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Living Somebody Else’s To-Do List With Brigette Serfaty



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Brigette Serfaty is an executive integrative health and wellness coach, a mindfulness and yoga teacher, and a nuclear pharmacist. She is as multi-faceted and interesting as her credentials suggest.


In this episode, we delve into what life was like for Brigette broke free of expectation. How life for her was living someone else’s to-do list - especially as a young mother and neglecting her own needs as a person.


I invite you to sit in as Brigette shares her story of what it was like to live doing what she thought she should and what prompted a complete transformation. To connect with Brigette, visit website https://www.aligned-engagement.com


 

Watch Brigette's Story



 

Transcript


Jennifer:


Welcome to the I Don’t Give a Should Show – a podcast exploring ALL the ways that women SHOULD all over themselves. How many times do you find yourself acting out of obligation or doing what everyone ELSE expects from you without stopping to consider why? Where do all those beliefs that are driving you come from? If you’re tired of feeling resentful, overwhelmed, stuck, exhausted or pissed off you’re in the right place.


Shoulding all over yourself is a real thing, but it doesn’t have to be in the driver’s seat.


I’m your host Jen Sherwood, and I spent waaaaay too many years trying to prove that I was good enough and worrying what other people thought while avoiding conflict at all costs. Today, I don’t give a should – well not as many anyway and neither should you. I’m talking to women like you who figured out how to stop shoulding and start LIVING.


So today, I'm thrilled to introduce my guest, Bridgette Sarfaty.


So Bridgette and I have been friends for a few years, and I just love this woman. I love her journey - I love what she does. And so I am so thrilled that she agreed to be the first person I'm doing this interview series with Bridgette. Can you tell me I know. This is a wide-open question.


But let's just go there, can you tell me about your experience when you were living under your shoulds?


Brigette:


Yeah, so I read your question, and I thought, oh, that was my 30s - maybe it was all of my 30s. Maybe even into my 40s because I was really living somebody else's to-do list so, especially when I was a young mother.


It was all about whether I should be more involved in the PTA. I should be more engaged at work. I should mean this list was gigantic because I wasn't paying attention to what I wanted. So when you said unhappy, overwhelmed, stuck, you know, got the t-shirt, because that's what I was doing.


It's just listening to that voice that tells me all other things I should be doing. Other than when I was actually able to execute in a 24-hour period, which was not all those things. It's mind-blowing. So yeah, it was all of that when I was trying to be a superwoman, and then my marriage imploded.


I had the opportunity then to say, oh, man, I gotta do something different. So yeah, yeah, so it's kind of one of those good news, bad news stories. Do you have the opportunity to say what do I really want? Because I wasn't asked that question at all. To your point in your intro. I didn't even know I got to ask the question. What do I want?


Jennifer:


Right?


That's so true for so many of us, we just are doing without stopping to ask that question. When would you say you realize that's what was happening? Or were there other things that led up to it?


Brigette:


One of the things that I remember, and it wasn't just the divorce, but one of the things I remember vividly, was this mentor of mine, who's a woman, probably six or seven years older than I am, that I worked with.


We were having an off-site meeting, and we were just having coffee. And she said, you know, what are your plans for next year? And I launched into this giant discussion about my team plans and my work plans and my project plans, all the stuff that we were going to do. And she stopped me, and she said, What do you want?


Jennifer:


Oh, good question.


Brigette:


It was a great question.


And then I and then I said, Oh, it's not I do want these things, and she said, no, no, no, you're not even on your list. Yeah. And so that was kind of the first time that I thought about, you know, I could make my own list about what I really want. But the divorce was a great opportunity for me to kind of acknowledge, you know, I'm living my life on autopilot because I'm running so fast, but I'm just not paying attention to what I want. I don't know what's important to me.


Other than work, I was very highly functional at work. But my, you know, everything else was kind of falling apart around me, and no one did work, knew it. I kept that very separate, and I was competent and all of that. But, you know, it was really an opportunity then because my personal life fell apart to say, what do I want and what do I want for this kid?


