The Catalyst Life Coaching Podcast, featuring JRNI Coaching founders John Kim and Noelle Cordeaux is a deep dive into the experience and business of being a life coach. This transcript of Episode 34 of the Catalyst Life Coaching Podcast is where Noelle and John answers questions about positive psychology and becoming a life coach.
John: On today’s episode, we are going to dominate your questions. And by we I mean Noelle Cordeaux. Noelle, good morning, how are you?
Noelle: Good morning, how are you?
John: I’m doing well. And maybe dominate is not the right word, it’s a little aggressive. What about—what’s a better word? Questions roulette? What are we doing?
Noelle: We’re going to answer your questions?
John: We’re going to answer your questions this morning. So, Instagram has this new feature where you can ask a question, and I play with it a lot. So I’ve been getting literally about 100 a week, and what’s great about these questions are they’re super short and I know Noelle can appreciate this, because she gets long winded emails about your life, which she reads, but these are like 2-3 sentences. They kind of fall under the umbrella of what I love and the shot glass. Hey—maybe it should be a shot glass and wine glass instead of magic and science.
Noelle: I totally dig that.
John: Do you like that?
John: It matches, because I know you also enjoy wine. I don’t like wine at all and everything I do is just very short and abrupt and hurts when it goes down.
Noelle: Oh god.
John: Too early for that? Okay.
Noelle: What are your good readers asking you these days?
John: Okay, they’re about anything. And you know what’s fun about this is Noelle has no idea, so she has no idea to prep, we’re just going to go off the hip. And I always think that sometimes they make the best conversations when we actually don’t prep at all, which we don’t. So let me just pick one out of the hat.
John: Why do we seek external approval so much? This is a broad question that so many can relate to.
Noelle: Why do we seek external approval so much?
John: You know what’s interesting is I wonder if different cultures—obviously in a capitalistic society, in Western, the world that we live in, it’s very predominant—but I wonder if third world countries and other places if they seek less approval.
Noelle: Oh no way, we’re totally tribal creatures and I think that it gets more complex and more complicated based on the culture that we’re in. So, looking from a global perspective, Eastern culture, different continents, where survival is even more deeply tied to the community, approval is even more predominant as a cultural trait and you gotta think about it—everything that bugs us has some form of functionality. So what does seeking approval from others do for us in an overarching society? It keeps us in line, essentially. (3:25)
John: So do you think there’s actually a healthy part of seeking approval and validation? I mean it’s just kind of engrained in who we are, right? Because it’s always gets a bad rap, you know, that you shouldn’t seek approval—that’s kind of the message that we hear all the time, especially with the self-help videos. I’ve said it many times about not seeking approval and validation, but is there a part of that is actually natural and healthy?
Noelle: I think so. I think that seeking approval from others gives you clues to whether or not your behavior is or is not acceptable. If I’m being a complete and total asshole day in and day out, my husband and dog will get pissed at me, straight up. And for me to be like “I don’t care what you think”, you know that doesn’t contribute to a happier, healthier home environment. I think that when you let expectations of others govern your internal emotional environment to an extent which it’s preventing you from authentic living, doing things that are healthy, progressing in your career, or your purposeful life trajectory—that’s where you get into problems.
John: Yeah. I also think that if you seek a little approval and validation it’s also a way of you trying to connect.
Noelle: Mhmm. 100%. I was meditating this morning on connection to others and a line that really jumped out for me was “in order to love someone fully, you have to accept them as they are”. So if you think about that, it’s a two-way street, right? You have to accept yourself as you are, you have to request that of others, and then I guess where does approval kind of fit in there? It’s not like you’re asking for permission, your co-creating.
John: Alright, question 2—is there really something to this masculine-feminine energy thing?
John: Yes, 100%, I agree. Let’s explain a little bit of this masculine-feminine energy. You know back in the day, when I was an ignorant little boy—this was last weekend—I thought masculine and feminine energy had to do with men and women, meaning men masculine, women feminine, but that is not true—we all have masculine and feminine energy.
Noelle: Yes, absolutely. I think that as we move into more of an age of intersexuality, where gender is fluid and where sexuality is fluid, the terms man and woman, and masculine and feminine—everything get’s blurry because I think that goes back to approval and expectations, where if you were labeled a man there were certain roles in society that you were expected to fill, and certain things that you were expected to live up to. But as we know, and as we’ve heard from lots of men, that has been really detrimental. What’s been your experience with trying to live up to masculine ideals?
