Podcast

Quieting the Inner Critic and Harnessing Your Power With Cindy Tsai, MD

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Do you ever have the feeling that you’re meant for something more, but you’re just not sure what that is or how to find it? Maybe even if you think you know what your gifts are, you have that inner critic always shouting you down. Cindy Tsai, MD, is an Internal Medicine physician and Integrative Life Coach with a mission to empower high-performing women to look within and quiet their inner critic to confidently live their best life. She takes a holistic approach with years of mindfulness and integrative medicine experience to coach women to uncover their gifts and make an impact in the world.

Here’s what you’ll learn:

  • Cindy Tsai reveals her shift from medical physician to Integrative Life Coach.
  • Being a physician, Cindy realized she wanted to look at a person as a whole, and not just prescribe medication.
  • She became a life coach to empower other women to uncover their gifts and make an impact in the world.
  • What is the inner critic and why bringing awareness to it is the solution?
  • The best way to actually change things is to look at the root causes.
  • Cindy talks about her healing journey—learning to look within, reconnect, and build a sense of self trust. 
  • Self-advocacy: what is it and why it’s important.

Learn more about Cindy and her life coaching practice on her website.
Facebook: @cindytsaimd1
Instagram:@cindytsaimd
LinkedIn: Cindy Tsai

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Emily Merrell  

Welcome to the sixth degree Podcast, the podcast where we grill our guests about the things that make them tick and find out how human connection plays a role in their life. I’m your host, Emily Merrell. Hello, and welcome back to the sixth degree with Emily Merrill, the podcast where we grill our guests about the things that make them tick, and find out how human connection plays a role in their life. I’m your host, Emily and today I’m so excited to have my friend Cindy Tsai, board certified physician turned integrative life coach focusing on helping women quiet their inner critic so they can confidently live their best life. Cindy, welcome to the show.

 

Cindy Tsai  

Thank you so much, Emily, I’m so excited to be here.

 

Emily Merrell  

I am so excited to have you. I think that the today’s theme is like the perfect fit for you. Today’s theme of the podcast is self advocation. And, you know, even backing up beyond the theme, we were just talking before we started recording just how, you know in the last four months how how much your life has changed and how my life has changed and just getting to know each other. But I think you’ve helped me so much like become a better advocate for myself. And it’s been awesome watching you really advocate for yourself as well. 

 

Cindy Tsai  

Yeah, it’s been so fun, just this whole entrepreneur journey. Having been really focused on being a physician for so many years. And now kind of shifting gears and really just, it’s a whole new world. And it’s been just so fun. I’m so grateful for this opportunity. 

 

Emily Merrell  

And it’s crazy to think I feel like you don’t know that at least off the top of my head. And you might have more insight in this. But generally speaking, when you think of like physicians turned entrepreneurs, I think of more like TV show hosts or something, you know, or someone that created like the boppie, or like some sort of product, but you really need this tremendous shift from going from physician to coach, you know, how did you like, Tell me your journey? How did you take make that decision to leave behind hang up your stethoscope scope, so to speak, to help women.

 

Cindy Tsai  

Yeah, for sure. So I always wanted to be a physician ever since I was young. My dad was a surgeon. So I was exposed to medicine from a young age. And because my parents didn’t plan to have me, I think I always wanted to achieve and prove my worth, I worked really hard completed training at top schools and was just so relieved and excited when I started work as a primary care physician. And then after a few years, I realized that I wanted to do more, I really wanted to look at the person as a whole, and not just prescribe medication. I think a lot of times people go see their physicians, and they feel like they don’t have much time or they don’t really get to talk about their real concerns, or they don’t like keep track of things. And then it’s like, when the visits over then they’re like, oh, by the way something’s going on. And so, you know, I just felt so stuck, like I really, really wanted to connect and help people but I felt like there was a better way where I could have more impact. And um, that being said, I was always a perfectionist, you know, constantly just going through life, checking all the boxes, all the things and I had worked with therapists in the past and found it helpful and supportive. But it wasn’t until I started working with various life coaches, that really helped me gain the clarity and confidence to step into my true self. And I was so inspired and became a life coach myself so that I could help empower other women to do the same and really uncover their gifts so that they can really show up and shine in the world.

 

Emily Merrell  

I feel like there’s so many things I want to unpack from what you said first and foremost, with so many businesses even when I worked in the corporate world, we always talk about how we’re not saving lives. But you literally were saving lives when you were a physician but yet then realize that you still wanted to do more and and I love how you were able to make that that realization or that like aha moment of noticing how the holistic way of saving someone so while you’re not necessarily stitching them up or like putting a bandaid on it or giving them that medication there is something holistic about working with someone to to change their lives and save it so how did you even find a life coach? I feel like those the the world of like a doctor and a coach feels so far away from each other.

