Licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Joy Lere joins us to explore the profound impact that difficult times have on individuals and how they can navigate their ongoing challenges. She sheds light on the various cognitive changes and sacrifices made by people during the pandemic – particularly mothers – and how its lasting effects continue to shape lives. Dr. Lere also explores developing more emotional awareness, the toll that constant stress and the fight-or-flight response takes on our bodies and minds, setting boundaries, and the importance of self-compassion through better self-talk. Join us as we seek to enhance our emotional intelligence to empower ourselves, create a healthier relationship with money, and find resilience and growth for a renewed sense of possibility.
What You’ll Learn in this Episode:
- How stress and sacrifice can impact our lives, particularly women
- The importance of seeking support, especially when trying to juggle it all
- Why you must set boundaries at home and in the workplace
- A great way to develop personal growth
- Why money makes life so complex
- Why it’s critical to understand emotions
- How leaders can provide graceful and effective feedback
- How being your own worst critic hurts you
- The reason we must embrace discomfort if we want to grow and improve our lives
Resources Mentioned on the Show:
- Connect with Dr. Joy Lere on Sub Stack and on Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn
- Join the Abacus community by connecting with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and on LinkedIn
- Connect with Mary Beth on Twitter, Instagram, and on LinkedIn
- Connect with Neela on Twitter, Instagram, and on LinkedIn
Hey there. Welcome to the If Money Were Easy podcast, the show where we teach you how to expand what’s possible with your money. We’re your hosts, Neela Hummel –
Mary Beth [00:00:23]:
And Mary Beth Storjohann –
Certified Financial Planners and Co-CEOs of Abacus Wealth Partners. Today on the show, we’re going to talk about coping with challenge and change. But before we jump in, a brief disclosure from our compliance department. This podcast is for educational purposes and is not intended as investment, legal, or tax advice. Any opinion shared is not the opinion of Abacus Wealth Partners. Let’s dive in.
Mary Beth [00:00:51]:
So, y’all, we are very excited today to have Joy Lere as a guest on our show. Joy is a licensed clinical psychologist and the Co-Founder of Shaping Wealth. She works at the intersection of psychology and money and is a leading expert in behavioral finance. Joy has previously served as an associate clinical professor in clinical psychology at George Washington University and has held research and clinical positions with Penn Medicine, Princeton Health, the Department of Defense, and Children’s National Medical Center. Joy, welcome to the show.
Thank you so much for having me. I can’t wait to dive into our discussion today.
Mary Beth [00:01:28]:
We are very excited for this conversation and I just want to kick it off with a general overview. So giving all that has transpired over the past few years, give us a lay of the land. How are people doing? How are women doing? And what’s your perception?
I think it depends. For any of us, at any given moment on any given day, it fluctuates. And I think there are people who are at a place, they’ve come out of the pandemic and there was a real stepping back and wrestling with, “What is the life I really want? What do I want to create?” And that process served as a springboard for incredible growth, deepened self-awareness, and a real connection to pursuing desire and deciding, “Wait, I’m not going to keep sitting back and having the world tell me how my life is supposed to look. I’m going to create this for myself.” And I think that’s really exciting. On the other hand, I think women in particular – in some ways it’s odd because the pandemic maybe feels like a lifetime ago. I have five year-old twins and I was just looking at their masks… I was like, “Do I put these in the keepsake box?” In some ways it feels like forever ago, but it really wasn’t that long ago. However, I think we are now really starting to see the downstream effects of a lot of the stress and a lot of the ways, both individually and systemically, that people, and I think women mothers in particular, really bore the brunt of a huge mental load. Cognitive changes and sacrifices they needed to make to try to keep all the balls in the air as they were trying to teach their kids, figure out, “Okay, how do I navigate my career? How do I learn to be together with my spouse all day long?” And I think that really took a toll. A lot of people’s lives look really different. And I think there was the acute stress during the pandemic, but then there was this slow burn of chronic stress and pressure. And just because we are not in a global pandemic anymore, that doesn’t mean that we aren’t impacted today by everything we lived through the last three years. There’s not a single person on this planet that was unchanged in myriad ways, I believe, by what we experienced. So I think a long way to answer that question is some people are doing really well sometimes, others are really struggling. And I think a lot of people are a little bit of both. But what’s really important is wherever you are at any given time, letting yourself have permission to either be okay and be thriving and be flourishing, you don’t have to hold yourself back because someone else is in a tight spot. But if you are feeling pressed on all sides and still trying to find your feet again and really recover because recovery doesn’t happen during that time of pain when we go to the gym, recovery happens in that rest period after. So maybe we are in the rest day where a lot of healing has to happen relationally and our own journeys of reconciling “What happened?” with “Where do I go from here?” And when you are struggling, I think giving yourself permission to say, “What I’m doing, this is just really hard.” And giving yourself permission to find someone to lean on, who can listen, who can validate, and having the courage to ask for the support you need. Because women everywhere have been propping a lot of people up in a lot of ways for a long time, and their arms are tired. So we all need to have places we can go where other people can do the same for us.
