Confronting Fear, High Functioning Anxiety, and Insecurity For A Better Law Firm

What happens when you are faced with fear and high anxiety?


Attorneys are used to being empowered and in control. So when something happens in their sphere of experience that feels a bit out of control, they try to just push it down, to the side, or ignore it. They have a lot of their esteem based on their skills and how they show up in the world. They oftentimes feel very, very insecure about even admitting to insecurity.


Let’s discuss a better way to approach these triggers…


In this episode we discuss:

  • How to manage anxiety in front of groups.
  • Deeper mindset skills around how we are showing up in our profession.
  • How to manage emotions and feelings effectively.
  • If we’re not moving our bodies our mental health suffers.


Allison Williams: [00:00:05] Hi, everybody. It’s Allison Williams here, your host of The Crushing Chaos with Law Firm Mentor Podcast. Law Firm Mentor is a business coaching service for solo and small law firm attorneys. We help you to grow your revenues, crush chaos in business and make more money.


Deb Bilbao: [00:00:33] I am your guest host today. I am Deb Bilbao. Excuse me. I am one of our lead coaches here at Law Firm Mentor and I am so excited to have this conversation with, with Ingela Onstad. She is a performance anxiety coach, a highly trained opera singer if you can believe that. But we are so excited. So thank you so much, Ingela, for being here.


Ingela Onstad: [00:01:01] Yeah, thank you for having me, Deb, I’m really excited to discuss where my background and the law profession intersect.


Deb Bilbao: [00:01:09] Yeah, absolutely. So let’s, let’s dive right in. So let’s talk about how you actually got to the point where you’re like, okay, I’m going to found courageous artistry.


Ingela Onstad: [00:01:19] Yeah, well, without boring you, with too many of the gory details, I devoted my life to being a professional opera singer until about my early thirties, and I was living abroad and things were going fairly well, but I just needed a change. So I moved back to my home state of New Mexico and I continue to sing on a freelance basis. But meanwhile, I decided I wanted to explore a career in mental health. So I am also a licensed mental health counselor a.k.a psychotherapist in the state of New Mexico. And for a long time, people would ask me the question, Well, you know, are you doing music therapy? Well, why are you not sort of combining music and therapy? And I always thought I wanted to keep it separate. And then I just kept getting these phone calls and late-night text messages from musician colleagues of mine who were in a panic about an upcoming audition or performance. And I found that I was really able to help them in a way that was unique, that they might not have been able to get the same amount of help or the same type of help from a friend, or from, a mentor, or from a teacher, or maybe not even from a quote-unquote regular therapist. So I found that with my knowledge of what it takes to be performing at really high levels, and then also my background in psychotherapy gave me a unique business. And so I founded Courageous Artistry a couple of years back, originally with the intention of helping only performing artists, sort of like a sports psychologist, but for performers.


Ingela Onstad: [00:02:46] And then once again, the universe just kept talking to me and I kept on in my personal life, I actually have a ton of friends who are attorneys. Some of my best friends in the world, who I’ve known for many, many years, happened to all be attorneys. I don’t know why, but that’s just how it is. And they kept telling me, you know, these skills that you’re teaching could be really, really valuable for the law profession as well. And so a while back, I started kind of putting out some feelers and I’ve had great success working with attorneys and also with other professionals. So the way I talk about my business now is, although it’s still called courageous artistry, I like to point out that we are all performers. We’re all artists in some way, whether we are stepping into the courtroom, whether we are in client negotiations, whether we are pitching to a client to win their business, whether we are, you know, you name it, whether we’re standing up and giving a speech at a wedding or at a professional function, a presentation, even on Zoom, we’re all called upon to perform in some way, or most of us are called upon to perform in our professional lives. Yet as far as I know, as far as everyone has told me, this is not a part of law school. Nobody is teaching people how to use their voice, their body…


Deb Bilbao: [00:03:58] No, it is not.


Ingela Onstad: [00:04:00] Nobody is teaching these sorts of presentational performance skills. And so I really find that it’s so fun and enjoyable and my clients really benefit from learning a little bit about voice, body, and also anxiety management in front of groups and also working on sort of deeper mindset skills around how we are showing up in our profession.


Deb Bilbao: [00:04:23] Absolutely. So before we started recording the podcast, I told, Ingela about what, you know, my background as an, as an elite athlete, former Fastpitch softball player, and then a Division one coach. And, and how much, most people don’t understand or just perceive, they see these elite athletes or they see these performers on stage and they think, oh, it must be so easy for them to just dictate their mindset and be able to show up with grace and honor and gratitude and all those things. And behind the scenes, it’s there’s just stewing and really struggling. And I think what is really important and you and I are going to get into this is, is everybody is a performer like you say. Everybody shows up and they have to either speak in public at some point or specifically with our group of law firm owners and attorneys. Is, is how do they show up in a courtroom or how do they show up in a consultation or those kinds of things? So, so let’s dove right in. Let’s, let’s talk about what are the things that, you know, inherently are the things that you’ve learned that are true about attorneys that you’ve worked with? What are the things, the insecurities, the things right away that come up that most people want to avoid?


