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  • Kim Meninger

It’s All Smoke & Mirrors

Updated: May 12, 2023

It’s All Smoke & Mirrors


In this episode of the Impostor Syndrome Files, we talk about our addiction to the status quo. Each one of us is bombarded with messages about what we should do and who we should be. But those “shoulds” are rarely a recipe for happiness and fulfillment. My guest, Kathryn Burmeister, shares her journey of transitioning from a lawyer, a role she always dreamed about, to an entrepreneur focused on helping other lawyers find greater happiness in their lives. We also discuss our own mental health journeys and why it’s so important to have these conversations.

About My Guest:

Kathryn Burmeister makes a point to live every day. As a human being, she channels her passion for others into animal rescue, charities, and other causes. She is an entrepreneur, attorney, author, speaker, and guide to high-level service professionals.

Kathryn has served on the Board of Directors for Ahimsa House, a non-profit that helps domestic violence survivors and their pets get out of abusive situations. She is a member of Animal Legal Defense Fund, a non-profit whose mission is to protect the lives and advance the interests of animals through the legal system, and is a member of their Pro Bono Program network; a member of the ACLU, a non-profit that works through the legal system and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties that the Constitution and the laws of the United States guarantee everyone in this country; and a member of the Female Founder Collective, a network of businesses led by women, that enables and empowers female owned and led businesses to positively impact communities, both socially and economically. She is also a member of the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association, whose mission is to protect the Constitutional promise of justice for all by guaranteeing the right to trial by jury, preserving an independent judiciary, and providing access to the courts for all Georgians.

Though she never anticipated having her own business, after a number of tumultuous events, Kathryn started her own law firm, Burmeister Law Firm, LLC, in October of 2018 and focuses exclusively on personal injury by giving a voice to those that have been hurt because of someone else.

She formed her personally branded business, Kathryn F. Burmeister, LLC in 2020. Known as The Happiness Lawyer™, she speaks, writes, and guides high-level service professionals towards living a full life (both personally and professional) of happiness. She wrote her first book, “Overcoming Addiction to the Status Quo,” in 2020, which tells the story of her journey hitting her rock bottom, mental health, self-improvement, emotional intelligence, and overcoming adversity as a high-level service professional.

A native Atlantan, Kathryn is an only child, of English, German, and Scots-Irish descent, and the second in her family to graduate college, earning her bachelor’s and law degrees from Mercer University. An animal lover, she rescued her first in the sixth grade. She has ridden horses since she was seven years old and enjoys taking equestrian vacations in different parts of the world.

Kathryn lives with her 4 cats, 1 dog, and husband in Atlanta.

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Transcript:

Kim Meninger Welcome, Kathryn. It’s such a pleasure to meet you today. And I’m really excited for us to have this conversation. And before we jump in, I’d love to invite you to introduce yourself.

Kathryn Burmeister Yes, my name is Kathryn Burmeister. I am the happiness lawyer, I am a recovering or soon-to-be recovering lawyer and I have opened up my own second business to help other professionals, focusing on lawyers, find happiness. It turns out, there’s a lot of professionals, especially lawyers that are very unhappy in their life, personally and professionally. And so I focus on a holistic way of helping those individuals really reprogram their mindsets. We do these habits and things in our lives that are to our own detriment. But they’re what we know and what we’re comfortable doing. So we keep doing, keep doing them, instead of actually thinking about whether this is bringing us any joy or happiness. So I help people figure out who they are now where they want to be and how to get them there at the end of the day.

Kim Meninger What do you define as happiness?

Kathryn Burmeister So the very lawyer answer it depends. But it’s true. It’s true. Happiness is different for everybody. What I can say is, it’s not rainbows and kittens all the time, right? It’s, it’s a general sense of contentment. And living the best version of yourself really is how I define it. And that is different for everyone. So it encompasses everything from like I said, your personal life, your professional life, I think we go off track and we start thinking about, Oh, I’m just going to be happy my personal life and suck up the professional years, you’re the constant in every area of your life, right? Family, friends work, you know, home, personal, all that. So you really have to focus on what’s bringing you fulfillment in all those areas, not just one or the other, or being different people in different areas to try and make it through life. I mean, life’s just too short, to not be happy in all facets of it.