Yeah, hearing you talk about that, Joy, it’s like we’re in this collective anxiety stress hangover period. We don’t have that same acute stress like we had in the depths of the pandemic. And yet things aren’t always just fine anymore. And we’re still kind of – our bodies are probably even still just grappling from the persistent acute stress that we dealt with.
Mary Beth [00:06:48]:
A good friend recently said, it’s like women, our bodies have been in this fight or flight mode for years during the pandemic and coming out of it to make sure everybody’s okay and navigating families and companies and all that we’re holding in the social, emotional. And so we’re in this constant state and the comedown is happening, right? That’s what’s kind of happening right now. And our bodies don’t know and our minds don’t necessarily know how to respond to that. And so there’s a heightened anxiety on the other side of this stress comedown because we’re trying to figure out if it’s actually safe for us to let it down. And we have to go into this period of healing and rest. And it’s actually a retraining, basically. We have to retrain ourselves on what that looks like.
Yes, all of our amygdalas got really tired kind of being on all the time. Our bodies and certainly our minds were not designed to go through what we went through. Anxiety and this fight, flight, freeze response to a perceived threat, that is important, that is about survival. It keeps us alive. When something is right in front of us, we have that surge of adrenaline. We have a certain thought pattern to kind of mobilize us and figure out what do we need to do to be safe? But a surge for years at a time? None of us were designed to do that. And I think sometimes what can happen, unfortunately, in this letdown period is if people are having a hard time struggling, having intense feelings, we can easily slip into this place of self-invalidation, of, “Well, why am I questioning our own feelings or reactions? Why is this so bad? Things have actually gotten better.”
Mary Beth [00:08:37]:
“Why am I feeling this way when others seem to be doing okay? Why am I still behind? And I should be happy because we made it through, right?”
The “should” game. And “should” often leads to shame. Because as soon as we start that story of, “I’m not supposed to feel this way, maybe because, okay, on paper, things look better,” that self-invalidation just sends us down the shame spiral and then we get stuck.
Mary Beth [00:09:03]:
Yeah. I want to go back to something you said in the beginning, which is this period during the pandemic where people had time at home and they had time to really reflect on what they want their lives to look like and the meaningful change they want to create. And there was a lot of resolution and self-reflection that happened during this time. But then fast forward – the pandemic is over. There’s a return to the office. Life is back on. You’re met with resistance, so you could have set these intentions that you wanted this change, and then now life is back on. And so how do you honor that intention that you set or adjust it? Because intentions do change. Our lives do change. But what we thought we wanted in the pandemic, do you give yourself grace and admit that, “Hey, maybe I don’t want that?” How do you give yourself grace to navigate being on or off track?
We’re poor predictors of what our future self will actually want and need because there are so many unknowns.
Mary Beth [00:09:58]:
Future Me is always mad at Past Me for the things that I commit to. I will say.
