EP: 146 Finding Home In Your Skin: Somatic Coaching And Inner Child Healing With Jay Fields

BWW 146 | Inner Child

Hello everyone! How are you doing out there?

Let’s start with a quote:

“We have to listen to the child we once were, the child who still exists inside us. That child understands magic moments. We can stifle its cries, but we cannot silence its voice. The child we once were is still there.” – Paulo Coelho

This quote directly relates to my conversation with Jay Fields, somatic coach, today. Funny enough, I connected with Jay after she shared an interesting post on LinkedIn about the inner child. I also completed coaching with one of my clients a few years ago, and one of her big a-ha moments was the fact that the scared and angry little girl was indeed still inside her. With all of this pointing to the inner child and how we need to take care of it so we can be the best version of ourselves, I am excited about having Jay as a guest on the show.

During my chat with Jay, we discussed:

  1. What motivated her to become a somatic coach and how tapping into our bodies can help us tremendously.
  2. What Jay’s quote, “I believe people want to feel at home in their own skin and have fulfilling lives, but they just don’t know how to actually do it” means.
  3. What Jay references when she talks about “take your child to work day”.
  4. The signs that our inner child may be cranky or running the show rather than the calmer or cooler versions of ourselves.
  5. How we can be authentic to ourselves at work and in life.
  6. Jay also shares the Basic Exercise, which supports our nervous system regulation.

Listen to the podcast here

Finding Home In Your Skin: Somatic Coaching And Inner Child Healing With Jay Fields

I’m glad you’re here. Everyone, how are you doing out there? Let’s start this episode with a quote, “We have to listen to the child we once were, the child who still exists inside us. That child understands magic moments. We can stifle its cries, but we cannot silence its voice. The child we once were is still there.” That is by Paulo Coelho. He is a famous author of The Alchemist. If you have not read that, I highly recommend it. It is a life-changing book, at least to me.

This quote directly relates to my conversation with Jay Fields, who is a somatic coach on the show. Funny enough, I connected with Jay after she shared an interesting post on LinkedIn about the inner child. I also completed coaching with one of my clients a few years ago in one of her big a-ha moments. That a-ha moment was the fact that the scared and angry little girl was indeed inside of her. With all of this pointing to the inner child and how we need to take care of it so we can be the best version of ourselves, I’m excited about having Jay as a guest on the show.

During my chat with Jay, we discussed what motivated her to become a somatic coach, which is a body coach, how it affects our neuroscience and the brain, and how tapping into our bodies can help us tremendously. What Jay’s quote, “I believe people want to feel at home in their own skin and have fulfilling lives, but they don’t know how to do it,” what does that mean? What Jay references when she talks about, “Take your child to workday,” got me thinking. I was like, “I got to have Jay on this show.” The signs that our inner child may be cranky or running the show rather than the calmer or cooler versions of ourselves. How we can be authentic to ourselves at work and in life, and Jay also shares the basic exercise, which supports our nervous system regulation.

Here’s more about Jay. She is an educator, coach, and author who has taught the principles of embodied social and emotional intelligence to individuals and organizations for many years. Her approach to helping people have their own back at work and in life is grounded, playful, empathetic, and intelligent. She received her Bachelor’s in Psychosocial Health and Human Movement from the College of William and Mary and her Master’s in Integral Transformative Education from Prescott College. She’s the author of the book Teaching People Not Poses and the LinkedIn Learning Courses, Managing Your Emotions at Work, and Practices for Regulating Your Nervous System and Reducing Stress.

When not working with clients or facilitating training, you can find Jay riding her motorcycle with her sweetie in the mountains outside of Ojai, California, where she lives. Before we get started, if you’re enjoying Brave Woman at Work, you know I say this every episode, please make sure to leave a rating and review on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. We’ve had a couple of positive reviews. You know who you are. Thank you so much for your support. If you’ve already left a rating and review, whether it was several years ago, I thank you so much. Your support of the show continues to get that out in the world into the hands of more women so thank you.

As a quick reminder, if you haven’t gone over to my website to grab one of my freebies, go to my website at BraveWomenAtWork.com. I have three freebies out there. The first one is called Get Paid: 10 Negotiation Tips. Who doesn’t want to get paid more? 24 Career and Leadership Affirmations and the 5 Steps to Managing Your Imposter Syndrome. Again, they are free. Go and get them at BraveWomenAtWork.com. Let’s welcome Jay to the show.

