Overcoming fear with vulnerability with Marriage and Family Therapist, Nathaniel McGuire

Tiffany has noticed a trend lately—a link between vulnerability and fear. She’s been exploring this link over the course of the past few episodes of Scared Confident, and now she wants to bring a past guest back who was pivotal in her own journey with fear -- Marriage and Family Therapist, Nathaniel McGuire.

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Tiffany has noticed a trend lately—a link between vulnerability and fear. She’s been exploring this link over the course of the past few episodes of Scared Confident, and now she wants to bring a past guest back who was pivotal in her own journey with fear.

Nathaniel McGuire is a marriage and family therapist who helped lead Tiffany through a fear interview for the premiere of Scared Confident. In this episode, they dive into what Tiffany has learned about her own fear in the time since, and Nathaniel shares his clinical take on vulnerability and fear—and how they may be manifesting in your life in sneaky ways.

Listen to Tiffany’s Fear Interview with Nathaniel

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Tiffany Sauder:

We're about ready to jump into a conversation between myself and Nathaniel McGuire. So if you're new to the show, you may not have heard his name, but Nathaniel really was on like day one of this journey with me. He's a marriage and family psychologist in Indianapolis, and he is the one who kind of pioneered this idea of the fear interview and facilitated me through my fear interview, um, as I started my fear journey.

So that's who Nathaniel. I reached back out to him because I started to notice this connection between fear and vulnerability, and I began to say like, I think maybe vulnerability is an antidote to fear. And I wanted to get his perspective cuz he's been watching and studying and interacting with people under this umbrella of fear for much longer than I have.

And so I wanted to get his perspective. So listen in to what Nathaniel had to say I re-listened to my Fear interview like a month ago, and it is really powerful Nathaniel to like go back and hear it again.

Nathaniel McGuire: What stuck out to you when you went back and, and listen. Like what were the different pieces?

Tiffany Sauder: I should pull my notes out actually.

Lemme grab my notebook cuz I think I wrote 'em down.

Oh yes. You said to me, so basically you're allowing fear to be in the driver's seat, in the way that you, in your beliefs about yourself, what you say yes to, what you say no to, and who you say yes to and who you say no to. This idea that like fear was controlling. Not just my self perception, but actually changing who I was to myself.

And as I listened back to it, I was able to see like there was fear in my marriage. There was fear in my friendships, There was fear in my work. Like even these things that I would've said were my most intimate relationships, fear was still one of the most dominant aspects of that relationship. And. One of my like ahas and I listened back to it.

I was like, in my friendships then they knew very little about the hard things going on in my life. And that is such a tell that fear, didn't want me to trust them with the honesty of who I was as a person. Not cuz they hadn't earned that. I just fear didn't want me to do that. Well, it's

Nathaniel McGuire: powerful cause of, you know, a part of the topic even with Vulner.

Bne Brown is really good at, the research that she's done around vulnerability, and I've seen it in my own practice that one of the, the biggest issues has to do with shame, right? this feeling that I am going to be rejected or disconnected, I'm gonna be exposed in a way that if I open up to you, I'm gonna be filled with.

Nathaniel McGuire: And, um, the ultimate fear really behind all that is I'm gonna be disconnected from people. Um, and I, I'm filled at that moment with not feeling worthy, right? So this, this feeling of worth and value is the thing that keeps us from opening up Cause we have this, this, this belief that, and many of us have had experiences before.

You know, where typically that comes from childhood, where something has happened, we opened up, um, we've been exposed, we've been caught, we've been shamed. And so we are trying to make sure we never experience that again if we can help it. Um, so to me you've gone on this journey of opening up and that was your concern is once you open up, are you gonna be shame?

Are you still gonna be worthy and respected? Are you gonna be rejected? And that was kinda overwhelming you.

Tiffany Sauder: Totally. And what's so interesting is that like fear's trying to get you to understand or trying to get you to believe, if you share the most intimate things about your heart and what you think and your dreams, you are gonna be isolated.

And in that you experience isolation. And it's crazy.

Nathaniel McGuire: One, one of the, um, most profound things, I'll be honest, even, as a man doing the work, of sitting with people and counseling, you know, even though, we are taught how to create a safe space and how to connect, I really had to understand how much, as a male opening up, sharing problems

A part of me wants to fix things and, give answers and facts in what I'm thinking. It was really sitting with women for hours, that caused me to understand the difference between like, opening up and being vulnerable and sharing versus problem solving. And women taught me the simple, definition of connection, which.