Kim Meninger It’s so true. And it’s so interesting because I was just having this conversation with my husband earlier today. He was joking around with me because he, he works part-time now. So he has Monday off and he Yeah, he was asking me said, you know, what have you been doing all day? So I’ve been working? He’s like, Oh, you weren’t you were laughing? I heard you laughing in there. I’m working. I said, he’s like, Well, if you’re having fun, and it’s not work, and I was like, for me absolutely untrue

Kathryn Burmeister Completely untrue.

Kim Meninger And I think too many of us have that attitude, right? That Oh, like you said, Well, it’s work. And so maybe my expectations are too high, maybe I, you know, maybe this is just the way work should be. And we end up being miserable when we don’t have to be and so I’d love to hear your response to that, but also your own story. How did you get here?

Kathryn Burmeister Yeah, um, I think I’ll start with my story first, and then we’ll kind of you know, evolve into what that is for me. So I had always wanted to be a lawyer since middle school. Nobody in my family was but I was very drawn to reading at an early age. And I read a letter from a Birmingham Jail, which is Martin Luther King, and then To Kill a Mockingbird. And obviously, MLK was not a lawyer, but he talked about the sense of unjust and unjust laws. And then of course, to kill Mockingbird is about the fence of a black man in a white town. And that really resonated with me that idea of standing up for justice and using the law to affect positive change or a change to some degree. So that set me on this path. I’m very high achiever, a type personality, always measured myself against myself to the utmost the insane amount of degree, right? I mean, nobody else would measure me to that except for myself. So yeah, my first legal job was in high school, took the entrance exam to law school, got in, graduated, ended up having to take the bar exam a few times, I missed by one point. And then two points, because turns out, I have testing anxiety when you’re, you know, doing something that you’ve literally set your hopes on for umpteen years at this point, I got out and I started working really, for my dream firm, I did plaintiffs work, which means I was representing individuals who have been hurt because of somebody else. And so I was representing those individuals against insurance companies. Really, you know, it was something I enjoy, because it’s, you know, played into that David and Goliath mentality, and being able to help people that didn’t otherwise have a voice against a big corporation. So that’s, that’s really where my passion is, and was at the time. So I was working for a firm, there are two other associates close to my age, and it, they were all men, all the lawyers were men, which is very stereotypical for the legal profession generally, but especially in personal injury, plaintiff’s side of things, so But I learned by doing the partner have been doing this for 30 years, he really let us get in there and do things where most other places I just would have been in the back room pushing paper. So it didn’t mean that I didn’t have impostor syndrome, though, because I was the youngest I was the new First, and I was the only female out of the lawyers. So it’s really hard to adjust to that and kind of lean into like, oh, is this really good? Is this? Can it be this good? Is it possible for this to be this good. And it was for a year and a half, we, we did great work, we worked well together, I learned a lot and truly enjoyed it. And then I got a text in the middle of the night, which I can’t think of any texts in the middle of the night that are usually good, not at least from you know, anyone you work with. And it told us to get there all the attorneys to be there before staff. And in my mind, without any evidence to support this. I thought I did something wrong. Because I was the youngest, the newest, I just surely thought that there was something that had done. And we get there and I couldn’t have been further from the truth. Our partner had committed suicide. He had been stealing money from clients for eight years. Yeah. And I got a lot of really awful people that were lawyers, and this person would give you the shirt off of his back. So it was even more astounding that this had happened. He left notes detailing what he had done if it was between this and prison. This was the way he was going to go. He had two daughters, one who just had her first child had two other grandbabies. Yeah, it was truly awful. And that’s the understatement of the century, probably, that it really shifted my perspective on who I was, how I fit into things, what I was