About Melissa Hummelt
Melissa Hummelt is a licensed psychotherapist and Clinical Operations Manager at BetterHelp, the largest online therapy platform.
Prior to her role at BetterHelp, Melissa worked full-time as a therapist, helping hundreds of people from all walks of life with challenges including anxiety, relationship distress, self-esteem, depression, substance abuse, and navigating life transitions. She continues to work with a small caseload of clients through the BetterHelp platform.
<div class="podcast-note"><span class="podcast-note-time">02:45</span>A Platform that Empowers Everyone To Take Care of Their Mental Health</div>
<div class="podcast-note"><span class="podcast-note-time">03:35</span>How To Navigate Hard Conversations while Staying True To Your Values</div>
Go into tough conversations from a place of curiosity and respect. And this really reminds me of the golden rule that we were taught from a young age, you know, to treat others like we wanna be treated. I know when someone disagrees with me, I'm hoping they're approaching me with curiosity, and respect. You can't necessarily control what other people might bring to a conversation, how they're gonna manage their emotions, what attitude they're gonna have when they're coming into that tough conversation, but you can control yours. And if you're curious and respectful, I think that helps to set the overall tone and allows the other person to feel a little more open, to be collaborative. The worst thing you'd wanna do is approach the conversation in such a way where the other person immediately feels like they're put on the defensive.
Take some time to process and prepare before going into that tough conversation. Check in with yourself and tune in. Am I thinking about things clearly here? (...) what really is the challenge or conflict that I'm having here? Can I be clear about what specifically is feeling off for me? How am I feeling about it? What might my feelings be telling me about this right now? How do I think the other person is feeling or perceiving the situation. And asking myself these questions allows me to gather my own thoughts and organize them to better understand how I'm feeling, allows me a little bit of space, either to cool down if my emotions were heightened or just feel a little more prepared going into something that might feel uncomfortable or anxiety provoking.
Be mindful about your mindset (...) for many of us, sometimes our self talk is just not so nice or motivating, encouraging, or optimistic, and that can impact the way that we feel and ultimately how we might approach a person or a conversation. So tune in and notice what might be going on in your self talk. Sometimes it's not super productive what's going on inside our minds.
<div class="podcast-note"><span class="podcast-note-time">11:05</span>Know Your Attachment Style and What It Can Teach You</div>
<div class="podcast-note"><span class="podcast-note-time">20:35</span>The Traps For Women In Leadership and How To Avoid Them</div>
When you've got that perfectionistic mindset, the bar is unrealistically set kinda set yourself up to be disappointed or always working so hard that you're on the verge of burning out because there's always a little bit more that can be done or tweaks that could be made to make it even more perfect. I also think that having a perfectionistic mindset, you know, it's very all or nothing, it's either perfect or it's not. And that leads to like a lack of tolerance for making mistakes or errors. And I think that kind of holds people back from exploring new things, trying new ideas taking some risks that might lead to awesome rewards.
<div class="podcast-note"><span class="podcast-note-time">28:05</span>How to Choose Your Battles</div>
<div class="podcast-note"><span class="podcast-note-time">31:40</span>Why Taking Care Of Yourself Should Be a Daily Practice</div>
Okay, Melissa, let's jump right in. Describe BetterHelp for me in two sentences.
BetterHelp is the world's largest online therapy platform. And our mission is to empower everyone to take care of their mental health. And we aim to do that by making therapy accessible, affordable, convenient. And so we match people who are looking for support with licensed therapists on our platform, so that anyone who's looking for a little extra support can work with a therapist on any of life's challenges.
And I'm so excited to speak with you today because May is mental health awareness month. And luckily there are a lot of humans and businesses and institutions speaking about mental health during this month. And I wanted us to take a little bit of a different approach to our conversation and talk about four specific tips that people may not have heard yet. So we're gonna dig into each of these four together, and we're gonna start with the first one, which is how to navigate hard conversations while staying true to your values.
