As a sophomore in high school, Annie Sanchez was encouraged to drop out and get her GED by her guidance counselor. Instead, she graduated early and went on to travel the world and live a life full of rich experience that eventually led her to become the visionary CEO of Mariposa Strategies.
Tune in to follow along on Annie’s expansive and inspiring journey of the powerful impact of being parented by a mom who consistently centered her by teaching and reminding her of her worth and value, as well as her early battle with self-doubt and brain chatter, and how she eventually became own champion by listening to the intuitive whispers and unlearning old trauma and pain along the way.
A seeker, a navigator of change, and a believer in possibility, Annie is Queen of the In Between. Annie is on a mission to help people find possibility in the moments that matter most. She coaches sensitive, visionary leaders and entrepreneurs through big change as a strategic and emotional thought partner.
Annie Sanchez hosts the Courage, Culture & Clarity Podcast, is the creator of Clarity Pages, CEO of Mariposa Strategies, and Founder of the Women of Color Culture Club.
“My mom never once made me feel like I was failing or screwing up or that things were going to crumble. When a lot of the questionable choices Annie Sanchez was making, were occurring. How did she know how to parent me in a way that centered me and my possibility? She used to say ‘Annie, you are going to do something so big. I cannot wait to see it.’ She would say that until the day she died, when I was 33. She would say “I cannot wait to see what you’re going to do.’”
“As I moved into my early young adult life, I had a sense of responsibility behind me already. I had already been doing things for myself and working, and had already gotten through a lot of really troubling circumstances. It was like, “Oh, I’ve kind of been there, done that. Let’s go travel the world. Let’s go do this thing. I’m kind of excited and inspired by this idea or this thing. Let me go explore it.” And my mom just constantly planted the seed that you can do anything.”
“Ever since we were kids, she would say ‘You get what you settle for.’ Something that used to bother her is when people would say to her, if something lovely had occurred or whatever it might have been, ‘Oh, must be nice.’ And she would say “Yeah, it is. It really is so nice.” And just this idea that we deserve the life that we want to live.”
“I got to bear witness to her doing something that was really out of the ordinary for someone coming from where she did, especially where she grew up. It’s just a lot of positive reinforcement and affirmation that really set me up in my 20s, and any little glimmer of excitement or inspiration to go somewhere or do a thing, I would just do it. I would just do it and knew I would figure it out along the way.”
“It’s so important to have mentors and beloveds and chosen family and family of origin, who do get us and see us. But if I’ve learned anything, it’s that I literally have everything I need.
I am my own champion. I love me. I love hanging out with me. I’ve got the answers, the hugs, the love, and the compassion that I think is inherent and at the core of who I am as a nurturer and caregiver. I felt like I needed to give care and love to other people in order to receive it and feel loved, and that may still be true in some ways. But now I really understand what it means to trust myself, which is not something somebody who’s lost wants to hear: “Just trust yourself. Just listen.” It’s like “Tell me the answer.” But I know deep in my bones that I am the person I’ve been looking for. I am one with the answers.”
“In reality, when we’re talking about the really deep and meaningful things that sort of shift the trajectories of our lives, our businesses, our relationships, our own ideas about who we are as individuals, I really think that the idea of getting comfortable with being uncomfortable could not be stated loudly enough. And unfortunately, the only way to do that is to get uncomfortable. You have to go through the thing and feel like you don’t know what you’re doing, feel kind of stupid, feel ill-equipped and unprepared. When in reality, the more you do it and the older we get and the more wisdom we gather, it’s like ‘Oh nobody actually knows what they’re doing. Everybody’s just figuring it out as they go.’”
“I think it’s really important not to just leap into starting the business or leap into the thing, but to actually do nothing and allow yourself to daydream. If we can imagine ourselves in the situation that we desire, not just ‘Oh, it would be nice to…’ like the quick movie montage reel, but really ‘What does it feel like to be there? What would it feel like?’
“Yes, it will be scary to not have this comfort that I’m used to, whatever that comfort may be. But I know that I’m yearning for a change, and I may not even know what that change is yet. But I know it’s not this. I need something different than my current reality.”
“Rather than stepping into a place that feels super scary, I think there’s something really beautiful and very simple and very potent about imagining what could be. And not capturing it or whiteboarding it or goal planning or strategizing, but really kind of unencumbered cloud gazing, daydreaming.”
“I know this amazing elder, this Tewa woman here in New Mexico, named Kathy Sanchez. She talks about quantum thinking and how quantum thinking is not pulling out all your whiteboard stuff and post-its, but these short maybe 10 or 15-minute sessions after the daydreaming, after the imagining, after the unencumbered cloud gazing.”
“It takes time but we can actually coach ourselves by getting quiet and then doing these little spurts of deep concentrated thinking, and then we capture that on the whiteboard or on some post-its and start to see where we can see – only we can see where a dot might be able to be connected or where it might make sense to go next. And making sure, as Julia Cameron says in The Artist’s Way, to keep the wet blankets away: the people who don’t get it, who are going to be like ‘Oh what are you thinking? You could never do that. That’s a terrible idea. You don’t want to leave your safe salary job’, or whatever.”