So we need to be thoughtful and intentional about planning for the future and think through things, but not rigidly lay one plan. So there’s that piece, but something that was striking to me that happened so often, I heard time and time again from friends, from clients, was there was something where people had permission to say no. In some ways, the pandemic created some external boundaries of, “Wait, I don’t have to do all these things that I actually don’t want to do that are not serving me well at all. My life isn’t over scheduled.”
“I’m not going out with people I don’t really like spending time with, exhausting myself. There’s not this external pressure.” And instead of owning, “No, I don’t want to do this. This is not best for me, this is not best for my family, this is not best for my career,” it became – there was a sigh of relief of, “Oh, someone’s doing that for me.’ So I think the work now is people reconnecting to “No, what do you really want?” But now it is more challenging because you have to own that. You have to use your superpower of saying no, using it as a one word sentence without apology, and really calibrating boundaries to create the life that you want.
Mary Beth [00:11:43]:
Right. The boundaries were delegated during the pandemic.
Yeah. And that you’re kind of constantly, almost rebalancing, “I’ve set this boundary. I’ve said I wanted this thing. Is it coming out the way I wanted? Is this am I kind of being true with what I thought I wanted and maybe that’s evolved?”
And yes, and maybe that’s changed. So the pandemic gave people permission to do things differently. Now people need to give themselves permission to do what they want, what is best for them.
Mary Beth [00:12:14]:
That’s much harder, Joy. That’s much harder to do. I’m just speaking for our listeners here.
We really like to outsource responsibility and agency. We say we want freedom, but we don’t always want everything we have to do.
Or the hard stuff, all the work that comes with it. I’ve got, like, Aladdin visions coming into my head.
Mary Beth [00:12:38]:
Yeah. Well, let’s talk about the boundary setting. Neela and I have actually been having frequent conversations just about boundaries as leaders and parents and just women in life and industry stuff about the feelings that come with boundary settings. Because if you can delegate boundary setting, that means you’re delegating all the guilt and fear and questioning that might come with it. But then when we have to take it upon ourselves to do that, you’re also having to do the work of that reflection. You have to learn to be assertive. You have to practice setting boundaries. It’s not a skill that comes overnight. So talk a little bit about that, about how women, people in general, how we can learn to set boundaries, because it’s a learned skill, especially based on backgrounds and upbringing and certain things.
Absolutely. And I think boundaries are often misunderstood because sometimes people mistakenly think that, “Well, setting a boundary is saying, “This is what I want, or this is what I’m asking of you. This is what I’m going to do.”” That’s an important first step, articulating a limit. But having a boundary is active. Having a boundary is what happens when someone pushes against that articulated wish, desire, or limit. And it’s how you respond to that. It’s saying, “No, that is not acceptable to me. I’m not going to let you do that.” It’s us coming up against that resistance in a sturdy – you don’t have to be aggressive, but in a sturdy, competent manner and holding your ground. And it’s hard. Boundaries are incredibly challenging, but they are what keep us healthy. They help us thrive in many ways, but it definitely takes practice. And you were talking about being leaders. I think a challenge that I hear both in the work I do with executives and people who are working through their own relationship with work in 2023 and beyond is sometimes there are competing desires and boundaries. So a workplace may say, “We need to run a business and this is what we need to do to function optimally as an organization.” An individual may say, “Well, what you are now asking or requiring of me, that doesn’t work real well. That’s not what I want.” And it’s not that one is right and one is wrong. But what the individual needs to determine is, is this the best fit for me right now? What an organization needs to determine, what a leader then needs to have is a boundary around it in order to protect this business, which is protecting a team. There’s something very virtuous about running a very healthy organization. And if what someone is saying, “This is what I’m willing to do, this is what I’m not willing to do,” okay, that’s okay. If that doesn’t align, then both parties are better served by finding a better fit.
And probably on that note, clarity is key. Clear is kind in terms of like, “This is the boundary, this is what is needed.” And really being like, “If that doesn’t work, let’s be grownups.”
Yes, that’s okay. This is the expectation.
