026: Overcoming the Power of Public Perception: Finding a Path That’s Authentically You
In today’s culture filled with constant noise and connectedness, it can be difficult if not impossible to filter out the external distractions and expectations that prevent us from being in dialogue with ourselves. Yet quality time with ourselves is so important to understanding who we are and our true desires in life.
Thirty years into a corporate career, Jennifer Arthurton hit rock bottom. Enduring divorce, joblessness, and constant exhaustion so profound she could barely get out of bed, she realized that she needed to figure out what she truly wanted in her career and get to know herself from within, not as defined by the roles in her life.
Now a successful entrepreneur, writer, podcast host, and coach, Jennifer joined BOSSTalk host La’Vista Jones to share her story of burnout and rebirth and remind us that it’s never too late to pivot into even our wildest dreams.
Introducing Jennifer Arthurton
La'Vista Jones 00:03
So, welcome to another episode of Boss Talk. I am your host La'Vista Jones, and today I am joined by my guest, Jennifer Arthurton. So welcome, Jennifer. I'm so excited to have you here.
Jennifer Arthurton 00:15
Thanks for having me.
La'Vista Jones 00:16
Yes. So let me tell our listeners a little bit about you. So, Jennifer is the creator and founder of Old Chicks Know Shit, which is a community and podcast that is designed to inspire and support midlife women in chasing their dreams and creating their kick-ass next chapter. In addition, Jennifer is an empowerment coach, podcast host, writer, and speaker. Having made her midlife course corrections, she is a passionate advocate of the inherent power and knowledge that women possess at a time when they often feel overlooked and doubt themselves the most.
I love your bio, and based on conversations that we have had, I think it is an absolutely perfect description of you and what you do in the marketplace. So, I want to start off, Jennifer...I ask every single guest this initial question when we get started, and it's: how do you personally define being a boss? I'd love to hear what you have to say.
Boss as Big Picture
Jennifer Arthurton 01:24
Being a boss, um, it's a really interesting question. And I actually have a little sign that's on a shelf in front of me here that says “CEO Boss” on it to remind myself to be in the CEO mindset. And really, for me, that is all about like, zooming out beyond myself to see my business almost as its own entity and what does my business need, as opposed to, like, what do I need right now – which is still very important, and I'm going to talk a lot more about that – but like, in the CEO mindset, it's, you know, you can see things a lot clearer, a lot more objective. And then it's like stepping up and taking responsibility for those things, which may or may not involve you personally. Right? Like, it might mean hiring somebody to do something or, you know, having a conversation with somebody, but really kind of stepping, like, beyond yourself to see your business as a whole. Because I think a lot of us, especially, like, entrepreneurs, we and our businesses become very, very intertwined.
La'Vista Jones 02:28
Very true. Very true. Yeah, because there are things that need to get done but don't necessarily need to be done by you, the CEO of the company. So, for me, “BOSS” is actually an acronym that stands for Battling Overwhelm with Systems and Self-care. And so, during each show, I get the pleasure of having candid conversations with bosses like you that have faced and battled moments of overwhelm in their businesses and lives, specifically by leveraging systems and practicing self-care. So, with that, Jennifer, are you ready to share how you are walking out your BOSS Talk?
Jennifer Arthurton 03:01
Jennifer’s Burnout Experience
La'Vista Jones 03:02
Alright. So, I want to dive right into your experience with burnout. Because we had a chance to talk before, we actually got on the mic and you shared, you know, some things with me. So, give us some insight into that experience. And what was that pivotal moment when you knew that you needed to come to terms with what you really wanted in your own life?
Jennifer Arthurton 03:25
Yeah, so I had a very long 30-year career, almost 30-year career, in corporate. And for the most part, I did love my job. It was a very busy job; I ran three different departments, numerous teams of people. I was traveling a lot. And, you know, and I put a lot into it, like I worked really, really hard. And then what happened for me was, I stopped sleeping. There was a point where I would go to bed and I would be, like, so tired but so wired at the same time. Like, where I would be lying there, but my eyes would pop open, and my brain would, you know, keep spinning things. And I was sleeping maybe two or three hours a night. And the weird part about it was I would wake up the next day and be able to just keep going. Like, I wasn't actually tired. And for me, you know, this went on for like a few months.
