Nicole Lewis-Keeber is joining me today on the podcast. Nicole has over 20 years in the mental health field, including a Master's degree in social work and a licensed social worker.
Today we're talking about the different types of traumas that we can experience throughout our lifetimes and how these traumas can deeply affect our lives and therefore our businesses, even decades after the fact.
Nicole's work has truly helped me identify and solve problems in my business (that I didn't even know existed) and I know she can help you do the same.
Tune into the Audio:
Michelle: Hi, Nicole. Welcome to the Rebel Rising Podcast.
Nicole: Hey! I'm so excited to be here.
Michelle: I'm so excited to have you because I am a big fan of your work. I think it is very impactful and I know we're going to have a great conversation today.
The first thing I wanted to ask you is why did you decide that your business needed a three-word rebellion?
Nicole: I think it needed a three-word rebellion to stand out and to differentiate in a way that I hadn't seen before. Plus, it is kind of running out front with my topic. So I think it needed to have a little rebel energy to it as well.
A three-word rebellion made a lot of sense for me because it's a complex topic that is brought down into a very short three word rebellious yell.
That's amazing, right? That changes things that gets people's attention in a way that I certainly need with this topic.
Michelle: Yes, yes. As you'll find out in just a moment, there's kind of an easing in with Nicole's topic. We had to strategically think about that.
So let's kick off and talk about what are you rebelling against Nicole?
Nicole: I was thinking about gosh, I'm rebelling against so much. I'm rebelling against people's experience and their emotions being distilled down to something that it's not, meaning I would say let's call a thing a thing. My topic is trauma. So there's something freeing about rebelling against calling something stress, overwhelmed, burnout. So I'm rebelling against that. I'm also rebelling against an industry belief that when you start a business, that you leave who you are at the door and that you don't bring any of your stuff with you. That that's the way it's supposed to be. And that's not true, that's not true.
Michelle: Yeah. Tell me a little bit about how you first figured out that there was a connection between trauma and the issues that happen in our business.
Nicole: My three-word rebellion is pretty much from inner kiddo to CEO, a little bit more outside of it, but what it really boils down to is that I began to see when I was working with my clients, that there was more there than mindset. As someone who was a therapist for 18 years, I have a Master's degree in social work, I'm a licensed clinical social worker. And I was in a clinical setting of some kind for at least 18 years, sometimes as a psychotherapist, sometimes a clinical supervisor. And when I left the therapy field to work as a mindset coach, I started out doing a money mindset.
Nicole: What I realized is that we weren't always talking about a mindset shift, we were actually talking about a symptom of trauma that had shown up in that person's business.
I'm pretty sure the people who were attracted to working with me for mindset coaching knew I was a therapist and they felt a little bit safe to do some of this work, or reveal some of these things. So what we began to look at was how those experiences that they had as a child were being replayed and reenacted in their business. So that's where that inner kid out of CEO comes in.
Nicole: But it's a way to approach how small trauma from your childhood can set up in your business without your knowledge. I kept waving that flag and saying hang on. Everybody's telling people just to flip this switch for a mindset change, or you just need to look at it differently. And I'm starting to bang the drum saying, “No. This is actually a trauma response. People can't just flip a switch on that.”
Nicole: I'm tired of people feeling bad about themselves because they can't flip the switch to make you happy.
Michelle: Yeah. Can you tell me, or give us an example of how trauma can show up in a business, to make it more concrete?
Nicole: Yeah. When I talk about trauma, let me just define that a little bit, so people can understand. So as a society, we've been pretty much trained to see trauma only as these big key traumas, which are things like post-traumatic stress, violence, catastrophic illness, things that are kind of big. Whereas, many, many people have what we call “small t” trauma. What it is, is traumatic experiences that are cumulative that we've had as a child that maybe we were bullied, maybe we were food insecure, maybe we had one parent who didn't believe in us. Whatever that may be. My small t trauma was having a learning disability growing up, one of them was that I had a learning disability.