 

Cindy Tsai  

Yeah I think that I was always interested in self development and learning and growing. And I did a lot of research, when I was looking at this whole field of coaching, I learned about it, I want to say, not too long ago. And I went to some conferences, started meeting other physicians who were also getting certified as coaches and telling me more about it. And I found that some physicians were transitioning into the coaching world and helping other physicians who are burned out, or you know, all of these things. And so it really opened my eyes to what’s out there, and how you can really help serve others in so many different ways. And it’s not just, you know, like, as a doctor or whatever, right? There’s, there’s so many ways you can connect and make an impact.

 

Emily Merrell  

Yeah, oh, I love that I and I love that there’s this whole world of doctors out there striving to help people in a bigger, more complex way. So, you know, one of the other things that you mentioned earlier was that, that perfectionism and not being planned or not being wanted, and I think you were probably wanted, ultimately, but your parents would be listening and being like, Cindy, we got to talk. But, but that challenge of also like proving your worth, and I, I’ve so relate to that. And I also see my clients relating to that, too, where that that feeling of like not being enough, and always striving for more and desiring more, and then getting more, but then wanting more after that. So it, it all comes down to the inner critic and that negative self talk. And, you know, there’s so many people who decide, they can’t start because whatever their critic is called, toxin out of it and convinces them that it’s not going to, they’re stupid to leave their fields, or they’re stupid to, to risk at all or who are they? So can we talk a little bit more about the inner critic, and like, why the inner critic is so important to you?

 

Cindy Tsai  

Yeah, so I think that, I always like to look at the root cause of things, because I think that’s the best way to actually change things, you know, you can look at things on the surface, and you end up oftentimes just treating the symptoms, and you don’t get any sustainable results. So I chose to look at the inner critic, because I think a lot of times, we are so conditioned to look external to us, for things like validation. And it’s, it’s unfortunate, because we end up really losing that relationship with ourselves. And I think so much of my healing journey is learning to look within, and reconnect, and build that sense of self trust. And this idea that I have my own back, no matter what. And it’s such an empowering place to be operating from. And I think that so many women, especially because we have, you know, we’re nurturers by nature, and we take care of everyone else, except for ourselves. And so I think a lot of times, this voice in our heads, is kind of making decisions for us that we don’t even know about, and may not even really be for our highest good, but just because it’s the way we’ve been doing it for so long, we’ve accepted it as the truth. And we kind of get stuck in this cycle. And, and I feel like days just go by time is flying by and we may not even be really living the life you really want to live.

 

Emily Merrell  

Which brings me to like self advocacy, because I think, you know, the inner critic, like what you said is we’re not living your truth or new days go by and you’re not even sure what you’re doing with your life. But having your own back. Advocating is hard. I actually, right before this appointment, or this this podcast, I was at a doctor’s appointment, and I’m kicking myself for not writing questions down because as she’s walking out the door, I’m like, Whoa, I have another question for you. And having had the experience that you’ve had as both a physician and now a life coach, what are some ways that we can better prepare to self advocate without that feeling, and that like nagging feeling that we’re inconveniencing another person,

 

Cindy Tsai  

I think that it’s important to remember, this is a process and journey. And every step of the way, every experience we have, it’s, it can be seen as a gift. And I think that we go through life, we have various things presented to us as lessons. And I think the first thing to really, in terms of better advocating for yourself is really getting clear on your priorities. I think when you know where you’re trying to get to, that can be really helpful, right? Like, if you don’t have a clear goal, we’re constantly bombarded by so many different messages and signals and, you know, just social media, it can be really hard to stay grounded in your truth. So I think it’s helpful to remember to see, you know, what’s your number one priority, and not feeling bad about it, I think is is something that takes time, because, again, we’re so conditioned to look for validation for praise. And I can say this, because I was like that for the longest time, you know, I wouldn’t be able to make a decision without asking a family member or someone and you just give all your power away. And it’s, you know, it just it doesn’t feel good, you know, to be able to, to have to look for for that I think you know, and I really hope that people know that. It’s possible to change. Right? I think that even if you’ve been doing things for X number of years, it all comes down to intention. And it’s it’s a process and a journey, but it’s definitely possible.