And at first I was like, ‘Well, this is great. Like, I just need less sleep, right?’ Like, I could just get less sleep and get more done. But over a period of time, you know – and there was other symptoms that started popping up as well, too, which at first I didn't quite relate to it. Like, I was having heart palpitations, headaches, like, various different joint aches, and I was very physically active at that time, so I was getting injured all the time doing, like, the silliest things. And then at some point I was like, ‘Wait a minute. Not sleeping and having all of this energy is not good. Like there's something wrong here.’ And so, you know, I really had to come to terms with okay, like, I need to do something. I need to, like, figure out what to do.
So, what I did was I decided to take a leave of absence from my job for a couple of months and just focus on my health. And I, you know, I had a timeline and a spreadsheet for exactly how this was going to go, right? I was going to take this time off. It was going to be like step one, step two, step three. Hey, I'm gonna come back bigger and better than ever. Well, anybody who's ever tried to heal anything knows that healing does not go to according to a schedule.
La'Vista Jones 05:26
Yes, like, your healing does not care about how beautiful your Excel spreadsheet is. It's like, “Uh, okay.”
Jennifer Arthurton 05:32
Nor is it linear, right? So, I did end up going back to work even though I didn't feel ready. And then what happened in the next, like, basically, six months of my life was, I found myself – well, actually a little bit more than six months of my life – but I found myself divorced, unemployed. I actually got replaced while I was on leave. And was an empty nester. And so, at that point, the sleeping had gotten to the point where I was now so physically exhausted, I still couldn't sleep. But I was so physically exhausted that I couldn't get out of bed. So, all of the roles and identities that I had taken on in my life, who I thought I was, was now all stripped away from me. I was basically bedridden, no longer a corporate executive, no longer a wife, no longer a mother, and I couldn't go to the gym or work out because I was too tired. Like, I literally physically couldn't get out of bed. And at that point, I said to myself, ‘Something has to change, because if I want my life to be different, I have to show up differently in it. Because quite frankly, the way it's been working, like the decisions I've made, have got me here. So, I need to make a whole different set of decisions if I want my life to look different, if I want to be different.’ So, that was kind of, for me, the turning point where it was like, I was literally forced to stop, stop everything. Like everything that kept me busy, that kept me occupied, was stripped away.
And so, I was forced into this place of stillness. And looking back on it, honestly, I mean, I look back on it as a huge gift. But I can also say that, left to my own devices, I never would have actually got to that point myself. I kind of had to be forced there, you know, with this set of circumstances. So, you know, whether it's the universe redirecting me or however you want to look at it, it needed to be big enough to get me to stop so that I could collect myself in order to regroup and, you know, turn in a different direction.
La'Vista Jones 07:32
That is so good. That is so good. And the point that you made that, right, like, left your own devices, you might not have actually made those choices, but it was all of these circumstances kind of, you know, coming together at this one time that were, like, the major catalysts for you to be like, “Yes, I'm gonna change.”
Jennifer Arthurton 07:53
Something’s got to give.
And, you know, along the way, in my career, like, probably, you know, in the last five or six years of my career, there had been this, like, little voice that would come up inside of me every once in a while...it'd be like, “Is this it? Is this what I've worked so hard for?” Like, I've done everything I'm supposed to do, I've checked all the boxes, you know, went to school, got good grades, got into a good college, got a good job, worked my way up the ranks, you know, became a corporate executive. And I was at the place that I had been striving for for so long. And yet I would look around and go, ‘Is this it?’ Like, this is what I've worked so hard for, but then I would push it away. Because first of all, I was like, ‘I'm too busy to deal with this.’ And the other part underneath it was I was like, ‘I don't know what to do about it.’ Like, this was my life. And like if I acknowledged it, it meant that I would have to change something. And all of that was just far too scary a thought for me to even entertain, so I would just shove it away and keep on keeping on until I literally couldn't keep on keeping on anymore.
La'Vista Jones 08:50
Yeah, yeah. So, hearing your story, right, and just kind of, like, listening to, like, all the things you had going on and just kind of, like, the internal struggle, right, that you're kind of painting for us that was going on with you...you know, I call myself a corporate dropout. And so, when I was in corporate, I experienced some really quick and some groundbreaking success, right, as I developed my career. And so, on paper I was quite successful. But I don't think that I really ever stopped to ask myself, like, what is happening right now, really what I want to have happen.
Like, you know, I should, you know, go to school, and I should get this job, and I should be doing this, and I should be going for this promotion, and I did those things. But it's like, is this what I really want? Is this what really is making me happy? Is this what is really fulfilling me? And so, you know, it sounds like you, you know, similarly, you know, felt that way, but, you know, you wouldn't really let yourself kind of go there. Now in hindsight, right, you've dealt with that experience. You've come through it. How did you reinvent yourself in your life on your own terms?
Jennifer Arthurton 10:02
Yeah. And so, you raise a really important point that I think this happens to a lot of us is, like, you know, we go through life checking the boxes and doing all the things that we are supposed to do, but never do we actually check in with ourselves to say, ‘Is this what I want? Like, is this actually making me happy?’ And then we end up in this place of our lives, and you're like, ‘Wait a minute. I didn't actually make a conscious decision to be here, right? I just got here, right?’ Like, that was the case for me. Like, the path was laid out, I just followed along like la di da.
And like, getting to that point and then recognizing, you know, that, like, everything was stripped away from me. And I recognized that, first of all, I didn't know who I was if I wasn't a wife, a mother, a corporate executive, and, like, a gym rat at that time. I had no idea who I was underneath all of that. And the second part was, I had no idea what I wanted for my life. Like, I actually didn't even know what would make me happy, right? Because I'd never actually asked myself that question. I had never spent time with myself long enough to start thinking about it. And the beautiful part of the way that my set of circumstances played out was I was forced into a place where, like, I literally couldn't do much. Like, grocery shopping was a major ordeal for me. Like I couldn't go to the store, buy the food, and then come home and put it away without having to have a two-hour nap somewhere in there. Like, that’s the level of physical exhaustion.
And so, I was forced into this place of stillness where I had to go inside. Like, I had to get to know me. And that's, like, the very first step that I counsel everybody. Because we live, in this day and age, incredibly busy lives; we have long to-do lists; we are bombarded with thousands of pieces of information every second, right? And we become so disconnected from ourselves in the process of that, we're so busy fielding everything outside of us than the inside connection. And so, the start of my journey really was about connecting inwards in the smallest possible ways to start with. And, you know, getting to know who I was.
So, I would start with like, you know, really short walks. Sometimes I would just go into the forest and sit underneath a tree, right, and just sit there and just be, like, with my journal and be like, ‘Okay, what's coming up?’ And some days it would be random, you know, stream of consciousness, and other days, you know, I would ask myself questions like, ‘Well, what do I need? What do I want in this very moment?’ And really started spending enough time with myself that I could build that relationship.
And then as that happened over time, like, I've started following these little inner nudges. Like one of the very first things that happened was I felt very called to write, and I had never really written anything in my life, other than, like, a corporate strategy deck and, you know, a PowerPoint presentation. And so, I started writing, which eventually turned into a blog, which turned into a podcast, and I just kept following these, like, little nudges of things that I wanted to do. But, like, you cannot get to that place where you find your purpose or with feeling connected to yourself without first spending time with yourself. So, whether that’s starting with a minute, or two minutes, or five minutes, or whatever is available to you sitting in silence. It could be, you know, while you're drinking your coffee in the morning, and the house is quiet, sit for five minutes, just be with yourself, not on your phone, not reading, not nothing. Just being with yourself. It’s so critically important.
