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Healing Perfectionism for Embodied Living & Better Relationships with Noni Vaughn-Pollard



3 Things We Dive Into In This Episode:

  1. What is “perfectionism” - really? And what are the sneaky ways that it might be holding you back in relationships, work, and other areas of your life?

  2. The importance of setting and maintaining boundaries and how to repair relationships when boundaries cause friction

  3. How to let go of perfectionism in relationship to our bodies as they change and adapt throughout our lives

📘Resources

⭐️About Noni

Noni Vaughn-Pollard is a mental health counselor and psychotherapist in New York City. She studied nutrition at NYU as an undergrad, then pivoted to mental health counseling and got a master’s degree in mental health. Noni specializes in working with people who struggle with perfectionism and is passionate about helping people cope with the fear of disappointing others. In switching from nutrition to mental health counseling Noni had to grapple with her own perfectionism and let go of her expectations of herself and others to go after what she really wanted.

You can learn more about Noni and her work on her website and instagram.


📌Episode Highlights

How does Noni define perfectionism?

  • All the different behaviors that restrict your authenticity

  • When the fear of being fully seen is so great that you self-sabotage so that you don't appear out of control

  • A lot of it is about maintaining a certain image in the eyes of others, and not necessarily the Type A personality that we often associate with perfectionism.

How to move through the fear of perfectionism to be the most authentic version of you?

  • Get comfortable with looking silly - not always having the answer, not conforming to a group, not being the best at everything

  • Cultivate humility through that process by showing others it’s okay to not be all-knowing

  • Show self-compassion by allowing yourself to make mistakes - you are still a smart and hard working person even if you mess up. Nobody’s perfect!

Boundaries

  • Boundaries are the ultimate form of self care

  • Challenge yourself to not be a Yes Man

  • With perfectionism, it’s hard to set boundaries because you think you have to be available all the time

  • Be intentional with your time by only giving time and energy to the relationships that are important to you

  • Boundaries will look different to everyone!

    • Could look like eating regular meals for energy, getting enough sleep to recharge, checkups with health professionals, not making plans on a Friday night, etc.

Boundary Aftermath

  • There will always be rifts, rejections, and disappointments in relationships - it’s impossible to avoid this entirely!

  • Rupture & Repair makes it possible for you to continue relationships even if you’ve disappointed them by setting a boundary and vice versa

    • Relationships ending isn’t a failure - not all relationships should last a lifetime

    • Repair doesn’t always mean you get back together or continue working on the relationship - sometimes splitting amicably is the healthiest boundary for all

    • Grieving process is important whether you repair & continue the relationship or repair & end the relationship


  • Important to sit with discomfort and process, but it can be difficult to practice when you’re used to overcontrolling. Ask yourself:

    • What's coming up for you?

    • Why do you feel so upset about this rejection?

    • What were you hoping was going to happen instead of what actually did happen?

    • What was your role in that relationship or situation?

    • How could you have done things differently and how can you bring that to other relationships?


  • If you didn’t take anything personally, how would your life be different?

Reparenting

  • Even if you had a “good” childhood, it is still important to reparent yourself

    • What do you need to make it through rejection that you didn’t get as an adolescent?

    • How can I nurture myself as an adult?

    • How can my current boundaries give me what I needed when I was young?

Body Image Changing Over Time

  • It’s natural for our bodies to change over time - it’s inevitable!

  • The body is a vessel and it goes through so much - it is not something to be fixed

  • Your body is your home and it's more than something to look at; it's a tool that carries you through so many experiences and processes so many things for you

  • Love and acceptance IS possible; it takes time and healing

Thanks for listening! 💖 Stay tuned to my website for more episode updates and other exciting programs and resources.


Transcript


Noni: Your body is this vessel that holds all this information about you, and it goes through so much. It deserves a lot of credit for everything that it's helped you to get through. And I just think people forget that they're so detached from their own bodies that it's like, this is something I fix. This is something that's just there to be seen. But it's like there's a lot of other functions that this body has. It's really done so much and keep beating it up. I mean, I don't know, like, living longer. It's like you want the body to at least feel comfortable on this long journey of life.


Caitie: Hey, welcome back to another episode of Whole, Full, and Alive. Wherever you are in your day right now, wherever you're tuning into this episode from, I invite you to take the deepest breath you've taken all day. Take a nice deep breath in through your nose. Let it fill your body through the base of your spine. Hold it there for a moment.

And then exhale to release and let it go. I'm really excited for you to hear today's episode. I just want to jump right into it right away. And before I do, of course, I want to remind you that if you are interested in getting started in the journey of healing your relationship with food, your relationship with your body, and cultivating a sense of authentic self worth and body confidence. And self confidence, I have spaces open for one on one counseling at my practice, Full Full Nutrition and also a group coaching cohort is going to be kicking off very, very soon. Keep your eyes out for that.

And as always, we have the whole full and alive toolkit available for purchase on fullsolnutrition.com, which is a collection of journal prompts, actionable experiments, modules that you can use to start feeling more whole, more full, more alive. Regulating. Your nervous system, taking care of yourself, creating grocery lists, doing tangible self care practices in a way that is non rigid, non restrictive, holistic and will truly help you live a life that feels honestly authentic to you.

And today's episode is also going to help you live a life that feels good and authentic to you. Today I am talking with Noni Von Pollard. She is an amazing mental health therapist based in New York City who is going to talk to you today about perfectionism, healing from perfectionism, also defining perfectionism and what the heck that is, because I think a lot of people have misconceptions of what that is. I think some people who don't realize they are perfectionists are kind of operating with perfectionistic tendencies or vice versa.

And she's also going to talk to you about boundaries and the importance of setting boundaries for living a life that feels really good and juicy and wonderful and aligned. And she's going to talk about applying boundaries to your dating life, to different types of relationships, and to your relationship with your body and healing your body image. I am just so stoked for you to hear all of her insights and a little bit of her personal story today.

