“I allow space to be imperfect and recognize that things are always changing.” with Nicolle Molina Osequeda & Fotis Georgiadis

I allow space to be imperfect and recognize things are always changing: I remind myself that I wont always be in the same situation, have the same feelings or be in the same amount of discomfort, in 2 hours, 2 days or 2 weeks. There are times when I feel stressed or frustrated and it […]

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I allow space to be imperfect and recognize things are always changing: I remind myself that I wont always be in the same situation, have the same feelings or be in the same amount of discomfort, in 2 hours, 2 days or 2 weeks. There are times when I feel stressed or frustrated and it feels like it will be like this forever. I always remind myself that things will not always feel this way and I can still practice compassion and remind myself things will be okay.

I had the pleasure to interview Nicolle Molina Osequeda, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, specializing in relationships (friends, intimate relationships and families) and the challenges within those relationships — like communication, finances, boundaries, life transitions etc. She founded Lincoln Park Therapy Group in Chicago in 2016 Lincolnparktherapygroup.com. A practice that focuses on supporting people through life’s challenges and embodies their core central values of compassion, inclusion and cultivating change.

Thank you so much for joining us! I’d love to begin by asking you to give us the backstory as to what brought you to this specific career path.

I’ve always found myself drawn to supporting others. My career starting as a community support specialist working with severely developmentally and physically disabled adults. I developed such warm and meaningful relationships with these individuals and loved supporting their independence and learning life skills. This led me to my next step earning my credential as an adult education teacher for the same population. It was around this time that I met a friend who was a therapist and she shared with me how rewarding it was to work one on one with kids and individuals to support them in their journey of self development and growth. I decided at this time to go back to school for my Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology. My initial placements were working with high risk youth in the foster care system with aggressive or challenging behaviors. I received the bulk of my training at a residential facility in Oakland, CA. with youth with dual diagnoses, developmental disabilities and mental health challenges. Supporting people to manage, cope and gain self- awareness towards their growth has always been a passion of mine. I am always so grateful and honored to be granted access and given such trust to accompany people on their journey to healing and growth. I truly enjoy the work I do and the people I am able to support.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you hope that they might help people along their path to self-understanding or a better sense of wellbeing in their relationships?

Right now my focus has shifted a bit from the clinical work (even though I still do a lot of that) to growing our practice offerings, empowering emerging clinicians and growing their skills set and ability to help and empower others and continuing my own knowledge and skill set in understanding shame and shame resilience in an effort to support others to do the same within their own lives and learn to love themselves.

Do you have a personal story that you can share with our readers about your struggles or successes along your journey of self-understanding and self-love?

Learning to love myself, imperfections and all, has always been a journey for me. I have spent most of my life being very critical of my appearance and my own abilities. When I discovered and later became certified in Brené Brown’s Daring Way and understood more about shame, vulnerability, shame resilience and self-compassion something shifted for me. Things that used to hold me back like starting a larger practice, becoming a business owner, accepting with love and compassion how my body looked rather than striving for perfection I was able to truly take risks and try things I never thought I was capable of.

Was there ever a tipping point that triggered a change regarding your feelings of self acceptance?

Understanding more about shame, my own personal shame triggers and understanding the shared experience feeling shame as humans helped me move through it and accept myself more. It is an ongoing practice and something I struggle with on a daily basis, however I feel more equiped than ever to move through moments like this. Maybe it was how many times I shared and discussed The Daring Way curriculum with my clients, but it was a way to help me understand and embody the self-compassion and acceptance.

According to a recent study cited in Cosmopolitan, in the US, only about 28 percent of men and 26 percent of women are “very satisfied with their appearance.” Could you talk about what some of the causes might be, as well as the consequences?

There are so many messages around how we should look, what the ideal body or beauty standard is and even the concept that you should never be ‘satisfied” and keep working on yourself. It makes sense that those numbers are so low. The consequences are missing out on experiences — avoiding them, being there but not being present or feeling like we don’t deserve to be there because we haven’t achieved the unrealistic and unattainable appearance we are saturated with through our culture, media and value placed on it. The consequences can be never allowing yourself to soak in the ocean because you don’t feel you look good enough, miss out on sunny days because you don’t like how you look in shorts, avoiding dating because you’ve decided that you’ll never be loved , avoid growing your family because you’re afraid of how your body will respond…all of these things are limiting, perpetuated by fear and perfectionism and truly limit us from enjoying everything life has to offer.