Mary Beth [00:16:12]:
Right? I love that. So going back to the change and challenges and the progress that we’re looking to make in our lives and adapting to change or being more comfortable with it, what’s the difference between a quick fix solution and a meaningful one? How do we know if we’re making progress? Because it’s great to be off to the races on something and then you sit down because you’re sprinting. And this is really about a turtle and hare situation. We’re in it for the journey. So what does that look like? How do we know?
Well, I think – and maybe we could get more granular with some specifics – but more higher level thoughts is there’s this constant balance and toggle we have to do between how is this serving me now and what is the future I’m creating for myself through the decisions I have today? And I don’t think it’s one or the other, but we need to get better at doing some both and work on that.
So Joy, you do a lot of behavioral work and as soon as we start talking about money and psychology, Mary Beth and I are like, “Great, clear my afternoon because I could spend a lot of time on it.” But what are you noticing in terms of where we are, how people are doing and how that’s showing up in people’s financial lives?
Absolutely. In some ways, my gut answer to that is people are wrestling with a lot of the same things they always have been. Our relationships with money are incredibly complex. I say when people come into therapy, they talk about their lives. And because they’re talking about their lives, they are talking directly or indirectly about their money. And when people come in to, say, a financial advisor and they are talking about their money, they are talking about their life, they’re talking about planning for a child’s education, about divorce, about death. These are big, heavy things. So I think all of us as humans continue to be on our own journey of the human experience of money. One of the only constants in life is change. And when it comes to money, when it comes to the economy, there is always going to be volatility, there’s always going to be uncertainty. Becoming students of ourselves, understanding, “Okay, how do I tend to react when certain things happen and how do those reactions serve me or get in my way going forward?”
So just being reflective, how we’re reacting to different situations, is that adaptive or is it a maladaptive way that we’re actually receiving that stimuli?
Mary Beth [00:19:03]:
What does it look like to become a student of yourself? What kind of work should we be doing?
Well, find a really good psychologist. When it comes to self-awareness, there are two dimensions of self-awareness. One is really being able to tune in and dial in to in real time. What is going on with you? What is the story you are telling yourself? What are you feeling? And all of our emotions, the full continuum of emotions, they all provide us information and then we have choices about what we’re going to do with that information. But some people, we learn the language of emotion when someone teaches it to us. And some people don’t have that scaffolding early on, they didn’t have parents who just had the emotional resources themselves to be able to help someone figure out what feelings even are. You ask someone, “How do you feel?” “I feel good. I feel bad.” There’s no granularity. Those are not emotional states. So we need to understand our emotions in order to be able to use them effectively, to make choices in our own lives, to use them well and skillfully, to develop empathy. We can’t understand and take perspective about how something we may do would impact someone else and how they might feel if we aren’t connected to our own emotional experience. And then I’m kind of talking through different dimensions of EQ but then using that empathic perspective, how do we use that to be skillful and have deeper, more meaningful relationships? So there’s that piece of self-awareness. But the other dimension is that I think having an executive coach, being in psychotherapy, you can do some of those reps and have some of that learning about emotions that maybe you haven’t had earlier in your life but you have someone who helps you understand and provides you with powerful feedback about how others experience you. So having self-awareness is knowing “This is how others perceive me as I move through the world.” And sometimes our intention of what we are saying or what we are doing does not match the impact. But because of the various roles people have and play in our lives, sometimes they don’t have the courage or boldness to tell us and give us pointed feedback.
Mary Beth [00:21:50]:
I think having a space in your life, I tell people you leave my office, you go out, you live your life, and you own the consequences of your choices. I have no vested interest in pleasing you or keeping you happy. My interest is in your well-being and being honest with you and helping you become a better version of yourself. And we can’t function optimally if we aren’t constantly having people who can help us see our blind spots.
Mary Beth [00:22:24]:
I love that. And so this idea of self-awareness, how does one become self-aware and reflective without being self-critical? A lot of people shy away from getting the feedback or reflecting on how we show up in the world because they also have this inner critic as well. And so how do you balance those two or work through those difficult things? Maybe you don’t show up well. Maybe you’re overbearing, you’re too assertive. Most women are not just going to put that as the label. But with the feedback, how do you wrestle with it and pull from it but also not go into a spiral of negative thinking on it?