I had a daughter who was young, and as you know, at that time, she was about 10 when things really started to shift, and I needed to look at what do I want? And what do I want her life to look like? What do I want to give her permission to do? Yes. I'm not even taking the time for myself. So yeah, it was a big wake-up call.


But I'd love that question - what do you want?


Jennifer:


It's so simple and yet so powerful, and I want to just acknowledge because I imagine anyone listening to this, any of the women listening to this, that feeling of everything was falling apart, but nobody knew it that way that we show up the way that we think we should the way we think we have to because it's too scary to let other people see what's going on. I think that drives a lot of it.


We don't want to be judged, and we don't want to be seen a certain way, so we just keep pushing through.


I really wanted to acknowledge that I hear you, and I imagine their heads nodding yes. Yes, of like, yeah, and not and that autopilot that you described. So what a gift that that woman not only asked you the question but then followed up on it as well. It wasn't just, Oh, you want all this teamwork? What about you? And that piece about you wasn't even a consideration in there, I think, is the crux of all of this? It's not just mothers who have this experience, but so many women who are just doing and not taking the time for themselves.


Brigette:


It's not just women, either. I mean, that's, you know, the men in my life feel that same pressure. You know, they're it's just, they look at it differently than Yeah, but yeah, there's this sense of, you're missing out on your life because you're running so fast.


Jennifer:


Right.


Well, so that's an interesting segue because what our viewers may not know about you is that you're also very grounded in mindfulness. So I'm curious, you were, you know, you were on autopilot. So how did you start shifting? What do you think was the way for you that you move from where you were? So you got this awareness? And then how did you? How did you transition that?


Brigette:


Thank you for that segue.


I mean, that was really it - so I had been practicing yoga for, at that time, about ten years but at that point, it was more of a physical practice; I was just trying to keep the stress demons at bay, you know, practice.


Then there was the shift of, and I'd really need to pay more attention to kind of the inner workings of my life. I got certified to teach yoga, so I went to yoga teacher training, and that really started me looking at that point in mindfulness and what else could I bring into my yoga classes.


But then I got more serious about mindfulness as a practice, and so that concept of autopilot is very much part of the teaching and how to shift that and become the observer of your thoughts and get really intentional about what you want.


So mindfulness has been a very grounding and steady practice for me, and it helps me know when I'm off balance because I can feel it. Because I do have that daily practice of, you know, what am I thinking, Oh, how interesting. I'm judging myself. I'm criticizing myself. You use the word should I'm shoulding on myself. But I can say planning, mind planning, mind planning, mind worrying mind. So I'm labeling my thoughts so that I can really tell when I'm out of balance.


Jennifer:


I just love that.


I love when you say you're labeling things because so many people that I've talked to about trying to do some mindfulness practice, they say, Oh, I can't I mean, you, you know me, that's where I was to go. I can't do that. But before we go there, I want to walk back for a second because I do think so many times, and obviously, my business is focused on women.


I'll tend to reference women, and I'm sure men deal with this issue as well, but so many women have said to me they've tried something to feel better. I love that you said you've been doing yoga for a while, but it was a physical thing because you know, we have these false ideas. I think that, oh, just do yoga, and everything will be great.


For the women who are listening, what was the difference? I know you said mindfulness, but could you speak to this a little more about you doing yoga but it wasn't until you brought in the mindfulness that something shifted.


Did I hear that correctly?


Brigette:


Yeah, and that's it.


Thanks for asking that question because it was when I started. I was young, I was in my 20s, and so at that point, I was a lot more focused on how I look on this mat.


You know, physical, and it was just one more place to beat myself up. Yeah, to be honest, that was not helping my stress. But when I really sort of got deeper into yoga and it and realized that is not really the practice, it's not the physical practice.


It was about me realizing I'm going to use the word worthiness. But when I had this teaching about you're already worthy. You don't have to stand on your head. You don't have to twist yourself into a pretzel. You just need to show up to yourself on your mat.


Yeah, so once it became more devotional for me, it became more of a spiritual focus. But more importantly, even than that, for me, it was just showing up for myself to be consistent. It didn't matter if I was good at it. I was just showing up for myself, so I could trust myself to show up.


Yeah, big deal. Really big.


