When it comes to living the life you desire after breast cancer, it can be difficult to overcome deeply ingrained belief systems and worry about how others will think of or judge you for changing your life.
The fear of change can be so powerful that some people will cling to being ill because illness seems like a valid excuse to escape the things they don’t want to do.
But, trying to show up as a sick person doesn’t support healing, living joyfully or creating a full life.
So why do we think that we have to prove we’re too sick to go back to a life that may have contributed to our illness to begin with?
Why do we let other people’s thoughts stop us from pursuing our happiness?
Why do we continue to choose thoughts that keep us stuck and hoping for something bad to happen to give us an out?
In this episode, I’ll tell you some of the reasons I hear and some of the thoughts I had to work through when I was faced with making a big change in my own life.
I’ll also offer you some mindset shifts to help you work through some of these common thought errors so you can create a life you love that’s better than before breast cancer.™
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Read the full transcript below:
Laura Lummer 0:00
You're listening to better than before breast cancer with the breast cancer recovery coach. I'm your host, Laura Lummer. I'm a certified life coach, and I'm a breast cancer thriver. In this podcast, I will give you the skills and the insights and the tools to move past the emotional and physical trauma of a breast cancer diagnosis. If you're looking for a way to create a life, that's even better than before breast cancer, you've come to the right place. Let's get started. Hey, there, you're listening to Episode 307. And I'm your host, Laura Lummer. I am very excited about this topic today. Because this is one of those things that all of a sudden, everyone's talking to me about. And it's something I have a deep personal experience with that I'll share with you in this show. And I think maybe this topic is coming up because it's the end of the year. So when this podcast episode comes out, it'll be on Friday, December 29, right before the New Year. And actually on December 29, at 9am, I'm doing a workshop on release 2023 creating a new year that's better than before breast cancer. And that Workshop is all about letting go of the ideas and the belief systems and the conditioned thoughts that we have that stop us from moving fully. And when I say living fully, I mean, feeling like it's okay to do your life your way, feeling like it's okay to make the choices in your life that are fulfilling to you feeling like it's okay to make a decision that might go against the grain. And here's what I've seen. And this is what we're going to talk about. So let me start off by sharing my story with you. When I first started coaching, I was working a full time job. And I had been working that job for many, many years, I was head of a department I made good money, I had great benefits, I had been a single parent for a long time. And then even when I wasn't a single parent, that was I worked full time. So when I decided to become a coach, and to follow my passion after breast cancer, I didn't let go of my full time job won't because I wanted to be responsible, right. And I wanted to have the security and the insurance makes total sense, right. And so I told myself, I'm going to build this business on the side. And then it came to a point where I knew that my business could not grow any more. Because kind of my idea was I gotta grow the business until it can take place of everything that I get from my job. But then it got to the point where I thought, Okay, this is never going to get bigger than this, because I don't have any more time. And the time that's spent between living my life and working my full time job and doing my coaching business, it's just not going to work out. So there had to be this bridge, right. And I was thinking, I'm going to have to decide at some point to jump. And when I jump, there's going to be a big gap between what I'm leaving, and what I have. And I'm gonna have a very specific amount of time, in which I'm going to have to create something to fill that gap, right, because I needed to have a certain amount of money to bring in. And obviously, again, insurance was very important to me, as I'm sure you can all relate to. So I knew that I could not go back to the job I had. I knew that that job, didn't bring me joy, and had not for a long time. It wasn't that it was bad or horrible or anything like that. And I'll tell you what, that makes it even harder to make a decision to change. Because we're told that it's not that bad. Anybody would want that job. Anybody would be grateful for what you have. And that's true, and I was grateful. But I also knew that it wasn't what I wanted for my future. It wasn't it had served its purpose. And I was very grateful for the service and for the everything that that Job had provided me. But I knew that it wasn't the direction for my future. And honestly, you know, there was a question that I asked people most of the time when I start coaching them, why