I was inspired to record this episode when I received some questions about the episode I recorded a few weeks ago related to risk taking. I recorded an episode a couple of weeks ago about the importance of taking risks in your life and how to take risks in your life. And a question that came up from a few different people who listened to that episode is, how do I take a risk in the face of the fear that I might be rejected by people in my life, that I might be making my family members unhappy by taking the risk? And how do I make a risky Pivot in my life or do a risky thing, whatever, when I know that it might not make certain people that I'm close to happy or, yeah, they might disagree with it, they might reject me, et cetera. And so I decided to record this episode with a therapist who I really trust. I wanted to get a mental health counselor or therapist's insight on this issue so that we could talk about it a little bit more.

And so Noni is going to speak to that exact dilemma today, in addition to all the other things I just said. So before we dive in, let me just give you a little intro to Noni. She is, like I said, a mental health counselor and a psychotherapist in New York City. She works with adolescents and young adults. She believes that over control and rigidity in life causes most mental health problems, like eating disorders, anxiety, and depression.

And so she specializes in helping clients let go of their internalized perfectionism that keeps them from living a full and embodied life. And she is going to share so many tools for you today to live a full and embodied life for yourself. Let's get into it.

Caitie: All right, noni, thank you so much for joining me on the podcast today. I am so happy to have you here and to be reconnecting with you.


Noni: Yeah, I know it's been a couple of years, I think since we worked together before, so yeah, when you reached out, I was like, I know who you are. I did not forget.


Caitie: Yeah, I don't know, whenever I don't talk to someone for a while, I'm like, hey, remember me? Do you remember me? I think we all come from that place of like, oh, they'll never actually remember who I am. Right. But I remember who you are very well, very vividly, because when you entered the place we used to work together, you had such a grounding energy. And at the time, I was a very buzzy, ungrounded person.

And I think my energy is something that people love about me, how much energy I can bring into a room and also, you had such a soothing presence that I was like, oh, I need some of this. I need to cultivate some of this in my life. You really had probably the most soothing presence in that small office that we used to together, and now you're a therapist. A lot has changed over the last five years since we worked together. So tell everyone a little bit about who you are and what you do, and if you don't mind, sharing how you came to be where you are today, because you actually were in my nutrition program at NYU, and you're not a nutritionist.


Noni: Yeah, I'll start there. I was studying nutrition at NYU as an undergrad, and I remember I was just really interested to understand how our relationship with food changed from childhood to adulthood. And I think a lot of that came from volunteering at a nonprofit with children in an urban garden in a school. And I started taking an eating disorder seminar at NYU that was like an elective in the child and adolescent mental health program.

And I took more of those psychology classes, and I enjoyed it so much. So by the time I left NYU and I was trying these different jobs in nutrition, I was thinking, like, is this really what I want to keep talking about? Because everywhere I would go, people would just talk about their lives to me. I never had to ask them to do that. So I was like, I think this is something I'm good at. I'm good at getting people to open up and share about themselves.

So I started looking into social work programs, and then I started looking at mental health counseling. So I went and got my master's degree in mental health, and then I started working with someone who I met while we were together at the treatment center. And the art therapist there is now my supervisor. And yeah, it's really cool. Now I work with people of eating disorders. I also work with adolescents who are just trying to figure out that transition from high school to college.

And I work with men too. That's a new thing. I never worked with men before, but that's been really fun.


Caitie: Thanks for sharing that. I don't want to go on too much of a tangent here, but there are a lot of female therapists who don't have experience holding space for men. I'm curious how you kind of entered into that.


Noni: I think there was someone who reached out to me last year to work with their sibling, and at first was like, well, I don't work with men. I don't really know what that's like or what emotions will come up for me since I identify as a straight woman. And I started working with this client, and I really enjoyed it. He was the embodiment of every other client who was a woman that I've ever worked with. Very perfectionistic, a lot of rigidity, struggling with expressing emotions and relationships.

And I started reading more about how a lot of young men are going to see therapists because they want to work on just being more vulnerable with other people. So I was like, you know what? I already work with most clients who have a difficult time being vulnerable. And if a lot of young men are interested in therapy, I think that's just going to help all of us. If more men go see a therapist.

I was like, you know what? I think I'm going to take more guys than I do. And it's actually really fun. It's really fun working with men.


Caitie: Yeah, thanks for sharing that. So you do specialize in working with people that are struggling with perfectionism. Is that something that has been inspired by your own personal experiences with perfectionism? And to what extent were you inspired by your own experience?


Noni: Yeah, it definitely was. I always say I'm a recovering perfectionist. I'm still learning how to not be so rigid about things. But I remember especially that in between time, which I think we all struggle with, between getting out of college and figuring out if you're going to go to grad school, if you're going to get a full time job. I was just really stressed. I was having all these panic attacks at work, and I think because I was putting so much pressure on myself to figure out what my path was going to be, I was so confused. Like, I studied nutrition for four years, but I don't feel passionate about it anymore, so what am I supposed to do? I felt like I'd failed if I didn't continue on being a dietitian.

And I remember my dad had said to me, like, it's okay if you change your mind. It's not a big deal. Like, I did it in my career and it worked out fine. But that at the time, was not a good answer. I was like, I don't want to be like my dad. I want to actually stick to one thing and do it. And I realized, like, no, actually, that's not making me happy, so I'm going to change my path and do something else, which was, like, a great idea.

So it was definitely my own feelings around always never wanting to disappoint people. I wanted my family to be proud of me. I wanted friends to look up to me or other colleagues to be inspired by me. So I felt like if I kept changing my mind too much, no one would take me seriously in my journey. But I realized that was actually more detrimental to my mental health than it was to anybody else's.


Caitie: Yeah, and it's like the opposite of the truth, because I remember meeting you at that moment that you were Pivoting, and we were in the same nutrition program at NYU and working at the same eating disorder treatment center, and you were like, oh, and I'm actually going to school to become a mental health counselor. And I was like, that's amazing. I mean, that's something that I also was interested in doing and thought about for half a second and was like, not too complicated. I can't change my mind. Can't.

And I think we'll find that the people with the most fruitful, fulfilling, meaningful careers are those that have changed their mind and changed direction based on what was best for them in that moment. And so I think it's amazing for young people, especially to hear stories of people who have changed their mind. Because I think I remember my first day in my undergrad, I was asked to create like a four year plan or something like that by my academic advisor. And I felt so intimidated by that. I was like, oh my God, this four year plan is going to determine the trajectory of the rest of my life and my adulthood and everything.

