The quickest way to crash and burn your business and life is to place your worthiness and safety with the opinions of others.
This may sound like a captain-obvious statement but the pull to care what others think is something fierce. And it is sneaky.
The competitive drive is no stranger to many of you. In fact, it is often the norm.
Honoring your boundaries around healthy competition is hard in a world that constantly tells us we’re not enough. It does not help that our own self-talk attacks our sense of enough, too.
When not checked, healthy competition and ambition lead to the protectors of scarcity and comparison overwhelming you. This happens quickly when you are not clear on your values, when you are not clear on your definition of success, and when you are not clear on your boundaries.
Without these anchors in place, the powerful drive to win and achieve can quickly warp to a singular focus on another person or another business. Success is then based on comparison and moves you away from what matters most.
However, staying aligned with your personal version of success is possible—and it requires that you constantly recalibrate and live your values.
My conversation with Natalie Borton in this episode of The Unburdened Leader digs deep into these life-long tensions around navigating where your definition of success lies along with the power of staying clear on your core values and taking care of your well-being.
Natalie is a San Diego-based mom, wife, and entrepreneur that is passionate about positivity, authenticity, and simplicity. She designs minimalist, California-inspired jewelry for everyday wear and educates on making the most out of your wardrobe, living more confidently, and pursuing your dreams honestly and whole-heartedly.
Natalie Borton: I have to have that holistic view of myself and the type of person that I want to be, and I can’t compromise myself in order to just achieve and be perceived as successful to other people.
[Inspirational Intro Music]
Rebecca Ching: The quickest way to crash and burn your business and life is to place your worthiness and safety with the opinions of others. Now, this may sound like a Captain Obvious statement, but the pull to care what others think is something fierce and it is so sneaky. The competitive drive is no stranger to many of you. In fact, it’s often the norm. Honoring your boundaries around healthy competition is hard in a world that constantly tells us we’re not enough. And it doesn't help that our own self-talk attacks our sense of enough, too.
So, when not checked, healthy competition and ambition can lead to the protectors of scarcity and comparison overwhelming you. This happens quickly when you're not clear on your values, when you're not clear on your definition of success, and when you're not clear on your boundaries. Without these anchors in place, the powerful drive to win and achieve can quickly warp to a singular focus on another person or another business. Success is, then, based on comparison and moves you away from what matters most.
I know I have a hard time navigating competition and my own ambition when the world is telling me I’m never enough. I love, love a little (or a lot) of healthy competition, but it so easily turns into feeling inadequate and unworthy. When I am not leaning on my values and I am not focused on my definition of success and honoring my boundaries, I lose myself in comparison, and I can’t lead well when I’m obsessed with what others are doing and what they might think of me. When you care too much about what others think, you compromise your values in addition to your work and your wellbeing.
This is hard to catch because we live in a world that celebrates and even idolizes full-body sacrifice for success, and if success happens at the cost of your values and wellbeing, then burnout is inevitable.
I'm Rebecca Ching, and you're listening to The Unburdened Leader, the show that goes deep with leaders whose burdens have inspired their life's work. Our goal is to learn how they’ve addressed these burdens, how they rise from them and become better and more impactful leaders of themselves and others.
Burnout is real, way too real. Burnout shuts down your flow, it kills your creativity, and it can leave you feeling like a failure for getting to a place where pushing through no longer works. Leading from the space of burnout robs your confidence and fuels the beliefs of imposter experience. It is a vicious cycle, and we live in a culture that often celebrates full-body sacrifice in the name of success. Now, I see some pushback to the cultural celebration of this approach to work, but we still have a long way to go in shifting this message.
My first job out of college in Washington DC for a United States Senator ingrained a lot of the distorted messages in me about work, success, and burnout. It was all hiding behind a process I deeply believed in, so my passions and values became entangled with my work and my worthiness. Working weekends was the standard. Now, I’ll be honest, this was fun at the time. There were so many exciting things happening, and even my romantic interest at the time was going from the same mindset of working weekends and being all in, but the thrill eventually wore off, and I started to question the pace of it all. Because everything was so intertwined, it felt like I was betraying the work I so deeply believed in just even questioning it.
So, in a field where one of the most valuable resources is the opinions of others, it warped my impressionable early 20-something mind and sense of identity.
It was a petri dish that took my worth ethic and love of the political process and molded a view of myself in the world that led to an inflated view of what was enough and what it meant to be enough. As a result, my work ethic blurred into over-functioning and a fear of not being seen as committed enough.
I remember one time I went to the gym during the dinner hour (I know, the nerve of me) on a weekday. I turned my ginormous 1990s cell phone (with those antennas you had to pull up and down) and my clunker of a pager off while I worked out. Makes sense, right? Well, when I turned the tech back on, I found several messages from a colleague saying he was frustrated he could not get ahold of me immediately. So, I immediately called him back and explained what I was doing, but he was still frustrated I was not immediately accessible. So, after that exchange, it was hard to shake the worry whenever I turned off of work mode, and that led to me carrying that obnoxious technology with me even during my workouts. And so, I was left feeling drained and depleted because I ever turned off of work.
I also remember one Monday morning at the office where a few other colleagues gathered around my desk debriefing their weekend, comparing notes on who worked the most hours at the office. This moment stood out to me as these colleagues had two decades on me and were some of the best leaders in their areas of legislative and political experience. I admired their work ethic, their brilliance, and their deep love of the legislative and political process, along with their dedication to serving my boss’s constituents and our country. Their work was making the world a better place, and I also saw the toll their work hours took on their health and their relationships and how this was also seen as a noble sacrifice.
It took me several years to redefine what success was to me, but I remember that water-cooler moment as one that began a big rumble with achievement and the reasons that fueled my drive for success. Masking your fears of failure with a business or work that meets the externalized standards of success is seductive, and it’s also not sustainable. It’s also easy to be clear on your values and still experience burnout. I see this happen when leaders and business owners are in seasons where there are multiple opportunities that are aligned. I know I’ve experienced that myself, too, but when there’s not enough time and resources, saying yes to great opportunities you’ve been working on can also lead to burnout. So, staying clear on your definition of success, along with constantly recalibrating and living your values is a life-long tension.
My conversation with Natalie Borton in this episode of The Unburdened Leader digs deep into these life-long tensions around navigating where your definition of success lies, along with the power of staying clear on your core values and taking care of your wellbeing. Natalie is a San Diego-based mom and someone I’ve known for over a decade. She is a wife and entrepreneur who is passionate about positivity, authenticity, and simplicity. She designs minimalist California-inspired jewelry (which I won several pieces of) for everyday wear and educates many on making the most out of your wardrobe, living more confidently, and pursuing your dreams honestly and wholeheartedly.
Pay attention to how Natalie lives her values of positivity. She has a really powerful and unique approach that’s definitely worth considering. Notice the key learnings Natalie had on the other side of an incredible work opportunity that shook her health. Listen to how Natalie rumbles with her ambitions and her ever-evolving definition of success. Don’t miss how Natalie has infused the wisdom she earned in her recovery into her business and her platform.
Now, please join me in welcoming Natalie Borton to The Unburdened Leader podcast.
Natalie, thank you for being here!
Natalie Borton: Thank you so much for having me! It’s so good to be here.
Rebecca Ching: I have been looking forward to this conversation for a long time, and we were just talking before we started recording about all the things we could talk about, but today I’m gonna really dive in deep about just your work and how you run your business. I just think there are so many lessons to learn from you. I know I’ve learned so much from you over the years. So, in typical Unburdened Leader fashion, we kind of dive right in. [Laughs] We go deep quickly.
Natalie Borton: [Laughs]
Rebecca Ching: And one of the things I know we’ve connected on over the years and have been aligned on is you’ve been very vocal and intentional about integrating and sharing your views on body image, on diet approaches and size acceptance, along with your own personal struggles in these areas, into your work as a stylist and a jewelry designer. You’ve been so intentional about it, and I would love for you to share what was behind your decision to integrate these issues into your work.
