Uncensored Money Season Four: Bringing Compassion to our Finances (and Our Food) with Letitia Colautti
Melissa Browne: Ex-Accountant, Ex-Financial Advisor, Ex-Working Till I Drop, Now Serial Entrepreneur & Author, Financial Wellness Advocate, Living a Life by Design | 01/08/2023
In this episode, Mel chats with Letitia Colautti, a psychotherapist in her own private practice. Mel talks to Letitia about the synergy between money and food and dives into the stories we carry, being ok with being enough, having boundaries with hard edges as well as practical tools you can use in life. It’s a compassion-led approach to a topic both Mel and Letitia are deeply passionate about.
To find out more about Letitia head to letitiacolautti.com.
Books and resources mentioned in this episode include:
- Geneen Roth – Lost and Found
- Julia Samuel – Every Family Has a Story
- Lori Gottlieb – Maybe You Should Talk to Someone
- Alain de Botton & The School of Life – An Emotional Education (also on YouTube)
- Byron Katie - The Work
If you know you need more help with your finances make sure you join the waitlist for the My Financial Adulting Plan.
If you're not already, come play over at insta at MelBrowne.Money and make sure you are signed up to Mel's Money Musings and Monday Money Moments (yep, we love us some alliteration) for more tips, tricks and ideas on how to best work with your money.
Finally, if you love this episode please make sure you subscribe and leave us a review.
Mel: Welcome Letitia. Thank you so much for joining me.
Letitia: Thanks Mel. It's great to be here!
Mel: A very big part of why I wanted to have a chat with you is that you have a real interest in people's relationships with other people. But also their relationships with food and their relationships with money. And a big part of the reason I wanted to talk to you today is because for so long I've been talking about how we don't do life in a silo with each part of our life in neat little boxes, and they never interrelate. And often the patterns of behaviours we see with our food, we can also see replicated with money and vice versa. And certainly, I've used the example in the past and in my books of chocolate and credit, now I cannot have chocolate in the house. If I do, it's with the understanding that it will be gone by the end of the day if it even makes it home. And that way I don't need to use my willpower. I just don't have it here. And it's the same with credit. I simply don't give myself access to it. So therefore it's not problematic. Or I've done it in the past with my food growing up, it was a binge and purge cycle, which I can see in the past I've done with money as well. I absolutely was super strict. And then I purged. Both of which don't work just FYI. Can you tell me if this is just something I see in my life or that I'm making up in my head, or is this something you see in your work? And if so, what are the common synergies or themes you see?
Letitia: It's absolutely not just you. I've been working in this area for a really long time and I started off working really around people's relationship food, and that's really evolved for me over the years. But how I've come to understand it by talking with people is that people can get very caught up on what I'm supposed to eat. The rules around my eating, the good food, the bad food, the ‘I'm being naughty’, ‘I've got no control’. And the stories that we start to tell ourselves about, ‘I can't get this under control’. ‘I'm terrible’ or ‘I'm lazy’, or ‘I'm hopeless’ or whatever that is.
But for me, what I started to understand is the reason why people were using food. And it's different for everybody, but the reason why they were using food was often because the food was helping them deal with, soothe or comfort a feeling that was too difficult to live with.
So there's a feeling that they're trying to get away from, and food is one of the most legal, effective, fast, efficient, available substances that we've got that will start to change. We get a chemical rush and it'll start to change the way we feel really quickly. But not only that, as we're even anticipating the food or eating the food, there's a whole sensory explosion going on for us. We can smell it, we can listen to the opening of the chips packet. We can look at chocolate,
Mel: The rustle of the Haighs chocolate packet
Letitia: The taste on our fingertips when we're licking our fingers after it. It's our whole body experience.
Mel: My mouth is quite literally watering.
Letitia: What’s interesting is that food is often about how we regulate or negate a feeling. That just feels too much. It just feels too much. And so as I was talking to people, I was really understanding there's an awful lot of suffering here, and I'm not even talking about disorder.
Mel: Awful. Lot of what, sorry Letitia?
Mel: Yeah, suffering. Gotcha.
Letitia: And I'm not talking about disordered eating. I'm talking about grey area eating where people are really struggling with their feelings, using food and then feeling absolutely terrible about themselves afterwards. But I recognized after a while, this wasn't just happening in the area of food.