Absolutely. And I think that’s really important. Self-compassion is really important. We need to change the way we talk to ourselves. If you wouldn’t say it to someone else, you shouldn’t be screaming it at yourself on repeat all day long. Engaging with yourself mentally as an encouraging coach who’s going to challenge you but not criticize you to the point that you shut down. The stories we tell ourselves are so powerful and so important. Where does self-criticism come from? We’ve internalized different voices along the way and then that is the story we tell, we buy into and then we self-select to evidence that only supports our story. So then we’re filtering out everything else that is going to challenge that.
And that probably then compounds with expectations that we set ourselves and then those increasingly, maybe unrealistic expectations that compound and compound compound, which then can also contribute more to that inner critic, because then you’re not hitting these unrealistic expectations and you’re on this merry-go-round.
Yeah. And I think there’s something we need to learn. And I haven’t heard a lot of people talk about this, but leaders need to learn to deliver feedback effectively. You hear about that in management training all the time, but a conversation that is not had because I think it is more intimate is more personal. And personally, I think it’s far more difficult – I’ll speak for myself – to learn how to accept feedback gracefully and use it effectively, because the point of feedback is to help us be better. Again, speaking for myself, some of the feedback that has helped me improve the most in my life has been, especially in the moment, incredibly uncomfortable to hear. So then it’s natural to throw up a defensive wall. And sometimes people are so harsh with themselves in order to self-protect. They’re like, “Well, if I keep putting myself down, then no one else can say anything worse.” So it’s this odd self-protective strategy that keeps someone stuck and staying small. And when we get feedback, it’s not going to be 100% right all the time, right? So stepping back, just pausing, taking it in and then coming away and asking, “Okay, what might be true about that?” And really you want to think about the person who you’re receiving feedback from. “Is this someone I trust? Do they have my best interest in mind?” It requires more of me to have a hard conversation with someone and confront them than it is for me to be like, “Well, I’m having this negative reaction, but I’m going to keep it to myself because I’m human.” I think we naturally turn away from leaning forward into anything that could potentially create conflict. But if we can say, “Okay, this person cared enough to share this with me, how could I potentially integrate this to improve going forward?”
Mary Beth [00:26:36]:
And then we step back, take some time, take what works, and then leave the rest. Because everyone’s feedback is also going to be colored by their own stuff as well. So just because someone is saying something to you doesn’t mean it’s true. Just because you are saying something to yourself also does not mean that.
Mary Beth [00:27:03]:
You’re hitting all the points. I was like, “These are all the things I was about to ask.”
Mary Beth [00:27:10]:
The feedback, I think, is really a tough one to grapple with, and it’s receiving the feedback from a trusted source. Even Neela and I, over time, like the feedback that we give each other. We did this dance in the beginning where we tried to figure each other out in communication. And then we got an executive coach who did some strength- finders and we dug deeper into who we are and that there’s trusted feedback. I grew up in this industry, though I very likely make a lot of men uncomfortable. Let’s be honest, Neela and I both are alike in terms of what we talk about and how we show up in the world.
You’re doing a lot of things right.
Mary Beth [00:27:41]:
Right. But when you get the feedback of “You shouldn’t talk about these things,” or how we show up, that’s feedback of like, “Okay, is this important to me? Who is this person? What is it based off of? Do I take anything from it or do I put it in the trash?”
Mary Beth [00:27:54]:
Having that reflection and that ability to think, “Okay, who is giving the feedback? What’s the impact on me? Do I need to even sit on it? No.” And being able to filter it out, because you can get beaten down really fast if you’re taking in feedback from everybody, especially in today’s social media world. I think Brené Brown said she has a Post-It note. I think if their name isn’t on this little square Post-It note, then the feedback is not important. But I love that you hit all those points and leaning into it, though, it does make us better.