As cheesy as it might sound to truly understand and “love yourself,” can you share with our readers a few reasons why it’s so important?

It’s so important to love ourselves before we are capable of really loving anyone else. I love Brené Brown and I think her work has been personally transformative and have seen it transform the lives of my clients. One of my favorite quotes of hers that really stays with me is “we can only love others as much as we love ourselves”. To me it means if I internally am criticizing myself and holding myself to a high perfectionistic standard, then I am also doing that with others and the people I love. I need to begin with practicing self-compassion towards myself and then I am capable of practicing it towards my fellow humans — friends, family, lovers and strangers — but until then I am not truly able to engage, be present and vulnerable and love others. Loving ourselves allows us to fully engage in the depth of humanness, the vulnerability it brings and then connect and feel connection with others. If we are still struggling with giving ourselves acceptance, grace and generosity to be imperfect, its very hard or nearly impossible to give it to others.

Why do you think people stay in mediocre relationships? What advice would you give to our readers regarding this?

I think there are many reasons why people stay in relationships that one might consider mediocre. There is the hope things will change or go back to a way they once were, love the person and lack the skills or support to increase connection and mutually get their needs met, feel shame around a commitment and it not working out, or feel like it’s too late or might be impossible to find something that is meaningful. It’s hard to be vulnerable enough to say this isn’t working out for me anymore, it takes so much courage to make a change even when there are clear reasons why you think one “should.” You need to decide what does or does not work for you, not in the context of what you think you “should” do or what you would think others would “think” was right or wrong, but what truly works for you.

When we talk about self-love and understanding we don’t necessarily mean blindly loving and accepting ourselves the way we are. Many times self-understanding requires us to reflect and ask ourselves the tough questions, to realize perhaps where we need to make changes in ourselves to be better not only for ourselves but our relationships. What are some of those tough questions that will cut through the safe space of comfort we like to maintain, that our readers might want to ask themselves? Can you share an example of a time that you had to reflect and realize how you needed to make changes?

I think it’s important to ask ourselves what we are bringing to a dynamic and have the courage to look at what we could do better. We do that by seeking to understand the reflections, needs and complaints of our partner. We listen and try to see their perspective before hearing and preparing our defense. We come from a place of being generous with our assumptions of the other person and courageous enough to be vulnerable and imperfect. What are common themes that come up in your disagreements or conflict with your partner, friends or colleagues? What are areas of your relationship where you could be better, do better or be more generous? Are you truly listening and connecting with what you need in your relationship? How about your partner’s needs? Are you setting boundaries of your own? Why are they important to you? Are you respecting the boundaries others are setting with you? Are you open to feedback from others? Are really listening to them? What is the need your partner is expressing? Can you meet somewhere in the middle? Are saying what you mean and being clear about your expectations?

So many don’t really know how to be alone, or are afraid of it. How important is it for us to have, and practice, that capacity to truly be with ourselves and be alone (literally or metaphorically)?

I think the capacity to be alone (literally and metaphorically) is sometimes difficult for people because it creates the space for rumination, shame and negative thought spirals to creep in. Learning to cope and move through all of that is learning how to be more shame resilient and therefore more able to cope with being alone. Accepting our imperfections and celebrating and honoring our own needs is important. There also seems to be a negative connotation with time spent alone. Spending time alone can be empowering, restorative and allow us the opportunity to check in with ourselves and use the information that comes up for us as an opportunity for self-reflection and to get curious about what this means to us.

How does achieving a certain level of self-understanding and self-love then affect your ability to connect with and deepen your relationships with others?

When we are able to truly be accepting of our own imperfections and practice self compassion and acceptance then we are able to be vulnerable enough (our walls our down and we are open) to connect deeply with someone else. We are not only able to accept ourselves but to accept others imperfections, humanness and this too allows for that deeper connection. When we have that veil of perfection and being bulletproof it is actually something that separates us and keeps us from connecting with others.

In your experience, what should a) individuals and b) society, do to help people better understand themselves and accept themselves?

a) Stop holding yourself to perfectionistic standards;its unattainable and doesn’t bring you joy or blocks connection.

Get curious about the things you are so hard on yourself about. Where do you need to practice self-compassion towards yourself (hint: it’s probably the same things you find yourself criticising others about).

