Coping with Childhood Trauma
Updated: May 12
In this episode of the Impostor Syndrome Files, we expand the conversation beyond impostor syndrome and look at the ways childhood trauma undermines our confidence and self-worth as adults. My guest, Nikki Eisenhauer, a life coach and psychotherapist, shares her personal journey as an incest survivor, the work she needed to do to believe in herself and the strategies she uses to help others who have suffered childhood trauma to more confidently navigate what she calls “adult-ness”.
About Nikki Eisenhauer:
Nikki Eisenhauer is a Professional Psychotherapist, International Life Coach, Yoga Teacher, and Host of the podcast, Emotional Badass: Where Moxie Meets Mindful. In 2017, she launched the podcast to spread healing, empowerment, and hope to Highly Sensitive People (HSPs), Empaths, survivors, and seekers all over the world. Drawing from her personal experiences as a survivor of childhood abuse and the years she’s spent as a psychotherapist and life coach, she has mindfully designed the show to be the emotional education so many of us crave.
She truly believes in the power of healing. When we heal our wounds, let go of what doesn’t serve us, and embrace transformational self-care, we are able live a life of purpose, peace, and connection. As we each step up to do this healing work—through the butterfly effect, —we change the world.
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Kim Meninger Welcome, Nikki, it is so nice to meet you. I cannot wait to have this conversation. Before we jump in, I’d love to invite you to share a little bit more about yourself.
Nikki Eisenhauer Well, it’s nice to be here. Thank you for having me. My name is Nikki Eisenhauer and I have been a clinical psychotherapist since about 2006. I’m from New Orleans. So I became a new baby counselor, right as Katrina was happening. So all of us were traumatized. I’m a trauma specialist. I specialize in highly sensitive people, grief and loss, and addiction. But mostly I help adults sort their childhoods and really figure out how to really not be an impostor of life. Your podcast is about impostor syndrome. And as much as I believe we have that in our professional lives, I think when we grow up with a lot of trauma and chaos, it’s almost like we have impostor person syndrome, like we don’t feel worthy of love, or have a good life or have the best of life that is available, it really kicks us in our self-worth. So I think I’ve been an impostor as a human being at times growing up with a lot of abuse. I’m an incest survivor. I grew up and put my adoptive dad, who was my abuser in prison. It enraged my entire family for me to go public with that. So I have no contact with most almost all of my giant Catholic New Orleans family. So I have been on a journey to find myself. And I think that’s, that’s a really big part in letting go of any impostor syndrome is coming to who you really are, instead of who you think you’re supposed to be, all the shoulds. And so I’ve been on a massive personal journey to do that in my life. And then I help people shed that sort of fakeness that, that I feel like I’m faking being an adult. A lot of trauma survivors feel like they’re a phony adult, or like they’re putting on an adult mask. And behind the scenes, they have a really activated inner child. So I do a lot of inner child work. Because when you focus on that work, as much as it can sound woo-woo to an inner child, it really is just your inner psychology, your inner psyche. And when you nurse and nurture that, you let go of that feeling like you’re, you’re the child in the room with all the adults, and you actually step into your adult-ness. And so it has been a great love of my life, really to have the intimacy of guiding people along that journey and watching them step out of their impostor syndrome and so many different ways to step more fully into who they are, who they were always meant to be. And to really sort of step up in life to be and to have and to sort of take what they would like and craft a life that they can be proud of and satisfied with.
Kim Meninger I so appreciate your honesty and your willingness to share that with us. And I so appreciate your take on impostor syndrome and really applying it to life not just work because I do think that whether you call it the traditional definition of impostor syndrome, or there’s just a parallel because of that feeling of being fake, it’s something that’s so important because it affects every aspect of our lives. And you know, it’s interesting, because I think sometimes there’s this feeling of Well, who am I to help people when I am doing my own work around this. And that’s been my experience too, just in helping people with impostor syndrome when I was brought to this work because my own journey and so I hear a lot of that in what you’re saying too. And I feel like Who better to do this work than people who have lived it and understand it really well. So I really am so grateful to hear that you have channeled so much of your own journey and experience into helping other people to overcome it as well.
