18 Oct Mindfulness and Vulnerability with Lotty Roberts
In this episode I talk to Lotty Roberts, mum of 3 boys about how she quit her job in the corporate world to start up her business MindU, which provides consultancy, support and training to businesses around how to lead, navigate and successfully land change using a combination of her hands on background as a leader and change expert, along with her new found passion and knowledge of Mindfulness. Her mission is to create more compassionate, mindful leaders and businesses that enable and empower their people to embrace change mindfully. This she believes creates a positive ripple in the world.
She has also co-founded the Vulnerability Project which is about embracing vulnerability as a strength, to use it as a point of growth and connection to others . She talks about how she hit her rock bottom suffering from postnatal depression and numerous physical injuries after striving for perfection in all aspects of her life as a career driven women and competitive runner. She then discovered mindfulness and now describes it as her super power in dealing with life’s adversities. She talks about her yoga teacher training, discovering her limiting core beliefs such as “I’m not enough” and what she experienced on a 7 day silent mediation retreat. We discuss how the barriers to finding your truth can be based on expectations and ego and how creating space, mindfulness and gratitude can be excellent circuit breakers for those barriers.
Below are some snippets of what Lotty covers in the conversation:
- Finding your truth is about – the one word that came to mind was ‘home’. I believe that finding your truth is when you can be at home and yourself. The shiny stuff and the messy stuff. Finding out what your purpose is and what your ‘why’ is and living that every day. Sometimes that’s not easy, it’s hard and messy. When you’re born, there is just you, none of those expectations or those ways you believe the world wants you to be. It’s about coming back to the essence of who you really are. That is why I call it coming home, finding your purpose and living your purpose, but there is work to be done to know what your purpose is. Being all of who you are, your whole self, not the edited version. There are parts of you that you want to show the world and parts you want to hide away. It’s having that freedom to wake up and feel funky and its okay.
- Perfectionism – Everybody’s got a story – Going back 10 years I was very career driven. I did need a lot of external validation, I was always trying very hard, I was a competitive runner, I always wanted to run the fastest. Everything in my life was full tilt. I was trying in all aspects of my life to be perfect. Be the perfect wife, mum, employer, runner, have the perfect body, be the perfect friend and trying really hard in everything is bloody exhausting. I got to a point where I burnt out, and burning out helped me to do some exploration into how I was living my life.
- I was a competitive runner, so I would externally bash my body really hard. I would run 160km per week. I also worked hard in the corporate world on projects in transformation. I became a mum and when I had Louie I went straight back to work and I believed that the work you put in is what you get out. Then I started to get injuries, was physically quite burnt out. Then I had another baby, I was recovering from the injuries and went straight back into running, training and my career, doing exactly what I’d done before. Then I started noticing that I had some physical pain, and I had a stress fracture. And at the same time I got postnatal depression. So the way I’d been living my life up until then came crashing down, because I believed I had some sort of control, which really is an illusion. I’d always tried harder and got a result. Then all of a sudden, all the ways I’d lived my life until then didn’t work anymore. This was my lowest point, which sounds ludicrous now as I’ve had much harder things happen since. One moment I was driving in my car and I had to pull over the side of the road and was sobbing and crying. I wouldn’t talk to anybody about it. I didn’t want to drag anyone down with me.
- My doctor sent me to a counselor, she came to the conclusion that I wouldn’t sit still and I was burnt out. She mentioned something called mindfulness, and told me to go away and research it. I Googled mindfulness and it was a bit out there and it said it was a way of being in the present, without judgement. Then the next day I saw a poster that said “Do you live with pain, stress, and anxiety.” And I thought, yes!
- So I went on this 8 week mindfulness course and it completely changed my life. 2.5 hours each week, you learn different meditations and group work. Within 2 to 3 weeks I wasn’t in as much physical pain, then a few weeks after that I started to notice my baby smile. When you’re going through depression you don’t notice things like that as you don’t see any joy or light in the world. It’s like the world started to add colour to it. I’m not someone that asks for help but it gave me some practical tools and changed how I was living in my self. I just started to find the truth for myself.
- Body Scan is a meditation where you go through your body bit by bit, really break it down and it takes about half an hour and you’ll get to the body part that causes a lot of pain. You turn away from the body part with a lot of pain but you also focus on it. When you start to feel those sensations you start to observe them instead of being them. A lot of how bad the physical pain was, was more about the story I was telling myself in my head. But when I started to explore that without judgement, you don’t allow the story to narrate how its meant to be. You approach it with kindness and without judgement but its coming at it with no preconceptions. And then the pain did go completely. I believe that’s how it helped me. Its about the story we put around things, not the reality of it. You hold a lot of your anxiety and stress in your hips. I was resentful and angry, I thought why me, my mindset was a very negative one.
- In change there is a model you use and its ADKAR – Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, Reinforce. So a rock bottom moment can give you a real jolt of Awareness and a real Desire to change.
