Get ready for an exciting episode as we welcome the amazing Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife to the podcast! She's not just a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology; she's a relationship and sexuality coach too. We're going deep into the realms of self-acceptance, self-love, and self-respect—beyond the surface stuff. Dr. Jennifer drops gems on self-honesty, tackling tough questions, and owning your choices. The endgame? Achieving that sweet spot of self-authorship, where you call the shots, make choices, and own your presence in the world. This episode is a goldmine for personal growth and maturation. Buckle up for some serious takeaways! Let's dive in!
Find show notes at bicepsafterbabies.com/305
- Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife’s background and expertise in relationships and self-improvement 03:32
- Difference between self-determination and self-authority 06:43
- Lean into discomfort for growth 10:03
- Repression versus Indulgence 13:58
- Getting Validation Internally 17:50
- Balance self-acceptance and improvement 22:41
- Openness versus Vulnerability 32:14
- Combat negative body image positively 37:47
- Valuable steps to have more self-authorship 44:27
Dr. Finlayson-Fife's Instagram
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife is an LDS relationship and sexuality coach with a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology. Her teaching and coaching focus on helping LDS individuals and couples achieve greater satisfaction and passion in their emotional and sexual relationships.
In addition to her private practice, Dr. Finlayson-Fife has created five empowering and highly-reviewed online courses. Each course was designed to give LDS individuals and couples the tools requisite to creating healthier lives and stronger intimate relationships. Dr. Finlayson-Fife also offers many workshops and retreats where she teaches these life-changing principles in person.
Dr. Finlayson-Fife is a frequent guest on LDS-themed podcasts on the subjects of sexuality, relationships, mental health, and faith. She is also the creator and host of Room for Two, a popular sex and intimacy coaching podcast.
Learn more about Dr. Finlayson-Fife and her work by clicking HERE.
You're listening to Biceps After Babies Radio Episode 305.
Hello and welcome to Biceps After Babies Radio. A podcast for ladies who know that fitness is about so much more than pounds lost or PR's. It's about feeling confident in your skin and empowered in your life. I'm your host Amber Brueseke, a registered nurse, personal trainer, wife and mom of four. Each week my guests and I will excite and motivate you to take action in your own personal fitness as we talk about nutrition, exercise, mindset, personal development and executing life with conscious intention. If your goal is to look, feel and be strong and experience transformation from the inside out, you my friend are in the right place. Thank you for tuning in. Now, let's jump into today's episode.
Hey, hey, hey. Welcome back to another episode of Biceps After Babies Radio. I'm your host, Amber Brueseke and I have an incredibly special guest today, somebody who has been really a mentor and an educator for me, and I am just thrilled to be able to share her knowledge and wisdom with all of you.
So, today I have on the podcast Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife. She has a Ph.D. in counseling psychology and is a relationship and sexuality coach. However, a lot of times you will hear me say what I do is about fitness, but it's not about fitness and I feel like the same thing can be said for Dr .Jennifer. She, what she does is about relationships and sexuality. But it is about a lot of deeper work that allows you to bring yourself to your relationship and it's a lot of inner deep work that she's going to talk about on this podcast episode. So, the focus of our conversation is really around self-acceptance, self-love and self-respect and please listen to the end of the episode, because by the time we get to the end, she really weaves in and gives you some really valuable next steps to take with these concepts of how do we become more, have more self-authorship. How do we, are we more self-honest? How do we ask ourselves the hard questions about what is true here and what am I afraid to admit to myself and do I respect the choices that I'm making? She talks a lot about this difference between internal and external authority and really moving in in a maturation process from an external to an internal authority where you are really the author of your life and you get to decide what is important and you get to decide what your choices are and you get to decide how you show up in the world and when you can really get to that place of self-authoring, it is, you know it is just a magnificent place to be able to be. And Doctor Jennifer talks about these concepts so beautifully in this episode that I just cannot wait for you to get to hear it from her. So, without further ado, let's dive into that episode.
Amber B 03:03
I am thrilled to introduce you all to Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife. Thank you for being here. Thanks for coming on the podcast episode. We were fan girl and my husband and I were fangirling a little bit beforehand, just so glad that you're here to talk to my audience.
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife 03:18
Thanks for having me.
Amber B 03:19
Yeah. All right, so to start. Can you please just do a little short introduction? Tell our listeners a little bit about your background and your expertise in the areas of relationships and self-improvement.
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife 03:32
Yeah. So I am LDS literally saying I when I was growing up, I learned a lot about the value of marriage and that this was an important goal in life. And I loved the idea of marriage, but I also could track a lot of people as not being that happy in marriage. And so, I just was always trying to figure out what made people happy and people not happy and it just it, just was a social scientist at a young age and didn't really even realize that I was, but I was trying to figure that out when I got old enough, I decided I wanted to study psychology and ultimately to become a marriage counselor. So that's what I've done, and I've specialized in just the focus of intimacy that is emotional and sexual intimacy and how much that's linked to our personal development, our capacity to be known to others and to know ourselves and you know that that takes some courage and self-development to create that in yourself. So anyway, it's been something where I teach. I do. I was a counselor for years. I now primarily do teaching, coaching, podcasting to help give people more tools to think about how they can improve their lives and their relationships.