Nikki Eisenhauer Well, thank you. And I think really, I, I had to. I was, I was so terrified that my own history would hurt people as, as a new counselor and I was so shameful that as I was finishing school to become a counselor as I was getting into an internship and then getting my first job was the dissolving, if you will of my family as, as my dad faced prison time and he, he dragged it out as lots of good abusers do in our crazy court system and, and I felt so ashamed that, that my behind the scenes life was chaotic and upsetting and then I didn’t have any real guides to move through that and I had one professor that the day my dad was arrested and that’s like a 12 hour in the police station type scene of more exhaustion than I could ever describe in words, just physical exhaustion, emotional exhaustion. And I had to write my professor a letter that said, Hey, I’m going to check myself into a psych unit because I cannot handle what’s going on. Told her a little bit about what was going on the TV picked it up. So I had like childhood teachers and childhood friends, parents reaching out to me going, why didn’t you tell me. And I wrote her an email saying, I, of course, can’t be a counselor, because I’m checking into a psych unit, which means I’m crazy. So I can’t help other people and so I guess I’ll drop out of school officially when I get out on the other side of this, and she wrote me back. And she said, this will make you such a better counselor, she said everyone should take, it will still choke me up to this day, she said, everyone should take a mental health vacation, it will make you more powerful with your clients. And I sort of understood that in the way that we can understand what I call head knowledge. And it took me, my goodness, maybe a decade and a half after that, to really have that translate from this head knowledge of yeah, I know that’s right on paper, to being able to feel that like in my body to be able to feel and take an ownership of, oh, yes, this journey, as shitty as it’s been sometimes is hard and confusing and scary. It has informed me about the human condition in so many different ways. And nothing can shock me with any of my clients, I’ve been able to sort of be a guide for them that they can trust with the depths of themselves, because I’ve met the depths of myself. And I think that’s such a big part. We’re living through algorithms and social media and filters, and, you know, for instance, I rebranded as a life coach just to open up and kind of get away from healthcare because I think healthcare is really sick right now. And I wanted to distance years ago, well before COVID, and then COVID happened. But as I have sort of expanded into that, what’s happened is this, this great, beautiful ownership of, of who I am, and to do that I had to really own not just what I’m good at, but what I’m not good at and allow that to be okay, we’re living through this time where it’s so easy for people to look like instant experts, and to look very polished, and to look like they have it all together. And when you strip that away, none of us have life figured it out. All of us were children, all of us just have this grown-up adult skin that we’re trying to grow into what adult-ness is, and we have to make so many mistakes along the way. We have to own what we’re not great at like, I’m not great at time management, I was just listening to your time management episode. And I am not naturally great at that I’m more of a flighty creative, that can get lost. And I’m not great at paperwork, though I can do it. That’s how I got through school. And so there’s this great piece that has washed over me in my 40s of just kind of being able to own Yeah, I don’t have to be great at everything, but I can really own the things that I’m really great at. And that that’s such a, an important piece to building and owning our self-worth, instead of feeling constantly less than constantly comparing to other people, and seeing how we don’t measure up. And when we’re ambitious, I’m very ambitious, I have high goals for my, myself, it’s a fine line to have a lot of ambition, and not have perfectionism sort of run you into the ground. So being able to have a lot of ambition, a lot of goals, a lot of foresight into what I want. One of my mantras is things don’t happen at the speed of my awesome ideas. You know, so in ownership of all of that, I think I have learned to let go of that impostor syndrome.
Kim Meninger Oh my gosh, you said so many amazing things right there. And I’m going to try to figure out the best place to jump in and I want to go back to what you were talking about with the inner child piece because I would love to hear a little bit more about that. I’m kind of thinking about starting at the beginning. And okay, I think that really stood out to me. And I think a lot of people who have had childhoods that are marked by trauma and chaos, as you said, they have not necessarily figured out how to process it or have a lot of feelings around it that they haven’t had support around or there’s just ways in which that unhealed wound continues to show up. And can you share a little bit more about what you see in terms of like the what you’re describing as how do you get two adults in this in the room In a way that’s right for you, when you have this history, that you probably don’t feel comfortable sharing out loud with everybody that you meet, right? So there’s an element of it’s almost like a deep, dark secret, or there’s maybe some shame there. Maybe you haven’t gotten a lot of support around it. Like what is the journey for somebody who comes from a background that is marked by those kinds of experiences?
