EP 231 People Pleasing, Setting Boundaries & Perfectionism – A Conversation with Angela Veesenmeyer, MD
I’m so excited for this weeks March Women’s Empowerment series.
Today I am sharing a recent conversation with Dr Angela Veesenmeyer. Angela is a pediatric infectious disease doctor and physician life and career coach. She still practices full time while having a thriving coaching business, enjoying hobbies and family, and getting 9 hours of sleep a night.
Dr Veesenmeyer coaches physicians who are tired of grind culture, tired of sacrificing their well-being, and just plain tired. She shows them how to take back control of their career and create one that works for their lives without having to leave clinical medicine.
You can also find her reading Nordic noir novels, watching college basketball, hiking in the winter (she lives in AZ), and dreaming of ways to deprogram the patriarchy from her psyche.
In This Episode:
- The importance of setting boundaries
- How perfectionism leads to burnout
- Why people pleasing makes reaching new goals a challenge
- What determines your self worth?
- Connect with Angela: Website: themindmanagementcoach.com IG: angelaveesenmeyermd
Episode Transcript: Transcribed by OtterAI with minimal edits
You are listening to the It’s Your Time podcast and I’m your host certified life coach Michelle Arnold Bourque, and today’s episode I’m discussing perfectionism, people pleasing and setting boundaries with Dr. Angela Veesenmeyer.
Welcome to the Its Your Time Podcast, the podcast. We’re busy professionals like you get the practical solutions and support you need to gain control of your schedule so you can strive to be the best in your career, but without the stress and overwhelm. If you’re looking to increase your energy and decrease your stress, you are in the right place.
0:36 Hello, hello. Hello. Welcome back to the podcast. Friends. Here we are the final week of March. The celebration is coming to an end for now. Perhaps I’ll continue it on. I mean, it is after all my last year in this decade and I so appreciate that you have been here each week as I have been sharing conversations with powerful women who can help you in a variety of ways. And today, we’re closing down the month with a recent conversation that I had with Dr. Angela Veesenmeyer . Angela is a pediatric infectious disease doctor and physician life and career coach. She still practices full time while having a thriving coaching business, enjoying hobbies and family and getting nine hours of sleep a night. That alone is pretty impressive in my opinion. Dr. Veensenmeyer coaches physicians who are tired of grind culture, tired of sacrificing well being and just plain tired, she shows them how to take back control of their career and create one that works for their lives without having to leave clinical medicine. We need that friends. We need all the good doctors to remain in the profession, right? You can also find her reading novels watching college basketball, hiking in the winter. She lives in Arizona, and dreaming of ways to deprogram the patriarchy from her psyche. We touched on so many topics, as always be sure to listen through the lens of what will help you. And without further ado, go ahead and take a listen. Thank you so much for being here. I’m so excited to get started. Can you begin by introducing yourself to the listeners any way you like to and share any of the goodness that you see fit?
Sure. I’m Angela Veesenmeyer, and I am a board certified pediatrician. I am a sub specialists and pediatric infectious disease and I still practice clinically full time. And I am also a life coach for physicians.
2:41 Excellent. And I know, I am not a doctor. But I do feel like we have some similarities. Since we’re in that healthcare industry. Can you maybe talk a little bit I know we’ve discussed prior and I’ve read there’s this idea of a financial security tie that we often feel to the job? Can you maybe discuss that why we feel like we have to stay and how that maybe leads to burnout in the long run? Yes, for sure. So I actually felt that way, for quite a while, I’ll tell you a little bit about my story. I was in a position where I had gotten significantly burnt out mainly because I had said yes to too many things. Because I was trying to quote unquote, be successful, and prove my worth, which we can talk about a little bit later. But I had done a lot of that. And I just felt this emptiness inside. And I thought, well, I’ve done everything I can. I still don’t feel successful. I feel exhausted and terrible and very disconnected from my family. But there’s nothing I can do about it because I can’t leave. I’m a physician I worked so hard to get here. I took out loans, I spent all of my 20s training and some of my 30s and I there’s no way I can leave. So I was at a point where I just felt like I have to figure this out, I have to do something. And so I decided to try coaching. And that is when I hired my first coach. And I learned so much about how it was a lot of my own thoughts that were creating that feeling of being trapped in this job. And I had given myself basically only two options which were oil I could say and be miserable. Or I could leave and be very financially insecure and also be miserable.
