Bouncing Back From Life’s Struggles Through Positivity With Nancy Barrows
When life gets you down and makes you upset, remember that it will all pass. There’s a great life for you out there despite the setbacks you have encountered. Tony Martignetti is joined by Nancy Barrows in discussing the importance of positivity and how we can bounce back from tragedy and still live with purpose. Nancy has a great passion for helping people find what is already inside them and offer it to the world. In this episode, she shares her journey of experiencing abuse at such a young age. For the longest time, she believed that she was broken beyond repair, and there was no chance that her life will be fixed. Nancy reveals how healing finally took place and how she bounced back from everything. Tune into this episode and remember that you have the power to take control of your life again.
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Bouncing Back From Life’s Struggles Through Positivity With Nancy Barrows
It is my honor to introduce you to my guest, Nancy Barrows. She builds communities to motivate and inspire others to grow without judgment of their journey towards wholeness. Nancy is a remarkable individual. You can find her in the world at her hashtags, #RadiatingReal and #ConnectedHumanConversations, where you're sure to find her talking about being real in the world. She's a New York transplant who lives in LA. She lives with her curious cats, which are active and always showing up on video.
It is my honor to welcome you to the show, Nancy.
Thank you, Tony. It's my pleasure to be here. What an honor. Thank you for giving me the gift of sharing my story with your audience.
I'm excited because I know that from what I have seen so far, you have always been real with people. That's one of the things that are important for me when I bring guests on. I want them to bring their whole self to the table, share their story from a place of honesty and help others through sharing their story. That's what you're all about, so that's what we're creating here.
That's what we're doing and it happened by accident. For all those of you out there who are trying to figure it out, one of the things I encourage is to show up. It was a launch into LinkedIn that started all of this. It happened because I showed up. I didn't know what I was doing. I didn't know anything about whatever the algorithms were, what you're not supposed to share, or you’re supposed to share. I knew none of that. I just knew that I had something to say and it was going to help other people. Showing up was the key to it all.
There's something about that we'll dig into. I think about having a message that is so real that it cuts through all the noise. The signal-to-noise ratio is truly amazing for you. The way we're going to help you to share your message is through what we call flashpoints. These are points in your journey that got you to where you are now that have ignited your gifts into the world. As you're sharing your story, we’ll pause along the way and see what's showing up with themes and things we want to pass along. With that, Nancy, I'm going to turn the floor over to you and let you take it away.
Thank you. Flashpoints, there have been so many of them. What I will say about those flashpoints is often, you don't realize until you're beyond them that's what they were. They were catalysts for your growth or for what was going to come next, the thing that I couldn't have manifested because I didn't even know it was a possible kind of thing. My first one was at about 15 or 16 years old. I invite your readers to receive my story without judgment for any reaction they may have. It's not an easy story to receive. It's not something that's often talked about. I certainly do not have any judgment of them for any reaction they have. I've probably had it myself.
At fifteen years old, I was at a summer program. A bunch of young girls is talking about different things and I got upset. A brave fifteen-year-old asked me what was wrong and she caught me in a moment. I shared with her that I was being sexually abused by my grandfather. I was 15 or 16 years old at that time. She was fifteen years old, brave, and heard that I was being abused and it had started when I was about 4 or 5 years old. She went to an adult in the program who was a mandated reporter. I didn't know there were such things as mandated reporters. I didn't even know there were laws against what was going on. I had no idea.
Here is the secret that I carefully kept because, in my eyes, my life depended on it. The secret was unleashed. I use that word intentionally. It was unleashed on my family. It was this wave that went across everyone. Even at the time, I didn't realize when you go through things and the people around, you go through them as well. I didn't get it until I was older that my mom and dad not only had to process what had happened to their daughter but watch her go through it.
I am all about talking about the ugly, snotty, and unsexy moments in the journey because that's important. We don't want to leave anyone seeing the end of the story and thinking they're failing because we have these internal report cards like, “She's out there speaking about it and she's doing great. She's healthy and recovered.” I'm not getting out of bed for three days. I'm not showering. I was there, too. It's important that they watch me go through all of that.
My mom, it was her father processing that. There are so many pieces of the journey that later, I came to appreciate. That started what doesn't sound like, at first, a healing journey but was that flashpoint. Soon after that came out, I became anorexic. I started with restrictive eating. I couldn't eat if I wanted to, quite frankly, it’s something that's a disorder or disease of control. It ended up being different from what I thought it was. I was not controlling food if I had to eat.
If you're having trouble finding your community, don't give up. They're out there.
I remember at one point, I had dropped out of college and I was working in a doctor's office. He wanted to buy the staff lunch and I panicked because I knew I wasn't going to be able to eat and what was everybody going to say, what was everybody going to think, and they were definitely going to know. I became anorexic and that was not only about control. For me, it was about hating my body and punishing my body. In my mind, my body was broken beyond repair and it had betrayed me.
Another hard thing to hear and is important for people, especially people who have been through abuse, is every cell in my body was programmed to do exactly what it did. It worked beautifully. Sexual touch equals pleasure. Only I didn't want it. That was all rewired, all crossed and all mixed up. To me, my body had betrayed me, so why would I give it nutrition? Why would I give it sustenance? Why would I treat it well? I hated it and I wanted to disappear.
I am fortunate that I never had true suicidal ideation but I was totally fine with dying. I would go to bed and say to the universe, “Tomorrow, someone's going to get a terminal cancer diagnosis, someone who wants to live. Give it to me instead. Let them live the life they want.” Beyond a shadow of a doubt, I believe that I was broken beyond repair. There was no fixing us. There's no fixing me.
Therapy is a huge tool for me. The support of my family is a huge tool for me. I know those are not things that everyone gets, so I'm deeply grateful. At twenty years old, I decided I was going to confront my grandfather and this was another flashpoint. I had gotten to the point where through therapy, I knew it wasn't my fault. I had not done anything wrong. I wanted to have somebody who deserves to take responsibility for it.
In my mind, this was going to be my ticket to freedom. As I like to say, not every story goes the way you think it's going to go. I went and confronted my grandfather. He admitted to one instance where he had been inappropriate with me. Instead of being the ticket to freedom, it was devastating. I was put into a place of not knowing what had happened to me and not realizing there was so much that I didn't remember. “Did I need to remember it to get well? Could I handle remembering it all?” There was so much going on.
On top of that, someone took responsibility for it, but everything I was dealing with didn't disappear. I didn't get to hand that over with the responsibility. It was still all mine. He didn't have to go to therapy for it. I had to go to therapy for it, do the work, roll up my sleeves, roll around in the mud and do that work, even though I had done nothing wrong and it wasn't my fault. That led to my first major depressive episode. I end up dropping out of college.
For me, I wore many different masks over the course of my life. I had the high school mask where I was the president of my class, captain of my volleyball team, and I was socially popular. I did volunteer work. There was no reason to look at me twice. There was nothing remarkable out of me that you needed to even think about. Moving on to college, I'd gotten into this prestigious five-year undergrad Master's program in Speech-Language Pathology. How was I dropping out? I'd been there two years. What do you say to people? It wasn't that I didn't like it. Everyone knew I loved being there.
My ego would not allow me to say I couldn't hack it academically and it did not fit with the prior mask that I formed with the people I was going back to. Ultimately, it didn't matter because I stayed in bed most of the time. Other than going to therapy, I didn't have to tell my reasons to anyone because I wasn't interacting with anyone. Over time, this mask gets created. I went through this and I dropped out. At that time, my brother was living in LA and I was still in New York. We conceived this idea that I would come to LA and I would do a summer session at UCLA where I could live in the dorms, take a class, and have some free time on my own. I like to call it my trial life and my brother being my safety net because he was just 10 to 15 minutes away from campus.
I had the best summer of my life. I loved it. I told my parents that at the end of summer, I wasn't coming home. I have given the most perfect parents for me and I am deeply grateful for that because they said, “If that's what you want to do, we'll support you.” I realized in November of that year that when I was flying home for Thanksgiving, I hadn't been sober for fourteen days. I'm not a drinker but the pain had become so great. It's a perfect mask for college students to go out and drink all night, do a party at night, sleep during the day, wake up, and then at some reasonable hour, start all over again. It was the perfect mask.