Nikki Eisenhauer I think the journey is, unfortunately, messy at first, because we don’t. It’s part of why I have my own podcast, it’s because we don’t talk about these things in a way that I find very useful. I mentioned head knowledge. We tend to want studies on things, right, we want scientific proof before we jump on doing something or trying something. And the truth is that science has limitations when it comes to the emotionality of a human being. It’s so complex, it’s so multi-layered, it’s so influenced by DNA, by family culture, by the culture with which you live, I’m from New Orleans, we have a weird culture down there, some of it is lovely and beautiful. Some of it is really dark and twisted, and sick and unhealthy. And, and so figuring out your culture, you know, there’s so much that pushes against our mental health. And when we try to study it in these very specific ways that control for all these different things, I think we really miss that whatever that special sauce is, that makes each human being themselves and I don’t think science is ever going to be able to, in my way of looking at things really get a handle on that. So when we’re medicating specific things, I think often we’re missing the entirety of the human experience, and we can’t medicate for the entirety of the human experience. So a lot of my journey was letting doctors do whatever they wanted to do with me because I was very passive, especially being raised to Southern woman, where you’re polite, you’re passive, you don’t know better. So you give your power away to whatever doctor, whatever mental health person, my mother is a sociopath and a narcissist, and she believe it or not, would bring me to therapist since I was a small child. And people go, What do you mean? Why would a sociopath have a therapist, I have a theory that many narcissists, and many sociopaths always have therapists, they don’t pay for therapy, they pay for an audience. And the second that therapist pisses them off with a challenge that, hey, maybe some of this is your responsibility. They fire that person, they never go back and they go find another person that’s willing to be their audience. So I have had mental health, I was having night terrors as a child. So I think out of desperation, my mother brought me to many therapists, okay, I grew up very much knowing that some therapists were very, very good at sitting at listening and holding space, and others were incredibly toxic, and Ill fitted for the field. So I wanted to grow up and be a good one. So for many of us, growing up with a lot of chaos, it doesn’t have to be abuse, like what I’m naming, you know, incest is a biggie, right? And at this point in my life, I can look back and as, as weird as this sounds, it’s almost like a silver lining or a gift, because I knew damn good and well, yeah, that is a trauma. And that is something that I need to work on, you know, if you get beaten with bricks, as horrible as that is, you know, damn good. And well, yeah, I was beaten with those bricks. And there’s something that makes sense as wrong and bad as that is, it’s like one plus one equals two. It’s like if someone hits me or violates my sexual body. That happens if somebody hits me, I have a mark on me. I can take a picture. I can show somebody I’m not crazy. I know what happened to me. Emotional abuse, emotional neglect. You can’t put your finger on it. You don’t know what’s happening to you so many people who work with me who have heard my story go, Nikki, I don’t get it. Why do I have so much anxiety? Why do I feel so much like the little kid? My dad didn’t molest me like what happened to you know, yeah. But what happened to you was your mother wasn’t a soft place to fall. Your father was a narcissist who made all of your worth about your grades at school, not about the person you were, you didn’t get enough soothing. And so a lot of us are growing up with nervous systems that are just so raw. And I do think we’re throwing around the word trauma in modern society, too loosely. But when we really look at the innocence and really the purity of a child, we really do need time and space where things are just safe, stable, low key. Many of us in this country and beyond are suffering from having immature parents. And if your parent has the immaturity of a child 12 year old for the whole of your development, you did not get what you needed, you were emotionally neglected, even if your parents were well-intentioned, okay? So, so many of us are walking around, really the smarter we are, the harder this is. Because many of us newest children’s something is crazy about how I’m being raised. And if my parents don’t feel safe, we say parental FIDE, a smart child who is born with, like an old soul. And this is very often the case with very immature, very inadequate parents, I would call my parenting toxic, but most of the parenting out there is inadequate, which means they just didn’t know any better. They didn’t have the insight or the intelligence to really know any better, and or they didn’t have drive to do any better than they were doing. Right. So we look at that to heal the inner child, not to judge them, not to shame them, but to just really zoom out. And from sort of a non-emotional place go, how was I affected? And if you weren’t taught how to calm your own body, because your parent went zero to 10, zero to 100, no matter what went wrong, then it’s learning Oh, I didn’t, I wasn’t taught how to regulate this nervous system. If I was sad and upset if I had a failure, and the first thing somebody said was, well, why did you do that? Why didn’t you see that coming? What you learn is you’re never allowed to make a mistake. More mature, parents know that you have to make mistakes. And so when you spill a glass of milk, when you have a mature parent, that parent goes, Oh, my goodness, we can clean this mess up. Let me go get some paper towels. And I’ll teach you how to clean this up. And in that moment, we learn life is about making mistakes, and it’s totally okay. And I can learn and I can evolve. When we have an immature parent to a toxic parent, we get this, Oh my God, what did you do? I mean, like the world is crumbling because you’re knocked over a glass of water or a