- For someone with my A type of personality, and a recovering perfectionist, people like me can get in our own way, people like me need a real jolt to change. To be honest, my life was pretty good up until then. It started me on a trajectory to be more self-aware. It started me on a journey to share my story. So when I describe it, my life is in three parts:
- Unconscious incompetence in my 20s. I had a big ego, and if anything went wrong it was someone else’s fault.
- Then in my 30s having kids makes you change, and physically I started to break down. conscious incompetence. So I started to realise what I was doing wrong.
- Now in my 40s I call it a time of conscious competence – a number of things happened. I got divorced, I got married again, I had another baby and then having more health problems – severe arthritis in both hips. That should have been my rock bottom – but it wasn’t. I call mindfulness my super power. And I had a double hip replacement which should have been my rock bottom, but because I had all these tools through mindfulness – I say to people its been the best thing that’s ever happened to me.
The challenging bits of life make you appreciate the good bits more.
- 6 months ago I left my job, I was career driven. All of the things I’ve done over the last few years, started to lift the veils off and you have these AHA moments. I really loved my job in business change and transformation. But as I got up the ladder, more senior, I noticed myself changing and my ego went with it, and also the behaviours of those around me. When I was lower in the organisation I would aspire to these leaders. But then when I became one of them and they were my peers I would notice that some of these behaviours weren’t something I’d aspired to. I was in an environment where I didn’t see my kids, I was running a business unit of 200 people. I hated the politics that happen at a senior executive level. Competitive behaviours, thinking that people are out to get me in a meeting. Then with the hip replacement I had to take time off and sit and think and reflect.
- From the outside it looked good, but I wasn’t living my truth. I wasn’t getting to see my kids, I was working for a bank and I felt I wasn’t adding value in the world. So I started planning my exit. Signs came to me from the universe and I started leaning into that.
- I started my Yoga teacher training – a lot of it is leadership training and mindfulness. I started to explore around limiting core beliefs and why you do what you do. I had a big one that “I’m not enough” which wouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. Everyone on the course is really showing their vulnerability and revealing stuff that have held them back their whole lives. You tend to over compensate by being a striver and achiever. Another one of mine was “I’m not liked” because I have a strong personality, some people I don’t resonate with. And another one is “I’m unimportant” which is why I’d try to achieve so much. They’re normally from your childhood. The idea is when you find where they come from, to not blame, its not the point. This was a starting point of finding my truth.
- I’m always such a tryer and its exhausting. When you just show up as yourself its the most liberating feeling.
- The mindfulness stuff is like a circuit breaker, they can be so simple, but not easy and they take practice. So I meditate now, every day for 20 minutes. I have more space in my mind. I can see the inner monologue that doesn’t serve me. I can see the voice and realise its not me. The voice in your head is not you. Your ego is not you and it can really get in your way. I’ve always judged myself on how I look, what I’ve achieved, how physical I can be. And I thought if I didn’t have those things, then there is no worth in me. All those things are fragile and they’re never going to last, because everything changes on a daily basis.
- I have an app on my phone which is called “We Croak” and it reminds me 5 x a day that we’re going to die. It reminds you to not sweat the small stuff. It’s a circuit breaker. Be in the moment, embrace it and see the good things. There is a lot of research done in ancient Buddhism that reminding yourself 5 x a day that you’re going to die is the key to happiness. The fact we can’t control our physical state, the only thing that we can actually control in our life is how you treat yourself and how you treat others.
- Giving yourself space is important – the world we live in today we don’t get much space. Create space to just sit and be. You want to fill time with stuff, but real magic can fill that space.
- Use that space to reflect – what parts of your life feel good? When do you feel at ease with yourself and when do you feel like an imposter? Thinking about when do you feel like you? When is you clicking into place? When you felt like everything fell into place, you can just be you and not put a mask on.
- Silent retreats – I went on a 7 day silent retreat as part of my mindfulness based stress reduction teaching pathway. Hard, but an amazing experience. There is nothing to do, you sit for 7 x 45 min meditations a day. But apart from that there are no distractions and nothing to do. So every day I’d go for a walk and you’d stand and you’d look at fantails play for half an hour. One day I was walking along and stopped and just felt the sun on my face. At that moment I felt so happy and at home. And it was a feeling that was nostalgic. So I thought when did I last feel this, and I got a memory of when I was a child, siting in the corn field and I’d just lie there for an hour with the sun on my face. The last time I felt totally like me, no where to go, nothing to achieve was then as a 12 year old girl. For me it was that long ago. Why? It is all the experiences, that adds layers onto you like scar tissue, that makes you feel like its not okay to be you. You don’t get anymore space than if you go on a silent retreat. It helps to have a mindfulness practice before going on a retreat like this.
- Expectations – I think we go through life with expectations we put on ourselves, and society and life puts on us. It makes us feel like we have to live a certain way. And its also Ego that can hold you back.
Ego and expectations go hand in hand and hold us back from finding our truth.
- For you to live a contented, fulfilled life. Your expectations should never exceed your gratitude.
- No matter how crap life is, there is so much to be grateful for.
You can see more of Lotty Roberts here: