My guest today is Dara Goldberg. Our discussion touches on finding love for yourself instead of seeking it from external places, a better description of what’s commonly called “mid-life crisis,” shedding the shoulds, and the guilt many women feel for focusing on themselves.
Dara Goldberg is a Life Transitions Coach dedicated to helping women in midlife manage the emotions that naturally arise during life transitions, rediscover what gives them a sense of identity, purpose and meaning and design and move into a next life chapter that brings them joy, fulfillment and excitement.
Dara holds an MSW in Social Welfare Policy, spent over 15 years advising and raising millions of dollars for nonprofit organizations and charitable foundations as a founding partner in a consulting firm and has since helped thousands of women through coaching and courses since launching her own business in 2012. She lives in Philadelphia with 1 husband, 2 stepdaughters, 2 cats, and a silly dog named Chumley.
Dara’s hype song is RESPECT by Aretha Franklin: https://youtu.be/GhFIk4cpNEk
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Lori Saitz: [00:00:00] Hey, my friend, welcome to FINE is a 4- Letter Word. My name is Lori Saitz I'm an entrepreneur, mentor, founder of Zen Rabbit, and your guide in moving from fine to fantastic. I love inspiring others to listen to their inner voice and encouraging them to take the steps toward fulfilling their soul. Join me here as we navigate through life transformation.
Moving from that place where you say, everything's fine, it's just fine. But you're really feeling a deep undercurrent of suck. How do you move from there to a renewed sense of yourself? You're in the right place for stories and experiences of self-discovery and courage to help you on your journey. And you'll find each episode has an accompanying meditation.
Now let's get into it. My guest today is Dara Goldberg. Our discussion touches on finding love for yourself instead of seeking it from external places, a better description of what's commonly called midlife crisis, shedding the shoulds and the guilt many women feel for focusing on themselves. Dara was raised with the belief she had a responsibility to contribute, to making the world a better place. She found her dream job doing just that until one day, it didn't feel so ideal anymore. Despite feeling scared and confused. She decided to take a risk. Everyone else thought was crazy. Dara has actually gone through two midlife shifts today.
She's on a mission to help women lose the old school mentality about midlife, except the ambiguity and emotions they feel and push through it to find the growth to discover what lights you up and what takes your energy away. Listen all the way to the end to hear what's absolutely the best question to ask children, to set them up, to be better adjusted for life transitions.
I actually love this question as something to ask yourself every morning. Quick reminder, today's episode is sponsored by Zen Rabbit want to add more joy to your life? Zen Rabbit Wisdom gives you weekly tips for doing that every Wednesday. Text the word gratitude to 42828.
Hello, and welcome to FINE is a 4- Letter Word . I am here today with Dara Goldberg and I am so excited to talk with you today, Dara. Dara and I, met on. Clubhouse. So everybody's been talking about the clubhouse app and how, uh, there's kind of a divide. Some people love it. Some people aren't into it. I am finding it amazing for making connections with people.
So welcome to find is a four-letter word, Dara. Thank you. Start out by telling us a little bit about not your entire background in childhood, but what was it? Um, were there values and beliefs instilled in you that you like? What were the values and beliefs that were instilled in you?
Dara Goldberg: [00:03:18] Yeah, that's a great question.
I think, you know, from an early age I had that and certainly the way I was brought up was the, I need to try to save the world. Um, and not that everything about the world was bad, but this feeling that, you know, it's kind of. Not just wanting to contribute or do the right thing, but that it was my responsibility to, to contribute all that I can at the same time.
And wasn't the most confident kid and I looked for. Um, affirmation from others and it really took, and I, my story is not unusual or certainly not unique, but it is what it is, which is it really took to till my twenties and even into my thirties where I started coming into my own and realizing, you know, even one day it was that apifany, I need to think I'm remarkable and want to really believe the world needs my remarkable.
Talents and wisdom and all that. And I spent so much time waiting for other people to think it, so that I'd think it. So that kind of led me down a good path, which was starting getting an opportunity career wise. To help build up a firm that worked with nonprofits and foundations. So that kind of filled the intellectual interest and the, you know, social give back piece.