Natalie Borton: Yeah, thank you. That’s a good question. I kind of feel like there was no way I would do any business that wasn't going to somehow incorporate this. To me, it’s just so important, and not just for the issue that it is, but it is such a big piece of my own story, of my own transition into the adult and woman and businesswoman that I became.
My eating disorder struggles really took place in my late teen years and then through my 20s when I was becoming the woman that I was gonna become and becoming the businessperson that I am now. And so, it really shaped me, and I think it’s something that just has become so important to me, if there was no way that it wasn't going to ooze out of me in all of my business context as well.
Certainly, with a business that is so focused on style, the fashion industry can be a beautiful industry, and it’s also been an industry that’s caused a lot of damage in so many ways with the bodies that it celebrates and the celebration of disordered eating and all that. And so, being in that industry and then having my own path overcoming these issues and seeing so many of my friends -- whether it’s clinically-diagnosed eating disorders or disordered eating or just body image issues, fashion and body issues tend to go hand in hand. And so, just seeing an opportunity there to see style for what it is, which is supposed to be fun. It’s supposed to be for us. It can be such a beautiful, enjoyable thing. I’ve found so much freedom and self-acceptance in my own style journey, really, in asking myself, “What do I like to wear? What makes me feel good? What makes me feel like me? How can I express myself through this?” and less about, “How can I look smaller,” you know, and just wearing what makes my body look whatever way I think I’m supposed to look.
And so, it just sort of happened naturally and evolved, and I’m so happy that it’s become so central to my business, especially for things like this. This is maybe my fourth or fifth podcast interview I’ve done, and I’ve never been on a podcast where this issue has not come up in the podcast, and that makes me so happy because I love talking about these issues, and I’m so passionate about it. And so, it was inevitable. There was no way I was gonna start a business and this wasn't gonna be so core to what I was sharing about and really have a big platform to share from. I have a great community, and it just feels like the right thing to do, honestly. It’s just important to me.
Rebecca Ching: You know that in my clinical work I’ve worked with helping people heal on the disordered eating spectrum and seeing the darkness and the insidiousness of it.
Natalie Borton: Mm-hmm.
Rebecca Ching: Part of that sometimes was rejecting the fashion world or paying attention to those things because of the dark side of it.
Natalie Borton: Yeah.
Rebecca Ching: But what I’ve loved about watching you -- and I’m a tomboy at heart, so honestly, I was that girl in high school that was like, “Why do people keep going to the bathroom to fix their makeup or their hair?”
Natalie Borton: Right. [Laughs]
Rebecca Ching: I was like one and done, and, I mean, I still went through a bottle of Freeze and Shine -- it was the eighties, Natalie, so a bottle of Freeze and Shine a week. I had some epically-big red hair that --
Natalie Borton: [Laughs]
Rebecca Ching: But what I’ve loved is this kind of way you’re true but you're not hot-wiring connection, you're not going into the deep, dark, insidious nature of your own struggles because that’s a contagion, and I’ve seen that so much.
So, I’m curious, how have you decided what to share? What stays private and what do you share? Tell me and share a little bit with our listeners your decision tree on how you work through sharing what’s so important to you, but what is for community, and what is just private for you and your inner circle?
Natalie Borton: Yeah, I think that it’s key that I’m coming from a place of health at this point, and my decisions would be different if I was really still in the muck of recovery, and so, I’ve shared way more over the past several years because I’m coming from a place of health and looking back on the experience rather than really in it. That’s not to say that people shouldn't share when they're in it. There’s a lot of value in that as well, but I do think it’s easier to share because I’m looking back on it, and I’m not in it, and so, it’s not muddied. It’s not muddying my healing experience. That’s something that I experienced and that I went through, and I’m coming from a place of healing, and so, it just feels a lot more natural to share, and it doesn't feel intrusive or hindering to my own health to share it. It feels like it would be a disservice to my community to not share about that. You know, I don't share about it constantly.
My Instagram account isn't solely dedicated to that. I really largely share about style, but I feel like I can't totally share about style without also addressing size-inclusivity because that is huge in the fashion industry and access to fashion for people of different sizes, and then that taps into my own experience with my eating disorder. Then, also, diet culture is so prevalent and weirdly intertwined with what we wear and our style, and people enter into these disordered eating behaviors in connection with what they want to wear, and it’s very intermixed.
So, I really always try to share from a place of helpfulness and, hopefully, if anyone follows along and has been helped by me sharing a bit of my story and my experience and me sharing maybe a smidge of hope on the other side, then that makes it worth it to share about these things.
Rebecca Ching: You know, it’s been really cool to watch because you won't share sizes anymore, and I’ve really appreciated that. You’ve talked about why. You don't want to get caught into the comparison in numbers, but you always are like, “Got my regular size,” or, “Sized up. Sized down.” I love how you still are helpful and you're not making a big deal out of it. It just feels so natural, and I think one of the biggest lessons for all of us is when we’re sharing something personal, are we doing it from a place of health, a place we’ve worked through and we have space from it? And, yes, there are those nuanced times when we’re in it to share, but, man, I mean, you and I both know in the online space that’s few and far between, and so, I just really appreciate how you navigate that and everything. “Is this helpful, is this from a place of health,” is what I’m hearing.
Natalie Borton: Mm-hmm. Yes.
Rebecca Ching: And it sounds like because it’s true to you, it would be inauthentic for you not to talk about these things. [Laughs]
Natalie Borton: Right.
Rebecca Ching: Long ago there was -- I can't remember if it was some time this year, and it’s been a couple times where you're like, “And I just got a message of someone telling me that this wasn't flattering on me.”
Natalie Borton: Yeah. [Laughs]
Rebecca Ching: And I just want to say you so respectfully -- instead of calling them out, you called everyone up saying, “You don't need to say this stuff. Some things we can just keep to ourselves.” It was like, “Well done, Natalie!”
Natalie Borton: Yes. [Laughs]
Rebecca Ching: Because we are living in a culture of critics for blood sport. It’s nasty, and I know you’ve seen and experienced that.
Natalie Borton: Mm-hmm. Yes.
Rebecca Ching: So, I just am really grateful for that, too. You also hold people accountable when they're crossing those lines. You’ve done a beautiful job in that. So, I think you touched on this a little bit already, but what motivates you to keep integrating these issues with your life’s work?
Natalie Borton: I guess, I mean, really, especially becoming a mother, it feels even more important, and really, I feel like it’s a mix. I still have friends who struggle with these issues, and that is a bit of a burden to me, not in a -- I don't know. Maybe burden isn't the right word. But I want to see them experience freedom that I’m not experiencing, and I know everyone’s journey is different, and I never want to come from a place of preachy-ness or holier-than-thou, or, “Just live your life like me because I know everything.”
Rebecca Ching: Ugh.
Natalie Borton: But being on the other side of it, seeing another way, I want to just see them experience their life more fully, and it’s amazing to see the difference between the way I spent my time in my twenties versus how incredibly full my life is now that I am not consumed in diet culture and changing my thighs and my looks. Just deepening my own self-acceptance has been really powerful and really beautiful, and then, like I said, with having children -- now I have two kids. I have a son and a daughter, and I just don't want that to be their world.
I’ve already seen there’s a huge difference in what I’m experiencing now in my thirties versus what my parents experienced in their thirties with the pressure that they had with what they were supposed to look like, and I’m experiencing so much freedom, and I just hope that that’s just not something that my kids need to deal with and that I can be a positive influence in that way. I don't know. To me, I’m like let’s stop wasting our time on all of this. There’s so much more that life has to offer than all of this, and that’s not to be dismissive of the very serious real issues with weight stigma, and I don't want to make light of that because that’s a whole other issue.
But yeah, I think I’m very motivated by seeing friends who are currently still in that cycle and still struggling, and then as a mother just trying to make the world a better place for them and for what they're gonna experience when they're adults.
