Episode Focus: Setting the scene for deep creativity
Mindfulness: How do mindfulness and creativity work together?
Podcast chat: Life coach Vicky Evans on befriending your inner critic
Creativity: Making space in your life for a creative project
Listen to the episode now – click below to play!
Podcast chat with Vicky Evans
Vicky Evans is a life coach, a speaker and facilitator. Her mission is to inspire, teach, motivate and encourage others to give their best every day. She offers personal and professional development courses, corporate packages, facilitation, motivational workshops and presentations.
In our chat today we’re talking about what it means to be a recovering perfectionist. We’re also talking about befriending your inner critic and limiting beliefs – so important when it comes to being creative and letting things emerge. Vicky also talks about learning to be kind to yourself and how our struggles are a kind of resistance we can explore as a means of personal growth.
If you prefer to read the transcript from my podcast chat with Vicky, here it is below!
Jordan: Vicky, welcome to the podcast.
Vicky: Thank you. Delighted to be here.
Jordan: I know you are a life coach. You’re a life coach and a self-confessed recovering perfectionist. But what does that mean? And how did you learn to befriend your inner critic?
Vicky: Well, let’s start with a recovering perfectionist thing, because – I still find it quite amusing, even though it used to be quite painful. And perfectionism is not about wanting everything to be perfect. It’s a lie. It’s a big misconception. If you’re a perfectionist, you set unrealistically high standards for yourself and then you beat yourself up when you don’t achieve them.
So it’s a different thing to thinking you’re perfect or wanting to be perfect or anything like that. So I’m definitely in the recovering basket still. And I think I think once you start doing work on yourself, you will always be in the recovering basket, because if you have a tendency to be a little bit hard on yourself, as most of us do, then that’s going to come up with something triggers you.
Even if you’ve learned good routes around all sorts of things, there might be something else that comes up that triggers you that you weren’t expecting. So we’re always kind of recovering, just like we’re always growing or expanding. So does that answer the question? You’re absolutely right. The second part of that was defending the inner critic, wasn’t it? So essentially, this is learning to be kind to yourself. So, if you will, perfectionism and your inner critic live together. They are essentially a bundle of limiting beliefs and that pushy part of us that pushes us to achieve, even when we’re exhausted, they can still push us to achieve.
And we we kind of – I certainly during my professional career because I had 20 years in the corporate world, before I started running my own business, you can push yourself to achieve just about anything. And your inner critic loves that because it goes. ‘Come on, you can do it. You know, I don’t care if you’re tired’ and we’ve all been there.
So befriending the inner critic is actually learning to not only accept, but be kind to and even love the parts of you that are pushy and unreasonable and can be hard work, all of that stuff. So my life changed when I started doing personal development for myself because I struggled with anxiety and depression for a long time – just about the whole of my adult life. And even as a child, actually, I’d struggled with that. So I’ve tried behavioural therapy, I’ve tried counseling, I’ve tried antidepressants, I’ve tried it all.
The thing that worked the best for me was working on myself. So the personal growth, personal development part and learning to be kinder to myself was life changing, really life changing. There’s an interesting angle on this which I teach, which is the Dalai Lama talks about your sacred friend, being someone who your heart has to expand to accommodate. So he talks about the Chinese government being a sacred friend because his heart had to expand enormously in order to accommodate the atrocities that the Chinese government had done to his people. So you can think about this in the same sort of way.
So, for instance, an addiction can be a sacred friend. You can be your own sacred friend. If that pushy part of you is is leading and driving, then you can actually become your own sacred friend where your inner critic is mean to you quite often. And you just take it because that’s what you’re used to. So turning that around, befriending your inner critic, learning to be kinder to yourself actually changes everything. Absolutely everything, because it all starts with you and your relationship with yourself.
Jordan: So what does that look like? So your inner critic is kind of on you all the time and just demanding lots of different things. So this approach of… enveloping it in kindness, is that something that then just turns the dial down or makes you stronger in terms of not letting it lead down the garden path?
