Jun 12, 2019
Often women are socialized to present as if they need nothing from the world. While the spirit of independence is inspiring, the reality is that as humans we do need things and that isn’t about weakness, it’s about humanity. In today’s episode, Jen and Annie talk to clinical social worker Mel Bosna to explore human needs and why they matter.
What you’ll hear in this episode:
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Annie: Welcome to Balance 365 Life Radio, a podcast that delivers honest conversations about food, fitness, weight, and wellness. I'm your host Annie Brees along with Jennifer Campbell and Lauren Koski. We are personal trainers, nutritionists and founders of Balance365. Together we coach thousands of women each day and are on a mission to help them feel healthy, happy, and confident in their bodies, on their own terms. Join us here every week as we discuss hot topics pertaining to our physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing with amazing guests. Enjoy.
We live in a culture that often labels women who express their needs as needy or high maintenance. We praise women for being needless, for ignoring their own wishes and desires so everyone else around them can thrive. But denying your needs can ultimately leave you feeling resentful, misunderstood, or even downright angry.
Clinical social worker, feminist therapist and artist Mel Bosna understands that having needs doesn't make you needy, it makes you human. Mel is a licensed clinician in the state of Arizona and believes that our best chance at health involve both individual and societal changes and as a result, Mel aims to validate the broader context of what contributes to the stories we're living while supporting clients to change what's within their control to change. Mel feels that it's been a profound honor for her to support women.
Together they are learning how to walk away, claim new life, root into new ground, speak the unspeakable, own the narrative, change the script and to say enough to the shame and the lies that have haunted them for too long. On today's episode, Mel offers amazing insight on how to begin identifying our needs and how to meet them in a healthy way.
Mel acknowledges that honoring and communicating our needs can leave many of us feeling vulnerable, but encourages us to acknowledge the discomfort as an opportunity for new growth. As always, if you want to continue the discussion from today's episode, we invite you to join our free Facebook group, Healthy Habits Happy Moms. Enjoy!
Jen, we have a special guest, like a VIP guest with us today. Are you so stoked?
Jen: I am.
Annie: Yeah. Mel, how are you? Welcome to Balance365 Life Radio.
Mel: I am so thrilled to be here. Thank you for having me.
Annie: We are so happy that you're here. You've been around our community for a
while. Like you go, you go way back.
Annie: How did you, how did you find, well, it probably was Healthy Habits Happy Moms.
Annie: -at the time, how did you find us? Or how did we find you or do you remember that?
Mel: To be clear, I really don't. I, I think I probably found you as like a recommended group on Facebook, which I'm no longer on, but-
Annie: Thanks, Facebook.
Mel: No, I stumbled across it and having worked in the eating disorder recovery field for quite awhile, I was always looking for resources that were balanced and appropriate to send people to. And so I just kind of fell into the group. I really enjoyed it for the season that I was involved and have just loved cheerleading, watching, you know, what you guys are doing, it's been really great.
Annie: Well, we appreciate it. Do you want to take just a quick second to explain to our audience about your work, what you do?
Mel: Sure. I am a clinical social worker in private practice in Scottsdale, Arizona. I've been in private practice now for about seven years, but prior to that I'd worked at a number of different facilities. So I did inpatient eating disorder work for about four years, specialize in body image work, sexuality, trauma, our relationship with food and spirituality and one another. From there I was the director of a group home for girls who'd been sex trafficked, was only there for about a year. Loved the population. The agency wasn't a great fit for me.
And then I started having kids and you know, reevaluated my career at that point. And so I've been in private practice since then and really specialize with things that fall under the umbrella of women's issues. So I do a lot of complex trauma, attachment, parenting, sexuality, relationship issues, lots of codependency work and really just trying to empower women to discover who they want to be and to, yeah, just give themselves permission to find their own path, ways of meeting their own needs.
Mel: And as they do that, it's just compounding, right. All the growth and freedom and vitality within their families and communities. So I definitely look at things from a specific social work perspective. I like to challenge systems. I like to dismantle them, I like to see, yeah, I just like to see people experience a lot more freedom. So-
Annie: Right on and you're just, you're a good human and like a powerful, powerful woman.
Mel: I definitely feel my power. That's good.
Jen: You also are very, you're very creative, Mel. You have, you're an amazing photographer.