Rebecca Ching: You know, we can't disconnect and compartmentalize our lives. I think a lot of people try to with their work, especially kind of with when a lot of your work is in the online space. But in general, you’re kind of like, “This is my home life. This is my work life.” When we bifurcate it, we’re bifurcating ourselves.
Natalie Borton: Mm-hmm. Yeah.
Rebecca Ching: And when we’re not living an integrated life that way, I think we end up doing harm to ourselves, and it shows up in the quality of our work and in the enjoyment of the work.
So, I’m hearing from you that it's meaningful that however you show up, personally or in your work, you're staying true to the things you care deeply about. I remember, too, you were pretty vocal about, “Hey, I’ve had to mute some people, people I love and care about.”
Natalie Borton: Yeah.
Rebecca Ching: And this is a conversation I have a lot with people, too. I'm like, “The beautiful gift of the mute. They don't have to know, but let’s --,” you know? And I think it’s an interesting boundary online, but even muting in a respectful way in our life, too.
Sometimes we have to really protect our own healing journey and protect our own wellbeing in the present regardless of our history because it’s noisy out there, too.
And so, I’d just really appreciate the ways that you do it. It isn't attacking. It isn't shrinking from. But it’s bold in its gentleness and its clarity. So, thank you for naming that. And being motivated by caring for those that you see still suffering, and then as a parent, which I get, too -- I mean, the questions I have with my kids on repeat. I mean, now, wait ‘til they get a little bit older, Natalie, then they care about -- I’ve got a 12-year-old now, and she’s like, “Mom, am I fat in this?” And I’m like, oh, my gosh.
Natalie Borton: You're like oh, my gosh. Yeah.
Rebecca Ching: I said, “Well, what’s wrong with fat, and what does that mean to you?” Like, “Oh, mom, forget it. Forget it.” [Laughs]
Natalie Borton: Right? But that’s such a great response to that versus the natural response our parents would say where, “Of course not. Of course you don't look fat in that.” But you're right. The real question is, “So what if you do?”
Rebecca Ching: Yep.
Natalie Borton: So what if you do? There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just a trait. It’s just a personal trait. And so, yeah, just kind of dismantling some of that. It’ll be interesting -- my kids are still little (six and three), and it’s gonna be very interesting as they get older and are more aware of the world, and they're still living the very insulated little life with just me and Brian and our very healthy views on the body and all of that, and it’s gonna get very muddy over time. I’m sure that’ll be a whole other parenting challenge, and I guess I just want to make sure that I’m preparing myself at least to do the very best I can in that area. I’m sure I’ll end up messing up in a lot of other areas because I’m so focused on this area, but I really want to get it right in this area. [Laughs]
Rebecca Ching: [Laughs] I mean, yeah, I think that’s what’s funny is I always joke and say, “Okay, my kids will be in therapy for issues different than me,” and then I’m like, “Oh, wait…”
Natalie Borton: Yeah.
Rebecca Ching: But I want to shift to the generational challenges. Yeah, it is interesting as they start to go through puberty and develop these conversations, but I think, too, as a business owner and someone who’s in a space that talks about these things, it really is integrated, and with that said, you're very intentional about building a business that’s aligned with your values. Not everyone -- “Oh, I’ve got my values,” and it can feel nebulous, but for you, and I’ve known you, gosh, I think over a decade now, Natalie, so I know that you stick with that in a way that supports your family and your wellbeing. That is something I’ve always heard you say. “Nope, that doesn't feel right,” or, “That doesn't feel comfortable,” or, “That doesn't work.” You're always really very boundaried around that and aligned. And so many profess this, but I’ve watched you live this, like I said, for over a decade.
What are your core personal and business values?
Natalie Borton: Yeah, thank you so much, by the way. That’s really encouraging to hear you say, and I feel like I’m living that way, but of course it feels good to hear you say that, so thank you for affirming that.
Certainly, authenticity is a big personal value of mine, and we sort of touched on that previously, and I think that that really also taps into why I can’t not also share all these other pieces and talk about my own journey with disordered eating and self-acceptance and all that. That’s because authenticity is so important to me, and not in a spill my guts and be so dangerously vulnerable all the time. I keep a lot of things private, but I always want to make sure even when I’m intentionally keeping things private that I’m always representing myself accurately to the people that are around me in my personal life and in my online life, and so, authenticity is really important to me. And so, as I'm saying that, that’s likely really the answer the earlier question that you asked, which is why this has been so integrated into my work.
So, positivity is another value of mine, but not in a toxic, let’s-pretend-there-are-no-problems way. More so (something that I really developed, especially since becoming a mother) realizing how much of a downer motherhood could be and how there was a lot of negativity around that and complaining, and it’s true, with business and entrepreneurship and all that, and I just started to develop a practice of not complaining about things unless I was willing to find a solution to that problem. You know, there are obviously moments when I’m just with my husband I’m like, “I’m gonna have a minute here,” and just kind of really complain about something, and then we’re gonna move on, because you have to have that and have safe spaces for that.
But yeah, I really do value seeing the silver lining and having a positive outlook. Like I said, when you see something wrong, not just complaining about it. Seeing something wrong and then shifting gears to something that has a positive impact and saying, “How can I play a role in making this better? How can we improve the situation? How can we make a change here?” And so, I do feel like I lived that out and I strive to live that out to have a positive impact on the world around me and to just not be a Negative Nancy. I just don't like to be that way. Sorry to all the Nancy’s out there for associating your name with negativity. So, that’s a value of mine.
Work/life balance is a value of mine, but that’s the hardest one for me, personally. I am an Enneagram three. Are you an Enneagram three also? [Laughs]
Rebecca Ching: So, I’ve tested Enneagram three, and then recently I took a test that says I’m an eight, so I’m in this -- and I guess those two get --
Natalie Borton: I believe both of those. [Laughs]
Rebecca Ching: So, I am in a little Enneagram query right now.
Natalie Borton: You are.
Rebecca Ching: But I’ve been thinking I was a three for so long, but now I just don't know. So, I’m one of those two.
Natalie Borton: It’s always the why. That’s what helped me figure it out was why.
Rebecca Ching: Yeah?
Natalie Borton: You know, because sometimes, right, you can add -- we thought my husband was a nine forever. He’s a three also. But a lot of his nine behavior was related to how he was brought up.
Rebecca Ching: Yeah!
Natalie Borton: Yes, anyway, I’m an Enneagram three through and through, and so, I love to work. I love to be productive, especially when I’m doing work that I love. I own my own business. I decide the work that I do. And so, finding balance there is something that I struggle with. I’ve definitely failed at times, but I also always have to remember my family and the relationships in my life are so important to me, and it’s a disservice to those relationships if I let work take over my whole life. And so, that’s the area I’m working on the most in terms of my own values, but it is something that I value deeply. And so, it’s worth working on, but I’m not there yet. I have not achieved total success in that area. [Laughs]
Rebecca Ching: Well, I remember it wasn't took long ago we were doing some sort of game and the kids were supposed to do a what is a mom gesture, and the kids were typing on the keyboard. [Laughs] I was like, “Okay!” [Laughs]
Natalie Borton: Oh, yeah. My kids will pick up a pretend phone and be like, “I’m working like mom!”
Rebecca Ching: Yeah. [Laughs]
Natalie Borton: Oh, my God. I’m like, “Great.”
Rebecca Ching: I know. You know, but, for me, I’m with you on that. I have a strong value. I think sometimes I’ve gotten -- and I’m sure you’ve heard this, too, of this -- maybe it was two summers ago, I’m like, “You know what? I am polarizing my work and my family and making them an either/or, and I’m done with this.” So, I did a whole shift because I’m like they're not gonna compete, and so, that’s one of my tells is if I’m starting to have them go, “Oh, I’m resenting work or I’m resenting family demands.” I’m like, “Nope.” I’m gonna reboot. I need to recalibrate because everything I’m doing is for my loves, and for my family and my work are my love.
Natalie Borton: Right.
Rebecca Ching: So, what are your tells that you're operating outside of your values? What are some little tells that come up that you're like, “Oh, I need to recalibrate or reboot”?