This was happening with spending. I get a rush when I go out and buy those shoes and I sneak those shoes home and I put the shoes in the cupboard, and I actually don't even unwrap them. They just sit there. Or I get the online order coming in, especially these days, it wasn't so much back then, but I get the online order and I rustle them into my bedroom and then I don't actually unpack the item.
Or take the item and I try it on and it's not me, and then I can't face taking it back, or there's a whole lot that goes on when we can also get a real rush from spending and acquiring and filling up that void. That's feeling really uncomfortable. Really hard. Really lonely and often very shameful.
Mel: Yeah, absolutely. And I know you mentioned that word shame. That's such a word that I've used a lot and the work of Brene Brown with what I've done because I see such a synergy with that. With shame and money or guilt or not being enough and all of those emotions. And I guess in this current environment with rising interest rates and inflation, you can add in words like blame and fear and stress. And even believing it will all be better when rates go down or I earn more money. But can you talk to me about the things that you are hearing from clients that we are not talking about or aren't being talked about?
Letitia: I'm not sure I hear often enough, how much people are hurting until they come and see me. So I think oftentimes when I'm talking to clients, they've kept hidden how much this is hurting them and how much emotional pain or mental pain or stress, even mental fatigue that they're in around thinking about these problematic areas of their life. And it can be all consuming. I often will hear people say, oh, look, if I could just get on top of this, everything will be okay. If I could just be thinner, if I could just stop eating this way, if I could just stop the spending, if I could just get a pay rise. If I could just, just, just, just, just, just.
And what's interesting is, I have worked with clients who have gotten the pay rise or who have earned money or have bought the house or whatever that is, and it hasn't been better, and it still feels desolate inside, it still feels lonely. There is still something is hurting inside. And it can be really easy to project onto this fantasy or this idea that that's gonna be the answer. Everyone else who seems to have that seems to be pretty happy. So that could be the answer. So if I just alleviate this problem, that could be the answer, but oftentimes the problem isn't the problem. It's not about the food. It's not about the money, it's not about the relationship. It's not about the blah, blah, blah, blah. More often than not, I will hear the intense shame of, I just can't say this out loud to anybody else. I can't admit it to myself. I don't wanna look at my own bank accounts. I don't want to throw away the two sizes too small clothes in my wardrobe. I don't wanna face, the age-old things like swimsuit season. I don't wanna face it. So we are not necessarily talking about it how much this is hurting us.
Mel: Do you think that ‘I'm just not’ is comparison culture. Do you think that comes from comparing ourselves to other people? And it coming from there? Cause I mean, social media's got so much to answer for when it comes to comparison culture from, as you said, bodies to holidays, to fashion, to bags, to parenting styles, to relationships. And certainly I see that damage when it comes to finances as well. So do you think that's a big part of it? Is it potentially comparison culture?
Letitia: I think what's interesting is certainly nowadays comparison culture in social media is rife, but when I started this, we didn't have social media. And yet the comparison was still going on. And I think sometimes the comparison is against myself and what society has told me I'm supposed to be. Or what the messages were growing up, or what I see other people doing in my peer group, my work group, my family group, that the comparison can actually quite widespread.
And when we're comparing ourselves, we're losing sight of ourselves. So we're living outside of ourselves, we're focusing on this thing outside of ourselves. And we're losing inside of us our truth, the essence of who we are. There can be something profoundly unacceptable about accepting this incredible individual that is us.
And we are looking at others and doing a lot of their thinking for them and making up in our heads that their life seems great. They seem pretty happy, seem pretty successful. And therefore, if I had a bit of that, I might be okay. But also let's not forget the comparison around society has filled our heads in Western culture for years and years and years and years about what a successful life looks like, depending on how old the person is that I'm talking to those messages are very, very different depending on what they grew up with. But they're very strong and they're very powerful.
Mel: So how do we combat that comparison culture wherever that's showing up in our life? Cause I know I talk about on social media making sure you unfollow, but also place people on there that are helpful and are going to feed you. But what are some other tips for how we can maybe reduce that noise or change that messaging a little bit?
