Hi, welcome back to the podcast. I'm Amanda, I'm Laura and I'm Kendra. And this time we have a special guest with us, Richa Thapa MD, who's our favorite psychiatrist and life coach. Today we're going to talk with her. She has been through some things, as we all have, and we're going to discuss it as friends.
Laura: So Richa, one of your focuses in your coaching business is self-love and the relationship with self. Can you tell us more about that?
Richa: Yes. Your relationship with yourself is the foundation for all your relationships. And so to me, it's everything. And so how you view yourself, how you think about yourself, how you show up for yourself, shows up in everything you do. So, sometimes it's the hard things that happen to you that make you really see who you are, what you can become.
Amanda: I totally agree with that. I look back now, and the things that I wish I could have avoided, I see now why it had to be that way. It was the impetus to change, and you can either be bitter or better. And it's an opportunity sometimes, as traumatic as things are, to become a better version, to grow. We just got back from a conference and one of the mottoes was, “Comfort doesn't change you.”
Laura: Yeah. So Richa, when you say it's the foundation for other relationships, what does it look like if you have a really poor relationship with yourself, and how does that kind of translate into your relationships with other people?
Richa: Well, it's as simple as this. If you don't treat yourself right, you'll end up putting yourself in situations that these people are mistreating you. And you think it's them mistreating you, but it's your willingness to put up with that. So it's basically like, you know, you believe how much abuse in a way that you…I'm not saying this right…hold on. Basically, you're going to put up with what you think you deserve. Does that make sense? So people who constantly will go back into these abusive relationships, at some level, whether it's subconscious, a lot of the time, it's NOT conscious. They believe that they deserve this. And so that cycle will repeat itself over and over and over again. So when you're looking at relationships, like you want to fix your marriage, you want to fix your relationship with your children, like you think it's the relationship that you have to work on, but it's what's inside.
Laura: Yeah. It's really interesting because so many people who are in abusive relationships think that they're sacrificing out of love for that other person. But the reality is, it doesn't help the other person at all. It doesn't help them grow. It just diminishes you more.
Richa: Like, you would never do that to someone else, right?
Laura: No. And that is like, to me, that's the core concept with the relationship with yourself, is that so much of what we do to ourselves or force ourselves to put up with, we would NEVER ever tell our kids to do that. We would never treat anyone else like that. It is really shocking. It's really shocking sometimes the way people talk to themselves and treat themselves.
Amanda: And put up with.
Laura: Yeah. I know some people who are in relationships who are very, very kind individuals married to people who are super mean to them. And that person is just like, “I'm just trying to be the best person I can be and just deal with it.” And the reality is, it does not help. It doesn't help their partner be a better partner if you’re allowing them to be mean to you all the time. It just doesn't help.
Amanda: Well, because we know that your actions come from your feelings, which come from your own thoughts. So you can't make somebody change, no matter how nice you are or kind, or permissive you are. It will never…the person has to do it for themselves.
Richa: And if you can kind of tap in and figure out how much you…I mean, just starting off with how much you like yourself, right? You can put yourself in certain situations. So you put yourself in certain situations where you can assess that, “I don’t deserve that.” Does that make sense?
Laura: Yeah. Well, like if you were protecting your kid. Like, where's your parental, you know, like mama bear/papa bear instinct FOR YOURSELF? Like you would for your child. We need to be doing that for ourselves too. Right?
Richa: Exactly. Like you wouldn't tell your friend to stay with someone who's beating them. Right. So why would you do that? Like, does that make sense?
Amanda: Right. And on some level we are still all children, you know, on some level. I like to think of that sometimes when I'm starting to like dismiss things or like speak negatively to myself. I am still that young child that doesn't need to be talked to like that. From even myself, ESPECIALLY from myself, I can't escape my own voice. That's the one I can't escape.
Laura: Well that totally reminds me of… so we have all had the experience. Emergency physicians have had the experience of consultants speaking rudely to us. And I get so. I don't know. I just feel this huge sense of injustice when I see someone else being talked to that way and them just saying, “yes, sir, or blah, blah, blah.” I'm like, no, no! It's time to say, you know, to, to stand up for ourselves and say, “Hey, I know you probably don't realize this, but you're being pretty rude, and you don't need to talk to me like that.” Or something. Figure out something to say to those consultants to show that you are worthy of respect, just as much as they are, if not more.
Amanda: Yeah. And, at the same time, understand that it really has nothing to do with you why they're acting like that, you know.
Amanda: It's whatever's going on in their own situation. So it, honestly, sometimes it doesn't bother me because I'm like, “Wow, they're having a bad day. Good thing I'm full of love and life over here.”
Laura: Sometimes their bad day is like who they are.
Kendra: So Richa, you were talking about your focus being self love and self relationship. How important is it to set boundaries for yourself, and how does that relate to how it could actually improve your relationship with yourself?
Richa: Well, when you set boundaries, boundaries are a beautiful thing. You kind of put a pause to when, you know, you feel like people are kind of crossing the line. And it's a way to protect yourself and, you know, maintain that space you need.
Kendra: Yeah. So how would you tell someone that may have problems setting boundaries, whether it is professionally, like what we were just talking about when we, especially as emergency medicine docs, talk to consultants a lot. Or even, could it be privately like with family members, in-laws, et cetera?
Richa: I mean, I think you just, you know, the key with the boundary is you set, you know, what you will not put up with, and then there's a consequence to follow. So you follow through with that. Right? And you just do it, you know, matter of fact, straight forward, you know, with loving kindness. And just lay it out there, and then you follow through with the consequence.