Amber B 04:54
That's awesome. So when you were young and you were doing this like social scientist experiment, you know, I talked a little bit before we hit record about how a lot of your stuff is as a sex therapist is not really about the sex, right. It's about kind of what's underneath the sex that like you said about that personal development. Did you realize that from a very young age? When you were looking at these, these couples that were maybe not happy and you kind of track that, is that something that you realize, hey, there's something deeper here going on that I'm curious and interested about or did it start out more of a like, you know, just general relationship?
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife 05:29
I think I figured it out later as I went. I mean, you know, I think when I was younger, it's like there seems like there's some people that are maybe lucky and some people are unlucky and that is a part of life too, of course, but I don't think I saw it when I first started out, you know how much it was related to personal development and when I wrote my dissertation, which was looking at women's experience of sexuality and marriage, there were two very different groups and there were people that really. And even growing up in a conservative faith had transitioned happily into marriage and had a way of thinking about themselves, their sexuality and their partnership that need it possible for them to thrive, and other people who grew up in the same faith tradition, who were struggling a lot more with self-doubt and anxiety and what I wasn't studying at the time was why there was this difference. But that's really a question that I have come to kind of parse out in continuing to do work with people that you know how we relate to authority, self-authority, how we relate to our embodiment, you know there is differences in how we do this and they have real implications for how we live and love.
Amber B 06:43
OK, so now you have me really interested. So, what I mean, what have you started to find that that allows two people to grow up in the same faith tradition and you know a lot of the same culture and yet have very different outcomes in terms of sounds like self-determination, self-authority like yeah, what have you found as the difference between those two?
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife 07:06
Well, I still don't know if I could say this is why, you know, this person has this kind of family and they therefore grow to this level this. So it's not so much that I have causal links, but really seeing about what happens and you know, I've done a lot of studying of developmental literature and how people move through phases of emotional, sexual, you know, moral development. And it's all the theories. Kind of point in the same direction, which is increased ability to handle complexity, increased ability to be accepting of ourselves in deeper internal authority versus external authority, but that we all start out with that external authority. We all start out referencing our group and those that tend to be more capable of intimacy and love and happiness in marriage have a deeper internal authority and I don't mean that they're anti authority.
Amber B 08:04
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife 08:04
Or that they don't belong to a faith, you know, or that they, you know, are separate from other people. They just have come to trust themselves more, they're more able to be honest with themselves. They're more able to take seriously what they think and feel, and at the same time that they're able to be open to where they're wrong, they're able to be open to critique because they care about what is actually true and valuable more than yielding to authority or defying authority, they care about what is actually good and right, and the more people have that, the more they can handle the rigors of life. The rigors of a marriage, because marriage is going to push you up against this question of you know who am I? And am I wrong about this? Am I right about this? There's something about the ability to really get at what's true and necessary that's really essential to intimacy and therefore to a good marriage
Amber B 09:06
Yeah. You often talk about when we are starting to make positive change and how marriage becomes this little incubator of pressuring you right towards things that are hard and growth. And you talk about oftentimes it will cause anxiety when we are working the metaphorical muscle that's not strong and that this anxiety, however, is really productive. Like we gotta lean into the anxiety. So can you share a little bit about that concept? My, my audience is going to love it because, you know, muscles and going to the gym.
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife 09:37
Yeah, yeah, yeah, in fact you do that then.
Amber B 09:39
Something they’re familiar with. But you know.
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife 09:41
Amber B 09:41
How do we have that anxiety? When we are thinking where am I wrong in this, when our partner tells us we're wrong and we're willing to stand up. And say, hey, maybe this maybe my partner’s right. Where? Where are they right in this? And looking at medical focal muscle, how do we lean into that anxiety and push through it so that we can have the growth that is on the other side of it.
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife 10:03
Well, much like exercise. You know, if I'm exercising and I'm, like, argh 20 more minutes, you know, and I'm resisting it. It feels like 200 minutes. It just takes forever. You know, where, if I'm like, look, I have 20 minutes to build as much muscle as I can, and I want that muscle. That's why I'm here. Lean into the discomfort. Paradoxically, it gets less uncomfortable. Time goes faster. I'm in the moment. I enjoy it more. And similarly with our personal development, if we if you, if you think of what moral development or personal development requires, it's about the ability for the mind to handle more truth about yourself, about the world, about another person. Your moral development is linked to your ability to handle reality. And so sometimes, when we are bumping up against reality, we don't want our partners telling us something about ourselves we don't like or we are learning something about the world or the relationships we're in that are difficult as the human inclination, just like an exercise, is to avoid the discomfort. Want to get away from it? To go find comfort elsewhere. To go like what's the word like, kind of numb ourselves through some kind of indulgent behavior. Very understandable, because we don't like pain. But the more we say like if I still lean in and embrace what is good for me in this, what do I need from this? What do I need to learn from it? What do I need to accommodate in this that is true not just for the sake of it, but that you can feel that it's true. I mean, then you're pushing your mind to grow into a mind that can handle more truth and therefore can navigate the world more wisely.