The reality was throughout my life that I presented on the outside couldn't be more different from what was going on the inside. What was going on the inside was I was mad at myself because I had taken me with me. You cannot outrun your story. When I had gratitude for it all, I went from trying to outrun my story to inviting it to walk with me because there's so much value in what I've been through. To leave it behind or try to outrun it, it would be a disservice to me and to anyone else that comes into my life because I am able to share what I share and do what I do because of what I've been through. I think that’s important.
There's more to know about the story. What you said there is one of the biggest reactions I have around the overall thing. You can't run from your past. At some point, you have to face it and use that as a way to move forward. If you continue to stuff it back, it keeps on coming back. The amount of courage and pain to go through when you have to rehash the past over and over again, I can't even imagine having to relive those past experiences until you've gotten to this place where you're able to heal or able to overcome them to the place where you're able to live with them.
I appreciate you acknowledging that. It's funny to me, my story is not remarkable because it's my story. I lived it. The truth is I was reliving my past and getting nowhere. I was chasing my tail until I decided, “It may mean pain and reliving it, which I'm already doing, but what can I do to make it so that this isn't a pattern I live with my whole life?” I had a therapist say to me, “Someday, you're going to look at your history book, your story, you're going to turn the page on this and it's not going to cause you the pain and the stress it causes you now.”
I probably used some flowery language to tell her off because I thought she was full of beep. I won't use my New York language here but it's absolutely what happened. It was painful that I've learned by going through what I've gone through during the work I've done that it doesn't have to remain painful every day of my life. I like to tell people, “If you would have asked me at twenty years old, I would have thought that the things that continue to ‘plague’ me in my life would have been my anorexia and my abuse.” That was my identity for so long.
Before I got on LinkedIn and started telling my story, I hadn't thought about those things in a long time. I would occasionally call my best friend who's in Virginia, Raquel, and I was reading Gwendolyn Doyle’s book and she talks about having an eating disorder. I called Raquel and I was like, “I totally forgot that I was anorexic.” She was like, “That's right.” It wasn't at the forefront of my mind. That was something I never thought I would get out from underneath.
The honest truth is, the thing I struggle with day-to-day is my depression. That's true for a lot of us. Mental wellness is not some destination or somewhere you go and get to. You fight to get there, you arrive, someone gives you a plaque to hang on your wall and you're good to go. It is a daily choice. I will not say you choose to be happy because that's so insulting to me. If I could have chosen to be happy through all those years, I would have, but I can choose to be positive, be grateful, and surround myself with people who will not let me forget who I am, not let me disappear, and notice the changes in my patterns when they happen.
I can use the tools that I have to get back. Everybody's got their homeostasis, and our place was functioning optimally. It's not that I don't try those old masks on from time-to-time. I'd be lying. I will not do that. I think of it as that gorgeous pair of shoes that I have in the closet that I still don't throw away because I love them and I want them to be comfortable but they're not. I will put them on and I will start to get ready. Before I can even leave the house, I have to take them off because they're too painful. It's the same with the old masks. You can put them on for a little while but every time I play dress up, it's an opportunity for me to remind myself how far I've come to use those tools I have.
It's not that those moments and thoughts don't come up. Some days, it's harder than others. I choose to make a healthier choice than I used to. I engage in behaviors that are proactive, healthy, self-restorative, and caring. I don't want to miss the ugly middle, but I don't want to not discuss the fact of like, “I'm human. I throw tantrums. I throw my hands up and look at the universe and say, ‘When is it enough? What am I missing? Hit me over the head with it because clearly, I'm not getting it.’”
We all have our moments, even in our most optimal place of functioning, and that's important to acknowledge. We have these invisible report cards. We didn't get to the point where I'm divorced, but I'm divorced. When I went through my divorce, I thought I was failing. I called that same friend, my best friend Raquel and said, “I'm failing at divorce.” She said, “What are you talking about?” I said, “I can't do this. I'm a mess. I'm crying on the floor. Everything in my life reminds me of him.” Mind you, it was my choice to end the marriage. This is eighteen years of having someone with me. It wasn't because we fought. It was because we both deserve to be loved completely, deeply, and unconditionally.