Natalie Borton: Yeah, burnout is a real indicator for me that I am majorly out of balance, because I can just go and push aside all of my other needs and focus so much on what I want to achieve. I can be very focused. But then I will completely burnout. This happened to be last fall. I just shut down totally. Not only just emotionally and physically I was just totally burnt out, also my eczema flared up like crazy. I got pneumonia in January.
Rebecca Ching: Oh, that’s right!
Natalie Borton: My whole body was like, “Stop! Stop.” So, I do feel like very physically my body will tell me, “No. We’re not doing this anymore.” And so, really, last fall and the holiday season I realized I don't want to ever have a repeat of that. That was just so obviously work/life balance were way out of whack, and I had a really big work opportunity. I was selling my jewelry at Madewell, and it was so exciting to me, and I was like, “I’m just gonna do whatever it takes to make this work,” and it took a lot. It took a lot out of me, and it really, as much as it was a great opportunity, it didn't end up being totally worth it for me because it compromised so much of my values and my health and wellbeing, not that opportunity itself, but the way that I handled that opportunity.
So, I can tell since I am very self-directed and motivated, when I start to have that feeling where I’m like, “I just don't want to do anything. I just want to lay on the couch. I just don't want to work anymore. I don't feel like socializing,” that’s an indicator to me that I am majorly handling my life wrong and over-prioritizing work, and I just totally burnout, and it becomes obvious. So, so far I’m doing better. This holiday season I don't feel that way. So, that’s good! I decided not to do a holiday collection for jewelry, which ended up being a blessing because we’re also moving right now. So, that worked out really well. We weren't originally planning on moving.
But, yeah, I realized I was starting to already approach that, when was it, September. I started realizing as the year was coming to an end that I was afraid of repeating last year. One of my assistants had twins earlier this year. My other assistant just had a baby November 5th, which I’m like what are the chances that they both had babies the same year? [Laughs] But I knew I wasn't gonna have help, and I just knew my own limits. I said this isn't something that I’m capable of doing, and there’s other work that I can do. It doesn't mean I have to totally stop working, but my jewelry business requires a lot of -- it’s order fulfillment, it’s customer service. There’s a lot there, and I knew I wasn't gonna be capable of that.
And so, I started to see the direction things were going, and I’m proud of myself for not repeating last year. That was really good because last year, to me, was a big personal and professional failure on my part, just with the way that I handled my workload. I wasn't proud of that, and I wasn't really proud of the mother that I was and the friend that I was and the wife that I was. I just totally abandoned all the other things for the sake of this achievement, and I’m like I don't really want that to be how people think of me, and they look at me and that’s my life, and it just shows that my work is the most important thing to me, and that is just sad to me. I wouldn't want that to be the case, so….
Rebecca Ching: Yeah, I remember when you posted that. You were like, “I’m not doing a holiday collection.” I’m like that’s badass. I was gonna check in with you about that.
Natalie Borton: [Laughs]
Rebecca Ching: You know, because I’m like there’s a story behind this because I know you’re so boundaried and so intentional with your business but also your life. Just going back to what you said about positivity, your positivity value is not the bypassing, it’s not toxic positivity. It’s identifying an issue and moving towards solution positivity.
Natalie Borton: Mm-hmm. Yeah.
Rebecca Ching: And it’s one, the just venting. It’s a holistic approach to positivity, and so, I’m thinking even about you said this was a big failure personally and professionally, and to me I always say failure’s just data, and you collected data.
Natalie Borton: Yeah.’
Rebecca Ching: And you integrated it right away. I just say that I love that about how you lead yourself and your work because you go, “Okay, collected data, integrate it, next.”
Natalie Borton: Mm-hmm.
Rebecca Ching: But it’s like the next Madewell, the next thing -- and I’m sure there have been other things behind the scenes that have come up for you, and I sense that you’re filtering the data you collected at the end of last year and beginning of this year through these probably big opportunities. Have you had some big additional no’s that you’ve said because of that data you’ve collected?
Natalie Borton: Yeah. I mean, I think there are always opportunities that are gonna arise, and it can be tempting to take those opportunities, especially when, like I said, I love to work and I love to succeed and achieve and make progress and better myself, but I have to have that holistic view of myself and the type of person that I want to be, and I can't compromise myself in order to just achieve and be perceived as successful to other people. That perception of success is key with Enneagram three, I’ve realized, and it kinda called me out when I realized that. I was like, oh, yeah. You can easily, when you're not in a healthy place, get caught up in I want other people to think of me as being really successful and achieving all of these things.
And so, I really was intentional with my jewelry business, as I already shared. Instead of doing the holiday collection, I ended up actually finding really strategic partners to design pieces for so I could still do what I love but I wasn't on the hook for all of the customer service and handling lost packages and all of that, which I normally do during the year, which is okay when I’m available for that. But I’m just not available for that right now. And so, that was a really good solution to that problem.
And then with my whole Instagram business, as I call it (I don't really know what else to call it), there are opportunities there for partnering with brands and sharing about products that I love. Especially this time of year, so many opportunities can arise because it’s the end of the year and brands realize they have money in their budget or they're trying to push some last products for the holidays, and it can be such a consuming time. Everyone wants to buy, buy, buy, and so, they partner with people who have platforms to share about these products, and these opportunities will come their way, and they're paid opportunities, and that can be hard. That can be hard to say no to because you're like, “Well, I mean, yes, that extra paycheck would be really great, and I’m capable of doing that. I could achieve that.”
But then you look at your calendar and you see what your schedule is like or you think through the experience that your community will have if you take on too many things that are sponsored, and you have to realize, “No, it’s not worth it.” Even though, yes, maybe it would be great to have this extra money, I’d rather just be a lot more intentional with that and do less things and do the things that really make sense, and I think it ends up being more effective, and I think, long term, that has actually helped my relationships with brands because I'm not taking every single opportunity that comes my way. It’s hard to say no sometimes, but I do think it’s important for the long-term wellness of the community that I’m building.
Rebecca Ching: Oh, absolutely. I mean, our yesses and our no’s and having clarity are essential.
Natalie Borton: Yeah.
Rebecca Ching: And you just said long game, and that’s what I’m hearing from you. This is long game work, and you really check -- and this is so hard to not let scarcity sneak in, whether it’s about image or about the health of our business or whatever that may be. It’s so noisy out there. But, I mean, I got pneumonia five and a half years ago, and that was the beginning of me making the changes I’m in today, just slowly pivoting.
Natalie Borton: Mm-hmm.
Rebecca Ching: I’ve never been that sick.
Natalie Borton: Yeah.
Rebecca Ching: And it was a game changer, and it’s like, “Okay, it got this bad. I've never been that sick.” So, yeah, those are big lessons. And so, scarcity and hustling for that doesn't feel like anything matters when you're that sick.
Natalie Borton: Right?
Rebecca Ching: And you don't feel like you're connecting with those that you care about or leading the way that you really want to lead in your work.
So, I love that, too, that you got some strategic partners with your team being out with their new families, and you still are delivering even in the holiday season. So many people get stuck with, “This is how it’s always been done.”
Natalie Borton: Yeah.
Rebecca Ching: It drives me crazy, and you're like, “How do we figure it out?” I love that.
Natalie Borton: Mm-hmm. Right. Yeah, because you can't complain about the problem if you're not willing to find a solution. So, like I said, “Okay, I’m just not able to do this holiday collection. It’s not realistic, and yeah, my assistant’s aren't available. Like you said, they're starting their families and building their families, and they’ll be back next year, but for now, how do I solve this problem, you know? What can be done?” You're right, you have to be willing, especially as an entrepreneur, I think, to think outside the box and think, “How can I do this differently?” It doesn't always have to be the same, and you don't want to keep it the same all the time. That’s where you get really stuck. If you really want to continue to grow and expand, you have to be willing to make changes and, like you said, observe what’s working, see what’s not working, and get rid of the stuff that’s not working to make room for more of what is actually working so that you can grow.
