk about this in my book, too, like when it’s culture, and there are certain things that aren’t changing that you value like people are respectful or work-life balance is respected, and that doesn’t change, then that’s a reason to leave. Because that’s not even on the individual level, like that’s kind of a collective like a company comes together. And it’s if that’s the issue, then that’s like bigger than yourself. And there’s really no structures that are supporting you. So I think there’s like that awareness of your individual, you know, needs and how they fit in with the culture of the company. And my goal, though, is to have people like stay where they are and grow, if that’s the right path for them.

Kim Meninger Yeah and I always think that that is an under-valued option because when we are feeling uncomfortable, there’s that natural desire to just want to exit. [Yes.] Right. And it feels so much easier to just start over some when maybe it just requires a little bit of tweaking, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to leave, it just might be a verbal conversation or a new way of thinking about something that has been triggering you.

Emily Smith Yeah, it’s definitely worth being uncomfortable for that. Because, you know, you think about the whole process of like interviewing and like going through that and being selective the companies, that’s a whole other different effort. And if you can work with a company, negotiate, and that takes a lot of courage and self-worth and clarity as well, to have those conversations, then you can design your career and you can have that balance. And I find a lot of people that If they have just been job hunting and they’re burnt out, it’s like, well, what role did you play in that? Because, like we’ve been saying, like, you can just leave and then keep doing that where you end up next.

Kim Meninger Exactly. You’re gonna be uncomfortable either way. Not, there is no comfortable path forward once you know. [Exactly.] So building those self-advocacy muscles is going to serve you no matter what path you ultimately choose.

Emily Smith Yeah, definitely.

Kim Meninger Yeah, this is so great. Emily, I know you’ve mentioned your book. Can you tell us again, what your book is and where to find it?

Emily Smith Yeah, it’s called Wholeness Within: Insights from One Woman’s Journey of Creating a Life and Career in Alignment. It’s on Amazon, Barnes and Noble. It’s on Audible now. So it’s really a half memoir, half. Really a healing framework that you can go through to validate yourself and access the wholeness within you instead of outsourcing that and looking outside of you.

Kim Meninger I love that and any final thoughts that you have today?

Emily Smith Um, I don’t think so. I really enjoyed chatting with you through this lens of how courage and clarity and self-worth really applies in the workplace. I think that it plays a huge role. And healing to that people might not necessarily think about and connecting those two is one of my favorite things to talk about. So thank you so much for having me.

Kim Meninger Oh, thank you. This has been great.

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