And I remember my dad saying to me, and so funny because my dad also said this to me, he was like, Fuck that. You don't need to create a four year plan. Like, just say you're not going to do it. And I was like, I have to do it. Academic advice is asking for it. No, just say you're not going to do it. That's so stupid. That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard. But yeah, I definitely was inspired by that pivot that you made.

And I remembered it. It stuck with me, for sure. And with that, I think what you mentioned about disappointing other people, it's like the main thing I want to talk about today in terms of boundaries and perfectionism, just how to cope with that fear of disappointing other people. And before we dive into that, I do want to pull over on the word perfectionist for a second because I was actually speaking with a client the other day and I was like, isn't the word perfectionist kind of a perfectionist word in and of itself? Because you're really labeling yourself and you're really putting yourself in this box and saying, I am a perfectionist.

The way my client was using it in that conversation too, she knows I'm sharing this was in a very sort of perfectionist way. She was like, Well, I'm a perfectionist, so this is just how it is. And I'm curious, how do you define that word and what do you think about that? Because I feel like sometimes the word in of itself is a little bit all or nothing.


Noni: Yeah, it's kind of funny how when I usually say, especially on a consultation call, I work with people who tend to label themselves as perfectionist, that someone always say, well, I don't feel like I'm that person because I'm not that type a high achieving person who's always successful in everything they do. And I think it's like that word itself makes people think like, you have to be at the top of everything to be considered a perfectionist.

But I've read in research there's different types of perfectionists, but there's also, like, an over controlled personality, which I think to me sounds better of someone who might be at the top of their class in school, but might also be that person who doesn't like achieving things because they're always afraid if they get started that it might not be perfect. And what's the point of finishing something if it's not perfect? So they might be like a procrastinator. They might procrastinate a lot. They might be someone who's always people pleasing in relationships because they don't want to seem like they're not perfect.

So it's interesting how I think people think a perfectionist is this very specific type of person. But perfectionism to me in itself is all these different behaviors that really restrict your authenticity. It's like the fear of being fully seen is so great that you'll pretty much self sabotage yourself in different areas of your life, so you don't seem like you're out of control.


Caitie: So is a lot of perfectionism and I mean this both in your personal definition and just, like, clinically speaking as well, is a lot of it about sort of maintaining a certain image in the eyes of other people? Is that a lot of what perfectionism is about? Is it about being seen and is it about your relationship to other people? In a lot of ways?


Noni: Yeah, definitely. From my experience as a therapist, I've talked to so many clients who feel so unhappy because they're not being themselves. And there's always this fear of, if I am myself, no one will like me, I won't be successful, I'll be a disappointment to people, or I won't get what I want. And it's just really interesting how a lot of people think that's the key to getting what you want is not being yourself. I mean, I think we're all given those messages very young, whether it's from our family, our friends, school or work, that being yourself is not always healthy or what you want is not always good for you, and you should have willpower and discipline, but you don't fall into your own natural human urges as a person.

But, yeah, it does seem like people who are so afraid to just be themselves, they don't usually realize how that's actually not getting them where they want to be. Like, you're actually getting in your own way by not sharing more of yourself with the world.


Caitie: Yeah. And I think this ties so well into so much of what I was hoping to get your insight on today, which is this idea of taking the risk of being yourself. I think in a world that really, really tells us to conform to certain societal standards of many kinds, it is such a risk to choose to be yourself, to choose to work an unconventional job, to live an unconventional life, whatever that means. And also, risk taking is the thing that brings us the deepest sense of fulfillment and in my opinion, leads us towards much greater mental health.

However, risk taking always comes with the inevitability of disappointing people in our lives. And so when you are choosing to be yourself, take the risk of being yourself. Take the risk of going for the thing that you want to do despite it, conforming to the norms of society or your family or whatever. How do you cope with those fears that come up of disappointing other people? What do you work with your clients on when it comes to coping with that and what in your own life has taught you about that?


Noni: I usually work with clients on being okay with looking silly. I think that's something that a lot of my clients are very afraid of. Not always having the answer or seeming like not always conforming to the community or to the group, to the family, being the standout person. So that's something that I work on with clients. Is it's okay to look silly. It's okay to not have the answer to everything. It's okay if you're not the best at everything that you do.

And the humility that comes with that is so important because you're modeling to other people that it's okay if they don't know everything. Because what's interesting to me is that when I hear a client usually get frustrated with other people that they don't know things, that to me is a signal that that's because for them it's embarrassing to not know things as well. And it's like it's okay to be imperfect. It's okay to be a human being and not have all the answers. And then another thing I work on with clients is self compassion.

Most clients I work with are not very kind to themselves, very hard on themselves. Think that empathy is something you earn through hard work, but it's not something you're just given because you're a person. So it's like you could be nicer to yourself. You made a little mistake. You don't have to beat yourself up for the next week or the next month. But allowing things to be okay if it's not perfect, and knowing that you're still a really smart, hardworking person even when you make mistakes, that's a normal thing to do as a person.


Caitie: So as those two things apply to these two things, being just letting yourself look silly, like being okay with that and letting that be the model for other people versus modeling perfection for other people. What if you model just being a human and being okay with it and letting yourself look a little silly to other people. And then also practicing self compassion and being kind to yourself when you make mistakes. What does that look like in practice for someone who is going to take a risk in their life or take a pivot in their life? I feel like the pivoting is like a theme of this episode. Unexpectedly, what does that look like in practice? If someone does want to make a change in their life, that is risky, financially risky in terms of their sense of belonging with their friends or family, how can someone.


Noni: Big question that everybody is always trying to figure out in every session. It's really about boundaries. That's something that I think most of us are not taught that I don't remember anybody. I mean, I think I remember basic boundaries, like basic consent. Like my mom would teach me or my dad would teach me about things that work. But in terms of especially intimate relationships or even within family, I don't feel like I really knew what a boundary was.

Why would you set a boundary with somebody you care about? That never made a lot of sense to me when I was younger. But that's something that especially a lot of my clients worry about, is if I do set a boundary with a family member, will I ever be invited back into the family? And then sometimes the question even is, do you want to be a part of this family? Because for some clients, the family they're a part of is just too much. It's just too mentally exhausting, and it's just too draining for them. So sometimes that's a different question. But most people who have some form of perfectionism have a very difficult time setting boundaries. Like this idea of I should always be available, I should always be able to help people.

