Show Notes for this Episode:
Do you want to improve your mental strength in midlife? If so, this is the show for you! Amy Morin is an international bestselling author of the book 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do. Her follow-up book, 13 Mentally Strong Women Don’t Do, is my personal favorite and the one we focus on for this podcast episode. Amy also a psychotherapist, speaker, college instructor, and the Editor-in-Chief of the trusted mental well-being website, Verywell Mind.
Amy is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to helping people develop greater mental strength. I wish I had read her books much sooner! Not only are her points on what “not” to do clear and understandable, but she also provides all kinds of examples and stories in her books for how we can avoid the very obstacles that hold us back in life.
I was first introduced to Amy when she was a featured speaker at a financial advisor conference I attended. Her insights resonated with me instantly, so I was thrilled when she agreed to chat with me on the podcast! I had the opportunity to ask Amy plenty of questions that were on my mind about midlife crisis, aging, reinvention, and becoming mentally stronger in midlife. Enjoy! (full transcript below if you prefer to read)
In this episode you will learn:
- How to make sure you are making sane decisions in midlife
- What is the fear of aging really about and how to become more empowered as we age
- How to get away from comparing yourself to others and become your personal best self
- Some of the fears behind reinvention and making changes in midlife that can keep you stuck
- The dimensions and evolution of your personality over time
- Why we should always be learning and growing
- How we (and others) label ourselves and how to break out of the mold
- The differences between men and women when it comes to mental strength
- Amy’s “miracle” question and how it can help you change your behavior
Where to find Amy’s work:
Amy is Editor in Chief at Verywell Mind
Amy’s Books on Amazon:
Amy’s Podcast on Apple Podcasts:
If you enjoy the Retirement Money Gal Podcast, I would love to see your feedback! Leave a rating and review on Apple Podcasts to help other women like us find the podcast! Leave a Rating and Review on Apple Podcasts
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Stephanie: I have a special guest for you today. Her name is Amy Morin. She's a psychotherapist, a college psychology instructor, an international bestselling author of books on mental strength. I first heard Amy speak at a financial advisor conference and I was like, whoa. Her stuff is so good. It really resonated with me. You may be familiar with her most popular book, which is the 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do. That book is filled with extraordinary and practical advice for building your mental strength. But another book she's written, which is one of my personal favorites, is for women. That book is entitled, 13 Things Mentally Strong Women Don't Do. So, this is the book that we focus on in this discussion. Amy also recently launched a brand new podcast called Mentally Strong People that you might want to check out. You can find that on Apple Podcasts and it's also phenomenal. The thing I really like about Amy, too, is that she doesn't just talk the talk. She has lived this in her own life, where she's faced some pretty incredible challenges. So, I hope you enjoy my interview with Amy Morin.
Amy: Thanks so much for having me, Stephanie.
Stephanie: I'm so happy to have you on the show today.
Amy: I'm happy to be here.
Stephanie: I wanted to set the stage for our discussion and I really want to focus on one chapter in your book, 13 Things Mentally Strong Women Don't Do, and I wanted to start with a quote that you used to kick off that chapter that really resonated with me, being a singer-songwriter on the side that I am. The quote was, "If you don't like the road you're walking, start paving another one." Dolly Parton.
Amy: Dolly has the best quotes sometimes.
Stephanie: She does! Her advice... How simple is that and sage all at the same time from an extraordinary lady.
Stephanie: So, I love that. Why did you pick that quote?
Amy: I guess the simplicity of it. So often, we get caught up in thinking, this is the way my life is, but then we think we're stuck. We think this isn't fair. I shouldn't have to do this. Or this isn't what I wanted. Then, we convince ourselves it's too hard to change or that it's too late. That we can't go back and do something different. No! That's not true at all. No matter how old you are, no matter how deep you are into something. You can turn around and go the other way if you want.
Stephanie: And it's so simple. Maybe it's more difficult in practice, which I think we'll talk about, but I love it because we do get caught up in the fears, in feeling like it's too much work to change. And something that I think as women in mid-life, which is myself and this audience of listeners... That we hit mid-life and we think about making a change. We think about pursuing experiences that we've always wanted to, but we've never gotten around to it for whatever reason. We're motivated to make changes, but this whole idea of a mid-life crisis. How do we know the difference between sanity and stupidity when it comes to what's happening to us in mid-life and how we're really wanting to shake things up?