Mel: Yes. That's kind of been a side project that I fell into. I never set out to, um, be a photographer. It's kind of funny that that word still doesn't roll off my tongue very naturally, but finding ways to integrate art within my activism and healing spaces has been really profound and healing for me, on both a personal and a professional level. So I do have a passion project where I photograph women who are telling their own stories so you can find that work on Melbosna.com. Women getting to share their stories with the hope of just kind of reducing the fear that often comes from just not knowing or understanding one another.
Annie: Yeah, it's beautiful. Circling back to something you said when you were telling us about your work was you mentioned women acknowledging their needs, getting their needs met. And that's what we wanted to bring you on to talk to us about today because you and Jen had a little private conversation in the Instagram dm's which so frequently happens with, Jennifer, which I love and adore.
That's how we get a lot of our podcast guests is that this, there's this concept and I really identify this, so I'm so excited to see what you have to say on it is, women are taught to be needless, that I always kind of attribute it to, and I know this wasn't her intention and I'm not pointing the finger, but this like kind of this Beyonce attitude, this like, "I don't need anyone. I'm too cool to care. Like I can do it myself."
And like, and as a result, I often struggle for asking for help or even really being very clear on what, what do I need? Like what am I feeling? What do I need? And again, the messages is that we shouldn't be needy. Or if we're needy that we're high maintenance. And I think you'd probably want to, argue against that, right? That having needs does not make you high maintenance. Right?
Mel: Right. Having needs makes you human. And so our rejection of our needs is actually a rejection of our own humanity and it makes it very difficult then to be a healthy human, are good human if we're rejecting such a core part of ourself. And there are so many different messages that we are raised with about having needs. So whether that's, you know, "Don't be dependent on anyone to meet your needs" like you were just referencing, kind of the anti dependency spirit, right?
Like I don't need nobody or where we get those messages that say, that it's like good to be needless, that it's noble to be needless. Don't be aware of having needs or if you are aware that you should sacrifice them and that there's an honor in that. And women particularly are rewarded for being self sacrificial in that way, but it's not really sacrifice in a holy way. It's actually neglectful and it's destructive.
Jen: Yeah. That's more where I identify with the word needless, where Annie thinks of Beyonce. And I think of like being subservient and quiet and small and being rewarded for that and feeling loved and validated as a woman because I don't take up space and I
don't need anything.
Jen: I find that, I suppose they're both destructive in their own way, but I find that concept of womanhood more destructive than the Beyonce analogy. But I don't know if I've ever lived the Beyonce, perhaps that's why I find it more destructive and that's definitely my background is if anyone who's followed me for any amount of time, I've had a big breakthrough blog post about five years ago called The Selfish Mom in which I wrote about my transformation of, from just serving my partner and my children to kind of stepping out in the world and going, "Hey, wait a moment like this, this doesn't feel very good and I have needs and you four have to make space for those needs in our life." And just how inconvenient I felt and how uncomfortable I was. But, that went, I mean, millions of people have read that blog post now and I think it resonated with a lot of women. So, that's more my experience of wanting to be needless.
Mel: Well, I think deep down, we know that we have needs, but we're not taught, again, how to recognize them or meet them appropriately. And so what I see happening is that because we don't know how to steward them or meet them in appropriate ways, that it will always come out sideways in our life. And so whether that's displacement through putting our needs onto other people around us with the expectation that they're just going to meet them on their own, or be able to read them or anticipate what our needs are or displacement onto other areas in our life that are inappropriate, that are illegitimate, expecting that to fulfill our needs.
So, you know, at a very base level, we all, humans all have the needs for, you know, safety, shelter, food, water, stability, community, family, right? Like relationship, belonging. But above that, like if we look at Maslow's hierarchy of needs right above that, then we look at our needs for worth, for identity, for romance and sexual, you know, fulfillment or connection and self actualization and purpose and these other needs that, again, are, they're valid and human.
Mel: And we all have them, whether we acknowledge that we have them or not. And so if they're not met appropriately, which most of us don't grow up learning how to meet them appropriately, they will inevitably come out sideways. And so in my work with women, I have seen it most problematic when women displace their needs for belonging, acceptance, worth identity, I see them displace that onto food or onto their bodies as a way of trying to meet that need and fulfill it, which will never happen appropriately because food was never meant to fulfill our identity.
Jen: There's, another thing too, and inside of this idea that we can meet our needs with food or a body size, you have whole communities that have risen up to support these pursuits. And so what happens is you, you find, you feel as if you, you can find a place to belong if you, too, participate in this, whether it's these food rules or becoming this body size.