John: Challenging, and behind trying to live up to something there’s judgment, all of the stuff. But I really believe in this masculine-feminine energy stuff, especially when it comes to intimate relationships and our dance, our banter, the way that we engage—it definitely plays a factor. There’s a book called The Way of the Superior Man—I know it’s kind of a strange title, but it changed my life. The whole book is about men and women, but through this perspective of masculine and feminine energy—in the bedroom, in the conversations, outside the bedroom, just in life, and if you guys don’t know that book, get it, it’s really good.
Noelle: I wonder if there’s a different way to label masculine and feminine energy, because they’re so loaded, right? My experience of trying to live up to a feminine ideal has been fucking hell. The energy piece is unique, so I wonder if maybe there’s a different way to isolate those really beautiful traits that we love about each piece of energy, and embody it in a different way.
John: I agree with you. I like that yin and yang thing, but to say masculine and feminine, we instantly label it.
Noelle: We put it in boxes.
John: Yep. Question 3—how can I get to know myself better without therapy?
Noelle: Ooh, so this is fun. This kind of has been a coaching question that’s come up for me from some of our coaches, stuff they’re going through in life, and there’s such a disconnect between what we think we should be doing in life and what we are doing in life, and then taking it even further, what do we actually enjoy in life and what is our purpose? I think that the answer to that question of how can I get to know myself starts with noticing, and starts with ripping off the masks, and ripping off the veneers, and being really honest with yourself at any given time. Are you enjoying yourself? Are you enjoying your activities? Are you enjoying your career? Are you enjoying the people who are around you? Do you even know what it’s like when you’re actually happy and when you’re actually in state of blissful ecstasy? And where do those breadcrumbs lead?
John: I talk a lot about growth being a reunion and connecting two parts of yourself that you have locked into a hope chest because life happens, or because you had kids, or you got married, or you’re chasing the corner office, or whatever it is, this happened to me, and it wasn’t until I started to reconnect to that part of John Kim that I locked away or ignored, and I did that through finding CrossFit, buying a motorcycle, you know expressing myself on a blog, so tapping into that writer in me that I stuffed away when I thought I failed a screenwriter. So, I think to answer this question, one way to start to get to know yourself better is through reconnecting with the parts of you that you have locked away.
Noelle: What would you say would be a first step towards doing that?
John: First, thinking about—and actually not thinking about but really feeling and imagining when you were the happiest—so for me, it was around 12, before you started to wear the veneer, or before you started to be someone that you didn’t like, before the world didn’t have it’s hands on you, you know? So for me it was around 12, and then compare that person to who you are now, even in spirit, and how you are and how you think, you know your energy—we were just talking about masculine-feminine energy—all of that . And if there’s a difference, if there’s a gap, the next question is what would it look like to tap into that person again? Now it doesn’t mean to do the exact same thing. So for me, if I was break dancing at 12, it doesn’t mean for now to start break dancing again, I mean it could, but it’s more about tapping into the spirit of John Kim. So when I was 12 I was extremely loud and crazy and high strung, and all the kids would say “John calm the fuck down. Shut up.”. They kept telling me shut up and so now as a 45-year-old, when that side comes up, I actually try to protect that 12-year-old and allow him to speak instead of shutting him down.
John: And that’s why on my Instagram you’ll see me with some pictures of my pants down and all sorts of stuff.
Noelle: What have you been doing on Instagram recently John? Oh my goodness.
John: This is awhile ago but I think furthest I pushed myself for the most I reconnected—that would be the reframe—was I posted a picture of me being someone or being very silly or being immature, but for a 45-year-old therapist, that is definitely, according to the world’s eyes, not appropriate, but I said you know what my connection to me is more important, and so I posted it.
Noelle: Yeah, I love that and I think that’s such an important conversation—what does it look like to exist as yourself without boxes?
John: And it doesn’t mean to do things that are—you know if you were a drug addict, it doesn’t mean to go back doing drugs—I mean we aren’t talking about things that are harming yourself, right? Obviously we’re talking about positive things.
Noelle: No, we’re talking about your innate spirit and getting in touch with that person. 100%. Cool. What else do you have for me?
John: Oh my god I have so many, and I love this because we’re already more than halfway done and I feel so good about answering questions because there’s a side of me and because we can’t get to all our emails and all our questions, especially with social media, and I feel guilty about that, but what a great way to just knock this shit out and also have help doing it, you know?
John: Here we go, next one—I have a fight to not recoil when my partner touches, kisses me, what do I do?
Noelle: Oh, skin hunger, ding ding ding.
John: Yeah. Some people don’t like it actually, some people don’t like to be touched.