do you think you got cancer? And when I asked myself that question, that job is one of the reasons there's several that come up from me, but that job is one of the reasons because not again that it was a bad job. It was a toxic environment, anything like that. I worked with great people. I worked for a good cause it was in a nonprofit. I could do it in my sleep. I had built really the systems from the ground up. The problem was it was no longer fulfilling. It was stopping me from doing what I really loved. And every day that I spent long hours I worked lots of hours And I would say to myself, this job is killing me. I would say to my husband, every day I go into that office, I die a little bit. And I think I've shared that before on the podcast, but I'm sharing it again here, because it's significant. And I know because I coach, many women who share this with me, I coached many women who have taken a break from the jobs or even live, let's say that they're not working, but just kind of taken a break to go through their breast cancer treatment. And then on the other side of that treatment, or while they're going through it, they realize
Laura Lummer 5:36
the way I was living doesn't work for me anymore. But I don't know how to deal with that. I don't know how to change that. It's very scary to think of making a shift, maybe they don't even have the tools to make that shift. And so what we lean into, is being sick. What our mind takes us back to is this idea that if I'm sick, it's a reason to not go back to the things I used to do that I don't like to do. And I felt that right, I felt like, Okay, I was in treatment, and I'm speaking now about my second diagnosis, and 2020. I was in treatment. And I'd known I'd say probably for three years that I needed to leave that job that it was no longer serving me that there was no joy in it for me. And yet, there was a tremendous amount of security in it for me. And there's a lot of perceptions around what we're responsible when it comes to security, what we're responsible for, right? People might say, you can't leave. And that's so good. And you can't be without that. So I'm gonna get into why I'm sharing all this with you in just a minute here, while I was going through treatment, in 2020, for advanced stage four metastatic breast cancer, and I emphasize that because this was no joke, right? This wasn't a thing like, okay, my first diagnosis, which let me restate that breast cancer is never something to be taken lightly. But some diagnoses are very severe and life threatening. And a stage four cancer diagnosis is something people die from. My first diagnosis was stage two, we don't die from stage two, right, stage two can be treated, it's difficult to treat. There's all the trauma and all the things that go with breast cancer, it's challenging, but we don't die. In stage two, we die in stage four. So I was facing a truly life threatening situation. And yet, these ingrained belief systems were so deep in me that even though I knew this was not contributing to my health, that I had something else I could turn to, I could lean to that I had bridges that I could create that would allow me to live the life that I wanted, in the way that I wanted, and in the way that I believed would support my body's ability to heal. Because that's very important. Because I truly believe negative emotions, toxic thoughts, and things that don't fill our hearts with joy, things that drain us of our energy. When we do those things are not supporting our ability to heal. They're not making us healthier. Emotions, and emotional experiences and emotional energy have a tremendous impact on our body's ability to be healthy. Knowing all of this, I still felt like, Oh, I gotta show that I'm sick. Think about this, I gotta show I'm sick. I have advanced stage four cancer, through my spine, through my ribs, through my pelvis through my hips, through my shoulder blades in my chest. I mean, what the heck, right? What the heck is going on? This is how powerful, conditioned belief systems are. This is why I do workshops like release to help everyone understand that this shit is made up. Right? It's all based on thoughts. And if we stop and we look at those thoughts, and we look at the result they're creating in our life, and we look at where they're limiting us. And we learn the skills and the tools and the practice of letting go of those thoughts and releasing them. That is absolutely mandatory for creating space to live a better life. So as long as I had this thought, I have to show him sick. I was feeling tormented, right? Because on the one hand, I wanted to focus all my energy on healing. On the other hand, I didn't want to go back to this job. But I had the beliefs that I needed to go back I needed to keep it and I'm gonna go into several different beliefs of why that happened and what I coach other women on because this is very common. And so on the one hand I felt very divided As if I can't look healthy, right? So I'm waking up every day telling myself, what do I have to do today to support my body's ability to heal. I'm doing all the things that I tell myself, this is what my future a healthy healed