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Episode 89: Finding Your Inner Truth Amongst Adversity with Rachel Macy Stafford

Brief summary of show:

What does it mean to find your inner truth? How do you show up authentically, in your power, in life’s hardest moments?

And how does that inner integrity benefit your children and how you show up as their parent or caregiver?

In this episode, Rachel Macy Stafford joins me to talk about the meaning and purpose we find in adversity.

Rachel Macy Stafford is the creator of Hands Free Mama. She is an author, speaker, and creator, who helps mamas learn what it means to be hands free. Rachel says that before, she was holding on to the wrong things and missing out on life. Finally, she is holding on to what matters, and it has given her life new meaning. It’s time to grasp what really matters to you and then start living.

Listen in as we talk about:

  • [2:30] How Rachel came up with the idea of ‘Hands Free Mama’

  • [4:40] Looking beyond ‘authenticity’ as a buzzword and finding your inner truth

  • [14:30] How to be authentic on social media

  • [21:45] How does trying to achieve perfection actually impact our kids?

  • [29:30] Advice for people making a life transition

Notes from Natalie:

Connect with Rachel Macy Stafford

Connect with Me

View Transcript for this Episode

[00:00:00] Natalie: Rachel, thank you for taking the time today. There is so much that I wanna talk to you about, but I wanna get right into this topic of authenticity because until we are authentic to ourselves, we're not gonna be able to be successful and to help other people and to be a good mom and all of those things that we want to be.

[00:00:19] Rachel: Yeah, so on my hands free journey, I worked to let go of all the things that distracted me from what really mattered. And I thought it was gonna be just like the phone, the computer, the to-do list that was distracting me. But actually there was a lot of internal distraction going on and part of. Internal distraction was me telling myself, you can't show up like that.

You're not enough. You need to try harder. And that voice, you know, I called it my inner bully. Now I know it was a part of me that was trying to protect me from getting rejected because for all my life I believed. That I had to be what other people wanted me to be in order to be loved and accepted, I had to be the, the go-getter.

I had to be the organized one. I had to be the person who was in charge and, and you know, everything was flawless. And that became my reputation. And so then I find myself playing all these roles. That aren't really what I want to do. They don't fulfill me. They are not a reflection of my, you know, inner truest self.

And I like to describe authenticity as who you are when no one else is around. Well, when I'm having. Get all dolled up and go out and have this perfect presentation and, and look like I have all my balls. You know, I'm juggling all these balls, not dropping a single one. That's not, that's not me. I am. When I'm home, I am in my soft pants.

I'm laughing. I'm, I'm holding my cat. I'm writing in my journal. I'm laughing with my friends. You know, it's like, okay, how can I live this life where I am the same person? Everywhere I go where I don't change like a chameleon to please others around me. So getting in touch with this, this idea that, okay, I'm wearing all these masks, I'm, I'm doing all these roles that I don't feel like they really reflect who I am.

So now what do I do? And that was where this idea of being hands free. Letting go of some of these expectations that actually a lot of 'em were expectations I put on myself. And to be able to say, no, I'm not going to do this project because this, this, I'm not, I'm not passionate about this project. And let, let's say you've been doing that project for 10 years because it's a commitment.

But the first time that you say, no, I'm not gonna do this. It's scary. But you're honoring yourself and every time you honor yourself, you honor what feels right to you, what you need that is bringing you closer to being your authentic self, self honoring behaviors. And a lot of it looks. Setting healthy boundaries too, on what you will and will not tolerate.

And if you're a people pleaser like me, it's very hard to begin saying, no, that's not what I wanna do. Or, no, this is not okay with me. But, When you get that disappointment and you will, because if you've been doing something for someone for a while and you say, I'm not doing that anymore, or You can't treat me that way, there's gonna be probably some fallout, but there's nothing worse than disappointing yourself over and over and over, and when you are living an inauthentic life.

That's what you're doing. You're denying yourself of what you need to thrive. you know, we wonder why, why do I feel so sad and empty and confused all the time? It's like, well, how are you spending your time? Is there, are you doing anything in the day that feels fulfill? Are you doing anything that your heart desires?

Do you even know what your heart desire?