Ingela Onstad: [00:05:39] Sure. And I’ll be really frank with you and some people might feel a little called out, but I hope it’ll resonate with them. In my experience, both knowing a lot of attorneys in my personal life and then also working with attorneys. Attorneys are a specific slice of a professional, larger, professional sort of ecosystem that have based a lot of their self-esteem and ego in a, in a good way, right? We all have ego and in both good and bad ways on being highly competent, on being highly professional, on being highly intelligent, highly persuasive, etc. So many attorneys have all of these skills. They’re very confident in their knowledge. They’re confident in their abilities as a professional. And when they start feeling insecure, oftentimes that feels so uncomfortable to them. So let’s say they are insecure about public speaking in general in whatever way it might happen in their career, or even if it’s one on one pitching to a client, etc. When they start feeling these pangs of anxiety or insecurity. In my experience, this is oftentimes a group of people, they feel very uncomfortable with that emotion. It’s not desirable. They are used to being highly powered and powerful and empowered and in control. So when something happens in their sphere of experience that feels a bit out of control, they oftentimes try to just push it down or push it to the side or ignore it. So I find that this is a group because they, they have a lot of, of their esteem based on their skills and how they show up in the world. They oftentimes feel very, very insecure about even admitting to insecurity. So it’s kind of that idea of like one drop of blood in the water and the sharks will come racing.


Deb Bilbao: [00:07:31] Yeah. Oh, no, absolutely. I mean, this is, this is really just it’s, I’m really excited about this, as you can tell. It’s just I’m very passionate about discussing this in general. But coming, having it come to light. Right. Pulling back the curtain on things that we don’t want to admit that’s happening to us. Right. So, so many of our clients and attorneys that I know have these very similar things you’re talking about. It’s, it’s like this elephant in the room, right. That they don’t want to admit, oh, I can’t be seen as somebody that’s not confident, or knowledgeable, or somebody might have anxiety, or somebody that just shows up this way. And so let’s, let’s get into some of the things once you recognize that and I’m sure just with your psychotherapy background as well, you know, there’s some peeling back of the layers to figure out what is really those two or three triggers right for them. So why don’t you take it, kind of take us through what, what are some of the things you do early on when you start working with somebody right, that you, you go through this process, the evaluation process, kind of talk us through that to get to the point where you can start creating interventions, you can start creating these coaching opportunities. So kind of walk us through that situation.


Ingela Onstad: [00:08:44] Yeah, I’d love to. I think the first step is just from my own professional standpoint, is building an environment of trust and openness. So I work really hard at the beginning to establish rapport with my client. I meet with them for a consultation that’s free and I do my best to really connect with that person, really listen to them and to also and this is a very therapist skill to repeat back things that they’re saying to me, to make sure that I’ve understood, but also to show them I am truly listening. And sometimes when I say, well, my gist of the situation would be this, or this is my interpretation. And I’ll say to them, Do you agree with that? Is what I’m saying? Correct. And if not, it’s always an opportunity for them to say, well, not exactly like this, but more like this. So I think building of that, the building of that rapport is, is just the most important thing that happens in the process because they’re going to feel vulnerable admitting these things to anyone, and oftentimes maybe admitting it to a perfect stranger is easier than admitting it to someone else that we’re close to. But it can also be mighty vulnerable to admit your fears and your anxieties and insecurities to a perfect stranger. So I like to just normalize that and let them know that part of the process is that you will feel a little vulnerable or you’ll feel weird talking about some of these things, especially if you’ve been hiding them away just inside your own self for a very long time.


Ingela Onstad: [00:10:07] This can also be very dependent upon gender, generation, all sorts of things, right? Region of the world where you come from, your family, etc. Then the next part of the process is getting to know them. What have they come to coaching to achieve? What are their pain points? What are they looking to achieve? And then the next part is really, I try to normalize what’s going on with them for them. So I do a lot of explanation of sort of the biological and physiological manifestations of fear. And I think we could kind of lump anxiety, insecurity, nerves, all of that under, under the umbrella of the broader, very vital human emotion of fear. So it all stems from some type of fear, fear that we won’t be liked, fear that we will be judged, fear that we will fail, feel that we will be, fear that we will be shown to be an imposter, etc. So once I can kind of teach them that anxiety is a normal part of being a human being and here is what’s going on in the body, and here is how it manifests emotionally, and here’s what our thoughts are cognitions might look like as part of this process. A lot of people, I think, find that to be a very, very valuable part of what I do, because they, they literally breathe a sigh of relief and they go, oh, I am not the only one. You know.


Deb Bilbao: [00:11:34] I’m not alone. Right.


Ingela Onstad: [00:11:36] Exactly.


Deb Bilbao: [00:11:37] It’s a really, it really is. It’s an isolating profession. Right. And yes. And I think, there are so many, even as a performer, you’ve been around all kinds of different performers. When you’re out there, you’re by yourself, right and it very feels very much feels like, oh, my gosh, I’m in it by myself, nobody else can possibly be feeling these things. So I’m glad you brought that up. So why don’t we talk about that and lead on and talk more about that situation?


Ingela Onstad: [00:12:02] Yeah, great. So yeah, that, that feeling of I’m not alone in this. And you and I were talking before we started recording about how interesting Slash strange Slash said it is that we as humans, at least currently in our society, don’t receive a lot of education or information about our emotional and mental health. Only when it becomes a quote-unquote problem do we suddenly start maybe learning more about it, or many times when it becomes a quote-unquote problem. That’s not even always the time where we then look to get help or understand it better. Sometimes we turn to numbing ourselves through certain destructive behaviors like substance abuse or other types of addictions. Sometimes we become workaholics so that we don’t have to think about how we feel. You know, attorneys, I would say, by and large, compared to, for example, my performing artist group that I work with are very head focused individuals. They live very much in the sort of above the neck realm, right in the intellectual realm. And that’s rightly so. That’s what the profession requires. What this sometimes leads to is that people can become rather cut off from what’s going on, from the chin down, right? What’s happening in my body, how are my emotions showing up in my body? So to many attorneys, this will feel a little touchy-feely and woo-woo. And I try to just bring it back home and say, yeah, it’s actually just biology, and feelings, and emotions are also part of our biology that are there for a reason. It’s not a weakness. It’s not about never feeling these things or learning how to make them fully go away. It’s about learning how to manage them effectively.


Ingela Onstad: [00:13:45] And then the next part of the process, once we can get through the Oh, I’m not alone and this is how our biology works, then the next part of the process is kind of the fun part of let’s experiment with some tools and some strategies and resources that you’re going to go out and take into your daily life and practice with. And then you’re going to report back to me next time I see you. On how that worked for you and if it didn’t work for you, great. That’s just more information for us to build on and then I can further design or look for resources and strategies that are going to be fitting for you. But yeah, it’s, it’s always fun to kind of this will sound rather jarring, I’m sure, to some people to see people kind of break open a little bit and access deeper levels of their own humanity and hopefully with me that they have found a safe environment to do so. And they also trust me enough because of my credentials, to try out some of the methods that I’m going to suggest to them. Because, you know, when we are very head-focused individuals, we tend to want to fix all problems with our mighty brain.


Deb Bilbao: [00:14:52] Yeah.


Ingela Onstad: [00:14:52] And there are some cognitive techniques that we can use. But sometimes I always say to people, if you could have thought your way out of these issues, you would have done so already. Yeah, we wouldn’t be sitting here.


Deb Bilbao: [00:15:06] Yeah, no. I mean, that’s absolutely dead on. And I think what we’re discussing before we started recording today about I have a background as an elite athlete and I’ve said that, but I think most people look at any performer as you just are naturally those things. Right. And, and most performers, elite athletes, anyone, somebody that’s an opera singer, or dancer, or actor, or attorney, whatever it might be, or we have to show up in the world a certain way that it’s so comfortable. Right. And there are many times that as much training as I’ve had and I’m very passionate about this because it’s a critical piece to learn how to we can only think our way out of so many things. Right. You talked about cutting yourself off. And, And what I found in coaching and as I’ve done this over the years, whether it was an athlete, whether it was a business owner, whether it’s an attorney, whether it’s a friend of mine, it’s most human beings really want to have a connection with their full body. But whether it’s societal, whether it’s cultural, whether it’s based on male, female, professionalism, or whatever it might be, we tend to cut off the things that are super uncomfortable for us because it’s not the norm.


Deb Bilbao: [00:16:28] Right? So but I’ve also found that when you own every piece of you, right, you become vulnerable, you open up, you kind of it’s so much more comfortable because you are who you are. Vulnerability now isn’t a taboo. It is something that you just own. It’s a piece of you. And that’s very empowering. So let’s, let’s talk a little bit about some of those tools you talked about. I talk about tools in your toolbox, and you’ve got to, you’ve got to figure out if that tool works for you, because some don’t. I found that there are some forms of meditation that don’t work for me. Deep breathing works for me, visualization works for me. But there’s things that don’t work for me. So let’s talk to us a little bit about some of those tools. S,o so if I’m an attorney listening to this podcast, what are some of the tools that I can start looking at playing with a little bit?


Ingela Onstad: [00:17:17] Yeah, that’s a very important part of the process, and I speak about it in almost exactly the same way. I say we have to have a wide and varied tool kit, right? If we go to an auto mechanic, they don’t just have wrenches. So we have to have all of the tools and we have to know that these, how these tools work. And we need to experiment with them and say, is this the right tool for this situation? Yes, no. Maybe, maybe I need more information. Maybe I need to practice it more. And these tools cannot just be practiced in the moments of high distress. They have to actually be, in my estimation, practiced in sort of our normal everyday lives so that when we are in moments of high stress, which is essentially just being our system, being in fight or flight or freeze, that they will be so deeply ingrained that we will remember to do them. So oftentimes what people want to do, especially people who are used to being smart and in control and capable, they want to just sort of get the quick fix, oh, let me just do this one little thing, and then I’ll feel better and then I can move on from this uncomfortable situation that I’m in. But when we are in fight, flight or freeze our prefrontal cortex, which is our sort of most human part of our brain, most evolved part of our brain, the part of the brain we need for problem-solving and using rationale and logic and all of these things, it loses blood flow. And the lizard brain or our fear system gains blood flow. So if our prefrontal cortex is losing blood flow, not only are we not maybe going to be able to make our arguments as well in the courtroom, but we’re also going to have a harder time remembering some of these tools unless they have been more deeply ingrained. So I look at things from basically three different perspectives and some work better for some and some work better for others. But I encourage almost all of my clients to try all areas out. Where most people tend to feel most comfortable right away is through cognitive means. So we do what’s known as thought work, where we become more aware of, we practice becoming more aware of what our brain is saying all day long because many of us don’t even realize that the brain is just sort of an opinion maker. It’s very, very little of what we’re thinking is truly fact. A lot of it is just falsehood. A lot of it is just opinions that the brain is producing about ourselves and about the world. And we have something like 20 to 40000 thoughts per day. Predominantly these are negative thoughts, and that’s because thinking negatively and being able to predict disaster, which attorneys are excellent at, right. Being able to, to foreshadow all of the eventualities.


