Musician, life coach and author Kerry Pastine on not letting fear run the show
Not the average self-help guru, rock-and-roller Kerry Pastine found that after tapping into her own best self, she was able to show others how to do the same. A life coach for close to two decades and lead singer of The Informants, Pastine recently penned and self-published Know Thyself, a simple workbook-style approach to helping others live life on their own terms.
After work in a college admissions office pushed her to realize that she was passionate about helping others achieve their dreams, Pastine went on to coach local businesses on how to develop healthy, happy companies; eventually, she opened her own self-help practice. The author sat down with Westword recently to explain her own journey and how she became a guide helping others forge a deep, loving relationship with themselves.
Westword: You're a musician and singer, but you also work with people in an intimate, personal way. I don't want to mislabel you, but are you a life coach?
Kerry Pastine: I am a life coach and I have been a life coach for about eighteen years. I've been working on myself, pretty much, my whole life -- you know, the bullshit repression stuff that you have when you're younger. But I thought, these are the things I want to do -- I want to sing, so bad. That was all I ever gave a shit about from about five years of age on.
But because of my background, my environment, the parenting and the conditioning and stuff, it was a miracle that I could even go that direction. I decided, what I have to do is get through all of these issues in order to get to that place where I even felt like I could try. It took me a while to move through that junk and personal issues through journaling and just trying on different things.
While I was working through my stuff and trying to heal my body, I was tapping into every new method and philosophy and idea that I could possibly think of. Which inevitably kept me learning and growing right into my passion. As I continued to move forward, I was able to let go of what was no longer serving me. Funny enough, those life experiences turned into a career -- I suppose that is really what happened.
I started teaching "The Artist's Way" course, and was doing that with all of my students. It all kind of burst at once -- I think I was like, thirty, and I decided, okay, it's probably time to walk away from the corporate empire and live life on my terms. That's when I started playing music and working on helping people. Here I am at 51 going, I feel twelve. (Laughs.)
Were you teaching art during that time you were at the Art Institute?
No, I was actually in admissions. It's funny -- to this day, I get Facebook hellos from students I met back then who I talked into following their dream. Now they're doing something really fucking cool. But the one thing I realized, especially back then, was when I was working with students and doing my own stuff and teaching "The Artist's Way," I realized that it is in our mentality to talk ourselves out of what's next. We second-guess ourselves and overanalyze everything and never believe that we're enough. That's when I decided that was what I wanted to make my passion and mission at the Art Institute.
It was interesting because back then, they didn't really give a shit if people stayed in school; they just wanted them to matriculate. I thought, why would anyone sit in classes all day and not fulfill their dreams? It got to the point where students were coming into my office and they were asking me to help them, because their friend had told them I could help.
It was kind of cool -- the retention rate at the school started to shift, after years of me working there. I was still in admissions, but I had sort of created my own way of helping people stay in school. That's all I really cared about -- making sure everybody who wanted to fulfill their dreams could.
When you eventually left the Art Institute, how did you decide to start your life-coaching practice?
Since I had been doing a lot of personal work, I thought, let's just watch to see who you are, what you do here, and how you do it. What are the results of what you're doing here (at the Art Institute)? I sat back and watched myself for a while, I didn't hurry and make myself leave the job -- I wanted see why I was there. I feel like there are no accidents -- we choose and then we learn. I knew I was there for a reason, but I knew it was bigger than what I was doing there at the time.
I kept listening and kept recognizing that I had something special -- I had an insight, some skill sets and a personality that were merging into this thing that was helping people. I started thinking: I could really help companies become healthy. There was no such thing as coaching back then -- there was no term for it. I had taken some psych classes in college, but I really wasn't impressed. I help feeling like I was gravitating more towards the social side of things, like how we're conditioned and stuff.
When I left the Art Institute, I started working for Vesta Dipping Grill. Vesta had just opened, and I was like, I'll just be a hostess, or whatever. Pretty soon, I was talking with Josh (Wolkon, owner of Vesta) about how to run a cool, healthy company. Ultimately, while I was working there, for about three years, I was also still working on this thing that didn't have a name -- now, I kind of wish I didn't call myself a coach, but I don't really have a better name. (Laughs.)