glass of milk. So you don’t have to be beaten by bricks, you don’t have to be sexually violated by a family member, for your nervous system to have never felt reasonableness and the way that I’m describing. And when we grow up, day in and day out that way, it’s as if parts of our psyche kind of stick in younger ways because that, that little girl or that little boy that has a parent that rages because you dropped a glass, you spilled a glass of milk, that inner psychology goes, we’re just going to kind of go inward, we’re going to kind of make a note that we didn’t get our needs met properly in this stage. And so lo and behold, when we age, we don’t necessarily mature, right? So when we age and something happens, you’re dating somebody, you knock a glass over, and you have that same reaction you saw on your parent and other people go, Oh, my God, you’re raging. My god, you’re having a hissy fit. What is this, to do inner child work, we have to face those parts of ourselves that are so embarrassing, but no one wants to admit that they lost their shit over something simple. Because after your nervous system comes back down, then you’re embarrassed, then you’re flooded with guilt and shame. We must learn how to sort of as kooky as it might sound as woo-woo as it might sound, it’s as if we have to embody re-parenting, those parts of ourselves giving to ourselves what our parents just either didn’t know, or didn’t care enough like my mother to give. And when we own that, we can actually re-nurture those inner parts and we grow up the way that I managed making a mistake now, I can actually be proud of we had a, an entire bottle of maple syrup flip over in the back of our car, I mean inches of syrup in the back of the car. In a week that we had back in the car up into a poll, it was like oh my god, we’re murdering the car. Okay. In that moment, I saw it, I took a deep breath. Because I’ve done the work to teach my inner child mistakes are okay. It’s better for my body to meet that mistake with a deep breath and an exhale. And a message to myself of this is totally fixable. This is totally manageable. And the most important thing is everybody is safe and okay. This is a totally okay thing. And when we do that, we no longer have the reactions were ashamed of we start to actually be able to be proud of ourselves. We’re actually giving ourselves what our parents didn’t know how to give us. I couldn’t have done that work on my own. I did that by finding my own very strong healer, who essentially is a spiritual mother. And I have taken on many spiritual mothers, people that I know in real life, people that I’ve never met. The great late Maya Angelou is one of my spiritual mothers. I happen to read her book. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings the book about her own sexual abuse. The year I was being abused. That’s a spiritual connection. And so as a young woman, and as an adult, I learned from the encouragement of my healer, my therapist, to when I needed her to picture Maya Angelou at my back with her arm, her hand on my shoulder. Sometimes I put my own hand up there. And I just picture her behind me support, love care, when we don’t get that from our parent, because our parent is either too immature or just too broken or to personality disorder, and just isn’t going to get any better in this life. We’re not just doomed to that forever, we really can take on this relationship with ourselves. And when we when we repair this relationship by re-nurturing re-parenting, our inner psyche, I say we grow a wise woman or wise man part, we call her in to go who’s operating right now. I don’t want the inner child immature part of me to drive the bus of my life, I want that wise woman in the driver’s seat. And so I cannot stop and mindfully have a check-in, whoa, what part of me is trying to take over right now. And I can make sure that that wise part is taking over. And the more that we do that, the more we become proud, the more we build our self-esteem, our self-worth. Because we start acting to our principles of being a good person being an evolved person, nobody’s listening to your podcast, or mine who doesn’t have betterment in their heart, who isn’t trying to figure this life out. And that means you have insight. And not everybody on the planet has insight and to the people that have insight that is crazy pants, that is so hard to fathom that there are people on the planet that are really disinterested in learning as they go. We all know those people that you know, date the same exact person over and over and over and over again, some of them get married 5-7-9 times to the same version of the person. Others of us are really looking at ourselves going, oh my gosh, with desperation, I don’t want to make the same mistakes. Right? When we heal the inner child, we no longer are operating from that place of desperation, or that impostor syndrome of I don’t know what I’m doing. Why do all the other adults seem to know what they’re doing? And I don’t know what they’re doing. You learn. And so I think we need guides, I wasn’t hurt in some kind of bubble. And that’s the truth of the human condition. You know, yeah, we have car accidents. You know, we have accidents and tragedies like that illnesses, but, but most of our pain and hurt on this planet is because of the betrayal from other human beings. And so if that is at least part of the story, the truth is that we didn’t get hurt in isolation. We weren’t traumatized in isolation, it was from the human condition. And so what healed me connection with the human condition, I needed to bring in those spiritual mothers, spiritual teachings, I needed to reconnect to my body. And all of these things, there’s no one thing that healed me or that will heal anybody. It’s a combination of all of these things that help us essentially grow up. And it’s a shame that we use that term like, Oh, someone’s immature, or we need to grow up as some kind of insult, right, like, grow up, who you need to grow up, right? Like, that’s kind of how we how we grew up hearing that. But if we throw all that out the window, that, that really is what we’re talking about. And when we really grow up into who we are, we can’t help but not have impostor syndrome.