Amy: I think it really boils down to figuring out am I running towards something or running away from something? Sometimes in mid-life, people will say, okay, I need to do something different because I haven't been living according to my values and they run towards something. They start heading toward becoming more true to themselves. But then you see other people who are just terrified of aging. They don't want to get old. They don't want to think that their life is half over or they don't want to recognize the path that they've taken might not be the one that they had hoped for and so they make frantic decisions. They get impulsive. They do things that are kind of self-destructive or that might sabotage themselves. People that suddenly have an affair say because they don't want to... They think, my marriage isn't as good as it could be, so they leap into an affair. Somebody that impulsively quits their job without a plan. So, I think as long as we know, well, I'm not being impulsive, I'm just becoming more true to myself, and I'm not just running and trying to escape reality, then that's what makes the biggest difference.
Stephanie: Do you think that mapping out a plan of some sort before you... looking at all the pros and cons before you actually take a different path, as Dolly says, start paving another path... Is that just a decision or is there a process that we should be thinking about to actually pursue something or make a change?
Amy: Well, I think that we all run the risk of overthinking it. And so you definitely don't want to be impulsive and just jump ship, but at the other hand... Maybe you decide I'm going to go out on my own and start a business or I'm going to switch careers. If you make pros and cons lists until you're blue in the face, you might not ever make that leap as well. Or I see people that say, "Well, I don't feel ready yet, so I shouldn't do it," or somebody that says, "Well, I have a little doubt, so therefore that must be my intuition telling me that I shouldn't do this." So they don't take the leap. It's all about finding that balance. You want to balance your emotions with logic. If we're really excited about something, we tend to take the leap too fast, so that's why people fall prey to a get rich quick scheme. Because they're so excited that they could become millionaires in two weeks that they forget, hey, there's also a huge risk. That's why sometimes really smart people do really dumb things. Their emotions get in the way.But on the other hand, we don't want to just be completely logical in life. Life would be really boring if we just made decisions based on what made 100% logical sense. We would never fall in love. We would never pursue our passions when there's risk involved.
So, you just want to make sure that you're balancing those. Sometimes it's about checking in with yourself. How do I feel right now? And naming it. Just labeling your emotion tends to take a lot of the sting out of it and it can help you make sense of it. If you say, I'm feeling really anxious, then you take a step back and think, well, how is my anxiety affecting how I think about this? Well, your anxiety will come up with all the worst case scenarios and it might make you think about all the bad things that could happen and cause you to overlook the potential positives. So, then you want to say, well, if I'm really anxious, I'm definitely dwelling on the negative. What are some positive things? How could I argue the opposite? How could I come up with 10 good things that might happen as well? And sort of balance those emotions out. Or if you're filled with fear and self-doubt, then you say, okay, well, how is that affecting how I'm looking at this situation? And then that's where a written pro and con list comes in handy. So, you say, well... When you look at a piece of paper, it kind of raises your logic and balances out those emotions and those fears.
I always encourage people. Don't just look at the pros and cons of doing something different, but then turn that piece of paper over and say, what are the pros and cons of staying the same? Because sometimes we forget. Okay, well, maybe there's a risk in doing something different, but there's also a risk in not doing something different. If you're unhappy with your life, yeah, there's no guarantee that taking the leap will make things better, but there's also a chance that you might stay stuck and you might never be happy. So, if you can look at the pros and cons of doing something different versus the pros and cons of staying the same, again, that can help you balance out those decisions.
Stephanie: I like that idea because we do tend to think the grass is always greener on the other side and, as my mother says, sometimes the grass is greener where you water it. Where you take better care of it. But it sounds like that it's important to be self-aware. Am I driven by... Am I anxious? Am I stressed? Am I down in the dumps or depressed? If those things aren't in the mix, then weighing the logical side as well and just making sure you're making decisions that are sane versus stupid.
Amy: And it's all about balance. Balancing your emotions, balancing your logic, and knowing that... For some people, they can be happy anywhere doing anything. Other people are going to be miserable no matter what they do. And so sometimes people just keep chasing something, thinking that right around the corner is where they're going to be happy, but they never quite get there. So, it's about balancing how do you enjoy the moments even if you're not quite where you want to be, but on the other hand, how do you make sure that you aren't just staying stuck and staying stagnant when you don't need to be.
Stephanie: Cool. So, I want to ask you, too. You mentioned a minute ago this idea of acceptance of aging. This is something I've really struggled with as I've hit 50. How do we embrace it? That we're getting older and that's okay and there are positives about that and there are negatives about that. There are challenges and opportunities, I call them. Do you have any thoughts on that?
