J: You're listening to the Vibrant Happy Women podcast, episode number 58.
E: I had a tough upbringing like a lot of people have a tough upbringing and… but my way of coping with it was to… to try and be perfect.
Intro: Welcome to the Vibrant Happy Women podcast, stories of vibrant women living happy lives. And now, your host, Jen Riday.
J: Welcome back, everyone, welcome to Vibrant Happy Women, I'm Jen Riday. On our last episode, I spoke with Lisa-Jo Baker all about having friendships that lasts. And today, I'll be talking with Emma Bell and she shares how she was able to let go of perfectionism and that feeling of not being good enough and to really grab on to authentic feelings of self-love. And we all could use a little more self-love so I know you're going to love what Emma has to say. So let's go ahead and jump in.
Hey, everyone, welcome back to Vibrant Happy Women. I'm talking with Emma Bell today and she lives in a beautiful Scottish village with her husband, Graham, and her Jack Russell, Buddy. After 17 years as a corporate lawyer, the high pressure and long hours culture forced her to realize she was a square peg squeezing into a round hole. She worked as a judge for 7 years during which time she published her book ‘The True You’, and began coaching. She now pursues her passions of writing, teaching authenticity, and motorbiking with her husband around the world. Welcome, Emma.
E: Hi, Jen, lovely to be here.
J: We always start off our show with a quote, which one would you like to share with us today?
E: I would love to share with you a quote from David Foster Wallace, which he wrote in his book ‘Infinite Jest’, and I just love this quote, it's, “You will become way less concerned about what others think of you when you realize how seldom they do.” And I just love that quote, Jen, because it's a reminder to me not to waste a second worrying about what others think of me. You have to live your life with yourself first. I think being true to your own values and your principles is what matters most, and I have to say it's something I spent 30 years learning, and for me, that quote encapsulates a lesson that's been most precious to me in my life.
J: So what are those most precious things to you, if you had to name them?
E: The things that are most precious to me, well, first of all, it has to be authenticity.
E: Because it's something that I lacked probably until I was about 32 when I had my ‘Road to Damascus’ moment. So, for me, it's about turning up as my true self every single day and being able to really connect with people from that place of authenticity. I just don't think you can have true and meaningful connection unless you turn up as the true you.
J: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm. So who is the true you? I mean, how did you even find out what you like and… and who you are in comparison to others? Somehow you have to know where you end and the other person begins, you know; how you're different.
E: Yeah. I mean, that is so true. And I think that the best way for me to answer that is just to probably tell a little bit of my story, if that’s alright.
J: Yeah, yes, please do.
E: So I had a tough upbringing, like a lot of people have a tough upbringing, and… but my way of coping with it was to… to try and be perfect and in order for people to like me and to get approval from others particularly the important people in my life. So, I mean, at the age of 13, believe it or not, I wrote out what I was going to be doing with my life and I showed it to my step-parents, my grandparents, and the approval I got was amazing because I wanted to be a lawyer and I… I lived by that and I became a lawyer in my 20s. I was highly ambitious, I was made a partner in one of Scotland's biggest law firms at the age of 30. I had all the trappings of success, you know, I had the house and the car and the relationship. And honestly, from the outside, my life must have looked amazing, and I'm sure that's true for so many people listening, but I was deeply unhappy.
E: I was stressed, I was unfulfilled, my marriage was falling apart. And, you know, Jen, I didn't even tell my closest friends that my marriage was falling apart, I didn't tell my family. I felt that it was somehow weak or they would be disappointed in me, you know, if…
J: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.
E: … my life wasn't as good as it seemed. And, for me, the real turning point was, one day I was… you know, my marriage had fallen apart and that had come out. I was running the biggest piece of my career so far with a very US company. And… and I was sitting in my car in this 4-story car park and there was a small part of the wall, you know, about 2 foot high that if I just drove over the edge…
J: (Gasps) Hmm.
E: … I would land on the street below and I was just… I sat and cried. And I was sort of revving the engine just thinking, “This would be one way out.”
E: And I knew I wouldn't do it, but I… it was so tempting to just leave in that way. And that, for me, was the point at which I realized I had absolutely no idea who I was, what was important to me. I realized I'd been living my life according to everyone else's idea of success.
E: So that's really when I realized that I needed to get to know myself and I had to be less hard on myself.
J: Mm-hmm. So what were the steps of that process? Because I can imagine almost every woman listening has been where you were, wondering, “Who am I really?”