Kim Meninger Okay, as I’m listening to you, I’m thinking about so many things, but I’m thinking about my own experience, too. And so, I grew up moving every couple of years, my dad worked for the car industry and really was not my dad was an alcoholic. He was a functioning alcoholic. He was someone who was not invested in parenthood didn’t really know how to be a father. And you know, he was there for them as my husband calls it was there for the victory laps. Right? You know, he was there. When my son was born. He was there when he graduated from college, he was there for the big moments when he could take pride in that role of being a father, but he wasn’t there on every day, you know, parts of the journey. And we, you know, my parents got divorced when I was 13. And because I moved so often, I had no roots, no stability, and I was always leaving friends behind. And it was at a time before email or Facebook or anything like that. It was long-distance phone calls that cost money and letters were the only option to stay in touch and so that neither one was really sustainable. And so, so much of my social network and my support group outside of my family, would just vanish, all in one fell swoop each time I would leave without really any ability to stay connected. And so I’d have to just like restart in a new place. And I have always struggled with how to define that. Because to me, that’s not, that’s not true trauma, because it’s not, it’s not incest, right? It’s not abuse, not physical abuse. But it has had an impact on me in so many ways in terms of my ability to connect to other people to trust other people to invest in different kinds of situations. And of course, I had other parenting issues along the way, as well. But I wonder, as you think about this work and the experience that we all have, there’s almost this sense of I’m an impostor for thinking that my childhood was hard because I compare it to someone else’s childhood, it was so much worse than mine. And it kind of feels like well suck it up. Right? Like that’s, that’s just life. And so how do we get to a place where we can own our own experience and the difficulties that it has brought us I’ve always had incredible intentionality around not letting my past define me. I’ve always been somebody I was in therapy for years, I’ve always focused on how can I be a better parent to my children? How can I be a better spouse to my husband? How can I be just a better citizen of the world? But like, how do you own your own experience without comparing it to other people without worrying that you’re, you’re overinflating? Or you don’t?
Nikki Eisenhauer Right, are playing, playing like kind of woe is me. So… Well, I think we’re living through the great sort of victimology of people. So being the victim is very popular right now. And it will help no one. So you are rightly it will help no one, it creates depression. If you’re playing tiny violence for yourself, you’re doing it wrong. Stop it, I hope to tell you how right now. So the spirit of looking back and ownership really is to me the, the essence of learning when we’re looking back on, okay, what really happened to me. And for you and your story. There’s no real stability, there, connections got torn apart. And so in terms of attachment and safety and security, what I would say to your inner child is, you get to own that, that in some kind of utopian existence, you got to stay in one place for a very long time. And so now you get to own that for your inner child and say her, her sweet girl. We might move in life, we really might, I might not stay in the same house. But the thing that you have always you didn’t have as a little girl, as you have grown up me. And grown up me will never go anywhere you have me forever. [Hmm.] All those corny things about we can’t really love somebody else, too. We love ourselves. I think that’s what this means. When you embody that for your own self, whatever version of that if you’re out there listening that you need for you. It’s about no longer shaming yourself. And I think we don’t, for people who have high personal responsibility. And often we come from parents who had lower personal responsibility, I have this theory that it’s like, responsibility is like a beach ball and a family. You know how like people like throat like tap the beach ball, like in a stadium and play that game of the Beaumont touching the ground. It’s like nobody wants to really grab that ball and just hold it and own it. So when we’re kids, and we have adults, often there’s all kinds of research on adult children of alcoholics. It’s a whole, whole big section of the library if you never gone and looked at that. And it’s because you can’t hold what a child really means when you’re too consumed with any kind of substance. Okay, and so you get to look at that with a real how do I learn to give myself what I need and in that moment, you are not playing the victim? You’re not playing tiny violins you’re not playing what was me as they say in a you’re not sitting on the pity pot. And so it’s just it’s, it’s owning, how do I learn from this, the learning is what helps us grieve. You know, grief without learning is just kind of pain. But what we really transform it into something useful when we learn from that pain. So when you go into your pain, what was hard for me without that comparison, and what I tell a lot of people, their adult self and their inner child is I can’t decide this for you, but I’ll say it to you like this and then you can decide to say it to yourself this way if you want. You are not allowed to compare to people anymore and hurt yourself. That is not the right way to compare to people. And nobody really tells us that directly. That’s why this is such a re-parenting kind of spirit that I have that none other than the not when you compare it to people If somebody else’s has something figured out better than you do, it is not right for you to feel less than, but it is right for you to be curious. Curiosity is your friend, their curiosity is wisdom. Wisdom is inherent in all