Amy: I do. Most of the people that come into my therapy office who are scared of aging or they're upset with what age they are... It's not necessarily aging that bothers them. It's that they aren't where they thought they would be at that age. So, somebody might say, "Gosh, I thought by the time I was 40, I was going to have a certain job or have reached a certain level in my career," or, "By the time I was 50, I thought I'd be a millionaire," or, "I thought I'd be retired by 60." But when they get those ages, they just find that they didn't reach the place where they wanted to be and, because of that, they're then upset. I mean, it was no secret that we're all going to get older. We've known this since we were born. That it's inevitable. You're going to reach 30, 40, 50, 60. But yet when we get there, it's like we're surprised. We think, how did this happen? Life went so fast. So, I think the best way to deal with aging and just learn how to embrace it is to figure out, well, what am I upset about? Where did I think I would be at this age? What did I not accomplish that I thought I would have and what am I going to do about it now and to take action?
Obviously, we see so many people, women especially, who try to slow it down physically. With our lotions and potions and cosmetic procedures. Again, it's usually about just a fear of how we're going to look, how we're going to be perceived by other people. Don't get me wrong. There's some truth in that. Ageism is a real problem. But our fighting it constantly or being so consumed by that fear does us so much more harm than good. And so I think sometimes it's just about saying, well, how do I become more comfortable in my skin and making that a process and to just appreciate. Sometimes it's about changing the way that you think. Instead of looking in the mirror and thinking about all the wrinkles or the sagging things that used to not sag, to focus on, well, what has my body done for me over the years? How far have my feet carried me? How far have my... How much work have my fingers done behind the computer? Or how much... If you've had children, what's your body went through? Just appreciating those things.
And then there's tons of research on our willingness to stay active and how that can also help us embrace aging and to know that... I don't know about you, but when my grandparents were 60 years old, they kind of sat in a rocking chair and didn't do much. It was sort of like they felt like they were old and they acted old. Well, there's a lot of research on that. If you act old, guess what? You feel old and you'll physically age a lot faster. There's this one fascinating study where they took men in an assisted living facility. A lot of them really struggled with walking with a cane and they didn't get around as well. So, they sort of reversed time. They set everything back in the 1960s. The decorations, the music, the TV shows. And they weren't allowed to talk about anything like it was current. They still had to talk about it like they were back when they were 40 years old. Well, the people started physically walking straighter. They were able to stand up straighter. They were able to pick up things that they couldn't pick up before. It was like just transforming their mind into thinking they were younger men, they were then able to function better. Their bodies worked better.
And so, well, we don't want fight aging in a way that puts us in a state of denial, you also don't want to think, well, I... What does being older mean? Does being older mean I can no longer run? I can no longer work out? I can no longer do a lot of things for myself? Or does it mean I can still do it. Maybe I don't do it as well as when I was 20, but here's how it looks now. So, I think it's just about empowering ourselves to know that getting older doesn't have to be a bad thing and believing that you're wiser, you've been through more things now. What are the benefits of it? And then to think, well, if I didn't reach the certain goals I thought I would, what is it that I want to do now? Where do you want to be five years from now? And starting to make that happen now. And then when you turn... five years from now, whatever age you turn, you'll be a little bit more comfortable with it.
Stephanie: I love that. Yeah, I often say, this is not your grandparents' retirement.
Stephanie: When I'm working with my clients. It's a completely different situation now when you're approaching retirement. Because we're living longer. And we're living healthier lives.
Amy: I don't know anybody now who says they're just going to sit in a rocking chair and watch The Price is Right, but I feel like that's what it used to be. People just thought, I'm going to retire and then I've got about three to five years and that's about it and I'm just going to sit at home and do nothing. But now you hear everybody. I'm sure you hear it constantly. People who want to travel. They want to spend time with their grandkids. They want to get out there and do stuff.
Stephanie: Totally. Even with my own parents, who are in their late 70s. My mom is very adventurous and my dad is still working because he wants to work. And I love that. That helps me think about what's really possible as I get older and age. But I think one thing we get stuck in... and you talk about this in this chapter that I wanted to... that we're pulling these ideas from, that you've written about. We get stuck, too, in comparing ourselves to others. Especially icons out there. Somebody like a Sheryl Crow, which I've mentioned before. She's accomplished so much and she looks fantastic. I think she's mid-50s now. But you have some things to say about that. What's up with comparing ourselves to others? How do we get around that?
