Better Choices in 2024: Glow or Burn Out? (with Tara Schuster)
Author Tara Schuster grew up in a neglectful, abusive household where “things came to die,” as she puts it. After a suicidal episode at age 25, she began a journey to reparent herself which led to two practical self-help books, “Buy Yourself the F*cking Lilies,” and “Glow in the F*cking Dark.” Tara teaches Sam how to use a “values filter” to make choices, why unfollowing a friend on social media may be the best thing you can do for yourself, and how journaling unlocks your soul.
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Samantha Bee, Tara Schuster
Samantha Bee 00:00
I’m a very visual person, I love lists, my house is covered in a beautiful tapestry of post it notes, I think that I’m able to exist as a somewhat high functioning human because I push off some of my mental load onto whatever spare pieces of paper I can find, which not only keeps me organized, but also helps me think and make decisions. Plus the paper cuts, honestly, they keep me humble. When I am considering a choice, and I write it down, I can analyze it from different angles, I can try different options on for size. Now, because this month, we’ve been looking at how we can make better decisions and 2024. I have been evaluating how I make decisions as well, and what I learned in today’s discussion is that my choices should easily line up with my values. If they do, they’re clearly the right choice. But how do we know if something lines up with our values? One way is by using a values filter. No, it does not make your photos look better, or get rid of all your wrinkles. It’s not that kind of filter is just a simple quadrant on a piece of paper.
Samantha Bee 01:26
This is Choice Words, I’m Samantha Bee, today I spoke with Best Selling Author, Tara Schuster, her books by herself, the Fucking Lilies and Glow In The Fucking Dark, give readers concrete steps on how to prioritize themselves and make better decisions. She suggests using a values filter and her current values are health, love, and organization. Those are pretty good. Mine our family health and learning. We all have different values and our values shift as we evolve and enter different phases of life. But even as they change the tools for making good decisions can stay the same. So take a listen and make good choices.
Tara Schuster 02:06
Oh my God, hi.
Samantha Bee 02:19
Yay, hi how are you?
Tara Schuster 02:22
I’m well how are you?
Samantha Bee 02:24
I’m very well, thank you. Thanks for saying yes to this.
Tara Schuster 02:28
My pleasure, I am a huge fan and have been I was an intern at The Daily Show.
Samantha Bee 02:34
I know okay, absolutely before we talk about anything, we need to talk about your internship at The Daily Show because I read sorry, I actually listened to by yourself the Fucking Lilies and refreshed it is such a good book.
Tara Schuster 02:51
Oh, thank you.
Samantha Bee 02:52
Talk and you talk a lot about your internship and like how meaningful like what a great like learning ground it was but okay, so which, what year were you an intern?.
Tara Schuster 02:58
[…] I, 2009.
Samantha Bee 03:05
2009, I was there. I was like having babies.
Tara Schuster 03:08
Yes, John Oliver’s there you were very nice, I mean, that one internship it sounds like corny. And that can’t be true, but it affected every other part of my career.
Samantha Bee 03:21
Yeah, it really is like I feel, you know, I didn’t have an internship there. I had a legit job got hired. I had a legit job, except that I felt it almost was like I never had a single job before I started that job, even though I did like I had been doing comedy, but it was such a different world of like, the pace of it was just like insane. And I learned so much about things I just never would have necessarily learned about the good, the bad, the ugly, mostly the good. All right, so today, we’re going to talk about choice and you know what, there’s almost no one I would prefer to talk about choice with because you have made a lot of choices in your life, a lot. And I do usually talk about big choices that my guests have made but this month is all about I think talking to people with insight into how we can make better decisions in 2024. What is your relationships just like the concept of choice?
Tara Schuster 03:22
Yeah, I guess I’ll back up for one second and sort of explain why this, why I’ve made so many choices and how this all came to be, which is I grew up in a neglected abusive household where things came to die. And I promise the rest of the story won’t be that much of a bummer, we’ll return to lightness. But I do need to start with that caveat, they came to die if it was, I don’t blame my parents, they obviously had been through horrific situations themselves. But they didn’t have the capacity to take care of children, nor the capacity to learn. And so that left me in survival mode. And you know, this house, it was an open construction site for all of the time I grew up after a hasty remodel. So it was a physically dangerous place to grow up. And I just knew I have to get out of here. I gotta survive my way through this so from a very young age, I had to make basically every choice on my own. And the biggest choice I made at when I was young was I need to be successful, I need status, I need money, I need to get out of here, I need to go to an Ivy League school. So I just hustled you know, all A’s, all AP classes in high school, and they get to this Ivy league, it’s going to save my life, get to the Ivy League surprise, this didn’t save your life at all, you just don’t know who you are, and are severely depressed. But I kept that formula up I’m gonna have so many get external validation. Got to the my internship at The Daily Show got a really great job at Comedy Central was one of the youngest executives ever. And I might have kept just going that way survival hustling for my worth, had I not drunk dialed my therapist on my 25th birthday threatening to kill myself, and it was that next morning that I realized, if I don’t save my life, I am not going to have much more of a life to live.