La'Vista Jones 13:25
And, you know, I think that you talked about earlier, right, like sitting in that uncomfortableness when you are sitting with yourself, right? Because, you know, had you done that prior to, right, and actually listened to some of those little nudges, those little whispers, I like to call them, earlier, right, you know, maybe things would have been a little bit different. And so, you know, you even said that, like, I didn't want to really listen to that, because it seems scary, because it's like, if I really answer those questions and those things that are coming up for me right now, I know that that's going to require some change on my part. That seems too big for me. Yeah.
Jennifer Arthurton 14:03
Yeah. Well, exactly. Because, you know, when you look around – and this is the other thing – like, I would look around at, you know, my peers, my friends. We all had the same life. So, I was like, well, I didn't even know that there was any other route available to me, because this is all that I saw, right? So, I'm like, ‘Well, this must be it, and there must be something wrong with me.’ And I would question myself and say things like, ‘Well, you should be grateful for everything that you have. Like, I don't know why you feel this way, because like, you know, you have a great job. Like, I get great perks. You know, I live in a lovely house. I have great friends. Like, what's wrong with me?’ Right? And, like, for the longest time, I felt guilty that I was even, you know, entertaining that thought, even if it was just for a second, and that was another reason why I pushed it away, right? So, but really, I was being redirected. Like, who I was inside, my soul voice, my, you know, gut instinct, my intuition, like whatever you want to call it, was redirecting me somewhere. And to stop and to listen sometimes is an extreme act of bravery, because often it goes against everything that you know.
Staying Grounded in Our Authentic Selves
La'Vista Jones 15:07
Yes. And like you said earlier, everything that they tell you that you should be doing. So, you know, I had shared with you, when we first talked, you know, that I was in the process of writing a book. And so, in that book, The BOSS Shift, I talk about, you know, shitting on yourself and why you need to stop it, right. Because forcing ourselves into those boxes that they say that we should be in really depletes our energy.
And so, you know, you started talking about it, you know, about taking that time to be with yourself, really listening to, like, those whispers, you know, really listening to your intuition. Because, you know, I've said it before that, like, I feel like your gut knows what, you know, you want to do. Like, listen to her. She always knows, right? And so, when you kind of get some of that pushback, right, maybe from a spouse, or from peers, or from friends when you're kind of starting to kind of, like, buck out of that box, like, you're wanting some freedom, but people are like, “You should be happy. You've got a great career; you're successful; you're making good money; you're doing this; you're doing that.” How do we stay grounded in our authentic selves and cultivate that relationship with ourselves that nurtures us no matter what those outside voices are telling us that we should be happy with? How do we continue to cultivate that relationship with ourselves when we're hearing all of this crap from, like, other people?
Jennifer Arthurton 16:29
Yeah, you know, that's a fantastic question. Because, you know, like, we're constantly comparing ourselves. Like, it's human nature. We're comparing ourselves to everyone and everything around us, right? And especially as women, we've been taught to seek our validation outside of us. And so, like, that's all we know. And so, you know, when we first have these nudges or these whispers...I remember, like, thinking to myself, ‘People are gonna think I'm crazy.’ Right? Like, you know, because, like, you know, corporate executive, like, “What happened to her? Did she, like, you know, have a mental health crisis? Like what's going on?” And that thought alone kept me stuck for a very long time, because I would ignore what was coming up. Because I'm like, ‘People are gonna think I'm nuts.’
La'Vista Jones 17:13
The power of public perception. And the power of public perception is, like, huge. It is super powerful. It will keep you in places, and in mindsets, and doing things that, like, you really have no business doing, that's not bringing you any kind of joy, any kind of happiness, because of what you think they're gonna think. And at the end of the day, who gives a shit about what they think.