Rebecca Ching: Yeah, and with authenticity and positivity and work as your core values, you're filtering that through all of these decisions, and I think when we really are clear on our core values, it really is a game changer. It makes those hard yesses or no’s easier because you feel aligned. And again, the memory of being really sick, I mean, for me, it was a lot longer than you, but I’m like never again. [Laughs]
Natalie Borton: Mm-hmm.
Rebecca Ching: Never again.
Natalie Borton: It’s true. I will never forget that, I agree. I’ve never been sicker.
My husband was out of work for two full weeks to take care of me and the kids and all their needs. I agree. It’s like that’s ingrained in me now, and that’s a beautiful thing, too, that the body can cling to that memory as a reminder of, “Let’s not do that again. Let’s avoid that.” Not that you only get pneumonia when you overwork yourself, but I know in my case my body was so overworked that my immune system just could not handle the stress, and it just shut down. It just completely shut down.
Rebecca Ching: Yeah, and I think you and I are alike in that sense, too, where we love what we’re doing, so that little kind of it’s like the hunger/fullness cues for some, it’s the work/rest cues are a little different.
Natalie Borton: Yeah. Yep.
Rebecca Ching: And all of a sudden it’s like I’m going to bed even if all the ideas are coming. I’ll put them all in a recorder or I have Post-it Notes right by my desk right here, and I had to download ideas last night and get myself to bed because I remember when you said about burnout is one of your tells and you kind of operationalized that back to when you start to feel lethargic and not motivated and not creative, those are your tells that something’s going on.
I remember I had a supervisor in my twenties say, “Well, maybe you just need to burnout and then just leave the job.” And I’m like, “What!”
Natalie Borton: Yeah.
Rebecca Ching: And it’s like, “Yeah, you just give it your all,” and I’m like this is the culture. I mean, he’s older than both of us, and so, maybe there’s a generational piece there of just full-body sacrifice, but we still -- in our particular culture, the hustle --
Natalie Borton: Mm-hmm.
Rebecca Ching: And again, I’m not talking about people who are dealing with real scarcity going, “I’ve got to frickin’ have food on the table, keep the roof over the --,” you know, that’s not what I’m talking about. When it’s those times, it’s game on when you're in that space. I’ve been there. We’ve all been there in our journey of this is what we’ve got to do to make ends meet. That’s not what I’m talking about. It’s more connected to this belief of worthiness and not respecting that not everything has to be fast and right now.
Natalie Borton: Mm-hmm.
Rebecca Ching: Billions of dollars are spent to have us believe we need a product or service now. [Laughs]
Natalie Borton: Mm-hmm. It’s true. It’s true, and it’s greedy of us, especially when we’re coming from a place where, “Okay, my bills will be paid. I will make enough money this year. Our bills will be paid. Our mortgage will be paid. We will eat food, and we’re fine.” So then it can be really greedy to, then, push yourself to burnout and sacrifice your relationships in your life and your family and their needs just for the sake of wanting more success in your life. I never want to hold back my own ambitions. I’m very ambitious, and I love to push things forward and grow, but I want to do so without compromising the relationships in my life and my family. And so, not to get so greedy all the time and make that be the end all be all, like you said, because you can always work harder and do more, but it costs. There’s a cost to that, and is it really worth it?
When you look at the whole scope of your life, work is good and it’s fulfilling and it’s valuable and I love to work and I probably always will work, but my life isn't about that. My life is about my children and my husband and my friends. And so, you do have to take a more holistic view and be willing to make sacrifices with your work for the sake of those other things, you know?
We sometimes can work like we’re gonna live forever, too, and that’s not the case either, you know? We’re never promised another day. I really value my every opportunity, every day I get. You know, I wake up and I’m alive and I’m here, and I think when we hustle, hustle, hustle, when we’re not in that place where we’re just putting food on the table, like you said, it’s a totally different situation. But when we set ourselves up and things are working out, all the bills will be paid and all of that, and then we just continue to hustle, we’re not being really good stewards of the time we’ve been given, you know?
Rebecca Ching: Yeah, but isn't it hard? I know, for me, it took me a while to help my nervous system feel comfortable downshifting. It was almost the go-go-go that coming down and trying to retrain in having more space and not booking every minute and doing every minute, this has been several years of me just slowly teasing out the kind of workaholic protector part of me that was this shadow side of my loves, right?
Natalie Borton: Mm-hmm.
Rebecca Ching: Did you feel that when you started? Because, I mean, you had the crash, but sometimes it’s like, “Oh, I’ve got an idea.” Yeah, I think sometimes does it feel weird downshifting even though you know intellectually but it feels weird?
Natalie Borton: It does. It does feel weird. The times when I know that I could get more work done today if I just let my son and daughter watch a movie and I just have my computer and do a little work, but instead I choose to go to the park and just sit there. That’s a little hard for me still. Sometimes I’m like, “But I wish I was doing this or getting this done,” but I’m always glad that I went to the park with them. I’m always glad that I spent that time with them, but you're right. It feels a little awkward to shift in that way, and I think that the more we do it, the more practice we get, and the easier it does become. But it is for sure uncomfortable sometimes. It’s uncomfortable.
Rebecca Ching: Yeah, and again, it’s not an intellectual thing. It’s just even in my body it feels a little scattered sometimes, but the one thing I do need is to go for that walk, go to the park, go play catch, snuggle on the couch and watch one of my son’s shows (these weird Lego shows or something). I don't know. He loves them.
Natalie Borton: Oh, yeah, I know. They watch the random shows. [Laughs]
Rebecca Ching: Oh, my gosh.
Natalie Borton: Is your son a snuggler too?
Rebecca Ching: Oh, he is such a snuggler, and this is now recorded, but yes.
Natalie Borton: Yes! [Laughs]
Rebecca Ching: We have this little thing where I’m like, “I love you,” and he’s like, “I love you more,” and I’m like, “Will you say that forever?”
Natalie Borton: Right?
Rebecca Ching: I asked him a few years ago, and he was on his way to school back in the day when we were doing drop off, and he goes, “Maybe through high school.” [Laughs]
Natalie Borton: [Laughs] Right?
Rebecca Ching: And I said, “I’ll take it! I’ll take it.”
Natalie Borton: I’ll take what I can get. Yeah. Aww.
Rebecca Ching: He is such a snuggler, so I’m gonna cherish every minute of that.
You said something else that brought up a curiosity about really owning your ambitions. You're like, “I am ambitious.” It’s been an interesting word for me because I’ve really claimed my ambitions just as kind of this neutral thing, but over the years I’ve picked up, “Oh, you're so ambitious.” I get this sometimes from people where I’m like, “Ooh, that didn't feel like a compliment.”
Natalie Borton: Right.
Rebecca Ching: “That felt like it was a dirty word,” you know? So, I’ve just started paying attention to that over the years where I thought that just kind of everyone has their ambitions, whatever they are, whether they're hanging out at home, working, running a household to being the CEO of a company and everything between. I just kind of looked at that, but I’ve noticed there’s some baggage with that word. What have you noticed around that word and especially as you claim it?
Natalie Borton: Yeah, I agree with you. I think that especially as women it can be viewed as a negative thing to be an ambitious woman. I do see things changing, and I like that for sure, but yeah, it’s not always a compliment to women to be ambitious, and there’s some kind of assumption there that you’re not taking care of your family. It’s an old school way of thinking, and I try to give grace and know that maybe it’s not always someone’s intention to be hurtful with their view, but it is. It is hurtful, and who’s to say that I’m not allowed to be as ambitious as my husband is, and at the same time, my husband is just as involved in our family as I am, and that’s how it works. People ask me, “How do you get all this stuff done?” I’m like, “Well, I have a super supportive and involved partner, and that’s how I get things done.” I’m not doing all of the parenting things and running this whole business.
I have ambitions, my husband has ambitions, he loves that I am ambitious, and we have teamed together to raise our children together. It’s a true partnership, and I think that that really helps. But yeah, there’s certainly some negativity there with women and with ambition.