Deb Bilbao: [00:19:53] Absolutely.


Ingela Onstad: [00:19:55] Right. This keeps us this is actually a survival mechanism. It’s, it’s meant to be that way. So we do have to work a little harder to overcome a lot of the patterns of negative thinking. So this is, this is based in something called cognitive behavioral therapy, which is just about looking at our thoughts and assessing whether these thoughts are hurting us or whether these thoughts are helping us. And it’s not, I like to let people know, it’s not just about positive affirmations, because positive affirmations are going to work in some situations for some people. But we sort of live in this culture where we think we’re just going to fix everything with some positive affirmations. But if we think about it on a more logical basis, if I’m feeling very insecure in one area of my profession, or let’s say I’ve got a big speech to give at an alumni function next week, and I don’t often stand up and give speeches to hundreds of people. I probably can’t believe myself when I tell myself I’m a great public speaker, right? If I don’t have a ton of experience speaking in front of large crowds, if I tell myself that that’s my positive affirmation, I’m a wonderful speaker. My brain fires up and goes, That’s, that’s not true. You’re full of it. Right? So we have to then work on finding thoughts that are more helpful. So, for example, I might help a client try to sort of reprogram their thoughts in a way. And if they’re worrying about the public speaking opportunity, they might want to practice thinking a thought such as even though I’m not very skilled at speaking in front of large groups, I know with time and utilizing support and resources, I can get better at this, right? Or even though I’m not incredibly experienced at speaking in front of large groups, I can remember that I’m really well prepared. And likely nobody will notice how nervous I am. So that’s not a positive affirmation. It’s just about finding sort of a helping, supportive, yet realistic thought that we can more likely latch on to. So that’s part of the kind of cognitive sphere of things that I do with people. And then there’s definitely the physical sphere where I teach them deep breathing exercises that are very specific, where I talk about self-care. If we are treating our bodies like a piece of garbage, we cannot expect to feel content, and peaceful, and confident, right? So we do take a lot of looks at self-care in people’s lives and try to design and strategize ways in which they can just fit in a little bit more. Attorneys are notorious for saying, I don’t have time for that. I have too many billable hours I have to make. I can’t do that. And my argument is always, you can’t not do some of this if you want your body and brain to be functioning as well as they can.


Deb Bilbao: [00:22:36] Oh, my gosh, you’ve had it. I mean, that’s a societal issue, right?


Ingela Onstad: [00:22:40] Yes, definitely.


Deb Bilbao: [00:22:41] It’s we’ve been kind of taught, whether it’s from a young age, culturally like we’ve talked about, or it could be societal, it could be a number of things is we’re taught to put ourselves last. Right. I’ve got to give, give, give, give to everybody else. And then there’s nothing left for me. And in all reality, it’s we’ve got to put the mask on ourselves first and do that so that we talk a lot about that with our clients, with, with self-care and so talk to me. Let’s dive into that because I think it’s so important because people think self-care has to be this huge deal. Right? It’s got to be these 25 things that I do every day. Yeah, they take. And that’s just not realistic. Yeah, yeah. It’s not realistic. Like you’ve got to have a life and do some other things too. So let’s talk about, give us some guidance on things that you would recommend specifically for attorneys on what are some of the things that they can start incorporating that, that might help them with their own personal self-care?


Ingela Onstad: [00:23:36] Yeah, one of the biggest issues I find overall in society, and I saw this in my years as a therapist as well, because one of the questions I had to ask in the intake procedure was, How are you sleeping? What is your sleep like? And it was absolutely astounding to me that it was a rarity for someone to say, I actually sleep pretty well. Or I get yeah, I get seven, 8 hours of sleep per night. So that happened so rarely that it really made me understand, aha, sleep is a big problem in our society and I know that attorneys are fond of burning the midnight oil or sometimes waking up really, really early to accomplish things. Nobody likes this piece of advice, but it’s completely supported by science. At the very least, we should try to keep our wake-up time the same every day. Now, that’s sort of step number one in what we would call sleep hygiene, which is just the science of sleep, keeping the wake-up time every day. And I don’t need to go into great detail about this because that could be a whole other podcast is going to help the body regulate its sleep and wakefulness hormones. It knows at what time we are rising. Then the next step, once you’ve been able to hopefully wake up at the same time every day if you can, sometimes people are awake in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep, right? Insomnia is a real struggle, especially for people who are very stressed out or very anxious.