capable of what I wanted, especially when you have something that’s built up such an amazing experience and you know, place of employment, and you know, everybody else says I was gonna be miserable, you’re gonna hate it. And then to be blindsided with this is just, it’s there are no words to a certain degree to explain it. But ever, ever the individual to move forward and upward I, I told that partner, my new partner, hey, I’ll continue this with you if, if we have full transparency, so is myself, the Senior Associate now partner and one paralegal that continued a law firm. And I basically ran that law firm for a year, it was maybe my second year practicing as a lawyer, which is crazy. And my partner at that point, he checked out mentally and physically, I gave him a lot of leeway for a number of years talking about this. And I remember I was finally talking to my therapist, and she’s like, you know, it’s it’s okay, that you did that, you know, clearly, you’re empathetic, I understand. She said, But you were all going through stuff like you. He wasn’t the only one that is impacted. And I find I was like, oh, yeah, you know, because I just wanted to feel like, I think as a coping mechanism, right, you want to give somebody a pass because you feel like oh, they surely can intentionally make this decision to leave you high and dry and caring about their business more than they do. But that’s what ultimately happened. So I ran that entire practice. And at the end of the year, I remember, I was halfway around the world, I finally taken a trip, and I get a call from my paralegal. And she needed emergency permission to do something that my partner knew about was coming up that I was going to be in the country. I shouldn’t have been dealing with this. And I said, Yes, of course, clearly. Go ahead. So of course, I was furious when I got back in the country. And I go into the office that Monday thinking he’s gonna be there, and he’s on a silent retreat in Middle Georgia. All right, so I remember thinking literally at that point, I couldn’t process another thought that entire year, since my partner committed suicide, every waking minute had been spent thinking about other people, about their emotions about clients, emotions, clients that weren’t technically our clients and having to deal with the fallout from that, keeping my paralegal, you know, float emotionally. And so she could help me do what I was doing keeping myself afloat, keeping my partner afloat. It was exhausting. It was exhausting. The only time I had a break was when I was sleeping. And even then, you know, I was dreaming about it. So when I had that thought that I couldn’t think anymore, I did think I don’t want to be here anymore. I just didn’t, I was so tired. I was just so incredibly tired. And I knew enough to know that I was having suicidal ideations. That’s what those are. And I dealt with anxiety and depression for years before that, and it’s been managed, but that doesn’t mean it goes away entirely. And doesn’t mean that traumatic events can’t push you to the point where you just are so tired, and that you just don’t want to deal with it anymore. So luckily, I didn’t know where I was. And I call my husband he met me at home. And overnight, it’s as if everything, didn’t want it for me. And it doesn’t happen most time for people like that. But for me, it did. And I remember not knowing for a while why, aside from the fact that I did have the strong feelings But why all of a sudden, things became clear. I felt very comforted We’ll drawing a line in the sand and feeling confident in my abilities and my inabilities and being okay with my own abilities. And when I wrote my book, overcoming addiction to the status quo, I realized what it was, I had finally proven to myself that I was enough. And up until that point, I never ever, ever thought I was enough. And if somebody can tell you that you can think, Oh, I am enough, but until you believe it, it’s a whole other ballgame. And so that’s my story about how really I overcame impostor syndrome. And I mean, occasionally I’ll creep up, but it’s nothing, nothing, nothing like it used to be. And it’s just been it took a traumatic event, unfortunately, to get me to that point, but that’s why I look to help other people not have to get to that point, to make a change in their life. And specifically with impostor syndrome, overcoming that it shouldn’t take hitting almost rock bottom for you to be able to change your life for the better.

Kim Meninger Wow, that’s, that’s a lot, right, like you said, and so I’m curious. When you woke up that morning, and that 180 had happened. I don’t even know how to ask the question like, how did you know what was different?