Jennifer:


Well, I so get what you're saying about the worthiness piece because so many women have given of themselves so much that they've sort of lost connection to what they want.


And they've put everybody else ahead of them and that sense of worth. It isn't even it's not even on the radar anymore, so for you to see the expression, you said it again, it was about showing up on the mat for you. Was that the expression?


Brigette:


Showing up for myself? Because there I wasn't trusting that I would.


Jennifer:


So not only was the spiritual practice, but it was also building a relationship with yourself.


Brigette:


Absolutely.


Yeah, it was, I mean, it was a game changer for me when I really committed to it because I was committing to myself.


Jennifer:


Yeah, yeah.


The difference the mindset difference of showing up to look good on a mat versus showing up for yourself. That feels like a huge, huge leap. Oh, that is fantastic.


So would you say then, or actually, let me just ask you, which shifts in your life have had the most impact? Would you say the things that you've done, the things that you've experienced, most impactful for you?


Brigette:


I'm going to reference having my marriage fall apart again because that was just the culminating event to say I must change my life.


So this was a huge thing, and then the question was, Okay, what does that mean? Yeah, you know, and so I, it's speaking of lists, I really did make a list of what do I want my life to look like? What are the things that I value?


You know, and so that values exercise of just looking at it and writing it down and being very intentional. And then how do I put that in my life, I had to get really, really clear on what I, what I really valued. You know, what I valued, what I wanted, and then how do I fit it in? So it was like, there was calendar work, there was value, or so that was the first part of it. And then that led to coaching, as you know, but the first part of it was just really starting over kind of from the place of on my forehead, on my mat, you know, in a heap, you know, so I had to wander around a little while in the desert, and then figure out what I wanted to do.


Jennifer:


Well, it may not be everybody's experience that the divorce brought them there. I'm sure there's, you know, millions of reasons that bring you into the desert. But the key that you just said about the values piece, that's another thing, I don't think people take a lot of time to stop and take stock.


I think there probably at the same time was how do I just keep putting one foot in front of the other for you, but that if you're not feeling worthy, then even stopping to take stock of what matters might not happen. So I hope people are really listening to that piece of it, thinking about what really matters to you, and then making space for that. It seems like the antithesis or antidote to shoulding on yourself a little bit. But you know, getting really serious and curious about what matters to you.


Brigette:


Well, in you, the word you just said - curious.


Yeah, the space to be curious.


And it doesn't have to be four days on a retreat somewhere. I mean, I can be, I'm gonna sit down for 45 minutes and really think about this. And you know, feel it and maybe cry a little.


Jennifer:


So, in doing this, you now work with other people, not just women. You work with women and men in this? And would you say this is sort of where you start with them, as is getting into those values?


Brigette:


Yeah, I mean, it's absolutely where I start with them because the value piece is one place we start, and then also the idea of what brings you joy and meaning. People forget again because we don't give ourselves permission to look at it. A lot. I mean, I was totally disconnected from even knowing I got to choose, right? What do I like? What do I want to try?


Jennifer:


You know that expression, it is what it is, it has its appropriate moments but where it is not appropriate is in your life.


There are choices, but I do think this messaging that we get doesn't allow us to see that.


So to get curious about what you want is, is just, it's kind of mind-blowing to stop and think, oh, I don't know if that's what it was like for you. But as I was going on my own journey, it was like, Oh, I don't know what I want. I've never thought about it. Or maybe I thought about it, you know, in high school in college, but then I got sucked into adult life, if you will.


Brigette:


Well, as we get, we get sucked into it, and we make this two-day list that's a mile long every week.


And it's not even things we want to do, so that's the other thing that's so interesting to me is to say, you know, that's the first question, do you want to do this project, sometimes you have to write a lot of the stuff on our list is not even stuff we want to do.


Jennifer:


It's so true, and yet, and then we beat ourselves up for not getting our list done.


We cycle, we're on the hamster wheel, you know, and we can't see it. If you ran into a woman who was in a similar situation, what kind of advice would you give to her? What would you offer her? I mean, we may have just answered this question. I realize it was I'm saying this out loud. But what advice would you offer to someone who is, you know, head on the mat and out in the desert?