And that can feel really good, especially for somebody who might actually feel pretty lonely or has been experiencing rejection, or has struggled with just fitting into this culture that does seem to be consumed with food. So it can feel really good initially. And you hear a lot of people, I think, they defend their diets, or they defend, you know, what they're doing, what their goal is because they still have the warm and fuzzies perhaps.
Mel: That meets the need. It actually does meet the need. And so it's really hard to walk away from something that's meeting the need, even if it's also costing, you.
Mel: In the process. And so, I mean, I don't think anybody's crazy or stupid for engaging in those types of behaviors because they are, they are actually meeting a need, but it's not meeting it the way that it's designed to be met, if that makes sense. And so because of, because it's an illegitimate way to meet the need, there are all these, like, negative consequences or costs in the process, right? And it's so fluid. So you have to maintain a destructive habit in order to continue to belong or feel accepted or valued.
Jen: Right, right.
Annie: On a personal note, I found that a lot of the needs that I've been trying to meet, I've been trying to meet them from the outside in versus inside out, if that makes sense. You know, like I was trying to outsource my confidence or put my confidence in my self worth in the hands of other people. Like if my peers like my work, if my husband thinks I'm attractive, if my girlfriends like my outfit, if they think I'm funny, if they think I'm smart then like, you know, then I feel seen or I feel worthy or I feel good enough but it doesn't, it's not super sustainable because then I felt like I was forever reliant on this like applause or this like, "Hey, you like me, right? Like, I'm still doing a good enough job, right? Like, hey, like I'm okay, right? Did I do a good job?
Jen: If you like me then I can like me.
Annie: Instead of just like checking in with myself. Like, in fact, I've shared many times, Mel, you are actually one of the reasons I started going to therapy because you're like, maybe you need to talk to someone about that.
Jen: Maybe just stop messaging me on Instagram.
Annie: It was on Instagram.
Jen: Mel set a boundary.
Annie: And it was wonderful, but one of the things she said was like, "Well, what's your experience? What do you think?" And I'm like, "Well, they liked it so it was good enough." And she's like, "Uh uh. No, you didn't answer the question." And so turning inward or reflecting inward before trying to like outsource all that has been a lot, a lot of work, but it feels like I'm on the right path.
Mel: Mmhmmm. It is an inside job and there's both power and grief related to that. Right? Like it's, we still want to have that validation or affirmation given to us from others because again, as women, that's what we've been taught is the path forward, right? As long as we're needless, as long as we're pleasing to others, accommodating others, meeting other people's needs for what, for how we should act or what we should look like, then we think that we can provide ourselves with that type of security.
So it can feel really scary to start elevating our own voice, right? And our own validation, it can feel really scary initially because it's just such a unfamiliar pattern for us. But it is rewarding, like you're talking about, to feel so firmly rooted in knowing who we are and also how to meet our needs.
Mel: So then it's not dependent on all these other people around us. When we know how to appropriately meet our needs, then we're not just outsourcing them and then scared or powerless with, like, whether or not other people are going to be able to come along and validate, support, fulfill what it is that we're looking for. I see a lot of women do this within their own family, again, because they don't know how to meet their needs. They'll just place their need for validation, for worth, for fulfillment onto their kids or onto their partner.
Again, such a, such a vulnerability for their own growth as well as like a huge responsibility for their kids then to have to grow up with making mom happy, making sure mom's okay, making sure mom feels good about herself and so again, the more that we can learn appropriately how to validate and meet our own needs so they're not coming out sideways in our marriages and our parenting or communities, just the healthier the whole system functions.
Mel: So it's taken a lot of work. I mean, from, also from a personal place. Like I didn't grow up aware of what my needs were or how to meet them. I am the daughter of a pastor and his wife and I love my parents so much, but both within the spiritual community I grew up with as well as the traditional family system I grew up with, I just was completely clueless and I just thought that my husband was going to know how to meet my needs when I got married at 24 and so this process for me of identifying what my needs actually are and taking ownership of them and then learning how to ask for support at times with meeting them, has been bumpy. It's been sold with a lot of trial and error. But the more that I've taken risk with owning what those needs are and learning how to nurture them and steward them, again, the healthier I have felt and the healthier my family system functions.