But back then, life coaching really hadn't come about yet. I just kept working on my ideas and methods and how I could help people -- then Josh was like, let's use this stuff for the restaurant. Let's incorporate it. Three years later when I quit, he hired me to come back and coach his management. That's what launched me into coaching restaurants, like Hapa Sushi. They asked me to coach them about how to become a bigger restaurant. Talk about a cool journey.
I think it was back in around 1997 or so when I saw something online -- I saw someone call themselves a "life coach" and I thought, well, I guess that's what I'm going to call myself. Then, of course, I really started doing a lot of business coaching and figuring a lot of cool stuff out. Throughout this whole journey I'm thinking, I want to coach my people -- groovy, creative, passionate people in Denver.
I find, too, that because the conditioning in our society has been, in years past, very clear-cut -- when you're this age you do this, and when you're this age you do that -- but anybody with half an independent brain who was creative already knew what they could actually do. Most everyone else, the majority, said things like, I don't have a creative bone in my body, or, I couldn't draw a straight line if you paid me. These default, bullshit things that excuse people from literally getting to tap into who they are. I feel like we're all creativity-embodied and we're all being creative on a daily basis -- we just haven't been taught to recognize it.
I talk about it in the last chapter of the book, but it's called "Design Thyself" -- it's about, now that you've connected with yourself and you've taken this journey with yourself, you've been listening and learning about who you are. Inevitably, creativity will come forth -- if you can hang out with yourself long enough.
I'll get calls from who people are in this crisis -- they say, "I have the house, I have the two cars, I have the kids in college and I'm freaking out right now and having panic attacks and I'm probably going to have a heart attack and what has happened to me?" They've just gone off the rails and all of these things outside of them are so much more important than who they are. When I get them reconnected with self, they are even more scared and they don't understand it.
But they are longing for a relationship with self. They are longing to have a life on their terms but they don't know how because they never show up for themselves and they never listen. The hardest thing for them to do is begin a new relationship with self by simply showing up and being quiet and journaling how they are feeling and why they are feeling it. It is crazy -- you can create a laundry list of reasons to not show up for yourself.
Society has done a great job of diverting us from self, so that we can be a bunch of sheep. My heart breaks for people who are zombies to it all -- running after the job that was going to make them happy and the house they thought was going to make them happy. I'm still surprised that we think this way -- it is rampant.
What is one of the biggest things you've learned about people through your years of coaching and writing this book?
Fear runs the show. People don't necessarily even know they're afraid. So what I do when I sit down with someone is I'll say, "I'm afraid that ..." And they will go, oh. And answer with something like, "I'm afraid that if I speak my truth to my boyfriend, he's going to reject me and not love me."
People don't know that they are afraid all of the time -- they just know that they feel like shit. Tense, nervous, anxious and overwhelmed are the four most predominant feelings people feel. Then they shut down and they're exhausted and they go to Starbucks for coffee and, well, you know the cycle.
What I really noticed is that when we discover the thought that has been running the show, sometimes that thought has been running the show for fifty or sixty years. It may only be three words. But then I ask, do you have any evidence that supports that this thought is truthful? And they say no.
It's usually a thought that appears between the ages five and seven and it broadsides the child, instantly disconnecting them and they move forward in a hateful way and the pressure sets in: What's wrong with me? I'm not enough. Then the pressure comes, and that is all about, "I need to be more." So then people wake up every day thinking that they need to do all of these things in order to be worth loving or worth being heard or worth being acknowledged. Then they are in need of constant validation.
That's why I think Facebook is such a phenomenon -- talk about a fucking crisis of validation. If you need a "like," go to Facebook.
Exactly: If you need validation, post a picture of yourself and see what happens.
Totally. When I started thinking about writing the book, well, for years I have had people ask me to recommend self-help books. I've read a ton of them. I think people feel like they do want to find out "what's wrong with them," like most people say. Why they behave the way they do or why this life is happening to them. I love therapy for that reason. You get to recognize and have awareness around why you do what you do. But I feel like it needs to be partnered with action -- so you can start taking your power back and your life back. So you can start making beautiful choices based on a beautiful relationship with self.
That's all I give a shit about -- that people get to have this beautiful relationship with self. If they just showed up over and over, they would start liking themselves and seeing how rad they are.
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