I tell you how I feel. You tell me how you feel, and we have connection. And so, often in communication that that is not happening the right way. So the actual disconnection is not just sharing how you feel, you know what, what is really going on, and you can talk about facts and solve problems all. And still not have this vulnerability of connection that I truly feel this way, um, and open up about it.

But yeah, fear tries to actually th tell you, you're gonna be disconnected, but you just need to do the thing that actually connects you. And it tells you that if you do that, you're disconnected, but you're, you're already disconnected by not sharing. when you sit back and you listen at it, you just can hear how deceptive fear is, right?

Like the lies and how easy it's to believe that I'm gonna keep you safe if you do this. But essentially that's what's causing the thing to happen, is the advice

Tiffany Sauder: that it's. Totally. So I, I thought it would make sense just to bring you back on Nathaniel and talk about. This connection between vulnerability is vulnerability, something that we can practice, that we can teach.

You know when people ask me like, How do you be vulnerable? I'm like, Well, it's sort of like, how do you get fit? You just start using the machines. You just start doing it. It's very awkward at the beginning, but you have to at some point just start, even though you feel very ill-equipped to actually do the thing, and it's awkward and it feels weird and all this kind of stuff, but.

You're actually more qualified. I'm, I'm an experience oriented researcher. You have a lot more data points than just one in my life. Um, but what do you see and, what advice would you give people who are saying, How do I become vulnerable when I've practiced being guarded for so long?

Nathaniel McGuire: So, um, some of the people that I think we watch, practice this thing called vulnerability. as an art, are comedians, right? great comedians have the ability to make fun of themselves in a way that they allow you to be comfortable, to laugh at them and to laugh at yourself.

Um, the greatest have the ability to say, I have these issues and, and the ones that do it the best, it just makes you so comfortable and it's extremely attractive for someone to be able to talk about themselves and name, like what are the attributes they have and what are their weaknesses, and just laugh about it.

if you ever watch, um, s you know, comedians and you just sit back and you think, Why is that so funny? Why, why are some of the funniest comedians, the ones that just have the ability to talk about, like their relationships and what they do? That doesn't make any sense, but they do it anyway?

Nathaniel McGuire: Right? So one of the ways that, I say to practice vulnerability, um, I remember I was working with, uh, a group of, entrepreneurs and, and there were male and female and they were just talking about. when they're leading a, a group and, they're often, feeling that imposter syndrome.

And so I, I would, I was talking to some of them and I said, I'm simply going to ask you if this is you. And I just, I just wanna, I just wanna see how you're gonna respond. Cause we're practicing vulnerability. And I said, um, so you seem. To just talk a lot is that you, you just talk a lot and uh, the first thing I was looking for is for them to do one simple thing.

and guess what? That was? I was just waiting for them to say, Yeah, . It was that simple. I was taking them through this over and over and over. And Tiffany, I was just trying to show them that was, that's what it meant to be vulnerable, right? So I had another guy come in and I said, you know, and he, he'd already kinda said this to me and other, and others had said this about him and I said, um, you seem pretty judgment, like you're judgment person, aren't you?

Nathaniel McGuire: And he's just looking at me, right? I said, Man, you, you wanna practice being right? He said, Yeah. I said, Well, you seem pretty judgemental. Well, I don't know what you mean by that. Like, what does judgemental. Bro, you seem . So I'm going down the line to different people just calling out things that I know we all struggle with, but they're upfront in front of the group and we're practicing vulnerability.

So finally I get to, um, a young lady and I said, You know what? Sometimes you just come off kind of dingy. Are you kinda dingy? You know what she said? Yep. . Everybody laughed. Everybody let, let their hair down. Because in that moment she was simply vulnerable. It was beautiful and powerful at the same time.

She said, Yeah, I'm kinda dingy, you know, and it, it sucks cuz I have blonde hair and people just that about me. But I, but I'm also brilliant. I'm also courageous. Um, I've built several companies, right? So she, in that moment, Realize that that vulnerability was powerful. So, uh, people that are really able to, accept it, you find are people that understand that their vulnerability also makes them beautiful.

Right. Um, in, in, in my opinion from, from working with people, those experiences typically come from people who have been taught. And, and what you often find is it's has to do with like how they're raised. Um, so practicing it though literally just means that you have the ability to just say, That's me, That's who I am.