I had put on a mask during our marriage that even I didn't recognize. I like to say I’m a skilled illusionist and sometimes a solutionist. I had created a mask that even I didn't recognize. What had happened through no fault of his is I had recreated the emotional dynamics of my abusive relationship where I was surviving on bread crumbs. I allowed myself not to have a voice and all sorts of other pieces that were part of that. My needs didn't matter.
After a lot of hard work, to wake up one day and go, “How did I do that?” I have to start over but the reality is I wasn't starting over. It was the little universe course correcting hip bump kind of thing. It didn’t feel like that at the time. It felt like I got hit by a Mack Truck. I don't even remember where I started with all this. The point is that even as our highest selves, we're going to struggle, be challenged, and have tests in places of making choices.
All that staff prior is what's allowed me to thrive. I was a survivor and I wore that like a badge of honor for a long time. I was an angry and tough survivor. I was like, “Come bring it to me. Come at me. I got it. I can handle this,” kind of survivor. That's true about a lot of us that go through trauma. For me, it felt stronger to be angry than vulnerable. It's funny because I have heard from people in my life who've come across me at that time, who told me they were intimidated by me.
Granted, I moved to LA in the 90s, early grunge and I was the New Yorker who wore black leggings, knee-high, steel toe Dr. Martens, men's V-neck white t-shirt, a flannel around my waist, and a baseball cap. I look like, “Don't mess with me.” People got the message and I did a good job of keeping them at arm's length. It was a great plan, except it was lonely and I was tired. I couldn't sustain it. I've been given so many gifts along this journey.
You can only get so close to people if you're not willing to be vulnerable.
There are three women that I met when I came to UCLA, Raquel, Courtney Franklin, and Candace Span. They gave me life. These were the first three people with who I chose to take my mask off with and they didn't see me any differently. They weren't disgusted. They didn't run. They didn't look at me with pity. What they did do was offer me unconditional love and acceptance. That is one of the reasons why I am out there radiating real. I have The Chick with the Toolbelt program and I have my shows. I come on other people's shows because those women who gave me that experience were the ones that showed me that I could be real and be loved.
It wasn't until my divorce that I 100% decided to be 100% real 100% of the time because I went from the mask I was wearing in my marriage. The scales tipped and it became less comfortable in the known and in the illusion. What I had always been fearful of was the unknown and being real. What has occurred to me over time, which seems so simple, was certainly hard-fought to get to was, “I want to be real but more importantly, I'm meant to be real.”
I get that reinforcement every time someone comes up to me and says, “I was inspired by your story. You are so brave.” I've had countless men and women hear me speak and then contact me or walk up to me afterwards and tell me their story. Often, it's the first time. It gives me chills just thinking about the privilege I have of being in that moment with them.
One of the things that I wanted to connect with is, you talk about the mask, and there are so many people who are carrying around their own masks to try and protect themselves. They realize in that protection, that boundary that they're putting between themselves and the world, they're holding themselves back from being their true self. Another thing that has come up for me, and I'd love to know your thoughts around this, is the difference that the right environment makes in you. You start talking about the girls who allowed you to feel safe to be you and be 100% real.
When you got into an environment where you are with people who give you that sense of like, “I can be me here,” it makes all the difference. Those habits that you can form around being in environments that support you and allow you to continue to evolve into the place where you need to be, that’s what makes a big difference in having good mental health. You have to shape the environment and craft the right environment for you to be able to have the people who support you, the cues that help to avoid bad triggers, and good cues that allow positive behaviors.
This is for me. Not all triggers are bad. They remind me of where I need to do my work, and I have a choice. I don't have to react the same way I maybe would have before. Not that it doesn't happen. I want to get to what you're saying about the environment and the people. That is integral. It's integral as much as it is wanting to be yourself and loving yourself. I told you that I felt broken beyond repair. I thought I disgusted people. When I first saw my first therapist, it was court-ordered. That doesn't count because I wasn't ready for it. I couldn't say or much less talk about anything that had happened during my abuse.
At seventeen years old, I chose to go to a therapist. I could not tolerate looking at her but I also could not tolerate her looking at me while I told my truth. I pulled the couch away from the wall and I sat behind that couch session after session, telling my truth. Even though I was paying her and I knew she couldn't run from the room, I was convinced she was going to. She was going to be disgusted by me and she was going to tell me to leave or she was going to leave.