Amy: I think it's important to have inspiration, to look around for other people that inspire you, but yeah, you don't want to compare yourself. Like the Sheryl Crow example. I remember when Jennifer Lopez just performed at the Super Bowl and people were like, wait a minute. How old is she and looks like this and she can still do these things? Compared to the Golden Girls, where we're looking at 50, 60, was considered retirement age and you don't go out and do anything anymore. So, I think it's good to have those people that we look at to say, okay, well, maybe 50, 60, 70 isn't old and decrepit. Here's some people out there, living the kind of life I want to live. But at the same time, if you think, ugh, I could never be like that or those people are so much better than I am, you'll feel a lot worse and struggle to get there.
There's a lot of research that shows you're better off thinking of other people as opinion holders rather than your competitors. If you look at somebody, say, that's climbing mountains at age 65 and you think that person has knowledge or skills or something that I could learn from, then you'll do much better in life than if you look at that person and think, ugh, I could never be like that. That person's better than I am. So, I think it's important to catch yourself when you're comparing yourself to somebody else. And then reframing it. Just reminding yourself, okay, I learn from that person, rather than that person's better than I am or even looking down on people maybe who are struggling more than you. Sometimes we're tempted to be like at least I'm not as bad as that person or I'm doing better than them, but downward comparisons aren't helpful either. Instead, you just want to say, how do I become a little better today than I was yesterday? If you just grow to become your personal best self, then you don't feel like you're in direct competition with everybody around you.
Stephanie: I love it. We're each on our own journey in this world. We've had different experiences to pull from, so... different backgrounds. It's good to remember that in terms of comparing yourself others, and... but sometimes I think you just do.
Amy: And we need to to an extent. You're in the retirement business. You need to know how is my retirement account compared to average person's?
Stephanie: I get that question. Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Amy: And just knowing... Sometimes that helps us just to know. What's the average and how am I doing in comparison to that? But you also just want to make sure that you can be happy with your numbers independently. Just because everybody else has more money when they retire doesn't mean you can't still be happy. Or if you feel like you need a bigger nest egg to be comfortable and to not have anxiety, that's okay, too, but to think of it more like if you were still a student in college and you got a grade on a test. Maybe you got a C, but then you find out that everybody else in the class got an A. You might suddenly not be so happy with that C. But if you got a C and then you found out, you're actually the only one who passed the test, suddenly you're going to feel pretty good about that C. I think sometimes it makes sense to say, how am I doing in comparison to other people, but you just want to make sure that you catch yourself to know, all right, that doesn't define your self-worth. It's not who you are. That you can still make sure you're working towards your personal best and that you define success for what it means for you.
Stephanie: You also talk about reinvention. You say that reinvention is a great way to make sure we are learning, growing, and adapting to the changes of life, but reinvention can also be scary. Especially as we age. Some of the fears you mention are... It's easier to stay busy and bypass any self-evaluation or look at the bigger picture. There's fear of rocking the boat or outgrowing people in your life. There is this feeling of being stuck. There's this fear of, gosh, if I go and do this certain thing, it's really out of character for me and people are going to say things about that. Or it's too late. Gosh, I'm too old. I'm just mentioning some of those things, but reinvention can be scary. I'd love to hear your thoughts on what's the hesitation behind this, behind actually reinventing ourselves, and what are some tips for overcoming that and maybe being able to reinvent a little at a time or what have you?
Amy: Yeah, I hear a lot of people say, "Ugh, if I went off and did that other thing, people might think I've gone a little crazy." So they don't dare do it. Maybe it's a stay-at-home mom who says, "At the age of 50, I want to go back to college, but people might laugh at me." Or somebody who says, "I have this thriving career, but if I make a change, if I were to launch my own business, I might seem like I'm ungrateful and that I wasn't happy with what I had or that people will think I'm having a mid-life crisis if I go do something different." It's those kinds of fears that often keep people stuck. Or they'll think, if I go out and do something different, that would go against my personality and I don't want to do that.
But I think what a lot of people don't realize is our personality isn't just one dimensional. There's different people in your life who are going to bring out different parts of your personality. Maybe you're really funny with one group of friends that you've known since high school. Maybe with some of your colleagues, they just see you as a really smart, serious person. That's okay. It doesn't mean that you're being fake with either one. It just means different people bring out different parts of who you are. I think it's a wonderful thing to think that we're always growing and evolving and changing and that maybe you spent the first half of your life being the shy, quiet person in the back of the room, but maybe when you hit 50, you decided, I kind of like to be telling jokes and engaging people more. It doesn't mean that you abandoned who you were. It just meant you evolved. You became somebody a little bit different.
I see a lot of women who said, "I spent a lot of time as a stay-at-home mom. Now, I want to go do something different." Or I'll see women who say, "I spent the first 40 years of my life just hustling and I did a great job and now I just want to do something different with my life." Whether they say I'm going to launch a different business or I want to give back to the community more. But so often they're afraid because they think, what will happen? What will other people think of me? Does that mean I'm not being true to myself? But quite often it means you're just becoming more of who you are when you do that.
