Katie Utterback of ‘elevated aura’: “Embrace What Makes You Weird”

Embrace What Makes You Weird The thing that makes you different or weird or unique is your superpower. I have always been told I’m very kind and a good listener, which makes sense since I identify as an empath, an intuitive feeler. When I was growing up, I resisted these characteristics, these superpowers because I didn’t […]

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Embrace What Makes You Weird

The thing that makes you different or weird or unique is your superpower. I have always been told I’m very kind and a good listener, which makes sense since I identify as an empath, an intuitive feeler. When I was growing up, I resisted these characteristics, these superpowers because I didn’t think they were flashy, cool, or sexy. But now I recognize that it’s my kindness that makes me approachable. And because I’m a good listener, people are not afraid to share their deepest, darkest secrets with me, and that’s how I became successful as a coach. By just being who I am at my core. The same is true for every one of us. Your superpowers may look different than mine, but you have them. Embrace them.

As a part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Katie Utterback, CLC.

Katie Utterback, CLC, is the founder and lead healer at elevated aura, an international holistic coaching firm specializing in helping individuals learn to love and accept themselves especially after experiencing narcissistic abuse or other toxic relationships. Katie has been a featured guest on several health and wellness podcasts and is a frequent source on how to recover from narcissistic abuse. Her first book, Ripping Off Rose-Colored Glasses: A Narcissistic Abuse Survivor’s Memoir will be published in the Fall of 2021.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?

Yes, happy to! My name is Katie Utterback, CLC, I am a certified life coach specializing in narcissistic abuse recovery. I live in San Diego with my wonderfully supportive husband, AJ, and my fur baby Jagger.

Prior to becoming a certified life coach, I attended the University of St. Thomas in Saint Paul, Minn., where I majored in Communications and Journalism and received a minor in Psychology. For more than 10 years I worked in journalism, marketing, public relations, and even dabbled as a podcast host, producer, and working side-by-side with private investigators. My work was interesting, but I always felt like I was missing something in life. I couldn’t exactly put my finger on what it was that I was lacking, until that is, my world forever changed.

A few years ago, I had a life-changing experience in which I essentially was forced to realize I had grown up in a toxic household where I had been playing the role of black sheep/scapegoat for most of my life. Heartbroken and confused why previous generations on both sides of my family had not felt the need to address the alcoholism, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, mental health disorders, and more, I believed I had two options: Spend the rest of my life blaming others for my ‘bad luck’ or turn inward, work on healing the bruises on my heart, and get clear on what it is I wanted out of life.

During my healing journey, I connected with myself and was able to fully accept myself as I am who I am for the first time. As I shared my experience with others, I discovered my natural talents as a coach seemed to fill the ‘what’s missing’ void and began my journey to become a certified life coach.

My hope is that by becoming a resource, a confidante for others who have experienced narcissistic abuse, codependency, or toxic relationships, I can help you heal some of the toxic tics you may have picked up along the way and reconnect with what makes you happy. To help you rediscover what ignites a fire in your belly and what makes your soul sing.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?

When I initially started my healing journey, I had no intention of working in the wellness space. As much as I loved the topics, I just felt it was a little too “woo woo” to make a career out of without going back to school and becoming a licensed therapist. I didn’t think anyone would take me seriously. But when I decided to estrange myself from my family of origin to protect my self-love, my mental health, my spiritual self, my relationship with my husband, I realized that my self-care tool belt that I had created to help myself heal was not “woo woo” at all and it, in fact, could be beneficial to others.

I started sharing positive affirmations, healing techniques, breathwork practices, meditations, and journal prompts on social media and the feedback was just unbelievable. I had people telling me that I was more effective in a 20-minute Facebook conversation than their therapist had been over the past five years. Even people I worked with in my day job started coming up to me and saying that I had made a comment and they decided to go to therapy after all. I was so flattered, I felt like I was creating good, so I kept going. I kept sharing my story and healing techniques, and that’s when I realized I had made a career out of the thing that I didn’t think was possible.

I’m still learning more and more every day about spirituality and the mind and the power we have inside ourselves to heal from trauma if we so choose. And let me tell you — this is not “woo woo” at all. This is tough stuff we’re dealing with, I just never realized it before because THIS is my calling. To help others heal and learn to recognize their self-worth.

Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Working as a coach has been incredibly humbling. I’m learning to take things less personally as well as how to meet people where they are, not where I think they should be.