Samantha Bee 04:39
Tara Schuster 04:41
And so I realized I got real with myself, I never had parents in the way that I would have learned lessons or have a framework for living. I need to repair it myself. I need to be my own parent. And a big part of that was what choices would I make? Because in my family, the little things like little like, what movie should we go to? was a 10 out of 10 screaming match between my mom and my dad.
Samantha Bee 07:11
Tara Schuster 07:12
But should Tara get a jaw surgery that everyone says she needs to get? Well, I don’t know, let’s think about it later. Like, yeah, right like the little things were treated like crisis like sound, the alarms, the big things retreated, like, it’ll probably be fine.
Samantha Bee 07:32
I’m sure that the Church will resolve itself.
Tara Schuster 07:35
Right, and you can well that we can will this into being or kind of, well, things usually end up okay. And so all of those things, I mean, in the jaw thing has repercussions to this day. But I when I was re parenting myself, I decided choices, the process of making choices was so horrific. You know, if I had to at a restaurant, am I gonna get the pad thai or the pads see you. Because the framework I had was, this is a crisis, I treated Thai food like a crisis, and so I really, I didn’t want to feel that bad anymore. I didn’t constantly want to walk around the world anxious, you know, and anxiety not in in my chest. I mean, I was if you’ve ever seen the girl who’s like, crying on the subway next to you, I was hurt six days a week. I mean, I was living in constant anxiety and depression. And so I kind of came up with three ways that I would make choices differently. And the first was to just lower the stakes on everything. Because I was treating everything like it was the most important thing ever. You know what I had gotten myself to survive. I had done a good job of being my own parent, you know, probably my choices are pretty good. I decided right there actually look where I am that my parents choices not so great, my choices the ones I made have been pretty good. So one, lower the stakes, two this is a new one, which is have you ever heard of the therapy internal family systems?
Samantha Bee 08:17
Tara Schuster 08:18
It’s fabulous idea that there are lots of different parts within us and they’re all working for our benefit. And I love it, it was created by this Dr. Richard Schwartz and I was talking to him. I was complaining about a mistake. I had made a problem about a choice. Can I use a curse word or is this a no curse word.
Samantha Bee 09:38
Tara Schuster 09:39
Okay, I can definitely curse and he looks at me and he said another fucking growth opportunity. And I at first I was like, damn, well, how many more growth opportunities do I need? Are you kidding me? No, and then I thought, oh yeah, even if I make the wrong choice, what’s the wrong choice? As long as I learned from it. And the third thing that has helped me more than anything else, is I have a values filter.
Samantha Bee 10:11
Right? Tell me about that. What is what do you mean when you say a values filter?
Tara Schuster 10:16
So the only values I learned growing up were make money, be better than everybody else, repeat their rights. Like, never, you know, may God, kiss your off and destroy.
Samantha Bee 10:33
Tara Schuster 10:34
Good luck to you, and now I’m like, giving my god children books about like, kindness is the way like, share it, I’m like, where was that literature? Um, so I decided, I need values. I definitely don’t have them. How do I get values? I just started googling the shit out of values.
Samantha Bee 10:55
This is so like, this is incredible. Like, what are values that.
Tara Schuster 11:00
Literally search what our values? But how? How do you get them?
Samantha Bee 11:06
What are things aspire to? Generally speaking?
Tara Schuster 11:09
I mean, I’ve also Googled what is fun? That’s a recent, that’s a recent Google and a totally different subject. Yeah, what are values and I just would go through lists of values and kind of try them on on a now I started doing that 10 years ago. So now I really have it dialed in, what are values? For me, they’re just the things you value more than anything else that you actually prioritize. And what I do is I, I kind of create, I don’t know what the word is, but it’s like a cross, like four quadrants. And in each quadrant, I put what are my four values, and only four, because more than four is upsetting and confusing, and I can get very lost. Okay, and every time I have a choice, I run it through this little value machine, this little quadrant, and I see, does this choice line up with my values? And if no, that’s a super simple pass, that’s, uh, okay, no, this doesn’t line up with me, I want to let lead a value driven life. And what that means is, you actually have to choice by choice, honor your values. And I really trust myself on those values, because I’ve spent so god damn much time Googling, like, I’ve researched this. I know, these are my values, and they do change, right now. My values are health, love, organization. Because I’m deeply disorganized, it’s not usually one button people are disorganized in spirituality. And so every choice, and it doesn’t have to full buy into each one. But it’s just a filter that makes it so much easier to make choices.
