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Meet Michaela Thomas
Episode 447th March 2024 • People Soup • People Soup
00:00:00 00:27:40

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Hi there and a very warm welcome to Season 5 Episode 44 of People Soup – it’s Ross McIntosh here. 

P Soupers - here's the first part of my chat with Michaela Thomas. Michaela is s senior clinical psychologist, CBT psychotherapist author and corporate speaker. Her first book is called "The Lasting Connection, Developing Love and Compassion for Yourself and for Your Partner". She's also the creator and host of an award winning podcast called Pause, Purpose, Play. Michaela offers support for individuals, couples, and groups on issues such as perfectionism, excessive worry, and low self esteem. One of her most recent initiatives is that she is facilitating and curating a group coaching program called Burn Bright. A transformational group coaching for the ambitious working woman who needs to be nicer to herself and calm the overwhelm. And if that sounds interesting - listen on - Michaela is open about her life experience and how she supports others - you'll find more details of the Burn Bright Programme in the shownotes.

You'll also here how she's making space to write her second book on the theme of perfectionism, how she is an embodied leader for her community and beyond, the impact of striving for perfection and her first training as a clinical pscychologist in Sweden where she was taught that "you don't speak about anything in your private life." For me - the clarity of Michaela's expression reflects her deep inner work.

People Soup is an award winning podcast where we share evidence based behavioural science, in a way that’s practical, accessible and fun. We're all about Unlocking Workplace Potential with expert perspectives from Contextual Behavioural Science.

Another first for Season 5 is that I'm adding a transcript, wherever possible. There is a caveat - this transcript is largely generated by Artificial Intelligence, I have corrected many errors but I won't have captured them all! You can also find the shownotes by clicking on notes, keep scrolling for all the useful links.

You can find all the details of my ACT in the Workplace Train the Trainer Program over on our partner's website, Contextual Consulting.

The discount code for 20% off the Program is PSOUP20

Read about our Chisi Awards from #365daysofcompassion for Best Podcast

Leave a review as a WhatsApp voicenote on +00447771 851118

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And you can connect with Ross on LinkedIn

Transcripts

PART ONE

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[00:00:06] Michaela: People listen to what, or see what I do, they don't necessarily listen to what I say. So I had to really work hard with that embodied leadership of stepping into. Who am I when I am with, you know, my inner circle group coaching program in my own home? There's only four women in that program because there's only four seats around my table, apart from me.

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[00:00:55] Ross: Pea Soupers, here's the first part of my chat with Michaela Thomas. Michaela is a Senior Clinical Psychologist, CBT Psychotherapist, Author, and Corporate Speaker.

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[00:01:28] one of her most recent initiatives is the facilitation and curation of a group coaching program called Burn Bright.

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[00:01:54] You'll also hear how she's making space to write her second book on the theme of perfectionism. [00:02:00] How she's an embodied leader for her community and beyond. The impact of striving for perfection and her first training as a clinical psychologist in Sweden where she was taught that you don't speak about anything in your private life.

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[00:02:51] Let's just scoot over to the news desk because reviews are in for our last episode, which was part three of our chat with Kerry Cullen, expert in polyvagal theory.

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[00:03:16] The similarities between Act and Polyvagal, and the potential to blend them. Now, P Supers, you might have heard that the bookmarks have landed. These are new, freshly designed and printed bookmarks. And each review that's read out on the show will receive a couple.

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[00:03:57] Michaela Thomas, welcome to People [00:04:00] Soup.

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[00:04:02] Ross: Yeah, me too. Me too. So, as you know, we have a research department here at People Suit Towers, and they've done a bit of digging about you. So I'd like to share with you what they found out, and you just sit back, but don't, don't sit back too far, because they don't always get things exactly right. So it says here, McKayla Thomas is a senior clinical psychologist and CBT psychotherapist.

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[00:05:11] It really resonates with me, but I don't think I'm eligible. But, Amen. Hats off to you.

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[00:05:29] Ross: Yeah, well I've got a bit about your background too, so they say Michaela grew up in Sweden under the Scandinavian ethos of welfare, equality and balance. She was interested in psychology from a very young age, so trained as a clinical psychologist. And what does she love? She loves connecting with others and helping them find their way out of the darkness. And as part of that journey, Michaela came to the UK in 2010 to pursue her dream of helping more people connect with psychological therapy with less [00:06:00] shame and stigma. And fast forward a bit to today, she's married with two toddlers and she also founded the Thomas Connection. Because she's always cared about connecting with people. In fact, her career has been devoted to psychology and wellbeing. She used to work both in occupational health in an NHS hospital and in IAPT primary care psychological services before now fully devoting her time to the Thomas connection. How are we doing so far?