Ingela Onstad: [00:24:57] The next step is try to go to bed at a regular bedtime. Now, if you are an insomniac and this is already sounding terrible to you, I would advise you talk to a medical professional about it and do some research and reading on sleep hygiene. You know, we do need to strive for 6 to 8 hours of sleep. And anybody who says, oh, I function fine on three, well, you know, that’s going to catch up with you eventually. I think there are very few people who actually can do that in a healthy fashion. So sleep is oftentimes where I begin with people, if they are having trouble, no devices in the bedroom at night. You can’t expect to be reading emails from clients or from colleagues and then have your head hit the pillow and fall right asleep. So not only is the blue light incredibly stimulating to our brain because our brain believes it’s daylight entering through our eyeballs but we are then consumed with the topic or the subject matter that we’ve just been reading about. So, you know, many attorneys are very much attached to their devices and constantly checking email and writing things, and taking phone calls. And it can be really hard. People will often fight me on it. Oh, I couldn’t possibly do that. You know, I’ve had clients before who have said, Oh no, it’s perfectly reasonable for my boss to call me at 3 a.m. and my eyebrows fly off the top of my head when I hear things like that, you know? So sleep is precious and is an essential ingredient to our mental health and we can just make some small changes there, hopefully, and see some improvements.


Ingela Onstad: [00:26:27] And then the next step is truly exercise. But it doesn’t have to be a class. It doesn’t have to be anything super focused or dedicated. If you’re not an exerciser, taking a ten-minute walk per day could do wonders for you because. It’s not just about the exercise, right? It’s not about fitness. I like to kind of take the, the body and physical appearance stigma out of the exercise recommendation. It’s not about getting your bikini body, it’s about your mental health. If we’re not moving, our mental health suffers. So even if it’s a five-minute walk around your building on your lunch break, or a ten-minute walk in the morning, or a ten-minute walk after work, that is a chance for your body to move. That’s a chance for your thought processes to change. So I just always advise really, really small baby steps. But once we’ve built the habit, for example, of taking a five-minute stroll on our lunch break, it’s much easier to turn that into a 15-minute stroll. And once we’ve turned it into 15 minutes, we see, Oh, this is doable. And I just kind of I eat my lunch and then I take this little walk and then I come back, people are going to see that they’re refreshed. Their thinking will be clearer, they’ll be more focused. So it’s really to me, it all comes back to what are we doing with our bodies that helps improve our mental and emotional state.


Deb Bilbao: [00:27:48] Yeah, absolutely. And the work thing is, is the sleep thing is critical, but the walk thing too, I mean, I talk a lot about calendar in their lives, right. And people are obviously they’re very resistant to that because. Oh, I’m, I’m so busy, but they can’t possibly think that. What are you actually busy doing? Right.


Ingela Onstad: [00:28:07] Right.


Deb Bilbao: [00:28:08] And I also taught middle school, which we talked a little bit before we started the podcast. But I say we’re worse than middle schoolers because we’ve got to get up. You’re not designed, we’re not designed to be butts in the chairs for hours on end. Right. We’ve got to get up. And our brain in general needs that mental hiatus, so to speak, that needs that break to just get up, and 5 minutes walking and getting water intake is critical to the hydration level of us being able to process. Actually at a high level is hydration, being able to walk just a little bit and sleep. Those three things inherently would help people a ton, but it’s really taking the time to say, I get to commit to this one day at a time so that it becomes the habit that I just want to have, right? So when you first start diving in with a client and you’re talking about these, these strategies to start putting themselves first, what is usually the resistance you’ve talked a little bit about? Oh, I can’t possibly do that. But let’s talk about what are some of the resistance that might be below the surface that we don’t even know are happening?


Ingela Onstad: [00:29:15] Yeah, that’s a good question. And at most, I can probably just take a stab at it. And I do this often with clients. I’ll say, you know, I have a hunch that this is really about X, Y, and Z instead of what we’re actually talking about right now. You know, and I’d say most of the time, my, my instincts are correct because I’ve been doing this work long enough. I think a lot of us have a deep fear of not working. So when we are working or and I use this with air quotes because half of the work we’re doing, if we’re butts in the seats from 8:00 am to 8 p.m., there’s no way that we can focus for that long. So a lot of that is wasted time, actually. Right. And everybody knows what their time wasters are. For most of us, it’s something like social media or we’re picking the low-hanging fruit of tasks. We’re picking the thing that sounds easiest because we know that it’ll make us feel good to have accomplished something. And we are not always prioritizing the hardest, highest level tasks that are kind of getting procrastinated on or pushed back. Right. I know there’s a lot of procrastination, a lot of last-minute brief writing that goes on, a lot of things like that that are happening, you know, pulling all-nighters, etc. You know, I think it’s, it’s a fear of, you know, a fear of not being worthy is what a lot of our issues boil down to in this human existence.