Nicole: So small t traumas, they start to change how we see ourselves graduate. It's a cumulative experience that we have.
I would say big t trauma explodes, small t trauma erodes who we are.
Nicole: What happens is, that creates a resilience factor. So many of the people that I know have this really high level of resilience that has compelled them to start their own business, to be entrepreneurial because they created this resilience, this need to think out of the box, to be their own employer if they don't want to work for someone else.
Nicole: To be a problem solver and to have this high level of ability to manage high levels of stress and discomfort. So what happens is you create this business. One of the example that I've seen in particular around how trauma sets up in your business is an inability to trust.
We can only do our business so long on our backs. We need other people.
We need to hire an employee. We need to maybe even bring a partner on. That eroding of trust that happened as this traumatic, those years as a child that become traumatic, they get triggered and we need to rely on someone in our business.
Nicole: It can even be a contractor, a VA, whoever it is, but someone that you need to rely on to do something for you. And relying on is a behavior of trust. If your trust has been challenged, that's where I see it comes to a head a lot and where a lot of people I talk to jump in with me because they realize that they have recreated some pattern or that they can't trust their employees so they're challenged by that.
Michelle: Yeah. I know, as we began to talk about this topic, I think it's an aha for people because I knew it was an aha for me that, “Oh yes. I did have a lot of small t trauma growing up,” and even some big t after I talked with you. I was like, ‘Oh I see that now.” And I never made the connection of how that was really playing out for me.
I wasn't showing up or not being visible with my work because I believed that it was fundamentally flawed because that's how my parents treated me.
Michelle: Yeah, I think it's part of our nature to push trauma away and to totally just guard any of the smaller t trauma that we had in our lives.
Nicole: Absolutely. One of the easiest ways to look at this is, I always tell my clients that I believe that when we start a business, we enter into a relationship because we are not our business. So we enter into a relationship with it.
If we've had challenging experiences around relationships and our role in relationships in our past, we are ripe to recreate that relationship in our business.
It is not uncommon for me to see people who have created a perpetrator out of their business. The business has become that person that was demanding and demeaning to them, that was abusive to them.
Nicole: So we recreate patterns of our trauma in our business. Often an easier way to look at it is what relationship and what role in the relationship am I playing here? That's a way in sometimes for people to really start to see it like oh my goodness. Yep, I could do nothing right for my dad and that's exactly how I feel about my business, or I had an ex who told me I wasn't smart, whatever it is. And they realize that they have [inaudible 00:09:05] it into setting of their business in a way that is demanding and demeaning as opposed to supportive and loving. I don't know about you, but I started my business to have fun.
Nicole: And to feel supported and to do something really cool in the world, not to feel like crap about myself one more time.
Michelle: Yeah, yeah. I started my business because I am a terrible employee.
I don't like people telling me what to do and have fun and to work with really cool people and to work with my talents and then all of a sudden, all of these little things crop up. So I know part of the research that you've done.
Can you tell us how different patterns of how trauma shows up?
Nicole: Yeah. There are some categories. I was doing some research and I spoke to about 50 small business owners who had identified having some kind of small t trauma in their past. They were so nice enough to talk to me, to help me test out my theory here that it tends to show up in our money, in our business.
Because our inner work impacts our outer wealth. If we've had trauma that creates a challenge for us, it's going to show up in our bottom line in our money.
Like what are we charging? Are we giving things away? Are we marking that zero off an invoice and then rewriting whatever proposal that may be?
Nicole: It definitely shows up in our bottom line in our business financially. It also shows up in our trust, whether we trust our clients to do what they say they're going to do, trust our employees, trust ourselves. The risk that's required to make decisions in our business at some point, it really does impact that. So money, trust, boundaries. We could teach a whole class for three weeks on boundaries of how boundaries are so important and if you've had these small t traumas, setting up boundaries … first of all, believing you deserve the boundaries. Secondly, setting up the boundary and then third, reinforcing the boundary can be so hard.