4:50 Because I only gave myself those two options. It was like well, I have no idea which one of those terrible things had to choose. And of course like I felt very stuck but you Unknown Speaker 5:00 Coaching taught me that there was an infinite number of possibilities in between those two options. And so oftentimes, I think that we assume that there is no way that number one, we can be happy doing what we’re doing. And number two, there’s no way that we can make any money if we leave. And if we only give ourselves those two options that leads to this feeling of being permanently stuck, and then burnt out. Yes, it’s so interesting. I feel like I was in a similar place. When I went to coaching mine was a little bit more around time, like, I felt like I had no control over my time. And I thought there has to be more to life than this. Can you maybe speak a little bit to what you see with clients as far as sometimes the things that we tell ourselves as far as like, when we’re at home, we’re talking to ourselves about how we should be doing more stuff at work. And when we’re at work, we’re telling ourselves, we should be doing more with the family? Can you speak to that a little? Oh, yes. So that is a huge, so it’s so it’s funny, because we tell ourselves like, oh, I don’t have enough time. But in those thoughts that you said, that feeling of guilt that comes when you’re doing one thing, and you’re not doing the other, but you’re thinking about the other thing, and then you’re feeling guilty, that is actually stealing your time. And so my with the work that I do with my clients focuses a lot around boundaries and mental boundaries as well. So it’s not just setting the boundary of okay, well, I am not going to check my email after five o’clock. That’s a physical boundary. The mental boundary is I’m not going to continue to per separate in my mind about not checking my email after five o’clock and thinking about, what am I what am I missing? Who’s needing me that I’m not responding to? What if something happens? And I don’t know about it? What are they thinking about me? Are they thinking that I’m unprofessional? Am I being self like all of those thoughts then are eating away at this time that you’ve tried to create by setting this boundary? So we work a lot on the physical boundaries, and then the mental boundaries? I think that is so important. And I know for some of the listeners, I have had clients tell me colleagues tell me like, they never feel like they can shut the computer down when they’re on vacation. I myself used to find places where I knew that. And I might be guilty, I might sometimes do this still, where they wouldn’t have great cell service, so that I probably didn’t have to deal with exactly what you’re talking about. Right? Right. Right, exactly. And, and I teach my clients that, okay, you’re gonna set this physical boundary, right, let’s use the email not taking email after five o’clock. And you are inevitably going to feel a feeling like let’s say they feel like they’re being selfish.
8:00 That doesn’t mean that you actually are selfish. So my clients tend to make this mistake of equating the feeling that they’re having with who they actually are, and who they are being.
8:14 So there’s a fear of I feel unprofessional right now, because I’m not calling this patient back on my day off, Unknown Speaker 8:24 well, then I must be unprofessional. And that feels terrible. So then it’s no wonder that they think, Well, this is a crappy boundary, I’m not gonna set this again, because it feels terrible. And I’m unprofessional when I set this boundary. So I teach them that just because you feel that certain way, it doesn’t mean that you are that it will be really tried to separate our feelings from our identity.
8:50 That is so important. And I think two things that you’ve touched on the idea of what we tie our worth to. And also, when you mentioned your story, and about the idea of being successful, I often see, like, what does success mean to you, I think is where we need to start, right? Unknown Speaker 9:10 Yes, and that is what I didn’t define for myself. Back during that time in my career, I felt like I had to continue to put basically leadership positions on my CV or on my resume. Right. Like, the more that I could add to that, the more successful I would be and so I just kept saying yes to, can you run this committee? Yes. Can you take on this project? Yes. Can you develop this curriculum? Yes. Can you give this talk? Yes, it was just okay. Like I’m gonna hurry up and and put all of these things on my resume. And then I’ll be successful.
9:55 And it just wasn’t working that way because you
10:00 First of all, I have not defined success. So I was never going to be able to meet the standard of success because I had no idea what that was. So it was just this constantly moving goalposts that I had never defined number one. And number two, I haven’t really defined success for myself in my career, the career and the life that I wanted, as well. Like, if I were to feel really engaged and fulfilled and satisfied in who I am, on this planet, as a physician, as a mom, as a friend, and as a wife, as a person, Unknown Speaker 10:39 what would that look like?
10:42 I never asked myself that, until I started to get coaching. And now I asked myself that, and I have a very clear picture of what it means for me to be successful. And it has nothing to do with all of the things on my resume, or my CV, and it has nothing to do with other people’s perception of me as being successful either. I think that’s such an important point that you make, defining success as a human, and not simply in our professional life. And I’ve seen this with women who have been successful, quote, unquote, as a rep, for example, and then they become a mom. And then that looks different. And that’s okay. Yeah. Yeah, totally. And when you talk about always saying, Yes, I think a lot of times we are people pleasers, I think society kind of has wired us women to, yes, yes, yes. And get the approval from the external sources. Can you maybe speak a little bit to that and what you see either with yourself or with your clients, and how you help them to get started? Because saying, No, it’s kind of like the mental boundary, right? Like, it’s hard at first? Yeah, where do they start? For sure.