Yeah, this is a really important one, right? Because no relationship and no workplace is ever gonna be free of conflict and conflicts require us to have some difficult conversations sometimes. And I think for many of us, myself included there can be a tendency to avoid those tough conversations that we know will be difficult to navigate. Maybe because we can anticipate it's gonna be a little uncomfortable. But many times having those necessary conversations, it's critical, right? Because if we avoid them, we might create additional negative outcomes. So it's helpful to have some tools to be able to approach these hard talks. So I've got three main ones and the first one is approaching from a place of curiosity and respect. So those of us who don't like conflict so much, that's probably most of us, right. We might worry about how we're coming off or how we're appearing to the other person and that's understandable, right?
Like we, it feels good to be liked. However, that's not always gonna be the most important thing to be thinking about. So my tip is to go into tough conversations from a place of curiosity and respect. And this really reminds me of the golden rule that we were taught from a young age, you know, to treat others like we wanna be treated. I know when someone disagrees with me, I'm hoping they're approaching me with curiosity and respect. You know, you can't necessarily control what other people might bring to a conversation, how they're gonna manage their emotions, what attitude they're gonna have when they're coming into that tough conversation, but you can control yours. And if you're curious and respectful, I think that helps to set the overall tone and allows the other person to feel a little more open to be collaborative.
The worst thing you'd wanna do is approach the conversation in such a way where the other person immediately feels like they're put on the defensive. So yeah, we just want facilitate something that will be productive. Approaching from a place of curiosity and respect is my first tip. The second one, something else I've found to be helpful is to just take some time to process and prepare before going into that tough conversation. Check in with yourself and tune in. Am I thinking about things clearly here? And I have some sample questions you might just ask yourself and ponder about. So what really is the challenge or conflict that I'm having here? Can I be clear about what specifically is feeling off for me? How am I feeling about it? What might my feelings be telling me about this right now? How do I think the other person is feeling or perceiving the situation? And asking myself these questions allows me to gather my own thoughts and organize them to better understand how I'm feeling, allows me a little bit of space, either to cool down if my emotions were heightened or just feel a little more prepared going into something that might feel uncomfortable or anxiety provoking.
Yes. I love that one. I also, something that is resonating with me as you're talking is just the need to slow down during a time when both your brain and your body wants you to move fast. And I remember a long time ago, my yoga teacher would tell me that in times of stress or anxiety, just to do a forward fold, just to kind of flip over because it naturally brings your nervous system, just slows it down a little bit. It naturally brings your heart rate a little bit slower. And if you can kind of force yourself to slow down in those moments, there are some physiological changes that your body can process in real time that I think could really help you. If you're someone like me, who, when they move into difficult conversations, if I have the adrenaline of stress and anger and anxiety behind me, I'm much less likely to be clear, to be thoughtful, to be respectful and to get a positive outcome. So that taking just that extra beat, I think could make a big difference.
Yeah, it's exactly right. You're describing the kind of fight flight freeze sensations that our nervous system, you know, it's there to protect us, but it doesn't always allow for the most effective, you know, problem solving and collaborating with folks when we're in that heightened state. So I love that idea of, you know, what can we do with our bodies that would help just calm things down and slow things down. That's a great tip in itself. The third one I wanted to mention was just to be mindful about your mindset. So there's this quote, whether you think you can, or you think you can't you're right, or the version from childhood The Little Engine That Could, I think I can, I think I can. The way that we think and the way that we talk to ourselves is so, so powerful and the way that we talk to ourselves, the way that we kind of perceive things, it impacts the way that we end up feeling about it and the way that we behave.
And this is kind of a foundational piece of something called cognitive behavioral therapy which is a super popular therapy approach and seen as one of the gold standards in terms of therapy modalities. For many of us, sometimes our self talk is just not so nice or motivating, encouraging, or optimistic, and that can impact the way that we feel and ultimately how we might approach a person or a conversation. So tune in and notice what might be going on in your self talk. Sometimes it's not super productive what's going on inside our minds.