I’ve noticed at times, since I share about style, I’ll share about a clothing item that is expensive, there will be criticism. There will be criticism, and I ask my husband, I'm like, “Do you ever get asked about how much your suit costs?”
Rebecca Ching: [Laughs]
Natalie Borton: If anything, he is celebrated more probably if his suit is more expensive or if his car is nicer. I got criticism about the car that I purchased for myself -- that I purchased for myself! Not a sponsored post or anything like that. I got criticized for that. I’ve gotten criticized for spending my money in the way that I feel like spending my money, and it’s not like I share every single thing on the internet, but it’s really interesting. I just don't know that I’d be receiving this same criticism if I were not a woman, and I don't like to totally play the gender card here, but it’s a pattern that I do see. I don't experience it a ton, but this year I’ve noticed that a bit. Like, “Oh, I wonder if I was a man if you would be asking me those same questions or criticizing me in that same way for the work that I do or the way that I spend my money.” It’s interesting.
Rebecca Ching: Well, I don't see it as a gender card; it’s just a fact.
Natalie Borton: Yeah.
Rebecca Ching: It’s like there is a discrepancy there. That is such an interesting question. No, I hear you, too, and it’s interesting when my husband who’s very hands-on -- and we’re celebrating 16 years in a couple weeks.
Natalie Borton: Wow!
Rebecca Ching: Our wedding anniversary.
Natalie Borton: Ah, congrats!
Rebecca Ching: And as a child of divorce, this has been something really important to me, and we were talking about that, and he also was like -- I’m like, I would get asked, “You know, is your husband okay with you being successful?”
Natalie Borton: Right.
Rebecca Ching: What a weird question! So, I go, “Is this weird?” And he was like, ‘No, it’s one of the things I love about you.’
Natalie Borton: Mm-hmm. Yeah.
Rebecca Ching: And I’m like why are people asking that! So, we obviously dug around and unpacked a lot of gender norms and stereotypes, and it shifted who our social support is, right, too. We talk deep about work and dreams but also just really care deeply about family and integrate all of it together. There’s just a lot of energy and a lot of opinions.
I remember for a while early as a parent I had to kind of reboot my support. I kind of had to clear the decks and go, “Wait a second. [Laughs] Who’s speaking into my life right now?”
Natalie Borton: Yeah! Yeah, you're right though. I love what you said about how your husband loves your ambition, and that’s probably one of the things he loves most about you and he was probably drawn to that about you when he married you. I feel the same way with my husband, and that’s the thing is everyone’s marriage is different. Everyone’s relationship is different, but yeah, it does really help to have a partner who not only accepts that about us but obviously loves that about us and celebrates that and that they're willing to make the sacrifices on their end in order to see us live those things out just as do for them. You know, that’s how a marriage works and thrives.
You know, like you said 16 years, we’re going on 10 years now, and I think that that support for one another is really key.
Rebecca Ching: You know, it’s interesting because he also is the first one to say, “I love that you love what you do, but you need a timeout.”
Natalie Borton: Yeah.
Rebecca Ching: He’s the one that can call me in. He’s probably one of the only people I can listen to when I’m in that zone, and things have shifted obviously this year with the pandemic. I’ve been having a lot more clarity. It’s been a hard stop that’s helped me go to the next level of what I wanted for more of an integration of things, but yeah, he’s also the one that’s like, “Okay, yeah, now you're going from this is awesome to the shadow of this, and it’s not okay.” I’ve got some people in my life -- do you have people in your life, too, that can also just kind of help check it if you're not seeing it too when you're all in with all your loves?
Natalie Borton: Yeah, certainly my husband, and then I do have other friends who are fellow entrepreneurs, and it’s really nice to be able to have those open conversations and check in, “How are you doing? Are you overwhelmed in this way?” where they really get it, too. They get the pull to work and to be growing and all that.
Rebecca Ching: Yeah.
Natalie Borton: So, that’s helpful, and at the same time, I also have several close, close friends who are stay-at-home moms, and I feel like they really keep me in check too because when I will talk to them and hear about their lives and just get in touch, it puts things into perspective, too, and makes me realize -- you know, I was talking to one of my friends about how I felt like I was working every night. Like, “I just feel like we’re working every single night. We put the kids to bed --,” and she’s like, “You don't just pour a glass of wine and watch a movie?” I was like, “I don't. Yeah, I would like to do that. That’s a really good idea!” It was like I hadn’t even thought of that as an option. I’d just think, “Oh, I put my kids to bed, and then I get more work done,” and part of that’s 2020 because all of our schedules are different, but just even that, having a friend who doesn't work, and she just gave me the simplest little something, and that just kind of helped me reset and realize, “Oh, it’s not really necessary or normal to work every single night after we put our kids to bed.”
Rebecca Ching: No!
Natalie Borton: We should really be pouring a glass of wine and lounging and watching a movie or sitting by the fire pit or whatever that is. And so, I feel like it’s a mix of those things. But again, within the context of great relationships that helps us be our best self, and that’s why it’s also so important to not sacrifice all of our relationships for the sake of success.
Rebecca Ching: Yes!
Natalie Borton: Because when you have these relationships it’s like a checks and balances thing, and it does keep you in check, and then people can really notice when things are off or, “Wow, how are you doing? You seem really overwhelmed.”
Something so simple like that from a trusted friend is very eye opening. Like, “Oh, wow. Yeah, I guess if you're noticing it, it must be true,” and then I can kind of dig a little deeper and examine that. So, I think that having close relationships in your life, obviously, is beneficial for so many reasons but that reason as well, yeah.
Rebecca Ching: Yeah, and it’s the way that they check in, too. It’s not like, “Oh, you're neglecting your family,” or, “Oh, you’re neglecting your business.” It’s, “Are you okay?” and, “Hey, I’m noticing this about you,” and I think that, to me, has been such a measure of success, too, is the support that I have around me, the quality of that and the capacity that I can be all in with work and all in with my family, and they're all in the same pool, and I’m not gonna have them compete like I shared earlier.
Natalie Borton: Mm-hmm.
Rebecca Ching: One of the things I wanted to ask you about, too, was you’ve developed this really strong practice of focusing on one thing at a time, and I know that you do have a couple things like balls in the air, but for me, I was the idea person for so long, and I’d throw spaghetti on the wall, and then I was so exhausted. [Laughs]
Natalie Borton: Yeah.
Rebecca Ching: And so, slowly dialing back from all these things over the years and really honing in, even as I’m looking at 2021, to scaffold. I joke and say my eyes are often bigger than my calendar. [Laughs] So, having to reign that in.
So, how do you keep yourself from getting caught up with the shiny/sparkly syndrome and with your own awesome ideas, and how do you decide what business idea to pursue next?
Natalie Borton: Yeah, I really don't like to feel like I’m out of control with my work. I like to feel competent and confident in what I’m doing, and that preference of mine really makes it hard to do too many things at once because it’s impossible to do all the things and to do them well, and so, my need to feel competent in the work that I’m doing and to do things well sort of tempers that, and I feel like, then, I don't really move onto the next thing until I feel like I have a really strong grasp on what I’m doing right then.
So, you know, my Instagram business and jewelry business sort of grew at the same time, but I didn't really put that much specific focus and energy into the Instagram side of things other than for the sake of my jewelry business until I felt like my jewelry business was at a really great place and thriving and going well and had a good system going on, and then I was able to transition into, okay, how do I expand and grow, with intentionality, this community that we’re developing on Instagram. I recently started teaching style classes, but I thought about that for a really long time, and I only did so from a place of, again, those other two pieces being in place and feeling like, okay, I’m in my groove there. That’s running really smoothly. I don't feel like it’s -- obviously it’s a lot of work, but I’m not in the figuring-it-out mode right now. It’s more established, and I feel competent there. And so, that to me is a guide, that I don't really like to move onto the thing until I feel really comfortable with what’s working already or can push something else aside that’s not working so that I can make that time and space for that.