Kathryn Burmeister I think I just felt like a tremendous weight had been lifted. I didn’t feel this sense of dread. I mean, clearly, things are still happening. It’s not as though anything outside of myself had changed overnight. But I just felt like I truly had done and was doing everything possible. And that was enough. I was enough. So I think it was a sense of relief, and just a tremendous weight being lifted. At that point. I don’t think I could have ever put my finger on exactly like what it was right? Because it’s such an existential and emotional concept anyway, but that’s ultimately what happened. I just felt a sense of relief. And I’m so thankful, because one of the things like you go through life, and you have experiences, and they can be horrible, but it’s one of the best things in a weird way that can happen. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. But that has been just absolutely changed the trajectory, trajectory of my life, whether I had my own business, I never wanted my own law firm. I ended up having my own law firm after this. I never thought I’d get out of law. Now I’m getting out of law to have my own business as a happiness lawyer. And I never would have had the, the, the courage to do that, quite frankly, if I hadn’t had those experiences before where I just went, What’s the worst that can happen? And in my mind, if you would ask me, What’s the worst that can happen in anything? Before I hit that rock bottom, that’s what I call it, I would have said, well, like, everything can go wrong, you know, people are gonna think less than a, they’re gonna think I’m incompetent. They’re gonna think you know, all these numbers of things. And then when you really drill down to it, yes, those are emotions. And they’re, they can be significant and dramatic emotions that you feel from other people or the situation. But really, what’s the worst that can happen? And I realized, walking away and start my own practice, the worst that happens is it doesn’t work out. And I go get a job. And not everybody has that opportunity. But really 99% of the time, when you drill down to what’s the worst that can happen. It’s not that bad. It’s scary. And, you know, it can you can psych yourself out of it. But really, you’re going to survive, and you’re going to move forward. And but I think we build this up in our mind, because really, in this day and age, we don’t have traditional fears, right? 1000s of years ago, it was, you know, trying to survive day to day and I don’t know outrun Tigers right now, our brains foolish to think that fear is standing up in front of an audience. You know, it’s living up to the expectations we put on ourselves, or other people put on us. And they’re valid feelings, but they’re not going to kill you. Right, if that makes any sense. But it’s still hard because it feels like that, literally, you’re going to die if you get through this.

Kim Meninger Yeah, well, and so there’s, that is a huge pressure point. I think for so many of us, when we find ourselves in these situations, I also want to ask you about how it felt to close a chapter on a career path that had been so meaningful to you from such a young age, right? Because what you’re describing as the emotional path, and you know, having that awakening and coming to terms with yourself, isn’t always linear, right? Like you can get there and then you can slide back a little bit, all kinds of different twists and turns. And so I’m curious, did that require a certain kind of processing or a certain kind of approach to be able to be okay with not doing the work that you had thought you wanted to do your whole life?

Kathryn Burmeister Yes. It, it did throw me for a loop for a little while, it was more of a progression at this time. And it’s transition from being a personal injury lawyer with my own practice to being a happiness lawyer. So luckily, it wasn’t like what had happened before. Just as like, he got two weeks, and you’re in, you’re in law practice. But it did. I mean, I really thought if I do this, I’ve spent how many years of my life? How much time in school? Am I you know, failure? Because I didn’t make it work with my own practice? Should I just go work for a firm, to stay a lawyer and not be happy? Yeah, I had a lot of thoughts about my identity, because I had tied myself to being a lawyer, not because I thought like, Oh, I’m, I’m better than but I just wanted it so badly, like you said, that I really thought about it. And I realized, I want to help people. You know, as cliche as that sounds, especially going into law, but I do and I did. And I want to help people. And this is just a different way of helping people. And if this is a better way of doing it right now in my life, then that’s okay. Just because something doesn’t work out doesn’t mean it’s a failure, right? And walking away is not failure, I actually literally have that on a post-it note on my computer right here. Because for the longest time, in my mind, walking away was going to be a failure in this even though I knew it, I had moved past many parts of my life where I felt that way, this was the biggest, you know, thing that I had changed since I had hit my rock bottom and opened my own practice and gotten through everything I had. Because for years, I’ve been open for four years, October 22. So that’s a long time to run a business and then decide to shift away from it.