Jen: I'm circling back to Maslow's hierarchy of needs. This is quite common. I see this and with women I talked to is that, they are making sure or they are the facilitators or the supporter of members of their family reaching higher levels when their baseline is not even being met. And so sometimes I have to, really, it's hard, right? Cause everybody's operating from their own level of awareness. And you know, when I see a woman post, one happened in our community that she couldn't afford pelvic floor physiotherapy after paying all of her children's sports fees for the year.
And something like that just breaks my heart, although I can't say I haven't been there right where you are so low on the to do list that your children are participating in multiple extra curricular activities before your own basic health care can be tended to. And what we talk about in Balance365, actually in our program is this, if you are a member of a family, this is a family job to sit down and make sure everybody's needs are being met. And that is so uncomfortable for so many women, me included. So I was wondering if you can help us in, sharing with our audience how a woman can get started there, what that's going to feel like.
Mel: Sure. That's such a great question, Jen. I'm glad you asked it. I think one of the first things that I would, um, encourage anybody who's curious about this process is to start exploring what makes them feel so uncomfortable to begin with, right? And perhaps that's through journaling. Perhaps that's through talking with like, a good friend or your Facebook group.
But really just starting to, to evaluate what is it that feels so risky about having needs and prioritizing them and when we bump up against our discomfort or that vulnerability, that's a prime opportunity always for new ground to take place in our life. And so again, we have been taught to avoid discomfort, I think culturally, on a societal level. Like we see it as like risky and just maintain the status quo. But again, that's always where new ground takes place.
Mel: And so if we can get comfortable being uncomfortable, right? Like embracing, like, this feels really risky for me to take up space. Why? What messages have I received about taking up space? And whether that's with my physical body or the fact that I need a nap or I'm hungry right now, or I want a vacation away from my family. Or like, I need new clothes or I haven't bought new underwear and you know, so my clients haven't bought new underwear in two years.
Mel: And they're like buying their kids, like, whatever their needs are on a regular basis. So whatever that is, to be able to just say, what is uncomfortable about taking up space here? We just start with looking at the messages that women have heard and the stories they tell themselves. And the behaviors don't change if the story doesn't change.
Jen: Mhmm, I think sometimes, you know, for me, I've had to look at the way, what type of woman I've glorified and what type of woman has been glorified within my family and my community or socially, right? So, members of my family, me included, we have glorified the woman who does it all. The woman who wants to be with our kids 24/7 and so I was trying to make myself into a woman who I have seen glorified, not into the woman who I actually am. And that's like square peg, round hole. It doesn't fit very well and it doesn't feel very good when you're trying to squeeze yourself into being something who you aren't.
Mel: Right. Right. So I what I love about that, it's just the questioning, right? Of what's the story I've been given about what it is to be a woman, a mother, a partner and does the story serve me?
Jen: Right? And the other thing you, a lot of women, have to eventually look at is who have they judged before? Right. So, in my story as I went about trying to be this woman, I was very judgmental to other women who weren't doing that same thing. I was very judgmental towards women who were being more fearless than me, setting boundaries in their family. I think I was maybe maybe resentful towards these women. Jealous? I don't know what it was, but they just weren't fitting into my narrow view of the way women should be which in the end ultimately made it even harder for me to kind of let go of this because I had a lot invested. My ego was totally invested in this way of living. So yeah.
Mel: Yeah. It can make it hard when we're invested in a particular narrative, and I'm just going to say this cause I think it might be something that your community bumps up against. It's also really hard when those around us are also invested in this narrative. And so when a woman decides that they are going to start validating and honoring the needs that she has and her children, her partner, her, again, the community at large isn't used to her having needs. There is a disruption that can follow that initially, which is why we need the support and validation of others as well as we do find this new narrative. So I tell people it's kind of like a baby mobile. If you can picture one above a crib, right when you add or take away any part of that baby mobile, right? Like say it's a bunch of teddy bears.
Mel: There is an immediate disruption to it, right? Like where it moves around and it feels like chaos and it's unsettling and uncomfortable for every part of that mobile, but eventually it habituates. It finds a new norm.
And so for women who are learning, again, how to start to take up more space and ownership of what needs they do have, there is often that initial disruption where where their kids, their partner again, maybe like, "Hey, I don't know. I don't know that I like that you're leaving right now. Right? Or that you're going to go lay down right now or that you're readjusting the budget to buy your underwear when I was planning on getting a new, like, game boy or something."