When I first started helping others heal and learn to love themselves, I made the mistake of believing their success or lack thereof was dependent on me and how much work and energy I was pouring into them. But I later realized when I have a client who successfully completes my narcissistic abuse recovery program and learns how to better love themselves, that’s all because they did the work. It’s not because I did anything unique or different or magical. They took the time to invest in themselves. They showed up for themselves, and that’s why they saw healing progress.

But the same is true when I have a client who doesn’t progress or doesn’t show up for every session. It’s not a reflection of me or my coaching abilities; it’s a reflection of that individual’s healing process and where they are in that healing journey during that moment.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I was isolated for a lot of my life, that’s what happens with narcissistic abuse, so I know it sounds corny, but I really have to credit Christina Aguilera for helping me push through my self-doubt to get to where I am today.

I’ve been listening to her music since “Reflection” was first released in the late 90s and I watched her respond through music to her own ups and downs in life, from childhood abuse to divorce to being taken advantage of in the music industry. I’m usually a few albums behind her in terms of my own explorations of sexuality and spirituality, but her messages continue to resonate with me today.

Some of my favorite Christina Aguilera songs to help me feel re-charged or pull myself out of a funk include:

  • “Lotus Intro”
  • “Fighter”
  • “Beautiful”
  • “Fall in Line”
  • “Twice”
  • “Telepathy”
  • “Make the World Move”
  • “Birds of Prey”
  • “Dreamers”
  • “Army of Me”
  • “Circles”
  • “Empty Words”

The other “person” in my life that inspires me is the character “Elle Woods” from Legally Blonde. Before I start a new project, interview, call, or even meet with a client, I listen to “Perfect Day” by Hoku, which is the song that plays at the beginning of the movie. And as I listen, I try to channel the energy Elle had when she was bound and determined to get into Harvard Law School. I created a little meme and shared it on Instagram and it went viral.

Ok perfect. Now let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?

What a lot of people don’t necessarily realize is that when we experience trauma in our lives, it alters our DNA, our cellular structure, our being. There are studies that show that descendants of the Holocaust had PTSD passed down to them and we’ve been able to scientifically replicate this trauma phenomenon in lab mice, in which we can see the trauma-altered DNA six generations down the line. This is what is referred to as generational trauma.

Now the good news is that when we take the time to love ourselves to heal our wounds, we can actually be the cycle breaker. We have a choice to not carry these toxic attitudes and behaviors into the future. We can start pumping our cells and DNA with healing, care, and self-love, not more of the same abusive, toxic, or dysfunctional tendencies that we learned from our parents, who likely learned those behaviors from their parents, etc. And when we take the time to heal, we show up differently in the world. We have more awareness, more of an abundance mindset.

Hurt people hurt people. If we prioritize our healing and self-care instead of worrying about impressing people we may not even like in real life, we could see a tremendous ripple of goodness throughout our planet. And that’s why I started coaching. I really want to be part of the team that helps our planet come together and heal, community by community, person by person.

Can you share your top five “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing? Please give an example or story for each.

1. Cut Toxic People from Your Life. I hear a lot of people say whenever I’m around “X” person they make me feel bad about myself. They make me feel less than or unattractive, how can I change that?

The way to change that is to surround yourself with people who inspire you to be the best version of yourself, people who recognize your worth just as you are and celebrate you for you. It’s easier said than done, but just because someone was in our lives in the past doesn’t mean they will be with us in the future. And the same applies to toxic family members. Ask yourself: If I wasn’t related to these people would I have anything to do with them? If the answer is no, act accordingly.

When we let go of the toxic people in our lives, the people we have outgrown, the people that don’t encourage us to love ourselves as we are, to have the confidence to try new things, we’re not making space for new people to come into our lives. We’re not creating the room for new friends, a chosen family, or to evolve on any level. It’s that stagnation that kills our soul and spirit and turns us into a person we don’t recognize. So, if you notice that’s you, start spending less and less time with people you suspect are making you feel less than and see how your energy shifts without them around. Watch how you bloom.

2. Say ‘No’ to Anything and Everything that Doesn’t Excite You

Burnout is real. As adults, we tend to ignore our burnout feelings because we think we have to do x, y, and z for a variety of reasons. Sometimes we don’t say ‘no’ at work because we believe if we continue to give and give, we’ll get a raise or a promotion. We don’t say ‘no’ to our friends because we are desperate to have excitement and go back to a time when we felt carefree. We may even say ‘yes’ to a date we’re not that interested in because it’s better than being alone. But when we say ‘yes’ to things we kind of want or things we don’t want at all, we’re not making the space for the things we do want. So, I highly encourage you to politely decline those events, parties, networking events, opportunities, and relationships you’re not interested in, and I dare you to say ‘yes’ to everything that excites you.