11:56 So I have a client, who spent a lot of time considering what other people are thinking or perceiving of her actions and her decisions. And so we talk a lot about the idea of self trust, and having your own back as well.
12:21 And so we sort of go through the process of her making a decision. And then considering what other people are thinking of her decision, and maybe not liking her decision. And that is a totally natural feeling. Like, I want to normalize that as well as a human being like, we are wired to care about what other people think about us. So my goal for my clients is not to get rid of that, because that’s impossible. That’s impossible work. Because we’re humans, and we have human brains. And that’s just how we’re wired. So what I do with my clients, is I allow them to just sit with that discomfort. Let’s just sit with it. Again, let’s not make it mean anything about who we are, or our value. Let’s just acknowledge that. Sometimes it’s uncomfortable to make a decision that you know, that somebody else might not agree with, or someone else might think thoughts about you. So we sit with that discomfort, and then I asked my client, do you like your reason for making that decision? And why?
13:28 And then she answers that. And then based on that, I say, okay, then have your own back, you like your decision, you made this decision for a particular reason, acknowledge that it might be uncomfortable. And then let’s move on. Unknown Speaker 13:47 And let’s not dwell in this discomfort. And I think that’s key. And one of the things that my clients bring up when we do this people pleasing work is, well, sometimes I want to do something for somebody else. Sometimes I want to take that action that someone else wants me to take maybe even if I don’t really want to do that thing. And again, I bring them back to All right. Do you like your reason, and why? And if that reason is something that they appreciate, like, for example,
14:23 I want to do this thing, because I want to be a good friend to this person. So even if I don’t feel like this, like doing this thing, I’m still going to do it because that is who I want to be.
14:35 And so that comes from a position of abundance and upholding personal values versus a position of I need them to think a certain way about me so that I can think a certain way about me. I love that question as well. The Do you like your reason? Because I feel like when you come from that point and you are showing Unknown Speaker 15:00 up, even if you’re doing the thing that you don’t necessarily want to, but you know, it’s because you want to show up as that good friend, it’s so much more empowering to yourself versus thinking, I’m always the people pleaser. I’m always doing things I don’t want to do. And I just feel like knowing that difference, because when I talk about not people pleasing with clients, I feel like you can go both ways, right? It’s not like you’re saying no, like, Screw everybody. It’s all about me. That’s not it’s just being more intentional with deciding for yourself what you want to do. Right? Exactly, exactly. And like in your reasons, and then having your own back. And a very, like, simple obvious example that I sometimes use with my clients, if they’re having a little trouble with this concept is I don’t love going to take my son to school in the morning, on my way to work, like, I don’t love doing that it’s sort of an extra stop. And we’re a little bit rushed in the morning. And it’s a little chaotic. But I do it, because that’s the mom that I want to be to my son, like, I want to be a mom who takes him to school, and I want to give him a hug and a kiss on his way out the door. That’s just who I want to be. So it doesn’t have it’s not about like, we’ll do it like doing this or do not like doing this. It’s about who do I want to be? And then what are the actions that fit into that? I love that. And I think that goes back to what you said earlier, like deciding what success looks like for you deciding what identities you want in each role, because the other thing is not just a doctor, you’re still a mom, you’re still a partner, you know, on and on a friend. And you get to decide in each of those situations what success looks like for you. Right? Right, exactly. I love that. And another thing that you mentioned when you’re speaking about your client is and I think so many of us do this, we’re the ones that tell ourselves, we don’t have time for self care, for example. And yet, how much time do we spend thinking about what other people are thinking about? Yes, oh, my gosh, so much time, and I am guilty of this too. And I still do this, I’m at a point now where I see myself doing it. And I’ll say, okay, self, I’m gonna let you do this for the next 10 minutes, and then we’re going to be done.
17:21 We’re just gonna move on.
17:23 Whereas before, I used to have those types of conversations in my head about like, well, they’re gonna think you’re lazy, they’re gonna think you’re unprofessional, they’re gonna think you don’t care, and they’re gonna think you’re not a good doctor. And that kind of stuff would actually like, keep me up at night, thinking about that. And now I, I indulge myself for a very limited amount of time, and then I just stop and move on. Well, that I think is the key difference, right? Because you do know you have the awareness to know that you don’t have to believe everything that you think, Oh, yes, yes, I have this ebook that I give out.
18:06 And it’s all about boundaries. And one of the things I say in there is like you have a brilliant brain, but sometimes your brain is a liar. And it will lie to you. And so we have to figure out what we’re going to decide to believe about ourselves, because our brain is going to offer us a lot of different options.