Letitia: I think it's interesting to challenge people's thoughts and to say, what are you thinking about this? If we're seeing this, what are your thoughts about this? And could that actually really be true? Or could those thoughts be inaccurate? And do you actually know the reality of this situation? So what can be really helpful is to get incredibly curious, really, really, really curious about, I actually don't know what's happening for this person when they stop filming. I don't know what's happening for that person. And I can say in all honesty, with the hundreds of people I've worked with across various levels of socioeconomics, cultures, religions, nationalities diversity, you name it, it is really interesting that people are sitting opposite me consistently saying I'm hurting. And it doesn't matter how much money they have or how beautiful they have it, or how successful they have it or whatever that is, there's a common human experience of I'm hurting. And we lose sight of that a little bit by the pretty pictures. And it is worth us being really curious about, well, hang on, can I just check what's going on for me? Can I find out what's my truth and reality in all of this? Sometimes talking about that with somebody who's also in a similar place as you can feel like liberation, can be a game changer for people, because two people de-shame each other in that scenario. We do have to be careful who we trust with our stories.
Mel: Yes. Yes, definitely.
Letitia: We don't need their judgment. We don't need their bias. And I think that's where therapy is incredibly helpful, because you've got a professional listener who is not here to judge you, is here to be curious with you. And we have a lot of well-meaning people in our lives that are trying to help us, who don't want us to suffer, who love us, who wanna fix this or offer us a solution. And sometimes that's not what we need to hear. We need to be able to say, I feel so bad inside that the only times I feel good is when I'm eating this way, spending this way, obsessing about this relationship, working my butt off, whatever else it is whatever other activity that is that takes us away from ourselves. So comparison culture is as long as we are living outside of ourselves, we are missing an incredible opportunity to live within ourselves.
Mel: I love that. Yeah, and I guess for some people that would be scary to because they would have to actually stop and think about what do I actually want? What would it mean if I was to live within myself? What would that look like? I don't think enough people actually ask those questions.
Letitia: I think it's very true. It can be a really scary thing because I will often talk about people. So when I'm working with a client I'll talk about their family systems, their family of origins or what institution or organization they grew up in. And what can be really interesting is that sometimes in a whole community of people that they've grown up in, they're incredibly different from everybody else. But being different from a primal human aspect, being an outsider is not necessarily a recipe for survival. That is, we need to group together and be together as one, because that's how we actually survive. So being outside that group is not necessarily the most comfortable and natural and organic place for us to be. So becoming that individualised person or differentiated from the group requires a lot of strength, a lot of confidence. I think it helps to have someone help you into that place as well. We need to learn how to do that successfully too, because that doesn't necessarily feel fantastic to be different from everybody else.
Mel: Yeah. Yeah. I think we like the idea of being individual and to be noticed and to stand out, but you are right. The reality of that actually can be jarring and as humans, we want to be seen and to be known and to be part of something.
Letitia: Belonging, acceptance and within a family structure. We could be the only ones that aren't wealthy. We can be the only ones who aren't sporty and thin. We can be the only ones who aren't in a relationship. We could be the only ones that do not have children. We could be the only ones who are university educated. The list goes on and on and on, and that separateness, depending on how the group holds you in that, can feel very isolating. So we can move into some secretive behaviour with that. Sometimes we hide ourselves or small ourselves down to make ourselves comfortable for others.
Mel: And then I imagine the ripple effect of doing that on your food or your finances or your relationships, like there's gotta be a consequence to behaving like that if you are reducing yourself in order to make yourself fit in?
Letitia: What gets really interesting is, it is not unusual for me to talk to people who are keeping themselves hidden from others. And keeping what they're doing hidden from others. So there might be these behaviours. So I'm thinking about, for example, a client who doesn't have a huge amount of income coming in. But there's a real keep-up with the Joneses socially. They're very young and being together with friends is about going out and drinking. Now, going out and drinking is incredibly expensive to do.
Mel: Yeah. Particularly in a capital city.
Letitia: But the wrestle here is I either be with my friends or I'm outside of the group. And if I say to my friends, let's go for a walk. It's like, well, you know, walk's not gonna cut it. Let's go for a walk and let's go for a walk to the pub, or let's go shopping together, or let's do this. And so being the person that doesn't belong or doesn't feel like they belong, that's a real wrestle. So it's not very realistic for me to say, oh, well you've just gotta stop going out with your friends, because that's gonna be the solution for them. The solution for them is much deeper. It's about understanding how do I get a bit stronger in communicating what's happening for me with people I trust. And so then we're moving into a really important factor in all of this is how we commit.
Mel: Yeah. I completely agree with that. Just thinking about some of my own relationships and those things. Like communication is so important. And I know even if I look at my own husband, we didn't have great goals when it came to money for a long time because we didn't communicate them, and now we actually have a system of communication in order to make that happen. And it sounds so unsexy and non-spontaneous, but if you don't create those things that work for you, it doesn't happen naturally for some of it.