BWW 146 | Inner Child

Jay, welcome to the show. How are you?

I am great and thanks for having me. It’s good to be here, Jen.

I am excited to talk with you about the work that you do. Before we do that, why don’t you tell us a little bit about your backstory and how you’ve gotten to where you are?

I am a somatic coach. I’ll start there because that’ll help my story make sense. Somatic comes from the Greek word soma, which means body. My coaching approach is to help people leverage the intelligence of their body by being more present in their body and being able to work at the level of their nervous system to create lasting behavior change, specifically in terms of how they relate to themselves and other people.

That’s going to help make sense next, which is my story about how I got here. It started in college. In my freshman year of college, I got into practicing yoga. I had been a competitive gymnast when I was a kid. Yoga seemed like the natural next step. I also got into rock climbing and outdoor experiential education. In that first year of college, I realized that these different activities that I was doing that required such presence in my physical body helped shift my mental and emotional self. I felt good doing them, which was different than all those hours that I’d done gymnastics. I was “in my body,” but it was a different experience.

I got super interested in that. I ended up designing my own major, which was about studying the mind-body connection. This was back in the late ‘90s before that was a mainstream thing. I was curious about how we can use this conscious connection to our bodies to affect our mental and emotional health. That’s the birthplace of my work.

The way that my personal story weaves into this is I got married when I was in college, which is into my 43-year-old self now like, “What was I thinking?” I was 21 years old. By the time I was 23, I had gotten a divorce because I had an affair. It blew up how I thought of who I was. I thought of myself as an honest, loyal, and relational person. I thought of myself as being self-aware and intelligent. What became painfully obvious to me at 23 was I might’ve been smart, but I didn’t have relational intelligence because I didn’t know how to be that true self that I was connecting to in yoga and all those different presence-based practices. I didn’t know how to be that true self around other people.

The last several years of my work have been about my own journey to figure out how to have my insides match who and how I am on the outside. I have been on one of those work journeys where I’m a few steps ahead of the people I’m working with. Over the years, I would give myself credit that in recent years, I’m more than a few steps ahead. My work journey has been interwoven with trying to heal that traumatic moment in my early twenties where I was like, “I don’t know how I got here.”

I appreciate you sharing that. Many of us keep those things hidden or buried because there’s shame around them or we’re blaming ourselves. Women and men have affairs, but I was surprised by that. It sounds like you didn’t think that you were going to go there, but your body was saying, “No, this isn’t right. Something is a mess. Something is not right.” You have to unlearn it.

From my vantage point, several years later, I have compassion for that young me. I didn’t have a skillset. I didn’t understand why my values weren’t matching my behaviors. I know now so much of the work I’ve done is around understanding the nervous system and a trauma-informed approach to our behavior and who we are. I was in my marriage when it felt like it was no longer matching who I was. I didn’t know how to have those hard conversations. I unconsciously was like, “I know how to end this.” I didn’t have the skillset.

This can be applied in many different ways. You’re using it relationally. I like what you said in terms of values don’t match behaviors. We don’t ever talk about this stuff. I say this a lot on the show, but a lot of this stuff needs to be taught in schools. I keep telling people and hoping in the world, like, “Please, someone needs to do that.”

I’m now taking it in a work setting. Values don’t match behaviors. You think you are a responsible and timely person, but something is wrong at work. You start turning in work late, you’re late for meetings, or you don’t understand why you’re not being the typical Type-A hardworking person. It sounds like you can self-sabotage yourself if those values and behaviors don’t align. Your body can start going, “No.” I talked quite a bit about burnout. That may be another example that you could talk about or touch on where, somatically, you may not be in alignment.

Those are all great examples and spot on for what I do in my work with women. If I were going to speak broadly about my work, I would say it’s about helping women match their insides with their outsides. The other piece is helping women like who they are and how they show up. This is also what happens when our values don’t match our outsides. We don’t have a good experience of ourselves. We tend not to like ourselves in that. That creates an internal negative feedback loop.