And that worked for a really long time. It met my needs. I, it was so important to me and then it wasn't and I changed. My first thought was something's wrong with me. And, you know, I was 41 ish when it started to. Really, and I thought unravel and I thought, you know, I have brain fog. I'm losing my memory early.
Like, is this early onset dementia? Like, I was really kind of blaming myself. I don't even know that blame was the word. I was feeling scared and confused. Churned, you know, my work ethic was down. I wasn't as motivated. And it was a lot of self-reflection. It was talking to friends. You know, to my support system.
And I realized that what had happened was it wasn't, you know, I was single most of that time. So I was in kind of a real sentence, married to my job, and it was meeting my need for sense of purpose and meaning and value. And then it wasn't and I went inward and said, that's a problem within me. And it's a problem I have to solve on my own.
Lori Saitz: [00:06:15] How did you get that idea that it was something that you had to go inward to solve? I
Dara Goldberg: [00:06:20] think part of it was. I was motivated and kind of together in all other aspects of my life. Like I did think I was having kind of a midlife crisis, but it was compartmentalized. So it wasn't, it was this sense that something's not right.
And the feelings are really uncomfortable. I mean, I've always been someone who likes to self reflect and, and I, I just want to underscore that I am so thankful that I did take it on as a problem I had to solve on my own because I absolutely reached out and got incredible guidance. Um, that I needed. I mean, I wouldn't have figured it out on my own, so I shouldn't say it that way.
Um, it's that through getting help and really talking about it, I realized what was happening was those emotions were there and they were awful. Like I was anxious and I was feeling lost and like, Upset with myself for not even wanting to go to work, let alone not caring enough about deadlines. You know, I wasn't performing well, but those were the emotions and beneath that.
And again, with help, I could clear the clutter and see. Those are the emotions that were bubbling up, but they were the data that was telling me. I mean, he didn't understand it the time, just to be clear, they were at the data saying, Tara you've changed. You are an, a call it the space you're in that space between who you have been for so long and who you're becoming.
And it's this really uncomfortable space of not knowing who you are. And I wonder if your listeners. Your midlife women listeners are saying, yup, I get it. I mean, yeah. I would assume some of them do because that's what happens.
Lori Saitz: [00:08:17] I'm sure. I'm sure. You know, and the thing is that w. It's, it's hard to sit in that space and to realize that this is part of the process because you're so stuck on questioning what is wrong with me?
Why am I, why can I not be happier? Why can not, not still be functioning the way I was 20 years ago? What is, what is wrong with me? And we tend to look at, you know, we turn it inward and, and what is it about me and congratulations to you. For getting outside help because as I've spoken with some of my other guests about there's, a lot of times there's tends to tends to be a shame around that.
There, there is no shame in getting help. We all need it. No one can go through this life all alone.
Dara Goldberg: [00:09:04] Yeah. And I, you know, and in my family, like we've with our kids, like, we've really, we have daughters and it's been really important that they understand. If you don't want to talk to us, there are plenty of people to talk to.
Right. And from a young age, yeah. I just, you want to create the sense of, you know, you don't have to be fine to the point of your, the name of your podcast. Like, don't say, you're fine. If you're not fine, you know, and don't be ashamed of it. So, and so then what happened? I realized that, you know, and again, for other people, it's not the career piece that kind of bubbles up.
I mean, for me, it was a bubbling up from within, right? Like my career wasn't. Working for me. So I knew I kinda, I needed to take a risk that people thought was crazy. You know, I was doing well, making decent money, all that stuff. And I loved my firm and my colleagues and everything. And I pivoted and said, I need to make a change, but I'm going to interrupt myself if you don't mind just saying mine bubbled up from within, but I mean, some women get put into that transition space that I'm talking about from external things, right?
Like an emptiness is a key one where you've had this identity you've had structure to your day. You know, you've had a sense of value. Like those carnal needs. You have been meeting them and you had that foundation and then it's rocked, right? It's not a breakdown, but it's hard. And it's that period that instead of calling it a midlife crisis, if you called it midlife reflection, midlife, curiosity, you know, midlife adjustment and that midlife.