 

Emily Merrell  

I think that that’s a great point to like that external validation and asking someone, well, if you were me, what, what would you do? Or what decision would you make? What college do you go to? And oh, my gosh, there’s so many moments in life, where it feels so much easier to hand it away. I’m pregnant right now. And I was looking at the baby registry last night, and I was texting, like seven girlfriends basically, at once been like, what stroller to get? What’s the difference of the stroller? Because I don’t have enough competence to decide what I don’t have enough knowledge in that department. But yeah, it’s hard to sometimes just and even wedding planning and like picking a house, it’s hard to make big choices on your own back kind of like, on your own.

 

Cindy Tsai  

Yeah, what’s coming to mind, I so appreciate your example. I think a lot of times it stems from fear, at the end of the day, in terms of, you know, whether it’s fear of making a mistake, fear of failure, fear of judgment, like all

 

Emily Merrell  

spending money, and then wasting money.

 

Cindy Tsai  

Just, you know, making mistakes. And and I think that a lot of times, that sense of fear keeps us stuck and paralyzed. And we end up not taking any action. And you know, when you’re not taking action, things aren’t going to change. And you kind of stay in this, this like thought loop spin cycle. And it just gets more and more challenging and uncomfortable. And I think that it’s just helpful to remember that you’ve been you for a certain amount of however many years, right. And I think we were talking another time where I was saying how a lot of patients come to their physician expecting that they would know the answer after you know, just meeting this person for like three minutes. Right? And whereas the the patient has been with their body for so much longer. And I think it’s so important to remember that, you know, if you have that feeling inside or whatever, like don’t ignore it like it’s a it’s a message it’s probably, you know, a reminder That’s something is going on or whatever. And, you know, to not give up to make sure you’re, you’re connecting with someone who you feel really comfortable with who’s really going to listen and try to understand you. And because you’re unique, right, everyone has a unique background and story. And that’s really valuable and should not be dismissed in any way.

 

Emily Merrell  

And that reminds me, Cindy, just the idea of going back to like middle school or going back to when your your younger self and that feeling as a as a child of feeling so insecure. And I do think there’s a moment and I remember this moment of being like, wow, I could feel really defensive and try to blend with the crowd and try to be something that everyone else is in there is this moment in. I think it was like gym class or PE seventh grade for everyone is going around and they were seeing their favorite CD. And I like didn’t really know music that Well, I didn’t have I think my favorite was, it still is like Alana’s Morissette and everyone was seeing Dave Matthews Band, I’d never even heard the Dave Matthews Band before. But I said Dave Matthews Band because I didn’t want to stand out. I didn’t want to say something that was different from the crowd. And then now, you know, thinking to who I am now. I think it might be like the position of hosting a community and like making sure that people feel comfortable. But I have no qualms feeling different. And so that confidence, so it really, it does evolve. And I feel like that. That trust in yourself really is dependent on the community that you surround yourself with, and the people that you’re with, because if you surround yourself with people that are kind of jackasses and make you feel really crappy about saying something that differentiates like, I think it’s a lot harder to strengthen that inner inner voice. I don’t know if you have a similar experience.

 

Cindy Tsai  

Yeah, absolutely. I think that we are really see, we’re all humans, and we’re all connected. And I think that in terms of being being who you are, it takes a lot of courage. It really does. And I get back to you a little bit of biology, I think in terms of just humans in general, our brain focuses on three things, right helps us seek pleasure, avoid pain and conserve energy. And anytime we’re in new situations, it the brain can interpret it as danger or stress. And then we end up closing down and kind of trigger our fight or flight stress mode. And we end up not showing up as ourselves, you know, we kind of conceal and hide. And it’s it’s basically how we’re wired as humans, so I hope nobody feels bad about, you know, what happens, that I think that’s why it’s so true that who you surround yourself with your environment, the energy that you have, you know, we all have energy, but we are also impacted by the energy around us. And like attracts like, right. And so, you know, really setting that intention to be your best self and being open and learning and growing. And, you know, I think hopefully that will bring you more peace. So that you’re surrounding yourself with with more people like minded people to support you love youand all of that.

 

Emily Merrell  

Expanders who can push you four out of out of your own way. I love the biology part. Switching gears a little bit, going back to the inner critic, I have named my inner critic, I call her Amelia. She can be a proper bitch. Sometimes, she’s the person I turn on. Also, when I want like a discount at a hotel, you know, it’s she’s she can be a little fierce. She has multiple roles. But, you know, for people who are still struggling with that voice in their head, and actually, I just watched the movie Luka last night. I don’t know if you’ve seen it. It’s a Pixar movie. And they bring up the inner critic and they call it or the voice in their head, the like negative self talk, and they call it Bruno. And it was super cute. I highly recommend, but I digress. You know, for people who aren’t familiar like with what an inner critic really is, and are there ways can you first inform us to find like the inner critic. And then secondly, what piece of advice do you have for people that need help quieting it? 