Jennifer Arthurton 17:35
And it's your life. They are not living it. It's your life. And so, getting to that point where – and this really comes down to trusting yourself and trusting your instinct, right? Because at first, it's very foreign, and it's like, ‘You want me to do what?’ You're like, ‘No, no, forget that.’ Right? But eventually, over time, when you start, you know, building trust in your instinct and getting to know yourself, right, you take small steps towards the thing, and you see how it feels. And like, in my case, for example, you know, when I first started writing, I was like, ‘Man, this feels so good.’ Right? And then I would kind of take the next step, and I would get really excited. And there was this passion that was, like, welling up inside me that I didn't even know existed, and it was, like, the spark. And I just decided at some point that I was going to be like, ‘I'm going to follow this spark of joy.’
At first, I kept it to myself, because just like, you know, when you're walking on Bambi legs, right, you're still kind of trying to get used to it. I kept it to myself. But as time went on, I would share it with my friends, and you know, or old colleagues and things like that. And the response that I was expecting, I didn't get. In fact, it was like, “Oh, this is so cool.” Like, you know, “How could I do that, too?” And that was kind of the response. So, I had blown this thing up in my head that was so huge, when the reality is it wasn't.
But it really is important to keep it to yourself at the beginning, while you're still practicing. Because when you're on shaky legs, it's so easy to get knocked off, right, by somebody else's opinion, especially if it's somebody that you really trust, right? You know, I remember taking a job in my corporate career where this mentor of mine said, “Oh, that's not the right job for you.” But I had this feeling inside where I was like, ‘I just kind of know.’ And then, you know, I went against everything that she said and took this job. And it turned out to be one of the best jobs I've ever had.
But, like, trusting yourself enough and trusting your instinct enough comes over time. And so, you start with small things, right? And then and the other thing I always say is, ‘Follow the joy. Follow the bliss. Follow the passion.’ Even if it feels really out there and really ridiculous. Even if it’s the little bit, just follow it, because it's igniting something inside you.
Giving Yourself Permission to Pivot
La'Vista Jones 19:43
I love that. I love that for the person that is listening in it's just, like, they're resonating with what you're saying. They're resonating with, you know, the experience that you have had. And they're like, “Yeah, like, I feel like there's something else out there for me. There's something else I want to do.” How do we give ourselves that permission to do that thing?
Jennifer Arthurton 20:05
Yeah. One of the first things I tell people all the time is to spend some time daydreaming. So, as kids, you know, we daydreamed about, you know, what we wanted to be, what we're going to be when we grow up, you know, who we're going to marry, where we're going to live, and all of this kind of stuff. And inevitably, some adult or teachers said to us, “Hey, stop daydreaming and get back to work.” And then what happened is, is we kind of forgot it. So, when somebody has a dream or a desire for something, the first step I always say is just play with it in your head a little bit. Like, picture yourself doing that thing. Like, if it's like, “I really want to drive a race car.” Then just picture yourself in the race car. What does that feel like? What do you feel like in the turns? Who's with you? What's the sound of the car? What is, you know...and just like, really immerse yourself in that situation. Like, and if you can – and this happens over time – like, create kind of an emotional connection with that. Like, feel the feelings of how you feel while you're in that visualization.
And why that's so important is, like, you know, often we have these, like, little dreams and nudges. And they come up and we go, ‘Oh, that's ridiculous.’ And we push them away, right, and we never actually allow them to take hold. When we entertain them for a little bit, and it's like, ‘Okay, I'm gonna spend the next five minutes thinking about what it's gonna be like to be a racecar driver.’ Right? We're actually planting it in our brain. So, what happens is, is our brain, our subconscious brain doesn't know the difference between real and imagined, right? So, when you imagine the process of going through things, your brain thinks you've already done it. And so, the fears and the limiting beliefs that would normally stop you as you go to take step towards those things, are actually quiet a little bit. Like, they don't go away. They never go away. Newsflash, right. But they've quieted a little bit that'll allow you to take a step in the direction of that thing. So, it's like putting yourself there before you're even there.