And how early it starts. I'm watching my six year old start to battle with some of this already in creating a narrative around his worth of what he's doing, right. When he colors outside of the lines, he's using language like I am a failure. I am so bad rather than I made a mistake or, you know, this was a mistake or something like that. And after doing that for so long, I mean, my goodness, if it starts at six, that is really hard to unravel by the time that you get much older. And I'm, I'm noticing now myself, like just how habitual that is and how hard it can be sometimes to interrupt that mindset. It's tricky.
Absolutely. It gets ingrained and it feels true if it's the same thing that we've heard over and over again, it becomes really familiar. And even if it's not true, like for your son, I'm a failure. If he says that over and over again, he might start to believe that it's real, even though it's not. So the way that we speak to ourselves is super powerful, but it can be rewired with some awareness and conscious, challenging, and reframing, which is a big thing that we do in therapy so.
And imagine the flip opportunity, like if you started saying awesome things about yourself all the time, what that could do for your self esteem and motivation and general outlook on your day and life and your relationships. I mean, the inverse is so attractive <laugh> to at least try it.
Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. And I think virtually all of us have some room to grow in that arena as far as just, you know, being compassionate and understanding and patient with ourselves. So yeah. Be mindful of your mindset, be curious about your mindset, approach your thoughts with curiosity and respect combining some of those steps there.
Awesome. I love that. Okay, let's go onto the second one. So let's talk about attachment style, why this is maybe relevant to your mental health and what it can teach us.
So firstly, what is attachment simply put it's how you relate to other people in your life, all areas of your life. Traditionally attachment is talked a lot about in terms of, you know, romantic relationships and what things are like with your partner. But actually our attachment style impacts not just our romantic relationships, but our relationships with our friends, our family, our coworkers in the workplace. We spend the bulk of our waking hours at work, right? So it's no surprise that these relational relationship patterns show up at work as well. And our attachment style develops it stems from childhood. You know, what lessons did we learn about how safe the world is? How were our emotions attended to when we felt sad or angry? Did we reliably get fed when we felt hungry? Did we ever feel abandoned by our caregivers?
So all of these experiences we have from our past shape how we see the world, how we see other people, how we develop coping strategies and how we learn to manage our emotions. And then we end up taking these patterns into our job and with our colleagues and with our clients and with our vendors. So I think it's a really interesting topic and important to be aware of these styles and how your style might be impacting your relationships. So there's four main attachment styles. We'll go over each one kinda briefly. And as a preface, three of the four will sound not so pleasant. But let's just be mindful not to think too much of the label. The goal here really is to learn more about the attachment style, how it might look in you cause it won't be the same for everybody and just to gain more awareness to know yourself better and know where you might have some opportunities to grow.
So the first one, secure. Someone with a secure attachment style is comfortable sharing their wants and needs, a positive worldview of themselves and a positive worldview of others. This makes up about 50% of people. They're likely to assume the best and see the glass half full, their internal self talk that we were just talking about is, is pretty healthy overall. They can approach communication with openness. They've got a good amount of skills to regulate their emotions. They demonstrate empathy to other people. They're fairly good with boundaries. So these people are doing well in terms of attachment and how they're relating to others. The second category or the second attachment type is anxious, preoccupied. And the difference here is they have a positive view of others, but they have a negative view of themselves. So what drives their behavior is really not wanting to upset other people, as you can imagine, that creates a lot of not so healthy choices.
So if they feel something is off, they'll perceive it as a threat, they might have a negative sort of bias, you know, perhaps a tendency to see the glass half empty. Can be pretty sensitive to rejection. Anxious brain can kind of jump to some negative conclusions sometimes and get attached to those and kind of fuel up more anxiety. So because they're thinking about pleasing other people, they have a hard time saying no and setting boundaries. So that's kind of a cornerstone of this type. However, there is a positive part to this attachment style, they're typically pretty hypervigilant. They're pretty aware and in tune. Pretty sensitive when it comes to, you know, things like noticing details. They're often not problematic coworkers because they don't wanna displease anybody. So they're not likely to create a lot of friction within the workplace.