If you're someone who is in therapy or seeking therapy, your therapy environment should be yours to do exactly that. Anything you need to do. I rearranged the furniture. I know there's a lot of people that are uncomfortable doing that but if that's what you need, your therapist should completely understand that. While we’re on this subject, I'm going to go back to the environment and people because I want to reinforce to people. I know there's a lot of us, me included, who have gone to therapy and either lied straight out to our therapist or lied by our own mission because we're not with the right person in the right environment.
I was working with a woman named Jessica Oifer. If you're in Los Angeles, she is amazing. She's skilled and the human she is comes into her practice. She was the first therapist I walked to when I was worried about my marriage, and she said, “You're not here to save your marriage. You're here to work on yourself, grow and see how that impacts your relationship.” She gave me permission. I wasn't responsible for the marriage. I was responsible for myself. I had had a particularly bad day and there was a Dunkin Donuts across from her office.
I parked my car, went over, and bought a dozen donuts. I waited outside the door for my session with my jaw set with this box of doughnuts in my hand, she opened the door, I looked at her, I shoved the box at her and I said, “You're going to eat these with me.” I said the word. Here's how you found your therapist. She's looked at me and she goes, “Did you get chocolate?” I said, “Yes.” She goes, “Come on in.”
I was able to say to her, “No, not today. This is what we're doing today.” I said, “You're going to eat these with me.” Without a beat, she’s like, “Did you get chocolate? Sure. Come on in.” That's so important. That's the environment in person and it's not in our lives. In the people we collect “in our personal lives,” it's our work environments and things like therapy all over the place. For me, I had been an extrovert and then I fell into this phase of feeling like I was trained by people, and I didn't want to be around people.
I felt like it was so hard. I had forgotten how to engage in small talk and I wasn't interested. Quite frankly, I wasn't interested anymore. I had grown to a place where I wanted to have a real conversation with someone. Not that small talk doesn't lead to real conversations but for those of you out there who have had the journey, who are on the journey, and who are beginning, and when you get there, this will make sense.
When you show up and you’re real, your community and your tribe find you. You can recognize each other. You recognize the people that are going to drop you. They’re either real or not who are ready to be present, going to take a step forward instead of a step back when things get ugly, hairy, dicey and going to lift you up, celebrate you and celebrate with you.
For me, LinkedIn gave me that. My whole community left me in my divorce and that was unexpected because they were my friends and became our friends. I had been through a divorce where two of my best friends married one another and got divorced, and I remained friends with both of them. I knew it was possible. They couldn't handle me being real. They liked the way our little circle functioned and that was me having a great mask on being the host smiling and happy. Look at this great relationship I have and we got along. We were best friends.
It just wasn't the love that we both deserved to nurture our souls and hearts in the ways that allowed us to be. It's a feeling. It allowed us to be whole. It’s this environment where people enter into brave space. It’s a love-safe space. It's important but brave space to me is the key because brave space is, “I will define it.” It’s not a safe space where I come and tell my story and I know everybody is going to be like, “It's okay. We got you,” but I'm the one. The brave space is what we enter into together saying, “We're all willing to be vulnerable together. No one is doing this alone. We're all going to show up real.”
That, to me, was the environment and the people. The people who could do that created the environment I needed and for me, everything shifted in my life. I lived my life in a totally different way and it didn't happen overnight. It wasn't without tears or doubt. It was ugly snotty and unsexy certainly at points but it was transformational. We talked about this on another show that I'm a host of and it is transformation through transparency.
You can only get so close to people if you're not willing to be vulnerable. I know one of the things in my marriage was because I had my past, I was the identified patient, and all the vulnerability came from me. My ex-husband, being a wonderfully supportive man, was the strong one but he never dropped into vulnerability. Our relationship became me being vulnerable and him being the one that saved. That ability for all parties involved to drop into vulnerability and say, “Here I am. Here is the girl who still sleeps with her baby blanket in her pillowcase.”
It was at my wedding but if you can't love me because of that, then you're not my people. Where you can find most of my content, and I am real on all my social platforms, but I spend the most time on LinkedIn because that's where I found this community. LinkedIn is unique in that sense and people from Facebook knew me before.