I mean, I do this daily. It's like, it's part of my morning practice, visualization. Like, what's the goal that I have? I even use it on small things. Like, when I'm at the gym, if I'm about to do an exercise that I think is really, really hard or I don't think I can do, I stop for a second, I literally physically picture myself doing this, and then I do it. And I have to say, like, 90% of the time, like it's not 100%, but 90% of the time, it's like, ‘Oh, I did not know I could do that.’ And then.
So, really kind of just allowing yourself to play with it inside your brain or even write it down in your journal, right. Give it a place to live. Give it some air to breathe. Give it some space. And then it becomes more and more real. It's not this, like, ludicrous little idea that you keep pushing off to the side. It actually starts to ignite that passion in you that will allow you to take the steps towards it. So, you know, in the case of a racecar driver, maybe you're not gonna go jump in a car tomorrow, but maybe you'd go to the racetrack, you know, on the weekend, right, and just watch it. And like, how do you feel? Right, just, like, so you're inching your way into it.
You know, and I remember, like, when I started writing, then I felt like I had to publish this, so I started a blog. And the very first blog that I ever published, I had to sit on my hands for three days to not go back and delete it. Because I’m like, ‘What am I doing?’ Like, all the little fears, like, ‘People are gonna think you're nuts. Like, what's happening?’ Right? But I was like, ‘Okay, I just need to get through this.’ Right? And then I left it there, and then people started responding to it. And again, it got space, you know, and it started to grow from that point. So, giving yourself the space...like, even like I said, if you're not telling anybody, you know. Don't tell your husband you want to be a racecar driver, because he's gonna give you the 15 reasons why you're not a racecar driver. Slide for a little bit. Play with it.
La'Vista Jones 23:42
I love that. I really, really do. And I resonate, right, with you putting something out there and then, like, you sit on it, and you're like, ‘Oh, my god, like, why did I do that?’ Like, ‘Why did do that?’ I was talking to my editor, even about the book, and I was just like, ‘Okay, I have spent all this time, and it's just like, is anybody gonna care? Is anybody gonna care that, like, I have poured all these words out onto the pages?’ I don't know. And she's like, it'll be fine. And I'm like, ‘I don't know. I don’t know.’
Jennifer Arthurton 24:12
Yeah, yeah. Like, you're putting a little piece of yourself out there, right? And you're like, ‘Yeah, we're looking for the acceptance and the validation.’ And so, we're like, ‘Oh, my God, I hope people like it.’ Right?
Connect with Jennifer Arthurton
La'Vista Jones 24:21
Exactly, exactly. But part of being a visionary is being able to cast that vision and, like you're saying, give yourself some space with it and to make little actions towards seeing that vision come to fruition. I love that. I really, really do.
So, you know, I think that's a good place for us to close our discussion for today, Jennifer. So, with that, I want to thank you so much for being my guest and just kind of sharing so openly about, like, your own experience and how you use that, right, to work with women in the marketplace that are in that same place that you have described that you were in. Kind of feeling a certain kind of way, feeling that angst about, “This is something else I want to do” and, like, giving themselves the permission to go after it and to actually do it. So, before we go tell the listeners how they can actually connect with you.
Jennifer Arthurton 25:14
So, I am on all of the social media, so Facebook and Instagram at oldchicksknowshit.com. So that's old chicks K-N-O-W shit dot com. And my website is the same name. So, you can find me on all the socials. I also have a free Facebook group as well of the same name. So, you can find me on all the things. And my podcast is also called Old Chicks Know Shit, so easy to find me on all the social platforms.
La'Vista Jones 25:42
Yes, so go and listen to Jennifer because Old Chicks Know Shit.
And so, for those of you that are listening, make sure to check out the show notes at therealbosstalk.com for the tips and resources that were mentioned in today's show. And I am confident that something about today's episode resonated with you and is going to challenge you to make a shift to continue to do what you love without sacrificing yourself to do it. So, until next time, be sure to subscribe to the show and continue to battle overwhelm with systems and self-care and walk out your BOSS Talk.