But if you think this describes you, an area of opportunities is maybe working on calming your nervous system, kind of what we were talking about before that fight flight freeze mode. Working on the internal self talk and seeing where there might be some familiar, anxious loops and then pure support or working with a therapist to feel like some support digging into this attachment style a little bit deeper. So this one, this anxious preoccupied style makes up about 20% of the population. I've read that women are more likely to be in this camp. This third one is kind of a flipped. They have a positive view of themselves and a negative view of others, and it's called dismissive avoidant. And what this ends up looking like is distressed in other people. They tend to have very few meaningful relationships. They have a difficult time believing that other people can meet their emotional needs.
They tend to blame other people. They're most likely protective of their space and like to work alone. Might be tough for them to feel vulnerable. The positives of this type of attachment is they typically work pretty well independently because they don't really trust working with others. So they get along well on their own. They typically have a lot of focus to get things done when they need to get done. However, you can probably imagine some of the challenges that come along with this attachment style is that it's tough for them to work with others. It's tough for them to be vulnerable and build trust with other people. So an area of opportunity for growth is really for them to get more comfortable with relying on other people and working on being a little more connected rather than being distant or aloof.
And so more men tend to fall in this camp. About 25% of people make up or identify with this attachment style. And then the last one is fearful avoidant which is only about 5% of folks. And they have a negative view of themselves and a negative view of other people, which sounds pretty challenging, right? That they don't trust themselves. They don't trust other people. They have a hard time being vulnerable with themselves, with others expressing their needs. So there's a lot of wounds there and that can lead to, you know, emotional volatility. It's tough for these folks to get along with themselves and with others. And luckily that only makes up 5%, but I can imagine those folks just encounter a lot of challenges. I think there's a lot of opportunities for growth there with kind of learning more about yourself, learning how to work with other people, communication skills, certainly setting boundaries. So I'm hoping that having some more insight into these different patterns might allow you to think about what challenges you might be facing and how you might be able to proactively work on them and think about what's working for you, what's not working for you. What's going on in my self talk, how can I get some more support from trusted people? It's all interesting stuff. Wondering if any of this resonated for you, if anything sounded familiar, you've seen anything in your previous experiences?
Absolutely. And I think just being curious about your own self, you know, I find that I find that there are a lot of people who aren't that interested. Maybe I shouldn't say a lot. I think I'm aware of people who are just not that interested in knowing much about themselves. They don't have a lot of awareness or interest in knowing more about why they do what they do or why they think what they think. And I think at a very base level, having an understanding of these attachment models that we may identify with, will help us one better navigate ourselves in the world that we are inevitably bumping up against other people all the time. And two specifically identifying as you were saying, opportunities for growth and for remembering that these attachment styles, aren't so much boxes that you're forever placed in, but rather identifying qualities, maybe that came from childhood that allow you to, you know, move beyond as you get more curious and as you begin to dig in. And I think that in general is just such a great opportunity for humans. You know the opportunity that we have to learn and evolve and, and change ourselves in order to better our relationships and the world around us. I think is just such a cool thing that not a lot of other species get a chance to do. You know, I just think it's kind of remarkable that we get to do that.
Totally. There's just so much, so much we can learn about ourselves and explore about ourselves that will allow us to become, you know, the best version of ourselves and just so much potential work that can be done for those that are interested. And I think you're right, there are some that don't have that awareness or that interest yet, but hoping these conversations kinda spark something like, oh, I wonder why that's why I have these types of relationships in the workplace and I noticed this pattern. For many, there's gotta be that little spark of I gotta get interested because it affects me in a certain way, or I can relate to it a certain way. So I'm hoping this conversation setting home for somebody.
Yeah, absolutely. Speaking of, kind of patterns, I'm interested to talk a little bit about women in leadership positions in particular. So I work with a lot of women. I mentor a lot of women and one thing that I hear come up a lot in conversations about navigating business in general, whether it's trying to move into leadership or not is just the awareness of the tendency toward perfectionism as this sort of barrier to entry, you know, like we're our own worst enemy when it comes to being able to recognize good as good enough. And I don't know if that is specifically for women, you know, who I think back to childhood, I read this somewhere I think, you know, girls were really taught to do good and be good. And boys were taught to have fun and play. And maybe there is an element of that.