I think that adding new things, a lot of these ideas come to me when I’m taking a drive. Some people it’s in the shower. I find if I’m just taking a drive and listening to music and especially if my kids are not in the car with me and I’m by myself, just driving to the grocery store, but no one’s like, “Mom! Mom! Mom!” and you're just by yourself, those ideas will come, and then I can start to think them through. I don't really make impulsive decisions in general, and part of that’s probably just my personality, and I am an only child. I don't know if that’s relevant to the conversation, but I think that being an only child and being very self-directed my whole life probably also plays into how I handle business and all of that. But then the ideas will come, and I’ll try to think them through and think about, “Does this make sense for me? Does this feel like this fits? Maybe it’s a good idea, but is this such a stretch?” and then I can kind of think it through. But yeah, I really don't like to move onto the next thing until I feel like I’m pretty okay at least in what I’m already working on.
Rebecca Ching: I loved how you brought the words confident and competent together as your filter for the next thing because confidence is one of the qualities of self-leadership, one of the methodologies that I do with my clinical and my leadership work, this sense of confidence, but the competency is bringing me up to this book by Charles Feltman, The Thin Book of Trust, and one of the key components of building trust is competence.
Natalie Borton: Mm-hmm.
Rebecca Ching: And so, I’m thinking this is fascinating. Am I competent or am I seen as competent to get this done, and then do I have the confidence, not hubris but just the confidence to execute it.
Natalie Borton: Right.
Rebecca Ching: So, I just wrote that down. I’m like, ooh, confident and competent as kind of a filter as you're adding something new or you're kind of shifting in your business. I love that. That is really helpful.
Natalie Borton: Yeah.
Rebecca Ching: Or really cool. So, one final question I want you to share about that I really valued how you handled is you stopped being an ambassador (you might want to talk about what an ambassador is in the Instagram/influencer world) for a brand that you love and that I love too after hearing from their community and yours about their failings and making really substantive changes that honor diversity, equity, and inclusion. I’d love for you to share what your process of hearing those concerns were and how that led you to finally making the decision to stop being a brand ambassador with that company.
Natalie Borton: Yeah, that was big. That was big this year. So, for those of you who don’t fully know the Instagram business, those of us who are considered “influencers” will have these partnerships -- that word is so funny, but it’s accurate, it’s true -- will have a brand partnership where we often have a relationship that’s a paid partnership (with this company, it was a paid relationship) where, on an ongoing basis, we’re sharing about them and talking about them, linking to their products, for me for style content, wearing their products. So, this was a brand that I had -- and I still love. I still wear their clothes and still love them. But I had a long-term contract with them.
A lot of stuff came out this summer that was concerning, to say the least, and I don’t just hear things and then assume they're true. I like to dig a lot deeper because there are two sides to every story, and then there’s also the truth. There’s a lot.
Rebecca Ching: Or three or four or five sides.
Natalie Borton: Yeah, exactly.
Rebecca Ching: Yeah, yeah.
Natalie Borton: So, it was one of those things where at first you hear something and you're like, “Oh --,” you know, you hear stuff in the news. You're like, “Oh, okay, I don't know,” and you just kind of move on, but then more stuff keeps coming out, and you're like, “Okay, this is something to be paying attention to, and especially, like you say, hearing from people in my community expressing concerns and asking me, “Have you heard this?” or sending articles, “Did you read this?” So, then you have to pay attention to that. That’s just the responsible thing to do.
So, I hear these concerns, I dig a little deeper, and I hear that side of the story. I, then, had the opportunity to be on a call with the CEO of this company, along with some other key influencers that were ambassadors for this brand as well, and I felt that was also a very important piece of the puzzle. Like I said, not just hearing one side; hearing the company’s side and their perspective. “Why is this happening? What’s going on? What are you doing to make changes? What’s your story here? Let’s hear your side as well,” and then to be able to filter all of that information through and then make a decision from there, I ultimately felt uncomfortable moving forward with this paid partnership.
And so, thankfully they were so respectful of my decision. It was a hard choice because this is a brand that, from the very beginning, has treated me with such respect, was one of the first brands to pay me fairly, my fees, rather than brands will just -- you give them your fees and they’re like, “Oh, we don't have the budget for that,” or they make excuses and they don't pay you really what your time is worth.
This brand was so good to me, so it was a really hard choice for me because I stand by all of their clothes, and I was so well treated, and I didn't have that experience at all, but just because I didn't have that experience doesn't mean other people didn't have that experience. And so, I had to dig into that, and I ultimately realized that I needed to take a pause. I’m not into cancel culture. I don't like to just say, “We’re done. Let’s shut it down,” but I didn't feel comfortable moving forward.
And so, I reached out to them. I said, “You know, I’d like to end my contract a couple months early. I just think that there’s a lot of -- obviously, you guys need to figure out your stuff, and I’m rooting for you, and I really would love to work together again in the future once these things are figured out. I really love your products,” and all that, and they were so great about it, totally understood, respected that decision, which I’m thankful for, you know? I’m sure I could have been stuck in that contract if they wanted to be difficult, and it was easy, and they were respectful of it.
And so, that relationship’s on hold for now. They have reached out about working together over the holidays, and I just didn't quite feel comfortable still. There are still some customer service issues as well, and I like to make sure if I’m sending my community to shop at a brand that I feel like they're just gonna get a great experience. And so, there are kind of two pieces to the puzzle there. There’s the internal relationship with their company culture, and there’s also the experience that customers are gonna get, and those pieces weren't quite there.
So, I’m really rooting for them. I really want them to succeed. I think that they make great products. I still wear their clothes, and I’m hopeful that things can resume in the new year, but it was a really good experience in realizing, kind of like we talked about before, that it’s okay to pivot. It’s okay to realize this isn't quite working, I don't feel comfortable with this, especially when, in this experience, I’m being paid to help represent this brand, and obviously I’m still sharing my own thoughts and opinions and all that, but it just didn't feel right to be paid by this company and then to be sharing about it when there’s all this stuff going on in the background, and I felt like it was really going to only make it harder for them to actually improve in the way they wanted to if I continued to do that.
So, that was a new experience for me. It was the first time I‘ve ever done that, and it was scary to me as well just on a professional level. “I don't know. I don't know how this is gonna be perceived. I don't know how this is gonna go.” But it went over really well, like I said, with the brand, and I think that I just deepened trust with my own community as well for them to realize that I will stay true to my values here. I’m not just going to take a check and not care about what’s gonna happen. It made me realize, too, moving forward in experiences with brands if I uncover something new and I don't feel comfortable with the relationship anymore, I have the power to make a change there and I can make a different choice and I’m not just stuck in that, and it also probably will shape how I handle my contracts moving forward as well and the brands that I choose to work with.
So, I mean, saying that, I don't know if I could have done it differently thinking back. I mean, I felt confident partnering with that brand and, like I said, I still feel confident in their products and everything. So, hindsight is 20/20, but it was a new experience for me. I’m glad that I did it, but like I said, I really do hope that I can work with them again and that they can turn things around. I really do want to see them succeed. I have only good thoughts and wishes for them, you know, for everyone’s sake, too, anyone that works at this company. This is so vague, but I don't want to call out the company, so I don't want to say who they are. I’m sure a lot of people listening, if they follow me, will know who it is, but, yeah. It was an interesting professional experience to say the least.
Rebecca Ching: Yeah, and you shared with the community -- I thought this was incredible leadership on your end -- you shared the process and after you did your research you shared this, and I think this is the antithesis of cancel culture because there’s relationship there.
There was still respect with disagreement or respect with misalignment. There was still a humanizing, even though they were making choices that were definitely leaving people feeling dehumanized. And you even said, “This wasn't my experience, but that doesn't mean it’s okay to still be with them because I’m hearing this enough.” You modeled your communication, and I think that really called up a lot of people in how to handle these situations in a time where, yeah, we’re very divided and, yeah, we need to have more accountability and boundaries, but we can do it with fierce empathy and compassion. And so, I really appreciated the nuance of that because it really was not as much about the company. To me this question is more about your process, and for you, your key takeaways, you mentioned, maybe looking at your contracts differently.
