From Overachieving to Self-Forgiveness: Interview with Geneviève Pépin
Time to Rise – Ask the Author Series
Originally published on Make Your Mark Global, June 7, 2018.
Geneviève Pépin is an accredited life coach on a mission to help women around the world feel great about themselves from the inside out. She provides actionable coaching to help her clients realign their life with who they really are and continue their journey to a whole other level.
Geneviève’s story in Time to Rise is her first-hand account of pushing herself to her very limits. As with all of us who overachieve, there came a breaking point. With a diagnosis of high-functioning depression, the realization that she was her own harshest critic set in.
What follows is Geneviève’s account of giving herself permission to embody that understanding, and make bold changes for the better.
Dr. Andrea – So I’d love to start by getting a sense of your backstory. Because right now from the outside looking in, you seem to have it all. But there was a time when you were doing what so many of us do – trying to live up to big expectations. And part of that took you to China! So tell us about that.
Geneviève – You know, sharing my story in Time to Rise helped me to get more perspective on it, too. But yes, I‘ve always been very ambitious, and I‘ve always seen myself in a well-fitted suit, working in a big city, doing important things. So I studied business and was really determined to create a resume that would give me a head start. The idea was that if I had an amazing resume, then career-wise I wouldn’t have to worry.
Dr. Andrea – And what gave you this idea that accolades and achievements on your resume would be the answer? What influenced you?
Geneviève – I’ve always been pushed, in a good way, to strive for excellence. I was always in the top classes at school, and in a high-achieving achievement environment. So this was a natural progression for me.
When I was 20 I was invited to go backpacking around Europe. At first I didn’t think I could, as I hadn’t planned for it – I hadn’t even thought this would be possible! But I decided to try, so I saved up really hard for 6 months and I went. that experience, I realized that what ever I wanted to do, I could achieve it if I worked really hard.
Dr. Andrea – So then what was it that led to your depression?
Geneviève – When I got to University and was doing everything I could to get the grades, I got a scholarship to study in China. I thought, “This will look amazing on my resume!”
I didn’t expect to fall in love with the culture or the language – in fact I thought the language would be impossible! But I had this amazing sense of freedom over there. I reapplied for a second year, and stayed on another year.
Eventually I returned to Canada to finish my business studies.
Well, I didn’t expect moving back to be as hard as moving away. But it took a huge re-adjustment. Sure, I knew the language and it wasn’t anything new. But it wasn’t easy to re-integrate.
So my approach was to do everything. I signed up for every association I could join at University. And the pressure escalated, and I broke down. So I was diagnosed with functional depression.
Dr. Andrea – And how was your family? Were they surprised, or had they seen you pushing yourself too hard?
Geneviève – So my family was very supportive of me going away. I always felt like they believed in me and what I was doing. I think that while they were telling me I was pushing myself, I didn’t let it show that it was affecting me. I kept up the façade that I was happy and doing what I wanted. I didn’t consider the warnings.
You need to be able to manage your emotions, and to be responsible for yourself. And at the time I just didn’t have that mindset.
All of my life I’ve been very body conscious, as I was over weight as a child. So growing up I had been telling myself; okay, I’m not very pretty, but I’m very smart. As my depression progressed I remember the feeling of my brain shutting down. I remember not being able to answer questions, just drawing a blank.
So having identified as smart, but not pretty, I then felt very defeated. If I wasn’t smart now, then what did I have? Then I started to consider that maybe I was pretty, but I was dumb. But not being able to accept this, I was trying to work even harder to overcome this feeling.
And of course then came the imposter syndrome…
When you feel like you are an imposter, and people are telling you, “you are a machine, you can do anything,” but you really feel that’s not the case at all – a gap grows between who people think you are, and who you think you are. The bigger that gap grows, the worse you feel. As to where the pressure came from, there was something about imagining the faces of those who had seen me fail in some way.
Dr. Andrea – So when did you have the epiphany that snapped you out of this way of thinking?
Geneviève – It was after the depression diagnosis, I got up and started working again. More opportunities came up, but I wasn’t coping. I couldn’t manage my emotions, so I would end up quitting a job. But then I’d take a new job and convince myself THIS would be the one!
When I moved to Spain to be with the love of my life, whom I’m so grateful for, I took a job there. I thought this would be fine, I’m away from all the madness. But it happened again. The same cycle was repeating itself – and I didn’t know what was wrong with me.
But when I realised, then I started to get it.
Dr. Andrea – So when you realized and accepted that the problem was within you, how did you cope with that? Because for some of us, that realization can push us further down the rabbit hole. So, how did you take the right perspective to say, “Okay, I’m the one who can fix this problem.” How did you turn it around to a positive?
Geneviève – I asked for help. I hired a coach and I started my personal development journey, where I began to appreciate the power and choice that I had.
In the end it came down to giving myself permission. But I didn’t know that’s what I needed, so it wasn’t what I went looking for in the beginning.
I hadn’t realized that I’d been handing over my power to other people by seeking their approval.
Even though it was not direct approval, but it never occurred to me at the time. I just believed that others knew better than me.
Dr. Andrea – I know that these themes of giving yourself permission and empowerment are very much in the work you do with other women now. And I’m wondering, how about forgiveness – did that play a part for you?
Geneviève – Absolutely. Especially as I was a recovering perfectionist. Forgiving myself was a really key change of mindset for me. From this new perspective I save so much time and energy, allowing myself to learn and move forwards, instead of staying stuck, beating myself up. It does take practise. But it’s about learning to let go of old patterns a little bit at a time.
If you would like to learn more about Geneviève’s work, you can visit her site here: https://nettolacoaching.com/nettola-home/ If you’d like to watch the full interview on YouTube, scroll to the bottom of this post.
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