Letitia: It doesn't happen naturally, and that's very much the point is that we can make assumptions that people should just tune in and know us. This thing called attunement or attunement trauma is very real, and it starts from when we were very young and we desire this being tuned into, because ultimately that's what we want as babies, for our parents to tune into us and meet our needs 'cause I'm nonverbal and I need you to know what's going on for me. We can keep remnants of that going all the way through. Like, why can't you know what I need? And it's a partner saying, because I can't know what you need. And also the misinterpretation about things. So somebody might say, I need affection. And for one person what affection is and what another person what affection is are too vastly different things. And so being able to negotiate and understand, and again, if I flip into one thing that's helpful about the therapeutic relationship is that the therapist is entirely focused on understanding you. Now, to be understood at that level is a profoundly healing experience. To be understood in that way, then what you can learn to do is take that out into the world and help people. You have to help people understand you. Put them into that space of, ‘it doesn't feel good when I'm doing X, Y, and Z. I would love to see you, but it's really hard for me to be sitting at a really expensive restaurant or ordering $80 bottles of wine and feeling absolutely stressed to the hilt about how am I gonna pay for this?’ Or in family dynamics is keeping up with each other about gift giving, lavish holidays or, but we're all going here. Why don't you join along? So saying, ‘actually this is going to cause me more stress in anything and is there some sort of simplified way?’ Am I enough just as I am to meet you in this really simplified way? That's really hard to say and talk about.
Mel: I love that. And some of these things are really easy to say and not so easy to do, and the consequence of doing them can be tough because the person you're saying it to may reject that or they may not accept that. So if you've had that communication and or we use that example of the family and the family goes, but this is the expectation. Or, of course you would do that if you wanna be a good daughter etc. How can you hold that boundary and still protect your finances, etc and have that communication, like it's just fraught, isn't it?
Letitia: It's tricky. Look, there is a way and it is about getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. It's about developing a type of resilience that I can actually weather this discomfort and it's not actually gonna destroy me. And we build that muscle slowly and we do it steadily and carefully, and we do it at the low-risk level first, and then we build on that. So learning to say no in a way that is not deeply offensive to somebody.
And then starting to build that up but also saying no is not just a blanket no. It could be, can I just explain why this is hard?
Mel: Or not yet.
Letitia: Yeah. Or in a different way. In a family of origin, if we do have a family of origin, we can make assumptions that we know and understand each other just because we belong to that family of origin. And that's not necessarily true. I'm a twin and interestingly, my twin and I grew up in exactly the same family circumstances and it was just the two of us and so we were exposed to the same things at the same time. And yet we have vastly opposite meanings of what money is and behaviours and food. And it's not just food. We're talking food and alcohol and relationships and communication style. Vastly, vastly different. And so being able to say, I get that's how you see it. And I don't want that. I don't want you to not have that, but this is how it is for me. And what's our halfway point? How do we get to the middle?
Mel: That's fascinating. 'cause twins, the one family. I mean then it's nature versus nurture.
Letitia: Yeah, we are opposite in many ways. Very, very opposite. And like a little example is when I was a child, I grew up in a very working-class background. So we lived in the western suburbs of Sydney. If people don't know, that is a very working-class area and we went to the local public schools. And I didn't grow up feeling like I suffered with going without, there was food on the table, but the food came from the veggie garden or the chooks up the backyard or whatever that was.
Mel: I can relate to all of this. Yep.
Letitia: Our house was very simple. But there was this abundance of our parents being very interested in us and very plugged into us, which was a lovely experience growing up. And interestingly, I remember when we would be given Easter eggs at Easter time and it felt like a real treat to have Easter eggs because chocolate wasn't something we'd have in the house very often. Now I would hold onto my Easter eggs and they would last all year.
Mel: You were the one where they went white. Yeah.
Letitia: I preciously put them on the shelf and I would look after and I thought that because these things don't come very often. I wanna make this last. My twin was no, let's hover this up!
Mel: Oh, I'm your twin. You don't get them very often, so you gorge on them.
Letitia: The idea of more, there'll be another chance or there'll be another opportunity, for whatever reason, and it wasn't necessarily an advert message coming from family, but for whatever reason, I had a sense of there may not be another chance. So that flows for me into my food behaviours, into my spending behaviours. That sense of holding on, that sense of hoarding, that sense of being careful, that sense of I have to be miserly sometimes because I'm so frightened of what if more money doesn't come in? I can get frozen sometimes in my behaviours because of the fear of this could be the one and only. So that really calls me, and yet my twin is very, very different and has this great trust and faith that there's going to be more. That's in the same family.