Ingela Onstad: [00:30:39] We fear that if we’re not seen as hardworking or that we’re not in our desk as long as other people take a lunch break forbid that we will be judged, that we will no longer be successful, that we won’t be welcomed into the group. It’s so important for us humans, whether we like this or not. It’s very important from a biological level to be embedded within community. And this hearkens back to our earliest days in evolution of survival, and we were running with smaller groups or tribes, and had we been kicked out from our group or our tribe that we were with, that could have meant death for us. But not only that, had we not been able to be socially accepted and welcomed into the group, a person with high social skills or high likability would have had more access to food and resources and mates, and we are still functioning in that way in many ways, even though it’s not how society functions anymore, at least not here in the States or in in the Western world. So we have to, I think, recognize that this is, these are deeply programed functions. And, and we can’t ignore them. We can’t pretend like, oh, I don’t care if people like me. That’s a load of BS you do. You can’t avoid it. And we show that humans who get very isolated from society or groups have much higher rates of all of the problems in the world. It’s, it’s a for children who are isolated, you know, in an orphanage, you know, in certain countries who don’t receive a lot of human contact, they are forever changed by that. So, you know, I think a lot of it just boils down to this fear of worthiness. And I think a lot of it is also maybe what we would refer to and this isn’t a necessarily a diagnosable problem, but what a lot of people would talk about is high functioning anxiety. And high functioning anxiety can actually look super productive, super in control, super spot on, on time, doing all the right things, getting applauded by all the right people. So a lot of really highly successful and type-A personalities, I would say, are dealing with some level of what we call high functioning anxiety. Now, it doesn’t appear like anxiety to a lot of people, but we know it’s anxiety. If we tell them, hey, slow down for a moment and take a walk for 5 minutes and then they come at you with, I couldn’t possibly. Yeah, right. As if, as if what they are doing is literally life or death, which we know it is not that 5 minutes, right? Unless we’re a surgeon saving lives in, in the surgery room. Right. It’s not life or death, but our, our biology is, is telling us that it is. And so that’s a, that’s a clue of some high functioning anxiety that people might be coping with and not realizing.


Deb Bilbao: [00:33:28] Yeah, we definitely we’ve talked about that, too. I’ve had that private discussion with a lot of our clients in one on one meetings, but it’s a lot of there’s two it leads back to the I call it the devil of comparison, right? Yeah. We’re naturally based on our biology. We naturally compare. I say we’re too smart for our own good.


Ingela Onstad: [00:33:46] Yes, I agree.


Deb Bilbao: [00:33:47] Is, is when we’re high functioning and in that state of anxiety, how could we possibly do something else right. How could it be possible to slow down? How could it be possible because we wrap or I felt we wrapped our identity in being that. Whatever that is. So for me and a lot of people see this very vividly when it comes to, either athletes, or performers, or celebrities that are seen a lot when a deep change or something happens for them personally, it tends to blow up and not such a fantastic way. And so we get in judgment of them not realizing those people have created this way of operating. That is become who they are and it’s not necessarily who they’re meant to be. Right. So I oftentimes say when we’re having discussion is we get rewarded in our society when somebody says, oh, how are you? And you say, oh, my gosh, I’m really busy. Oh, yeah, right. You get rewarded for those things because our society, quote-unquote, we’ve been taught to value that. We don’t get valued for saying, oh my gosh, my life is great, I take care of myself, I have time to spend time with my family and to work and build this business like we don’t get rewarded for those things. People look at you like, are you nuts? Yeah. Right. All right. So some of the things that you’re talking about, let’s, let’s get into how, how some of these things with comparison. What are some tools or techniques people can get into and just paying attention to that devil of comparison. Right. So let’s get into some of that.


Ingela Onstad: [00:35:32] Yeah. I think, you know, just due to the way we are, we sort of view things as a zero-sum game or there’s one pie, and if you get a bigger piece than me, then that means I get a smaller piece. So we live in a lot of fear of scarcity and enoughness, right? And we’re always chasing the next goal. And I call this moving the goalpost. We, we fool ourselves into thinking that once we reach X goal, we will be happy and content and life will be grand.


Deb Bilbao: [00:35:59] And then we reach I’ll be enough, right? I’ll be enough for that.


Ingela Onstad: [00:36:01] I’ll finally feel good about myself. Yeah. Now we reach that goal and we go, Oh, well, maybe we celebrate for 2 seconds. And then we go, Now what do I need to do in order to be happy and content? So we’re chasing a lot of extrinsic or external validation and also, you know, external and extrinsic sources of self-esteem. And while those do feel good, right when I stepping out onto the stage for a concert or I do, I sing a beautiful aria and the audience applauds wildly. I can’t lie and say that doesn’t make me feel good. Of course, it does. Right. But the minute that applause is over and I’m walking off stage, my brain right away wants to go to the next problem. So what do I need to do better next time? Or what’s coming tomorrow? What can I worry about now? So I always encourage clients and this is probably a lifelong process that we are all going to be engaged in. To figure out how can I be? How can I take more responsibility for my self-validation? How can I make this internal and intrinsic? How can I receive the compliments and say thank you and appreciate that people are giving them to me or that organizations are giving them to me, while also just trying to be more responsible for my own sense of well-being. And I think a lot of us, you know, we feel a lot of emptiness. We’re chasing a lot of, of big goals and accolades, and we get them and we realize we’re still not happy. And that’s a sad moment, isn’t it, when you, you do the thing, you graduate law school or you land the big job with the big firm, or you start your own firm, and then you go, But wait, it’s still just me here. And so I want people to be happy, healthy, productive, successful. And that takes sometimes some, some rearranging of how they’re thinking about life or how they’re thinking about themselves. And it can be hard, right? It can be hard when a colleague lands a big client and you go, I wanted that, or maybe if you didn’t even want it, but in that moment you go, I want that. And you didn’t want it before, right? And we go, we just naturally compare. So it is, it’s very, it’s very human. And I think we can show ourselves some empathy for that. Like it’s natural to compare ourselves to others. That’s the only thing we really have to compare ourselves to yet. If we are viewing everything as finite and there’s only one pie, and if Joe gets more than me, that means I have a lot less. We’re going to be living in this constant scarcity mode and not enoughness where, as if we can say, That’s great for Joe and I recognize that I feel jealous. And it’s okay to feel jealous. It’s normal and healthy to feel jealous when I care about something or when I want something very badly.


