Give yourself a hug and other tips from a neuroscientist
Her success came as a surprise. When Natasha made her decision to leave Russia to seek a better future for her son in the US, she was sure that she was sacrificing her own career for good. But her entrepreneurial journey was just about to begin.
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From sacrifice to success
What is the story of how you got on this path, what was your call to adventure?
I left Russia because of the turmoil at that time.
My motivation was to create a better life for my son.
I was willing to sacrifice my career to make it happen for Andrew.
I didn’t think I would be successful professionally.
I was hired at UCSF, one of the best schools in Medicine.
The department needed me to be a therapist.
I didn’t like it. It was too ambiguous. Too fuzzy.
Twenty-six years down the road I know that this is my calling – helping people to be happy and more resilient.
In my wildest dreams honestly I could not imagine that I could be teaching at UCSF, that I could testify in the Supreme Court, that I would have a thriving private practice in therapy.
My assumption that was you need to speak good English.
I wasn’t fluent.
I surprised myself.
How parents influence our professional life
So many limiting beliefs could have held you back, but you didn’t let that hold you back because you had this bigger desire at heart?
I did have that. But I also had another tool.
I downloaded the voice of my father.
My dad was the ultimate incredibly effective parent.
My dad parented me in a way that was intuitive. He didn’t know a lot about the science or the art of parenting. But he was wise and smart.
The download from my early childhood was “you can do whatever you want. Whatever you put your mind to you will be successful, because you are competent. You can make mistakes and because you are competent you will be able to recover from you mistakes”.
My mom was the opposite. She was very critical.
Her downloads were “Who do you think you are?”
I think this was my motivator to be a parenting coach and parenting expert.
I realized that when you have these two sets of voices in your head, one of them is helpful and the other is hurtful.
Overtime I was able to identify my mom’s voice as not very helpful and replace it with my dad’s voice.
Examining ourselves just enough
What would you say to somebody who is thinking “I don’t think I have had an empowering voice my life”? Maybe both parents were critical, or a single parent who was always busy. What can this person do to help parent themselves right now.
There are different ways to replace hurtful voices with helpful voices.
It is never too late.
We are never done. Even if our parents are very competent and good, still we develop unhelpful voices.
This is the work of self-exploration.
Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living”.
It is true, so we need to examine our lives.
But a lot of times we live the over-examined lives. We are stuck in our heads. We examine our lives by being critical to ourselves and beating ourselves up for our failures.
So my prescription to changing ourselves is living our lives that are examined just enough.
That means paying attention to our feelings. Knowing where they showing up in our bodies.
Feelings are very physical, so it is not about thinking.
It’s about being present, and allowing feelings to show up.
Overcoming the fear of rejection
When you started doing work on your own and developing your SMARTT method, what kinds of barriers came up for you?
It was hard.
When I opened my private practice, it was scary.
It wasn’t as scary as it is now to launch my SMARTT Parenting because there is no guarantee that people will like it.
Fear of rejection is the most visceral fear for all of us.
The only way I was able to overcome my fears is being gentle, kind, and forgiving to myself.
And using my SMARTT approach on myself.
The same part of our brain lights up in fMRI when we experience social rejection as when we have physical pain.
Sometimes it is easier to be in physical pain than be socially rejected.
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My mom passed away recently.
She was my critical parent.
I had an amazingly beautiful experience with her before she died.
I used my SMARTT tools to connect with her in a way that was kind, loving, forgiving, and pretty profound.
My mom was not probably parented in the way that was stellar.
My mom was educated and smart, she was a physician. But she was not emotionally intelligent.
I saw the transformation in my mom at the end of her life and that was beautiful and amazing.
Facing our feelings to succeed
Acknowledge, welcome all your feeling. No good or bad, right?
A part of my upbringing was the notion that you were allowed to have one feeling at a time.
If you were angry, go in your room and clear your anger.
Feelings show up and they are messy.
Acknowledge you may be fearful or anxious.
Then you can surround your feeling with feelings of compassion to yourself, forgiveness.
You can even hug yourself.
When your body feels safe, your brain works better. You are more creative, more perceptive.
Our favorite tips from Natasha:
Don’t let language or cultural barriers get in the way of success.
Welcome the hurtful and helpful voices from childhood.
To work through the critical voice, use movement and breathing.
To overcome fear, be gentle, kind, and forgiving to yourself.
Use the SMARTT tools to connect with children and with parents
Avoid over-examining or under-examining your life.
Be present, pay attention to your feelings and how they show up in your body.
Usher in and welcome all feelings.
To feel safe and be more productive, give yourself a hug.
Resources and Links:
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Stay in your heart.