The values could not be matched in the sense of whether people were pleasing or any of those behaviors. I was thinking of this client I talked to. She said she values having time for herself and her wife and being at home and doing the things that she loves doing, yet she spent nine and a half hours emailing on a Sunday when she was supposed to be kayaking with her wife. The values can go the opposite way. At work, you look like you’re someone who values being a total team player. You’re dependable and you’ll be there no matter what. Your values are family time and quality time for yourself. That resonates with people as much as the flip side of “negative behaviors” at work.

I did some deep diving on your website in preparation for our conversation. One of the things mentioned in your bio is that your work approach is through the lens. This is polyvagal theory. I don’t know what that is. Tell us what polyvagal theory means.

I love that you’ve asked this question because a lot of people don’t know what it is. When people learn about it, it’s a little bit of a mind-blowing thing. Polyvagal theory was discovered by Stephen Porges, who, back in the ‘70s in his research, realized that we think of the nervous system as having two switches. You get mobilized for fight and flight or immobilized for freeze. We think we are going to get up or down. We don’t talk about it any other way.

What he discovered was there’s a third function of the nervous system. It’s called social engagement, which makes a lot of sense. We’re not always in fight, flight, or freeze, or coming down from those. If we feel safe and we’re in a good situation, our nervous system is wired for social connection. Polyvagal theory says there are 3, not 2, functions of the nervous system.

Our goal is to regulate our nervous system as best we can to stay in that zone where we are socially engaged because that’s the place in which we get the best of our human qualities. We get our creativity and compassion and being able to see possibility. It’s what connects us to our language centers. When you’re dysregulated, a lot of the time, people’s tongue gets tied or their brain goes foggy. That’s the basics.

The place where we are socially engaged is the place in which we get the best of our human qualities. Click To Tweet

This is a broad, sweeping statement, but is this whole nervous system dysregulation? No one talks about it. You do, but not a lot of people do. I’ve been writing a little bit about this. Who knows? I might study this somatics to understand because I didn’t know about this until the last several years and understand that through my own burnout story. I’m wondering if this nervous system dysregulation is part of the birthplace of illness. Is that what’s happening? The body starts misfiring and going awry.

It’s linked to illness in that. If you live in a constant state of dysregulation or lots of dysregulation in your life, it wears your body down. It’s the same way we understand constant stress. It is linked to many illnesses and diseases. It’s the same as constant dysregulation because dysregulation is a stress response. It’s now taking our understanding of stress and putting it more in the language of the nervous system. It’s linked to mental, emotional, and physical issues.

That stress and those stress responses, we know that there’s a relationship to disease or disease in the body. Thank you for sharing that. One of the other things that you shared on your site is that, and I’m quoting you, “I believe people want to feel at home in their skin and have fulfilling lives, but they don’t know how to do it.” I know that that’s the foundation of your work, but why do you think that is? Why do you think that we want to get there, but we don’t know how to?

I’m so glad you take out that sentence. I remember writing that and being like, “This is the heart of it.” The people who come to me are coming because they want to be more authentic. Most of the people I work with have been in therapy for years or they’ve been in some self-development. They’ve read all the books, done yoga, and meditated, but they’re still not able to have that real sense of like, “I’m at home in my own skin. I am who I am no matter what the situation is.”

This is linked to what we were talking about with the nervous system because your nervous system is constantly and forever scanning your inner and outer environment for signs of danger or threat. If it senses anything that feels like it’s not safe, it will put you into the fight, flight, or freeze. The other way in polyvagal theory that they talk about that I already mentioned is mobilized or immobilized. You’ll get mobilized to respond to the threat. That’s the over-functioning, hyper-busy, always saying yes to everything and never stopping. There’s the immobilize, which is like, “The world is too much. I need to withdraw.” I think of it as like the turtle in the shell. You want to put your sweatpants on, watch Netflix, and not talk to anybody,

When your nervous system is dysregulated, it will put you into survival responses. That’s what those are. Let’s say you are someone who values authenticity. You’re in the workplace. There’s a tense moment in which you know to be true to your own values, you have to speak up, but your throat closes up, your chest gets tight, and you feel like you’re about to have a heart attack or pass out. You get sweaty and cold. That’s your nervous system going, “This isn’t safe.” For you to speak up here and be honest is scary. Your body gets in your own way.

I’m going to recommend our conversation to a specific client I have because she will have the response. This makes a lot of sense going through your lens of polyvagal theory and the idea of somatic. She’ll say, “I feel powerful but there are times when my throat closes up on me.”

