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Introducing!!! My Mom! Debbie Whitehead is not only the coolest mom ever, she’s also an incredible counselor with 28 years of experience, the world’s greatest listener, and one of my best friends.
In this episode, we share:
+ The 1 thing you can do to transform your life TODAY!
+ Simple ways to identify & process your emotions.
+ Practical ideas to slow down and create space for yourself to feel.
+ How identifying your emotions can help you heal trauma, anxiety, and depression.
Here are our show notes:
Debbie: Our thoughts can either set us up for success or failure. We often have tape recordings that we hear from our past that are unhealthy. Once we identify the unhealthy tape recording we can change them.
Madison: It starts with identifying it first. This idea of becoming aware of the thoughts you think about yourself and being like okay, where is this coming from? Where do our tape recordings come from?
Debbie: Usually our parents, a coach, our relatives. People that meant a lot to us at a young age. Maybe we inferred them from an experience (abuse, being bullied, our parents divorced, etc.)
Madison: Yeah, I think it’s so easy to hold onto the things people said about us. Especially as kids, we’re so impressionable. The things people say to us really stick. What’s an example of this in your own life?
Debbie: For me, I hear things like “I’m not loved, I’m not worthy, I don’t have a voice.” I remember asking my dad questions as a kid and he would say, “Are you writing a book? Leave that chapter out.” My mom didn’t have conversations with me either. I remember thinking as a kid, no one want’s to hear me. She didn’t engage with me. No one asked for my thoughts on things or for my opinion. So I picked up the message that I’m not important. I’m not worthy. So now when those thoughts come up I have to tell myself, “those things are not true.” Now as an adult, I see that my mom probably had trauma of her own and didn’t know how to engage with me. So now that I’m an adult, it’s up to me to change the tape, rewrite the story.
Madison: I know something I’ve heard you teach and talk about is this idea of asking, “Is it true?” whenever a negative thought comes into my mind.
Debbie: Yeah, thoughts don’t just go away. We remember. We hold on. So the only way to release it is to work through it. If we don’t work to let it go, the thought will always hold power in our life.
Madison: So let’s make this super practical. Because I want anyone who’s listening to walk away from this podcast feeling like they have a real, approachable tool they can add to their self-love toolbox. How can someone put this into practice?
Debbie: Well let me ask you this, what’s something this week that you struggled with?
Madison: You know last week I hosted 2 in-person group classes. They were the first classes I held in person in over a year. And when I first announced it, only 2 people signed up. It made me doubt myself. Like no one needs me. No one wants what I have to offer. I’m wasting my time.
Debbie: First of all, thank you so much for sharing that. So what happened next?
Madison: I actually was thinking this through, “is it true” (I could hear your voice in my head haha) and what I landed on was the truth is, people are probably busy. They might not have even seen the post I made on Instagram. They might be waiting to see if it fits in their schedule or if they can afford it. I had to realize that it probably had nothing to do with me. So I thought, well how can I meet my people where they’re at? So I texted people individually and just shared my heart with them and sent them a special invitation. And 11 people ended up showing up and we had an amazing time.
Debbie: Honestly, how easy would it have been for you to just feel discouraged and give into your thoughts. But you worked through it. I love that!!
Madison: So when we think about identifying our emotions or identifying our thoughts, where do we start? How to we practically, realistically do that?
Debbie: It takes time to get good at it. It takes practice. But it also takes time to work through what you’re experiencing. So you have to really take physical time to work process what you’re thinking or feeling. So a practical way would be stopping in the moment. Sometimes I even go to the bathroom if I’m in a public place to think. Or you can go to your car. You just want to pause for a moment. Take a deep breath. Search your thoughts.
Madison: I love this idea of pausing and creating space for yourself to feel. I think a real benefit of being busy is that we don’t have to feel. If I can keep going and keep doing stuff, I don’t have to deal with the hard emotions. I don’t have to go back to that memory of that hurtful thought.
Debbie: So yeah here’s the thing about our thoughts and emotions, if you do that it’s not going to go away. You want to be emotional healthy. You want to be balanced. I see emotional health as being in the middle. On one extreme you ignore it, you push it away. But on the other hand it’s called rumination. You obsess, you critique. You over analyze, overthink.
Madison: I appreciate you saying that it takes practice. Because it leaves room for a lot of grace. It’s not something we master in one day, in one counseling session. It’s something we practice. And it’s something we can always improve. I like to think too that tuning into our thoughts gives us a lot of information that we can use to inform our decisions.
Debbie: Yeah, I work with a lot of people struggling with anxiety or depression. Sometimes as we start talking and they realize that they actually aren’t anxious or depressed. They just didn’t have the language to be able to identify what they were actually feeling. Sometimes people think they’re depressed but really they could be feeling lonely or board. I see depression a lot as a symptom, not a permanent state. Even in my practice, I don’t give a formal diagnosis because I know the power of words. I don’t want to give my clients a label they feel bound to for the rest of their life. When it’s all said and done, we have the power/control to change anything. We get to create our life! I want to give people the tools to create the life they want to live. And it starts with identifying your thoughts.
Madison: Let’s talk about emotions. How many emotions are there? And how are emotions different than thoughts?