Mel: But I love that example from twins in the same family. That's extraordinary. But I think part of what you've done, and I loved your example of this is the example with the Easter egg, and now this is how I see that show up today. I think part of that is 'cause you've recognised it and you've identified that, and I think for a lot of people they don't. Like they don't know to recognise what their story is and the beliefs that have shaped their stories as adults. And when we were emailing yesterday, you said that the meaning that we give to things like money and food and relationships are as varied as our fingerprints, which I just think is fascinating. And I feel like you are talking about that example with your sister is a perfect example of that.
But do you see common themes between the meaning we give, say money and food, or are they different themes? Or how can we start to identify what those stories are for ourselves?
Letitia: I think there are some. It's like an iceberg. So I think there's the top of the iceberg, and I think there are real common things that I hear quite often, which is about comfort, it's about security. It's about money and food has a high pleasure status as far as it can feel fantastic using it. It can be about freedom. It can be about choice. At the very base human level, money and food are about survival.
Letitia: It is wired into our bodies. So our instinct around that will be extremely strong. And depending on where you go in the world and what communities you go to in the world, you're gonna see that expressed in very, very different ways. But there's the typical iceberg about, it can be about power, security, freedom, choice. It can be about expressions of wealth. It can be about showing love or giving love. It can be how I feel good enough about myself. It can be about status, but it can also bring us shame and guilt and embarrassment. And so these topics sort of sit on the top of the iceberg. But what's really interesting and from my point of view, I will hear that, but then I wanna go really deep with someone and say, yeah, but how does that work with you? How did that come up specifically for you? When did you notice it happening? When does it get worse? When does it get better? Who else do you know does this? Is this feeling familiar? Have you had this before? And how often has it shown up and where else if we really cast the net right wide, where else did you see this as a story showing up for you? And then I wanna ask you, is it actually your story? Or did you borrow someone's story or try it on one day 'cause it kind of worked once and forgot to take the coat off, or didn't take the coat off? And maybe this is an opportunity to say, can I take this coat off and see what that feels like? And is this an opportunity for me to say, I need to put this down, or I need to give this back. I need to reshape and redefine. So it might be about, this story's become redundant 'cause it used to work then and then it didn’t. And my life stages have grown out of this, and my meaning-making has grown out of this. So how do I evolve the story? And that is about sitting with ourselves gently and carefully without judgment asking those questions. That is not an easy thing to do. It sounds very simple. But it's not easy to do and I think again, if you are fortunate enough to have someone that will sit with you as you do that process now. And having someone sit with you might mean having someone sit with you by reading a book. So the author is sitting with you or the podcaster is sitting with you or the person is speaking with you 'cause I'm a great believer that we learn and develop and grow in a variety of different ways. Sometimes life will do that for us. So if I'm talking to somebody who's suffered a bereavement, there oftentimes is a conversation around how that bereavement has changed the meaning of life for them. Or a life crisis or a bankruptcy, or a great loss of some kind. It can really alter our meaning-making, and ideally, that's a very painful way of learning lessons. It doesn't always have to be when we're driven to crisis, but being able to stay with ourselves long enough and just ask some of these questions and be really curious about what's happening here. What am I really feeling? I can grab the block of chocolate, or I can grab the bag of chips or I can hit the online spending right now, or I can just stop and say, hang on, what is actually happening here? What am I feeling inside? Do I have someone nearby? Like sometimes we tell it to the dog or the cat or the goldfish. Sometimes we go and tell it to the park. I think there are a lot of very creative ways to express what's going on for us. Art, movement, dance, talking, there are lots of different ways of doing that, but staying with self long enough to be mindful of, what is this whirling inside of me and is it worth bringing some compassion to this?
Mel: And it's interesting, isn't it? Because as people, and especially with the fast-paced, instant gratification society we live in, we just want a quick fix or a bandaid to put on this or a pill that we can take just to make it go away and fix this. I know with finances it's just tell me what to do. Give me the seven steps. But I know actually, if you understand who you are and where you're at and where you wanna go, then you can create that highly personalised sustainable, transformative approach. And it sounds like what you are suggesting is the same. But actually you have to do the deep work if you want it to be transformative rather than just a bandaid. Damn it!