Vicky: Well, I think it’s probably a mixture. It’s like everything, it’s kind of like it’s a process, isn’t it? And sometimes things will work and sometimes they won’t. I think the best way to describe it to start with would be that you catch yourself, or you catch your inner critic when she’s snarling at you or pushing you; when you actually are a bit resistant to that, like actually I’d like a rest today or maybe go for a walk, and she’s going, ‘come on, you said you do this.’ So it’s it’s a mixture of that.
But if you catch yourself saying something that you wouldn’t say to someone else, that’s how I term it to myself. In the beginning when I was learning, I would say, ‘You wouldn’t say that to someone else. You wouldn’t let someone speak to your daughter like that. So don’t speak to yourself like that’. It’s training your mind to respond in a different manner because it’s all the conscious mind. So it’s it’s teaching yourself to respond in a different way to yourself, a part of yourself, anyway.
Jordan: Yeah, that’s a great rule of thumb. Now, you you’ve come to be referred to as a professional ass kicker by some of your clients. How did that come about?
Vicky: Well, that’s quite funny, actually. It was a really long time ago. So back in 2016 when I was first practicing, a lady came to see me and she came to see me originally as she was a she was working as a contractor and she wanted to know whether she she should go out on her own, start her own business or be a consultant or whatever. So sometimes people do come in with a very, very neat little label -’I want to look at this thing.’
But actually, if you come and talk to life coach, you end up talking about everything. So we talked about all sorts of stuff way beyond the scope of what she originally asked for. And it was her husband that said ‘she’s a professional ass kicker’ because he could see her making these little changes not only in the area that she first asked about, but actually the wider scope of life.
So we talked about comfort eating. We talked about procrastination when it comes to exercise. We talked about what she wanted from a professional career and little strategies of how she could get there, you know, whether she really did want to start a business or maybe she could be in partnership or just work somewhere else if she didn’t like where she was. So it was much broader than the original remit. And it was him that saw her making these quite profound changes that have nothing to do with what we originally talked about. And so that’s where it came from.
Jordan: Yeah, interesting. Well, I’ve read some of your blog posts and I really was interested to read some of them, particularly around the topic of self sabotage. I was wondering if you could give us some context around what that looks like and and how you kind of help people through that.
Vicky: The root of self sabotage is actually a limiting belief. So if you say to yourself, I’m going to step forward and try and do – let’s just say I’m going to step forward and open up my own business or run a new course or something, let’s call it a course, I’m going to run a new course. And I’ve never done that before. Your limiting beliefs will say, well, you can’t do that. You’ve never done it before. Who do you think you are putting a course on. Who’s going to listen to you?
And it’ll say all of those things that actually might make you kind of, you know, like back-pedal just a little bit. Oh, actually. Right. I haven’t ever done this before. Maybe I’m not as qualified as I thought I was. That’s a terrible idea. What if people laugh at me and all of those things, if they come up, you will in the end could in the end, if you allow the self sabotage to happen, you back-pedal. So you’re right back where you started, you go. Actually, that’s a terrible idea. I’m not going to do that all. Maybe I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing because that’s much safer. So you stay in the comfort zone.
But the thing is, whenever you reach beyond your comfort zone, whenever you’re trying to grow or do anything braver or more profound or more insightful or more adventurous than you’ve done before, you’re going to feel that bit of resistance because you’re breaking through this imaginary wall of what you know.
Jordan: So it’s interesting that we’ve got these two parts of ourselves, so in one way that we’ve got the imagination to be able to say, oh, that could be amazing. And then we’ve got the other part of us that says, oh, that’s not possible. So they’re almost going against each other, aren’t they?
Vicky: Yes, absolutely. And when I when I first – I had my children really late in life. I had my son when I was 40 and I had my daughter when I was forty two. So I had a long professional career, completely turned it on its head when I had children. Turned into a stay home mum, which completely surprised me. It was a wonderful experience, a growth experience as well.