Natalie Borton: Mm-hmm.
Rebecca Ching: Are there any other key takeaways or learnings from this experience?
Natalie Borton: Yeah, certainly I think it makes you a little bit more critical of when you have an opportunity to have a long-term relationship with a brand to think about it even more critically. I already was highly selective with those things, but I think even more so I will be or even if it’s a brand that I’m just starting to work with, and there’s an opportunity for a longer contract, maybe have, okay, let’s start with three months, and then we’ll work from there. And so, just maybe shaping contracts differently, thinking things through, really before you get in with a brand for these long-term partnerships, because especially since authenticity is such a value of mine, I want to make sure that the brands that I’m partnering with are aligned with my own values and I’m representing them, and that doesn't mean that every single thing has to be exactly perfect, but just generally speaking, I don't want to ever share about brands that I don't feel confident in the way that their company’s running or with the way that they're doing things, to the best of my knowledge, you know? And so, it just shined light on that.
Like I said, it did give me a new confidence in myself because this was a new experience for me just as a businessperson in handling a situation where, okay, I’m here. I’m in this contract. I got myself into this position. How do I make this work so that I -- what’s best for me, for the brand, for my community, for everyone in the situation, and it doesn't have to be me just sucking it up and finishing out my contact, that there was another option there of, “How about we just hit pause on this for a little bit, and you guys figure your stuff out, and I’m gonna hit pause here and then wish you the best and support you in whatever way I can as you improve, and then let’s check back in in a little bit after you’ve made some improvements,” you know? It was a better option than just saying, “Oh, you're dead to me,” because that’s not a good situation. Think about how many people work for this company. I don't want the company to go out of business; I want those people to have their jobs, and I want to see them succeed because, like I said, they make great products. And so, I felt like it was a good option.
But, yeah, it does make you think, moving forward, I guess, what are the things that could go wrong with future partnerships, and so, your eyes are open a little bit more. Especially, I think I can assume the best in people, which is a good trait, but then sometimes that can be a bad trait.
Rebecca Ching: Totally.
Natalie Borton: Because it is good to also think about how things could go wrong, and so, it was a bit eye opening in that experience as well, like, okay, making sure, “Is everything above board here.”
Rebecca Ching: Did you have any pushback from your community on how you handled this?
Natalie Borton: No, I actually had a really good response, and I think probably since I did end up doing a blog post sharing that process of the process that I went through to come to that decision, and I think that that was really helpful and let people in on it was not an impulse decision. At the very beginning when the news came out, I was getting a lot of negative messages from people saying, “How could you support this brand?” Not the helpful ones that are like, “Have you read this? What’s your thought on this?” Negative ones that were assuming things about me, assuming a lot, and that’s where the darkness of the internet comes into play, and I really hated that.
That was disappointing to me, but they didn't know what was going on behind the scenes. They didn't know that as soon as I realized that this was something really happening that I got on a call with the CEO of this company, you know, and that I took him very seriously. I wasn't taking it lightly.
But kind of like with my own experience sharing about my eating disorder and coming from a place of healing, I didn't want to share about the situation until I had the information to share about it, and so, I just didn't like that there were a lot of assumptions being made. Just in general I hate when people make assumptions about me and my character. I’m sure everybody hates that. And that’s a hard thing about having a very public life at times is people are gonna make assumptions about you, and you just have to learn to have thick skin and move on. But once I did share how I handled it and my perspective, I got a lot of great support, and I do get follow-up messages from people asking, “What’s the status of your relationship with this company,” and all that, and I’ll handle those privately, and I'm sure once I decide to partner with this brand again, there’ll be a lot more conversation that has to come into play there and share my perspective and why I made that choice. So -- slobbering, my God! [Laughs] My dog just came up to say hello!
Rebecca Ching: [Laughs]
Natalie Borton: [Laughs]
Rebecca Ching: Listeners can't see but Hank the pony-dog just made an appearance in the interview. You know, thank you for all that, and I hope you continue to share because I think we have a lot to learn. I mean, you helped me shop, you save time, because we have a similar style, and I love to be exposed to some new things that you share, but to me it’s about how you share and how you communicate things that’s had such an impact on me and I think calls the internet up. So, I’m very, very grateful for your leadership, Natalie. I really appreciate you. How can people find you and connect with you?
Natalie Borton: Thank you so much, Rebecca. You can find me at www.natalieborton.com, also www.blog.natalieborton.com, and I’m on Instagram @natalieborton - just my first name, last name, and I hope that you guys will come and find me and say hello and join the community there. I’d love to have you and meet you. Send me a DM if you hear this interview and you're new. I’d love to meet you!
Rebecca Ching: Awesome. Well, thank you, again, Natalie. Keep up the amazing work, and, again, just grateful for all that you do and how you show up.
Natalie Borton: Thank you so much, Rebecca. Thanks for having me today!
Rebecca Ching: If you compromise your values by externalizing your worthiness and safety in the name of success, then your business, then your life, then your wellbeing are destined to lead to burnout. But burnout’s not a sign of failure or value judgment, just data on where you need to realign to your values and refocus your definition of success, because when burnout shows up, as it does with ambitious and deeply-committed people like you, let me repeat again, it’s so important to not see it as a sign of failure but instead as data to collect and so you can recalibrate how you do life and business.
It is also critical you drill down on your core values, on your definition of success, and get clear where you tend to externalize your worthiness and safety. Commit to this as a life-long recalibration practice as opposed to the misguided mindset of just fixing it and being done with it. This is a life-long practice because we live in a world that invests billions of dollars to impact our beliefs (about ourselves, about our safety, about our worthiness) and our actions, and because none of us are immune to really good marketing.
Natalie gave us a lot of wisdom on how she integrates her business with her values. She also taught us that even the best opportunities can lead to burnout sneaking up on us and how to take the data from those experiences and use it to build a stronger plan for work and life.
So, what’s your definition of success? How have your ambitions moved you from being aligned to your values to setting you up for burnout? What are your core values, and what are the clues that let you know you're drifting away from them? When you have clarity on these questions and commit to checking in on them regularly is when burnout will stop impacting your life and business. Contrary to many of the messages in culture, burnout is not a badge of honor. It is hard to avoid burning out when you're all in with work and life.
One of the best ways to prevent burnout or recover from it is getting clear on your values. It is one thing naming your values and another to living them out and developing practices and commitments that support them on a daily basis. Our values inform our boundaries and help us stay focused on a healthy definition of success.
Leading is hard. Leading is often controversial as you navigate staying aligned to your values, your mission, and your boundaries. Navigating the inevitable controversy can challenge your confidence, clarity, and calm. Now, you don’t mind making the hard decisions, but sometimes the stakes seem higher and can bring up echoes of old doubts and insecurities during times when you need to feel rock solid on your plan and action. Finding a coach who gets the nuances of your business and leading in our complex and polarized world can help you identify the blocks that keep you playing at safe and small.
Leading today is not a fancy title or fluff or bragging rights. It is brave and bold work to stay the course when the future is so unknown and the doubts and pains from the past keep showing up to shake things up. Internal emotional practices and systemic strategies are needed to help the protector of cynicism stay at bay and foster a hope that is actionable and aligned.
When the stakes are high and you don't want to lose focus, when you want to navigate inevitable conflict between your ears and with those you lead, when time is of the essence and you want to make hard decisions with confidence and clarity, then Unburdened Leader Coaching is for you and where you deepen the capacity to tolerate the vulnerability of change, innovation, and doing things differently than the status quo.
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To start your Unburdened Leader Coaching process with me go to www.rebeccaching.com and book a free consultation call. I can’t wait to hear from you!
Thank you so much for joining this episode of The Unburdened Leader. You can find this episode, show notes, and free Unburdened Leader resources, along with ways to work with me www.rebeccaching.com.