Brigette:


Yeah.


And I mean, I think I would start with a gentle question, you know, which is, what do you want? Because I usually when I hear that, you know, the list of things, so that's usually what I ask, What do you want?

I get the look, you know, I get the deer in the headlights look, because there we've, there's been so much judgment about why you're so bad that you can't get all these things done. And yes, you know, all the self-critical thoughts, and so usually stops people to say, well, oh, well, I'm not really sure, and so that leads to the conversation about, well, if you were sure about one of the things you wanted, what would it be?


You know, just to get curious about that, so that's, that would be my advice really, if I were giving advice, you would usually ask a question.


Jennifer:


That question that was so powerful for you of what you want is, is really the place to start. I love what you just said about that critical voice, and then you said the self-critical voice because we are, for most people, we are our own worst enemy.


We are our own worst critic and while there may be criticism from outside, what's coming from inside is much harsher. Is that a word? I don't know. But much worse or harsh? More? Yes, I think you get the gist but kind of looking at that to that critic.


How can anyone really, I think if you were looking at this for a friend, instead of yourself, you would look at their to-do list and think, well, that to-do list looks miserable. There isn't enough time in the day, let alone the week, to do this all, and why would you want to do all those things? But from your own perspective, it's hard to see that.


Brigette:


Yeah, it's very hard.


And that's the one of the pieces of the mindfulness practice that sort of ties into that critical voice is I can label the critical voice.


I'm not as caught up in it, but boy, was I ever, and I still get tangled up in my to-do list, but at least I can think, why am I feeling so? You know, out of control and crazy? Oh, you know, so I could recognize it earlier now.


Jennifer:


And you can separate yourself from that. It's not you're just in it, living it every day.


Brigette:


My value is not driven by that to-do list.


Which is a big deal, and I know for your people too. Some of it is remembering that you're valuable inherently, it's not what you do. It's not the things that you collect. It's not any of that external stuff. So that was a game changer for me it's just like, oh, I can just show up and be on my mat and be valuable.


Jennifer:


So very common for what I experienced, very common and what I hear in my clients, and I want to ask you, was that to-do list some of that was that trying to prove that you were valuable, trying to prove that you were worthy by what checking off a clean out the closet on a to-do list.


I mean, you know, there's bigger I am using that as a reference because I was working with a client just a little bit ago, and she was adding all these, and I need to do this, and I need to clean my daughter's closet and not just sure, but how much of that are we just trying to prove something to ourselves, and then you come in with this revolutionary, you're inherently worthy.


Can you say a little bit more about what that means?


Brigette:


I remember learning that concept - I was not raised with that concept, and it was just such a gift to study that and just go, oh, you know, can I believe this? Could I really believe that? I'm inherently worthy, and I had a voice that said yes.


What you know, so that that is really where that, you know, the yoga training came in was just that, you know, that light in me season honors the light, and you, I really believe that. Yeah. And it was such a relief. I mean, to be honest. There's such a letting go of the hustling, you know that that proves energy? And it's not that we still don't do things in the world? Of course, we do. Yes. But it really is more about what makes me feel joyful and happy and brings me meaning, even the work projects that I don't necessarily want to do. How can I reframe that to be meaningful to me in some way? So I can just shift the language of the to-do list.


Jennifer:


Yeah, there's so there's a couple things I want to unpack here really quickly,


I want to point out that you are in this space, but you were in a space where you didn't believe that. So I just want to the point that out and shine the light to anybody who's listening that it is possible. And it also doesn't mean that you never have a project at work that you don't want to do - there is sort of the normal operation of life.


But I like what you just said about reframing it. Because I don't want anyone to walk away from this thinking, well, if I become mindful and I decide I'm worthy, I never have anything in my life to upset me, or that's not it at all. And that's not what I hear you saying I just want to be clear about that.


Brigette:


Yeah, yeah.


No, it's really about the mindset, and it's about the language project to me. If you're clear on what you want and what your values are, you can usually shift the project to fit in there, and if you can't, the question is, why am I doing it? Do I really have to? Or do I just think I need to prove it to somebody else? Or did my boss tell me to, and I just need to get over it?