figured out wisdom is curiosity. So when you compare to that person and you go, wow, look at what they know how to do. Go, wow, if they learned how to do that, that means it’s learnable, I could learn how to do that. What can I learn from this person? Can you feel it that none of that is victim? None of that is comparing and going there above me. And I’m less. I’m part of healing and growth when we didn’t have enough stability or enough parental involvement or encouragement, or they didn’t see us the way we needed them to really see us and our pain, it’s coming back to giving that to ourselves. You get to own what you need in this life. And in that void of getting what we need. Our psyche fills in some holes, and some really unfortunate ways like that kind of comparing, and seeing us as less than. This is why I balk at the idea of safe spaces. Of course, we need safe spaces. But this idea that we’re going to have perfectly safe spaces when most of us are walking around with an inner bully inside of our heads. And then we’re going to come together in a group oh, we’re all going to be safe together. No, safety and trusting is, is not about trusting another person. Like I have the most amazing husband, he’s my third and final husband got to make some mistakes when you get it right when you come from my kind of childhood, but I use him to make the, the point that as much as I trust the man in my life, okay, the truth is he could hit his head and his personality could change. Okay, so we tend to lie to ourselves about what it is to trust other people, all of a sudden, somebody can have a pill addiction, right, we’re living through a fentanyl problem in this country. And their personality, their moral compass absolutely changes. Right. So this idea of I’m going to trust other people, so the person is trustworthy, is real iffy. To me real trust is I’m going to trust myself to always show up for myself. And as my inner child has learned how to trust that in me that no matter what situation I’m in, that my WISEWOMAN self is going to be called in to manage. That’s the trust. And when I trust that inside of me, that’s what helps me feel safer around people socializing, connecting, risking attachment, because it’s a risk. And to make that risk, I have to trust that I’m going to take care of myself around it not that this other person is going to behave rightly forever, in every moment. So this inner child work, it helps us trust ourselves more. And the more that we trust ourselves, the more we can show up in our imperfection, and show ourselves to the world. Instead of putting on that false phony. I have it all together, kind of trying to get past our own impostor syndrome. I think people trust me when they work with me, because I’m quick to say, Oh, I don’t know. That’s a good question. I don’t know about that. So there’s a lot of self-assurance and a lot of what’s the word, I’m looking for confidence that grows not from knowing all the things, the more we know, the more we realize we don’t know anything. It’s an actually just allowing yourself to not know, and to be your real self. So there’s so much that goes into this work. And it’s not something that you can read one book about, you know, or have six therapy sessions with someone about it. It really is it is a life-long evolution. I will be working with these parts of myself all the days of my life. And in some ways, it gets easier and easier and easier. And life throws me a challenge. And when I can hold that spirit of okay, why did this maple syrup fall on this car right now? Why did this massive mess happen? Instead of feeling put upon and victimized another hard thing in my life, how unfair all the hard things I’ve had to deal with and now maple syrup. Instead of going to that place like a child having a tantrum. The way I choose to process the maple syrup and so many things in life is Thank you universe or God to your understanding. Because this is another time where I get to practice learning how to be calm, how to be grounded, how to trust that whatever life throws at me I can handle even especially when I don’t want to I can and that helps me be stronger. When we use our days to flex these emotional muscles. Everything that happens through our day to flex these emotional muscles we can’t help but get stronger and stronger and stronger for whatever is to come. And when our inner child our inner psyche, the little girl that we were Oh boy that we were that didn’t that had a dad and just kind of check the boxes, but didn’t really see your pain or your struggle or how to talk to you about that or how to fill in those voids. That’s what really gets us and so the more that we cultivate this relationship with the wiser part of ourselves, the safer we feel, and then we can take smart calculated risks with other people. That’s how I’ve gotten stronger in allowing myself to risk I’m also choosier and pickier than my younger self ever would have been.
Kim Meninger Well, it also strikes me, I’m thinking a lot about what you’re saying holistically, but also in the context of the workplace. And they often joke that everyone should have to go through therapy before they go into the workplace because we trigger each other all over the place. And we don’t have enough insight into what other people’s stories are. So we make up our own stories and tell its tell us ourselves, it’s about us. And so there’s just so much lost time and energy because of the way that we engage in these spaces. And so what you’re describing allows for both an opportunity to better understand and work with ourselves and build the muscles that you’re describing. It also suggests to me an opportunity for empathy and compassion for people around us who we may not understand and who we may interpret as doing something to us, right? And it’s not to not to excuse bad behavior but to really be able to take a step back and say, what this person is doing how this person is showing up really has nothing to do with me. It has everything to do with their own story and their own work that they need to do.