Maybe there's also an element of women being compared to men in the workplace and feeling like they needed to kind of go above and beyond their male counterparts in order to be seen as equal that they had to kind of go up in order to meet back in the middle, but for whatever reason it is. And I'm sure different women, you know, identify with different reasons. This is a phrase that comes up a lot as something that impedes their ability to move into leadership positions, to manage people well. And even just to feel secure and happy in their job, you know, they're overworked, they're overtired, they're burned out and a lot of it is from themselves, it's from their own expectations. So can we talk a little bit about why this is, and also maybe some initial steps on how to move beyond this idea of perfectionism?
Yeah. Yeah. I think you're spot on with everything you just said. You know, when you've got that perfectionistic mindset, the bar is unrealistically set kinda set yourself up to be disappointed or always working so hard that you're on the verge of burning out because there's always a little bit more that can be done or, you know, tweaks that could be made to make it even more perfect. I also think that having a perfectionistic mindset, you know, it's very all or nothing, it's either perfect or it's not. And that leads to like a lack of tolerance for making mistakes or errors. And I think that kind of holds people back from exploring new things, trying new ideas taking some risks that might lead to awesome rewards. I think you even said, when you brought up this topic that it holds us back, there's also something about it that when mistakes happen, it can feel like it's a catastrophe or like you're in crisis.
And then sometimes the intense fear of failure can take priority. And this cycle starts to happen where we kind of go down this rabbit hole of like, I've gotta be perfect. And people will only approve of me if they see me in a positive light, but then the more that I do in a perfect way, I feel like now that's expected of me. And then that gets really overwhelming. So you can see how this like really leads someone to burnout real quickly. And I know so many perfectionist that even when things are going well, they still don't feel fully pleased with themselves because there's always something not quite right in their mind. They're always looking for something not quite right. So they're caught kind of caught in this no win situation. And part of me wonders, like how does that impact their self talk?
How does that impact the way that they're able to share their successes with their counterparts when they're talking about their successes at the end of the year, with their manager, you know, are they able to be really real about everything that they've done or are they working in some of those little criticisms about how I didn't make a 100% of my goal, but I did 99.9. So I think there's a lot of work that can be done with kind of breaking some of those expectations of self. Being a little more comfortable with, like you said, good enough. And, that means like instead of the black or white, it's either perfect or it's not, having more of a gray zone expectation. And there's so many things in life that require our attention and energy, and it's just, it's impossible to be perfect. It's just impossible.
One of the things that I've found that I'm learning now, and only because I'm a parent and I'm able to observe it from another viewpoint is trying to create space between what you do and who you are. So again, in this example with my kid, who's starting to internalize the way that he draws a picture into his own worthiness or value as a human. I find that in myself, when I am doing my work where suddenly, like you were saying the 99.9%, it's not just that I reached 99.9% of my goals, but that somehow means that I am 99.9% of an employee of someone to be trusted in the business as 99.9% skilled compared to everybody else. And starting to try to put a little bit of a space in between those two things. The thing that I do, and the thing that I am is really helpful and very, very difficult but has found to be one way that I can sort of integrate into this cyclical conversation is just using phrases even like, instead of, I am saying something like I feel, or I think just to create a little boundary there around like who I am as a human actually doesn't have anything to do with what I'm producing, which is really hard and not always doable.
Yeah. Yeah. I love that though. What I'm hearing is it's a conscious effort that you're making to kind of rewire what might feel most automatic or natural familiar to come up in the way that you're seeing yourself. And by describing yourself in a different way, you're challenging yourself to see yourself in a different light. And yeah, definitely difficult to rewire that, but with a little conscious effort, which I'm hearing, is what you're focused on, definitely possible. So keep at it. Cause it's, it's so impactful.
We need like AA groups for perfectionists where we can just like come together in recovery. Because I feel like it's a lifelong journey of navigating all of what this is. That would be very helpful if we could like have a group.
Well, yeah, I mean, for people that are listening to this, you're certainly not alone. If, this describes you there are many people that are struggling with this in different ways. And I think that's a good point too, finding somebody who gets it. Be supportive is really helpful.