But when I first started thinking, what am I going to do next? I don’t want to go back to doing what I did before. I was a people manager, but I loved the professional development part of my role, which is why I started thinking about life coaching. And eventually I did train as a life coach. But to start with, I was like, life coaching should be quite interesting, wouldn’t it? You’ve had an interesting and varied life. Like I’ve tried all sorts of things for sure. As I said, I’ve got the history of the anxiety and depression which I’ve got over.
But part of me went ‘pppfff’ who would even listen to you?’ You know who would pay you to listen to you? Come on. You’ve got to be kidding. So self sabotage could have jumped in and gone. No, you can’t. And then the rational part of my mind went, where would you train? How much would it cost? How do you know you’d have a good provider to train with? All of that stuff will come in around the edges. And as you said, the little part of you that went, oh, wow, that’s exciting. I could do that. She’s got to be strong enough in that moment to go ‘I know all that and I hear you, but I’m going to walk forward anyway’, even just take tiny steps, you know, take some little action steps so that I know more so that I can feel more reassured, so that then I can move forward with more confidence.
Jordan: Yeah. Yeah, that sounds great. So do you think we can all get over our own self sabotaging efforts.
Vicky: I do. I do. Yes. But sometimes it takes a bit of training because otherwise life coaches wouldn’t exist. If it was super easy then we wouldn’t be a need for people like me. You can train yourself over time with repetition and encouragement and strategies that help you to move beyond your self sabotage. But it wraps back around to being kinder to yourself and believing in yourself.
Jordan: Yeah, and in terms of creative folk and creative practice, have you got any tips on how to move outside of your comfort zone and and kind of have a good go at it and not not kind of end up circling back to where you were just because that’s easier?
Vicky: Well, I think I’m actually a creative folk. I’m trained in three dimensional design a really long time ago. And I did glass and then I got into working agency side and the customer development and the people management and all of that sort of stuff.
So I kind of went sideways, but I still loved what I did. I think creative people are a lot like other people. And I think ultimately I think you have you have to do whatever you can to believe in yourself.
So let’s just say you’ve always loved to paint and but you’ve never had an exhibition. Somebody loves your work. Someone who has a gallery, loves your work and says, ‘I’d love you to do a little opening and we can exhibit your stuff for you. How do you feel about that?’ And you go, ‘oh, that sounds exciting’. Then the other part of you goes, Oh, no, I just do this for myself and it’s fun and I love it. But I wouldn’t put it out there. And I said you wouldn’t put a price on it then.
It’s about thinking about this is an exercise that I do with people when I’m coaching them. So you think about all the successes that you’ve had in the past. So I think right back to when you were young, how many people have told you that you were creative? How many people have acknowledged and applauded the work that you’ve done? How many other people have said you should exhibit this and you’ve ignored them because you’re a bit scared? Now, this is the fifth or sixth time someone said you’re really good, you should actually exhibit this work, you know, go live with it.
At that point. You know, if you remind yourself of all the times people have believed in you, even when you don’t believe in yourself, actually, that helps it helps your self belief.
You know, it helps you to move forward, even if even if there’s a little part of you that’s trying to back-pedal and, you know, squirm away from the exposure. And therefore, there’s a bit of vulnerability involved in putting yourself out there, whatever you do for yourself. And nobody wants to fail.
So it’s managing you inner critic, when it comes to the little voices that tell you why you shouldn’t do it. But it’s also remembering how good you are. You know, we’re all amazing. As well as individuals, we’ve all got unique talents. We’ve all got our own way of putting our own stuff out there. Yeah. So the value is valuing yourself and taking a deep breath and knowing that you could do it, you can do it in your own time, you know, take little steps forward, talk to the gallery owner, work out a time when it’s going to work for you to get all your stuff lined up and so that you can feel comfortable doing it, I think.
Jordan: Yeah, good. I’ve also written about how our struggles can help us, and I think probably lots of people have felt that over the last little while. You know, there’s been struggles but also real benefits and people have come out of things like Covid with new ways of working and living and all that kind of thing. Have you got an approach for people to just kind of help how to have a good take on moments of struggle and hardship and stress and failure and all those kind of things? How do you approach that positively?