I just read a really good book called Personality isn't Permanent by Benjamin Hardy. A great book that talks about how sometimes we take maybe a personality test and we think that describes us to a tee and then it becomes this self-fulfilling prophecy. We think, well, this is who I am. I'm 100% extroverted and I do X, Y, and Z. And then we do those things and we think if we want time to ourselves that we're not being true to who we are. But the truth is you can change who you are. Hopefully you do change who you are over the years as you explore new interests, you change your mind about certain ideas, your views on life change because you're learning and growing. And so hopefully you're evolving. If we just embrace that and know that every few years, you probably should reinvent yourself in some way, shape, or form, whether it comes in the form of the way you dress or the way that you act or the way that you start behaving. It just means that you've learned and that you're growing.
Stephanie: So, our identity is not static, then.
Amy: Right, but I think so often we put these labels on ourselves and then we feel pressured to live up to those labels. So, if somebody said, you're the funny one, then we think we have to be humorous all the time. Or if somebody says, you were always good at math, but then we think, okay, I'm the math nerd so I have to be that person. A lot of times, our childhood labels follow us around, too. If your parents always said, "She's the sensitive one," we grow up thinking that we're always going to be sensitive and it kind of sticks in the back of our head. It's tough to shed those labels and figure out maybe I'm not always like that. Strangely, we'll find sometimes... Maybe you're sitting on an airplane next to a complete stranger and you might start telling a story that you've never even told your family or admitting things about yourself because you think, well, this person doesn't have preconceived notions of who I am. I don't have to fit in this nice, neat, little box when I'm with this person.
But you'll have people from your life that know you in a certain way, so whether your family knows you as the person who's always the peacemaker or you have friends who know you as the business savvy one, but then you find yourself becoming somebody kind of different when you talk to somebody brand new and you have a clean slate. It doesn't mean you're being fake. It just means, again, there's more aspects to your personality and different people are going to bring that out and that's okay.
Stephanie: Is that a healthy thing? Because I've experienced this before with my singer-songwriting. I mean, I always wanted to be a rockstar, so to speak. I really didn't... I mean, I've dabbled in it for years, but I really didn't get serious about writing good songs, crafting good songs, recording, and performing until my late 40s and constantly grappled with this idea of, who do you think you are? I mean, you are too old. You don't have the long, blonde hair. You just don't fit the Nashville prototype. I really struggled with that, but I did it anyway and I faced my fears about that. I got this courage to... What's the worst thing that can happen? If I mess up on stage, somebody's going to boo me or talk about me or whisper, but who cares? Because then I learned that people... They forget when you mess up. Because they're not thinking about you. They're thinking about themselves. I learned all these things. But really facing those fears and embracing that new identity made me... The benefit of that was... The reward of that was just unbelievable. It just did so much for me personally.
Amy: Yeah, absolutely. I think so many people have that fear of, like, I don't want to get too big for my britches. I don't want to step out and think I could actually do that. It's those kinds of fears so often that keep us stuck. Or we think, wait, is this really who I am? I'll have those moments of, wait, who did I think I was that I could do that? I think it's so important to learn to recognize that little voice in our head as self-doubt and to know that you don't have to get rid of all that self-doubt. I see so many people that think, well, if I'm doubting this now, it probably wasn't mean to be or I don't have enough confidence, but how do you get confidence? You don't get it by sitting on the couch. You get it by practicing and out there doing stuff. So, when you force yourself to do it and you face those fears, then you figure out, just like you said, if somebody boos you or they talk about you, so what? You're strong enough to handle that and you get out there and you do it. You don't just get brave by sitting at home, thinking about doing it, you have to do it.
Stephanie: You do. You have to take the action and practice and practice and practice to get better. When you do break out of a mold like that, what are some of the obstacles? You had mentioned family can be obstacle. Friends can be an obstacle. Can you just talk about for a minute how these folks in our lives can be obstacles to us? And not even mean to be.
Amy: I think, again, it boils down to different periods of your life when people know you. Your family, obviously, watched you grow up, so they have a certain preconceived notion about you. I was a really shy kid. To the point that I just didn't like to talk around people unless I knew them really well. To this day, my older sister... This was last year. She came to visit me in the Florida Keys. We went to a restaurant. It was in the bright sun. I'm a pale person. I get sunburned fast. So, she immediately asked the waiter if we can get an umbrella. Because she thinks I... She forgets that I'm a grown up now and if I want an umbrella, I can ask. Even though now I can get on stage and speak in front of thousands of people, she still sees me as the little kid that can't speak up, so she speaks for me.