Like there's that initial disruption as everyone's finding like this new norm of what this woman's needs look like within the family system, but it will habituate. And so if we can get comfortable with that initial discomfort or disruption, we can trust that it is what's healthy and good for everyone involved.
Annie: This is so hitting home right now because, this probably isn't going to come as a shocker, but I pride myself on being like strong. Like no, I'll just do it myself. Everything from like opening the pickle jar to, like, pushing a car out of the driveway if the battery's dead, like no, like I don't want to ask for your help and if you offer your help, I'm probably going to be even annoyed that you even offered help. And like, I'll just do it myself. And one of the things that I've accepted as I've grown older is I actually am a crier, but I have associated this whatever is behind the tears as weakness. That's like the story that I've told myself is that it's weak and it's something to be ashamed of.
And watching the most interesting part has been watching other people respond to me crying cause it's kind of like "Is she okay. Like what? Okay, I don't know what to do with her right now that she's crying." And I'm like, it might not, it might be joy. It might be sadness, it might be I was just embarrassed or it could be so many things, but it has been, like, interesting to be like, "I know what I'm doing and I'm comfortable. But watching your discomfort is interesting for lack of a better word,"
Mel: Right, right. Well, it's unfamiliar for others it sounds like to see you show emotion, like part of your vulnerability. They're not used to that. And so, I mean, that's what I'm hearing at least.
Annie: Absolutely. No, absolutely. That's spot on.
Mel: Are you okay? Versus somebody like me or Jen who maybe cries regularly because of the narratives that we've shared about ourselves to other people. But yeah, they will adjust to your kind of new expression of your emotion the more that you practice it.
Jen: In my experience, resilient relationships do adjust, right? So I decided to go back to work after my first son and somehow during my maternity leave there, an assumption had been made by my partner that I wasn't going back to work without a discussion happening and his life got pretty good while I was on maternity leave. It was very Flintstones for lack of a better word.
And I have no judgment to anybody who has a lifestyle that is more traditional of father works and mom stays home and does the household stuff that is, if that brings you joy, I'm so happy that you're in that role. But I wanted to go back to work and I remember when I told my partner that that would be happening and how our life would have to adjust his jaw just hit the floor. Like he was just, you know, in his head I could see the wheels turning.
Jen: He doesn't, you know, get to go to the gym every day that, you know, all these things, supper on the table at six o'clock, all of these things, he realized it would cause him more work. It was just life would become more physically demanding. And, you know, and that was kind of the reality for me of going back to work was that my life was about to get better and everybody else's lives were going to get harder. And it was very difficult for me to step forward into that and say, "But I'm worth it. My happiness inside this family is worth it. I have made so many sacrifices for all of you. You will make sacrifices for me.”
And coming to the realization that that's actually how healthy relationships go, right? There's a give and take. And I think myself and a lot of women feel that there's, after a time, as Brene Brown says, you can set boundaries or you can feel resentful. You can, or it's choose discomfort or choose resentment. It's one or the other. And over time, a lot of women become extremely resentful because they're not able to move into that discomfort and, and say, "Hey, what about me over here?" You know, and you're waiting for someone to do it for you. I think a lot of us also have kind of this white knight complex, like there's some kind of, someone's coming to save us, but there isn't, nobody is nobody's meeting our needs, right. Until we ask for them to be met.
Mel: Right, right. Yeah. I see that a lot too. Again, going back to kind of this two dominant narratives, one is, you know, again, somebody's gonna come along and and save me or meet my needs. I see lots of women who are just crossing their fingers, hoping that someone's going to notice, like, what they need and just naturally meet it and that either leads again to like total neglect or resentment or that other narrative like that Annie had shared where I'm not going to be dependent on anybody to meet my needs. I'll just meet them all on my own and neither is a true picture of health. Part of our work is practicing curiosity again with like, "Where do I fall on that spectrum, right?" And so the work that each woman has has more to do with the personal narrative that she has about what it means to be a woman and what she's afraid of.
Mel: So if she's afraid of asking for help, right, like being dependent or intimate with somebody, then her work is going to be more about the vulnerability of needing someone else to help meet a need. If her work has been, or I'm sorry, if her narrative, has been largely resting on this idea that I'm not supposed to have needs or allowed to have needs, then it's moving into a space of validation and ownership of them. Recognizing that either way brings about that, like, that discomfort and vulnerability and lack of familiarity. It will be disruptive on a personal and relational basis, but it's worth it. I guess I'm curious to hear from both of you, you know, like what you feel like you've gained through risking owning your need, sharing your needs, doing this work yourself, what's come out of it?