Everyone I met on LinkedIn since November 2020 met me exactly where I was at that moment and there's something about that. I have radiated real, which is the hashtag campaign we alluded to earlier, which is all about taking off your mask. It started with taking a picture of yourself right when you wake up in the morning.
It's a scary thought to take that picture and post it. Share those scary thoughts. Share what went through your head because you are definitely not the only person who had that reaction or those thoughts when Radiating Real came up. Share those thoughts, encourage others to do the same, and allow your community to shower you with that unconditional love and acceptance. That was what Radiating Real was. That’s what it was all about.
I have Radiating Real crying and looking like a raccoon because I was so exhausted the night before that I went to bed without taking off my makeup. I’m not going to clean this up because this is life. I know I'm not the only woman or man who went to go without taking off their makeup last night and woke up looking like I belonged in the animal kingdom digging through some trash.
I know that you and I connected for a powerful Radiating Real post for me. I had posted my first Radiating Real photo and my best friend Raquel messaged me. She has taken responsibility for this. That's the one you joined in and maybe looks back at the others. She, on the side, was like, “I'm calling because you looked too good for this to be the first thing in the morning.”
Not every story goes the way you think it's going to go.
I thought, “The person who knows me best thinks that I would jeopardize the integrity of this campaign that I would not hold the same standard that I'm inviting everyone else to step into and experience,” was devastating for me. I was worried that I jeopardized the whole movement. People are brave. People have done it with their CPAP machine on in the morning before they even take it off. People have done it with one eye open. They’re not even awake yet. People have I've done it with a mouthful of food. They can take a picture because, at that moment, that's who they are.
I put a post up saying how difficult it was to be questioned and a picture of me. At that moment, I took a picture of myself crying, which I often do, which I know sounds so strange to people. Those moments are important, too and it's important to have grace, empathy, and understanding compassion for myself in those moments. Going through this, my worst fear was recognized. I have gone through a lifetime and women experienced this all the time. We are social media judged if we're “less than perfect” physically or whatever that perfect physical standard is.
People feel the need to tell us. They feel the need to make sure we know. I don't understand the mentality of it. I don't but in my lifetime, I have been having to apologize for being attractive. In that #RadiatingReal post, I shared that in fourth grade, I was tested for learning disabilities. Fourth grade was my hardest year because my grandparents, who didn't live near us, ended up staying with us for months because my grandmother broke her hip.
I learned nothing in fourth grade. I had such a trauma brain that if you asked me about fractions, I don’t know. I still don't know my multiplication tables by heart. Even then, in fourth grade, the report was written by a professional who happens to be a man. The first line of that report was Nancy, an unusually attractive fourth-grader. Throughout my life, I have had to dim my “beauty” which I radiate from the inside, but I also know that I'm lucky that I meet the standard closely enough that people think I'm attractive.
I've had to dim that because people can see the beauty in me. It breaks my heart that they can see the beauty in me, but they can't see the beauty in themselves. That post was about being real. What I was able to say was, “This was difficult, and it was one of my worst fears to realized. I now can sit with someone who has a similar experience because they choose and are brave to put themselves out there. I can say, ‘I know exactly what you're going through.’”
There are so many things that come to mind right now and one of the things is I love the idea of a brave space because it's the next level. It’s taking it to this place where you're not creating a safe space, you're creating a place for people to go boldly and beyond showing up and opening up. It's about going deep. When you do that, there's an essence of like, “This is foreign to most people.” Because it's foreign, the reactions you get are, “This can't be real and right. This is not happening.” The reaction is going to be visceral.
It's not about me, it's not about you, it's not about the person putting themselves out there at all, but it gets hurled at us.
In some ways, what is frustrating is that we need to be more raw and real. The word that is coming for me is beautifully flawed because we all are. If we show that to each other more, we'll become more accustomed to it, and it becomes normal.