So when our, you know we have this built in mirror in a spouse, they're an imperfect mirror and they've sometimes got their own motivations. But if you are saying OK, where is my spouse right about this? What is true? Now they may be saying 17 things you think are 100% not true and then you might be right, but they're saying one thing that you know is true. Human inclination is to use the 17 things and focus on those. And how dare you even say #16 you know, as opposed to going towards the one thing that you know is true and that matters in the marriage and is negatively impacting the marriage like our fear is if I go when I name that and I acknowledge it well, then I can't get him or her to think about the things that they're doing that hurt me. So we just want to stay on where they're wrong rather than accommodating more truth, but you will get stronger, your marriage will have a better chance, and you, at a minimum, will have more clarity about what's right and wrong, what's up and down, what you need, if you will always embrace what is true. Not embracing what's true to avoid other things that are true, right? Because sometimes we, like you know what, let's say you're with somebody that's emotionally abusive. It's always telling you everything you're doing wrong. You want to make sure you're not embracing what's true in that to avoid the bigger picture of where they can manipulate you and try to make everything your problem you want to stay open to that as well. Right. So you want to take in what is really true, including if it's necessary, where you're not being treated fairly, but that's still accommodating proof that you need.
Amber B 13:36
That question of what is true and what my partner is saying has been one of the things that has been the most revolutionary for my husband and I, and it is hard because you're right, we want to go towards all the things that they said that aren't true and push that and it takes a lot of self-reflection to sit there and say.
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife 13:58
Amber B 13:58
My husband is holding some hard things where is he right about that. Like the things that he said that is hard and it is powerful and transformative. Yes, that's a great question for us in our marriage. You talked about this idea of indulgence. And I've heard you speak to this idea of the extremes of repression versus indulgence. And it's something that every time I hear you speak about it, I think about it in terms of food because it is just played out so easily in food of do we repress and restrict or do we indulge in these are into extremes and the goal is to find balance between the two. So can you talk about maybe repression versus indulgence. How we sink into both of those so easily, and how that whole ground. How come you can more easily find that middle ground?
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife 14:43
Yeah. Well, first of all, I think it is developmental. So, if somebody is struggling with either or both of those inclinations in their relationship to food or any reality, right, that it doesn't mean you're broken. It means that you're trying to work out your relationship to yourself and to authority, I think. Now you may have a big enough challenge with this that you need help, right? So, I don't just need to say that you may not need help in sorting this out but I, from my perspective at least one perspective on that challenge is often a relationship to compliance and defiance, which is an external authority.
So, a lot of times, you know a child is going to obey a rule because they don't want people to be mad at them because they want to be seen as a good person. But they feel like they're being deprived of something. So, they do it because they want to be loved and accepted, but then they feel angry because they feel like, well, I don't get to belong to the things that I want. And maybe I don't want to obey that rule, and maybe I want so then they can go to the defiant, which is I want to belong to myself. So, I'm going to like, I'm going to get while the getting is good. I'm going to take this. I'm going to do this maybe in secret. So I can try to keep the validation and that's a struggle with external referencing rather than what is actually good for me.
So I think in the realm of food, and especially in a food culture that we have that highly focuses on the visual and the body as a measure of the soul, like in a way that I think it didn't used to be the case. So we're very. Superficially and visually focused in our culture, coupled with food culture that is high on tempting people into high sugar, high fat you know foods like we have a whole food industry that's set up for people to get high amounts of calories and so in that duality there's just a lot of that I want to do what society says for me to be considered acceptable, which is basically eat nothing, right? But I also don't want to be deprived and I'm deprived of all these things and so screw it. I'm going to do what I want and people can live on just one side or both sides of that struggle. But, but that's more about you're trying to please, and your anger about what that costs you rather than who am I? What do I desire? How do I want to treat this body I've been given? What's going to help me create peace and joy in my life? And it has to be much more self-determined and self-authored, I think to get out of that struggle well then keeping it in this, what am I supposed to be? What do people think I should be and you know, and being in that external focus.
Amber B 17:50
Yeah, yeah, that's really powerful. I think you're absolutely right. I see that transition for a lot of my clients from the external authority to the internal authority. And when they become more self like what do I think, what do I want versus like what am I allowed to have? What is the you know, the diet say that I'm able to eat and you brought in a point that I hadn't really kind of looped in and this is the idea of validation like I've heard you speak a lot of times on validation. And how often times we're seeking that validation, we do crazy stuff to like get that validation. And I think you're absolutely right in the society that we are in, the validation comes from an external aesthetic and so that that drives a lot of these behaviors that I see women trying to implement in order to seek that external validation. And so I would assume that one of the ways to move away from that is to internally validate more, more often, more frequently. What can that process look like for women who maybe do feel like a lot of the time they're looking for that external validation to look a certain way so that people like them or think they're, they're beautiful? And how do we start to move that validation internally?