[00:05:28] Natalie: let's talk about that because authenticity is a buzzword. Definitely. And you know, it was something when, when I was doing the morning news and I was a newscaster for 28 years, I said often to myself and to those I'm close to is it's really hard to smile on a morning show when I'm having a crappy day.

Mm-hmm. or, you know, some of my hardest moments I had to go through on television. And yet no one could know because I had to wake up and smile and say, good morning. And I hated that it, the thing I think I struggled with the most was I'm not being authentic when I'm smiling and acting like things are fine and I, that's not good.

So authenticity is such a buzzword, but how do you recommend and years of now working with people on this that we find. That truth. And for some people they don't know. They're looking for someone else to tell them their parents or their friends, or, I don't know what to do with it. Can you help me? Or a therapist, or, I don't know what my authentic self is.

How do we get to

[00:06:34] Rachel: that? Well, as I was mentioning earlier, you begin pausing when you have a choice. About what someone is asking you to do or participate in. You pause and you ask yourself, what do I want to do? We don't do that. We don't ask ourselves what do we wanna do? We just kind of read the room and, and figure out, okay, I'm pretty sure I'm, this is how I'm supposed to answer that.

Like even as simple as where do you wanna go to dinner? That, you know, my family says, where do you wanna go to dinner? Mom and I for, for years, I would say where I knew they wanted to go, , I wouldn't say where I wanted to go. .

[00:07:24] Natalie: Oh, I'm so guilty. Why do

[00:07:27] Rachel: we do that? Exactly. Because, you know, we are conditioned to be accommodating and we wanna keep the peace, you know, and so we deprive ourselves.

Of who, who we really are, what we really want. And so you start with something as simple as saying, I want to go to, you know, Chuck's for dinner. I don't wanna go get pizza. I wanna go here and saying that, and, Holding yourself to that and not backing down when S oh oh, do we, no, this, we have to go there.

You asked me, you asked me where do I wanna go? This is where I wanna go. So that's a, that's a small example, but let's say you've had a, a relationship with a friend that is toxic and you realize every time you talk to that person, you. Depleted and, and you're being, their, their sounding board.

How did, you're, like, how did I, how did I turn into the therapist for this person? Or how did I turn into the sounding board? Why, why is it that this person calls me every Monday and, and just spills everything on me? I didn't ask for this, but you're allowing it to happen, so then you have to say, You know what, friend?

I'm not going to be able to have those calls with you anymore on Mondays. This is what I'm gonna be doing. Or I, I don't feel like I'm the right person to help you with these problems. You, you have to honor your time, your needs, because people will take, take, take from you. So you. Living as your authentic self by saying what you want and sticking to that and, and yes, you're going to have times where you don't say what you want and you say, oh my gosh, why did I say yes to heading up that committee?

Now I'm doing, you have. Have self-forgiveness. Self-compassion. this is how you operated through your life. You thought your worth came from pleasing. Accommodating. Maybe it did. Maybe, maybe that was your role in your family was the peacemaker, and now you're still doing the peacemaker and now you're.

that role does not serve me anymore. That role is keeping me from actually doing what I wanna do and, and being who I wanna be and spending the time that I wanna spend. So I like to, I like to identify these roles, like the people pleaser for me and to say, remind myself, Rachel, that worked for you when you were younger.

and it got you where you wanted to go. It's not serving you anymore to keep bending over backwards for people. And now, who do you wanna be? And a perfect example is, as an author, I have to be on social media. It's part of. , if you wanna be successful and sell books and sell your classes and everything and make a living, you've gotta be on social media.

But it's interesting how then you're expected to show up a certain way. Mm-hmm. on social media, and I got really caught up in, I have to. You know, post every single day I have to do, you know, these videos and, and things that I'm not comfortable with. But I thought, you know what? I'm gonna lead with authenticity.

I'm gonna be who I am. And I tend to get really wordy on my post and, and, you know, all the Instagram experts are like, oh, don't, don't say more than 25 words. And I. I, I'm leading with my authentic self, and so yeah, there's gonna be 200 words, and my teenagers give me a hard time. They're like, that's not what Instagram's for.