Samantha Bee 11:20
This is wonderful, I love this process. You know, what I love about this is that it’s like a it’s a practice, like, yes, like an actual practice that is has a physical aspect to it. Like you talked so much in your first book about journaling, and the value of like, just sitting down and writing out your thoughts and like the maintaining that practice. Because just like the physical act, and then if you read back through your journals from six months, it’ll tell you what your patterns are. And only when you know what your patterns are, you can break them. So I feel like this is just so tactile and so helpful. Because it’s like a thing. And if your list based, very list based, it’s very helpful to have something you can see, are you a visual person in that way,
Tara Schuster 13:44
I’m extremely visual, and I think even more than that, because I really, I had to decide how to live. I had a lot of really bad, unhelpful, making me miserable ideas of how to live a life. And I started over and decided I am not going to neglect myself. I’m not going to lead a life that is actively killing me and just makes me anxious all the time. And I can’t do this by thinking, you know, I could read every self help book, every philosophy book, every spirituality book, but if I don’t figure out a way to make a ritual and incorporate it into the fabric of my everyday, it’s like I didn’t read the book at all, it just a nice thought. So in both of my books, every single thing I discussed, like you said has some sort of physical manifestation, something that you can actually do today for free to weave this into your life and so that’s why something like the values filter out of my head. I don’t need to think about this. I just need to run it through the values filter.
Samantha Bee 14:54
Hold that thought more with Tara Schuster after one more break.
Samantha Bee 15:17
I tell everybody that I have like a five point checklist, which I keep in my phone, which lets like if a job comes my way or something is like on offer, I run it through my five point checklist. And if it doesn’t meet at least a couple of the things on my little checklist, then it’s, then it’s a no go, I can’t do it.
Tara Schuster 15:39
And has that made it easier to make choices?
Samantha Bee 15:42
It has made it so much easier it brings. It’s almost because I don’t know if you find this, but it almost takes the decision making out of you.
Tara Schuster 15:53
Yes, it takes it, it’s off your plate I if the values filter the checklist on your phone that’s in charge that makes the decision for you. And then going back to three things that make making choices lot easier. Another fucking growth opportunity. Like, if this doesn’t go my way, I don’t need to make this. I don’t want to beat myself up anymore. I don’t want to make myself miserable. It’s okay, I’m going to learn, and guess what? I’ve survived every choice I’ve made to this point. Chances are, I will survive this choice too.
Samantha Bee 16:32
And I hate to say that I do agree with this, but every decision that you make is a damn growth opportunity where you’re like, you can’t really.
Tara Schuster 16:42
It’s annoying, it’s really annoying.
Samantha Bee 16:45
And I can’t really say that I personally look back and like regret. I don’t have a lot of regrets because who would you you wouldn’t even be the person you are today, if you didn’t know, make terrible decisions […]
Tara Schuster 16:58
I had a huge life realization actually, I was at a meditation retreat, this was over Christmas. Because I didn’t have a date, and I didn’t want to be alone, so I thought, I’m going on a meditation retreat. And I went to SLN, I don’t know if you’ve been there, but it’s unbelievably gorgeous. Did you watch Madmen? By chance?
Samantha Bee 17:19
Tara Schuster 17:20
Oh, is that okay, here Jon Hamm goes in the last scene for the rejoicing.
Samantha Bee 17:25
Tara Schuster 17:26
And then somebody says to me, did you see the swarm of Monarch butterflies? And I’m like, no, I see the swarm of mana, what’s not a thing? Like what are you God, but and they’re like, just walk down the path. And I’m like, alright, I walk down the path and I’m surrounded by Monarch butterflies on a cliff in Big Sur overlooking the wild sea. And I realized, I couldn’t have made that many bad choices, because they got me here.
Samantha Bee 17:59
Tara Schuster 17:59
If I’m here, then I’m not an irredeemable person who’s made all these mistakes. They all I mean, and that was the first time I actually understood being present, which is the worst concept of all, and I think the hardest, like, I’m like, get real. What do you mean fairy?
Samantha Bee 18:16
That’s a bit hard to achieve.
Tara Schuster 18:18
It’s um, like, please leave when someone’s like, be present. Let go, please leave and I never talked to me again. Thank you.
Samantha Bee 18:27
You go be present elsewhere.
Tara Schuster 18:30
Yeah, but it was one of them. I was just like, oh, my choices led me here, therefore, they we’re all pretty good. And I accept and allow because look, I’m in a fucking butterfly swarm.
Samantha Bee 18:43
What can butterfly swarm and you know what, and the butterflies are definitely in crisis.
Samantha Bee 18:48
But that’s okay, like, they look really good to me. And yeah, they’re like, where’s our queen? She’s been killed. We have to find a new home I mean, if if their fluttering is not a sign of anxiety what is the constant.