Nikki Eisenhauer You’re talking about not taking things personally. And systems. I am a Systems theorist by study and by heart. And what that means is that we’re always in a system, you know, our organs, our system, our skin is a system, our family is a system. And then a family system operates like a like, you know, a little baby mobile that hangs over a crib. If the baby kicks one little part with their foot, right, one part moves a lot, but every other part in that system of the baby mobile moves. So when we come from a family where dad’s an alcoholic, he kicks the baby mobile of the family system, and we’re all affected. It’s just about how when we go into the workplace, a real weird thing is that that is a recreation of another family. It’s not your biological family. It’s your work family. And that’s because a boss is like the dad, or the parent or the mom of the work family, just like the parent of the household. And we wonder why all of our psychology gets triggered at work. Okay, there’s also a lot in corporate America and unlocked lots of workplace environments, that’s really toxic. Things work in a way that don’t make any sense. They aren’t necessarily trying to make it any better. So if you come from a family system that operated similarly, and then you grow up, and you go into a work environment that has that, yeah, you’re going to be triggered. And you’re not going to know why. Because again, nobody’s throwing a brick at your face, you know, for it to be massively obvious. And so the more that we learn coping strategies and resiliency, a major one is what you just mentioned, not taking it personally, I was so pissed off during my master’s degree education because I realized what I was being taught, should have been taught to all of us from about second grade on, on. And I thought, this is criminal, but I have to get all the way to a master’s degree program to learn how to be a person. Not taking things personally, is gold, it is something we all need. And when you can do that you maintain your peace, no matter what is going on around you and not perfectly. But if you have any chance of maintaining any kind of peace and sanity, you learn how to not take things personally in his life, and our politics. Our social media algorithms are absolutely teaching the opposite. We are teaching now that advocacy is getting in somebody’s face and chewing them out. Online or in person. You don’t agree with me FU and you’re out there to hurt me. If you don’t agree with me, you’re hurting me taking it personally is being modeled. It’s being taught and it is completely toxic. It is wrong. It will only bring people depression. They will feel powerful in that moment that they’re telling somebody off, and then they will feel depressed later in the quiet moments. So not taking it personally is gold. And what that enables you to do is to see someone’s bad behavior. And despite the fact that they might be given you the evil eye like if looks could kill you would be dust. And when you can meet that energy in that moment and go, Yeah, I hate that this is happening. If I controlled all things in the world right now, this, I would not be stuck in this moment with you and your bad energy. However, wow, there must be a wounded inner child in you, for you to be throwing that at me. And I don’t mean to allow it. That’s the other thing we don’t really understand, particularly as women of a certain age, especially. As a southern woman, I had to really work to learn this. But giving someone grace, giving them compassion, and empathy has nothing to do with being a doormat. And often we confound those things to go, well, I’ll just be a doormat, let someone get away with it. No, you learn how to see that person, their humanity, their wounded inner child, and to have compassion and empathy as much for them as for you. And when you do that, you don’t get so wrapped up in it, you don’t over-activate your nervous system beyond what it already is. And that is a self-care that we need as individuals. We need it collectively as a country too.
Kim Meninger You’re so right. I worry a lot about the country from a fun joke. We need a marriage counselor for our country.
Nikki Eisenhauer Yeah, and therapists are getting shut down about talking about real things. And a lot of therapists make a lot of money nursing victim mentality, you can come and whine to meet forever. And while you pay me by the hour like that, that’s not a good look for my profession. It’s part of why I have I have distanced from my profession to call myself a coach, it gives me more permission to do really what I see needs doing. And sometimes, you know, you know, love, my profession is very, not the profession, the way I work is very loving. Now, I don’t offer love, like, show up, pay me, I’ll love you, that would not be right. But as I have sort of soulmate connection clients, undoubtedly what develops is love and care. It was profound for me years ago, when my therapist just looked at me one day and said, Nikki, I love you. I said, but you’re not supposed to. I know I’ve gone to counseling school, like you’re not supposed to say that. And she said, Yeah, but it’s the truth. And many years later, I was teaching other therapists. And I shared what I just shared with you about her telling me she loved me and her original therapist happened to be in the room learning from me, and she walked it to me at the break. And she said, I told Lisa that I loved her once upon a time, and I’m so happy to know that she told you, and it was true. It’s not something you can buy. It’s not something you can intend. But when that’s true, that’s part of the healing. And, you know, we give born to one mother and one father in this life. But if we let ourselves open up to the possibility and take a healthy risk with people, slow calculated healthy risks, we can let in so many different mothers and so many different fathers, even when we partner. Yeah, not in a weird way, not in a way that sounds insanity, but in a way that our inner child comes out with our partners. And we engage our partners, our husbands, our wives, our, our, our people, to help hold space for us, not to enable us not to encourage us to be the victim, but to actually help us grow up that part. Everybody in our lives is player. And when we figure out what it is we really are doing to heal and to shed what no longer serves us, that’s when our lives really get better.
Kim Meninger I can imagine there are so many people who are going to listen to this and see themselves in this conversation and aren’t going to be so grateful that we’re having it. I know you have mentioned the importance of not doing this alone. You’ve talked about it being a really long journey, a lifelong journey. What’s step one?