J: So how did do you find that out?
E: Well, I mean, I guess the process may be a little different for everyone, but I have to say that when I work with clients now, I'm not sure it's all that different. For me, it was starting to speak to my less… myself with harshly, you know, be more compassionate, and I started to think about what success meant for me; you know, inside, what made me happy, what my values were, you know, “What… why am I here? What's my purpose? What's truly important to me?” And yet, I spent so many hours just walking in nature and just being mindful and… and being more present rather than sort of chasing the next big thing.
E: And I really start to take care of myself. That does for me with speaking kindly and lovingly to yourself because I had never done that in my life. I'd always been so hard on myself, you know, I wasn't working hard enough or I wasn't trying hard enough or I was a failure, and I started to change those messages. And I think, once you soften that internal voice, then self-care becomes a lot easier.
E: I also had stories that I kept telling myself about my past; and I think so many of us have had a rough upbringing. But living the past as if it's the present didn't serve me in any way; it just kept me stuck. So I started to work on forgiveness, you know, forgiving some of the things… the ways in which I've been treated and forgiving the important people in my life, and that… that was a big shift for me; a huge shift for me.
J: Mm-hmm. Would you say that, when you talk about the story from the past…
J: … do you mean you were defining yourself based on what had happened or perhaps (I'm just guessing here) you were feeling like you were still a victim of what had happened in the past and learning to let that go?
E: Yeah. So I think a little bit of both. I think, you know, I was still telling myself the story of the past and therefore defining myself in that way, but… and part of that definition was seeing myself as a victim. And I think actually starting to see how those who treated me in a particular way, to see things more from their perspective and really shifting that mindset and understanding the challenges that they had been facing at the time, and just… you know, that really released me from being a victim. I realized actually, I was so grateful for all these things that had happened; that they've made me a strong independent woman who… you know, I was the square peg in a round hole. And even being a square peg in the round hole, I a highly successful. So I thought, “My god, you know, if I can do that, being a square peg in the round hole, being harder myself, what could I achieve, who could I be if I let all of that stuff go, if I'm no longer the victim and I'm fully myself and with all my strengths and, you know, all of my just bringing my full self to the relationships, to my work?” I thought, “You know, what could I be capable of?” and that just blew me away.
J: Hmm, wow, that's beautiful. So you wrote a book and I imagine some of this is in the book, so I'd like to jump there. Tell us about that; what your books called and… and what it's about.
E: Yes. So the book is called ‘The True You’ and the title gives what it's about away a little bit, I hope. You know, the… in the start of the book, I do talk about how our upbringing can shape our thinking and how those thinking… that thinking becomes patterned, it becomes conditioning programming that we treat as true. And, in my case, I treated it is true for years and none of it was true. You know, so the core belief of, “I'm not good enough. I have to be perfect to be lovable,” none of that was actually true, and yet, I spent 32 years of my life living as if it were. And I talk a little bit about how the brain works; you know, I'm a lawyer by trade so I'm very left brained.
E: And I wanted to understand the research of why, for example, attachment theory, why the way that we’re brought up has sought to hold over how we see ourselves; so I explain a bit about that. But then I go on to talk about how we can reprogram our brain and the process for doing that and how that really sets us free to be who we authentically are in all of our power and all of our happiness. And then I go on to talk about how we can then bring that to the relationship in our life to build really meaningful connections. And you mentioned Graham earlier on and I always say to my husband that, you know, he's the first person ever to love me unconditionally, except that that can't happen until you love yourself unconditionally.
J: Hmm. So were you married before he began to love you unconditionally? It's kind of a trick question, but…
E: So, yeah, we got married after he started to love me unconditionally.
J: Oh, you did, you did, okay.
J: So you… you loved yourself first before you married him?
E: I loved myself first. And actually, I firmly believe that if I hadn't have learned to love myself, I wouldn't have met him, and if I'd met him, the relationship wouldn't have worked. You know, because my previous relationship was (unclear) [10:27] sabotaging; I'm sure a lot of women listening to this recognize that that, you know, you attract partners into your life based on how much or how little you value yourself.
E: And so I had attracted the partner into my life (my first marriage) who, you know, was a wonderful man, but has his own needs. And he was looking for me to fulfill his emptiness and I was looking for him to fulfill mine.