Nicole: When you think about being a business owner, there are so many boundaries that we need to run a successful business and to have an emotionally sustainable business too. So it shows up around boundaries. Another area that I've seen it come up with a lot is around disability. You and I, we have to talk about our business. We have to sell ourselves. We have to have a sales conversation, get on podcasts and those stages.
And being visible if you have some trauma in your background feels very vulnerable and it's very terrifying to a lot of people because, in the past, visibility and being seen meant they were not safe.
Michelle: Yes. Yes. This is a perfect setup, especially if people are hearing themselves in what you're describing, if there's a struggle with disability, around money, around trust or all of those things for some of us.
What kind of change do you want to create for business owners? How do we start working with these issues?
Nicole: I want us to start solving the right problems. Because routinely what I see is that someone will have, maybe they're dealing with procrastination. Let's just put that out there. So what do they do? They go get a time management system, or they bring someone in to look at their systems, or they get a calendar.
They use all of these external systems to try and help them with this procrastination when a lot of the time it's actually an emotional challenge. It's not a physical challenge.
Nicole: So I see people putting business solutions on their emotional challenges in their business constantly. They've got a business coach who's told them something they need to do, not knocking business coaches. They're great.
It's just, sometimes we're solving the wrong problem.
It's frustrating because you're not getting where you want to go. So that's what I would love, for people to start solving the right problem. And that sometimes, a reframe or a mindset shift from reading a book, or maybe taking a webinar isn't enough.
If the mindset shifts are not working for you, it could be that there's something else that needs to be addressed and that that's why it's not working.
Nicole: There's no shame in that, but we are so driven and we are so boxy in how we look at things, if we don't make room for that, so what that leads into is my rebellion is from inner kiddo to CEO because when we're willing to look at these things, what we do is we start to recognize oh my goodness, when I'm feeling this way about a client, or I'm feeling triggered, it's actually my inner seven year old who had some experience where they felt the demeaned in some kind of way. When we have these experiences, they create what I call an internal board of directors, which are of these inner kiddos and have these experiences when they felt wounded or other in some kind of way running your business.
Nicole: And say someone comes in again and gives you a business solution, but it's really a seven-year-old inside of you having a tantrum. That's not going to fix it.
Michelle: Yeah, and a Facebook ad, of course, is not going to fix your inner kiddo having a tantrum.
Nicole: Absolutely not. So getting to know those parts of yourself and seeing how are they on that board of directors internally that's derailing you from the processes that you need and the place that you want to go in your business and starting to identify okay, so we all have this wise part of ourselves, this part we can connect with that is, that knows everything's going to be okay and can see beyond those triggers.
That's our inner CEO, so when we can move from those inner kiddos running our board of directors mindlessly and turn triggers into a place where we're intentional, and we have a relationship with ourselves fully, then we know what we need in our business.
Nicole: We have been taught to drop ourselves at the door of our business and that's not how it works. We bring all of us to the table right? All of the experiences, in their shadow, and in their light.
They're all here and so we need to know them so we know how to manage them because we don't drop our baggage at the door when we start our business. Everybody comes.
Michelle: I wanted to highlight something, because I think this is really important for people who are listening to this conversation that if you find that you are having the same problem again and again and again and again in your business and you try to throw another business coach at it, another course at it, another course at it and it doesn't go away, then that's the time that I really need to talk to Nicole.
Nicole: Yes. Yes, absolutely because there are these categories I explained about how these things show up.
But most of the time, we haven't even labeled the experiences we had appropriately.
We just say, “Oh, I just had a bad childhood.” Or, we just minimize, minimize, minimize and those patterns show up. We recreate them in new arenas and our business is a new arena. And I totally believe that you can heal yourself through your business if you know it's a possibility.
Michelle: Yes. Oh, I love that, that.
You can heal yourself through your business if you know it's a possibility.
My final question for you, because we've covered a lot, like the different types of trauma of how it relates to our business. We've talked about the inner kiddo.