I am like that. I do that. Um, and the B attitudes, biblically, there's another reference for this. I like, I, I, I like the way the New Testament talks about this. Um, there's a spiritual connotation to this. It talks about those who are pure in heart can see God. and when you study it, what that really means is those who can come before God.

And, and what I like to say's form, keep it 100, Those who can come before God and just say, Yeah, that's, I do that, it means you can see God, you can see you're honest with yourself. You're pure and heart in that moment, and you're just saying, This is me and, and Tiffany what I've learned. And you can really see you.

It's not hard to see others. If you can see yourself and you can see other people when you're vulnerable with yourself, it's easy to see when other people are not being vulner. Because you're just comfortable with who you are. You can just simply say, This is me. So, um, I say all this, to say to one a practice is just to be able to say, This is me

So when you ignore the the bad things that you think are critical, well you also then can't see the good. You can't see your whole self. So when you are able to just say, This is me, whatever you consider a negative thing. Then you could also see the good, and so that's the power of vulnerability. You can see all of you.

So there's two things that came to mind for me as you were talking. The first one is I have thought I'm so visual and like experiential in the way that my body remembers things.

Tiffany Sauder: When you talk about owning what's good about you, as honestly as you own your mistakes and what's bad about you, or the things that are still growing and developing in you, I've thought about. Being announced on stage, like somebody always says Here's your bio and here's about you. I'm like, Could I walk as confidently on stage if someone is.

Speaking all my accolades and the things that I'm proud of that have happened, can I walk as certainly and as confidently on stage if someone is reading and exposing all of the things that I've done or, you know what I mean? Like said or the hurts. Can I walk up as clearly? Because those are both who I am.

You, You know what I mean? And, and fear wants me to hide actually both pieces of it. Like what you said, that when somebody claps and applauses for me to hide behind a wall and say, Oh, you know, it's no big deal. Like, oh, hi. Like make myself small in that. And fear wants me to make myself even smaller to think of.

weaknesses or the times when you were not what you wanted to be. When those things are being exposed and practicing this sense of centeredness, the sense of clarity of owning what God has put inside of me and saying either one of those stories that are told about me are imbalanced, but as a whole person.

I present myself to the world. You know what I mean? I think about this sort of narrative of the stage as a way to like get myself equally comfortable with both sides of those. The other thing that you said, is we can't really see other people until we've fully accepted who we are, and I've done a lot of work in the last year thinking about what's at stake.

Like, why do all of this stupidly hard work? You know, why bust down fear? Why talk about vulnerability? Why, like, why do this? What's at stake if we don't? And, and I can say the truest thing that has come into my life, through this process of my fear journey and living it intentionally since we actually did that work is.

Closeness and this intimacy and this realization that relationships are what change the world. That's the thing. And when fear is like this static between you and the rest of humanity, your life doesn't have a chance. To have the impact it was meant to have. When fear is creating this perpetual static between you and the things that you care about, you and the people you care about, you and the organizations you care about, you and the things and the people you want to lead, you can't be fully present because you're constantly managing this thing that's between you and all the things that you love and care about.

And. And I tell people, I'm like, There's a lot of things about my life that actually don't look that different. It's not like I, you know, I joke, I like didn't become a zookeeper. I didn't suddenly like, but, but the way it feels has a presence to it that I didn't even know was possible. And I know as a result of that, my impact has to be exponential because I feel it, I'm present.

I can listen, I can see, I can hear. And so it's so interesting that you. You know, said that is like, you can't consume authentically what the world is trying to bring to your doorstep as a human being until you've fully worked through this narrative of fear and what it's trying to do inside your own mind and self-perception.

as I . Started to study fear and do these interviews, Tiffany, the first thing that I discovered. Emotionally what it robs Right. So I love what you said, like there's this other part where, you know, there's purposes, there's goals and there's dreams, that it can keep you from.

Nathaniel McGuire: But I was also working with very successful people that had notched off a bucket list of everything, but they're still full of fear, so they may achieve this and that, but on the inside they don't feel worth. They don't feel good enough. Um, they are filled with anxiety. They're not experiencing joy, um, happiness.

so fear, it's, it's powerful because it comes to rob you a faith and when it can rob you a faith, then it can cause you to be hopeless. And if, if you're walking around hopeless, there's no greater pain than that. You know? Cause it goes from, I don't really hope for this or that. And then when you're totally hopeless, it tells you then what's the point of living, right?