version of myself would do. I want to look healthy, I want to look vibrant, I want to eat all the right things I want to keep working out. This is one side of my focus. And then the other is, but the people at work, I need to look sick for them so that I have a reason to leave. So that I don't get judged, so that my choices validated, right? Let that sink in for a sec. And I'm telling you, this was a challenge for me, I did a lot of coaching, a lot of self coaching, a lot of reaching out to coaching, a lot of talking to people who are my champions and my support system, because it was literally terrifying for me. And at the same time, I literally felt split into, like, my heart was split into, I want to heal, and I have to prove I'm sick, I want to live a different life, I feel like I have to keep living that life. It was really tough to change my belief systems. And the day that I made the phone call to my Vice President of Human Resources to let her know, I was not going to be coming back. Oh, my God, like just the stress of it all comes up. For me, even as I think back about it, it was so hard for me to make that call. Because I was just cutting this tie. That, to me said this is security. But I was making this leap into what I believed this is the life I want to live. So I made that call. And you know what, you guys, I picked up the phone three different times and hung it back up making that call, I'm telling you, it was a struggle. And I had to talk myself through it, because I was breaking through deeply conditioned belief systems. And I'm going to talk about some of those belief systems. Because I think that the reason why this specific situation has come up. I don't I've lost count of how many times it's come up over the last six weeks with women that I'm coaching, I think it comes up because we're coming up on the New Year. And when we come up on the New Year, we think about what we want that year to look like. And if we want that year to look different than what it is now. And we know we've got to let go of some of the things that we have in our life now in order to create that. But the belief systems are so darn strong that we just feel this like wall, this iron wall, this metal wall drops inside of us. And at the idea of letting go of what we believe are expectations and judgments and stories, all of this type of stuff that we're supposed to do, literally can make you nauseous just thinking about it. I know that's how it was for me. I sat down and I thought what are the most common reasons that women tell me they can't make this change? Why is it that we feel like we use illness to validate a lifestyle choice? And how does that undermine our ability to focus on healing when our brain is saying, You got to prove to everybody you're sick, make sure you prove to everybody you're sick, so that the choices you make to live joyfully so that those choices aren't judged. Right? Think about that, too wild, right. But there are some very common reasons that come up. And there are ones that I dealt with, and I'm going to share those with you. I'm gonna walk you through them. And I want to offer you some mindset shifts in case you are in that position. In case you're in a place right now in your life where you know,
Laura Lummer 13:48
I want to change something, something for 2024 something next week, something tomorrow has to be different. But I'm so afraid for all of these reasons I'm going to share with you to say this out loud to own this, to embrace this and to make this shift. Okay. So if you are working person, I think that work culture and expectations and your own work ethic play a big part in this decision to change. As I shared with you. My work ethic was show up right now, there's a big change in the culture of a lot of work environments over the last couple of decades. But when I was growing up in the work environment, when I was building a career, you showed up no matter what right now, if we're sick people like don't come to work, you're sick. But when I was younger and building my career and you know, had my eye on the brass ring that I wanted to achieve, you showed up no matter what, right? It didn't matter if you were sick didn't matter if you were tired. It didn't matter if you were exhausted, nothing mattered. You kept showing up and it was how much you show up how many hours you put And then how hard you work, I weighed very heavily on being promoted. So that became a part of my belief system, right? You show up no matter what you don't call in sick. And I mean, this was something back from when I was, you know, 1314 years old that my parents ingrained in me, like, no matter what you don't call out, you made a commitment to go to work, you show up at work. So that was my personal belief system, then I worked in an environment where the majority of employees were female. And I have to tell you, that I've worked in some different environments. Some of them were I worked with mostly male colleagues, and some was mostly women colleagues, and I personally saw a stark difference in the way women worked. And in this culture that was created, where, oh, I, it was almost a martyr culture really, where