I should always be able to go to all these different social events so people don't think that I'm like some antisocial person and I have a good social life. I should always say yes to every person that wants to date me. So it's like when you don't have boundaries, you really have a difficult time knowing what do you actually like or what do you want to do or who do you want to date, or do you actually like those friends that you hang out with? Or do you really want to go to Thanksgiving and have to explain why you don't want to hear about that diet that your aunt is on or something? But I hear that a lot. Like, clients are very afraid to set boundaries because it might mean that they'll get rejected or they won't be approved of or they'll lose support in their life.

But it's also like, well, you have to reevaluate if these people, places and things are actually good for you or if you're happy with them.


Caitie: Yeah, I love that answer. I do think that allowing yourself to be a human and being compassionate towards yourself in action is boundaries. It's setting boundaries. And I think I used to roll my eyes at boundaries for so long, just that idea of it really just made me I was like, this doesn't really make any sense. Or some of it's just like very like you said, basic. And I only thought of it as the more basic stuff rather than the more nuanced stuff.

So what are some boundaries that you set in your personal life? What do you know are some non negotiable boundaries for you in any area of your life that, you know, have really helped you be yourself and live an authentic life?


Noni: Yeah, I really have to credit my own therapist for helping me. I mean, I've worked with my therapist now for, I think, about five years, and even when I first met her, she had said, you sound like you're probably a highly sensitive person. And at the time, I was like, I don't know what that means. I do think I'm sensitive. But the more I read about what that meant like being someone who does take in a lot of energy from their environments or is very easily drained by other people's emotions or needs more alone time to recharge the more I started learning about how my own body and mind work, it was easier to set boundaries moving forward. So for me, eating consistently is really important.

For me, and especially with my clients who have eating disorders, I always tell them that's just one of the biggest things you have to do for yourself every day if you want to be at some healthy functioning capacity every day. But it's so amazing how I think most of us don't even think that's important, like, eating consistently, just like, all these diets and everything that come out, like, oh, here's an easy shortcut and hack to being healthy. And it's like, maybe you just need to eat something. So that's a big one for me.


Caitie: Oh, my God. I love that you've expressed that as a boundary. I feel a lot of people would never even think of that as a boundary. It is a boundaries issue. If you're one of these people who says, I don't have time to eat because my job is so busy. And I don't doubt that a lot of people are working in highly toxic work environments, and there is a lot of pressure for them to not take the time to nourish themselves.

And also, you literally have to you have to find a way to set that boundary. That is, like, one of the greatest acts of self compassion. I actually ended up writing my nutrition master's thesis on self compassion, which is very interesting because I think a lot of people wrote about protein intake at breakfast and magnesium deficiency, and I was like, I want to write about the importance of self compassion and good nutrition. And thank God the research methods professor was like, great idea, Caitie, because it's something that comes up constantly in nutrition work. It's so vital.

Good nutrition is self compassion. Self compassion is good nutrition. And I love that that's like, the first thing that came up for you.


Noni: Yeah, absolutely. I talk to clients all the time about even clients who don't have a diagnosed eating disorder but just have disordered eating patterns. And that's just one of the biggest ones. Like, I don't have time to eat or this task is more important than me having a meal, or this is what I hear a lot. It's like I don't want to spend money on groceries because what if I need it? I don't know, some emergency that happens in the future.

But yeah, for me it's like I know myself so well that if I don't eat on a consistent basis, my mood and energy is just not good. So if I'm going to do my best work as a therapist or just being a person in other relationships, I have to eat something. I just can't function at a good level if I'm hungry all the time.


Caitie: Yeah, and I feel like you can take that same sort of template and apply it to anything. I feel like boundaries are identifying. What do you need in order to stay regulated and feel regulated so that you don't, I guess, over rely on other people to regulate you. I think that's like a cycle that could feed into perfectionism and relationships. Right. Because if you're unregulated yourself and you're relying on finding a partner to regulate you, then you're probably practicing perfectionism and dating. And all of this stuff is just like so imagined intertwined. It's interesting.


Noni: Yes. And it's so funny as you're talking about that. I talk to a client sometimes about attachment style and that idea of co regulation, how if they're not in tune with their own body that you're right. They start to look for other people who can help them to ground themselves. And that's why for me, it's so important that you set boundaries in terms of your own self care. Like, are you sleeping enough?

Are you doing things that are recharging your energy, your soul, like activities and hobbies that you love to do for yourself? Are you going to get checkups with health professionals? Are you eating enough food? How's money? Like all these basic things are really important because if you do want to have a relationship or you do want to own your own business, something like that, it's really good to just be grounded in yourself. But I think so many people get so distracted with this hustle culture mentality. And I'm in New York City, so it's like it's all over the place. Everybody has to hustle. Everybody's got a side hustle.

You have a nine to five and then you have a freelance job. That's the norm here, is that you're always working. And that's what most of my clients talk about, is this external pressure that becomes internal pressure. I have to always be productive, otherwise people are going to think I'm lazy, I'm not going to be successful. And then they're exhausted and then they have a hard time just doing things. So it's like you got to check in with the basics first. Otherwise all that other stuff is not going to work out.


Caitie: Yeah, I think it does start with the basics. And as a nutritionist and an eating disorder recovery coach, I feel like I do end up helping clients with those basics. That's where we start, right? We do start with food. We do start with sleeping enough, breathing enough. And then once they've got those basics in place, then they're able to realize like, oh, I actually do want to set some wider boundaries.

Now that they have themselves regulated, it becomes, okay, wait, I actually am not happy at my job, or I actually am not happy with my relationship with my mom. This is actually draining me. And so once you set those more basic boundaries, then it gives you access, I guess, to set those wider boundaries. And you mentioned earlier that when you set those wider boundaries, those bigger boundaries, those more risky boundaries. Following up on the risk theme.

How do you deal with the rejection that may come from other people when you have had clients experience that? Okay, I do need to step away from this community of people or from this family or from this group, or allow myself to be potentially rejected by this person because of a boundary. What do we do in the aftermath of that? And I guess in the pre, like, preparing to do that too, because I think a lot of people just sit in that fear for so long too.