Oftentimes, we know better but we can’t do better. The reason why we can’t do better is precisely because of these survival responses. You mix those in, Jen, with the conditioning we got as kids around what does it mean to be a good person and what do you do with emotions and all these conditioning or the emotional training we got in terms of being a respectable person. You mix all that in there. It doesn’t matter what you know about who you are and what your values are. When the rubber hits the road, you get in your own way.

Are certain people in their nervous systems more wired towards fight-flight versus freeze? Is it more situational that we would turn to different modalities of survival?

Everyone has the capacity to go in either direction. Most people tend to go towards one more than the other. I have clients who say, “I’m never in the freeze. I always go.” Mobilize is what corresponds to fight or flight. Our nervous system will mobilize us when we feel threatened. Where there’s a sense that if I do something, I could survive. We will immobilize when our system feels like our life is in danger.

That’s like playing dead. That’s like, “I have tried everything I can do. I know that fighting or running isn’t going to save my life here. I’m going to shut down.” If we’re terrified, that’s where we’ll go. If we have run and fought and it’s not working, that’s where our nervous system will go. It’s either the threat is so high that we feel truly like our life is in danger, even if it’s not, or we’ve tried to immobilize for long enough that we can’t do it anymore.

That’s why many of your clients, and me included, will say, “I go.” It’s because it’s not threatening enough to survive or the body’s perception of survival, or it’s that first response of like, “I’ll go a little faster.” You can’t go.

It’s still working for them on some level. If we’re not dead, our brain assumes that what we’ve been doing is working. This is one of the great things about having a brilliant human body, but also one of the things, for those of us who are interested in self-growth and development, are like, “This is why change is hard.” It is because of the level of our physiology. If what we’ve been doing has kept us alive, our physiology doesn’t care if we become more authentic.

Change is so hard because if what we've been doing has kept us alive, our physiology doesn't care if we become more authentic. Click To Tweet

I want to move to this whole concept, and this is what prompted me to contact you a second time. We thought we tried to connect one time. It didn’t work the second time and here we are. You put out a LinkedIn post about this whole concept of, “Every day is take your child to work day.” Why is every day take your child to work day?

This is such a huge part of my work. I will answer your question, but I will tee it up a little bit. When I work with people either one-on-one or in group coaching, there are three main parts to the work. The first part is this understanding of polyvagal theory and nervous system regulation. What does it mean to be embodied? The next part is, how did you get trained to understand what it means to be a good person in a relationship? The third part is actual skill building and learning how to show up and speak differently in situations where you typically get tripped up.

Going back to the second part, a huge part of this aspect of the work is understanding your different internal parts. This is influenced by the work of Richard Schwartz and Internal Family Systems. There are a lot of different therapeutic modalities that do parts work. This is the one I’m most influenced by. The idea is each one of us, once we’re grown up, has different internal parts.

One of which is considered the wounded child. The wounded child is the part of us who, when we were young, experienced some pain or discomfort that they didn’t have the capacity to handle at the time. It could be something like feeling alone or you didn’t belong. It could be something more traumatic than that. For most of my clients, it’s the thing of like, “I didn’t feel understood. I didn’t feel like I belonged in the situation I was in.”

If you have this wounded child, the other parts that come into play are called strategic selves. Sometimes, they’re also called adaptive children. What that means is if you were seven years old and you felt like you were alone and nobody understood you, and you didn’t have the capacity for emotional self-soothing because you wouldn’t because you’re a kid, you would come up with some way to make that pain feel better.

If you grew up like I did in an East Coast family that was smart and valued education, one strategic self that you might come up with is the good student and hard worker because that is going to at least keep you safe. You’re going to be kept in the fold as it were. What happens is, eventually, those strategic cells become who we think we are. When I was in my twenties, I thought I was a good and smart girl until I blew all that up by having an affair and being like, “What happened to that good girl? That didn’t work.”

When I say, “Every day is take your child to work day,” it’s acknowledging that no matter where you go, no matter how old you are, there is always inside of you, this young version of you who felt like he or she didn’t have the capacity to deal with their own pain or discomfort. Most of us don’t know that that exists or do know that it exists and ignore it. To the extent that you ignore it, it will keep you from becoming your fully grown-ass woman.