And I'm like, well, that's what I make, that's what I'm using for. So, you know, that's just, that's a simple example of these expectations that people put on us that we have to stop and say, wait a minute, I, I never wanted that job. Yeah. Or I never signed up for this. Mm. And speaking and standing up for yourself.

[00:12:20] Natalie: Yeah. So social media though, because you brought it up. I wanna ask. Authenticity is again, a buzzword. It's something we have to dig deep to really know what do I want, when should I say no? But I find social media, I have to as well. Like it's my business now and it's what I do. And it's how we get word out on the podcast.

But, You know, when you're having a crummy day, do you put that out? Is that being authentic? Do you let people know? Life's not all perfect because it's so, it's so much easier to just show the happy moments on social media? Oh, I,

[00:12:54] Rachel: I, absolutely. if I think about who I'm drawn to, the work that I'm drawn to, the authors or influencers that I like and listen to.

they do share their, their lows. They do share their struggles. I really have no interest in just always seeing the sunny side of things on social media. And I do think it's gotten better that, you know, There are more people who are just willing to talk about real life stuff.

Yeah. Yeah. And share from that vulnerable place. And then, you know, feel connected to someone who, who reaches back out and says, oh, that happened to me, or, I feel that too. Yeah. And so in that respect, social media can. Um, A good thing, you know, when you realized I'm not alone, but like you were saying, when you had to do the morning news and you had to put that smile on your face, even if your mom is in the hospital and you are worried and you're putting that mask on.

You don't really have a choice in that moment, but you need to make sure that you do have a place where you can take off the mask. You can say, this is how I feel. And this is not pretty. Yeah. And have a person that you can trust and those are not easy to come by. Yeah. People who you can be real with.

So if you find someone like that, you know, by gravitating toward what your heart desires, you know, you're, you're into animals, you start going and volunteering at the shelter, you begin to meet people that you can connect with. Yeah. And you don't have to have. Full made up face the the smile. You show up, you come as you are, and that is where we actually feel like we truly do belong.

Yeah, so that's what I would encourage people who are listening in is if you don't have a space in your life where you can come as you are, please be thinking. how can you cultivate that? I'm gonna give you a really quick example. I will go to a playground and I will swing when I am feeling super sad, confused, lost, because when I was a little girl, I love to swing and I can remember some of my saddest days getting on a.

And feeling the wind on my face, feeling my bare feet going through the sky, looking at my little self under this big sky and saying it's gonna be okay. And so getting back to swings now in my, as an adult, is helping me reconnect with my most authentic parts. So that's the second thing. So you're creating a space where you can be yourself.

But second of all, try to remember who, who were you when you were a little kid? Look at your picture. What things did you like to do? You know? I told you I love to swing, but I also love to fill notebooks. I made mixed tapes like nobody's business . And guess what I love to do? I love to go to live concerts.

Now when I am standing there and I feel that music pulsing through my body, every worry, every anxiety, every insecurity just falls off me. Yeah. And. I also had a thing for stray cats, and my mom would never let me pet pet them. She'd say, no, no, no, they're gonna have a disease. So what did I do when I was trying to be my authentic self?

I went and I started volunteering with a stray cat. Shelter and I got to pick up those cats that I wasn't allowed to touch. You know, so that's how you start reconnecting with your truest, truest self is you, you've gotta dig deep and reach back into that memory bank. You know, it's even as far as like, what cereal did you like to eat, you know?

Well, you know, I remember going to my grandma's, she had honeycomb cereal. It was the biggest deal because we didn't have sugar cereal at my house. But if I eat a bowl of honeycomb now, I, I almost can feel myself going back to that time. I didn't have all of the stuff piled on me and I didn't know all of.

Tragedies of the world and that innocence was still there, you know, and we need those moments of just that peace in, in, with our, with our heart, you know, and, and reconnecting with that part of us. Mm. That's,

[00:18:27] Natalie: so, I, I, all these memories are coming into my head right now from my childhood and it's funny, I've never really thought about connecting back with those to become more authentic today as a mom of three.

And, we do so much for everyone else. Yeah. That we lose track of who we are mm-hmm. and what we want. And you hear stories of empty nesters going, I don't know who I am anymore.