 

Cindy Tsai  

Yeah. So the inner critic is basically this voice. inside our heads, that is constantly going off. And a lot of times it’s telling us things that were not enough, or we’re not worthy, or, you know, basically a lot of negative self talk. And it’s essentially on repeat 24/7. And it a lot of times, I think people aren’t even aware that it exists, because it’s just been so prevalent and constant. I think, what I hope to bring awareness to is that the inner critic is a part of us, but it’s not all of us. Right. So when you mentioned Amelia, and having these different, you know, roles and and personas, and I think it’s helpful to remember that you’re not just, you know, this inner critic, like there’s your higher self, there’s your inner child, there’s all of these parts of you, that make you you. And a lot of times the inner critic has a very loud presence, because we haven’t been paying attention to it and haven’t been regulating it, so to speak, right. And so, in order to quiet and hopefully make peace with it, you have to stop and bring awareness to it first, right? We can’t change what we don’t know. And so I have a regular mindfulness practice, got training as a teacher. And I really think that mindfulness is key to helping us quiet the inner critic, right? When you’re pausing paying attention, you can be open and more accepting of what is, and then you can bring this lens of curiosity to understand why is this inner critic there? What is it trying to tell you, that was actually originally a protective mechanism to keep us safe? You know, in childhood, when we dependent on our caregivers, we saw our caregivers as perfect, right, they couldn’t be they make any mistakes, otherwise, we would not survive. So we ended up directing all this blame inwards to ourselves. And over time, this cycle just repeats, and it becomes this deeply ingrained belief that we’re not enough, or, you know, we can’t ever do anything, right or whatever, fill in the blank. So I think it’s helpful to remember that and to try to really get to know your critic, and take this compassionate approach, and bring a sense of empathy, because the more you know, and identify the details, the critic will start loosening its grip and yield its power, you know, it’s like shining a light in this dark closet, right? And then you can actually it becomes less scary, because you can actually see oh, it’s actually a very tiny space. So there’s nothing to be scared of. There’s no bugs or, you know, scary creatures. So 

 

Emily Merrell  

yeah, it’s it’s so true. Through the, the inner critic is, it’s something that we’re always constantly working on working on. But I love what you said about the caretakers, and like how much we trusted in them. And gosh, Cindy, about to be I’m about to be a caretaker. And I want to write the longest apology note to my mom. And thank you note at the same time, because, you know, we put so much pressure on the those individuals and even thinking about those moments, where we’re like, I can’t believe she said that, and, you know, that really wounded me. And every time I go to therapy, I always like do you want to unpack things further. I’m like, if someone unpacked all the things that I’ve said to them, and then came back to me and were like, when you were 17, you said this one thing that really bothered me, it’s funny, just what I’m saying the weight that like one person can take in from that interaction versus like the weight of the person saying it. Like To this day, my sister talks about how I was a bit when I was 18 years old, and like made her feel less than when I was like, I was 18 years old. And I thought I was the shit like I thought I you know, I thought it was a certain thing. So having empathy for other people too. And also, specifically for ourselves and just not weighing in to over meaning things.

 

Cindy Tsai  

Totally. Yeah. And I think that it’s really helpful for me, I really believe this that we’re all trying our best. And I think it’s easy to you know, something goes wrong or, you know, something unexpected happens, it’s really easy to blame, right to be like, Oh, how could they do this or whatever, whatever it may be. But really, you know, it’s, I really feel like people are doing the best that they can with whatever they know, at that point in time. And, you know, like, as you continue on your journey, as a mom, you know, there’s going to be so many things you’ll learn and all just, it’s gonna, but to hold yourself to a standard from the past, when you only had a certain amount of experience or knowledge. I just think that’s, it’s really not fair to yourself. Right? And I think a lot of times, people ask me about, or they talk about, oh, which, which direction should I take? Or what, you know, how do I make this decision? Like, I don’t want to make a wrong decision. And I always share that, you know, that decision that you make, whatever decision you make at this point, is the right one, at this point in time, and in an hour, in a day, whatever weeks later, your decision may change. And that’s going to be the right one because, you know, situation, circumstances, whatever has changed. And to really see it in that way. So that you hopefully don’t get stuck in that sense of like, that duality, you know, right versus wrong. Yes. Or no, like only black and white thinking, if that makes sense.