BWW 146 | Inner Child
Inner Child: No matter where you go, no matter how old you are, there is always this young version of you, who felt like he or she didn’t have the capacity to deal with their own pain or discomfort.

With these adaptive selves, can they pop up at different parts of our lives? We talked about the youth part and you even went into your twenties. Do we form those adaptive pieces of ourselves in our childhood and those early formative years? Can we do it in different parts, even in our 30s, 40s and beyond?

For the most part, they do form early. They form in our young under ten and teenage young adult life. I’m not a researcher or a psychologist. I’m sure there’s somebody out there who could answer this more. My sense of it is that mostly they form young. If they were going to form later in life, it would be due to some trauma.

These are the patterns we establish early on in terms of, “This is what’s socially acceptable and this is how I’m going to keep getting safety, belonging, and mattering.” Those are the three things that matter most to humans. We organize all of our behavior around that, whether it’s our personal behavior or professional behavior. It doesn’t always match the values we have as a grownup. It usually matches the values we figured out from our kid brain.

These whole good students, studious, ambitious, hardworking, corporate climbers, and all those things, I know that my audience will recognize in themselves. Many of them will. It is interesting and confusing because you said, “We can believe that those adaptive selves are who we are when there’s a whole other inner child or those parts that we’ve abandoned or didn’t even know we had.”

It can be other versions of that strategic self or the people pleaser. They have no boundaries. They’re always saying yes. It can be a common one that I see in the women I work with, myself included, is hyper self-sufficiency, where you’re like, “I don’t need anybody. I can do this on my own.” Think about that. That’s a great adaptation if you’re growing up and feeling nobody is helping and seeing you.” I don’t need you guys. I can do it on my own. That and on-demand, I’m going to be there for everyone in every way.

The rebel is another one that often forms in the teenage years where you’re like, “Screw you guys. I’m going to drink, numb this out, and act out.” That one doesn’t normally come out at work, but that one will come out in our personal lives. If your readers think about, “What are the behaviors that when you’re doing them, they don’t feel good to you, but they feel intrinsic to your personality,” you might be able to recognize them as, “I know I’m doing this because I’m trying to manage to feel a certain way.”

My encouragement for you is to be able to start seeing that as a strategy or an adaptive behavior, not as who you are. If you can unblend, unbraid, or untangle those, you have some hope of starting to create a relationship with your true self as opposed to these strategies that are 100% linked to your nervous system. Your nervous system is going to send you a message that says, “This isn’t safe. It’s not safe to be authentic here.” The good girl steps in and goes, “That’s okay.” Your strategic selves are how you learned to manage the stress response that your nervous system would’ve flooded your body with.

Can you live your whole life perpetually in a state of blissful ignorance? You live in a state where you completely ignore all of these adaptive patterns, or at some point, that inner child gets cranky, has tantrums, and gets pissed. She’s like, “Does she rear her head every now and again?”

Let me ask you a question to clarify before I go off on a tangent. What do you mean to ignore them?

Let’s say two things. You mindfully ignore the adaptive patterns and strategies you’ve used or you don’t even know they exist. I’m wondering, does the inner child run more of the show than we think or the inner child doesn’t allow you not to see her? Can you be completely blissfully unaware your whole life and never know if that reared its head or not?

My experience has been myself and in the thousands of women I’ve worked with over the years. It’s the strategic selves that rear their heads more than the inner child. The child is the core part of you that’s small, tender, vulnerable, and is always there. When you say the acting out, the rearing its head, or the tantrum, that would be a strategic self.

In the sense of can you ignore them or could you not then know they exist, that’s what most people do. What ends up happening is you feel further away from who you know yourself to be. I thought of myself as an honest, loyal, and loving person, and I cheated on my husband. I was out of touch with how to relate to these different inner parts and have some sense of control over what part of me shows up.

These selves will appear. We could be not aware of them but what I’m hearing from you is we are aware because we feel disconnected from ourselves. We could ignore that, but if we do, we will feel the disconnection. You’d have to, right?