women love to talk about I stayed till 10 o'clock at night, I worked my whole weekend, it was so obvious to me when I jumped from one culture to the next. And actually, at the last place that I worked, we created a committee to address this kind of passive aggressive and self sabotaging behavior and ideas that were happening in the work environment, because it was so obvious that that's what was going on. So when you're working in an environment like that, you have a culture like that, and you have what you believe is a work ethic that says to you, you give it all no matter what that can translate into self sabotage, that can translate into, I have to have a reason to take care of myself. If I know that this job doesn't work for me, if I know that the environment is not what I want the whole energy about all of it. And even what I'm doing is not working. It's not something I want in my life. Debt, for some reason isn't enough for us write our own commitment to ourself, and acknowledging to ourselves, this doesn't work for me. That should be enough. It really should, right? Because it's your life. And you get to decide that because we have all these beliefs that we bought into. And I said a minute ago, they're all made up. They're made up, right, but they come for good reason. Right? My parents were born in the 1940s. Their parents were born in the early 1900s. And those people had to work hard and long to live and survive. Right. So of course, my great grandparents who escaped during the First World War came over to the United States. They were immigrants from Europe, and they taught their kids, you got to work hard, right? Everybody worked really hard. And it made sense, because they had to not saying that we don't have to work hard now. But the idea of not working and just taking care of yourself. That didn't happen in their generations, right. Even as I was saying, when I was growing up there were still this sick, okay, how sick Are you? How high is your fever, hey, can you just come in for a couple of hours and take a nap later. And I'm serious. I mean, those are things that were said in the work environment, it didn't matter you just showed up. So we just didn't get this idea or this conditioning, that taking care of yourself is important. And I don't mean don't have a good work ethic. I feel like I have a good work ethic. But I understand that if I don't take care of myself, a work ethic doesn't mean crap. Because if I'm not here, if I'm so sick, I can't work if I'm so sick, that, um, you know, fighting cancer, then having a good work ethic doesn't mean anything. Because if I'm not well enough to work, who cares, right? We have to be able to take care of ourselves. And when we have something like breast cancer, or a diagnosis of breast cancer or any other illness, and we realize life is precious and short, and we realize it at a whole different level than before, something like that happens to us. When that happens to us and we see hmm, I want to make a change. I want to live differently in my life, in whatever sense that means. That's enough. It really and truly is. So when it comes to work, culture, work expectations are the idea that you have to validate why that work isn't working for you anymore. By proving to someone you're sick. That right there does not support your healing your wellness, or inviting joy into your life. So consider that. It's really important to work through those beliefs. And to understand this is just a way of thinking. And I can choose a different way of thinking that says, I get to decide what my life looks like, regardless of what anyone else thinks. And we Regardless of what anyone else told me, it had to look like, I get to stop and do some work here. And I'm not saying you know, be irresponsible, don't think about money, don't think about insurance, these things have to be taken into consideration. But when we tell ourselves the story of this is the only way it works, and I have to be sick and prove I'm sick, we don't have any space left to create a better life. All right. So that's one reason. I also know for a fact, going through breast cancer is very traumatizing. The emotional impact is devastating. So we go through the diagnosis, let's say surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation, whatever it is that you go through. And then the doctor says, Okay, you're good to go, you're cancer free. And this is why I started this business initially. And then we're sitting here, shell shocked going, what just happened. So now mental and emotional health comes into play. And when it comes to mental and emotional health, we just don't give that the weight that it deserves. We don't feel that that's a valid enough reason. So the doctor says, your body is good, you're good to go, you don't have cancer, or maybe you do have cancer, but it's manageable, it's controllable here, we'll put you on this medication, maybe it's not active, whatever reasons that doctors release you from treatment. And you're feeling like, but I'm not in a mental state, to go back to living that way again, or go back to that job again, or process everything that has to be done at that job.