How can we start to partner with our inner kiddos to bring them to the table so that we can step into the CEO role?
Nicole: Yeah. We all know what it feels like to be triggered by something. Your heart starts to race and you start to tell yourself some story about what's going on. So we all know what that feels like. And usually, that is a trigger, our inner kiddo, it can be seven, ten, sixteen. I have one of mine, Sadie, she's 16 and she thinks everything is stupid.
Nicole: Yes, right. Right. So I recognized her and finally figured out who she was because everything that I was trying to do to move my business forward that required me to be with other people, like networking, she would show up and say this is stupid and send me to the corner to do no networking.
If you see these patterns, and you're noticing them and you're feeling that trigger, it's probably some experience that you've had in your past that's showing back up.
It's probably one of those inner kiddos as I call them, showing you something that they need.
Nicole: What have we been taught? We've been taught to shut down. We call it the inner critic. We've been told by ourselves to shut it down, shut it up, slay it, kill it, fire it. It doesn't go away. If you pause, take a breath and just say, “Who is this? What do you need right now?” You are going to start to learn about who they are and what they need from you and then you can start to partner with them. I mentioned Sadie. Sadie does not come with me to networking groups. Sadie gets dismissed. But when I need to step on a stage and feel sassy and determined about my three-word rebellion, Sadie is right there with me.
That's how you partner. But you've got to get to know them first.
Michelle: Yeah. When I was doing some of this work, I realized that I had, she's probably about seven years old, and we had this experience where I had a lot of visibility. I was on stage, reading a poem and leading my whole entire school in the pledge of allegiance. Then my parents got divorced that Summer. So my inner kiddo just associated with being visible and seen and known and applauded, meant that something terrible was going to happen. Until I was able to be like, “Oh sweetie. Sweetie, I'm so sorry.” I see. That's a huge problem and invite her in and then tell her to go play or do something else when I'm going to be visible, it made it so much easier for me to show up.
Nicole: Mm-hmm. It's so important because when we decide to do this and show up, we don't ask them. We bring them with us. We kind of drag them along and of course they're going to act out and act up because we didn't ask them permission or even say we've got to do this, but what do you need for it to be more palatable for you? Or whatever that is. So you use just that loving kindness. This is hard I know. You don't have to be here for this. Go play.
Nicole: Effect a loving, nurturing way to partner with them so that they can get on board for this big audacious goal we have for ourselves in our business.
What's next for you and what's next for inner kiddo to CEO?
Nicole: Yeah. I was so happy to be able to look at it in those terms because it's so much fun to walk up to people and go, “Do you know that trauma impacts your business? That's not fun.”
Michelle: No. That's very heavy.
Nicole: Right. It is. Part of what's coming up is more research around that. More writing around that. And more fun around the inner kiddo to CEO processes for that and writing more using that three-word rebellion to be able to get people's attention without triggering them to run the other way. So this is really a fine line and being out here in no man's land by myself saying trauma impacts our business. Did y'all know this? I need some way to make it a little bit more user-friendly. I'm going to be talking more and more about that inner kiddo to CEO process and what that looks like. so you're going to see more writing, more stuff.
Michelle: Awesome. Where can people find you online so that they can tap into your awesomeness and your brilliance around inner kiddo to CEO?
Nicole: They can always find me on my website. There's actually an assessment on there called a business relationship assessment. Again, no sexy terms here. If you're curious about what your relationship with your business might be, feel free to go download that and go through the workbook and you'll be pretty surprised what you come up with. You can follow me on Facebook, which is Nicole Lewis Keeber Coaching. I am also in Instagram.
Nicole: Oh, and I write a lot of articles on Medium as well.
Michelle: Okay. We'll hook those up in the show notes. Nicole, I just wanted to thank you so much for doing this work because it is important, it is transformative for the people you work with and for all of us business owners. So thank you so much for being on the Rebel Rising Podcast.
Nicole: Oh I loved it. Thank you.