Samantha Bee 19:06
Like we’re beating our wings because we gotta get out of here there’s a predator in our midst
Tara Schuster 19:13
She’s here to kill us I’m meanwhile like I’m one with nature in this moment butterfly friends.
Samantha Bee 19:20
Oh my god, I love this idea of a values filter. I’ve maybe i I’m gonna maybe shift my because my list on my phone doesn’t sound nearly as good on I think they might be the same thing.
Tara Schuster 19:32
They are, they’re their cousins, at least their […]. I think their brother and sister if not the same.
Samantha Bee 19:39
If not twins.
Tara Schuster 19:40
Samantha Bee 19:41
They’re twins, I do love the money section from your mock Glow In The Fucking Dark it is such an important topic of conversation. I want to say it is especially important for women to talk about money.
Tara Schuster 19:56
Samantha Bee 19:57
And understand money and and be in charge, their money, in a productive way. And last week, I talked to Stephen J. Dubner, a podcast, and he said something that really resonates with me. And he said that we know that we don’t make good decisions when we are emotional, but it is impossible to take emotion out of money and financial decisions. Talk about something that makes people, myself included. Just my chest tightens, even thinking about it. And you talk about how financial literacy is self care. Talk to me about this idea of being money sick.
Tara Schuster 20:46
Yeah, and I’ll even take it a step further that I think being financially literate and in charge of your finances, the spiritual practice, because money is everywhere. It literally infects every single choice we make all day, right? And everybody’s thinking about it constantly. How do I know that because I’m constantly thinking about it, and I’m not that special. We’re all thinking about money all the time, and in the book, I talk about this concept of money sickness, which is we’re addicted to money, and to status and to showing it and I’ll give an example of, you know, for me, the Kardashians, amazing businesswoman, empires incredible, do your thing. And it’s not good for my mental health to see people on private jets going on these wild vacations. I once watched a story where there was like a closet for Fro Yo, and then another place for sprinkles. And like many refrigerators, I’m like, fuck am I supposed to have like five refrigerators? Have I not made it, if I don’t have that? How did you?
Samantha Bee 22:00
Five refrigerators or fro yo.
Tara Schuster 22:02
Like, that’s, you know, that’s success, and for me, I am a not a strong enough person for those kinds of things not to deeply affect me. Because we think the more money we have, the more things we have, the easier our lives are going to be, the more you know, we’re going to enjoy, and it’s never been in our face. So much as with social media. It’s unnatural. It is unnatural to have to watch your best friend in Cancun with a bottle of Veuve Clicquot cheering the highlife. We didn’t used to do that, you don’t have to have money flaunted in your face all the time. And so and for me, money was so important because I thought money meant safety. Because of so my parents, my dad was a lawyer, my mom was a doctor, and but they couldn’t manage their money at all. So it was really a boom and bust economy that I lived in, you know, one day, we’re going on a vacation to Hawaii, the next it’s you can’t go to the doctor to get that checked out because we’ve got bills there, we’re avoiding it. So I never knew, you know how you were supposed to be used money. And my dad’s point of view was that the only value he had was if he had money. So when he didn’t have money, or he wasn’t doing well, he wasn’t a good person or a good father. That in his mind, which made him not a good father, because he was so obsessed with money, and not giving me things like love, affections, talking to me, it was it was all so tied up with with money. And so for me, I had debilitating fears around money. I thought I couldn’t afford toilet paper like, I’m working at Comedy Central, I’m a legit executive and I’m stealing toilet paper out of the bathroom of Joseph Leonard in New York City in the West Village. And I would have these moments where I’m just like, disconnect like, wait, what? And so I think when we get so obsessed with money, which I think is most of us, it also starts to change our brains that now we need it, we need it or we’re not good. We need it or we’re like, somehow we’ve fallen behind when in reality, so I was thinking it’s all about safety. What I realized is safety is my friends, right? Safety is the fact that if I lost all my money tomorrow, my best friend would for sure, let me sleep in her house, for sure. She would feed me helped me get back on my feet. But in my mind, it was the money itself, that was the safety, not the connections. And so I think we all really have to define for ourselves. What role is money playing in our lives? What do we believe it’s going to provide us and whatever we believe it’s going to provide us we need to go get that without the money.
Samantha Bee 25:03
I love that, I do agree with you I something. You know, it’s interesting to be talking to you about this because I have been kind of contemplating that lately, even in my thinking about my own kids who are like teenagers and entering adulthood, and how much their brains are shaped like the the world and especially the United States, I will say, so acquisitive, like there is a moral value assigned yes to having having riches and living in a state of splendor, worship it.
Tara Schuster 25:42
It’s an altar.
Samantha Bee 25:44
It’s an altar at which we pray. But it’s, it’s actually very, it’s hard to draw those lines when it is in your face all the time, and we always have been aspirational. Always you would be like, Oh, look at the house in the in 16 Candles, like, that’s beautiful, I want to live there but you weren’t seeing it on a constant like, it wasn’t just 25 balls, I mean, 24/7.