18:25 That I love that we need to be the ones to decide. And I think for so many of us, we look to the external to have the reinforcement, or to have the feedback as to what it all looks like for us. And I know I’ve said this a few times on the podcast, I think I had a coach couple years ago who had probably one of the toughest questions for me at the time. She simply said, Michelle, what do you want? And I was like,
18:54 kind of question that.
18:58 I know, it’s almost as if it’s much easier for us to answer the question, what should I be doing? Then? What is it I want? That is so important. I hope everyone heard that because knowing the difference is gold. Yes. Yes. What are your thoughts also, because I feel like a lot of times it’s a trifecta of boundaries, people pleasing, and also perfectionistic thinking, Can you maybe speak a little bit to that? Yeah.
19:33 Let’s see. So we touched on the boundaries, we touched on the people pleasing perfectionism. And I also do this fall into this trap still. Unknown Speaker 19:44 Perfectionism, I have figured out is basically not so much of fear of what other people are going to think about you or say about you. It really comes down to a fear
20:00 of how you are going to talk to yourself. Unknown Speaker 20:03 So, what I have found when I
20:07 slip into perfectionist thinking, which still happens not all that infrequently is it’s because of how I talk to myself when I’m not perfect
20:34 My perfectionism comes out, like with a roar. And I realized it’s because of the way that I talked to myself in terms of like, well, you should be doing this and you should be doing that. And you should be doing that. And if you don’t do that, then that means you’re not very good at it, or you’re terrible, or you shouldn’t be trying harder, or you’re lazy, rough.
20:55 And so I combat that mean inner voice with trying to be perfect. And that’s when the perfectionism comes out.
21:04 And so really it’s looking at, alright, how do you talk to yourself when you’re not, quote unquote, perfect, because that’s the voice that really needs to be tamed. In order to let go of perfectionism. It’s not what other people are thinking or saying about you, that causes you to this lapse into that perfectionist thinking. Yeah, it’s almost as if we have to set the boundaries with ourselves on how we speak to ourselves. Yeah, yeah, for sure. And it’s the it’s the way that I talk about failure with my clients, too. It’s that well, why do we feel? Why do we fear failure? Well, it’s because of how we talk about ourselves when we fail. Right? And, and really, like, I want our listeners to really think about that. Think about the last time you failed, quote, unquote, failed at something. And how did you talk to yourself?
21:59 And then, if you talk to yourself in a way that was really mean and judgmental? Well, it’s no wonder then that you’re going to fear failure in the future, because you don’t want to be talked to you that way. And so then that’s where that perfectionist thinking comes in as well. It’s almost like a protective mechanism against that inner bully. Yeah, and I think it’s a vicious cycle. Because when we continue to talk to ourselves like that, it also in my opinion, I would love to know your thoughts, holds us back from maybe going after some of the things that we truly do want, because we are afraid that we will, quote unquote, fail, and then have that cycle of talking to ourselves and not wanting to go back to do another thing. What are your thoughts around that? Yeah. Well, if you think about, let’s say that you change the way you talk about yourself when you fail, right? Like you totally change that dynamic. And you talk to yourself in a way that’s very supportive, and nurturing, and calming. Say something like, alright, let’s all right, everybody makes mistakes. You got this? What did you learn from that? Okay, I learned this. Oh, awesome. All right, let’s go, let’s get back at it. If that’s the way that you talk to yourself, then what is there to fear about feeling?
23:20 Right, like if you try something, and you know, that the voice you’re going to hear if you don’t maybe reach your goal, or outcome is not what you intended, if the voice you’re going to hear is like this nurturing, almost cheerleader, like,
23:35 kind of a parental comforting voice than what is there to fear. And even if you fear like, Well, I’m gonna look stupid in front of all of these people, or they’re all going to think this. But if you’ve still got your own back, that becomes less scary, that fear. And so then that fear of failure really becomes much less strong. Because you know, that you have your own back, and you know, the way that you’re going to support yourself, even if you do fail, so why not? Why not take the chance? Right. And and I think a couple of things that you touched on the way we speak to ourselves, we would never speak to anyone else like that. Right? When you talk about the parental like, think of AI even like someone once suggested, like, think of yourself in your younger years, like would you ever talk to her like that, but I think oftentimes people aren’t even fully aware. So I think this is important that we’re talking about it, of how they are talking to themselves in those instances. Yes, yes. And I, I talked about this when I teach about impostor syndrome, too.