Yes or you’re numbing it. An interesting thing about my work is that more than half of the people who come to me or my clients are either alcohol-free already or are in the process of doing that because they’ve recognized that alcohol is one of the ways they’ve tried to feel numb and disconnected. It’s not a part of my story. It’s not anything I’ve ever advertised for, but it happens to be true that once people take away that numbing agent, they realize, “I need some skills. I don’t want to feel this disconnected. I’m going to take away the numbing agent, but now I need to know what I do instead.”

I’m sure that you are a valuable partner and coach to anyone saying, “I’m living alcohol-free. I didn’t do it because of this. I decided to be alcohol-free several years ago. It was one of the best decisions I ever made.” I never had an alcohol problem. It didn’t add to my life. If I can get off sugar, that’s my next thing. I got to get off the numbing agent of sugar. Everyone, I’m keeping myself accountable. I’m calling myself out.

My other numbing agents will relate to a lot of women reading. It has been sneaky and perceived in a good light by our culture. I have two examples. I am a workaholic. I am trying to heal from workaholism. That can be a numbing agent because you’re busy. I’ve got so much to do. Our culture doesn’t say, “Take it easy over there.” It doesn’t happen. The other one I’ve used, not now, but I did when I was younger, is over-exercise. Being thin and being a certain size is a numbing agent. I’m saying this as a PSA for everyone reading. We say alcohol and drugs are on the negative end of the spectrum, but it can be self-perceived as sneaky good and taken in the wrong direction.

I appreciate you saying that because you named two strategic selves. One would be the workaholic and one would be the over-exerciser. What’s important to know is that the strategic selves develop because we sense they’re socially acceptable. In my circles, this is going to be okay. The ultimate goal of the strategic self is to make sure that the little kid in you never has to feel the pain they felt ever again. For many women out there, body image is such a huge thing. If you’re a little girl and you don’t have the body that society says you should have, that’s going to be painful. A strategic self will most likely develop that says, “I’m going to make sure you never feel that. We’re going to over-exercise and under-eat.” It might not be seen as “bad” from the outside, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t destructive.

I wanted to share that I don’t know what motivated me. Someone needs to read that. You touched a little bit on taking care of that inner child and these other states that we need to heal or support the inner child. What can we do to nurture our inner child and free ourselves from these burdens that hold us back from being authentic and true to ourselves at work and home? How do we nurture that inner child?

It’s funny because I imagine, at this point, there are some people reading that are into this, and some people like, “Inner child.” I see it in the people I work with. Sometimes, there’s this eye-rolling like, “You got to be kidding me. I’m not doing this.” The idea is that this inner child represents the part of you who is sensitive and feels emotions big. That part needs some emotional resonance. What most of us do instead is try to take care of things by thinking and doing.

BWW 146 | Inner Child
Inner Child: This inner child represents the part of you who is sensitive and feels emotions really big, and that part just needs some emotional resonance.

The way I often say it to a client is, “Once you’ve identified one of your strategic selves, we’ve got overworker. Let’s assume that you now have this child.” They already have two children in real life that they gave birth to or adopted. I say, “You’ve got a third. You have this child that is yours inside. You have to be aware that they’re around all the time. Would you leave your child to be babysat by the overworker? Do you think they would be a great babysitter? If your kid fell and scraped her knee, would the overworker be a great soother for her?”

Usually, people are like, “I’m not leaving my kids. I would not leave a child with that strategic self.” I say, “This is now your job. You cannot have that strategic self in any way. Be the one who’s trying to take care of the part of you that’s tender, sensitive, and has feelings. That has to be present-day you.” The best shortcut that I’ve ever found for how to do this comes from a woman named Sarah Peyton. I’m always telling people about her and her book. It’s called Your Resonant Self.

In it, she says, “The best way to offer yourself emotional resonance is the two words. Of course. As in, of course, I feel this way. Of course, I’m scared to speak up. Of course, I’m sad that connection didn’t happen. Of course, I’m elated that I finally got this goal I’ve been trying to get here forever.” It’s this sense of offering yourself and understanding why you have the experience you do, which is not what most of us do.

I said that in my mind as you said it, but something random. I felt in my body that my shoulders relaxed physically. I’m going to welcome everyone. Everyone got something. Use the, of course, before, and you’re going to feel it. I don’t know, Jay, if that makes sense to you, but I felt my whole body released a little.