Yeah. That's a really good point. Okay. Let's get to our last one. So this is something that I am also continually learning about, which is how to choose your battles. So how do we identify for the sake of our mental health and wellness what's worth digging into when our values feel threatened or we're feeling conflict. And we really wanna stand in our truth and kind of, you know, make a case for something. And when do we wanna let it go because it's, it's worth more harm than good. How do we identify, you know, what to do?
Yeah, yeah. I think you're absolutely right. There's gonna be a lot of potential battles that you could take on and tackle, but we all have a finite amount of energy. So we wanna be mindful about which ones are really the most important. I have some questions that I like to ask myself and to journal with them even I'll just rattle some off that might be helpful for you to consider. What are my priorities here? What successes are, or wins are important to me and my team, if this is at work? Do I need to be the one who deals with this? Or could this be someone else's battle?
That is forever the question I never ask. And I should. That is so, I'm so glad you said that aloud just now, because so often I forget that I am in a room full of other, very capable adults, and I am not alone with my house on fire. And yet, for some reason, I feel like if I'm not the one that walks into the fire, no one else will. And I just don't think that's true. And I know it's not true, cause I've never given anyone else the chance to do it. So I have no data to support my assumption. So I'm so glad you said that.
It sounds like you're walking away with a little bit of homework.
Keep going, Melissa, what else do you have for me?
Yeah. Permission to not always be the fixer. You know, I think these are the main ones that I like to sit down with and I think they help me to check in with myself and when I end up picking a battle, I know I'm being really intentional about it. And I didn't just find myself there because of my emotional response. And maybe like, feeling like you're walking into the fire is your, you know, I imagine that's coming from a very good place of wanting to you know, make things smooth for everybody and problem solve. But is that maybe your fight or flight kind of response kicking in and, and kind of taking charge. I don't know about you, but when my emotions get heightened and if I've been really involved in a project that I care a lot about sometimes find myself in a bit of a like tunnel vision.
So anything you can do to encourage yourself to zoom out and see the bigger picture a little bit, you know, will this battle matter in two weeks, two months, two years, 20 years you know, ultimately you wanna be strategic with your time and energy, which are like two of the most precious resources that we have. So yeah, I think those are my kind of go to questions. And again, the encouragement to slow, slow everything down, kinda remove the emotional heightened response if there is one. And then you mentioned values, which is really important too, just to tune in, you know, are my values being impacted in some way. You know, am I staying true to what's important to me? Am I staying true to my company's values? Is there a conflict there at all? That can be helpful in knowing if something is worth the time and effort.
Yeah. Oh, wow. That's, this was such an incredible conversation, Melissa, and there's so many things that I'm gonna take with me, but one thing that I, that I'm really getting stuck on from what you've said earlier is that we are not infinite resources. And I do think that often, I certainly, and I'm sure others may feel this way. We really operate and behave as if we are. And sometimes, I saw this great illustration a couple months ago that showed a gas tank all the way past empty. And it said, this is when we take a break. This is when we take vacation or, it's when we're already past empty. We don't often realize, you know, where we're at until we're so far past that we're at the burnout point or we're at the breaking point and remembering at the halfway tank mark, that we are not an infinite resource might, you know, save us a lot of, you know, burnout down the road, which I, which is something that I really wanna take with me from this.
Yeah. Yeah. Amazing message. Yeah. Mental health and taking care of yourself should really be a daily practice. And not something that we just attend to once we get to empty and we're searching for the nearest gas station and tending to our emotional health and our needs on a daily basis is really helpful to be a little more proactive. Easier said than done. I know everyone's got a full plate, but I guess just a challenge to think about what can I maybe do differently to prioritize my mental health on more of a regular basis?
Yeah. That's a great, a great way to wrap up I think. Melissa, thank you so much for spending this time with us and sharing all of your infinite wisdom. I'm so glad that everyone got to hear you share with us today. I think it was really meaningful. So thank you.
Thank you so much. Thank you for having me.