Tara Schuster 26:09
If you tend to doom scroll, like I do, I can get lost in Instagram. It’s it’s a an assault of Rich’s fanciness, and so one thing I’ve done is just unfollow anybody who makes me, me feel bad at all. And, and I am making my mental health the primary thing because some people say, Oh, but isn’t that mean to unfollow your friend? No, this is all unnatural, this whole app is weird. And I never n squared in the history of humankind. Nobody else has had to deal with this. So no, I don’t care, I can mute, I can we actually have a lot more agency than we think we do. And, particularly that chapter is all about all of my money problems. I was meeting with a financial advisor, and I was talking about how, how afraid I was of losing money. And what was I going to do if I did? And she looked at me and she said, do you know what clients I have who speak about money the way you speak about money, so I no, who? She said people who survived the Great Depression. And when she reflected that back to me, I realized I am in a really bad way. And I need release from this. And I’m so scared of loss, and what and what do we do when we’re afraid? What’s always the cure information? Actually knowing things, so I made it my business to read books, reach out to friends who had financial advisors, asked to talk to those people, and go online, there are some really good resources, instead of just not looking at my 401k ever out of terror. Look at it, and I think there’s so many realms in which we have to reclaim our agency. And we think it’s going to be easier to ignore and avoid but really the much easier thing is to look it in the face and to learn and to to say I can do something about this.
Samantha Bee 28:08
I totally agree with you. It’s like seeing, it’s like just facing a problem and going through the problem is just like punching through the problem. Because you will never skirt that problem, if you’re in debt, if you whatever, whatever, all of the financial pitfalls, and they cause immense anxiety and we need money, I mean, we need money to exist everybody’s carrying that invisible backpack here, like health insurance. And student loan debt and it is so fucking scary. Just scary, but you’ve got to look at these things with clear eyes, it is the only way through.
Tara Schuster 28:50
And to face these things, and even as you said with the student debt, so that is unavoidable for most of us, it was unavoidable for me. But one thing I really got clear about was it didn’t make me a bad person that I had to carry this debt. And that’s, that’s facing it so maybe I couldn’t change anything about the payments themselves. But I could change my relationship to it and say, I made the best decision I could at the time when I took out this loan. My education is extremely valuable to me and I live in a super messed up wildly capitalistic, unlike so unfair across the board, that’s the reality I’m living in, and I’m not a bad person for living in this reality, I’m just a witness.
Samantha Bee 29:37
Yes, there’s no moral, there’s no moral quality assigned to it.
Tara Schuster 29:38
Samantha Bee 29:39
Just, it just is just very hard to it’s just very hard to move forward.
Tara Schuster 29:49
Samantha Bee 29:50
From a place of like avoidance.
Tara Schuster 29:55
And fear, you know, I’m a millennial and for sure what we were sold was the creative hustle. You know, you’re I remember all the graduation speeches were about find your joy, and you’ll never work a day in your life like your follow your bliss. And I had just taken a year of puppetry classes, like my system follow this bliss, like, what are you talking about? I don’t understand, and there were just so many outsized expectations that your career was supposed to be this deeply meaningful thing, and then the money would come, and then you’d have your perfectly curated household full of pottery, and then you’d go to brunch and it was this like wilds like thought that your job would cure everything, and your job should be your passion, and that was like, way too much to put like, because then you’re just hustling forever, if this is the thing that matters the most. And so I’ve really had to let that die, that hustling is a sign of my worth, that these material successes are a sign of like, are a moral imperative.
Samantha Bee 31:13
Right? And that’s where the values come in. Gods were exactly got to Google your values, but like Google it, like interrogate them for 10 years, it’s true shift them, they move, and you do change.
Tara Schuster 31:26
And hopefully, I’ve saved everyone, 10 years. I’m just Google some values. Make this filter. It’s I promise, it works. You’ve you have seen that it works. You’re welcome to everyone for 10 years saved of endless worry.
Samantha Bee 31:45
I do think that there is like, Oh, God, I feel like I just think there’s another 10 hour conversation about finances. I think about it all the time, think about this constantly because there is just like, my generation. I’m 54, my parents grew up in Canada, and there is a depression era mentality there. It’s like every Canadian family has a drawer of ketchup packets from McDonald’s, because they’re like, what if we don’t have ketchup in the future?
Tara Schuster 32:18
It makes sense.
Samantha Bee 32:19
What if, what if the ketchup factory goes and like, these ketchup packets are poisoned now? They’re fermented.
Tara Schuster 32:26
They’ve been actual poison, 30 years.
Samantha Bee 32:29
Yeah, it’s time to clear it out, but just that, like, everybody’s just trying to get on the lifeboat.