3. Move Your Body

Our emotions get trapped in our body: fear, anxiety, stress. And unless we move that energy out, it can flare up inside of us and make us feel like we’re in fight or flight mode. It can make us doubt ourselves and it can make us act in ways we wouldn’t normally behave. The key is to move your body every day. One of my favorite ways to move my body is by putting on some music and dancing, moving my body as she feels the rhythm of the music. I don’t judge or criticize or choreograph; I just listen and respond to where she wants me to move.

4. Hydrate

Just as the Earth is mostly composed of water so are the human body and the human brain. When we don’t drink enough water, the first place our body grabs its new water source is our brain. The impact is one that most of us have experienced before: we act out of character, we can’t think clearly, it’s all foggy. When we hydrate, we are nurturing our minds. Just like a plant needs water to thrive, our brains need water too. When we care for and nourish our body and mind, our body responds with gratitude. She moves easier, she’s able to rest and relax, and she can come alive with creativity.

5. Embrace What Makes You Weird

The thing that makes you different or weird or unique is your superpower. I have always been told I’m very kind and a good listener, which makes sense since I identify as an empath, an intuitive feeler. When I was growing up, I resisted these characteristics, these superpowers because I didn’t think they were flashy, cool, or sexy. But now I recognize that it’s my kindness that makes me approachable. And because I’m a good listener, people are not afraid to share their deepest, darkest secrets with me, and that’s how I became successful as a coach. By just being who I am at my core. The same is true for every one of us. Your superpowers may look different than mine, but you have them. Embrace them.

If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?

My dream is for everyone to spend time healing their inner child wounds. Inner child wounds are how we refer to those traumatic memories or events that are burned into our conscious or more often, subconscious. What that trauma looks like is unique to each one of us. Some have more inner child healing to do than others, but it’s all equally important.

Even if you don’t remember most of your childhood, which I didn’t remember most of mine at the beginning of my healing journey, these memories stay with you. It’s why we get a funny feeling or become emotional when we hear a certain song, a name, or smell a familiar scent, even if we’re not entirely sure why. These memories get triggered time and time again if we don’t take the time to understand our pain and heal our wounds.

Think of it this way: When you get into a car accident as an adult, do you get a little nervous when you have to pass through the intersection where your accident occurred? Do you maybe drive a little slower and panic if a car seems to be too close? A similar phenomenon happens when we encounter people and places who remind us of times in our childhood when our needs were not met. And for most of our lives, we allow this dysfunction to continue by ignoring it.

Instead of recognizing we have a hurt 3-year-old or 15-year-old inside of us throwing a tantrum and running the show when we get triggered, we turn to substances to comfort ourselves and shut up the sad voice that wants to be comforted. We stuff our feelings with tobacco, alcohol, over-the-counter medications, exercise, television, eating too much, eating too little, and sometimes, we even harm ourselves physically, instead of doing the work to learn how to love and heal ourselves.

Think about it: if you were driving through the intersection where you had previously had an accident and started to get panicked, would you want someone to offer you a piece of chocolate cake or help you remember you’ve already survived the accident and listen to your fears? Maybe come up with a plan to reduce the power of that memory? I’m guessing most of us would want the latter. So why don’t we show up for ourselves in this way?

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?

1. The Healing Journey is a Cha-Cha

The wellness space, specifically self-care, has this reputation of being very light-hearted, you may picture bubble baths, yoga, and smiling all the time, but there’s a very dark, depressive side to our healing journey. Especially when we are doing the very important work of healing our inner child, we must face a lot of dark demons. So, our healing journey doesn’t look linear, it’s more of a cha-cha, two steps forward, one step back. This is true not just in the beginning stages of your healing journey, but throughout your entire life. And sometimes, you end up taking more than one step back. Sometimes you can’t even figure out how to move forward. But the important part is to get back up and keep trying, keep dancing — even if you have to freestyle.

2. Self-Care Involves Only You

In my head, I imagined that I was going to graduate from my life coaching certification program with five new best friends who had the same morals, political views, and goals as me and that everyone I knew would be so inspired by my life improvements that I would have an endless stream of clients looking to heal their relationship with themselves. Well, that didn’t happen.