Debbie: My favorite topic! First of all, there are more than four emotions. Most people know happy, angry, mad, and sad. But! There are a plethora of emotions. For example, today alone I’ve felt tired, sad, overwhelmed, annoyed, fear, stressed, joy, excitement, grateful, optimistic. So just in my own self, I felt so many emotions just in today. (I think there’s hundreds of emotions and I’ve done a lot on research on this but no one agrees on one set of “emotions” but there’s a lot)…
Madison: Side note, it’s so funny because my whole life my mom will say “oh yeah I researched XYZ it said this…” and we’re like mom, blog articles aren’t research. What’s the difference between emotions and thoughts?
Debbie: Our thoughts lead to emotions. I teach something that I call TFA. It stands for: Thoughts. Feelings. Actions. Our thoughts directly determine our emotions. Let me repeat that. A thought always precedes an emotions.
Madison: So from my lil example when I was doubting myself about hosting those 2 workout classes, feeling like “oh no one needs me. No one wants what I have to offer. I’m wasting my time.” Those thoughts made me feel so sad and so unworthy of being bold and inviting someone to my thing. I felt like I wasn’t enough.
Debbie: So yeah look what happened when you changed your thinking. The emotions changed. And you were able to act differently. You texted people individually. You felt excited again. You didn’t give up. If you gave into your thoughts, your feelings and emotions would have led you astray and you wouldn’t have had a great class. But your class was so fun (I know cause I was there haha).
Madison: Yeah I can always count on my mom to come to my stuff. She was the first one to sign up. So I always think well, at least my mom will be there. Maybe if I’m lucky she’ll bring a friend! But Mom, you believe that if you transform your thoughts, you can transform your life. I know you’ve seen that happen in your own life. I’ve learned a lot from you (thanks to the unsolicited counseling you’ve given me my whole life) but I definitely know this stuff works and I use it with my clients too.
Debbie: Yeah this has literally been your whole life, did you know that? I was pregnant with you when I was in grad school studying to become a counselor. You poor thing.
Madison: Oh I know. I joke that I never have to go to counseling because it’s all programed into my subconscious. Your voice follows me everywhere!
Debbie: Like Jimminy Cricket from Pinocchio!
Madison: Hilarious haha so we have all these thoughts that most likely came from our parents, those tough life experiences, trauma, our own failures…
Debbie: Yeah I remember once I volunteered at the Suicide & Crisis Center and they told me, hey Debbie you’re probably not a good fit for this. You’re a little too happy. That made me think, “wow I probably shouldn’t be a counselor then” but man, I’m so glad I didn’t let that stop me from doing what I do today. That’s an all or nothing way of thinking. But we have the power to decide, what’s going to be true for me?
Madison: Let’s break this down. If I’m listening to this episode and I’m like, hey I want to transform my life. I want to stop beating myself up. I want to feel good. I want to let myself shine. What’s one thing they can do today to get there?
Debbie: Start listening to your thoughts and notice the link between what you think and how you feel. Practically, you can ask yourself “where is this thought coming from? What am I thinking right now?”
You can journal. You can work with a counselor. You can talk things out with a friend. You can create physical space for yourself to just feel things. Maybe take a long shower. Go for a walk. Turn off the music. Even in the midst of a conversation, start to notice what you’re feeling in that moment. Take a deep breath.
If the way you’re currently doing things isn’t working, be open to doing something new. You need to change your dialogue. Let’s figure out what you can do. When you change the thought, the emotion changes and then there’s a different action.
Madison: It’s so full circle. Everything is connected. There’s a beauty in that and it actually helps simplify the process. It’s overwhelming to feel like, wow I have a lot to change. Or I’m too far gone. But the reality is, if I just start with changing my thoughts, a lot of other stuff benefits too.
Debbie: Thoughts are incredibly powerful!
Madison: As we wrap up, and I want everyone to know that this is not the last they will hear from my mom! We’re planning a special episode where my mom is going to share her story and how to find your voice and create a beautiful life after trauma. I think you’ll really be able to relate to her story and it will give you a lot of hope for your own life. But as we wrap up, is there any last thing you would like to say or share?
Debbie: Yeah you know what. Be patient with yourself. Sometimes we need to unlearn unhealthy habits and create newer, healthier habits. And that takes time. But it’s time well spent. Have the same grace for yourself that you would have for your best friend.
Madison: I love that. Mom, you’re awesome. Just to recap a bit…
Start small. Start with your thoughts. Just start listening to them. And ask that powerful, life changing question, “Is it true?”
Friend, you get to create your life. You get to decide which thoughts are true and which thoughts you’re ready to release. If you want to transform your life, transform your thoughts. Little by little. Bit by bit. You’re doing a really good job.
We’re cheering you on – my Mom & I are in your corner. We believe in you and as always, we want you to know that you are enough.
You are worthy of thinking thoughts that truly represent all that you are and all that you’re capable of becoming.
Have a specific question? Send me a DM on Instagram!
Friendly reminder: You are enough.
With Love from your Fitness Coach & Wellness Obsessed BFF,
Madison | The Fit Flamingo
Want more Resources from Debbie Whitehead, M.Ed, LPC? Click here!
Hi, I’m Madison Deaton. As a personal trainer, nutrition and self-love coach, I focus on the inside first, helping you get to the root of why you think and feel the way you do. Then I use things like functional fitness, holistic nutrition, mindset and self-love tools to help you connect with yourself on a deeper level, see things from a new perspective, and unlearn habits that no longer serve you so you can take up space, step into your power, and become the woman of your dreams (friendly reminder: she has been YOU all along). Welcome to The Fit Flamingo! I’m so glad you’re here.