So for example, if my mother says something to me, just, you know, sometimes I take some space from her, and that's okay. And she can't just show up in my house anymore. If she does, I'm not going to answer the door because she's crossing the line. So yeah, I think the key with boundaries is following through.
Amanda: Well, and another thing with boundaries is, it's for you. You can't force somebody. The person's going to act how they're going to act. It's just what you're going to do about it. If you're going to leave the situation, if you're not going to open the door, because then you have the control over your boundary. The boundary is not, somebody has to act in a certain way. It only applies to you.
Laura: Yeah. So for me, if a consultant starts talking to me rudely. Which they rarely do anymore- because the rudes ones I've had this conversation with. Then my boundary is, “Hey, you don't need to talk to me like that.” And if they continue, then I say, “Okay, when you're ready to talk to me, like a colleague should talk to another colleague, call me back.” And that's probably happened one time. But usually when you put up that, “Hey dude, you're being inappropriate,” they will calm down. Because odds are other people have complained about them, and they know, you know, that they need to keep their cool. So that's what that boundary looks like for me. And I don't make it mean anything about me. And that, that is a sad thing for residents and young physicians, they could take it home and like cry about it. And I'm like, “No, the dude just has problems.” Just like, don't let them have any control over your life, but also put up a boundary.
Kendra: That's a good point, Laura. I think my biggest thing was I, I was that person early on. I was that situation. I hated the pimping rounds or whatever because even just pimping about a patient. And I felt like I was so prepared, and then they would, you know, of course they throw all the things. I mean, the more prepared you are, the next level the questions get. So I took it personally, like failure, But I think the biggest thing that I've learned is not making it about me. But saying on the phone, “You know, you and I have the same goal and that's to take the very best care of this patient. The patient's care is our best interest or our same interest.” So I just neutralize it a little bit, and it tends to kind of level things out a little. But I just always bring it back to, “Hey, you know, I know we want the very best patient care right now. Or, I know that you and I want to take the very best care of this patient.” And so kind of neutralizing.
Amanda: I love that because instead of going against someone you're coming alongside. You're looking in the same direction instead of antagonistically.
Laura: Yeah, that's awesome. I love that. That's powerful.
So Richa, for our listeners who are not aware. Richa made some shifts in her life when she was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer. And I'm just curious, what kind of things happened with your relationship with yourself? How did your relationship with yourself develop through your cancer journey?
Richa: It changed dramatically. Before all this, I don't think I had the best relationship with myself. Right? I always strive for this sense of perfection. Anything I did was never good enough. I mean, I was never a good enough psychiatrist. I was never a good enough mom. I always beat myself up. Just my self talk was awful, and I didn't even realize it until I looked back, and I've done all this work. So when I hit rock bottom, right? It kind of really made me question who I was. What's going to happen? I had to kind of question my mortality, how I want to live my life. And so it really opened up, it was like Pandora's box. But it helped me to see that I'm going to get through this, right? I'm the one who has to go through all the chemo. I'm the one who has to go through the radiation. The doctors prescribe it, but I had to take it. Like, how am I going to get through this? And something shifted inside of me at some point. It was like, I gotta be my own friend because I was doing it during COVID where I couldn't have visitors. So I did it all by myself. So I only had me. So it's kind of like, I hit rock bottom. I was in the bottom of the hole. I had a horrible negative self-talk before, but I knew if I wanted to live that wasn't going to get me through this. And so then that's how I just, you know, started exploring my relationship with myself. I started getting more into yoga. I started listening to healing affirmations. I did a lot of meditation. I took a break from my stressful job, and I kind of took care of my own mental health. It was just me. No one could go in there with me, literally. And normally nowadays you can take someone in with you for treatment.
Laura: Yeah. Well, that had to have been a lonely place to be until you figured out how to be your friend.
Richa: I mean, that's basically what it was. I was down in the trenches by myself. So it was kind of like- it’s me and my mind.
Laura: So what kind of advice would you give to people? Do you have any tips to people for how to improve their relationship with themselves?
Richa: The best thing you can do is really as simple as just like, give yourself a hug and say, “You got this.” It's okay if you had a bad day. It's okay if something didn't go your way. Treat yourself like a friend. When your best friend has a bad day and just, you know, needs to vent, you just want to give him a hug and say, “Yeah, like that's really tough.” So I think a lot of self-validation is important too. Like giving yourself that grace.
Amanda: So wrapping up, a cancer diagnosis is a big deal. And for anybody else out there that has gotten some bad news, or something big has happened in their life, is there any advice that you would give them?
Richa: Yeah, we can do hard things, and this can be the catalyst you need for creating the life you want because you take action when you realize that life is short. At least that was my experience.
Amanda: I love that. I've read before, like with situations, that you can become bitter or better. And I've seen that, you know, with things for myself that it had to be that way because I wouldn't have ever changed otherwise. I don't wish it on anyone, but that's what it took for me in my life.
Laura: No, but that is true. Like every, in every situation, we either win or we learn, or we win and learn hopefully. We can learn from everything. And you're so inspiring, Richa. Thank you so much for sharing all that.
Amanda: Yes, everyone. My goal is to have Richa on multiple times. She's amazing.
Kendra: Thank you, Richa, so much. Your story, like Laura said, is inspiring. You are an amazing example of not only resiliency, but also coming out a little brighter, a little happier, a little more beautiful. And in a situation that does not necessarily mean bright and shiny and beautiful. So thank you very much for being brave and sharing your story with us and your amazing journey. And we thank you for joining us. You all know how much we love what you do. We see you, and we see how brilliant and amazing you are. So until next time: you are whole, you are a gift to medicine, and the work you do matters.