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[00:06:40] Otherwise it's pretty bang on.

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[00:06:50] Michaela: Seven and two.

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[00:07:07] Michaela: Yes, well my children also chat in two languages, and it does take a lot of head space. Um, there's a lot of, uh, a lot of my spoons used up every day to go between languages.

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[00:07:25] Let me just continue. Throughout her journey so far, Michaela has found ways to live in a perfectly imperfect way. And she seeks to share that with others. And speaking of journeys, Michaela has recently returned from a spacious adventure.

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[00:08:05] Well,

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[00:08:21] Ross: you never know if we put it out there someone from say Netflix might be listening and they might go Hey, I like the cut of this lady's jib

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[00:08:47] Ross: Trendy and valid are two different things.

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[00:08:56] Ross: We'll take a punt anyway.

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[00:08:59] Ross: But remember, I said it first.

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[00:09:05] Ross: Brilliant.

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[00:09:42] So I'm really, really thinking about how to make the next book writing very spacious. Spacious for me, for my mental health, my physical well being, my family life. So it's not just something I cram on top of it, as we often hear. Clinical professionals who write books just stack it on top of the other [00:10:00] things and work in the evenings and the weekends And that is just an absolute non negotiable self boundary for me that I do not cross those Those limits.

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[00:10:14] Ross: Absolutely. And that's super exciting to hear about that book. And what sort of timeframes are we looking at?

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[00:10:33] To here

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[00:10:45] I'm looking for the best home for it. That's how I've reframed it in my mind. because rejection obviously is painful. Rejection hurts. Especially when you have an ADHD brain that's sensitive to rejection. So, I try to just meet myself where I'm at with that. Give myself some space and some grace.

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[00:11:19] So yeah making that a spacious adventure as well

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[00:11:45] Michaela: Yeah, writing my first book, which obviously was about developing compassion for yourself and your partner, it did make me really consider the relationship dynamic I was in and, you know, am I always kind to my husband? Am I always kind to myself? [00:12:00] So, I know this phrase of practicing what you preach is quite an, you know, old one, but there is truth to some cliches because they capture universal human experience and, and being able to You know, to swallow my own pills, so to speak.

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[00:12:14] Michaela: And I think, rather than saying practice what you preach in a very preachy way, self punitive way, I think of it more as I teach the lessons I most need to hear. So whenever I teach this in Burn Bright, my group coaching program, you know, in our weekly coaching calls, I feel like I'm talking to The old version of me, who was very self critical, who felt ashamed, who always strived for more, uh, more achievements and didn't feel good enough.

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[00:12:49] Ross: Gosh. and one of the other things I really applaud you for is, is living your life out loud. Really thinking how you can take your own experience plus all your clinical expertise to support others. And in your social media. You really tell it how it is from your own experience. it kind of has this approach from me of, hey, it's okay. It's okay not to enjoy crafts or it's okay not to enjoy the Christmas preparations or the, the trials and tribulations of Christmas. I think you are a really important role model for us all.

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[00:13:56] Embodied Leadership

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[00:14:16] And that version of me who is At home, at ease, comfortable, in my yoga leggings, serving them in an evidence based, psychological practice way. But being my full self, who I am? That person also needs to be on social media, otherwise they'll be jarring. People then think that here's someone who's got a perfectly curated feed and always wears makeup and Like, what message does that send to women who feel that they're never enough?

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[00:15:14] The Tea Party

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[00:15:32] So I made it my own I said I'm not everyone's cup of tea, but I am someone's tea party and That's how I then started taking out my finest Japanese bone china for tea parties at the home retreats So that I can serve these women and really, really treat them, really help them receive. So, sitting there sipping from someone's finest china, knowing that's been taken out for them.

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[00:15:57] Michaela: Not just, Oh, we'll take that out when [00:16:00] someone important comes, but actually they are the important ones. You know, I practice a lot more of those things now, of receiving and giving myself the allowance to have those pleasures in life, taking out the really finest china, making some really nice banana bread or whatever it is I want to make for them.