Nathaniel McGuire: And so very successful people can commit suicide because in their mind, they are going through the struggle of fear, and it is robbing their ability to love, to connect, to open up, to do all these things. And so you cannot evolve and become who you really are without. Fear will tell you who you're, fear will give you an identity and you'll think that that's your identity.

So, um, that, that is how powerful it is and that's why its necessary Tiffany to do this work because it destroys

Tiffany Sauder: everything. you used the words imposter syndrome a few minutes ago when you talked about, I think you were speaking to a group of entrepreneurs or business owners and I'd love to hear your definition of that cuz it's like this term that is suddenly kind of having its day. Um, and so I'd love to hear from.

Kind of what your definition of imposter syndrome is and what you think is either in conflict or where that starts. What sort of is the soil that imposter syndrome feeds on? I've got my own like, Again, uh, Tiffany's Social School of Observation. I need to name it cause it's not an academic place. I go . Um, but I'd love to hear what, where, what soil you think it takes root in and what your definition or like observation of what, imposter syndrome is

Nathaniel McGuire: Um, I see imposter syndrome as, refusing to say, You are who God says you are. I see imposter syndrome as someone that has the ability to do something, but on the inside they feel that everyone's gonna figure out that they are, the greatest man ever and their entire mind when they are carrying out any task.

Is solely fixated on when are these people going to find me out that I cannot do what they believe I can do? when, when you dig into, many of these narratives where people are totally overwhelmed with imposter syndrome, it does come down to this idea of in their mind who they think they should.

and it's always this vision of this perfection, that once they get to this point, then they're no longer an imposter. So it's refusing to say, that you can be everything that God says you are. And when you refuse. To me that is a, that's like a form of imposter

Tiffany Sauder: injury. I would agree with you, Nathaniel. I think the other thing, maybe it's just part B of your answer, is if I can accept that failing is a possible outcome, And that I'm willing to like, recognize and be okay with that in whatever role I'm getting ready to go perform.

Then I feel like that chases away imposter syndrome too, cuz it's like my performance in this thing that I'm about ready to go do, or this job or this board role or whatever the thing is, If I'm not good, I'm gonna know maybe first. Does that make sense? Like I don't have to feel like an imposter because I might be good and I might be bad, and if I'm bad, Then we should all talk about that.

and I have found that that chases it away from me when I'm like, Well, I might just be bad at it. And if I'm bad at it, it doesn't mean me a bad person. It just means I was bad at this. And I don't know, I, I think imposter syndrome is a little bit like what you said, not accepting who God has made you to be.

Tiffany Sauder: And I think sometimes people's identities. Start to be in conflict with roles that they have taken on and that friction that happens when there is just conflict between those two things. I think that's sometimes when imposter syndrome starts to come up too. So anyway, I think it's this abstract concept that people throw around, assuming we all know what it means.

Um, but I think it's worth sitting on just for a. Well,

Nathaniel McGuire: corporately too. You know what's so hard? Um, it has to do with, you know, you're in a work environment and part of the goal is to rise at any cost, right? Part of it is to make more money and to climb, uh, a kind corporate ladder. So, you know, you never wanna say, I'm not gonna make more money or climb because this position that is opening.

That everybody is, getting trained for, or they may have some education. I can't say I don't feel like I'm the best at on the interview for this, right? Um, the, the last thing you should say is that I can't do, or I'm afraid I can't do a good job. So there's a certain type of vulnerability, when you're trying to get a job.

That, I mean, anytime in, in those situations, like, you know, you can't say that. So most people in any job, deep down, they don't know how good they're gonna be at this, you know, But they have to sell themselves. So that's always a part of the state. to me it's the same form of like false humility, right?

It's like you just refuse to really. who you are in that moment. Um, but when you're trying to go for something, you gotta sell it. And so to me that's why it's so, heavily involved with people trying to get jobs like we really should all kinda have a sense of somewhat of an imposter syndrome because what, what you have to sell about yourself in that moment.

You're like, Can I really fulfill all this? I do know I need this paycheck and I do know this seems like a cool title, , but can I, can I really do everything that I'm saying that I'm gonna do? Do they really expect me to do what I just. That I, that I just sold to them, And I can't believe I really said I can do all that, you know?