Annie: Oh, this isn't how the interview works, Mel. You know, one of the things that has come up, and this is kind of in the grand scheme of things that maybe doesn't feel really big, but I have spent so many birthdays and holidays and Mother's Days praying that my husband will get the gift I want, treat me the way I want, like do the thing that I want. And it's not even necessarily what I want. Not even necessarily like this big extravagant like party or anything. It's just I just, like you said, I want him to read my mind. Right. And what I've done since kind of doing this emotional work in the last couple of years is just flat out said like, this is what I would like.
Annie: And he's happy to do that. Like he's happy to fill those needs, assuming that he can make it, whatever happened. And oftentimes it's usually like, I just want to control the day. I just want to come and go as I please lay in the hammock, take a nap, go get a workout, have lunch with my girlfriends, whatever. It's nothing usually extravagant, but that's so much easier for me to just say what I want and like hopefully help assist, implement that if needed. And instead of the alternative, which was this like pouty, like "He didn't get mother's Day right. Like, that's not even the book I wanted. Or like he thinks I like that color? Like what was he thinking?"
Jen: It actually takes far more energy, I think to be that, to just ask for what you need then to have all these thoughts racing all the time and disappointments and resentments growing.
Annie: But then there's this, and I don't, I don't know. What do you, what do you think of this? There's this like, you know, okay. Just say, like, flowers. Like he got me, I wanted flowers and I kept asking for flowers and now he got me flowers and he only got me flowers because I asked for flowers, so he didn't really want to get me flowers, you know? And then there's this, like, he just got them because I asked them for them. Does that, do you know what that is? Jen's giving me a look like "What are you talking about? "
Mel: I do. I do.
Annie: Because I want the flowers because it's an expression of your love and how much you care about me, not just because I asked you to get flowers. Does that make sense?
Mel: Yes, it does. I relate actually to this very specific example of yours. So I remember years back, my husband would bring me flowers on our anniversary and maybe Valentine's Day. Great. Right? Like those are the two days of the year that we would expect it. And so it wasn't very special. And I know every relationship is different. Every, yeah. But just speaking from my, and then not only will he not bring flowers on those outside of those particular days, he would bring me ugly flowers.
Mel: Yes. It would be like flowers that I would be like, "Ugh! Again!" like Annie said, "Does he not know me? Like at all?" Right? Like I would personalize it and so they would be like flowers that just didn't meet my need, right? And so I had to start learning how to advocate for my need. And there is an element to this process that, again, takes some of the surprise out of it, right? Like, like you were saying, Annie, like, you want, you want them to intuit, right? You want to feel surprised or wooed or whatever it is by it, but the need didn't get met.
So if I was just going to wait until he intuited I wanted flowers, or intuited which flowers I like versus, you know, don't like, and then I would feel like a total B, by the way, like, for being upset about the ugly flowers. In the back of my head, I hear that shame voice, that inner critic that said, "You should just be grateful that you got flowers. Do you know how many women would like to get flowers? You should just be grateful."
Mel: And so that should voice would weigh in, which would be invalidating of the need that I had as well. And so I started just, like, taking pictures off of Pinterest and sending them to him. "These are the types of flowers that I like." Right? And now it's like when I notice that maybe I haven't had flowers in a while, I might say, "Hey babe, sometime in the next like three weeks, can you bring some flowers home? It would mean a lot."
Right? And is it lacking maybe in that element of surprise I wish was there? Sure. But does my need get met? Yes. And they're really beautiful flowers, right? It's showing up for myself and then he gets to feel like a hero because he's able to support, maybe hero's the wrong word, but he's in alignment. Right. He's getting to show up for me as well because I've showed him how to appropriately-.
Annie: Yeah. That's, yeah. That's a great example. I love that.
Mel: Well, you know.
Annie: What about you? How has it changed since you-
Jen: Are you looking at me?
Annie: Yeah. Since you started showing up for yourself?
Jen: I would just say I feel more like I'm living a life I'm supposed to live. I'm the woman I'm supposed to be and I'm in alignment with myself. I'm living a life aligned with my values. I feel I've changed the trajectory of my children's future in their own relationships because I'm showing up as a woman who, I'm normalizing a woman who asks for her needs to be met.