Letitia: I think we can be excellent at avoiding ourselves. Avoid, avoid, avoid, avoid, avoid. And we can do that endlessly and it feels good. Let's face it, it feels fantastic to go and get distracted, put Netflix on and sit there with a bowl of popcorn and do that instead. That feels great, but there is a cost sometimes that we pay for avoiding ourselves for too long.
Mel: Yes. What do you see that the cost is for most people or for people that do choose to avoid?
Letitia: Yeah so ignoring, ignoring, ignoring. There can be a deep stirring for quite some time. I'm talking to people and they'll say, I just haven't felt right for a while. And I just ignored it. I pushed on, I didn't let myself stop. I haven't had time to other things got in the way. And sometimes that pain becomes quite overwhelming and we start to be kind of self-punishing sometimes. So we'll be not very kind to ourselves. We speak to ourselves very harshly. If we really recorded the things we say to ourselves, it's quite shocking and abusive sometimes.
And then if we start to go down that path, there are cases of course, where sometimes people become very destructive in their relationships. So they might lash out at the people they love the most. And that it's not necessarily because they're being malicious to the people they love the most, but because they feel like they are the ones that can bear the brunt. So it can get destructive in relationships. It can get destructive with our children, with our parents, with our friends in our workplaces. It can become very difficult. I often would say, if people are partnered and we wanna think that our partners sort of knows us, but at the same time, we can often keep parts of us very hidden from each other. And this is where really good communication is so very, very important in saying, I'm not doing so great. That is what's happening for me and I think the caveat there is that if you've got a kind enough relationship that works really, really well. Another area that I actually work with is betrayal trauma. If you have suffered betrayal via, affairs, infidelity, sex addiction, or financial betrayal. And interesting there's a huge crossover between sexual betrayal and financial betrayal often.
Mel: Ah, yep. That doesn't surprise me.
Letitia: I think that's another story for another day, but yeah a hidden secret world that we can inhabit and think no one else is seeing, but actually our behaviours are telling the story. And that's when it turns toxic. That's when the ignoring becomes excruciatingly painful.
Mel: Do you think it's possible to, when I look at food and relationships I know, or food and money, I know particularly when I'm stressed, I see those patterns of behaviour that I think I've let go of or I think I've dealt with sometimes re-emerge to my eternal frustration. And I know it's the same with money. So those three things, your food, relationships, money, it always comes back to that. But I now have a toolkit of things that I can go to minimise that destructive effect. But do you think it's possible to change our story completely and therefore our behaviour? Or is like me having that toolkit that I know I can keep going back to what we are all kind of looking potentially to do and what might be in that toolkit for someone wanting to change their behaviour? Small question, Letitia.
Letitia: I think it's absolutely possible that our stories evolve. They shift, they change, they shapeshift, they certainly shapeshift. And if we're examining our story carefully enough, we have an incredible amount of choice to actually do some of the changing of the story or put some of the story down. And there are lots of fantastic modalities we can use to challenge some of that stuff. And I'll tell you about this a little bit later but the ability to change our story is absolutely possible as long as we know what the story is that we're telling ourselves in the first place.
So we have to know it to change it. So we can't change what we're not aware of. Awareness is not change. Change is doing it differently. You've gotta do the doingness of it for it to be changed. And change often looks like experimentation. It looks like it doesn't look like this wonderful across the line, and suddenly everything's different. It doesn't look like this nice, neat, little perfect package of control. It doesn't look like that. It's messy, it's awkward. It's trial and error. It's tried that, fell down, gotta stand up, brush myself off, and I've gotta do that 50 times before I work out that's actually not the path for me. Or I've gotta tweak that a little bit, or I need better shoes or whatever.
Mel: Or the habits that financial habit's not working for me, I'll try another one.
Letitia: And also the expectation of this cannot look absolute. There's no way this is gonna look a hundred per cent all the time. This is only ever going to look, I don't know. 80/20, 70/30. This is only gonna be good enough enough of the time that I'm well enough, healthy enough, doing okay enough. Because we can switch around, I'm not good enough or I am actually enough good. So staying away from the absolutes is helpful because if we are looking for, this has gotta look done and dusted and finished, that can be a little bit like I am trying to box myself into a square that is not organic enough for this life. Because something else is always coming around the corner. A bit like our boundaries. When I talk about boundaries, instead of us walking around a nice little neat and tidy brick fence around us, if we think about it like a rubber band and it's got a bend and flex and stretch, and we go to the edges and back again, and that's what great boundaries are about, is that they evolve with us.