And, and I've never really done that in certain positions. So, you know, a part of that I think is just the human process. That if you're a decent person, you're probably wondering, can I really fulfill everything I just said? I'm gonna fulfill when I, apply for this job. You know? So I think it just comes hand in.

With the work environment. Environment.

Tiffany Sauder: That's a really good point. We met kind of in the like, Just right after the center of Covid and you've been a therapist for a long time and you were just like buried under the weight of helping the general public process.

Everything that happened we're like a year-ish out from I think what we would consider. Prime pandemic. What are you seeing? Just any general observations or things that we should all just have awareness of in our own lives or family's communities? What are you kind of seeing fears narrative is right now or what's kind of playing out, generally as you're talking to people?

Nathaniel McGuire: Well, you know, in my line of work, there's honestly, been a lot of great things. the stigma of mental health. Truly been highlighted. Christians woke up, uh, religious people woke up and said, Hey, um, I may have faith, but I might need some medication too. , you know, like, um, so that's been really good. one of the things I think, America doesn't realize that there are some things that are really never gonna be the same.

because a part of therapy, what you're hop. Of to have happened to someone to sit and be still and reflect, the pandemic cost people to do that. And a lot of people woke up and said, I'm not going to ever work like that again. What was I doing? Why was I working that hard and working that many hours and not spending time with my family and friends?

Nathaniel McGuire: And so, It's really hard for employers right now to find employees, in some of these occupations and some of these sectors because some people are not gonna work like that anymore. And, I think the country's catching up and trying reconcile. so a lot of these things are really good because what it did, it just caused us to stop when we were on this treadmill.

And, there really hasn't been a return to that, what's been hard is, cuz there's so much death too and so much loss, um, kind of to talk about this other.

That has also been healthy. it's as if we all got put in timeout, right? like, we were all reprimanded for a little bit and that's kind of the experience and a lot of people really learned from being in that timeout. So overwhelmingly that's what I've seen as a result of the pandemic that was really,

Tiffany Sauder: Yeah.

Some of us did better in timeout than others. ,

Nathaniel McGuire: some of us still found things to do.

Tiffany Sauder: Oh yeah. That's right. You know, I, I credit this whole project with. I wasn't bored during the pandemic, but I needed a creative outlet and I, I'm such an externalizer and without people around,

I think I just needed help making sense of what I was going through. And so I know there's a lot of positive things that came out of, like you said, that time out Well, Nathaniel, it was awesome to have you back on. if anybody listening would like to go through the fear journey, we'll put Nathaniel's contact information and show notes so that you can reach out to him. Uh, I've shared so many times it's been so life changing for me, and he's, uh, generously shared with us some of the questions he asks. So we'll also provide a link to the download that we created with.

But Nathaniel, thanks for coming back on and helping us continue to sort through fear and what it's trying to quiet in each of us.

Nathaniel McGuire: Thank you so much, Tiffany. and I just wanna say it's been awesome watching you, use your gift, to help others cause that's the number one thing comes to still is your gift and your ability to bless others.

Tiffany: So it's been awesome to go on this journey with you. So thank you Tiffany. Thanks. After this conversation with Nathaniel. It was reminded of a question that I got recently after I gave a presentation on Living Scare, Confident, and the question from the audience was, is fear something that you actually can tackle like that? It's done, you're recovered, it has no role in your life at all, or is a constant journey a constant?

Like battle of managing it, and I wish I would've remembered to ask Nathaniel that question next time we have him on. Remind me because I want to ask him the question, but my answer was that I think it's a journey. I think it's about having tools and those tools being able to be like used and pulled out almost more subconsciously, where like right now, I have like an awareness.

I know my triggers. I know like the way my body reacts when fear is actually making decisions instead of me and my priorities and my goals. And then I'm able to like consciously stop and say, Okay, fear is taking over. That's not how I'm gonna live my life. Here is the tool that I'm gonna use. Fear go away.

And then I'm back on track. And I think that as you practice that, It starts to become more subconscious. So my opinion, my perspective, my experience, maybe this far in the journey is that it's not that fear is no more, but I feel way more on top of it

Thank you for joining me on another episode of Scared Confident. Until next time, keep telling fear. You will not decide what happens in my life. I. . If you wanna get the inside scoop, sign up for my newsletter. We decided to make content for you instead of social media algorithms.

The link is waiting for you in show notes, or you can head over to tiffanysauder.com. Thanks for listening.

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