Many of us are comfortable sitting in our discomfort and that makes it hard to make that move to something unknown and scary. I'm a true believer that we're hurting one another by continuing to wear masks and not show up. I thought I was failing at divorce. There's no such thing you get through a divorce. You don't pass or fail. You get through it however you need to get through it. There's no right or wrong and there's no timeline for it either. For me, we’re hurting one another by wearing these masks because we are out there living life and we know it sucks at times. We know how hard it is, yet we're unwilling to show that to one another. We feel less than ashamed or we're doing something wrong.
For me, I know it's hard to find your inner voice and it's hard to do that work, especially on your own. You don’t necessarily need a therapist. I was someone who needed that to get me to a certain point and the rest of it was evolution using the tools I had and the people who came into my life. I also know that those are things that would have been hard for me to do alone. I credit the people with me along my journey for that.
The Chick with the Toolbelt, which is a program I mentioned earlier, is funny because I have a bit of a hard time bringing it up because I don't like to promote myself. Most of what I'm doing is to help other people and that's where I'm comfortable. I'm comfortable in that space. After lots of people are coming to me and saying, “Thank you,” and reflecting back on the ways of spending time with me, I help them. Being me, I am fortunate I have insight. I understand people.
People feel comfortable with me, and I am so careful with that privilege. The Chick with the Toolbelt was about, “I have all these tools but how can I help others? I'm not a therapist. What I have is my experience.” It's about helping people find what's already within that. That's why I don't say I'm a coach and coaches do wonderful work. It's The Chick with the Toolbelt Program. It's a program. It's got steps, homework, things you need to think about and you're going to get out of it as much as you put into it.
I'm there to guide, share my wisdom, and help. One of the most beautiful things someone said to me was by a baker, her name is Alexis Thornton and if you don't know about her on LinkedIn or Bread & Butter Joy, go find out. Her journey is extraordinary, her bravery and walking away from a traditional lifestyle to do something different.
We were talking and she said, “When you said I was going to have to post, I was panicked. I don't have anything to say. As we talked and when we got to the end of the call, I'm sitting here going, ‘I do have important things to say. I have impactful things to say. I now feel like I have years’ worth of content where I started off thinking I had nothing important or interesting to say.’” Being in the presence of that when people get there and come to life, I have chills sitting here now. Every time I will have chills because, for every person that gets to do that, I get to witness, be there and celebrate with them. I used the words privilege, honor, gift, often but truly, those moments are precious.
I feel that and I can relate with that feeling of helping people to find their brilliance and to realize that each person has their own unique thing inside of them that’s dying to get out. You have to help them to connect with it and realize that they're the gift. Your story is the gift.
Your story is important, powerful, and impactful. Every single one of us. You don't have to have been through what I've been through to have an impactful story. You have an impactful story and our story starts from well beyond what we realize that they are there.
I can talk to you for another hour but we have to come to an end.
We’ll have to do it again.
Part two. I do have one last question and the last question, what are two books that have had an impact on you and why?
The first two that come to mind are The Red Tent and The Secret Life of Bees. In both cases, I found myself wanting to be a character in that book but in reality. What I didn't understand until probably not so long ago was what I was attracted to is the community, the unconditional acceptance, love, and this brave space that all of these books created. I think about The Red Tent and those women who gathered monthly and created a brave space for one another. They were able to show up and receive that unconditional thing.
It’s the same with The Help. It happens there and in The Secret Life of Bees, they have this young girl who's struggling with so much. She’s brought in loved and taken into a community that is so lovely, so giving, and accepting. That's what radiated with me around those. I also connect deeply with The Very Hungry Caterpillar.
At least once a week, I need to eat one green leaf because I will over dwell with sweets and I need one green leaf as well as the fact that I feel like I am currently in another metamorphosis. I've gone through many things in my life. I have a tattoo of a butterfly and it says Limitless. That transformation speaks to me, as does that I live alone and single. No matchas, so I can eat ice cream, cookies, or chips for dinner. I will, on occasion, do that. I say, “I need one green leaf.”
Work on you and grow, and see how that impacts your relationship.
You took it very literally but that's smart.
It's that metamorphosis piece and then the literal, “I need a green leaf.”
First of all, I love all three books you've shared. They were fantastic but it's interesting because some days you get to eat ice cream for dinner.