And so we were laughing about that and having that conversation. Because some of my childhood friends will do the same thing. That if we were in a store and I needed to know where the restroom was, they'll walk up to the clerk and say, "Can you tell us where that is?" Because they just remember me as the shy kid who couldn't talk. And so for them, if they listen to my podcast or they see a video of me talking, they're like, "Really, Amy?" Because they just don't see me that way. And I think a lot of us have those things. Where we think, oh gosh, what are my friends or my family going to think?
I knew this woman who was a nurse and she was really interested in stand-up comedy. And so she decided to take the leap. She was going to get on stage on the weekends and try to do stand-up comedy. To which the people that knew her as a serious nurse were just flabbergasted. Like, you got to be kidding me? How could you get on stage and do stand-up comedy? You're supposed to be saving people's lives and working the ICU. So, she found it just... After a while, if people couldn't support her career, then she was... or her side hustle as a comic, she was just not going to talk about it that much. She said eventually they might be able to expand their minds a little bit to know, yes, I can be a nurse and I can do stand-up comedy. I can be serious at my job and I can do my job well, but on the weekends, I can stand up there and tell jokes and make people laugh. So, she just came to the conclusion, rather than telling them... At first, she said I'm not going to necessarily invite them to my shows, but as we go down the road, if they decide to come watch me, so be it and they'll see it in action rather than me trying to convince them, yeah I can do this.
And she found some peace in that. Knowing that just because they weren't going to be along for the ride the whole way, that that was okay. That she could say, they don't necessarily have to understand it. I don't have to explain myself. This is what I want to do. She got out there and she did it and experienced a lot of self-double. Like, wait a minute. Am I really this person that can make people laugh? Because my goal during the week is to just save lives, but here I am doing this. But the more she did it, the more she just said, okay, just act like you belong. Just put yourself out there and say, yeah, I can hang out with these comedians. I can do it, too. And if I act like I belong, then I'll start to feel like I belong and other people may be able to expand their vision of me and recognize that there's more to one facet to my personality.
Stephanie: I love that. In some of my songwriting workshops with these Nashville veterans, they're like, "You've got to own it. You have to own that you're a singer-songwriter." And that really clicked with me. I've had the same experience with clients who may have seen a picture of me performing on a stage saying... Like, they'll send me an email. And this is more older clients. They'll say, "Stephanie, are you going to run off to Nashville? What about us?" And I just say, "Well, can't I have a hobby? And also be a financial advisor? Is that okay?" They're like, "Oh, sorry, yes. You can." They didn't understand.
Amy: And I think to pay attention to how we label ourselves, too. For a long time, I was a therapist and I eventually became an author, but I would tell people, "I'm a therapist and I wrote a book." It took a long time before I could say I was an author because I didn't feel like it. Or I like to run, but I don't necessarily, for a long time, didn't call myself a runner. I was just like, yeah, it's something I dabble in a little bit. Once I came to the conclusion, yeah, I'm a runner, well, then I'm more likely to keep running and to be able to tell people... Again, it doesn't matter how far I run or how fast I run, I run every day, therefore I'm a runner. So, I think sometimes our labels can help us, too, if we put those labels on ourselves to be able to say, yeah, I'm an author, I'm a therapist, I'm a runner. It can also just remind us that we're not just one thing. We can be a lot of things.
Stephanie: So, as your identity evolves, it's okay to own your new identity.
Amy: Yes, and I think it take our brain a while to catch up to where we are. Somebody who says, yeah, I guess I do that a little bit, but when you eventually make that shift, it feels really good. But to recognize that I think your brain takes a while to catch up to your level of success in life or the changes that you've made and to just recognize that your brain might be a little behind what you're actually doing.
Stephanie: What about the differences between men and women? So, this book, 13 Things Mentally Strong Women Don't Do... Your original book was the 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do. What are some of the observations you have differences between men and women?
Amy: I'm glad you asked that. So, when my first book came out about people, I had so many women reaching out to me after that saying, well, what does it look like to be a strong woman? And so often when we talk about mental strength, we talk about Navy Seals and elite athletes. Of course, who mostly happen to be men. Even in looking back in my book, there's a lot of examples of men in there and not as many as women. So many people were asking, how do we raise strong daughters in today's world? And so I wanted to write a book specifically for women because women do face different challenges than men do. If you look at the pressures that women face in terms of how we look, how we dress, women... If you ask people, draw a picture of a leader, almost all men and all women draw a picture of a man. So, I just wanted to say, okay, well women do face some different pressures and, because of that, sometimes we develop some bad habits that hold us back.