Noni: Yeah, I think there's like two things, honestly, that come up in my head about that, about the fear of rejection. One is rupture and repair, which is something I think most therapists agree is really important in relationships. There's going to be ruptures. We're not always going to see eye to eye with other people, or we're going to get rejected in something that we believe in or we feel. And the key is to repair afterwards.

I always have a client say, like, well, there's a lot of ruptures, but there was no repair. It's like, okay, well, that's why the relationship didn't men. But that's something I talk to clients about is, okay, it's normal if there are ruptures in relationships. It's normal if there's rejection. And if possible, can you repair the relationship? So that's one thing that comes up to me. Another thing I notice a lot of people don't do, especially if there's a lot of rigidity or a lot of this need to just keep pushing through any kind of painful experience is clients needing to process and reflect on things that don't work out.

It's okay to sit with the discomfort. And I think if you're someone who's so over controlled, that feeling of discomfort, it's so foreign. It's like, I don't want to sit with this. I'm going to work my way out of that feeling of discomfort. So people focus on dating. A lot of people or just focusing on work, especially for young men. It's like, if I just work, I won't feel this pain anymore. Or people using drugs and alcohol to numb themselves.

But it's really important to sit with that discomfort and process. Like, what's coming up for you? Why do you feel so upset about this rejection? What were you hoping was going to happen instead of what actually did happen? And then reflecting on what your role is in that relationship or what your role was in that situation. And maybe to think about in the future how you could have done you could do things differently in a different relationship or with the same person or people.

But I think that's really the key to me is sitting with rejection because you can't stop from being rejected. That's a normal thing that happens for all of us. And getting out of this mindset of I can be so perfect that I'll never get rejected or bad things will never happen to me. Which is definitely, I've noticed a trauma response for a lot of people, like if they had a very traumatic childhood. Perfectionism is a coping skill to never have to experience that pain again. But it's inevitable even as an adult and sitting with that pain and understanding why it's hard for you to feel all this stuff that's coming up.

And then to what we were talking about, the self compassion, like, be a nice parent to yourself. Don't be that mean parent. That's like, all right, well, you felt bad enough. Let's get up, let's go back to work. No. What would a nice parent say? I say that to some of my clients. What would a nice parent say? They probably say, take a day off or go for a walk or call somebody or you do the best you could.

Be nice to yourself. That's going to help more than just ignore how you're feeling and keep going. Because usually the same patterns just keep happening over and over again.


Caitie: Yeah, re parenting is another one of those terms that I felt so much resistance to in my body when I first heard it. And I know so many people feel resistance to in their body when they first hear it because maybe it sounds like too spiritual and maybe cheesy to a lot of people and maybe to others it sounds like, well, I had a fine childhood, so why don't I need to repair it myself? And so many of us lacked an actual the kind of nurturing that we need in a lot of different areas of our lives. Even if your childhood was not necessarily outwardly capital t traumatic, there were certain instances where you lacked the nurturance that you needed, didn't have that model to you, didn't have that experience, and are now struggling to give that nurturing to yourself. And it is important to actively practice that. And I think another thing that you said that I really want to highlight is the idea of why is it so hard for you to be rejected?

I feel a lot of the people who wrote questions for this episode were writing, I want to leave my job, and I know my parents are going to judge me for it. How do I take this risk of leaving my job when I know my parents are going to be really disappointed in me because I'm not doing what I went to college for as my job? And then somebody else was like, I just want to have my Saturdays alone. And how do I just tell my friends that I can't do anything with them? Because Fridays are always really trouble work day for me, and I just want to spend Saturdays alone. How do I do that without disappointing people or making them upset? And I do think a good question for both these dilemmas is why does it feel so hard for you, that idea of potentially having that rejection from your parents about your decision to leave your job? And why does that feel so hard? The idea of your friends potentially saying, oh, but you should come out with us. Why do you want your Saturdays to yourself?


Noni: Yeah, actually, I wanted to touch on what you had mentioned before about a lot of people saying, well, I had really good parents. What is the point of re parenting myself? And even for me, I love my parents. My parents are amazing. And then I was also thinking of myself as I got older. I didn't even know what a highly sensitive person was. I don't think my parents had knew what that terminology was either. So the idea of, how do you parent a highly sensitive kid?

A lot of parents don't have that information, so it's like, how would they know what the needs of that child would be? So that's something I even talk to people about, is you getting this information now might be a signal that your parents didn't have certain information that maybe could have helped them with raising you. And it's funny how people in therapy always say, I never want to blame my parents. I don't want to blame my parents. I don't want to be that kind of person that's like, oh, my parents suck and all stuff. And it's like, no, it's acknowledging your parents are human beings just like you.

You're a human being, too. Sometimes they make mistakes. Doesn't mean they're bad people. So, yeah, it's like helping people understand the nuance of parents. Parents are human beings, so it's okay if they didn't always parent you the way you needed them to. And then also about the fear of not being part of the community, whether it's its family or its friends. I always like to say boundaries, and my therapist said this to me, that boundaries are a really great way to keep a relationship strong, because I think people confuse boundaries with walls. Like, I'm never going out on this Saturday.

Like, okay, well, maybe there can be some wiggle room. Like, maybe you need Saturday from this time to this time, and then Saturday night you have energy, and you can go out with your friends if you want to. But yeah, I think people think a boundary means I can just never do what someone else wants. It just means that this is something that's important to you, that'll help the relationship, help you to show up in the relationship.

But you can negotiate your own boundaries. Life changes, and so you change everything that moves around you. But I know there are situations where people will take it very personally if you don't want to spend time with them, if you don't always want to be part of the community and really separating yourself from other people, it's not you. People don't usually react based on you. It's their own stuff that's coming up.

I think that's one of the four agreements in the book I forgot his name, who wrote it, but it's like one of the agreements is don't take it personally, don't take anything personally, which I completely agree with. And I usually forget because even as a therapist, I'm always like, why did the person do this to me? It's not me. It's just that person.

It's just what comes up for them. So I think that's what definitely helps me in setting boundaries, is like, have the way someone re next to you is not about you. Usually it's their own stuff. Maybe they've been rejected in the past and they're afraid of that happening again, or they have their own unhealed trauma that they haven't really processed themselves, so they might be projecting that onto other people when people set boundaries with them.