Ingela Onstad: [00:38:45] How can I allow myself to feel that jealousy but then also not dwell in it? And let it. How can I learn to deal with my emotions in a way that’s like dealing with a rainy day, right? That the clouds come in and starts dumping rain on us? It doesn’t mean it’s going to stick around forever, but how can I sort of be present with that rain in that moment and then address it? It’s raining and this doesn’t feel good and I don’t like it. Rather than trying to plug our ears and go, la la la la la, I’m not jealous. It’s all fine. So, you know, a lot of what I do, and this is the more sort of therapist side of things is helping people process or learn how to process difficult emotions because we all will feel them. But if we try to pretend that we don’t, or if they consume us too much, then oftentimes that’s based in patterns of repetitive thinking where our thoughts have just kind of worn a groove and that we’re always looking at others. And if we can do some thought work and address those patterns, we can learn to kind of jump out of that, out of that groove in the brain and create a new groove that makes it more okay that other people can have success. And I can have success, too.


Deb Bilbao: [00:39:53] Yeah. I mean, I love so much of what you’re saying because oftentimes it’s like, you know, and I experienced this as an athlete when I was really struggling. And as I’ve become a professional and owned businesses I’ve gone through this is you’re trying to learn how to process and rationalize your own thoughts that they’re real and not necessarily fake. Well, I can’t possibly feel that way. Right. Well, we get to understand that there’s a lot, there’s a vast array of human emotions that we get to feel right. We get to feel those feelings. But realize if we stay in those moments and we just stay consumed by it, that’s not healthy either. Right. So it’s having this perspective of, yes, it’s healthy for me to do that. You mentioned something that’s, I think, really pivotal is looking at somebody else, a colleague or another business owner, and saying, wow, they really they’re really doing well instead of being a judgment of yourself saying, I want that, too, right? It’s okay to want that and go after that. You can do that your own way, right? It doesn’t have to be somebody else’s way. And opening up our mindset to the vast array of what’s available to us versus saying there’s only a finite amount of those clients, there’s only a finite amount of money and I don’t have access to that. Right. That is very much the push and pull, not enough comparison of our society versus scarcity. And so really shifting out of that and understanding that scarcity just keeps you small. Right. And I always say in our brain and you’ve, you’ve talked a lot about our cognitive ability, right? When we operate from our hindbrain and that reptilian brain, there are very little solutions there. Yes. There’s no solution. Right.


Ingela Onstad: [00:41:38] There’s only probably be killed.


Deb Bilbao: [00:41:40] Yes. There’s only like black or white. Right. So what we’ve actually talked about is more opening yourself up to the vast array of opportunity that you have one step at a time to improve how to perform in life, whether it’s showing up for family, whether it’s showing up for staff, whether it’s going into the courtroom, any of those things, it’s you’re not very far away from that success that you, you seek. But we always put it so far out, right? We always put it like, oh, I have to change 4 million things to get. And it’s just really just one step at a time to get there. So as we move towards wrap-up, is there anything left that you want to really dive into or is there anything left that you want to share about what you do, how you do it, how you serve, serve your community and other communities?


Ingela Onstad: [00:42:36] Yeah, I think sort of my final thoughts in situations like this are always to assure people that what they’re feeling and experiencing is perfectly normal. It may not feel good. You might be stuck in some of it, right? If we’re talking about anxiety or depression or constant worry, however, we might categorize it. But there are ways out and whether it’s by seeing a mental health professional or whether it’s working with a coach, you know, I think it’s just it can be empowering and encouraging to hear that you’re not stuck with how you are or how you view things, that if you put in just a small fraction of the work that you’ve put into, for example, building a successful legal career, you can see some big shifts. And it’s not, it’s not frivolous, it’s not woo woo. It’s just, it’s about your, your health and your happiness, your wellbeing. And I really think people can go on to create even bigger and better businesses when they are feeling happier and healthier and more in control and empowered to make changes in their lives. And yeah, some people work with me in a longer-term coaching fashion, but I also offer VIP intensive days actually specifically created for attorneys because they often use the excuse of I don’t possibly have time for that. Right? So if we can get…


Deb Bilbao: [00:43:58] Oh, we hear that every day here. I always giggle and laugh and say, that’s not true.


Ingela Onstad: [00:44:03] Yeah, but all about the billable hours. And so I’ve created a VIP intensive coaching package where we’re just we’re meeting on one day for a set amount of hours and we’re getting a lot done. And sometimes I think with attorneys, they can feel most motivated to do the type of work that is going to guarantee more money and success, and there’s nothing wrong with that. So I kind of sometimes sneak in through the back door as a coach and say, Hey, if you devoted these three or 4 hours to working with me, we might be able to help you make more money and have more success. And then I sneak in with some of the well-being stuff to write because they think, Oh, I don’t have time for well being. That just sounds too frivolous.


Deb Bilbao: [00:44:44] I know. Crazy. It’s such a critical piece to their success. Right? And it’s usually the first thing we throw out the window, right?