Kim Meninger Absolutely. And I think it’s so important because that is a big block for a lot of people who either had this childhood dream, or spent a lot of time in advanced education preparing for there were sort of this expectation that this is who I’m going to be, this is what I’m going to do. And if that doesn’t continue, there is that identity crisis that comes with it. And that feeling of oh, no, you know, maybe there’s something wrong with me, as opposed to what I really like about your reframe is the idea that given your core value around service and wanting to help others, that’s one manifestation of it. But you can do that, in other ways, still be true to yourself and not have to go through all of the experiences that were not making you feel fulfilled and happy and satisfied in that context.

Kathryn Burmeister Absolutely. And it’s, um, I think it’s cultural. In many ways. It’s a time in the world that we live in 2022. But I also think it’s American culture, where we identify ourselves by what we do, not who we are. And it’s hard to break out of that. I mean, what’s the first question nine times out of 10? Do you get when you go to a networking event? It’s not who are you? It’s what do you do? And when you tie yourself to that, and then you spent all this time and energy becoming that, it’s hard to walk away from it and not feel like you’re failing in some capacity. So it’s just really interesting. And that’s another reason I work with people. Some people ask me like, Oh, are you trying to get people or lawyers to not be lawyers? I was like, No, I absolutely think people should be lawyers they want to be. But there’s also nothing wrong with walking away from that or modifying it. You know, I love to be able to do what’s called motion practice. So doing the legal litigation, written stuff in the background, and be able to do that as a service for the law firm. So I can still do the nitty gritty stuff that I enjoy intellectually, but I don’t have to be responsible for all the other stuff, and then still coach people on how to be happy. And that’s why I’m so adamant about the holistic part of coaching, I think a lot of people focus just on a business or just on the person. And there’s different parts of sometimes that’s warranted. But I think we sell ourselves short by, you know, creating these silos, and thinking that, okay, if I fix my personal life, and professional life will be fine, or my professional life is fine. I’m just gonna look at my personal life. And that’s just not true. You’re the common denominator, which that’s allowed me like you said, to step back and say, okay, my identity is helping people, that’s a big part of who I am. So how can I do that to feel personally fulfilled, and professionally make a living? So that’s where I really help people figure out what Who are they and where are their core values? And I remember I’ve done workshops with people and I say, Okay, you have to get down to three core values. First of all, that’s extremely hard. Second of all, they absolutely want to push back and have like professional core values and then have personal core values and like, no, no, like, literally act and get down to like to the bottom line, you’re gonna die tomorrow and somebody in your life is going to remember you for three things. What is it And they’re like, you know, their mind’s blown. But that’s really what you have to get down to, to live by. So you can guide yourself through the rest of your life.

Kim Meninger So what else is deep? At least from the perspective that you have having done this work yourself and doing it with others? What else gets in the way? Like, what are the things that I guess I’m wondering if people are listening and thinking, that’s me? Like, how do I know? How do I like look around my life and think, oh, yeah, I could probably do differently, or better than I’m doing now.

Kathryn Burmeister So living, living to the status quo is what I, what I call it. And I think we all kind of know what status quo is, but the way I define it is living, you know, based on internal and external expectations, societal expectations. So like I said, the very beginning, we have a tendency to do things to ourselves to our own detriment. Just because we’re used to it or because we tell ourselves that we’re supposed to, or society tells us that we’re supposed to. And that’s why I call it addiction to the status quo. And I’m not being flippant when I say addiction, I genuinely believe it is because it leads people to do so many things that are not good. And there, it isn’t addictive behavior, right? Like you can even become an alcoholic or a drug user, or any number of things because you’re trying to keep up with this idea of what you should be. And that’s where we fall into this trap that we and then from there, it’s fear, right? We’re following the status quo because of fear. If you choose to have a white picket fence and 2.5 children, great, that’s totally fine. But if you’re doing it, because as I told you do or your parents expect you to, that’s the status quo, right? So it’s, and it’s been the decisions have been made out of fear. So that’s really what it comes down to is living your life based on those expectations.