Nikki Eisenhauer I think step one is owning the reality of having a chaotic or an unstable childhood, any abuses beyond that can be dealt with in the specific ways that they need to be dealt with. But in the way of Oh, I was under nurtured, you just have to sort of start picking up that lens and understanding it. There’s tremendous books on inner child work, tick not Han has a lovely one called reconciliation healing the child within you can come to my boundaries course I teach it live every October for six weeks. And it’s kind of my final foundational thing. It’s my only big course that I currently teach boundaries are so important not just boundaries are not let me wag my finger at you and tell you what the line is and control your ability to cross it or not. Another unfortunate thing that is getting put in into the, the atmosphere about what boundaries are so you have to really learn what boundaries are not just with other people. But you have to learn what your own power is. You can’t control the words that We’re coming out of somebody else’s mouth. Younger people are being told that they can, they should be able to, they can’t. And if you’re the victim of things that are coming out of somebody else’s mouth, you’re gonna have a really hard life, you’re gonna be upset a lot. And so it’s not just learning boundaries with other people and how to actually have boundaries that you can enforce. It’s about having boundaries with your inner perfectionist, and no longer listening to it. It’s about having boundaries with your inner child and going in and then and though you can’t drive the bus right now. Nope, you’re, you’re not great at driving the bus, you can do other things. But no, it’s learning how to have that inner bully that says, You don’t know enough to do that yet. What kind of expert Do You Think You Are you think you’re going to help people you think you’re going to charge for the service, if you’re an entrepreneur, it’s learning how to have boundaries with those toxic voices in our head. So just starting to understand and I think a lot about marinating the way we might marinate meat before we cook it. It’s like we have to marinate in that sometimes people go okay, Nikki boundaries, give me like the six step process of what I need to do. And that’s not life, y’all. It’s not like I wish it was if there was some kind of clear formula that I could just give you. And that would fix everything I would be so about that, but it’s not it really, it’s like going to the gym, you know, you don’t expect to go to the gym 10 times and you just have these sweet, sweet our muscles, right? Like you. You like you have to keep. It’s a constant process of if we’re alive. And life is going to challenge us in so many different ways. And there is no one formula. So it’s, I think, marinating in these ideas. Instead of something’s wrong with me, What diagnosis do I have, you know, what I would diagnose you with is you’re human. And you get to figure that out. And so I keep meeting people that have been medicated, since they’re about eight years old. And they keep telling me I don’t know who I am. So it’s starting to marinate in this idea of you got to really get to know yourself, who are you your strengths, your limitations as a human being so that you can focus on growing those limitations so that there’s they’re not limiting you endlessly. Reading things, listening to podcasts, but also taking breaks and not trying too hard. So many of us that have insight are glean workaholic and perfectionistic. And perfectionism is sneaky. You know, it’s not going to tell you just plate that food on the plate perfectly. It’s going to have you trying to heal perfectly too, and you can’t do it. Because part of the healing is letting go of that kind of perfectionism. So you can keep following your podcast, like learning how to let go of impostor syndrome in all the different ways huge so that you can step more fully into the line of your life and own it. Come listen to my podcasts Emotional Badass where Moxie meets mindful. If you, if you like how I speak, and how I connect dots to be part of what I do for people, you’ll likely like my course.
Kim Meninger That’s a good segue into where can people find you? You mentioned your course you mentioned your podcast, we will link to excuse me to everything in the show notes. Where else can we find you?
Nikki Eisenhauer You can find me at emotionalbadass.com. That’s probably the easiest place to find all, all things. Nikki. I have another website that is my name. But my last name is a doozy to spell it has all kinds of vowels in it. So if you can find nikkieisenhauer.com, you can come there too. I also have a Patreon for the show. So once a month, at $10 a month, you can submit a question. I have a different topic actually right now, I can’t tell you the next topic because the Patreon people are voting on it. Think it’s gonna be sex or bodies. And there’s one more on there that they’re voting on now. And it’s just, it’s just a topic each month. I do that once a month. And that’s just fun. So being, being in communities, where people are really vested and doing the work and I would say be very wary of being with therapists or communities or support groups that are victim. I am absolutely anti-victim. There are no victims. There’s a moment in time where we have to acknowledge if we were victimized, but I tell people you don’t want to buy real estate in the victimhood. It’s a shitty place to live.
Kim Meninger That’s such a great way for us to wrap up today, Nikki, what, what an amazing conversation and you have given us so much to think about thank you so much for sharing your story and for bringing so much insight to this conversation. I know you’ve given me a lot to think about and I’m sure you have for others as well.
Nikki Eisenhauer Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity really the more of us that just talk in a more authentic way there’s so much healing in that, that there really, really is and the more that we surround ourselves with others that are doing that good work, the more we so get up and, and helps us on our journey. So thank you for doing what you do too.