Noelle: Right, so we’ve talked about this before, but it’s always great to give a refresher on it. So people fall onto lots of different continuums with their body, with their sexuality, with the way they experience emotions, and love, and physical attraction, and one of those continuums is the extent to which you like to be touched, straight up. It’s a scale of 1 to 1000—1 being yeah I really don’t like it so much, and 1000 being I live for this. And then there’s everything in between, right?
John: Are you 1000?
Noelle: Yeah, I’m pretty much up there at 1000.
John: Me too. I think it’s so important—even if it’s like you’re driving and the person’s hand is just on your shoulder, on your leg, it’s like milk for me.
Noelle: And it’s important to know that, because one of the things—especially working in the realm of couples coaching and sexuality coaching—is when people are mismatched in the way that they like to be touched, one partner can be left feeling like “oh god”. You know like the person that asked this question, I just really don’t enjoy this, and then the other partner is left feeling like emotionally starved or physically starved and like they’re not getting what they need. But I have to say that there are work arounds. I have a dog and George the dog is probably one of the most snuggled animals on the history of the planet, because one of the ways that I fulfill my need for touch is by snuggling my dog. And my wonderful husband, who doesn’t like having a human barnacle attached to him, get a little bit of relief.
John: My revelation today is that I need a dog.
Noelle: Yeah, yeah.
John: Which is very different than a cat—dogs you could cuddle them all day.
Noelle: Yep, yep. Depends on the doggie too. I had a Bernese Mountain dog who I just wanted to snuggle him and he was like yeah, nah. So it depends, but the measure is called skin hunger. It’s a weird name but that’s what the actual measure for this stuff is. And so this goes back to part of the conversation that it’s really important to have when you start dating somebody. It might be a really weird question to ask on a first, second, or third date, but “hey do you mind telling me a little bit about the extent to which you like to be touched” should be on the table.
John: It’s a big deal.
Noelle: It’s a big deal.
John: It’s a big deal because it’s always the little things, and the day-to-day that adds up to big things.
John: You know and that is one of those things.
Noelle: It’s a big deal, so ask prospective partners everybody. You could frame it differently or frame it in terms of “I” statements, like I am a person that really lives for physical connection with my partner, and not just sexual, you know how about you?
John: Next question—my partner has been abusive for some years, can an abusive person change?
Noelle: Oh boy.
John: Well, first, I do believe abusive people can change, of course. It’s difficult, but that possibility is there. But the red flag for me is she says my partner has been abusive for some years, meaning that she’s still in this.
Noelle: Yeah, and the cycle of domestic violence is real, it’s very hard to break. There’s a lot that happens emotionally and psychologically for both partners when they’re in these relationships. A lot of times people who are abusive have experienced or have grown up with abuse themselves. It’s very complicated, it’s very messy. This belongs squarely in the realm of therapy and health modalities, and not so much the realm of coaching. So I always refer folks to hotlines, and to therapists who are equipped and who know how to handle these situations. It’s not for the realm of coaching. So if you’re a coach and you’re getting questions like this, and it feels uncomfortable, you’re correct in your intuition that this feels like something I can’t handle or shouldn’t be handling. And I would say to your reader—get help, get brave and get help because your life matters, your experience on this planet matters, and it’s not up to you to save an abusive partner, it’s up to you to protect yourself.
John: Yes, and you guys know I talk a lot about containers. If you’re in an abusive relationship whether it’s physical or emotional or whatever it is, your container is definitely cracked and it’s going to stunt the growth of both of you guys. So it’s gonna stunt your growth obviously, but also it’s gonna prevent your partner from looking at him or herself and to actually work on this.
John: So if you can’t do it for you, do it for your partner—to get out.
John: Next question—how can you build motivation when you’re physically and emotionally drained? Noelle, I think you and I can relate to this question.
John: Noelle, is this from you?
Noelle: No, so I think that where this begins—and I have learned this lesson the hard way over the last couple of years—I have this really bad habit, this really bad pattern of quite literally working myself into the ground physically, and then I crash, right? And finally, I’m getting better at noticing the warning signs, of actually listening to my body, and listening to what my body feels like when I’m approaching exhaustion. So for example, for me, I feel it in my eyes—my eyes get really tired and emotionally I find myself getting angry at little tasks that are piling up, and that’s very against my nature, I’m usually not angry person at all. So when I start to notice those behavioral ticks or my eye twitches, it’s a signal to me that I pushed it too far, and the best possible thing that you can do is to take a break. It’s impossible to have motivation when you’re exhausted—you’re not good for yourself, you’re not good for others, you’re not good at your job, you’re not good at what you’re trying to do. So take that break and recoup your energy.