 

Emily Merrell  

Yeah, I think it’s, I think that’s very much a good segue into entrepreneurship, you know, just talking about entrepreneurship, like, starting, just starting. And if you start and you have to pivot, and if you talk about one thing now, and it turns into something else later, that that’s okay. But you have to start and be okay with that decision. So speaking of which, you know, what’s next for you, Cindy? And how can our listeners find out more about your offerings and what’s going on in your world?

 

Cindy Tsai  

Yeah, I’m super excited to have launched my life coaching practice. And I am happy to connect on any of the social media channels, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, it’s basically my full name, Cindy Tsai MD, or feel free to visit my website, cindytsaimd.com and I’m really excited to be coaching a group of women taking them through this eight week journey together to quiet their inner critics and uncover their gifts, and really make an impact living their best lives, you know, really developing that sense of self trust, and self worth. So super excited. And I also, of course, help people in a one on one setting, but just really, really grateful to have this opportunity to share and, and meet more people on this journey.

 

Emily Merrell  

And I think it’s such a gift, what you offer too, and in recognizing that, like, self investment is hard. And you know, I think when people start with therapy, because they want to work through something from their past, but we don’t typically do the work on like the present, the present and what’s happening in the moment or deterring you from your future greatness. So really grateful that you have created this program. Well, before we wrap Cindy, I love asking my guests, six fast questions. So getting to know you a little bit deeper beyond what you do. 

 

Cindy Tsai  

So let’s do it. 

 

Emily Merrell  

Great. So my first question for you is tell us an unknown fun fact about you.

 

Cindy Tsai  

I love to karaoke.

 

Emily Merrell  

What’s your go to karaoke song?

 

Cindy Tsai  

So I actually karaoke is actually a really pretty big thing in Taiwan where I grew up. So I would go karaoke pretty often. And I think a lot of Chinese songs.

 

Emily Merrell  

I love that. Okay, note to self take you for karaoke, and I will require fun. Yeah, a lot of fun. What about who’s the dream person you’d want to be connected with?

 

Cindy Tsai  

I would love to meet and connect with Brene Brown.

 

Emily Merrell  

That’s a good I could see you guys at a dinner table with like a bottle of wine just asking the most incredibly deep questions of each other, getting drunk and like asking deep questions. Cindy is the queen of really good, thoughtful questions, which I have to say like in a friend group. You always need that friend who can ask that question that like hits your soul. Like wow, no one’s cared or seen me like that. So take her karaoking and have her asking you questions.

 

Cindy Tsai  

That sounds like fun.

 

Emily Merrell  

Um, what TV Are you currently watching?

 

Cindy Tsai  

So I don’t actually really watch tv.

 

Emily Merrell  

Wow, okay, that’s okay. Any movies you’ve seen? 

 

Cindy Tsai  

Um, I’m also not big on movies. But my 10 year old nephew came to visit me recently. And we watched spies in disguise, which was fun.

 

Emily Merrell  

To check that one out. I like visiting the Disney Channel app a lot. Um, what book are you currently reading or have read recently?

 

Cindy Tsai  

So the book? I’ve heard of this book for a long time. And finally I’m getting to it. It’s Dr. Joe Dispenza. is breaking the habit of being yourself.

 

Emily Merrell  

Oh, okay. That’s a good one to mark down. What is your favorite emoji? 

 

Cindy Tsai  

I really like using the smiley with is it like a sweat drop on the top

 

Emily Merrell  

It’s good. Everything is great here. Yeah. Yeah, I feel like that one creeps up a lot. Like, everything’s fine.

 

Cindy Tsai  

I think it’s actually because yeah, you know, everything has been so new and just so much good learning. I’m like, Yeah, I’m gonna just try this. And then. Yeah, yeah, I feel Yeah.

 

Emily Merrell  

That and then like facepalm comes up a lot for me. Like, oh, sorry, forgot to do that or failed there. And then my final question for you, Cindy, is who was the person that inspired you and or gave you permission to do the thing you wanted to do with your life?

 

Cindy Tsai  

I think in the past, definitely looking to my parents and my family. I have three older sisters. But these days, it would be me. And it feels so so good.

 

Emily Merrell  

I love that. Yeah, you’ve you’ve followed one path to get to one destination, and now you’re following a path that’s more innate within you. So well, Cindy, thank you for joining us on today’s episode of the sixth degree. It was such a pleasure to have you

 

Cindy Tsai  

so much fun. Thank you so much, Emily. 

 

Emily Merrell  

Yay and listeners, if you like today’s episode, please make sure to give us a like, share with friends and write a five star review. See you in the next time on the sixth degree.

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