Caitie: How much about our lives would change if we didn't take anything personally? You talk about dating and relationships a lot in your social media content. It's like, how much of your dating life would change, especially in those early stages of dating, right, if you just didn't take anything personally.


Noni: Yeah, and it's so funny how I think a lot of people will not share their I mean, it's like the honeymoon face. A lot of people will not show their full self at the beginning, and also it's just the beginning of a relationship is so fun. You see someone in this very joyful, optimistic light. But I think what's interesting about a younger generation now is that we have dating apps. Dating apps are the norm, and I think especially if you're pretty rigid about who you date, I think sometimes dating apps can make it difficult to know who's like, a good enough partner.

You're not going to get every box checked off your perfect partner list. And is that okay? But I think I've been hearing a lot of people say that dating apps suck because I'm not finding the specific person that I want to be with. And it's like that person doesn't exist. You're not perfect either. And the point is to find someone who's okay with that. It's okay that you're not perfect. You're not everything they wanted, but you're a good enough partner.


Caitie: Yeah. This relates to what you were saying before about rupture and repair that is essential. It is so possible for there to be rupture in a healthy relationship, and then there's repair afterwards, and the relationship becomes even stronger. If it's just rupture, rupture, rupture. Yes. Then it's a relationship that ultimately is going to come to an end. And so many people have not had that experience of rupture and repair enough to know that that could be possible.

And so I think that that's why a lot of people are afraid to set boundaries in their relationships, because they haven't had that experience of rupture and repair, when really rupture and repair is the very thing that allows us to have deep, meaningful connections with people. And so if your parents are disappointed that you leave your job, that's an opportunity for rupture and repair. It's an opportunity for them to see you in a different light depending on your relationship with them.

And yeah, if someone is disappointed by a different boundary that you set a deal breaker that you have in a relationship, for example, there can be repair from that as well, and the relationship can continue. Yes. You can take breathing room in relationships to rupture, take your space, and come back and repair. And I think it's so important that these things are normalized and talked about so that we don't fear boundaries so much and we can be mentally healthy.


Noni: Yeah. And even speaking of that, I work with teens, and I work with a number of teens, even, like, I would say, young adults, too. But a lot of teens who are seeing their parents either go through a divorce or they've been divorced for a while. And for most of my teens who talk to me, even young adults, they look at divorce or any kind of breakup in a relationship as a failure. It's like the idea that you can't stay together in a relationship means there was no repair.

And for me, I frame it differently of, like, repair in relationships. Does it not always mean that you stay together? I think there's this idea in relationships that if you're together long term, that's successful, and if you're not together long term, it means it's a failed relationship. But I always like to frame it as any kind of breakup is a repair, and it's also a boundary for two people or how many other people are in a relationship of, we can't be our best selves together in this relationship.

So in order for us to take care of ourselves, we need to separate or divorce. And I think that's really healthy. I don't think that's talked about enough. And I mean, for teens especially, it's devastating because it's a family rupture. It's not just a marriage. So there's other emotions that come with that. But I noticed that people who see their parents or other adults who don't have healthy communication, or maybe they do divorce, but they don't know how to co parent together as people, that their idea of rupture and repair is like, that doesn't make sense.

Usually when you have a rupture, there's no repair. People just hate each other, so they don't think that it's worth repairing a relationship. I guess there's a problem. You should just leave the relationship. That's how you handle it. So giving people different ways of looking at repair I think is helpful, even for me. I always thought I was failing in dating because I was like, well, this person wasn't my boyfriend. That means I failed, and that means I'm not a perfect girlfriend or something.

But looking at it of like, no, it was resolved in its own way because it meant that this just wasn't the right relationship. And that is self care. I don't think a lot of people think that way, especially if you're a very goal oriented person. But being with people who are not compatible for you is self care or not being with people who are not.


Caitie: Compatible, that's an important perspective. I love that that perspective of a relationship ending is not inherently a failure or a failed relationship or inherently an unrepaired rupture. It's so important because it really takes the shame out of dating and relationships. It takes the past fail system out of dating and relationships and makes it what it's supposed to be, which is something that allows for personal growth and human connection and one of the most fulfilling things that we can have in life. And just because a relationship didn't last forever doesn't mean it wasn't a good one. That really did a lot for you as a human being.


Noni: Yeah, and even something that I'm learning more about called RODBT (Radically Open Dialectical Behavior Therapy). I think most people know about Dialectical Behavior Therapy, but the RO is Radically Open. And that's a technique that's more for people who are more over controlled and perfectionistic. And this idea of there's a difference between a fixed mindset and a fatalistic mindset, like fixed about dating could be, I only date this kind of person. And fatalistic is more of what's the point of dating? It never works out.

And with clients I have who kind of think a lot of them feel that what's point of a relationship if they don't work out, they usually end. And there usually needs to be some grieving, there needs to be grief that you've been in relationships that didn't work out the way you wanted them to. And I think a lot of times people kind of just dismiss relationship building in general because they don't want to sit with again, that discomfort of things not working out the way they wanted them to work out before.

I think there's this idea that when you're grieving the end of a relationship, it means something like you did something wrong or someone else did something wrong. But it doesn't always have to be that. It can just be that it just wasn't right, it wasn't the appropriate time, it wasn't the right person. And that I think a lot of people are afraid of grief, especially if they do feel they need to be in so much control of any part of their life. Like, I can't grieve something because I don't want to sit with this regret or this discomfort. I need to just push through and not have to think about that. But grief is really healing. I don't think a lot of people understand that grief can teach you a lot of things that you need to learn about yourself or other people.


Caitie: Yeah, it's like, okay, if it's not a failure that a relationship has ended, I still have to deal with so much grief. And that perspective of the grief itself is also really healing and good and beautiful in a lot of ways. I mean yeah. To love someone really deeply and let go of them completely, I think is a really incredible experience. And my breakups have been some of the most fulfilling experiences of my life, albeit painful.

And I also feel like that's another thing that can really pull people out of this fear of setting boundaries is knowing that there's a lot in that grief as well, to be learned and understood.