What lessons can be learned from what is hardest to accept about yourself? How can you move through the shame? Who can you connect with and rely on to hear your story and share in your journey?

b) Let’s stop holding each other to perfection and strive to be more open and accepting of each other.

How can we as a culture allow for the space to be vulnerable and imperfect to learn from our mistakes rather than becoming immediately judgmental and critical. How can we continue to grow and learn from each other?

How can we get curious rather than making assumptions? How can we give generousity of assumptions rather than getting angry and defensive?

What are 5 strategies that you implement to maintain your connection with and love for yourself, that our readers might learn from? Could you please give a story or example for each?

I allow space to be imperfect and recognize things are always changing: I remind myself that I wont always be in the same situation, have the same feelings or be in the same amount of discomfort, in 2 hours, 2 days or 2 weeks. There are times when I feel stressed or frustrated and it feels like it will be like this forever. I always remind myself that things will not always feel this way and I can still practice compassion and remind myself things will be okay.

I have perspective. Recently I had some health issues that kept me from working out and practicing my #1 stress management tool I have. This really taught me to open myself up to other tools that achieve that in a different way AND I reminded myself that this is temporary and will not feel like it does right now forever. I try and stay out of catastrophizing and thinking it will be like this forever.

I practice gratitude. My husband and I recently started asking eachother what was good today in oder to help us remember and emphasize all the good things that happen rather than focusing on the one frustrating thing. This allows me to see how many thinks I love about myself and my life even amidst the struggle and dissapointment we all have.

I practice self compassion. Lately due to my health issues and my ongoing struggle with body image, it has been hard to feel my body changing and some clothing tighter or not feeling as great in my own skin. This is where I really had to pull out the tools of reminding myself that I am so much more than this one physical part of myself and have not lost the core of what makes me, me. Again, that this is temporary and that I will soon be able to exercise again and feel more connected to my body, however in the meantime I can still love myself and recognize the strength and courage to go through this.

I am not a measure of how much I accomplish and what I can do. I have had to really begin to shift the expecation and notion that I am only as good as how much I can do or fit into a day. I practice honoring and cultivating silence and rest (actually my practice goal for 2019) and recongnizing the benefits it brings to me. This allows me space to be still and honor who I am in the moment.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources for self-psychology, intimacy, or relationships? What do you love about each one and how does it resonate with you?

I love The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown. I use this in my own life as practices or guideposts to integrate into my life. I also use this with clients to support them in recognize the common humanity or that we all feel shame and struggle with perfectionism. It helps people feel more connected and accepting of their shame and imperfections.

Daring Greatly by Brené Brown is another wonderful book that takes what we learn about shame and how we can use our values to guide us when things are terrifying, hard and we feel like retreating but that is risk is greater than having the courage to be vulnerable. I feel like this really has helped me personally, professionally and in my atheltic pursuits.

Self-Compassion by Kristin Neff. This book talks more in depth about what self-compssion is, the research behind it and specific practices, mediations and the power of being kind to yourself. I love this book so much because it offers real tools to use to begin that bractice of self kindness and compassion. I have used this to support myself through difficult times when I am being critical and feeling shame.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? Maybe we’ll inspire our readers to start it…

Practicing generous assumptions. Many times people walk through their life looking for evidence that support cognitive biases about themselves and the world around them. Practicing a generous assumption is similar to gaining perspective or challenging what we think something means is fact that supports something negative in our life or a belief we have about the motives behind our partners, co-workers or even strangers. I encourage people to practice giving others (and themselves) a generous assumption. Could it be the more negative motive behind it, sure but practicing giving a generous assumption makes the world a more pleasant and more generous place to operate from.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” that you use to guide yourself by? 
 Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life and how our readers might learn to live by it in theirs?

Comparison Is the Thief of Joy- Theodore Roosevelt

I love this quote because it reminds me to stay on my own course and appreciate where I am versus comparing myself to others. It has helped me during athletic events and taking entrepreneurial risks. It taps into a few concepts that I love to keep in mind and share with my clients regarding self-esteem and self-compassion. Self-esteem is built on comparison, or being better than another which is only present when we are doing better than others and is temporary and fleeting. It limits our courage to try new things and continue to grow. When we strive for self-compassion or recognizing our common humanity (the fact that we cannot always be the best and have imperfections) we are able to access the courage to challenge ourselves and continue to grow because we always have a safe and compassionate place to land.

Thank you so much for your time and for your inspiring insights!

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