Lori Saitz: [00:11:00] Yeah, I, I do not like that word midlife crisis or that term, I think it's yeah. Yours, your words, your terms are much better.
Dara Goldberg: [00:11:09] And you anybody can use their own terms, but I will say, and it's not my quote, uh, this woman, Ellen Galinsky, she had a great point, which is we don't have a vocabulary for transition for what I'm talking about.
You know, when you go through a period where you question your purpose and mean meaning in life, we, we, it's almost like we came up with this midlife crisis term because we hadn't come up with. Anything else. And she talks about like really changing or creating the vocabulary that puts it, not in a shameful it's you get it together way.
And that's what I try to do when I work with, so I pivoted, I guess is the point. And I started working with women in mid-life going through that period of transition and knowing something's not right. But not necessarily knowing why, or there's times where I gave the example of the empty nest or losing your job or a relationship breakup where you know why I fell into this period, but then what?
And so that's where I come in.
Lori Saitz: [00:12:19] Yeah. And I, a lot of women, people in general, but a lot of Gen- X women are especially feeling this. I think even more now through, in the past year with pandemic, because that has placed more stress and strain and put people more people into that external situation that you're talking about.
Or even if it is internal, it's given them time to reflect, whereas maybe they were so busy running from one thing to the, to the next. Before now, when they were stuck at home, they had nothing to do except reflect.
Dara Goldberg: [00:12:58] And that's a great example. It is if we were absolutely thrown into transition, right? Like the structure of our day, like the, what was giving us purpose.
If we had an everyday job and let's say, let's say we lost our job, you know, got laid off like. All those foundational pieces just got turned over March, whatever 13th of last year. Right. But in that case, I think in part, because it happened to all of us, it was this sense of we're all in it together in some ways, you know, I think when it's.
Kind of us as women, you know, we tend to go inward when we're not feeling calibrated right. Or kind of off. And it's, um, you know, for men, they, the stereotype is they go outward, right. So they look for, they get a new car or they, when it's the same. You know, inner struggle. Right,
Lori Saitz: [00:14:01] Exactly. Right. Yeah. And I think even though we have gone through this as, as a group, as a world, it with, in terms of the pandemic, everybody feels it individually.
Of course it's, how am I reacting to this? And you look around and you think, well, everybody else is reacting better than I am or handling it in a more efficient or more productive way. And I'm just falling apart. And so it always comes back to us as an individual.
Dara Goldberg: [00:14:30] Right. And really like the place I start with people hands down is let's talk about the emotions and let's have kind of a toolkit for managing them because no reflection and no planning and no figuring out can happen when.
You know, we're so scared of the emotions and it's very natural to be. I was like, we all tend to get anxious about our anxiety, right. Or fearful about feeling scared.
Lori Saitz: [00:15:01] Yeah. Like you shouldn't shouldn't Oh, we're going to talk about the shoulds in a moment, right? Like that you shouldn't feel these negative emotions because, Oh my gosh.
You're living in such an abundant time. Hmm. And if you have a house to live in and you have food to eat well, you shouldn't feel any kind of negative negativity or let's say, you know, first world problems, but right. That's all part of the human. Experience right. Talk a little bit about that.
Dara Goldberg: [00:15:33] Well, and that is like, again, both in my work, but my own experience was I went absolutely to the show.
It's like, I should be fine. I should, you know, appreciate what I have. I should have planned, you know, For adding more to, you know, the work I was doing or all the shoulds right. And I do call it, shed the shoulds because the way we talk to ourselves, you know, and the fact that I was making it about me, I mean, it was about me, but it wasn't. Should is I learned, this is the language of nonacceptance. So the minute I'm shoulding, if you will, I'm not willing to embrace what's happening, I'm looking backwards. And so if you shed the shoulds and you really start to see, okay, it really doesn't matter what matters is where I am and where I want to go.
And I not trying to oversimplify it. It's. Tough stuff for sure.
Lori Saitz: [00:16:39] It is. And it is, I love the term shed the shoulds. That is it's so memorable for one thing, but it also gives us, uh, a way to accept, accept, accept what's happening now, because here you are. The only moment we have is right now. Yeah. The past is past. Future hasn't come yet. What do you have right now?