E: And it was only when I got to the point where, “I'm enough and I love myself and I had so much to offer the world,” that I was able to go into a relationship with Graham, knowing that didn't lead him to complete me…
E: … or fill me in any way, and he didn't, and that… I often say to his mom, “You know, you've done a wonderful job of bringing this amazing man into the life…. Into life life and bringing him up and this completely (unclear) [11:15] way.” So I think 2 souls connecting in that way depends on how those souls value themselves individually.
J: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm. Well, so many women longed for exactly what you have in a relationship. And I know that you can say the words, “I love myself,” or, “I'm enough,” but how do you really get to that point where you believe it? You talked about reprogramming, I mean, I'm curious. (Laughs)
E: Yeah. So, you know, when I'm working with clients, obviously what we do is we look first of all for what their core belief is that they have. And I think by find a way… and hundreds of people I've coached know, and I don't know if this is your experience too, Jen, but the core belief that it's most prevalent among the people I work with is, “I'm not enough,” or a variation of that. And we start to work on looking at the really great things that these individuals have achieved then looking at what they contribute to relationships and how much love that we have, and then just working on all of that. And most importantly, actually, what success means to them because the, “I'm not enough,” tends to drive behavior which looks for other people's approval. Once you start to define what success means for you and what the indicators of that success actually are and you focus on that, then you're able to judge yourself fairly and according to your own values and your own mission. So, you know, working around those areas, just repeatedly celebrating, knowing what success means then celebrating that success, and then giving lovingly and selflessly in relationships, but not in a way that's needy…
E: … that just starts to develop the sense of self-worth which is so valuable, and I think it's the foundation of the journey to seeing just how lovely we all are.
J: Mm-hmm. Ooh, I love that. Well, I know you want to give our listeners a free download of your book, tell us where they can find that.
E: I would love to go to your listeners a free download to use. So if they hop on to emmajbell.com (so that's emmajbell.com), they can click on the link or the book icon and they can sign up and get a free copy of ‘The true you’.
J: Perfect. And I will include a link for what Emma just shared on our show notes page at jenriday.com/58. So, Emma, if you had to summarize everything you said, what advice would you give to other women who are struggling with something similar to what you went through?
E: So the advice I'd give is be clear about what success means to you. And when I talk about success, I don't mean it in the traditional way. I mean, my definition of success, for example, is having the peace of mind of knowing that I've been the best of which I'm capable in every single moment, you know, I've given my full self, I've given my heart, I've given my love and every single moment; that's what success means for me. So if all of your listeners just reflect on what does success mean for them.
E: And it might be bringing their whole selves to every interaction, it might be loving their children in a particular way.
E: It might be making a contribution in some way, but working out what their own intrinsic version of success is first of all and celebrating it at the end of every day, being grateful for all of the opportunities that we've had to be successful by their own definition. And then just understanding that the fear, any fear that they feel… and in there's only 2 directions in life; one’s love and one’s fear. And fear is just old conditioning; it's just old messages that come up every now and then. And even when you do rewire your brain (and I talked about that in the book), there's still some old fear that comes up sometimes. But when you get into the a bit of smiling when it comes up because you recognize that it's just old programming, it's a shadow of the past, it's not relevant to who you are now. And then every single day, just take one step towards your idea of success. Just do one thing that moves you towards your idea of success. And those are, for me, the sort of daily rituals.
J: So like a morning routine or self-care?
E: Yeah. So… yeah, and then I love when you talk about, Jen, when you say your morning routine, I mean, 4:00 AM, for me, it's a little bit early.
E: But the morning routine that you have, you know, you journal and you meditate and that's exactly my morning routine. I… I religiously… so I… my time is 6:00 AM, but I get up at 6:00 AM.
E: I sit down with my journal and I journal about 3 things, and the first is, “What are the insights I had from the day before?” (often related to what my definition of success is), “What's my intention for the day ?”and thirdly, “How can I serve; today, how can I serve?”
E: And I journal about those 3 things and then I meditate just for 10 minutes, and then at the end of my meditation, I do a visualization.
E: Is it alright if I share with you a little bit of the visualization?
J: Yes, yes.