Years ago, I did Weight Watchers because part of my evolution out of anorexia was learning how to eat again quite frankly, healthfully, and understand the balance that you need, and I loved it. There was a trainer that people would ask, “What about this?” “No. I did this.” She had two things that stuck with me. One is, “Count it as a vegetable and move on.” Don't harp on it. Don't beat yourself up for it. Don't say you're never going to do it again. The other thing was, “It's a holiday, not a holimonth.”
On any given day, you can eat what your body is craving because often, our bodies are craving what we need, so our souls. You can do that. Don't deny yourself when there's something that would make you feel better and need that is not going to be something that goes on and on and becomes unhealthy. It goes from self-care to unhealthy. It’s a holiday, not holimonth.
This has been so truly amazing, Nancy. I appreciate you coming in and not that I'm surprised but being as real as expected. The fact that you show up the way you are now with all of the power, energy and the positivity that you radiate, it's powerful. Your story is remarkable, so thank you so much for sharing everything you have.
Thank you for the brave space and the invitation to share who I am and my story.
I'm honored. What's the best place to find you?
If they're on LinkedIn, that's the easiest and I work in the public school, so I will apologize in advance for every different social media handle I have. If you work in public education, keeping your personal life separate is important. If you’re on LinkedIn, it’s @NancyBarrows. If you hop over to Facebook, it's @NancyDebra. If you want to go on Instagram, it's @Vibing_With_Nancy_Debra. It gets more and more complicated and you can send me an email. It's my name Nancy.D.Barrows@Gmail.com. I accept smoke signals as well. They can get in touch with you. You know how to get in touch with Calendly and me.
I invite your audience if they would like to have a conversation about anything, whether it's something we discussed here and they want to go further, something that was ignited in them, or something that we didn't talk about at all, but they feel like, “This is a woman I can see talking to,” please grab a fifteen-minute consultation. It's free and that's Calendly.com/NancyBarrows. Hopefully, it's not too confusing, and that people can find me. I encourage them to take off their masks, be real, and show up.
If you need a community to join, I do self-plug. It's on hiatus right now, but Connected Human Conversations is 5:00 PM Pacific Standard Time on Sunday evenings, and the show is about talking about what people need to talk about and a lot of that comes from our comments. We don't necessarily have guests, but we have people in the comments who engage in the conversation and it becomes all of our brave space. I show up because they show up. If you're having trouble finding that community, join on Connected Human Conversations, you can also jump on Brian Schulman's Shout Out Saturday on there every Saturday, and that's another great positivity place. If you're having trouble finding your community, don't give up. They're out there.
Beautiful. Thank you so much. Thanks to the readers for coming on the journey and you're leaving with so many great insights and thoughts about how to connect deeper and find your own brave space. That’s a wrap. We'll see you.
- Nancy Barrows - LinkedIn
- #RadiatingReal - LinkedIn
- #ConnectedHumanConversations - LinkedIn
- Jessica Oifer
- Facebook - Nancy Debra
- Alexis Thornton - LinkedIn
- The Red Tent
- The Secret Life of Bees
- The Very Hungry Caterpillar
- Weight Watchers
- @NancyBarrows - LinkedIn
- @NancyDebra - Facebook
- @Vibing_With_Nancy_Debra - Instagram
- Connected Human Conversations - YouTube
- Brian Schulman - #ConnectedHumanConversations Ep. 18 on YouTube
About Nancy Barrows
In a nutshell, Nancy Barrows is committed to sharing her story, speaking openly and honestly and showing up authentically. Inviting others to join her in creating a Brave Space where everyone can be themselves and receive the unconditional love and acceptance they deserve is something she passionately promote. She is disarming the stigma and removing "invisible report cards", which make people too "uncomfortable" to engage in powerful, transformative conversations. Their most authentic selves are revealed as people remove the stigma and 'social masks' that hold them back. By actively fostering a Brave Space, where difficult conversations can be had, together, they are changing lives and culture.
A community creator and gatherer known as The Queen of Engagement, she is a the creator, producer, and host of the weekly LIVE show Connected Human Conversations, founder of the #RadiatingReal movement, and creator of The Chick With The Toolbelt program. As a Keynote speaker, her purpose is to inspire and help others discover their true selves by taking off the 'social masks' they wear and showing up authentically.
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