24:44 And I give this example of my son, he’s 10 and he ran for student council, and he got elected. Unknown Speaker 24:54 And the imposter syndrome voice that we all have, says things like
25:00 If you didn’t really earn this, you don’t belong here, they’re gonna find out you’re a fraud. You’re just lucky. And so I think about saying those things to him, when he was elected to Student Council, what if I had said those things like, you didn’t really earn this, you just got lucky, you’re a fraud. You don’t belong there. I would never say that to him. Never in a million years. And that is how we talk to ourselves. So use that example to illustrate like, how hurtful those words are, when we use them to ourselves, because we would never say that to a child who’s accomplished something. Yeah, that just gave me chills when you said that I think about like my nieces, I would never say anything like that. And I think it also goes back to the beginning of something you touched upon is the idea of self trust. And when we can start making the shift in how we speak to ourselves, and have our own back, it builds up self trust, and then we are able to set more boundaries, say no, because we know it’s going to be okay. Right, right. And one of the things that I teach about boundaries is that, like I said before, they’re they’re very uncomfortable. The the physical boundary and the mental boundary, it’s, it’s uncomfortable at first, right? When you’re just getting used to setting boundaries. And Unknown Speaker 26:29 what I teach is that it’s gonna be uncomfortable. Either way, when we don’t set a boundary, it feels terrible, right? Because then we’re constantly tapped out and exhausted and resentful. And when we do set a boundary, we might feel guilty and selfish, and like, we’re disappointing people, and what if we get in trouble? And what are they thinking, they both feel uncomfortable, but which discomfort is the one that’s going to bring you back to yourself, which one truly upholds the values that you have. And so I teach that you need to develop enough self love to know that you are worth that discomfort that you are going to feel when you do set boundaries, you have to move through that and you’re worth it. Moving through that in order to have the life that you want to live on the other seven. That’s so good. And I hope people hear this
27:27 earlier in life. A lot of times when I’m doing these conversations, I’m always like, this is the ripple effect. We need people to know this sooner than midlife or later, right? Yes, yes. And I work with a lot of learners, I work with medical students and resident doctors who are in training and and I teach them this too. And one of the things that I tell them over and over is that you don’t, you don’t have to earn rest, you don’t have to earn self care. You don’t have to earn taking care of yourself, you actually don’t have to put work and your patients above yourself, which is something that they don’t often hear.
28:12 But I teach them that there is no way that we can see our patients and their bodies as divine and worthy if we don’t also see ourselves that way. And so actually self care is
28:32 it expands into care of your patients as well. So it’s not just oh, I’m putting myself above my patients. It’s no, I’m gonna see and care for myself, just as well as I see and care for my patients. Yeah. And it’s so important to see. Because if people are not doing that, and then they’re going down the road that leads to burnout, then you’re not helping anybody in that case, right. And I feel like also back to the idea of people pleasing or not setting boundaries. A lot of times we feel resentful in those moments when we’re doing these things that we don’t want to do. And that’s not any good either. No, no, absolutely not. I would never want a physician who felt resentful of me as a patient. Right. And so, yeah, we have to acknowledge ourselves and our own needs in order to be the the physicians and the employees that we want to be.
29:30 It’s so important. I think we’ve touched on so many different areas. Have we missed anything that you want to make sure we talk about here before we wrap it up? No, I don’t think so. We’ve had all the good the good stuff, boundaries, that perfectionism that people pleasing the imposter syndrome. I think we’ve we’ve run the gamut. We’ve gotten uncomfortable. Yes. Yeah. So we’ve given people a lot to think about. Excellent. Where can people find you? So I am on Instagram.
30:00 It’s Angela Veesenmeyer MD, and the spelling will be in your show notes. I’m guessing it’s very long last name. My website is called the mind management coach.com. Don’t forget the beginning. And then I’m also on Facebook at Angela Veesenmeyer MD. Oh, this is so great. Thank you so much. I know this is going to be so helpful for many folks. You’re welcome. Thanks so much for having me on. Okay, so much great information. Right. I will tell you, reducing people pleasing, setting boundaries and dropping the need to be perfect. That is gold, and more of us can definitely benefit from doing it for ourselves. So in the long run, everyone benefits be sure to check Angela out. Her website is the mind management coach.com And you can find her on Instagram. Angela Veesenmeyer, MD And please, as with all of these this past month, we would love to have you tag us and let us know what resonated Okay, friends, thanks so much for being here. I love joining you each week. And that is what I have for you today. Take what works, leave what doesn’t and tune in next week for another opportunity to transform your life. Make it a great day. Take care
31:30 Did you know you can take this work to a deeper level with me one on one. Go to MichelleBourquecoaching.com and click on get started to begin