And that's incredibly helpful. So I think some of the toolkits about taking ourselves back from the edge is that, first of all, we have to know what our edges are. We have to know when I'm actually, this has gone on too long. This has been too painful for too long. I'm not doing as okay as I thought. I had this with myself even recently. I noticed I'd gone through a very stressful period and I thought, actually, you know what? I'm not doing as well as I thought I was. Cause I thought, I'm just shoulder to the grindstone. Just keep going. And I've actually realised I've paid a really big price. This is not feeling good and I just need to stop for a minute and sometimes change is about stopping. Just stop. Pause for as long as you need to pause. Slow it right down. And if you don't know, then don't. Just stay. Just stay. It's not necessarily about movement and doing, sometimes it's about we just need to stop and take a big long breather and when we know the next step, we will take that next step. But it's okay to stop for as long as we need to.
Mel: I really love that. It's good enough 'cause I think as women particularly, we wanna be perfect. And I wanna get it right all the time. And I really love the gift of knowing that it's good enough, like it's gonna be good enough for most of the time, and sometimes it's not. And then knowing what to do. And I love that knowing where the edges are, because I think too many people don't have boundaries in place. They don't know where their edges are, so therefore you are so buffeted because you haven't recognized a lot of these things. So just simply understanding where your edges are. I love that.
Letitia: And edges is an interesting thing because sometimes we'll talk about boundaries and actually what we are doing is we're building defence systems instead of boundaries. So we're cutting off from people or we're cutting off from something we actually need to stay engaged with. And you know, that it can feel really helpful to say, well, I'm just going to make sure I never have a chip in the house ever again. Now that's not so realistic. I mean, if we're talking about addiction and we're talking about someone who might, for example, have an addiction to alcohol and they say it's not a good idea to have alcohol in the house, then yeah, I really get that. Don't have alcohol in the house. But when we are talking about things that we're primarily wired for, like food, having that much control over I'm never gonna be in the vicinity of a chip again, is not necessarily so possible. But people do sometimes approach it with the idea of, I need absolute perfection in this. And so we build a defence mechanism or we build a wall of avoidance or shutoff that prevents us from reaching a place where it is actually possible to have a really neutral relationship with food. But I don't need it. And it just sits there, and don't need it because I've worked out in and of myself when that food is okay and sometimes I'm gonna eat more of it, and sometimes I'm gonna eat less of it. And certainly for me, my own self-education around food has been a really long process over a couple of decades and where I would not once be able, like chips are my thing, so I would not be able to have them in the house at all. They would disappear within seconds. That's not even make it home from the grocery store. That's how compulsive it was for me.
Mel: I get it.
Letitia: But it's interesting I remember not so long ago waking up and thought, that's really interesting. I can have a pack of chips sit there in the pantry for extraordinarily long period of time, and sometimes they get open and guess what? Sometimes they don't all get eaten.
Letitia: They get packed up and put away. And I could not have imagined that when I was in the throes of my obsession, the dreadful thinking I was doing about myself back then, I could never imagine a neutrality like that. And it's a slow growth and it's an evolution that can take place for us if we're compassionate enough with ourselves. Because bringing in another rule for ourselves is not compassion.
Letitia: It's just another rule.
Mel: Yeah. Ugh. I love that so much. And I really love that neutrality around food and money because certainly I've said it before with money, you can't have a relationship with legal tender. You simply can't. So it is actually about breaking up with it and just coming it and having it be no different than cars, just something that gets you from A to B, but it's easier saying those words than actually doing it. So do you have some tips or some modalities that you could share where someone could become more neutral with food or money?
Letitia: I think if anyone, for example, listening now and saying, I think I'm not doing okay with food or money, is that I would say try not to stress and be frightened and try to look at it as an opportunity of, I think there's something I need to know about this that I just don't know. And I wanna assure people that they're not expected to be the expert on their lives, believe it or not. That sometimes we need a little bit of help in becoming experts on our lives. Now there are a number of different things and ways we can do that is that if you are fortunate enough to be in a position where you can actually sit with a listening professional, that can be fantastic. Or if you've got really great neutral friends that can be helpful or somebody in your life or a mentor. But there are some great books and podcasts that you can turn to. I dunno if you've heard of Geneen Roth who is a woman in the US who's done a lot of work around relationship to food and relationship to money. She wrote a great book called Lost and Found. She was scammed by Bernie Madoff back in the day.