I’m glad because the experience I get is the experience that nearly everyone gets. They’re like magic words. Our emotions are things that we experience physically. Most of us live neck up and try to address everything in life from our heads. If you imagine trying to line up your head with your heart, they never quite connect with one another. If you go from body to heart, there’s a connection. Being able to say, “Of course,” you’re not trying to figure it out. You’re going, “It makes sense to me that my body feels this way.” That is in terms of offering yourself resonance or this makes sense to me, is soothing at the level of your brain and nervous system because it goes, “This is coherent.” Our brains like coherence.

If what you’re feeling inside is scared and anxious about something, and in your head, you’re going, “It’s good. I’m going to be fine. I know how to do this. I got this.” Can you feel that’s like a mismatch? You’re never going to plug in with that. Inside, there’s this timid and I’m scared. Up in your head is like, “I got this.” It’s not that it’s bad to self-talk in a positive way. It’s that it misses the soothing. The soothing is, “Of course, you’re scared about this. We’ve got this.” That is a different combination.

I was talking with a client. Her inner talk is dismissive. It’s like, “This is how it is. We got to do this. Pony up. Put your big girl pants on.” We did this exercise with the course and offered some empathy. She says, “I don’t feel alone.” I was like, “Yes, that’s the piece.” We’re all going to have emotions, especially at work. If you can say to yourself, of course, which is such a small gesture, nobody needs to know you’re doing it. It’s not a huge external dramatic thing, but it will make you feel not alone and not like, “I’m a weirdo for having this experience.”

That is powerful. I will be using this for myself and with clients in the future. We rush over everything or we’re trying to deny it. I love what you said because it was visual. We come from the head. We are always saying, “I’ve got this.” We’re trying to convince our hearts. It also made me think that for anyone who has a child, it’s all about soothing the baby. Somewhere along the line, we forgot that we need soothing. We need our heads and hearts to be soothed sometimes and be in alignment. We completely forget that because we think we can power through with our brains.

Most of us are doing what we got modeled. This isn’t crap on our parents’ hour at this point because everybody’s parents were doing their absolute best to be loving and soothing. Much of the time, the soothing we would’ve gotten as a kid would be something like, “It’s not that big a deal.” If your feelings got hurt by a schoolmate, you are like, “You didn’t need her anyway. I never liked her. Let’s get some ice cream. We’ll do something fun. You won’t even miss that you’re not invited to that party.” They’re always trying to soothe.

If it happens over and over again, that’s the head trying to soothe the heart. That’s that, “We’ll figure this out. We’ll distract and fix it.” That’s what gets internalized. Whether you’re soothing your own inner child or soothing an actual child, the thing that soothes is saying, “Of course you feel that way. I’m sorry that happened. I understand. It makes sense to me that you feel that way.” That is the message that helps someone go, “I’m not weird for having this feeling. This is part of life. This person is still here with me.”

The other example I often give to people when I’m talking about how to learn to show up for yourself in a soothing way is if someone you love came to you and, God forbid, said, “I’ve got a terminal disease. I have six months to live.” You cannot soothe them by saying, “It’s going to be okay.” You are tone-deaf and oblivious. It will make them feel alone. If you say to them, “I am sorry you’re experiencing this. No matter what happens, I will be here for you.” That is going to feel soothing.

This is the example I give to people. Most of the time, what we say to ourselves in our head, with all the best intentions, “It’s going to be okay. You’ve got this. It’ll get better.” That leaves you feeling like, “Yeah, but now it sucks.” To be able to say to yourself, “No matter what happens, I’ll be here for you. If this deal goes sideways and you lose this gig or this job, I’m still going to be here for you.” Much of our promises to ourselves about being there for ourselves usually hinge on us being good performers. That’s a setup.

Thank you for sharing both of those. That’s so good. I can’t believe this time has evaporated. I have to ask you a couple more questions. The first one is, what are 1 to 2 ways that you believe women can be braver at work?

One way a woman can be braver at work is to understand that in those moments when it feels like you can’t do the thing in line with your values because your body goes haywire to understand that it’s not real necessarily. That is your nervous system saying red alert. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t handle it. To feel your feet on the ground, shake your arms or take a deep breath and keep going. The second piece is if it’s scary and ends up being an unintended outcome, that next piece is to come back, put your hands on your heart, and say, “Of course, this is scary. I’m brokenhearted and pissed.”