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife 19:06
Well, so one thing I would say is that we are always operating within a society that's going to value things that are or are not helpful to us. And that's just part of living life. You're going to always be navigating an external demand. I think that sometimes we conform to that demand because we still know if I do that, I'm going to have more doors open to me. I'm going to be more able to be taken seriously, you know, I know for me, like, even like getting various degrees. There were certain classes I thought were a complete waste of time. I hated them, I hated all the things I had to do for those classes, but I would just say to myself, this is what it takes to get a degree and so even though I don't think this is that valuable or I don't mind it that interesting, I'm choosing to do it because I want the outcome ultimately that will benefit my life. So I would still kind of put myself into that even though I thought that's this is not in my view, that valuable for me.
Amber B 20:17
It’s like a little like play the game, just like game.
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife 20:19
Exactly, exactly. And I don't mean it quite so conniving way, but it's sort of like it's just like, OK, this is the reality. Yeah, I need to demonstrate these are the rules of the road. And I get to decide if I do it, I don't have to. I would often remind myself, I don't have to do this. But I what do I want in the face of what I can't control. So it's just it's acknowledging, OK, I don't have to eat healthfully. I can. I absolutely do not have to. And which consequences am I most willing to tolerate in my life? Right. The consequences of not having a lot of sugar, the consequences of having a lot of sugar, right, the consequences of eating healthfully or the consequences of not eating healthfully. And I mean that there's losses on both sides. You know, if you of course, if you don't eat a lot of sugar, you know there's upsides, but then there's also downsides. You know, you don't get to taste as many things, you don't eat as much, but you it's kind of like which realities, and I think this is a function of life. Which downsides am I most able to live with? Which choices will accrue to my self-respect? Even though there will be losses connected to any one of them, yeah. Partly defined by the society you're in. But partly defined by your values and what you really can live with, and people are going to come up in different places on this, which is 100% fine. The important thing is that I decide who I'm going to be in the face of this.
Amber B 21:54
Yeah, it's so powerful. It's that idea, too, of chosen suffering. Right. Like, I mean, that's what you would do is like I don't like this class, but I could choose to not keep going with my degree.
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife 22:06
Amber B 22:07
I'm choosing to continue to do it and that power like that self-determination, that autonomy, that power of choice, allows us to do hard things when we are in control of it, or we'll choose.
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife 22:21
Exactly. Because if I had just focused on, I can't believe I have to do this and I don't even like it. I mean, I would have had no energy. I would have been resentful and I would have felt powerless, which is just the worst feeling right, as opposed to I may not like the rules of the road, but I get to decide how I'm going to engage with those rules.
Amber B 22:41
Yeah. Yeah. So good. So, one thing that I would love to kind of hear you speak on is this balance between self-acceptance. And honoring where we're at and self improvement and I, as so many things. I feel like you talk about it. It's like these seemingly paradoxical things that when we lean into the like you said, the nuance and the complexity of those seemingly paradoxical things we find out, there's actually a way to kind of do both simultaneously. So even in the realm of health and fitness is always a big thing. It's like, how can I love my body and want to change it? How can I you know appreciate where I'm at, accept where I'm at and desire to be somewhere different? And how do we differentiate through that? How do we work through that and kind of embrace you know the nuance and the complexity of those two aspects?
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife 23:33
Yeah, I mean, I don't know if I have my mind fully worked out about this. So I'll just kind of think out loud here but there's first of all, a difference between dissatisfaction and self-hatred, right? So, there's a difference between I don't like the current reality and I hate myself or I loath myself and I just don't think hatred or self-hatred is a pathway that leads to self-love. I just don't think it works. I mean I think people that maybe out of self-hatred do things to get more validation from others. Still aren't left with the feeling of self-acceptance. They still feel like I'm living in this narrow reality and narrow demand. And even if I get more validation here it doesn't feel like something that's accruing to a deeper self acceptance. At the same time I also think it's true, and these might not be paradoxical at all, but just these are just different ideas in my head that accepting what is, is often the first step to change like those two often go together,
Amber B 24:46
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife 24:46
So I think sometimes in our fear of the disappointment in ourselves or the dissatisfaction we try to not deal with what is true about ourselves, what's true about the state of our health, what's true about our habits, what's true about our mindset? And it often takes a lot of compassion for ourselves and courage to just face what is, even if it disappoints us. Because I think once we finally face what is, we actually have a chance of figuring out. OK, is this the way I want to be in relationship to myself, to my body, to these realities? And often in our panic of the disappointment, we avoid what's true or facing what's true, and then we keep replicating what's true. I remember I have a friend who would often just say like. She just didn't eat very healthfully, but she would just say I really am like in my core, a healthy eater. I really value healthy eating and I think there was truth in that. But it didn't square with her behavior because it wasn't the whole truth. It's that she did value how the eating. But she valued something more. The freedom to eat what she wanted or you know or what the foods that she liked that weren't that healthy. And so that idea I think made her more comfortable with her choices in the short term. But was keeping her from more, honestly asserting her choices from a place of clarity. Because even if she had chosen the exact same choices. There would be a little more integrity in it, a little more self acceptance in it. Where I think often we're trying to get away from parts of ourselves and it makes it very difficult to truly accept ourselves. Because we're trying to run from something at the same time that we're trying to accept who we are.