Vicky: When very first start people on a course that I run called ‘Dream World’, we talk about your longings and your discontent, so your longings and your discontent are your growth signals. So this struggle is bound up in your longings and the struggle is bound up in your discontent, isn’t there? So if you are thinking about what you want to do with your life to move yourself forward, your longings and discontent are a good indicator.
So your discontent is obviously what you don’t want to move with, you don’t want more of that. You want less. So what do you want instead? You want the opposite, actually, and your longings. It’s actually following your intuition rather than not. So your struggle is any resistance that you might feel, any struggle that you might feel. It’s growth. You can’t grow. Like if it is, even if you just think about a little apple pip. They are quite hard and shiny on the outside aren’t they? To get a little green shoots, a little soft green shoot out of that apple, it’s got to grow and grow and grow and have already stretched itself. It’s the same for us, you know.
However, however good we are when we decide we’re going to grow and we’re going to shoot, it takes a bit of time. It takes a bit of pressure on the outside, I think, to push through and to move beyond that.
And there’s a lovely analogy here about growth and bamboo. So if you if you have a bamboo plant and you look after it and you water it – the first year, it grows about a centimetre and you look after it, you water it. Secondly, it grows about a centimetre that goes on in the fourth year or the fifth year, it shoots up about 15 feet. So if you’re aiming to grow, you’ve got to put down your roots, haven’t you? You’ve got to get your roots nicely established. You’ve got to take lots and lots and lots of little steps so that you feel reassured that you’re doing the right things and you’re growing your foundations and you’re stabilising and you kind of settling into to what you’re doing and you might grow your business. I’ve experienced this – a little bit in the first year, a little bit in the second year, – a little bit in the third year.
This is the fourth year and my business is going like bamboo. So it’s a great analogy. So the struggle and the resistance that you feel is a part of the growth and if you don’t push through them, you’ll stay the same. You have to go through them. And sometimes that takes a truckload of patience.
Jordan: That’s cool. Thank you. One final question for you, Vicki. What does the good life look like for you?
Vicky: I’m kind of living it, to be honest. I don’t want to sound smug at all because I don’t feel smug. I just feel happy. But I run my business around my kids. I’m a single parent. And therefore, to be able to drop them off at school and pick them up at three o’clock and still do what I do during the day is awesome.
I can walk up the hill to Mapuia and and get a nature fix in between clients, if I like. Or I can go outside in the garden and talk to the cat for a bit. You know, it’s lovely. I get my exercise through yoga and pilates which I teach and I teach it to keep that level of fitness and mental and physical.
Wellness in my life is scheduled in so I can’t miss it. I’m teaching other people. And so, yeah, eating great. Looking after your body, the best possible way you can, getting tons of sleep, Epsom salts, baths are a lovely thing to do to keep your body in in really good shape.
And I think ultimately what was missing from my life when I was experiencing anxiety and depression, the thing that was missing for me was making a contribution.
So if you’re going to have a good life, this is just my personal view for me. All that other stuff is great. You can be fit and healthy and happy and have harmonious relationships, and that’s all really good.
But doing something that you love and making a contribution whilst doing that is really important. So I make a contribution, obviously, during sessions, talking to people, helping them change their lives positively. But also I contribute 10 percent of everything that I generate as income to a charity of my choice or my clients choice.
And that’s a way of contributing tangibly to the greater good, if you like. So so we contribute to the SPCA and we contribute to women’s refuge and many, many other causes. UNICEF, whatever happens to be current at the time, and it might be a cause close to a client’s heart if they’ve had an experience with or a parent, maybe has had an experience with an illness, for instance. So so I love that. That makes a big difference and. The last part of it would be being kinder to yourself, because even if you’ve got the trappings of everything else looking wonderful on the outside, if you’re not kind to yourself, actually, you’re not having the life, the best life that you could live.
Jordan: Very profound and inspirational and probably a great place to to end up on. Vicki, thank you very much.
Vick: My pleasure. Great to meet you. You too.
More about Vicky:
If you’re interested in finding out more about Vicky and her artwork, you can find her through the links below.