This is my roundabout way of saying, “A woman can be braver at work by committing to staying with yourself in a felt way.” I like the practice of putting your hands on your heart. There’s some sense of like, “I’m here. I got me.” Even if it’s a simple gesture like that, there’s this way of creating those small moments throughout your day that will enhance a sense of bravery because you won’t feel alone and you won’t feel like if you trip and fall on your face, you’re going to get a mean girl reaction from yourself.

A woman can be braver at work by really committing to staying with yourself. Click To Tweet

I like what you said about having your back and always being there for yourself because you hit on something fundamental that many women, me included. It’s always like we have ourselves as we succeed, but what about if we fail or are in between? We’re left with all those feelings of self-abandonment and we don’t have our backs. Saying that to yourselves like, “Of course, you feel sad because of this, and I will always be here for you.” That is a real soothing and support of self. It’s different than many Type-A perfectionists and people pleasers. I’m generalizing here, but it’s common for women to abandon themselves because they haven’t gotten the gold star.

It leads to more disconnection, which leads to more being out of alignment with yourself. Disconnection begets more until it becomes painful that you reach out and say no more. What I can say with all honesty is I see, as women can create this embodied self-trust, it changes everything because you can say no when you want to say no. You can take the whole day off and not open your computer because you know how to regulate your nervous system and soothe the part of you that’s going to go, “I can’t do that.” That’s where the lasting behavior change comes from. It’s freaking awesome to see it happening for women when I get to work with them and see it.

Where can women find you and your work online?

My website is Jay-Fields.com. There are pages for the group coaching program I have called Yours Truly. I also have four courses on LinkedIn Learning that are a great way. One is on the nervous system. One is developing your ability to manage your emotions at work through using your body, which is such a fun course. One is on confidence and one is on expressing your needs at work. All of them are through the lens of embodiment and nervous system regulation. You can find that all on my website.

There’s one other thing before we go. You have a freebie if people will sign up for your newsletter. It is called The Basic Exercise. Let’s not forget about that. Can you quickly share what the basic exercise is? How can it help us potentially tune into our bodies and get out of that fight, flight, or freeze response?

When we talk about polyvagal theory, the thing I didn’t mention in all of that is about the vagus nerve. It is the longest nerve in your body. It wanders all throughout your face, neck, chest, and into your abdomen. The parts of the vagus nerve wind stimulated that help to create that social engagement state.

They’re in your face and neck. There are a couple of different simple exercises that you can do that stimulate the muscles in your face and neck that help to regulate your nervous system. It’s badass. I love science. It’s a basic exercise that involves eye movements that you can do in under a minute when you’re sitting or standing anywhere. It will help to regulate your nervous system. You can get the video of how to do it by signing up for my newsletter. Jay-Fields.com/Join is how you get to it.

Thank you for putting that and all those great resources out there. Jay, it has been fun to get to know you. We talked about polyvagal, a lot of science, and inner child. For those who hung out to the end, thank you because I know you learned a lot as I have. Jay, thank you so much for being here.

You’re welcome, Jen. I appreciated your curiosity and being able to share all of that. Thank you.

That does it for my discussion with Jay. I hope you found our conversation both valuable and inspiring. Here’s a question or two to think about until next time. When and where does your inner child show up? How do they react? Are they calm? Are they reactive? Do they need care? How can you drop into your body and tap into what your heart is saying? Of course, we can listen to our heads but we also need to listen to our hearts. As a reminder, please rate, review, and subscribe to Apple Podcasts and Spotify. The show is also available on Google Podcasts or any other podcast platform you enjoy. Until next time, show up. Take care of all parts of yourself, and be brave.

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BWW 146 | Inner ChildJay Fields, M.A. is an educator, coach and author who has taught the principles of embodied social and emotional intelligence to individuals and organizations for twenty years. Her approach to helping people have their own back at work and in life is grounded, playful, empathic and intelligent. Jay received her BA in Psychosocial Health and Human Movement from the College of William and Mary and her masters in Integral Transformative Education from Prescott College. She is the author of the book Teaching People, Not Poses and the Linkedin Learning courses Managing Your Emotions at Work and Practices for Regulating Your Nervous System and Reducing Stress. When not working with clients or facilitating trainings, you can find Jay riding her motorcycle with her sweetie in the mountains outside of Ojai, California where she lives.

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