Noni: Yeah, exactly. When you were talking about people being afraid of being rejected when they set a boundary, and I went through a breakup last year in the summer, and I remember I was really angry for a very long time, and I needed to really sit with that anger and understand why was I angry? And it was the rejection part. Like, I thought I did everything right. Why did this relationship not work? And it's so interesting how it's like, you got to sit with that really shitty feeling that you wish you could just kind of throw away and move on with your life. But it really helped me to start thinking, even beyond that breakup, of, like, what is this teaching you at relationships in general?

Does this person have to work as hard as me for me to feel they care about me? Or what was I expecting of this person? Or did I ignore parts of this relationship to make it the ideal relationship I wanted it to be? So, yeah, there's a lot of learning in that, a lot of processing who you are as a person and also what do you need in the next relationship for maybe things to turn out differently? And that's really important to me. It would be important to sit and process and reflect on that if you want to keep having relationships with people.


Caitie: Yeah. And there's just such a cracking open. That happens when you allow yourself to feel things and sit with your feelings really deeply. That gives you a capacity to recognize the feelings and experiences of other people in a deeper way and understand the feelings and experiences of other people in a deeper way as well. And I find that every time I've experienced a breakup too, I all of a sudden have this more productive sensitivity to other people's feelings as well, where I'm like, oh, well, this person clearly is experiencing this kind of grief too. I know what that feels like. I know what it's like to be there. And that gives you empathy, a word that you used a little bit earlier.

As we're moving towards the end of our conversation, there is one more question. Well, there's two more questions, but there's one more question that I don't ask all my other guests that I am eager to ask you, which is, is there any way that you can apply some of these concepts about boundaries and perfectionism and recovery from perfectionism to body image? I know that you work with a lot of clients who are recovering from disordered eating and eating disorders, and I'm curious how you work with them on Body Image when they're struggling with boundary setting and with perfectionism. And maybe even if you just have a few examples of boundaries, you know, you set in your own life to protect your own relationship with your body and Body image, that would be great because I know so many people get stuck when it comes to this area.


Noni: Yeah, I feel like definitely the pandemic triggered so much body image stuff for a lot of us, but definitely for me, my body changed. I also hit 25, and I was also thinking like, okay, my body most likely is going to start changing a lot now. And yeah, around that time, I just started feeling more like, self conscious about my stomach. I was like, okay, it's always been flat. Like, what is going on? Why is it changing?

And it's honestly been taking a lot of self compassion to not beat myself up about that. Even checking the facts, like, okay, I'm almost 30 years old. My body is not going to be the same way that it was when I was 18, and I shouldn't expect that from my body. And also, even my own things that I value, like, I want to have my own family. Gaining weight is just going to be a normal part of that if I want to have my own children in the future. So it's like even sitting with that of like, okay, what is the reality of this situation?

I'm not a model. It's not my job to have this certain body type. I don't need to put this much pressure on myself to look a certain way. So being really compassionate with myself is something I'm really focusing on right now. And even with my clients, a lot of people have a really hard time letting go of old clothes. That's like a common thing that comes up is I want to keep these clothes that I used to wear when I was in a smaller size, just in case I lose weight and then I can get back into these old clothes.

And for me, that's a good time to reflect on what other old stuff are you hanging on, too? It's not just clothes. The clothes represent an image of who you used to be. And I remember talking to a lot of clients, or I have one client in particular, but a lot of clients who are artists, and one client always talking about art school and drama classes and being this beginner, this student. And I did a tarot reading for her, and I was saying, it looks like you're going to leave that behind.

You're not a student anymore. You have a lot of knowledge. You've grown a lot as a person, and that means you've grown as an artist, probably. So it took a while for her to just let go of those clothes, but she eventually did. She started to let them go and get different clothes. And we're still talking about body image stuff, but it's so interesting how clothes represent this old identity of like, okay, not only am I hoping I have this old body back, but it's like, do you really want to be the person you were five years ago?

The person I was five years ago had a lot of panic attacks, was always like, future tripping about what was going to happen, like, five years down the road. Was very scared in dating situations because I wanted to seem perfect all the time or was restricting a lot. So I was like, no, I don't want to go back to being that person, but that's what it would take to go back into that body, is to go back into that old image. And I've worked really hard to not be in that place anymore. So that's something I always reflect on, is really, your body is this vessel that holds all this information about you, and it goes through so much. It deserves a lot of credit for everything that it's helped you to get through. And I just think people forget that they're so detached from their own bodies that it's like, this is something I fix. This is something that's just there to be seen. But it's like there's a lot of other functions that this body has. It's really done so much and keep beating it up.

I don't know, like, living longer. It's like you want the body to at least feel comfortable in this long journey of life.


Caitie: There's so many beautiful little nuggets. You just said, going back into that older body place where you controlled your body, that older body going back into your old body, the body you used to have would require you to go back to that over controlled person that you used to be. Going back into that place of controlling your body would require you to go back to being an over controlled person, which would require you to revert back to a version of yourself that you don't want to be anymore. And yeah, the clothes do represent more like where you used to be as a person, and they carry that energy with them. Even if you get rid of an article of clothing for energetic purposes, that's fine too.

This is something I used to wear when I was in this phase of my life, and I'm moving on. And I see so many clients have such a cathartic experience with closet cleanouts. They do it with clients on Zoom a lot. Like, they're just going and tossing all their old jeans, and some of them are having serious grief while they're doing it, and that's beautiful. And some of them are just tossing the jeans out and making the most empowered face ever and just getting rid of it and being like, wow, I have space in here. I have space for new things. And also simultaneously experiencing both things, a lot of people. And I do think that a closet clean out is so much deeper than just that.

And I also love the idea you spoke to about how so many people feel separated from their bodies, too, and see it as like, this object separate from themselves that can be fixed. And it's like, oh, my body is just this thing that I fix, versus your body being the thing that takes you through your life experiences. And it's gone through a lot, and it deserves a lot of credit, and it is part of you. It's your home.


Noni: Yeah, we're getting more information, especially about trauma and how it lives in the body and just the energy that you carry with you for so long and you don't even recognize how it's affecting you just energetically in every area of your life. And using I always try to help clients to use the body as a tool. It's not just this place of pain, and I think that's especially if you have an enius or it's a painful place, it's to be in your body and finding ways to stay disconnected as much as possible so you don't feel everything.