Amber B 26:50
So it's that same question of like what is true in yeah, what is truth and what is true about where I'm at. And what I hear you saying is that a lot of us do whatever we can to not have to look at that. We trick ourselves, we tell ourselves we do. We don't do one thing and then we do the other thing and we try as hard as we can to not actually have to look at what is true because then the next question that comes is like, am I OK with that? And do I want? And that's what the integrity piece I think comes in is like is that what I want to be true about myself, right?
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife 27:28
Amber B 27:28
And we don't often want what is true to be true about us and we try to hide from it.
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife 27:33
That's right. That's right.
Amber B 27:34
So how do we move through that and have the courage to look at what is true. Have the courage to say I actually want to change that part about me and then move through that discomfort of changing it.
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife 27:49
Yeah. So when I was younger, I remember I was, I had what in the 80s we called low self-esteem. OK, so I was reading books about how to improve low self-esteem and I was maybe 17 years old and I remember. Maybe I was a little younger than that, but I remember reading a passage of a book that said, that to truly have self-confidence you had to be self honest, you had to be honest with yourself. You had to deal with what is true and at the time I could barely get my head around what that even meant. Like, what does that mean to be honest with yourself? But it sort of jumped out at me like I just could feel there's something here that I have to understand. Like it felt different and it felt true. And remember, just making a commitment to myself at the time, like I'm going to be honest with myself, no matter how uncomfortable it is. Because I believe that's going to help me find something solid in me and I'm just really grateful I made that commitment to myself. Not that I've done that perfectly by any stretch, but I, but I still it would push me when I was in moments of conflict, or I could tell I was hiding from something from myself or something that I was doing that I could feel was like, not honest not in a little indulgent, a little bit self avoiding and I would just push myself to be like what is actually true here. That was just super helpful for me to not be running from myself. And not be trying to pretend anything and to get out what was actually true so I could be a self I could respect in those realities.
Amber B 29:31
So that I could be a so that I could be a self I can respect in those realities. I think that that self respect piece is a hard one for a lot of people to get to and I think it goes back to our beginning conversation about that anxiety and being able to tolerate the anxiety of that, I think when we actually start to look at what is true and we don't necessarily like what it seems, it does create a lot of anxiety. And so that is where pushing through that anxiety and like you said you had that commitment that you made to that helps you to push through that anxiety, to get to the other side.
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife 30:08
Right. And I would sometimes say to myself or still will say like my mind can and needs to handle what is true here. So as uncomfortable as this is, this is the path to being stronger, to being wiser, to being more able to do what's needed. And so, you know, and I think believing in a God or a universe in which that truth matters, and so it just. it kind of helps you to just hang on when you're like, Ahhh! you know I'm uncomfortable, I'm anxious. But it's also by learning like every time I've done that, you know, I feel grateful on some level. Because my life has expanded, my soul has expanded. You know, I feel a sense of greater peace. Because I have less, I'm trying to avoid. And or run from. And you also just are able to make decisions that feel truly like yours now because you're, like, you know what? I'm not happy with the fact that I'm doing that, like my spouse might not like that. I'm doing that. I might have their invalidation, but I also don't like that I'm doing that and so I need to not do that because I can't respect it in me. And so then that drives a change that will impact other people perhaps, even bring you more validation perhaps, but it's coming out of your own honest self that's saying I want to be better than that.
Amber B 31:36
Yeah, it's coming from a place of integrity rather than somebody else telling you need to change, right? You're actively and I think that's where, like the you said before, you know our relationships become a mirror, maybe an imperfect mirror, but it does become a mirror because when my husband tells me something and I can get to the place where I can say what is true and what he’s saying and I can look at that and then I can ask myself the question is that the type of person I want to be? Is that the actions I want to take? And then I come from that self-determining place not because he doesn't like it, not because I'm trying to get his validation, but because now it prompts me to do that self reflection and say what type of person do I want to be in this situation.
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife 32:13
Exactly right. Exactly.
Amber B 32:14
And that and that's so incredibly powerful. One thing that I hear you talk about is the importance of vulnerability and you like to reframe it as openness, which I really appreciate that reframe in relationships and can you talk a little bit about that openness and relationships and what it can create. And then I think we've also gotten this conversation of, like, openness with ourselves, right, asking ourselves these questions and this connection with ourselves can and just kind of one first of all, why you like openness versus vulnerability and then a little bit more about that.
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife 32:49
Yeah. Well, yes. So, I will sometimes use the word vulnerable because it's what people kind of expect, is what they're pointing to, but you know, even in Brene Brown's research on that, she uses the word vulnerability. But what she was basically saying in her research was that people that were willing to be vulnerable, basically had more self acceptance than the people who were closed or were pretending that they were not making mistakes, or that they weren't sometimes disappointed and to me that means like the people that are actually willing to be honest about who they are, in fact less vulnerable technically than the ones that are always trying to mask paper over hide from one from aspects of themselves that's truly vulnerable in the sense that you're more fragile and so I prefer the word open because openness is a function of strength that I can accept myself enough, or I'm honest enough with myself that I don't feel like I have anything to really hide.
