At the start of every new year, and really all throughout the year, many entrepreneurs are dealing with the pressure to grow, do more, and constantly improve. While having goals is a good thing, therapist Lea Lester knows that pursuing your goals at the expense of your mental health is a recipe for burnout.
Lea (pronounced lee) is a licensed therapist, Certified Daring Way™ Facilitator, Certified Trauma Conscious Yoga Method Facilitator, Ph.D. student, and entrepreneur. She primarily works with young adults; helping them prioritize self love, self awareness, and self acceptance.
As a former public school educator, she became passionate about helping young adults navigate the increasing pressures and pain of coming of age in today’s society. Her therapeutic interests include childhood trauma, intergenerational trauma, and somatic awareness. A self-proclaimed recovering perfectionist, her work places heavy emphasis on compassion, courage, and connection.
Lea also hosts creative therapeutic workshops, titled FEEL, with the aim of creating accessible and safe spaces for collective healing. Lea resides in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex with her husband and children where she’s always up for spicy food and enjoys a good beat drop.
In this episode, Lea explains how to recognize if you’re experiencing self-improvement burnout, and what questions will lead you to developing a more sustainable approach for yourself.
Before we get into the mental health tips, I asked Lea to share her story of becoming an entrepreneur. I love that her path has twists and turns that led her to finding the work that most fulfills her. If you’re in a season of life where you feel like you’re not doing what you’re meant to do yet, hopefully this inspires you.
Lea began her career teaching middle school science. Her favorite part of being a teacher was the relationships that she built with her students. Once she realized that they needed additional support reaching their potential, she transitioned to school counseling.
While earning her Master’s in school counseling, she added an additional year to become certified in mental health counseling. Thinking this would make her a better school counselor, she had no intention of becoming a therapist.
However, Lea admits that early into becoming a school counselor, she realized that she wasn’t able to show up and serve in the way that she intended to. She remained in her position for a long time, but eventually made the pivot into mental health. Now, as a therapist, she feels that she is serving and supporting young people in the way that she was meant to.
Lea acknowledges that so many of our struggles have unintentionally been passed down through generations. This is what she refers to as intergenerational trauma.
For her, it is so rewarding to work with people who say, “This stops with me. I’m going to step up and I’m going to break the cycle. I deserve to be free from this, my lineage deserves to be free from this.”
Self-improvement burnout is the concept of getting caught up in the idea that we always have to be better, to the point where it leads to burnout, stress, anxiety and overwhelm. Lea reminds us that this is unhealthy and counterintuitive to improving in the first place.
Lea hopes that having conversations around self-improvement burnout will help people realize the truth captured by one her favorite quotes:
“You are allowed to be both a masterpiece and a work in progress, simultaneously.” – Sophia Bush
This means that “yes, you can be improving, but you are also still always enough, just as you are.” Lea explained.
American culture has conditioned us to glorify self-improvement at the expense of well-being, often referred to as “hustle culture.” Lea has seen this hustle mindset in entrepreneurship and the workplace seep into the wellness industry.
If you’ve been subscribing to hustle culture, Lea recommends taking a step back to reflect. “If my wellness or self-improvement is negatively impacting my mental health, then I’m not really improving.” She reminds us.
We often forget that rest is an important part of caring for our well-being. Remember that you are enough just as you are, and that it’s okay to take a break from always improving.
Lea shared that “stillness bring clarity and rest is productive.” What a mindset shift, right?!
Lea also shared that the concept of nuance (both things can be true, instead of either or) will help you shift from a place of overwhelm. You can work hard and be successful, while still prioritizing rest and well-being. Embracing this “brings more peace and grounding to the work we do and how we show up,” Lea explained.
Being aware and meeting your needs will help you better care for yourself, rather than working yourself into a place of burnout.
As entrepreneurs, we hear so much noise online. When it comes to discerning what to opportunities to pursue and who to listen to, Lea had a few thoughts.
Firstly, Lea was honest in sharing that, even as a therapist, maintaining discernment when it comes to self-improvement is a constant practice. She aims to stay in alignment and grounded with what is right for her current season of life.
Understanding and living according to your values helps with discernment. Lea describes values as “the beliefs that you hold truest to you.”
These will change over the course of your life. For example, Lea used to find the most fulfillment in being ambitious. Now, as a mom to young kids, she prioritizes ease and freedom. So, when it comes to making decisions, she goes back to her values: which options will bring more ease and freedom?
As a therapist, one thing that Lea wanted to share with listeners is that she is human, and has struggles, too. “One of the best gifts we can give as therapists is to help people realize that we’re all human…I’m a human before I’m a therapist. A lot of people think that there’s something wrong with them, when truly we’re just all human. And part of being human is that we’ll all struggle from time to time.”
If you loved what Lea had to share today, be sure to follow her on Instagram @feelwithlea. (I follow her, and am constantly saving her posts as reminders!). On her website, lealester.com, you’ll find a quiz to help you discover your barriers to confidence, a place to sign up for her newsletter, and a mood library with mental health resources.
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