Dara Goldberg: [00:17:02] Yeah. And it's, um, accepting and I had heard tenderness this accepting the ambiguity, right. And the uncertainty, and just be where you are, like, just like all emotions. Like they're temporary, they're gonna pass, but we need to both have a toolkit for dealing with them and, you know, be able to kind of.
Push through to find the growth and the opportunity. I mean, that's like, I literally go like this with my hands to say, it's, you know, and we're not trying to push the emotions aside, but we're trying to tease out the other stuff.
Lori Saitz: [00:17:41] Yeah. And actually feel them because there's that phrase that what you resist will persist. It's not, it's not denying that they're there. It's accepting. And. As you said moving through.
Dara Goldberg: [00:17:54] Yeah. And the other piece, um, and is that we as a society or certainly our culture, our American culture, that we all growth stops when we hit midlife, you know, and the idea that we like watch kids go through major developmental milestones, and then in our twenties, You know, we're changing in so many ways and into our thirties.
And then by late thirties, you know, we have this sense that growth in profound ways stops. And part, part of that is where is where the shame and the I'm having a breakdown, even the feeling comes from because in truth, we grow. You know, growth. Isn't infinite. We go through absolutely many growth spurts and many transitional periods throughout our entire lives.
And the other misnomer is that people are, especially, women are living so much longer. Like you're barely at. You know, the second, third of your life when you hit mid-life right. Like you have so much. And so we're kind of using this old school mentality for aging and thinking about midlife. Does that make sense?
Lori Saitz: [00:19:14] It makes complete sense. Yeah. We're stuck using it. Like you said, using antiquated terms or terms that don't fit. I just saw a post on LinkedIn today. Someone was talking that you used a German word and then the explanation, cause he said the, the English language often doesn't have words like some of other languages have.
And to describe what this, I don't remember what the word was even, but to describe it, you need like an entire paragraph. To describe this one word. So when you were talking earlier about how we don't have the right words, I'm wondering if there are other languages that have words that better describe
Dara Goldberg: [00:19:55] that's a great thought.
Lori Saitz: [00:19:57] We, what we're talking about today.
Dara Goldberg: [00:19:59] Yeah. I mean, it's a great. Thought, and it is why I end up talking so much more than I want to sometimes I'm like, let me use a lot of words.
Lori Saitz: [00:20:10] If you're just listening to the audio, you can't see, but we both are talking with our hands. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Yeah. Um, yeah, that makes perfect sense.
And that whole piece about, again, coming back to feeling the emotions that there's, there's nothing wrong with you in. In, not in, not in the piece, not just not allowing yourself to feel the emotions, but not, not understanding what is going on.
Dara Goldberg: [00:20:37] Right. And not knowing and, and needing the time to figure out, you know, and I call it like, we focus so much on the, what, you know, the roles we play, what we do.
My identity like focuses so much around, you know, I'm a stepmother. I am a sibling. I'm a. You know, daughter and the title are, are what they're not are, who, you know, and I know that sounds lofty, but it's absolutely the case. And when we hit these transitional periods, we need to put aside the whats and really tune into who we are, what matters to us, what are our values, what lights us up, what takes energy away from us that we should shed. All that stuff. And another key piece is that I think a lot of us women feel like self-centered or guilty for upping the focus on themselves. Right. And not all of us. I mean, absolutely.
There's plenty of us who have been okay with that. And. You know, strong in the identity department and all that, but even they sometimes get hit with, uh, wait a minute. Who am I again? And even asking the question, you're not asking what. The example I give is, and I would ask anybody listening to try this, like next time, whether it's your own kids, grandkids, or nieces, nephews, or. any kid on the street, try asking a little kid, try asking them not what they want to be when they grow up, but who? If we started being asked that in an earlier age, I feel like we'd be even better adjusted for all these transitions.
Lori Saitz: [00:22:30] I completely agree with you. I've heard that phrasing of that question before. I haven't had an opportunity to use it with the child yet.