Mel: Oh yeah.
Letitia: And wrote a really interesting book about the emotional fallout of that. But she correlates it back to her own work with eating and food and relationship to food. I also like the work of Julia Samuel. She's got a great book called Every Family Has a Story, and she talks a lot about how we wear our family stories and walk around with our family stories and that can be really illuminating. She's got a beautiful podcast, which is always interesting to listen to, and I've heard a lot of my client's stories replicated in her client stories as well. And sometimes just listening to that, we pick up so much.
Mel: Yes. And even that, oh, we're normal. You know, this is common.
Letitia: Yes. Like, that's just like me. I know that space and place too. And that's very de-shaming. So that's a great starting point. De-shame and normalise. That things can feel really hard and we wanna seek comfort. There's nothing abnormal about that. There's a great podcast Lori Gottlieb wrote a fantastic book, Maybe You Should Talk To Someone. And there are workbooks that go alongside it, but she's got a lovely podcast with a man called Guy Winch. And they do therapy online basically. You listen to them do therapy with people, which is fantastic.
And I like The School of Life, which is philosophy based. Believe it or not, you can pick up a lot of really interesting information out of The School of Life. They've got a lovely book called an Emotional Education. That's a nice exploration through the human condition, and they're very psychotherapy based as well.
But if we are doing our own, some people like to journal, some people like to write songs. Some people like to do art some people like to do movement. Sometimes we find our way via yoga. Sometimes we find our way via Tai Chi. It's interesting when I'm talking to people, I'm constantly surprised about how they find their way back to themselves. If we let ourselves be creative, we can find our way back to ourselves.
Mel: I love that. I have loved this conversation. My last question I wanna ask is, I think there are people I hear it a lot, who think they're bad or even terrible with money so that ‘I'm bad with money’ is was a story that I hear a lot in the same way that I think someone might say there's good or bad food, or they're addicted to sugar, or they sabotage relationships. Like they just presume they're bad at this area of their life. What would you say to someone who thought that?
Letitia: If I'm hearing people in essence say, I'm hopeless with this, one of my first areas of curiosity are, is that really true or is it that you don't know what you is that you need to know? And who taught you? So, did you get taught that? How did you get an understanding of this? Do you know enough about this to make this topic friendly, approachable, understandable? Or is this a big, scary topic that looms over the top of you and makes you feel intimidated and small? So is that really true, is that story true? And one thing I'll add in, there's a woman called Byron Katie, and she puts all of her material online for free, and she does a modality called The Work. And we ask four questions. So is that true? Can you possibly know that's true? How do you act when you believe that thought? And then how do we turn that thought around? Now there are four basic questions and they're incredibly powerful in challenging our thoughts and beliefs about things. I'm all for free resources. I'm all for helping people into very affordable ways to start to ourselves. But my first response is typically my curiosity gets peaked immediately. And I'll say, is that really true? And where did you learn that? And what else do you need to know about that? So education is powerful.
Mel: Yeah, absolutely. I can't agree more. I have loved this conversation. It absolutely has challenged some things that I think I do. I know you said it around boundaries. Are you going into defence or is it like things like that? I'm like, Ooh, am I'm gonna go and think more of that. I loved the good enough and the hard edges and just so like shame, guilt, the thinking about the iceberg. So much we've talked about today, as well as the super practical nature of here's some more places that you can go. So we'll list all of that, including all Letitia’s details in the show notes. But Letitia, if there's one thing, one thought, that you'd like to leave people with after this conversation, what would you like that to be?
Letitia: I would love the idea that we brought so much more compassion to these topics around things like how we use money, how we spend our relationship to money, our relationship to food, because it's very quick and easy and it's a cheap, easy hit to judge and criticise, and it is an art form to bring compassion to suffering and people are suffering. And that's what really fires me up here mostly, is that I absolutely have heard time and time again that people are in huge emotional pain. And my goodness, just bringing some compassion to this conversation changes things profoundly, profoundly. And so ideally, let's bring some compassion to ourselves as well.
Mel: I love that. Thank you so much for joining me. As I said, I've loved this conversation. And if you wanna hear more about Letitia and what she's talked about today, as I said, I will reference all of those different books and podcasts and more in the show notes as well. Thank you, lovely.
Letitia: Thank you, Mel. It's been lovely talking to you.