Yeah. It takes courage on both sides. It takes courage to give the feedback, and it takes courage to receive it. And it’s like, if we can make this collective commitment together to do it, we can all be better and feel better in our bodies. You said, Joy, “When you’re not giving it, you feel it,” and you’re like, “Oh, I should say this thing, and I’m not saying this thing,” but we can just all take a collective exhale by getting it out and ultimately all just be a little better.
And think about sometimes that feedback process. It can feel like, “Oh, it’s me versus you.”
Mary Beth [00:28:59]:
No, actually, it’s both parties rallying around the same goal of growth.
Mary Beth [00:29:06]:
And when we can see it that way, it feels less adversarial.
Mary Beth [00:29:11]:
Challenge and growth. They go hand in hand, as uncomfortable as it might be.
Yeah. I really believe that we can’t grow without discomfort. It’s a parallel to when you go to the gym. If you’re, like, picking up the one pound weight and aren’t feeling anything, okay, I’m glad you’re there, but you’re probably not going to gain anything or get stronger from that. So I tell people, look for opportunities to turn into your discomfort because that’s where you’re going to grow. And when we become more habituated to turning into discomfort, what used to feel really hard no longer does. And then we’re looking for bigger challenges, but we are continuing to get stronger and stronger because if you are living completely in your comfort zone, you’re going to stay where you are and you’re going to stagnate. Now, it is important to, I think, distinguish between discomfort and pain, because if someone is actively hurting us, or if they are saying things that are really painful and damaging to your sense of self and leaving you feeling shattered and discouraged, then that would be a sign for a boundary. But I do want people to be more intentional about “How can I have one conversation or do one thing on a regular basis that’s making me a little bit uncomfortable?”
I’m just scribbling on this Post-It right here “pick up the heavy weights.” And I’m using that as like, the symbolism of the day.
Mary Beth [00:30:54]:
You already pick up heavy weights.
I know. I’m like, can they be heavier?
Mary Beth [00:30:58]:
Can you not brute strength anything else today? I was just having a relaxing Wednesday. Okay, Joy, let’s pivot to the wrap-up questions. What would you say is the best financial advice you have ever received?
I would go back to, I think, one of the lessons I received very early on that I’m so grateful to my parents for. And that is, it does not matter how much or little you have. You need to be giving some of what has been entrusted to you to others, to help others, particularly those who are in a worse situation than you are.
Mary Beth [00:31:39]:
I love that. Solid one.
All right, what is your favorite money mistake you’ve made and why?
My favorite money mistake that I have made and why? My mistakes are probably more patterned. I think a mistake I am working on not making is sometimes I struggle to spend money, and that has served me well at earlier stages in my life. But my brain is like everyone else’s. Sometimes it is slow to refresh, and the things that were once adaptive have expired, so they’re no longer necessary. So that is something I continue to work on. However, maybe it’s my favorite continued mistake because even though, for instance, my kids are growing up in a different financial situation than I grew up on, they are hearing a thought process around really being intentional.
Mary Beth [00:32:39]:
Love it. Okay, finally fill in the blank: If money were easy…
If money were easy, we wouldn’t grow through our relationship with it.
Mary Beth [00:32:56]:
That is a good one.
Yeah, I like that. Solid.
Mary Beth [00:33:00]:
Okay, Joy, let our listeners know how they can find you, follow you on the Internet, et cetera.
Absolutely. I’m in lots of the places. I have two websites where you can find me. My private practice website is my name, joylere.com. Also my work at Shaping Wealth, you can check that out, particularly if you are a financial advisor yourself. www.shapingwealth.com. I love writing. I do a lot on Substack, so my Substack Finding Joy is at joylere.substack.com. You can find me on Twitter and occasionally if I have extra creative energy left, on Instagram at joylere. And then my degree, which is PsyD, and then I’m on LinkedIn at JoyLerePsyD.
Amazing. Thank you for joining us, Joy. It was an absolute joy.
It was wonderful to talk with you.
Mary Beth [00:34:06]:
Thanks for tuning in to today’s episode of If Money Were Easy. If this is the year that you want to expand what’s possible with your money, and you can use some professional guidance along the way, head over to abacuswealth.com/get-started and schedule your free consultation.