So when you can accept yourself in an intimate relationship. For example, you are at peace with who you are. It's not because you're perfect or you don't ever make mistakes or you don't have blind spots. You assume you have all those things, but you can accept yourself anyway, in part because you know your mind pretty well, you're willing to be honest. But also if your partner shows you something that you hadn't seen. Not that you ever relish or love these moments, but you're willing, you know, but you're willing like, OK, I want to deal with what's true about me. And I don't want to be unkind to you. So let me see it. So you're willing to let someone really in on who you are. Because you're not trying to hide. You're living honestly. And also if there's things you don't yet see and you're with somebody, that's, you know, fair to you that you're that you're willing to see them because you want to have a clear mind, you want that integrity of self, so it allows for a deep kind of openness and knowing because you're not trying to manage how they see you. You're not trying to manage what they know about you and I think that's, that honesty, as a foundational part of a marriage is the only way to be in a marriage, in my opinion, because it's then that you have a deeper sense of freedom and a sense of ease, and that you can really be yourself with your partner because a lot of people I've found in the work I do. They want their partner’s validation, they want their partner to see them a certain way, to desire them in a certain way and because they're wanting a certain view of themselves. And there's not enough honesty in the marriage. It quickly breaks down into resentment and power struggles, and a sense that I can't be myself here or I can't be honest here. And so it quickly accrues to a painful place that feels like you're kind of stuck while, you know, in the name of marriage.
Amber B 35:51
Yeah. Yeah, and I mean. You so your work has been so powerful for my husband and I, we've gone through. We've taken every single one of your courses, subscribe to your podcast, listening to the your free podcast, both paid and free. And I will just say that this concept that Jennifer talks about of really asking what's true. And what they're saying in creating that openness. And that relationship it has, it has transformed my husband and I’s relationship over the last 18 months and it is hard work. It is. it is. It felt much easier for the first, you know, 15, 17 years of our marriage to kind of just live in parallel and we never fought and it was, it felt very easy and yet as we've done this work of learning to be in connection with each other while being in connection with ourselves, not using each other for validation, not going one up, one down with each other, it has, it has transformed our relationship and I mean I will just give all the testimony and thanks to Jennifer for her work in being able to help us to move through that, and of course we'll link everything that you do up in the show notes, because I'm just such a big believer in the work that you do, not only with relationships, but I've seen how the same concepts show up in so many areas of my life. Right. That's one of things I want to have on the podcast is because I see these same concepts and these same, you know drivers that show up in people's fitness journeys and I think this idea of being in connection with ourselves is self authorship and it really changes, it changes people and so thank you so much for that you do.
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife 37:41
Well, I'm thrilled. I'm so happy. It's had such a positive impact on your marriage and on your life. That's great.
Amber B 37:47
One last thing I'd love you to speak on is so this idea of negative. We talked a little bit about like negative self talk or negative, negative imaging, but I'm specifically want to talk about negative body image because that is something that a lot of my clients and a lot of our listeners struggle with is negative body image. Can you speak a little bit to that of how we can start to develop that and work on that. I think a lot of times people get to the place where they, it almost feels indulgent or selfish to focus on loving myself or loving my body or whatever and how can we, how can we reframe that or rephrase that and work on that negative body image and have that be more positive aspect of our lives?
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife 38:36
Well, again, I would put it a little bit in a developmental frame in that learning to be embodied, learning to love and accept the body is highly related to learning, to love and accept ourselves. And I just think you know, when we're born, we're born in, born into a state of self preoccupation and we don't have another possibility, but to be very preoccupied with the question of who am I and am I enough? And you know what we were going through some old family photos yesterday and you know, I stumbled on a picture of me with my first boyfriend as a teenager and it's kind of cracking me up because I just remember the self consciousness of that you know, we're trying to be so cool because we're trying to prove that we are cool. But the level of like anxiety like, am I enough as he think I'm enough. You know, we didn't even really know like each other. We're trying to prove to our friends that we're cool, you know by being boy and girlfriend. But my point is like the level of kind of anxiety about the self was very, very high then. And I think as we grow and are more honest with ourselves and live our lives in a way that we respect, the more ability we have to accept our whole selves, including our bodies and our aging and imperfect bodies even.