Ingela Onstad: [00:44:51] Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I know all sorts of bar associations and clubs are being offered on wellness, and health, and substance abuse and all of the things that are really, truly plaguing the law community.


Deb Bilbao: [00:45:05] Absolutely.


Ingela Onstad: [00:45:05] I think a lot of people still are a little bit in denial about maybe the older guard is still in denial or they’re thinking, are those people that they’re just the softer, younger generations or know? But we can’t deny that we’re going through a sort of national mental health crisis and have been for a while. Yeah. So anything we can do to take care of ourselves can help us be more successful in the long run and also be happier while doing so.


Deb Bilbao: [00:45:32] Absolutely. So talk to us about how we can find you, connect with you, follow you, those kinds of things. Let us know that.


Ingela Onstad: [00:45:40] Yeah, great. I have a website, courageous artistry dot com, you can also follow me on Instagram or Facebook at at Courageous Artistry. I’m there. Also on Tik Tok recently experimenting with that the whole world of tik-tok at courageous artistry. And then I’m on LinkedIn under Ingela Onstad, which is a little bit hard to spell, but I’m sure it’ll be in the show notes and so people can see it there. But I like to create a lot of free content. I do free office hours, I do a lot of free workshops. Yeah. So I love doing free stuff to get the word out there that help, help exists. And here’s how you can get some help without even committing to anything.


Deb Bilbao: [00:46:23] Fantastic. Well, I want to thank you so much for being a guest on The Crushing Chaos at Law Firm Mentor podcast. We are so excited to share this information and just having you here. I’m very passionate about this topic in general, just because it’s never just about what a mindset, right? There’s so much more going on behind the scenes and so many great things that people can be doing. So thank you so much for your time today.


Ingela Onstad: [00:46:51] Yeah, my pleasure. Deb, I can, I can tell how passionate you are about this topic as well. So it was a pleasure to speak with you.


Deb Bilbao: [00:46:57] Yeah, absolutely. Okay, everybody, thank you so much for audience. Whoever is going to be watching this reach out to us. But thanks again with being on the Crushing Chaos with Law Firm Mentor podcast. Thank you so much. You can find us at Law Firm Mentor dot net. We’re so excited to see you. Everybody, Have a great day.


Allison Williams: [00:47:34] Thank you for tuning in to the Crushing Chaos with Law Firm Mentor podcast. To learn more about today’s show and take advantage of the resources mentioned, check out our show notes. And if you enjoy today’s episode, take a moment to follow the podcast wherever you get your podcast and leave us a rating and review. This helps us to reach even more law firm owners from around the country who want to crush chaos in business and make more money. I’m Allison Williams, your Law Firm Mentor everyone. Have a great day.


Guest Bio:

Ingela Onstad is a Performance Anxiety Coach for performing artists and professionals who are in the public eye.


Her coaching business, Courageous Artistry, supports high-performing individuals in their quest to perform at the top of their abilities when in front of the public by working on skills to target voice, body, anxiety management, and mindset. 


Ms. Onstad is a board-certified coach, a licensed psychotherapist, and a professional opera singer who has enjoyed a varied international career in opera, concert work, and contemporary music. In addition to her coaching, she maintains an active performing career.


Guest Contact Info:

Facebook: Courageous Artistry

Instagram: @Courageous Artistry

Tik-Tok: Courageous Artistry

LinkedIn: Ingela Onstead


Allison Bio:

Allison C. Williams, Esq., is the Founder and Owner of the Williams Law Group, LLC, with offices in Short Hills and Freehold, New Jersey. She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, is Certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a Matrimonial Law Attorney, and is the first attorney in New Jersey to become Board-Certified by the National Board of Trial Advocacy in the field of Family Law.

Ms. Williams is an accomplished businesswoman. In 2017, the Williams Law Group won the LawFirm500 award, ranking 14th of the fastest-growing law firms in the nation, as Ms. Williams grew the firm by 581% in three years. Ms. Williams won the Silver Stevie Award for Female Entrepreneur of the Year in 2017. In 2018, Ms. Williams was voted as NJBIZ’s Top 50 Women in Business and was designated one of the Top 25 Leading Women Entrepreneurs and Business Owners. In 2019, Ms. Williams won the Seminole 100 Award for founding one of the fastest-growing companies among graduates of Florida State University.


In 2018, Ms. Williams created Law Firm Mentor, a business coaching service for lawyers. She helps solo and small law firm attorneys grow their business revenues, crush chaos in business and make more money. Through multi-day intensive business retreats, group and one-to-one coaching, and strategic planning sessions, Ms. Williams advises lawyers on all aspects of creating, sustaining, and scaling a law firm business – and specifically, she teaches them the core foundational principles of marketing, sales, personnel management, communications, and money management in law firms.


Allison Contact Info:

Podcast: Intake Training Strategies



My favorite excerpt from the episode:

TIME: 00:30:39 (37 Seconds) 

We fear that if we’re not seen as hardworking or that we’re not in our desk as long as other people take a lunch break forbid that we will be judged, that we will no longer be successful, that we won’t be welcomed into the group. It’s so important for us humans, whether we like this or not. It’s very important from a biological level to be embedded within community. And this hearkens back to our earliest days in evolution of survival, and we were running with smaller groups or tribes, and had we been kicked out from our group or our tribe that we were with, that could have meant death for us.