Kim Meninger I think that’s a really good way to think about it. What’s the motivation? Right, if you’re doing it because you want to, and it makes you happy? That’s different from doing it because you have all of these shoulds hanging over you. Right? So can we talk a little bit more about mental health CRICOS? You mentioned the anxiety and the depression. I think that, that it’s undeniable that mental health, and I don’t know if it’s just more that we talk about it more now or that as a result of everything that’s happened over the last few years, people have really struggled in new ways. But that’s a big part of this conversation. And I just want to hear more of your story. If you’re open to sharing about how, how did you know that mental health was an issue? And how does it play into the work that you’re doing?

Kathryn Burmeister Yeah, I am. Like I said, I’ve had anxiety and depression, probably since high school to some degree. Now I had the benefit of my mom’s side of the family having anxiety and depression. So I grew up in a very open environment with that. So part of that hereditary part of it, I think, is my personality type that led to having that. But I knew about it. So I was aware of it from a very early age, my mom would, you know, occasionally let me do like a stay-at-home wellness day type thing. So that was normalized for me. And I remember in college was probably it was it was the first time I had a panic attack. It was my freshman year. And I started going to therapy, and then I got on some anti-anxiety medication at that time. I wean myself off of them with my doctor’s approval for a while. And then I remember when I was studying for the bar exam, I was just, it was awful. I was having panic attacks. And I was fighting not only this exam, but I was fighting myself. And I knew what more than anyone, you know, what am I proving at this point? You know, it’s not fighting, this is not working, first of all, second of all, is not going to benefit me in the long run. So going back to therapy, going back to getting on medication, because that’s what I need. Not everybody needs that. But it’s undeniable, like you said that stress is is around us every single day. You’re not You’re human. If you’re human, you’re gonna have stress in your life. It’s just what degree and how much of that does it influence you and on any given day? So I think the biggest thing is recognizing one that you don’t have to have a formal diagnosis to, to one go therapy or be proactive about your wellness, your mental health. Second of all, talking to somebody does not make you weak, and it doesn’t mean it’s going to solve things. I think people were like, well, it’s not going to do any good. Well, it does do good. It may not solve everything, but it provides you an environment to have an open conversation outside of your head because we have a way of distorting things to a point where we do create, I think more stress and more trauma on ourselves the idea of feeling like you’re not enough or you should be a certain way that It’s a cyclical mental cycle, right? You just keep putting it on yourself to the point where you don’t even know what’s really true or not. So yeah, it’s just that’s, that’s been my experience. And I’ve gotten to the point now, where it’s something I’m very open about, I talked to lawyers about it, which is a group of people who absolutely do not want to address mental health, they’re doing better. But they still underreport it, they still cope with stress by drinking and drugs and my profession. And I think a lot of it has to do with this idea of if I talk about mental health, it’s gonna be seen as a weakness. And I think thankfully, we are in a time where more people talk about it. So it’s more accepted and recognized. But I do think in many ways, our society and culture have curated the ability to have more stress, right? I think social media, in many ways is good, because it connects people. But I also think it puts a tremendous amount of stress on people as well. And technology generally, right? Now you can get more things done. But then you have the pressure of getting more things done, right? It’s not like back in the day where you wait for the mail to come in from your client, and you’ve got five days to respond, it’s like, no, you got an email in your hands on a phone that you have to respond to before, you know, three minutes passes, or somebody’s gonna lose their mind. So it’s, um, it’s interesting, it’s just interesting to see how mental health has evolved, even in the time that I’ve grown up how that conversation has been normalized, and culture.