E: Because I think it might help your listener. So I do a visualization I call my board of directors visualization, and these are the directors who are on the board of my life, so that if I want to access my internal wisdom, I do it by visualizing I'm sitting with them and that they… that… and I might ask a question like, “What do I need to know today?” and I just sit with that and imagine that they're there with me and I just listen…
E: … in the silent; and it's amazing what comes up. And I have some pretty fabulous people on this board, you know, I've got Wynn Dyer (unclear) [16:57] Eckhart Tolle, I've got Marian Williamson, and I have others on the board. And just sitting in that space with these great people who are just, you know, wonderful spirits like we are…
E: (unclear) [17:09] one of whom of course has passed now, but sitting in that space just allows you to connect with yourself and it's just such a wonderful process. And as I said, the things that come up are amazing. So I go back to my journal once I’ve done that and I just note down anything that came up and during that visualization. But I shared it with my very good friend last week who’s 85 and she did her visualization. She excitedly texted me the next morning to see that it just gave her this sense of peace.
J: Ah, nice.
E: So that’s wonderful, and that's how I feel. I feel very peaceful and humble and just full of love when I do that visualization.
J: Yeah, it sounds similar to my morning routine.
J: Yeah, I love that. Well, so what's exciting you in life today aside from all of this amazingness that is your life?
E: Well, I gave up… I stepped away from my judicial rule in the middle of December. So I was a judge for 7 years and I was very lucky to be given permission to be a coach and an author alongside being a judge, which is very unusual here in the UK. So I'm 3 months into my new life and it's so exciting, Jen.
E: I… I mean, things are just going crazy; it's amazing. And speaking about my passion which is authenticity and… and mindfulness and self-care and gratitude and giving all over the place to leaders, to individuals, just setting up my own podcast I'm writing articles and coaching, I mean, it's… it's just incredible. I feel like every day I get to get up and make a difference in someone's life, and that, for me, it just blows me away; it's incredible.
J: Yeah, it lights you on fire; I can tell, I can hear your enthusiasm.
J: So you're not a judge anymore?
E: I'm not judge anymore, no. I do train judges in the UK on how to make the user experience and courts really meaningful and to help the users feel like they receive justice, but that's my one link in with the judiciary.
J: Hmm, so interesting. And what's something you currently struggle with, if anything?
E: Right. So the thing that I struggle with every single day (and I'm sure your listeners will recognize this), I think… think it's endemic in women actually. I'm a high achiever and I have a tendency towards cramming every last moment with one more thing.
J: Mm. (Laughs)
E: So that tendency towards workaholism. I'm living and working my passion now, Jen; and that means that I could spend 24 hours a day doing this stuff. And I would spend when I was a day doing this stuff, but there are other people who I love in my life that I want to spend time with and I have to set limits. So I really struggle with setting limits, but I have clear limits, you know, about when I begin work and when I end work, and I've told my husband what those limits are and he has to remind them about them quite often.
E: But… but, you now, that's the thing that I struggle with, and I think I'm probably always going to struggle with it. And I think if you're passionate about what you do, it makes the struggle even more difficult but, you know?
J: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm. That's so funny, I feel exactly the same which is a big reason I get up at 4 AM so I can't work without guilt as well, not just without distraction. (Laughs)
E: You know, I… when I was listening to your podcast, I recognized that that was probably the reason you did that.
J: (Laughs). That's funny. And what's a favorite habit that has contributed to your success?
E: Well, it's mindfulness.
E: And definitely it's mindfully getting up every morning and meditating. I… I find that if I don't meditate… and, you know, it's very rare now that I don't get up and meditate, but if I don’t, I find that my mind is so busy all day. And I use the analogy of a snow globe, you know, when you shake the snow globe, I don't know if you call them snow globes in the US.
J: Yes, yes.
E: But, you know, you shake them and the snowflakes float around. And I think… I think of thinking that way, you know, I think things like that all day long. But if you put the snow globe down, what happens is the thinking settles. And I find that my habit of meditation allows me to be able to put the snow globe dome more frequently during the day.
J: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.
E: And of course, that's when my wisdom comes up.
J: Hmm, wow, exactly. I… I love that analogy of the snow globe, I've never thought of that; that's brilliant. And your favorite easy meal.
E: Oh, definitely salmon with mango and avocado salsa. So chop up a mango, chop up an avocado, put in some red onion, get the juice of 2 limes, fish it all together and serve it alongside baked salmon and it's to die for. It's fabulous and it's also very healthy.
J: Yum, that does sound amazing. And your favorite kitchen gadget.
E: I think probably my husband…
E: … is my favorite kitchen gadget because he is an awesome cook. He cooks, he's got it, you know, and it's just in his soul; he's just a natural cook. But if I'm not allowed to choose my husband as a kitchen gadget, then it's definitely my blender because I have a smoothie every single morning; a spinach based smoothie with, you know, maybe half a banana and some coconut milk and some ginger and that's my favorite kitchen… ‘none’ husband kitchen gadget.