I mean, there are all sorts of variations. But, you know, playing with that with the languaging instead of just going to have to do this thing that I sell, you know, that energy.


Jennifer:


Gonna feel really good about, oh, we all know about feeling we all know it. And the other thing I want to say, as well as I don't want anyone who's listening, to think the only way to get where you're at is to become a yoga and mindfulness teacher.


What I imagined, and I'll let you speak to this as you develop some curiosity and so you just keep following that, but it doesn't blow up your whole life in terms of you have to leave your family and your job and your career, and you can be happy with the life you have right now, with these kinds of shifts, you don't have to become anything. Let me let you speak to that.


Brigette:


No, I think that's a really good point. And I mean, to be honest, I've been in the corporate world and continue to be, so I use these practices in real life.


Jennifer:


It's such a gift to the people you work with.


Brigette:


I think the biggest mindset shift is really looking at what doesn't have to be a big giant chunk of time that you spend. You can look at, you know, in the next 15 minutes. How can I be more intentional with the use of my time? Yes, what really matters in the next 15 minutes instead of just this frantic running from thing to thing?


So I really like to look at where are you spending your time? I mean, just bottom line, calendar review. The reason you're feeling like you're running so crazy is because you don't have a white space on your calendar. Like you're just not giving yourself any time, so, you know, is this important enough to you to change that? So it's really easy. It's not easy to implement, but it's easy to look at your calendar.


Jennifer:


I agree. I love it.


I think what I just heard you say is the reason you feel like you're running crazy is because you're running crazy. Let's slow that down. What is one thing you wish that you know now that you'd wish you'd known back then?


Brigette:


It's the proving part. I really, really wish that my perfectionist hadn't been driving the bus for so many years.


I was miserable because I was letting her drive, so I wish I could have been a little more gentle with her back in the day to say, Oh, it's okay, honey.


Jennifer:


Yeah, instead of lashing yourself.


Beautiful.


So Bridget, how are you using this experience to work with clients today? These days?


Brigette:


My focus right now is really health and well-being, and so I tend to work with those crazy corporate people who have too many things on their schedule and have sort of forgotten that they have alive, and sometimes they want to be coached, and sometimes their employer wants them to be coached, and sometimes their spouse wants them to be coached.


And so a variety of people who are sort of realizing usually mid-career that there's got to be something more to my life. And what do I want the next phase of it to look like? Because there's awareness that I can't keep running at this pace and continue to play at, you know, a top-level game. I can't keep just putting more and more and more. So those are the people that tend to health professionals a lot of times to land in my lap.


Jennifer:


Makes sense, given your pharmacy background. Yeah. So how can people get in touch with you? Website?


Brigette:


I'm thinking you'll probably provide my website - it's https://www.aligned-engagement.com/


And then, on social media, there's a Minding Your Minute Facebook group, and my business is Reinvention Strategies - you'll see that Facebook group as well.


Jennifer:


Great - I will put all of that in the comments that go with this post.


Before we wrap up, though, I do have the last question. Is there anything else you want to share anything I forgot to ask?


Brigette:


Oh, it's not a forgot to ask. I guess to just to go back to what you were saying.


Even if you're feeling crazed and overwhelmed - just take a moment. Just reconnect to yourself and ask that question, "What do I want next?"


You know, not ten years from now, but just in this next moment, what do I want?


Jennifer:


And are you demonstrating for the people who are here with us today? Are you demonstrating just getting mindful right there in slowing down and just going inward with what you want in this one breath?


It doesn't have to be like you said it doesn't have to be a big thing. Just one breath.


Brigette:


One breath.


One moment.


Next Action.


Present.


Jennifer:


This has been so enjoyable.


People are going to find it helpful - thank you for being my maiden voyage with me. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and your time with us, I really appreciate it.


Brigette:


And Jen, thanks so much for inviting me. Happy to be here.


Jennifer:


My pleasure. Thank you, all of us who are watching. Thanks for joining us.


3 simple steps laid out in 3 bite-sized videos to go from overwhelm to ease (even if you think it's not possible!)




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