If we went back to that example of, like you said, with comparisons. They've done studies on men and women. When men compare themselves, if they were to... Let's say a man is looking at Instagram and he's looking at body builders or men that have these idyllic looking physiques. Men look at other men and think, oh, I could be like that someday. Women, if we were to look at other beautiful women on Instagram, our mentality is more like, ugh, I'll never be as good as she is. And so I think just being more aware of how the pressures that we face... Biology. Let's not ignore that. And just becoming more aware of the fact that women do face different challenges that men can't relate to. And that's okay. We're not saying men are better and women need to catch up or anything like that, but just to acknowledge this is what we're faced with.
What really made me want to write this book was the study that I found where they ask five year old kids to point to somebody who's brilliant. They show them pictures of men and women who are all wearing business clothing. Almost all the little girls point to women and all the little boys point to a man. And then when they do that study at age seven, and they ask the kids, "Point to somebody who's brilliant," almost all the little girls and all the little boys point to a man. You just think, what happens between ages five and seven? Well, kids go to school. And what are kids learning in school? They're learning about astronauts and scientists and political figures who mostly happen to be men. Even though we're telling little girls on the surface, you can be anything you want to be, obviously, they're not getting that impression. We're teaching them you can be anything you want to be, but at the same time, men happen to just hold most of those positions in history.
And so I think, why not write a book specifically for women to talk about the challenges that we face that maybe men can't relate to? I've had a lot of men read the book, too, and say, well, now I understand better. It's helping me as a dad or it's helping me in my relationship. And plenty of men say, I'm a man, but I do these things, too. So, I'm thrilled that so many men are open to reading the book as well.
Stephanie: Women are the predominant drivers of consumer purchasing decisions. Women are going to be in control of the majority of the wealth in this country in the not so distant future. And so I hope that that continues to change. I love that you wrote another book that was specific to women. And you then wrote another one specific to parents, right?
Amy: I did. I had a lot of parents saying, how do I teach this to my kids and parents who were saying, if only I had learned this sooner, my life could've been different. They just didn't know how to translate it. So, I was excited to say, okay, as a parent, here are some of the things you can do. Then, my next book, which comes out next year, is specifically for kids so that parents can then hand their kids a book and say, here you go. Here's something that you can read. It's for like the eight to 12 year old range so that kids can develop their own mental muscle, too.
Stephanie: That is awesome! After you write that one, I wish you would write one for college graduates so I can give them to my... About that time, my stepsons will be graduating college and they definitely need a guidebook.
Amy: Good to know. I think one for younger people. I absolutely agree with that. I think that is so needed these days.
Stephanie: Yeah. For sure. All right. Let me ask you one more question. It's about a question that you talk about in the book. You call it the miracle question that you like for people to think about. Can you tell us what that is and what that accomplishes?
Amy: It's something that we use in therapy often. Because so often we get stuck and think, okay, when my life is better, I'll do X, Y, and Z. Or when I'm happy, I will go back to college. I'll change my life. I'll change my career. Or I'll spend time with my friends. Or I'll start taking up hobbies. But what we don't realize is sometimes you have to change your behavior first and then the emotions follow and then your thought process follows and your brain can change and see yourself differently. We often ask clients what we call the miracle question, which is, if you woke up tomorrow and there was a miracle and your problems were solved, what would you be doing differently? Somebody who says, I wish I was happier, then the question becomes what would you do if you woke up tomorrow and you were happy? The answer might be, I'd call my friends and we'd go out in the afternoon or I'd go for a walk in the morning. I'd go out to dinner. Maybe I'd watch a movie. Or visit my family. Go on an adventure.
So, then we say, great. What if you woke up tomorrow and you did those things even if you don't feel like it? It sort of changes the perspective for people to know, okay, if I want it to be like that, then what if I just started acting that way first? Sometimes we call that acting is if. Let's act as if you felt happy. Let's act as if you felt like you were worthy. What happens if you acted as if you felt confident? And when you change your behavior first and you start doing those things to change your life, guess what happens? You start to feel better. You start to think differently. So, I'm a big proponent of saying, let's take action. Sometimes it's important to just take the action first. To take that leap of faith. Okay, well, if I were a savvy business owner, what would I be doing today? Or if I were a confident business woman, how might I be acting? Just take those steps now and say... When you identify those clear action steps and you start doing it, everything starts to change after that.