J: (Laughs). You're the second time I've had a guest mention her husband as her favorite kitchen gadget. Well, it's funny, she's from the UK; Sophie Savage said that.
E: Alright, I’m going to (unclear) [22:18] with her then.
J: (Laughs). Okay, and your favorite book.
E: My favorite book has to be a Wayne Dyer book. In fact, I'm reading… rereading for the third time his book called ‘Wishes Fulfilled’, just because it reminds me that we're spiritual beings and human body and we are capable of making the life that we want, and it's just written from his heart and his soul and I love that book. And every time I read it, I learned something new or like I hear something that I didn't hear the first time around.
J: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm. And the best advice you've ever received.
E: So I think every good coach should have a coach. And my coach, Paul, recently said to me, he said, “Emma, you can do everything you want, just not all at the same time.”
E: Like, you know, I think for women in particular, that is so true. We just want to do everything, but we try to do it all at the same time and then we dilute our efforts by doing that, so I have to remember that; keep that front of mind.
J: And so how do you prioritize what's going to come first each day? Would it go back to that quiet moment where you're, you know, listening to your board of directors?
E: Yeah, yeah. Actually, you know, it's interesting because some things come through when I'm with my board. The question I might ask them could be, “What will I focus on today?” you know, I've got a to-do list as long as your arm, but I might say to them, “What will I focus on today?” And… and what I try and do is prioritize the importance before the urgent…
E: … so that my first 2 hours of the working day, no matter what's urgent, I'm focusing on what's important. And it's interesting, Jen, because I think when you focus on what's important first and then you go to do the things that you thought were urgent, they're not as urgent as you thought they were.
J: Yes, that's so true; that's great. Well, I'll reminder that they can find links to your book and Wayne Dyer's book at the show notes page at jenriday.com/58. And now for your happiness formula; if you had to create a 3 to 5 part formula of actions or ideas that maximizes your happiness, what would that include?
E: So I have 5 foundational principles…
E: … for my business which is called (unclear) [24:26] shift. And the 5 foundational principles are, first of all, being mindful, secondly, being authentic, thirdly, being self-caring, fourthly, coming from a giving mindsets., so being giving, and fifthly, being grateful. And when I talk about those, I always have the prefix ‘I am’, so, “I am mindful and I am authentic and I am self-caring and I am giving and I am grateful.” So those are the foundational principles for me for being, what I call, shift fit; being able to just shift your mindset in a second to one that's much more empowering. If you've got those, if you live by those 5 principles, you'll be shift fit every day.
J: Shift fit; that's a good one to say.
J: 5 times rest. (Laughs)
E: Yeah, exactly.
J: Well, and what challenge would you like to leave for our listeners?
E: Well, I think based on what you and I have both said, I would challenge your listeners to spend 10 minutes being mindful. Now, that doesn't mean 10 minutes of meditation in the morning, it could be if they're out in the car and they stop at a red light, that could be 2 minutes of mindfulness. But if they do 10 minutes in total of conscious mindfulness every single day, because I think it will really help them listen to their wisdom and calm they're busy minds, i.e., put the snow globe down.
J: Yes, put the snow globe down; I love that.
J: Well, Emma, this has been amazing; you're amazing. And if people want to know more about you, where could they find you?
E: They can go on to emmajbell.com or they can go onto my YouTube channel which is called The Insight Shift and I released a couple of videos every week around shifting and being shifted and authenticity and they can have a look at those on YouTube.
J: Perfect. Well, thank you so much for being on the show; this was excellent.
E: It's been a pleasure, Jen. I love your show; it's amazing.
J: (Laughs). Thank you.
Thank you so much for being with us today and be sure to grab a copy of Emma's book on her website, emmajbell.com. And I also have a freebie for you, it's called ‘the self-love checklist’. You can grab that at jenriday.com/selflove, all one word. And next week, you'll want to be back because I'll be talking with Beth Kempton who just wrote a book called ‘Freedom Seeker’ and it's all about the 8 keys of freedom. You know, as women, sometimes we feel trapped in our responsibilities taking care of everyone else, and in her book and in this interview coming next week, Beth shares the 8 things you need to do to feel more free; and we all would love that, right? So I will see you next week, and until then, make it a great week. Take care.
Outro: Thanks for listening to the Vibrant Happy Women podcast at www.jenriday.com.