Tara Schuster 32:35
It makes sense to me, it’s and it’s also important to honor how hard it must have been that now you’re hoarding ketchup. That sounds awful, whatever led to the ketchup hoarding, I’m pretty sure it was terrible. And so again, not to my whole thing is it doesn’t make sense to shame yourself, however wrong you think you are. Because you can’t move through that, like, you know, we’re talking about money, but it’s also about life as we think it’s going to be much harder to face the things and scare us. It’s going to be overwhelming, you know, with trauma for example, I talked to people all the time, who are I don’t want to rehash the past, you know, I’m doing fine now, and if I go back, isn’t that going to overwhelm me and ruin all my relationships? And I’m like, chill, are you anxious now? Or is is this stuff all painful to you now? I think it is, otherwise you wouldn’t be bringing it up, the easier path is to acknowledge it, deal with it, move through it, and not oppress it to the point where it’s just jumping up all the time and leading to strange behaviors. I, you know, the things you don’t deal with, they do deal with you.
Samantha Bee 33:46
Samantha Bee 33:47
There’s more with Tara Schuster in just a moment.
Samantha Bee 34:07
It feels like naming something or just saying it out loud or writing it down is very powerful, weapon in your arsenal. Like just without shame, and I feel like that’s what you’re talking about when you’re talking about journaling, too, is writing without like putting any judge was going to read it.
Tara Schuster 34:32
No, you know, journaling, for me has been one of the most important practices I have. I’ve been doing it for 12 years every day. And now we have all this science, that even there’s this idea of an effect the labeling, which is even writing how you feel that one step is a huge relief can help with anxiety and depression, because you’re externalizing and recognizing That’s how I feel I’m worth while I can, I can take a minute to actually understand my feelings. I used to think the only emotions I had were good, bad, sad, exhausted and busy. That was it to describe my human life and my soul, and all these things are those five words. And in my second book and glow, I give people an emotion we all so that they can practice seeing how they actually feel when when they’re journaling, the first question is, what am I feeling today? Answer that question, and once you answer that question, you have so many more choices available to you. Because if I realize I had an ex boyfriend who sort of turned out to be a con man, I’m probably not to say supposed to say it that way for legal reasons. I couldn’t say in the book that way, please don’t sue me. He was a con man. He’s not named yet. We just say he’s a con man. And I went to my therapist about it, you know, like, he’s great, he’s tall, he’s handsome, why am I 10 out of 10 anxious all the time about him like I don’t understand. And she looked at me and she said, I don’t think you’re anxious, I think you’re furious, and I realized, Oh, my God, I’m furious because he lies to me all the time. But I was just living in a blanket of anxiety where I couldn’t really do anything. But something like an emotion wheel forces you to say, this is how I feel based off that I can make choices. So if I’m furious with him, I can make the choice to have a conversation with him about it, I would the choice the choice I did make was just to break up I don’t deserve to be lied to and it makes sense why I’m furious. But if we don’t know how we feel, it becomes really hard to make intelligent decisions. Because we’re just coming from a place of.
Tara Schuster 34:47
Right, what feels like fog.
Tara Schuster 35:08
Yeah, you’re in a fog.
Samantha Bee 35:31
Like it to me, it feels like these, like super tactile exercises. Just clear, like a little patch of fog over here, they just clear some space. You’re like, okay, I have something like a quadrant of my brain, is like, very bound up in this. If I put it down on paper, there’s a little place I could like, let go, part of my brain.
Tara Schuster 37:26
And putting it on paper gives you perspective immediately. Because it’s just not in your head.
Samantha Bee 37:32
Right, it helps you to like disperse things. Just bringing clarity, and starting the day with an I’m sure that not every not every day begins in clarity, and nor can you achieve it one day, but it is a practice, it’s just part of the practice.
Tara Schuster 37:48
Yeah, it’s it’s an intimate practice, and every morning that you journal, you say I’m worthwhile. You took the time, if you have taken the time, and you have the hutzpah to believe that your story matters enough that you deserve to write it down. That’s every single morning, a declaration of I matter. And I think the thing I’ve learned more than anything else from these two books and talking to readers, is many people don’t think they’re valuable. They think they’re not worthwhile, they’re not enough, they don’t do enough, they’re unlovable, they think all these things. And so with all these rituals, what I’m trying to do is reminds people you have inherent worth, and you have way more agency over your life than you think you do. You can’t control the big things, but you can control how you show up, you can control how you think about yourself and journaling. It’s like you’re getting little DMs from your soul, like little messages that you need to hear and deal with. So there’s so both my books have so many different ways to journal. But when people ask me, what’s the number one self care tool you would say, to recommend? I’d say journaling first and foremost, so you even know what story are you telling yourself?