I’ve spent more time alone on my spiritual journey than I thought I would. But spending time alone is normal when we’re on a healing or spiritual journey. I’ve had conversations with other female coaches in the spirituality, manifestation, healing space that had similar experiences. We all spend a lot of time alone because we’re meditating, we’re working on strengthening our physical bodies, nurturing ourselves with plant medicines and foods, but we crave that close, tight-knit female friendship to share this magic with. And the same is true for my clients.

Many of my clients hope that their boyfriend or sister or whoever will be inspired by their awakening and want to join them, but that often doesn’t happen. So, if you are interested in healing or working on yourself, the lesson here is to go after what you want and not wait for others to join you. This is a bit of an individual journey. The only person we’re with for our entire lives is ourselves so start creating a version of you that you love and are happy with. Once you do that, you’ll find your tribe of like-minded souls.

3. Journaling is Cathartic and Healing

When I was growing up, I had a lot of empty diaries and journals because I was too nervous to get the words out of my head and on to paper. I had a younger sister who would do anything and everything to break into these journals and I wasn’t confident my mother hadn’t read an entry or two either. So, needless to say, I kept everything inside. What I didn’t realize was just how toxic it was to keep things inside. Not only was I swallowing pains and hurts when my boundaries were violated, but I was also ruminating on everything and anything that hurt or embarrassed me in the past.

I was like a cow chewing on grass, only it was my critical thoughts that were doing the relentless chewing, and it wasn’t on grass; my inner critic was chewing on my self-worth.

As a young adult when I moved out on my own, I began to journal and let out my thoughts, wants, needs, and feelings, regardless of how pretty they were. As I got it out of my head, on to paper, it was like the thought had been heard and left me alone. It wasn’t until I started going back and re-reading some of the past journals that I realized how much I had grown, how much I had evolved. And it was because I gave myself a chance to feel what I felt. I gave myself a chance to honor my emotions just as they are without judging them.

The same is true for you. If you can’t talk to someone or if you have a problem that is bothering you, get it out of your head onto paper.

4. Stand Confident in Your Truth

There are always going to be people who make you feel like you’re doing it wrong whatever “it” may be. But if it feels right or authentic to you, you’re doing just fine.

At the beginning of my coaching career, I was comparing myself to a lot of other people and I would panic when they would say something I disagreed with wholeheartedly. I started feeling like a fraud in this space, until I realized my words, my perspective was resonating with a whole lot of other people. What I realized is that this is one of my healing journey lessons, that black and white thinking is not only inaccurate, it’s not healthy to view things so harshly through the lens of good vs evil. Now I worry a lot less about whether my message is one that resonates with the masses because I know what I’m saying means something to someone, even if it’s just me.

5. Take Time to Play

One thing that disconnects us from ourselves is this belief that we must act a certain way once we’ve reached a certain age. But I want you to challenge that idea that having fun or taking time to play is only for kids. For me personally, I’ve started coloring and rollerblading — two activities I loved during childhood, and you know what? I feel more connected to myself. I feel more authentic in who I am which allows me to show up differently in all parts of my life.

Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?

I initially wanted to say mental health is a topic that touches my heart, but it’s hard to look at any of these big topics on their own because they’re all so interwoven and connected. I’m not a vegan (yet) but I’m moving in that direction because of the benefits that it has not just for physical health, but mental health, the environment, and sustainability. When I eat meat, I worry about the energy I’m introducing into my body. I worry about the environmental stress meat puts on our planet, and I worry about how sustainable our current lifestyles are, especially when it comes to consumerism. So, I’m working on reducing my meat consumption, reducing my consumption of single-use items, as well as those that are harmful or toxic to animals.

Part of working in wellness is recognizing the truth, as hard as it may be to swallow. And one of those inconvenient truths is that our man-made environment of concrete and buildings and shops has absolutely created havoc on our mental health. It has put us in a vulnerable position when it comes to sustainability too because we know we can’t continue at the pace we’re going.

As someone who has studied psychology too, I’m also aware that taking a child for a 20–30-minute walk in nature has the same effect on their brain as Ritalin; calms them down. So, in that sense, it’s hard to separate environmental changes from our mental health. We are all connected to one another and the planet. It’s time we start acting like it.

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

I’m happy to connect on Instagram, my handle is @katieutterback

Thank you for these fantastic insights!

Thank you for this fun opportunity!

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