It's so powerful because first of all, nobody knows what they want to be when they're a child. They come up with fireman, astronaut, whatever nurse, executive, whatever, whatever they've been exposed to, but who, and so coming back to that, that's such a, who do you want to be? I just asked my, one of my friends, I texted him the other day in the morning, and I said, who do you want to be today? And he was what I mean, who do you want to show up as? Right. What is your intention for the day?
Dara Goldberg: [00:23:08] Exactly. That was great question. I mean, I have a dear friend who didn't ever want to go to cocktail parties or social things for a long time, because people would say, what do you do?
And she felt she didn't have an answer. She liked. Cause at the time she was a stay at home mom, which I think is fully. Reputable job. Right. Um, and so we were talking about like, what if somebody said, who are you not what? Right. But the other thing is, um, when you're going through a transition, like when your identity is shifting and again, using the empty nest or job training or divorce, it's the, who that is shifting.
I mean, you know what you do, how you spend your day, all that. Is is changing, but it's the who piece like, and it doesn't mean like in the empty nest example, you're not letting go of being a parent, how you parent and the relationship shifts, but that is such a dramatic change overnight that, you know, something, some of the women I work with actually come before. their kids leave to prepare for it, which that's smart. yeah,
Lori Saitz: [00:24:30] I think we could all benefit from asking that, who question. Who do I want to be? Who do I want to show up as? Who am I becoming? That's such a, I'm so glad you brought that up because that is really, really an important thing to focus on.
Dara Goldberg: [00:24:49] When I think about, you know, this, I mean, I kind of call it my own little movement here and as shouldn't be my own little movement, but when I think about what could we all be doing to kind of help debunk the midlife crisis, myth, not feel shame or blame or anything close or guilty when we're going through a transitional period of, you know, of growth spurt, I'll call it.
Um, One thing we can really do is reframe how we think about it and adopt vocabulary that really supports what it truly is, you know, and a time of. Self ref midlife reflection and midlife adjustments and midlife doing away withs you know, and from that comes growth and opportunity. If we could use the vocabulary that calls it, what it is, and then talk about it far and wide, don't keep it to ourselves and talk about it, you know, to the people around us, but also to anyone who, you know, can receive it because then we start to really change the behavior. And the other piece is to really remember that your who is so much more important than your, your what, and who you are, is how you enact or choose to enact. Your roles, right? The one that's kind of easy for people, but
Lori Saitz: [00:26:22] Oh, I love it though. It's so that is such a great place to end this conversation today. Dara, how can people get in touch with you?
Dara Goldberg: [00:26:31] I'm on Instagram and clubhouse at Dara does midlife.
Lori Saitz: [00:26:38] Okay. And we'll put that in the show notes. We'll put all of your connections in the show notes too.
Dara Goldberg: [00:26:42] And then I'm DaraGoldberg.com. Please, you know, anybody should feel comfortable just reaching out for any reason.
Lori Saitz: [00:26:52] I have so enjoyed this conversation. Thank you so much for sharing what you shared. This was beautiful.
Dara Goldberg: [00:27:00] Thank you, Lori. This was great. Thank you.
Lori Saitz: [00:27:03] Wow. What insightful points Dara shared before I give you the key takeaways, let me confess that. I forgot to ask Dara one of the questions that I've been asking all my guests before we end the interview.
And that is what is your hype song, your walkup song, the song that gets you fired up no matter what. I emailed her after our conversation to ask. And she responded immediately with Aretha Franklin's respect, R E S P E C T. Now that you have that song playing in your head, here are a few of her key takeaways.
Number one, looking inward is the only way to solve your issues. It's always inside you, not in something going on outside of you.
Number two, let's stop calling this time of life, a midlife crisis. It's more like a midlife reflection, midlife, curiosity, or midlife adjustment.
Number three, shed the shoulds, focusing on what you should have done isn't serving you. What matters is where you are now and where you're going.
Number four growth is infinite. We are learning and growing throughout our entire lives. There is no age at which you stop learning. I remember my grandfather who lived to be 97 years old until the very end. He was always reading and studying and curious to learn more.
Number five, put aside the, what you are and find the who ask yourself each day. Who do I want to be today?
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