Samantha Bee 39:04
RIght, she could just see it laid out. Does this, I guess does this practice do these rituals? Do you ever? You know, have you like lost your footing in them through the years do you just you stumble sometimes you’re just like, I don’t need it anymore, and then you will […] six months later?
Tara Schuster 39:25
Have never […] I’ve always thought I desperately need these things or this whole thing’s gonna fall apart. And perhaps sometimes I claim to them too much, that’s also happened. Um, but the nice thing about rituals is that you can always come back to them. So if you fall off your journaling, practice, you fall off your meditation, practice, whatever it is, you can always come back you have the agency, you have the power, and again, they’re blaming yourself shaming yourself just doesn’t help you like if being self critical helped you I would be the queen now. I would rule over this land with a benevolent heart.
Samantha Bee 40:09
Ah, wait, that’s not the key to achieving no people ultimate.
Tara Schuster 40:15
People ask me all the time, but if I’m not self critical, how am I going to get better at anything? Well, are you curious? And do you have a desire to learn? That brought you here to ask this question? Then that’s how that’s how you’re gonna get better, you’re gonna learn more. Not by I’m so stupid, that was dumb, they don’t like me. Oh, that is very unhelpful.
Samantha Bee 40:40
Right, I try I always try to tell my kids I’m like, you know, no one’s no one’s paying attention to you nearly as much as you think they are. Like, they are so worried about their own zetz they don’t they’re not looking at and checking and making sure you’re not wearing the same sweatshirt, you wore on Monday?
Tara Schuster 41:02
Absolutely, it’s one thing I write is, nobody cares at all in regards to everything.
Samantha Bee 41:11
So true, they don’t care.
Tara Schuster 41:12
They don’t care about you, I love you so much. They’re not thinking about you. So there’s no need to go to go through that the sweater thing? Oh, but they saw it, three days ago, they don’t remember.
Samantha Bee 41:26
Everybody knows that, I wore these jeans. Friday of last week, and they’re gonna wonder if I washed them, it’s like, they do not give a fuck.
Tara Schuster 41:37
They don’t remember last Friday period. That’s never happened.
Samantha Bee 41:42
It never happened, and they think that you can smell their armpit or their fight of you.
Tara Schuster 41:49
They are wrapped up in their own stories, and how do we know that? Because we are wrapped up in our own stories.
Samantha Bee 41:55
Yes, do you think that a lot of I think that a lot of women in particular do suffer kind of from doing too much?
Tara Schuster 42:06
Samantha Bee 42:07
I mean, there is, I don’t know, if you are finding it but there is like a hyper competence, that can really hit you hard. Especially in especially among women my age, I have to say that women I know in their 50s are just like falling apart like the wheels are coming off the bus with how many things they are doing and juggling in a day. What do you do? What do you do when you realize that your plate is too full?
Tara Schuster 42:35
Yeah, it’s, it’s, I just want to like also acknowledge that it’s really hard. When your plate is twofold, it actually feels really bad, and is not a fun way to live. And I think there are two things, one is remembering that you have one human life to live, which is so obvious, but it’s not obvious at all, in the minutiae of everyday where you need to go to the dry cleaners and pick somebody up and then go to somebody’s branch. And it’s really about figuring out what matters to you. If it all goes back to your values, what actually matters to you. And if you can lead a life that’s in alignment with that, I can promise you things are going to be easier, because extraneous things like get drinks with Sarah, who I secretly hate and who secretly hates me. If that doesn’t line up with my values, that’s an easy goodbye. But it’s really about knowing yourself, what makes you feel good, and I mean, you know, both my books are about self care, self help. And what I mean when I say self care, is taking an honest inventory of yourself of your emotional wounds, and giving yourself the nurturing you need. So self care, you know, I love a vacation to loom if you want to go together, that’d be super cool. But a vacation to to loom cannot be self care, because it is not. It is not helping you heal an emotional wound in specific, right. And it’s a big thing and we’ve just want little things that are manageable. So by actually knowing yourself by knowing the nurturing you need by knowing by a practice like journaling, by knowing your values, all of these things lead to self intimacy, to really knowing who you are. And when you practice authentic self care like that, you are always practicing community care, because you are a part of your community. And how you behave affects everyone else. And that affects how everyone else treats everyone else. And it’s sort of this ripple effect. So a lot of people get hung up on self care. And they’re like, oh, but isn’t that selfish? Isn’t that narcissistic? Yeah, if you think you’re an island and you have nothing to do with anybody else, then yeah, that would be selfish and totally observing. But if you’re here talking to other people interacting with other people and want to be a part of what’s good and what’s healing this world, then healing yourself is something totally within your control that you could begin today. And I promise you that the way you’re going to heal yourself is not by having so many activities going on that you can’t even think.