And like I would say, you know, I'm in my mid 50s, I have more acceptance of my body now than I had when I was 20. Even though I'm in a much older body and I think we just kind of grow if things are going well, we grow into deep your acceptance and compassion for the self and for others and don't have such a self-obsession, which actually really helps to kind of grow beyond it. Now that's different than you don't care about yourself and you and that the way you feel about your body doesn't matter because I think you are learning to. So first of all I think we make our bodies and how they fit with the cultural idea. Sorry, the current cultural ideal as kind of a measure of self, and I think that's just unfortunate because we have such narrow ideas of beauty. And beauty is so much bigger than the current cultural construct of the ideal male or female. But I think that's learning to value the body, care about it and that even the way you eat and exercise is an expression of care for that body. Right. And I think when we're in relationship to that like I value myself and I value this gift of the body that I have. And how can I treat it well? I find it very different to go exercise, because I should or because I ate too much or something. Then to just think I love this body and I want to do what's good for it. It gives me so much and I want to give back to it and this is a way of giving back to it like giving it the strength it needs. Giving it the nutrition it needs. It's thinking of it as an expression of self-respect is to care for this vehicle, you know, of my soul is the my body. And so how can I treat it in a way that is kind and fair? And I just personally find that so much easier and so much more motivating than some of the kind of self-hatred, fear, anxiety that was in my 20s around the body.
Amber B 42:08
Yeah. No, that's really great. And it goes back to what we, you know, kind of talked at the beginning, this idea of self-hatred is never going to get you where you want to go. It's never been the biggest driver for change and I do think we can. I mean, I just love that question of like what is true in this? How do I, who do I want to be in the face of this decision that I'm having to make? I think that can be such a powerful question. When you're deciding whether to go to the gym, whether to do the hard thing is like who do I want to be in in the face of this chapter, finish that's being placed before me and making that decision from a wholehearted place really becomes that embodiment of person you want to be and grow into.
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife 42:50
Yes. That's right. And it puts the how to say all the wheels are lined up in the right way. So at the at the end of my art of desire course. So this is a course for the women and it's a course on self-development and sexual development but it's really this who do all these ways in which we're pressured to conform to different ideals. But ultimately, who do we desire to be, who I desire to be? And when your choices are linked to your identity rather than I should anything, it changes the motivation. It's like, you know, my mom was somebody who was always a very healthy eater. She valued it from a very young age, and I never heard my mom talk about she needed to lose weight or she never. She never talked like that. She would talk in terms of like what the body needed and what was good for the body. And so I think my mom just had a strong identity, has a strong identity as somebody who is healthy and cares for her body. And so it would. It would never get into that struggle of somebody is telling me to do something that I don't want to do, it was always about I value this. This is about being true to myself and I have found in my own life when I take it internally, I'm a hard worker. I'm a good student, I'm a healthy eater. It gets it out of the struggle, the power struggle and into that sense of I am the decider here. I get to decide, what do I choose? I just gets it into the right position for you to feel like you belong to yourself and you're doing hard things.
Amber B 44:27
It's really good. So to kind of wrap this up, is there any actionable steps I mean, we've talked about so many concepts, right and sometimes it's like that that the application of said concept into the reality of our day-to-day life can feel challenging. So is there any steps or advice or suggestions you can give to my audience, as they are, you know, taking in all of the amazing things that they've heard you say. And they're like, I want to do more of this in my life. What is that application piece look like? You know, moving forward throughout the rest of their day, week, month.
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife 45:02
And would you like me to keep it focused on, like your relationship to your body or to kind of your larger sense of self or what do you think?
Amber B 45:07
I think I would love just this idea of a self-development of like how do we continue to push ourselves in this self-development, whatever realm it's in?
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife 45:19
Yeah, so I think. First of all, I think it would be great if there's a place of kind of chronic conflict in an important relationship and if it's in a part of a relationship with yourself, right. I think of really. You know I've used this quote many times, but Albert Einstein, at least purportedly said, you know we can't solve the problem at the level of intelligence in which it was created. We have to bring our intelligence up to solve it. So self-honesty is the way of bringing your intelligence up and then you have a different ability to solve it. So, if there's an area of struggle for me, whether it's in a relationship with someone else or relationship with myself, what am I pretending not to know is true in this struggle, what is the thing I keep not wanting to deal with what is the thing I have, I'm afraid to admit to myself because it's understandable that you're afraid of the truth. But it's keeping you stuck. And so that self-honesty, the courage of it, and to say, what is it that I need to admit to myself that I'm afraid of? And I would admit it to yourself, you know? And just, yeah, let the truth of it be there and you may feel bad about it. You may not like it. You may feel uncomfortable, but at least now you're able to address what is actually there.
I think then the question is. OK. How do I feel about the fact that this has been true about me? How do I feel about my behavior? Now there might be lots of reasons why it's understandable, OK, like there might be lots of reasons why that's been attempting course to take but do I respect it? Do I feel at peace with it? If you feel at peace with it, then no problem like just say, OK, like I don't need to run from this anymore and I can accept this choice and I can live with it. If I'm not at peace with it, what would I be more at peace with? Like, what would I feel is a more respect worthy for myself, myself respecting a more respect worthy position to take around this. And then I would say you really owe it to yourself to do that because to stretch for that, to reach for that because you're talking about something inside of you that doesn't respect the lesser behavior. And to have more genuine self-respect, it is asking you to reach for a higher way. It is therefore a form of self-love to do it. To push yourselves to do the harder thing, and it will be uncomfortable at times and so on . But you know, every time you're reaching in that direction, you're building the muscles you need to live in a higher, in a way that you're more peace with and it will make your self respect grow and your need for approval go down.