Stephanie: It reminds me of a question that we ask clients through financial planning as well. One of the questions is, if you were told you had five years left on this earth, what would you do differently? And then we ask the same question and change it to six months. What it does is it helps... I think it helps people really get back to what their values are and what their priorities are. What's important if you put the time scarcity into the picture.
Amy: I love that. As scary as it is to answer that question and then to examine, gosh, what is it am I actually doing with my life versus what would I be doing differently, that is tough when you come right down to it. Because you think... I think all of us get off course so easily sometimes. We get so caught up in the day to day hustle and bustle and forget to look at the big picture. And so that takes us out of that and just reminds us time is limited and how do you want to spend it? So, I love that you ask those two questions. I think those are really valuable to ask those back to back. To be able to really examine. Because we don't know what's going to happen. There's no guarantee you're going to be here in six months, five years, or 50 years, but I think it's good to always be thinking about that.
Stephanie: I would say it really opens people up and gets them thinking a lot about what's important to them. I'd also love to get your advice before I let you go on... There are a lot of women professionals out there who have very busy, demanding careers and they get into this mindset of the destination of retirement. When I retire, and I want to retire early, I'm going to do all these things that I really want to do. I'm going to wait until then. And in the meantime, they're miserable. They're compromising their health. They're compromising time with their families. The demands of the career are just so strong and it's tied to their earnings. They're in their higher earning years right now at 40s and 50s and 60s. What would your advice be if somebody is just absolutely miserable and they stay on that path... I know you've already hit on this a little bit, but just to bring it back. They stay on that path and think, I'll do it down the road.
Amy: I think to take a moment and think, again, what's the purpose? What's the purpose of life? Yes, you can punish yourself for the first 60 years and then hope to enjoy retirement, but since retirement... good health isn't guaranteed, I think just focusing on that. Time, health, money. It's so tempting, I think, for all of us, too. When you're doing well, you think, I make so much more money right now. It's hard to let my foot off the gas. Or we think, if I let my foot off the gas, I might never be in this position ever again to make this much money and I have to take advantage of it. While there's some truth in that, to just remind ourselves, well, at what cost? What's it costing me? And so maybe to take a step back and say, here's the pros and cons of continuing just the way I am, but also here are the pros and cons of taking my foot off the gas a little bit and cutting myself some slack and doing things differently. I think that can give you some clarity, too, on your values and what's important.
I guess another way to do it is to ask yourself, what would I say to my friend who said this to me? If you have a friend that's working 80 hours a week and they're saying, "Yeah, but I'm earning good money. I'm earning good money." Would you say, "Yeah, that's a brilliant idea. You should keep going and keep grinding until your health declines," or would you have other advice that says, "It's okay. You deserve to take a little bit of a break." I think we're usually so much more compassionate to other people and we tend to be so much kinder to them and, yet, to ourselves, we think we just have to hustle and grind until we can't move anymore. If we get tired, we blame ourselves for being not strong enough or we think... Even sleep. We sometimes skimp on sleep because we think somehow that's a weakness if you sleep in on a Saturday. Or we get upset with ourselves if we were to waste time. There's so much pressure to be productive, but to just take a step back and say, would I give my friend permission to take a break sometimes? Usually, the answer is yes. And then give yourself permission to do that, too, and know that resting isn't a bad thing.
Stephanie: That's great advice. Amy, this has been so valuable and insightful. I'm so glad that you decided to join me in this discussion. Would you tell us where we can find you, follow you online? What's your preferred place that you would like for us to go? And I will put all of this information in the show notes as well as... I want listeners to check out your books. I think they are phenomenal and you can get a lot more of this advice from Amy if you check out her books. Where can we find you online?
Amy: The best way to find me is my website, which is amymorinlcsw, as in licensed clinical social worker, dot com.
Stephanie: I love it. And then you also have a new podcast that came out recently. Tell us about that real quick.
Amy: Yeah, so my new podcast is called Mentally Strong People. My books, I share my story and certain stories I wanted to share, but I really wanted to have more of a conversation with my readers. So, now, I get to interview people that have mental strength. They get to share their stories and I get to take the lessons that they've learned from their struggles and the things that they're applying to their life and tell my listeners about how to do that in their life.
Stephanie: That's a great podcast. I'm really enjoying it. And I will definitely link to that as well in the show notes. Thank you so much, Amy, for coming on. This has been great.
Amy: Thanks for having me, Stephanie.
Stephanie: This show is for informational and educational purposes only. Please do not consider any of the content as personalized financial investment, tax, or legal advice.
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