Laura Lummer 21:38
But we don't think that's enough. It is enough, acknowledging that mentally, and emotionally, I am not in the place to do what I did before, to handle what I did before, or to live the way I did before. And if you know that for yourself, that is enough, it is legitimate, having an emotional, or a mental health need is equally as legitimate as a physical need. Okay? And you don't have to prove to someone that you're sick, if you know, you need mental and emotional support, your entitlement to self care is justified because you need it, period, because you deserve it. Right. And I want to offer this shift very clearly. It's an important shift from I've got to prove I'm ill, so that I can live the life I want to, I'm making a decision to support my healing by living the life I want. Okay, so we get to shift into that, what is it going to take to support your healing, and that can be healing on a physical level, an emotional level, a mental level, or relationship level, a life level? What is it going to take to heal your life, the way you want it to be healed, and live it the way you want to live? You get to make that decision. And you do not need a physical illness to validate that decision. Okay. Another reason that I hear and definitely something I had to process, when faced with the desire to make a change, and the responsibility of making a decision to make that change happen, is being perceived as weak. Especially if the environment is something like what I described to you before, if your work culture, if your family culture, if it's, you know, high performance and very competitive, and a lot of people are like they just push, push, push, push, push, right? The more you work, the better, push harder, don't give up. And so you tell yourself the story that if I don't want to do that anymore, that means I'm weak. You know, what if people think I'm weak, am I weak, and I want to offer to you, but it takes so much strength to decide to change your life, to decide to evaluate the things you are conditioned to believe in the things that people around you are conditioned to, and they buy into these belief systems. It takes a tremendous amount of strength to say, I'm not going to do that anymore. I'm not going that route anymore. I'm going to be strong enough to listen to myself and make a decision for myself and say, This is the change that I need. And man it's hard to do and who there's a lot of discomfort coming up here. But it takes a tremendous amount of strength. And so if you see yourself as weak if you tell yourself this story, like I shouldn't be able to do that I should be able to go back. I want to do If you have different perspective and ask yourself, Why do you say that? Why should we always go back to something that was just to explore that for yourself? Why? Why is that? What is the belief system behind it? Why is it that we can't one day in our life realize, I want a change? And I decided I want my life to look differently. And I'm going to give myself permission to create that life. What is your story about that? Ask yourself that why is it not okay? To embrace that change, you deserve happiness, you are worthy of happiness, your desire to create something that gives you happiness is the only thing you need to validate your desire for change. That's it. Okay.
Laura Lummer 25:55
Another thing that I, I see, and I perceive, and I think this is kind of a thread and the things that I've been discussing here is just a really misunderstanding about self care, and why self care is important, why it's not some frivolous, take a bubble bath, get a massage, and you don't need an excuse to take care of yourself, we get to take care of ourselves. Because we deserve to take care of ourselves, we deserve to support our mental and emotional well being, we definitely deserve to take care of our physical health, we don't have to have an excuse to create time for ourselves to go get a massage, if you want. We don't have to have an excuse or have our yoga class or a gym time be the last priority in life, we miss categorize maybe is the right way to say it. Self care, we don't understand that self care is literally like that rule they give you on the airplane where you give yourself oxygen first, that if you want to have a long, healthy, productive, joyful life, you got to take care of yourself, you've got to take care of yourself first. And I do not mean that in the way that people perceive it as selfishness. I want to remind you selfishness means taking care of yourself at a cost to someone else at a detriment to someone else. Self care means you're taking care of yourself, for the benefit of you, and all of those that love you. So that you don't show up as someone who's depleted and short tempered and exhausted and never able to fully engage and be joyful with the people around you. You take care of yourself so that you get to love your life. And you get to show up as someone who's taken the time to recharge and who can be present with other people. And who can set that example of self love and kindness. So I think that self care sometimes is perceived as this bougie thing that you need to have an excuse for, when it's really a priority in life. It's an inherent priority, you got to care for yourself, and