But seeing the body as a tool, it's a healing tool. Like what you were saying about the breath work, that's something you can use with just your body or yoga or meditation. I love doing art with clients, like use your hands to paint something or rip things up. That's what the body is there for, too, is to heal. And you can use your body to heal yourself. It's not just this place of discomfort or negative body image, but I think we're all told that there's always something wrong with your body. So. There's always something you can do to change it and not ever really getting a lot of messages that it's really there to help you. It's there to help you grow, it's there to help you to play or help you to challenge yourself.

The body is an incredible tool. So I think that's always, I mean, even for me, is something I like to remember. Like, okay, my stomach isn't as flat as it used to be, but honestly, I like these curves now that I have this is what I wanted when I was like a teenager. I have them now and it's actually really nice to have this new body.


Noni: Yeah. And that place of love and acceptance is something that is possible, and I love to hold that with like, this is possible versus you don't pass healing your relationship with your body until you get to a place of love and acceptance. Because I think sometimes people turn it into like a past fail system of like, I'm in body negativity or I'm in body positivity. And it's like most of us hang out in neutrality for a long time. And looking back, I was stuck in neutrality for a long time without even being able to label what it was exactly.

And arriving at a place of body love and body acceptance has been incredible because it allows me to use my body as a tool. Like you're saying, I think that's a beautiful sentiment and it's possible. And I think sometimes there's an overemphasis on getting out of body negativity and sort of bypassing your way to body positivity with affirmations. And it's like, no, it's so possible to get to body positivity and you have to be willing to go through the journey and the nuance of neutrality and let go of perfectionism and deal with that messiness that comes as you're making your way there.

Noni: Yeah, exactly. I wanted to speak to that because I always hear clients say, well, I don't feel all this body love that everybody's saying I feel on TikTok. And I'm like, well, of course not. Like, you've been so angry with your body for so long, there's no way you're just going to magically start loving it so much. But that neutral place. Even when you were talking about that, I was remembering when I was really dealing with Orthorexia in college, and it was like, I didn't feel this body love that I wanted to, but I knew I needed to eat.

I needed to start incorporating more foods back into my diet. I needed to just eat. And it was more like mechanical eating. Like, okay, I don't want to do this, but I know I have to if I want to do other things. So it honestly felt like learning how to ride a bike. It's like, you're not going to just jump on the bike and know how to go. You have to know the mechanics of how the bike works. And where are the speeds of the bike? It's like learning your body again in order to get to that place of body love. It's like if you've been so disconnected from your body's needs and wants, how do you know how to love it? So you have to kind of get to know your own body again before you can feel all this love for your body?


Caitie: Yes, I love the tangibleness of that. A lot of times people feel really scared to talk about body image and feel really lost in that conversation and are afraid to make it tangible. And I think that's so understandable because it's such a touchy subject and it is so wrapped up in so many different things self worth, identity, self esteem, cultural issues, trauma that lives in the body. And I feel there's such an importance in making it tangible like that. And I appreciate the way you were able to do that.

Thank you for all your insights. I'm so excited to publish this. But as we're wrapping up, my final question for you. So my episodes are kind of loosely based on this quote by Brene Brown, which is, one day you'll tell the story of what you went through and it'll become someone else's survival guide. And so I appreciate you sharing so many insights about yourself and your own mental health journey and your own journey with your body image.

And I'm curious if you're going to create a survival bag for someone that had books, podcasts, TV shows, maybe just like quotes, things, items, whatever it is, what comes up for you? If you're creating a survival bag for someone who's going to live a boundaried nourishing life that is free from perfectionist tendencies in whatever way they can be, what would you put in that survival bag?

Noni: Well, definitely a book I read, I think when I was in graduate school called The Vanishing Half, which it's a fiction book, but honestly, in terms of boundaries, the boundaries that the characters have to really reflect on are pretty big. Like who do I date or how close do I feel connected to my family? I think it's one of the most beautifully written books about really finding yourself and challenging the status quo of what you grew up with and being okay with that.

There's one character who's okay with it, one character who's not. But it's just, I think, a beautiful fictionalized version of what that journey is like for all of us. In terms of other things, like podcasts, there's a podcast called Safe Word that's about queer dating queer relationships. And I don't identify as a queer woman, but I feel like I learned so much about sexuality and relationships from these two queer therapists.

So I think that's always a beautiful thing is like learning about your sexuality, especially a lot of us don't know what our sexual boundaries are. So that's always, to me, important to understand. And then something else I would add. I actually really love this. I guess you call her a chef home cook named Alison Roman. I know she's, like, pretty popular right now, but she to me, I just love that she cooks with a lot of flavor, and. It's just so refreshing.

For me as someone who studied nutrition, and it was always about, don't put a lot of salt in the food or don't make it sweet. Always told, like, too much flavor was bad. And every time I watch her cooking videos, it's always like, flavor is important. That's the point of eating, is that it should be pleasurable. And I'm relearning that as I get older and I'm cooking for myself and other people. This should taste good.

It shouldn't be like, this food. If that was what I was programming, I would never put enough salt in anything. And I was like, I think it was because of my nutrition program. But, yeah, I love that. I just love that she makes hot dogs, and she loves to make strawberry shortcake, and she loves to have little drinks with her and her friends. I'm just like, this reminds me why I love to eat, and that's really important to me. So, yeah, those little things, I think, are such a great way to understand what your boundaries are as a person and also to just rediscover pleasure for yourself and what's important to you.


Caitie: I love that. I love your survival bag. I'm going to buy it. And I saw Alison Roman doing a cooking demo at Bryant Park one time, totally randomly, out of the blue. Why was she in Brian Park doing a cooking demo? I have no idea. And I feel so lucky because I've been following her ever since it was, like, six, seven years ago. And I love that the pleasure of eating is just like a whole other episode, and I'm glad you mentioned that.

Noni, thank you so much for your time today. I am so excited for people to hear your voice and to put this on the socials. I just feel like there's so many good little things that you've shared that people will really benefit from. So thank you so much for your generosity and your time and your energy. You're sharing your wisdom. And if you like today's episode, please leave Star Review on Spotify or Apple podcast or wherever you're listening. You can't really leave reviews anywhere else. So Apple podcast or Spotify, leave that review, and I'll be back here again in two weeks with another episode.




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