[00:18:55] Rachel: Yes. Yeah, it's, it's easy to do.

[00:19:31] Rachel: Yeah.

[00:19:31] Natalie: So connecting with that and

I wanna talk about that as a mom, as a parent, for men who are listening to, but specifically, we get so busy.

We volunteer, we do everything for everybody else. We keep, as you said, all the balls in the air for everybody else, but then one falls and it shatters. And we have to model to our kids how to, how to pick them. Could you talk about that in, in motherhood and what are we doing? If we're trying to be perfect or look perfect?

What are we doing to our, to our kids? How can we

[00:20:04] Rachel: avoid that? Yes. When I had a really bad moment Natalie, my oldest was around eight, and I blamed her. Her sister falling on the steps because she had put her library book there and I lost my temper and I overreacted, and I went to Natalie after I calmed down and I said something to her that I haven't, I hadn't said to anybody ever in my whole life.

I said, I'm sorry, I am mean to you because I'm mean to myself. Mm. and Natalie, who was very wise for her age and just very mature, looked at me, not like that was bad news or sad news. She looked at me like, yeah, I know. I get it. And there was a sense of. Being able to put that out there, I'm mean to you because I'm mean to myself and I said, I don't know how Natalie, but I'm going to try to work on loving myself and so I can love you the way that you deserve to be Loved that telling her the truth in that moment.

Changed the course of our relationship of my life because I thought, oh my gosh, all this time I thought perfect parenting was required to raise capable kids. That's not it. In fact, the more human we are with our insecurities, our struggles, our failures, The more human they can be with us. And the more apt they're gonna be able to get back up after they fall.

Yeah, yeah. And they are going to fall. Oh

[00:22:13] Natalie: my goodness. Yeah. I found myself for so many years hiding my, my fears or my, I don't know, just not being able to be vulnerable. And maybe that comes from having such a strong single mom that, you know, it was like, oh, I don't wanna show people my, and just more recently, in hardships.

It's so hard for me to be vulnerable with my children and to be able to say, that hurts, or I'm sad, or whatever it is.

[00:22:44] Rachel: Mm-hmm. . Yeah.

[00:22:46] Natalie: A lot of people struggle with that, but they need to know. They need to know. So when they have those struggles, they can find support, look for support, and know that it's okay to, to be weak

[00:22:58] Rachel: in the.

Oh, absolutely. And that, that we all need help. One of the best things I ever did in 2 20 20 when things were just going upside down, I finally said, I, I need to talk to a therapist about some of these issues that are coming up for me right now. And the best thing I did was tell my daughters, I'm getting some.

Because I have some problems with how I perceive my body, how I base my worth, and to be able to share that with them. They were teenagers. They are teenagers, and they were teenagers in 2020. But to see them respond to say, mom, , I wrote down these body positivity quotes for you or mom. You know, I'm, I was glad to see you having that brownie.

You know, it, it's like you're inviting them in to knowing that it's okay to ask for help. That we all have issues to normalize things like anxiety, depression, and know you don't have to hide. There, there's help for you and we can talk about these things. The worst is when your kids think, I can't talk to my mom about this, or I can't talk to my dad or my sister.

But when you grow up in a family that says, you know what, we have these hard conversations, and man, these are awkward. Mm-hmm. , these are awkward, and you don't have, you don't have the right words. You will not have the right words and don't wait until you have the right words.

[00:24:47] Natalie: Oh boy, that's, isn't that the truth?

Yeah. We wait and we plan and we draft something out and then Exactly.

[00:24:54] Rachel: And then sometimes never happens. Yeah. Mm-hmm. and it, and then we find out, oh my gosh, I had no idea my child was feeling this way about herself. Mm-hmm. , and I never told her that this is how I went through life, feeling about myself. So being able to put that out there, there, there's this term and it's it's a strong family narrative.

Look that up. Bruce Feller is the author of the book that has this. Idea of a strong family narrative, and that is sharing your struggles, sharing what you've overcome with your children so they can know this is what I'm made of. We think we have to shelter them from pain and adversity. We're not gonna be able to do that.

So instead we say, Hey, this is what I'm going through right now. And this is how I'm coping and this is how you can help me, and that is a strong family narrative that you are building.