The other thing I would say about it is the more that you've defined this and then you may say like, OK, I can do it in slap shovel realms. At least for me, something I did when I was younger was, I wrote out the in like present tense form. You know, I am a hard worker. I am someone who is at peace with herself and at peace in her own skin. I take good care of my body. I am kind to other people and I just wrote all the things that I really valued that I wasn't yet doing. But I knew that I valued them, that I respected them and that I wanted to embody those realities and I would read it every morning and night and I would imagine myself being her and it was like a way of forging a vision of what it was that I valued. And this was like us moving into that self defining, self authoring reality and then when I would feel what other people wanted or whatever, you know, I could sort of push against that a little bit by saying what is it that I value in this? And even if it was the same thing, at least I knew it was my value. I knew that I was living true to something in me, and it was fulfilling, an identity, right, not complying to an external pressure point.
Amber B 49:35
So good, so good. I just can't thank you enough for coming on and sharing your wisdom with my audience. I mean, the concepts that Jennifer talks about are challenging and life changing. And I mean, it is one thing to listen to this podcast episode and to nod your head and say that makes a lot of sense. And it is another thing to courageously implement the things that she's talking about in her life and on the other side of that is a whole lot of growth and a more fulfilled life.
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife 50:06
Amber B 50:06
And I just think it's work worth to doing in my opinion.
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife 50:12
That’s right. It's it, you know, it's certainly understandable when we resist it and we want to think about doing it because it means going into the difficulty, but it's so much better on the other side that you like wait, why was I putting that off? Because I feel so much better. I feel so much happier. And so we, you know, Dr Sharp, who I trained with would often say, you know, you don't have to choose your suffering. So we always are going to have some anxiety, but it's much better to do the productive form of it and then have the freedom on the other side then resisting it and then drowning in anxiety all the time because we're not confronting our lives.
Amber B 50:47
Yeah, it's really good. My husband and I, you know, we kind of talked about how pre JFF which what we call you, we, our marriage was at like a six, it was like a 6 or a 7 and we went through this period of like deconstruction of like doing the work that you teach and it felt like for a while that our marriage. It's like a two or three and it's like the pit of despair is like, why are we going backwards in our marriage and on the other side of it, though, we felt like, ohh gosh, we're at like a niner, a ten now and it was worth the struggle. It was worth the two or the three to get to that higher level of that nine or 10 we, you know, we could have been happy just at a six. But it was worth it on the other side of that, that struggle to get to the higher level.
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife 51:33
That's so good. I often compare it to like a renovation of the kitchen.
Amber B 51:38
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife 51:38
Is it good enough? Yes, but if we're going to really have the kitchen we want, it means we have to take it down to a two.
Amber B 51:42
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife 51:45
And it's going to suck, and we're going to be like, was this even worth it?
Amber B 51:48
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife 51:48
But then when that new Kitchen is finally done. You're like this is so much better.
Amber B 51:52
Yes, that's such a good analogy. All right. Well, this has been amazing. Where can people find more about you and your work?
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife 52:00
Sure, just my website which is finlayson-fife.com and on there I have a couple of podcasts. One is just conversations like this. The other is I'm actually working with couples on issues of emotional and sexual intimacy. And so you can hear that work with them and see how it relates to you and your relationships. And then I have the five online courses that you can learn about there. But if you're new to me, you can just start with the conversations with Dr. Jennifer podcast and just learn more through my conversations with different hosts.
Amber B 52:34
Yeah, yeah, the Free podcast is fantastic. Room for Two is the paid podcast and I tell people like that is like the best $99 we've ever spent for our marriage, was the Room for Two podcasts. Right? And you just get a you just get to be a fly on the wall and listen to Jennifer coach couples, and it brings a lot of these concepts that she talks about so often to life. And so you can actually see them in a couples relationship. And it's yeah, it's fantastic. So yes, we will link all of those up in the show notes, and if you are looking at her courses and you're trying to decide which one to buy, DM me and I've taken them all so I will, I will point you to which one is maybe good to take first. So thank you so much, Jennifer. We're so, I'm so grateful to for you to coming on the podcast and sharing your knowledge and wisdom with my audience, this has been such a fantastic conversation.
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife 53:24
Amber B 53:25
I hope you enjoyed that conversation as much as I did, Dr. Finlayson-Fife has been such a like I said a mentor for me, somebody who I have just really enjoyed learning from and has really been transformational in my own personal life. And so I'm just so excited to be able to share her with you. If you have any questions about her courses or her podcast, feel free to shoot me a DM. I'm happy to answer those questions. We have linked everything up in the show notes, her courses, her podcast, her events and retreats. So you can go to bicepsafterbabies.com/305. That's just the number of this episode and we've linked everything up there for easy access. And I said it in the podcast episode, but I'll say it again that I really feel like her paid podcast, it's called Room for Two, it is probably the best $99.00 that my husband and I have spent on our marriage, it is fantastic and well, well worth the paid subscription. That wraps up this episode of Biceps After Babies Radio. I'm Amber, now go out and be strong because remember my friend, you can do anything.
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