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[00:16:43] So, that's a long winded way of explaining how it's really important to me how I show up and who I am and needing to kind of let my different circles, sort of the psychologist circle and the, You know, who I am as a private person, needed to overlap a lot more than they used to when I first trained, when I first came into clinical psychology when I was 19 and was told by, you know, my first ever supervisor that, you know, you don't speak about anything about your private life.

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[00:17:33] And the stone faced response from my supervisor of not discussing that. So I knew well that he commuted by bus to work because I had to Awfully sit, you know, two seats ahead of him because he wouldn't sit with me because that was, you know, private sphere and professional sphere could not mix. And that was my first journey into thinking that this is what a psychologist is.

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[00:18:23] And it has really shaped my career that that's not how I want it to be. I couldn't do this thing of holding your clients in mind intellectually and not emotionally. This just was never possible to me. And 20 years later, I now know, with the ADHD brain, that my emotional intuition is very high. I have a high level of sensitivity to emotion, um, high levels of empathy and being attuned, and I can viscerally feel the feeling of others.

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[00:19:13] Allowing us to be, be who we are, the full identity. Be it, you know, a black therapist, a brown therapist, or an ADHD therapist. To bring that, and we're no longer the blank slates. I think that's really important, and that's why I bring that into social media as well. Because I'm okay with saying whether I commuted by a bus or walked to work today.

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[00:20:10] think some measured disclosure with the people we're working with can make things stick, can make learning stick, can make points stick, and can Create a more of a equality in in that relationship with the people we work with.

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[00:20:47] Striving for perfection

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[00:21:08] So we move away from that, the guru leader thing. and especially in my audience of perfectionists, they have a tendency to do what I call the pedestal and the pit. You know, it's much more with the all or nothingness that we get there, where the Guru leader sits on the pedestal and I can do no wrong.

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[00:21:48] And it's costing you an arm and a leg to continue to strive for that perfection. My job here is to show you instead the value and the power of self compassion for when you make a mistake, not if. [00:22:00] For how you allow and embrace those imperfections, how you bring them in and how you soften and let go around the intense control that you try to have.

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[00:22:32] So we do a lot of work around savouring, pleasure, and I know anyone who's listening is thinking, Pleasure? What does that mean? That's a bit racy. Um, that's not all I mean, obviously. It can be everything from savouring your food and allowing yourself the pleasure of actually putting nutritious food on your plate, allowing yourself to feed yourself, nourish yourself with good, nutritious food, and not just, like in my community, feeding yourself scraps or eating the leftovers from your kids plates.

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[00:23:24] This is why metaphors are so powerful when in act and why they're so memorable, because it connects with that sense of telling a story. So you just have to remind yourself of who is the hero in your story. And for me, I'm not the hero, the client is the hero in their own story. So I think of how am I telling my story or where I am at to show them that I'm just a few steps ahead of you.

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[00:24:05] I'm probably going to have this. It's almost like being a sober alcoholic with perfectionism. It's probably going to be there and I have to then, as a way to be treating myself with kindness, I'll have almost like medicinal practices I have to do on a daily in order to remain well. Much like someone who was a sober alcoholic would need to still go into AA meetings, for instance, if that's the practice they chose to have if a 12 step program worked for them in sobriety.

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[00:24:51] How do I share those stories as well? Because otherwise we become all or nothing about even the journey out of perfectionism. That in itself becomes the perfect pursuit of never failing, never being self critical, never being horrible to yourself. Always choosing the healthy choices, that becomes perfectionistic too.

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[00:25:14] Ross: Beautiful. Thank you. Thank you so much for unpacking that and talking about your your strategies for perfectionism that take time and need to be attended to. I wonder if I could change text slightly. We've heard a little bit about your background, the details from my research department, but I wonder if you could tell us a bit more, expand on how you've got to where you've got to in your life today, and maybe some pivotal moments along the way.

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[00:25:40] Ross: And

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[00:25:59] Ross: [00:26:00] That's it, pea soupers. Part one of my chat with Michaela in the bag. You know what they say, always keep them wanting more. Thanks to Michaela for being so open about her life and work, and there's much more to come in part two next week. and if you're liking the cut of Michaela's jib, and are interested in her Burn Bright program, you'll find the link in the show notes.

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[00:26:33]

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[00:26:37] Ross: Number one, share it with one other person. Number two, subscribe and give us a five star review, whatever platform you're on.

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[00:27:13] Thanks to Andy Glenn for his spoon magic and Alex Engelberg for his vocals. Most of all, dear listener, thanks to you. Look after yourselves, peace supers, and bye for now.

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