[00:26:04] Natalie: Yeah. You talk so much about authenticity and you, you talk about many things in your blog and your your course. I know, but tell, tell me more about that.

What people can learn if they find you. And I'll put everything in the show notes. But we have just like barely scratched the surface of some of the things that you teach. I wanted to get into this authenticity. Yeah. But give us.

[00:26:25] Rachel: So you can come to handsfree and I do still write. Essays, even though they are kind of a thing of the past now everything is like a, you know, a two sentence clip.

But I still love to write, I love to share very vulnerably about things that I'm still working on. I'm a work in progress and I, I hope I always will be because I wanna. Never stop learning. And you can find there that my social media handles like Facebook, the hands-free revolution, and on Instagram, the hands-free revolution.

And I have five books. Um, The fifth one comes out in March. And so you can find. Everything and more that we've touched on here today in my books. And my course is called Soul Shift and I offer that once or twice a year.

[00:27:20] Natalie: Wonderful. I wanna ask you one other thing, because I went through just a year and a half ago.

A complete professional change, you know, 30 years in one industry. And I know you made a change similar when you wrote the book mm-hmm. , and I think there are a lot of people who just not quite there yet, but they would like to. Part of that is finding who you are authentically. I mentioned that I had a really hard time being authentic when I had to smile through tough stuff on the news and.

what advice do you have for people in making a life transition like you did and you've beautifully done that and grown a new

[00:27:57] Rachel: business? Yeah, I mean, I wouldn't be telling the whole story if I didn't say, you know, I, I did have that financial security of my spouse that, that I was able to pivot from teaching.

To trying to be an author that not everyone has that ability um, and that support. And so I would start with, we talked about having these spaces of time or spaces in your house where you can do. Something that fulfills you that, that you can create. Or maybe it's something in nature or we talked about, you know, volunteering somewhere you create this basically just listening to the desires of your heart.

Okay? What, what makes me feel alive? What excites me? What breaks my heart? What do I. Feel, you know, stand up for what's an injustice that really just, I, I wanna, I wanna take part in helping dismantle that, you know, start paying attention to those moments that you feel something and then saying, okay, how can I, how can I turn this into, An activity or how can I participate in this?

Even if it's just on whatever your free day is of the week, you think, okay, Sunday afternoons, they're gonna be dedicated to what delights my heart and for me. It started with journaling at night. My husband worked out of town and I had little children at the time, so I would wait till they go to bed, but instead of watching TV, I would write, and that was after a 30 year hiatus of writing.

But I knew I am born to. And share words. This is my purpose and I can't go another day not doing what I just feel like I'm supposed to be doing. So just starting small and even if it's just keeping a notebook in your purse or your wallet and just jotting down when you have an idea, oh, I just saw something that, you know, made me think like I went to a nursing home.

And I saw a volunteer pushing someone outside and I said, is that a job? And she said, yes, I'm a volunteer. I take the residents in wheelchairs outside to be in the sun. I thought, who knew? That was a job? That is something that would delight my heart to absolutely no end, and I jotted that down. I have a list of things when I have that time and that space.

Those are things I wanna do, so, so even if you can't do them right now, Start keeping track.

[00:31:04] Natalie: Yeah. That's so great. And even if they're just little things here and there, those things that, and your words are so beautiful. Things that delight your heart. You're like, I just want to do that instead of doing what everybody else wants you to do.

Right. Exactly. Fulfilling everybody else's needs, right?

[00:31:19] Rachel: Yeah. Right. Yeah. When you, when you designate that, you know, you say, all right, Sunday afternoon. That is my time. And you guard that like you guard it with your life and you do not plan anything else. And that's, that's part of that boundary setting that you have to start doing to live an authentic life.

But honoring yourself, one self honoring, act at a time, that's how you start living more authentic. So

[00:31:52] Natalie: beautiful. Rachel, thank you for your advice today. Let's do this again. We can pick 10 more topics that you teach and I learned so much. I have notes and notes. Oh, that's great. I look forward to sharing this with other people and to connecting again soon.

Oh, thank you. All right. All the best to you and your

[00:32:10] Rachel: family. Thank you. You too.

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