you deserve to care for yourself. So I ask you to stop and think about the way you're caring for yourself. Now, the way you're telling yourself, you want to care for yourself in the upcoming year, that future version of you, that future life you want to live? And are you stopping yourself from moving in that direction. Because you don't believe that your internal need for change is socially valid. Okay, really consider that. Think about what that means to you. And honestly, I'm not joking when I say get out of pencil and piece of paper and write down the judgments you're afraid of other people's perceptions you're afraid of and see how powerful the need for social validation is, in stopping you from living the life you want to live. These are all based on deeply internalized beliefs. And I mean internalized beliefs that have come from some of the examples I gave from our great grandparents, to our grandparents to our parents to us from work environments we grew up in from the way friends work from maybe being surrounded by Type A personalities. We see things we perceive things and we say, oh, that's the way I'm supposed to be. But it's just a thought. And if one of your thoughts is the only valid reason for changing my life is that something's horrible, or that I'm sick, right that I've got to be sick because that's what attracts more illness, right? We keep ourselves from stepping into healing from stepping into vibrancy from stepping into just complete joy and purpose and living the life we love. If we say I'm not allowed to do that, I have to be in the rat race. I have to be doing what other people think I should be doing. Otherwise, I'm gonna get judged. Right? This is word coaching and self coaching. is all about this fear of other people's thoughts, this fear of repercussions? What if you go through treatment and your doctor releases you and you're not ready to go back and you say, you know, I do like that job. And I do like what I do, and I do like the people I work with, but I'm just not ready yet. Emotionally, I'm not ready yet, do we have a belief that someone else will perceive you as being weak that someone else will judge you for that, and that, if they do, so you'll be passed over? For promotions, for opportunities for benefits for anything of that nature. And if you do have that belief, I want to offer you this is that really the environment you want to be in? Isn't the environment you think it is? If caring for yourself is something you feel will be a detriment? To your job, or to your career or to your relationship? Really think about that? What makes something right for you? What makes something good for you? What makes something fit for you? And I'm asking you those questions, so that you ask them of yourself, what makes something right for you? If someone's judging you, if you believe, are they really judging you? First of all, are you just believing that are you telling yourself a story about something that isn't even true, that keeps you from caring for yourself, and that keeps you from creating the life you want to live? Stepping into the life you want to live. And let's not make a mistake here and think that that's always comfortable. I shared my story with you that here I was knowing that I wanted something different knowing that I wanted to do exactly what I'm doing now, coaching breast cancer survivors. Unquestionably, I knew that was what I wanted to do. And it was a big, scary, uncomfortable leap. Sometimes things feel uncomfortable, because they're not familiar because they're unknown. But when the thing that we know, is causing us daily discomfort that we're aware of, it's time to sit with that and look at the thoughts behind it. They keep you there. What do you have to let go of, to create space in your life, to look at other opportunities to look at other solutions, to look at other ways of being that maybe will bring you more joy? I hope that that helps you some good questions here, to ask yourself and to explore, and to remember that all these things, all these thoughts and fears about perceptions from other people, or all of these thoughts about violating what you've always held as a belief system. If you stop and you really think about them, and you realize somebody made that up, and you can make up something else that serves you better. I'd love to hear what you think about that. And I'd love to hear what you want to do for yourself, or even what you need to overcome what holds you back. So you can find me on Instagram and Facebook as the breast cancer recovery coach, you can DM me, you can join my free Facebook group, the the breast cancer recovery group, or you can come and work with me in the better than before breast cancer life coaching membership, where we work on all the stuff, letting go of all the things that keep us from living a life that's better than before breast cancer because that is what we deserve. And I'm 100% confident in that. All right, my friends, I'm wishing you the happiest and safest of New Years and I'll talk to you soon. Take care
Speaker 1 33:44
you've heard your courage to the test laid all your doubts your mind is clearer than before your heart is full and wanting more your futures Give it all you know you've been waiting on your this is your