John: I love that. I love that you’re saying to listen to your body and your eyes included, that it’s not a logical thing, but if you feel something in your body that your body is trying to tell you something.
Noelle: Oh yeah, well you’ll have habits and patterns. Your body will have the same messages for you, whether it’s about exhaustion, whether it’s about contentment, whether it’s about a negativity spiral. We all have our physical cues, and that’s part of getting to know yourself, is listening to your body and understand what it’s saying to you.
John: Yes, 100%. Next question—how do you handle toxic family members? Now this is so common.
John: And also extremely difficult. That’s the other “f word”—family. That’s probably the most difficult people around us to manage and to draw boundaries with and all that stuff. So, how do you handle toxic family members?
Noelle: Yeah, and this is such a complex question and it’s so situationally specific, right? I mean the way you would handle a toxic family member that lives on the other side of the country is very different than the way you would handle a toxic family member that you live with. So apples and oranges here. But, I think that there’s kind of a thread that’s been running through every single one of these questions, and the thread that I see from approval, to being in relationships, to the extent to which you like to be touched, to exhaustion, to toxic family members, is know yourself. Know yourself—know who you are, know what the experience is for you when your triggered by a toxic family member, so that you can begin to get in front of it, and say "oh you know this is happening, I don’t have to be subject to it, I actually have choices here”. And then make the appropriate choices to protect your mental health. And that last point that I made of protecting your mental health, this is a concept that is kind of new to me, but I’ve been hearing people talk about it more and more— about setting your life up in a way where you’re not constantly being battered with psychological anguish. I really had to step back and think about that, as a coach you who helps people day in and day out figure out their lives, it’s like oh what does it mean to set yourself up in a way in which you’re actually protective of your mental health? Because that’s not something we think about.
John: Hmm right, absolutely. Next question—wanting a relationship because you’re ready versus wanting a relationship because you’re lonely.
Noelle: Both are real.
John: Yes. I think most actually get into something because they’re lonely, not necessarily because they’re ready or because they actually really want to be with that person.
Noelle: Well, I have pretty different views on relationships, right? There are all different kinds of relationships, and there’s nothing wrong with entering into a relationship because you’re lonely. Just be clear about what you’re doing, and be clear with the other person about what it is, and be clear that this is a stop gap, I’m not gonna marry you, but I just want someone to spend my time with for a minute.
John: You know what, this is why I love that you’re my partner, because I have such old-school definitions on love and what they should be, and of course I try to break out of them, and I think a lot of that comes from just being culturally raised in a cultural Korean, old-school, you know the wife does this, and also seeing my parents model you know all of that. But every time we talk about relationships, you challenge me in a good way, and then it makes me question myself, and makes me think “oh maybe it is okay to just to be with someone because you’re lonely and not label it, and that doesn’t have to be a marriage, or forever”. Maybe it’s okay to have different relationships for different reasons and you’re getting different things out those relationship. I never even thought of things like that, you know?
John: Because I judge them like the world judges them.
Noelle: Well and there’s shame around it, and we’re in a society that tells us that having a “relationship” is like a box that we check off, you know? Check the box, you’re winning at life, congratulations, you have a relationship with a capital R. But what if it sucks? What if you don’t wanna be in it? What if you chose it for the wrong reasons? How nice would it be if humans could just acknowledge to each other that it feels better when you spend time around others, and maybe we could just agree to engage in something that’s imperfect for a little bit, while we figure out how to get something better.
John: Yes. And this is something that—full disclosure and transparency—that I’m actually struggling with today, and learning a lot about, and I think part of that is just being around Noelle too long. Part of that is age, part of that is going through marriage and having traditional relationships for most of my life and now being open to approaching relationships in a new, different way. So that’s gonna be different for everyone, so whether you’re single or not, the way that you look at your relationship or other relationships, it might be interesting to start looking at them through new lenses, new definitions.
Noelle: Love the one you’re with John, love the one you’re with.
John: Are you talking directly to me or in general you’re saying love whoever you’re with?
Noelle: It’s a song lyric.
John: Oh, got it.
Noelle: If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with.
John: Oh, I like that. If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with. Yeah, so be present and give as much to whoever you choose to love in the moment.
John: Yeah, love it. Alright, guys that was today’s episode. And Noelle, I think this was the most questions we’ve ever knocked out in this short of time.
Noelle: It was fun, it was fun. We’ll do question roulette again.
John: Yes, questions roulette is going to now be a series, and Noelle, have a great day and I will talk to you soon.
Noelle: Alright, take care.