Actually, early on when it did feel very uncomfortable for me and I wanted to hide and not do it I would do it for my children. So I have three boys and my husband also grew up with three boys and there was a very traditional model in their household and that just became their normal and my husband's normal and he wanted that normal to continue.
Jen: So, these are just, you know, bringing this awareness to my children, I think, that women have needs, women take up space, moms take up space. The other, this is so small but it felt profound for me. My children had all had breakfast and exited the breakfast area.
I was sitting down with my toast and coffee and my oldest son came back in for second breakfast and asked me for my toast and I was like, "I have not even eaten yet this morning and you are asking me for my toast, like I get to eat. Now it is my turn to eat. And if you would like to feed yourself again, you are welcome to go make yourself some toast." And it was just, it was just a moment for me to go, "Um, no, like I'm setting a boundary here with my child to say like, I'm taking care of me right now and I get to meet my needs before I meet your second breakfast needs."
Jen: And this was just stuff I couldn't do before. I really was just a "Yes, yes sir" kind of lady. And yeah, so it's kind of those small moments, but also the big moments, in fact that I, even when I first started this business, I thought, I felt so called to start it. And then I thought I could run this business between the hours of nap time and my husband at work. And I realized at one point I was trying to, I was trying to create not just a business, but a movement and a community that did not disrupt anyone else's lives. Do you know?
And I was just run ragged because I was trying to do this without interrupting anybody. So, and now today it's like, "Hold on, I do need help at with, you know, running this country, it is going to disrupt people's lives. Just like everybody, you know, just like soccer disrupts our lives and my husband's career has disrupted our lives. So, those are big things for me. But I, they just feel so normal for me now. It feels so expected. Like of course, like, that was crazy that I would think like that. Like of course my needs need to be met.
Annie: Mel, if you had a couple of takeaways, one or two takeaways, because what I imagine is, women are listening to the three of us talk about like, "Oh yeah, like, maybe I want to do that too," or "I should do that" or "That's a great idea." Or "I know I need to ask for this Xyz." I imagine some of them are, maybe can have the courage to like have a conversation with their partner, a friend, a mom and dad, whoever they're expressing needs with and then almost like hiding under the covers.
Like, "Oh my God, I can't, like, I can't believe I just did that." And like having this, like, "Okay, I asked for it, but then actually maybe I asked for a nap, but now I'm going to actually go take the nap. Or I asked for a night out with the girls, or a night off from cooking or whatever it is." But then actually following through on it, like there's a different, there's a difference between expressing it and then actually allowing yourself to-
Annie: do the thing. What would you, how do you recommend women navigate that discomfort of actually taking action on their needs?
Mel: Right. I think that's a really wonderful and important question. So, again, the story that we tell ourselves about who we are and whether or not we're allowed to have needs and whether or not we're allowed to receive, not just give, but to truly receive. We get to change that story. And so if something feels, like, so uncomfortable, distressing, intolerable. I had a friend who, who could hardly lay on a massage table. She felt so guilty, right, for being there, right, for that whole hour. We have to change the story.
And so starting to soothe that discomfort, that shame, we want to expose it. Again, like Jen was saying earlier, asking ourselves, "What are the messages I have for myself about taking up space or having this need or receiving without always giving and how do I change that message?"
And so for me, in my own work and the work that I do with, you know, my clients, it really is continuing to deepen into the fact that I have nothing to prove. I have nothing to earn. I have nothing to lose, but I am allowed to be human, which means that I'm allowed to have needs and that's holy and it's good and that practice of receiving it and taking up space has everything to do with the story that I tell myself and then the behaviors that I practice. And so if we want to see the behaviors in our life change, we have to always be critical then of what is the story. Does that make sense?
Annie: Yeah, I'm just, like, in a trance that's, like I think I'm going to need to put that little clip right there on some sort of mantra meditation that I listen to every morning. Yeah, that's just, that's a really beautiful message and I really hope that your words and your stories and our stories give women permission that they're, you know, maybe needing to express their needs with whoever in their life.
Mel: I hope so too. I hope that this inspires people to take more risk and to lean into that discomfort and, to accept that disruption is a healthy, vital part of our growth. And like Jen and you and both spoken to, healthy relationships around us will adjust, they will adapt, they will want to affirm even in the discomfort of that new pattern. And it's part of what teaches us, again, who's healthy and safe around us because if people don't allow for that growth, like us being human, right? Like having needs. If there's not an allowance for that, then, again, that's an opportunity to to be critical or curious about the types of relationships and communities that we're part of. So yeah, I hope this does inspire people to be curious and self validating, take some more risk.