Kim Meninger That really resonates with me, too. I definitely have a history of anxiety and depression in my family, I have been, I’ve struggled with anxiety for as long as I can remember, it’s just always been part of my approach to life. And I went, I was started on medication when I was very, a young adult. And I went off of it only when I was pregnant, and, you know, trying to have children. And so there was probably like, a five-year stretch where I wasn’t taking anything, and my life was so much harder than it needed to be. I just really…

Kathryn Burmeister That’s it. Right? Like you’re not it’s, I think that we have a sense, especially as women, that we have to handle it all. And we, and we want to handle it all. But again, you’re not proving you proverbial you is not proving anything, you’re just making it harder on yourself. And there’s no sense if you have the technology and the medicine, I always joke Better Living Through Chemistry. I also have a shirt that says If you’re happy and you know, it’s your meds, um, you know, it’s, it helps, why not? Why not do that. And again, like it’s different for everybody. I’m a very low dosage of an anti-anxiety medication and I depressant and I do therapy regularly. Sometimes things are more stressful my life, I do therapy every two weeks, than other times I do it every four. I just think living the best version of yourself. Like I said, it depends. And for me, that’s what I need. Other people may need something different. It’s just learning to lean into who you are and not fight it so much.

Kim Meninger Absolutely. Absolutely. And I often joke about that, too, right? There’s no metal for doing things the hard way, right? No, superheroes for denying ourselves the advancements of medical science and technology. Exactly. And so one of the things that really stuck with me many years ago, I had an injury, and I went through physical therapy, and there was this big sign on the wall that said, pain is your body’s check engine light. And I think about that even today, they were obviously referring to physical pain. But I think about that a lot in the workplace. And in the context of what you and I are talking about is anytime something is harder than it needs to be anytime you feel pain right now, not being challenged, not occasional stress, but, but pain like this, I feel like my life is being disrupted, there’s something wrong here. That is a signal that is time to just pause and reflect. And maybe it means that I’m struggling with, you know, mental health challenges and would benefit from medication or therapists. Or maybe I just need to talk to my manager about my workload. Or maybe I need to think differently about the path ahead of me. But I think too often, to your point, we have all of this pressure telling us that we should be able to handle these things that everyone else is doing great handling because we don’t see other people’s messy lives, we see what they show us, right? And so we start to internalize it as Oh, well, there must be something wrong with me. And I’m not going to reveal these flaws. Because then everyone’s going to know instead of saying, okay, yeah, this is, this is a moment where it’s worth taking stock of what’s going on and what resources might be able to help me better navigate it.

Kathryn Burmeister Absolutely. I am. I’m getting certified in what’s called Positive Intelligence. And it looks at what it calls saboteur. So different, different parts of a personality that people kind of tend to gravitate towards one being, you know, the should write thinking that you’re not enough or you should be a certain way. But one of the things I talk about is, is having negative feelings still serve a purpose. Right, I think, I hate to think, what is it? Yeah, like, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I hate that, okay? Because it can always make you stronger. But it’s also how you look at it, and what information you take from it, it can serve a very valid purpose, it’s like, you know, if you have your hand on the stove, what is processing and telling you is that you need to pull your hand away. So keeping your hand there and burning it to third degree is not going to be beneficial to you, okay, it is beneficial in terms of recognizing that you need to change whatever is happening. So that’s the same situation, it’s information that you can take in, recognize something needs to change and find the resources to change that. And instead of passing a value judgment on whether you’re somehow, you know, worse than the next person or a failure for feeling this way, just allow it to come in as just information, one way or another, it’s information, and then making decisions based off that. And you really brought up something about like other people looking like they have it together. I am here to tell you it is all smoke and mirrors. In my profession, especially, because of everything that I went through, knowing how people put, you know, out this facade that they’re a hugely successful professional because they’ve got this huge firm and these cars and all this stuff. It’s all smoke and mirrors. We’re all human, we’re all dealing with stress, like I said, to different degrees. And you know, it’s it’s even the same for the, you know, like stay-at-home moms in the neighborhood, right there on Pinterest going, oh my god, how’d she make like gluten-free cupcakes that have all these designs and not look like? What’s the show where they have the competitions, like the picture? And then what I did like, like, oh, that didn’t turn out, right? Like it, we’re all dealing with the same stuff. We just don’t want to admit it, because we think it’s gonna make us look less than whereas if we all admit, it’d be like, Oh, wow, we’re all going through the same thing, we would all feel better. I can’t tell you how many times I talk to people. And as soon as I share my story, they’re like, oh, my gosh, I feel the same way. Where they never would have admitted that in a million years. If I gone up to him point blank, ask them, because they don’t want to feel like they’re being judged, because they don’t want to judge themselves and come to terms with what they’re really feeling. And I get that it’s uncomfortable. But you can’t get to a better place until you recognize where you are right now. And that’s why I harp on it to people because you don’t know how long you have. I know that might be morbid, but something could happen today, you’re in a car wreck, or and you’re, you know, say you’ve survived, but your career is taken away from you. You can’t live your life based on all these external factors, and not just your existence and being happy. Because that’s all you have, at the end of the day, whether it’s now whether it’s 80 years from now, you don’t want to get on your deathbed and look back and say, Wow, I really wish I’d been happy. And by then it’s too late.