Samantha Bee 45:22
Right, I think that when people hear self care now, they just automatically are like, Oh, you’re gonna get a massage or you’re gonna get a massage. Bah, bah, bah, you go into get your and it’s really like, as simple as I’m gonna unfollow, like 10 things on Instagram that every time I look at them, I just feel like a little jealous.
Tara Schuster 45:46
Yes, they make me feel poor, and and I’m not going to feel bad about that either. I’m not going to shame myself that that feeling comes up, that’s real. Dealing with what’s real is way more helpful than shaming yourself for how you feel.
Samantha Bee 46:01
But it isn’t necessarily something so big sometimes it’s just buying yourself the fucking lollies for $7.
Tara Schuster 46:08
Yes, and I think they’re pretty they’re frivolous. I you know, I use this all ties together with money. Everything we’ve been discussing is around the time I started re parenting myself, I would go to Trader Joe’s to buy my budget frozen meals. Yeah, like you do, they’re also delicious. I still do like to say, to love churches, so I go there, and I look at the lilies, and I’d say oh my god, I love lilies I love they literally there’s like the height of elegance. And then when they bloom the perfume, it just fills my little studio apartment. And I feel like a fancy rich woman who’s in charge of the world, like it makes me feel so good. But no, they’re $7.
Samantha Bee 46:51
Tara Schuster 46:52
As you know, I’m stealing toilet paper, I can’t afford $7, will lead to financial ruin decadence, all that mistakes my parents made, if I do if I make that one choice, then it’s going to infect the rest of my life. And I would go over this over this every time I went to Trader Joe’s, and then one day, I finally just said, fuck this for real. If I am working so hard, and I was at my job at life at being a good friend, all these things, I deserve to buy the $7 lilies, they they’re a basic, they’re a basic, fresh flowers. That’s a miracle that we all get that they exist. I want that in my house. And it was this like watershed moment for me, which was realizing I deserve to treat myself well. And in that case, it did mean buying $7 lilies. But you know, today, it would mean, I deserved to meditate this morning, instead of do a meeting. I really don’t deserve to do that because I’ll show up as a better person, for everybody, for myself for everybody in my community. So, you know, my books aren’t so serious about like, you need to heal all your intergenerational trauma. Now, they’re, I think, kind of funny, and do thank you, and coming from you, that’s a very big deal.
Samantha Bee 48:16
They’re very funny. Your voice is great. I mean, I just it’s like so really your voice that you’re relatable and just like accessible, like the tools that you offer are accessible, and easy in a way like that, you know, the practices is never easy, but like, they’re just fundamental, and they’re free, and they’re there.
Tara Schuster 48:37
Thank you, yeah, I really tried to break things down to their most fundamental, like, the heart of what, what’s this big concept about? Let me give you the heart of it. And a really easy way. I hope they’re easy, like an easy way to attack this really hard, much bigger issue, you know, and I learned them the hard way I and I would have really appreciated a friend who would have held my hand during all this. And so my hope is that that’s what the book is doing. Like the book I hope is your for me as your friend in book form. Somebody who’s been there and is not going to judge you but encourage you and sometimes kick your ass a little if you’re like really dilly dallying and not taking care of yourself then I’m really sweetheart, I love you and get you going. We got to take care of this.
Samantha Bee 49:31
Let’s do one foot in front of the other, please every single day.
Tara Schuster 49:35
Samantha Bee 49:36
Tara, I have thoroughly enjoyed talking to you. I feel like this has been so interesting and helpful. And I just really appreciate you so thank you for saying yes to this. Thank you for talking it through.
Tara Schuster 49:53
I was so honored to get the invitation so thank you, this is yeah, I’ve loved every moment of this.
Samantha Bee 50:09
That was Tara Schuster and I had no choice but to look up one thing. She mentioned that she wants Googled, update quote, what is fun? So I realized I had to see what the answer was to. And if you type that in, it is literally explained as enjoyment, amusement, or lighthearted pleasure. Well, then, I guess talking to Tara was the literal definition of fun, and good news. The fun continues with more Choice Words on Lemonada premium subscribers get exclusive access to bonus content, like a special outtake from my recent interview with Stephen Dubner, subscribe now in Apple podcasts.
Thank you for listening to Choice Words which was created by and is hosted by me. We’re a production of Lemonada Media, Kathyrn Barnes, […] and Kryssy Pease produce our show. Our mix is by James Barber. Steve Nelson is the vice president of weekly content. Jessica Cordova Kramer, Stephanie Wittles Wachs and I are executive producers. Our theme was composed by […] with help from Johnny Vince Evans . Special thanks to Kristen Everman, Claire Jones, Ivan Kuraev and Rachel Neil. You can find me at @Iamsambee on Twitter and at @realsambee on Instagram. Follow Choice Words wherever you get your podcasts or listen ad free on Amazon music with your Prime membership.