Annie: Absolutely. It's beautiful. It's really inspiring. It's very encouraging and optimistic. Very optimistic message too.
Mel: Yeah. Well, thanks for having me on.
Annie: Yeah. Thank you. Jen, anything to add before we wrap up?
Jen: I just, I actually was, Mel, as you were talking, I wanted to, just on a very practical, baseline level, how we kind of have figured this out in my marriage is that, I think in some marriages you get in these patterns of, like, give, like, a "me, me, me" or it can feel like that in some ways. Like it's this person or this person rather than this person and this person. And, we, in our marriage we had a real scarcity issue around time, energy, money, and once we've been able to just flip our mindset to one of abundance, I'm sorry if this is getting too woowee here for everybody to understand that everyone's needs can be met.
Jen: Like they can, we have the time, we have the energy and how we actually make that happen is we had a marriage counselor once that said, "Every family should have three things you need. You need time connecting with each other time connecting as a family and you need time connecting with yourself." And we now sit down with our calendars and as unsexy as this is, we schedule those in. Are we hitting those three things? And of course sometimes we go through seasons where it's more about the kids, like soccer season, for example, which is right now, but then we, we have to keep in mind too, we have to rotate priorities back to that balance of hitting those three things.
And sometimes a season of our life might be more about connecting with self or connecting as a couple. But, it's just keeping those three things in mind all the time and actually doing the unsexy things of sitting down for the calendar and making sure that's getting scheduled in. And once we started doing that, we saw there is time, we can meet everyone's needs. It doesn't have to be this tug of war. It doesn't have to feel that way.
And I think when partners initially approach that conversation, you know, based on different relationship patterns, they may have been in prior, it can feel like that. But I, you know, I think it's a family conversation and how, you know, how do we do this for everybody, right?
Mel: Well, I would agree there is a real practical element to this as well, in terms of, I don't know, I don't know anybody whose needs are met 100% of the time, right?Like I don't every day like feel 100%.
Mel: And that takes intentionality and ongoing curiosity or evaluation for me to know what needs to prioritize on my own. So for instance, I may have a need to hang out with my girlfriends, to get some exercise, right. To have some alone time, to, you know, like, to do a project and so I'm regularly assessing with the time that I have, with the resources that are available, what need do I prioritize and meet the most today or this week or this month. Right. And so there are seasons where my alone time is the most precious need for me to protect.
Mel: And so that may mean that I structure then my schedule around having alone time, which may mean that I exercise alone, right? Or that I, when I finally have time to go out, I go out alone versus other times where maybe I need to sleep more or I need time with my girls more, whatever it may be that that self awareness is key.
And again, we're often discouraged as my men to be that self aware because we're so focused on our children or our careers or the other relationships we have in our life. So learning how to prioritize, again, just practical, it's a habit. . Nut it will make women, I really believe that it's going to make one and less fatigued, less resentful, less discouraged, less alone when they're able to be curious and attend to the needs that they have. So it's worth it.
Jen: Yes, totally. It's worth it.
Annie: Alright, Mel. We're going to wrap up. But we'd love to have you back some time. I know that there's other topics you specialize on that I just, I would love to pick your brain on. And, think you're just such-
Jen: I think we've both tried to solicit you for therapy.
Mel: No comment.
Annie: This is how we get therapy, Jen. We just keep asking her on our podcast.
Jen: I remember, I asked, I told Annie one time, I asked Mel to be my online therapist.
Annie: I did too.
Jen: Yeah. And then Annie was like, I did too.
Mel: I had to turn you both down.
Annie: Well there should be. Yeah, there you were very ethical in it.
Mel: You guys are my friends, you know.
Annie: Yeah, you know, there's boundaries and ethics and you know, state laws that we tried to disregard, but you honored your boundaries and you're like, "No, you need to go talk to someone about this." And we both did and it's both been great. So thank you for pointing our heads in the right direction.
But, we would love to have you back, because I think there's even an element here about how, what you talked about earlier and how some of these needs can come out sideways, that I think we could dive in deeper and how this need for belonging and acceptance can come out as, you know, diet and exercise disordered behaviors even. So, thank you so much for your time. This was wonderful.
Jen: Thank you, Mel.
Annie: So great to talk to you. Alright, we'll talk soon.
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