Kim Meninger You’re right. I know, it’s hard to think about. But it’s so true. And I think about as you were talking about that, that fear that we all have, it’s almost like who’s going to be the first one to speak up and say this because everybody else is it’s impression management, right? We are all trying to put our best face forward in front of other people. But I think that for the most part, all of us, most of us have a service orientation to some extent, like most of us will say that we want to help people at some level. And I think being willing to share your story, being willing to be vulnerable and real with other people is one of the greatest services that you can show to other people because you’re sacrificing yourself in many ways, right? You’re taking a big risk. And in so doing, you’re giving permission to other people to do the same. So you’re sort of cracking the system open that has perpetuated the, this pressure that we all take for granted. That’s just reality. When if, if everybody listening, were to decide, you know, I’m gonna be that change, I’m gonna go, I’m gonna go back to my peer group or whoever it is, and I’m gonna tell my story, I’m gonna have this conversation. We could change. Yeah, right, we really could have a substantial impact on how people engage in their lives.

Kathryn Burmeister And I think a lot of this in so many ways, just society as a whole is very much fear-based, right? What we do is so fear-based on a micro level, on a macro level, just so much of his fear. And imagine if we weren’t afraid of sharing what we thought or of hearing new ideas. Just interacting with something new and unknown. It just, I think, like you said, so much could change for the better if we were willing to do that. And I don’t blame people. I’m not saying Brian has to go out and stand on a stage like I do and talk to people about their mental health. It took me a long time to get to this point. It really did. Even when I wrote my book, and I finally published it, it was like, Oh, my God, people are gonna know, like, as if I didn’t realize I was writing a book at the time, clearly. But it’s still it’s once you put it out there, it’s out there. And I’ve just become more and more comfortable saying, Yes, this is who I am. And this is part of it. Because also, I didn’t do because of this, but it’s so incredibly rewarding to have people come up to me, like you said, you know, after and be like, I’ve, I feel that way. And you can immediately connect and immediately see, you know, just who they are on a whole different level than you would have if you just met them in passing. And have, you know, had a totally different conversation.

Kim Meninger Absolutely. Absolutely. Do you have any final thoughts, anything that we no, we could talk all day about this topic. Is there anything you feel it’s really important for people listening to take away from this conversation?

Kathryn Burmeister Um, two things, life’s too short not to do something. And if you don’t know what to do start small. Reach out to somebody, not necessarily me, but somebody like me start going to therapy. I have a lot of people who recognize they’re not happy. And they want to be happy. But they don’t ultimately take that step in between and it takes work. And it’s scary, but you have to take the step. Nobody else can do it for you. No one, I don’t care how much your family cares about you. You are the only one that can dictate whether you want to live a happier life or not. And everybody says, Oh, well, I’ll do it down the road, or I’ll do it later. Later, maybe too late.

Kim Meninger That’s a really, really important point. So where can people find you if they want to learn more and connect with you?

Kathryn Burmeister Yeah, the best place to go is either my website, thehappinesslawyer.com. Or if you go to link tree, my handle is the happiness lawyer that takes you to things I’ve been doing all the podcasts. I’ve been on social media, all those things.

Kim Meninger Wonderful. Well, thank you so much, Kathryn. This has been such a great conversation. Of course.

Kathryn Burmeister Thank you for having me.

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