“Keep the idea protected like a little sacred seed and hold it really close. Maybe there’s one or two really trusted safe people that you could share it with, who might be able to guide or clear a little bit from the path to determine what the actual next step is.I don’t think it’s an action-oriented step to begin with. I really believe that it’s deep, deep quiet for as long as can be.”
Hello and welcome back to another episode of School of Self-Worth. This week, I sit down with Annie Sanchez, who shares her journey, learning to follow the whispers and how doing so helped her to take bold leaps and bet on herself, even when she was unsure of where to start or how to do it. Annie Sanchez is a visionary guide, healer, and CEO of Mariposa Strategies, supporting sensitive visionary leaders and entrepreneurs through big change. As a strategic and emotional thought partner, she hosts the Courage, Culture, and Clarity podcast and is the founder of the Women of Color Culture Club. If you’re a high-achieving woman wondering how to buck the rules to lead a life of your own creation, this conversation is for you. I’m so delighted to be here with you, Annie. Thank you so much for being on School of Self-Worth.
Thank you for inviting me. I’m excited to be here.
We had one previous connection, and I loved the range of conversation we had, so I’m really looking forward to where we go today. Really, Annie, you do so many things and you really serve out in the world as a leader. I’m curious, I’d actually love to start by hearing how you would describe what you do with other people and how you share yourself in the world?
Yes, it’s a very interesting question at this time, at this moment in history, at this moment in my life, at this moment in my business. What I do with other people, what I help people do, how I show up in the world. In pretty much every engagement, regardless of the offer or the engagement, whether it’s through my business or someone else’s, at the heart of who I am is a strategic problem solver. That’s always been true ever since I was a little kid.
These days, what that really looks like is a combination of strategic and emotional thought partnership. It’s kind of coaching, it’s kind of strategic planning, it’s kind of life coach, it’s kind of business coach, it’s kind of nonprofit board director leadership support, its CEO guidance, it’s retreats, it’s tangible pragmatic dot connection. Depending on the people and the circumstance. But in every relationship in my life, from professional to personal, Annie will help you figure it out. I’m a figure-outer. I’ve always been a figure-outer. So, I really see myself as a strategic and emotional thought partner.
Beautiful, I love that. I love meeting another woman who has so many strengths in so many areas of life. And I’m curious, wherever you want to start with sharing your journey about how you got to this place. One of the things we ask is what you’d like to talk about, and one of the things I love is the way you phrased this, “is following the whispers even when it doesn’t make sense”. So I’m curious, if you could even start with sharing your journey from how did you start to follow the whispers? In other words, was there a time where you didn’t know how to follow the whispers and how did that start to come together?
Well, let’s see here. If I think about it, I’m not going to go linearly. What immediately comes to mind is a time when I was following the whispers before I even fully understood exactly what I meant by that. It was in my early 20s, so twenty years ago. I’m in my early 40s now. In my early 20s, Annie Sanchez was brave, courageous, inspired, and believed in possibility in the truest sense of the word. She never got hung up on things when they didn’t work out. I have done so many things. I am a licensed aesthetician, a certified professional nonprofit fundraiser, a certified business advisor. I worked in the fine dining hospitality industry for 16 years and have produced events for 19 years. I almost went to school to be a sommelier at one point. I know a lot about a lot.
In my early 20s, that was the time when I was just following my inspiration, following the whispers, not attached at all to what people thought, or what I thought I was supposed to do. I knew I was never going to go to college; that was never the thing. There were moments in my 20s and even very early 30s where I thought maybe I should try to pursue a degree. And then I would kind of try to start to do it and then it was like no, no, no, no, this is not the thing. This is not my path.
So those five or six years in my early to mid-20s were just ripe with inspiration and honoring all that inspired me: going after this, trying that, signing up for this, traveling there. I traveled so much throughout my 20s and early 30s. For about 15 years, I really identified as an explorer.
I’ve been to so many countries and backpacked all over for extended periods of time. I’ve taken chicken buses and hitchhiked, been in bus crashes in Peru, and taken trains all over Europe. I’ve done a lot of different things in the early part of my life. None of it seemed like a big deal at the time; it seemed completely normal. But I know now that it’s not that normal. Not a lot of people do that. And I can reflect now and think, wow, how did I know how to do that? How come I wasn’t scared or worried about money or my safety? And I was often traveling with people, with my sister in particular. We were a real tight unit in our early 20s and just did things together.
But I realize now that I was often the idea person, like “Oh, let’s do this” or “Oh, let’s move there” or “Oh, let’s try that.” And it was like, okay, we put our heads together and figured it out and went. Which I recognize as a privilege and a gift to have somebody, you know, the power of two, to have somebody that you feel safe with and trust and can carry the weight of the thing, whatever the thing might be. So there was a lot of whisper-following in those early adult years.
Then there were moments where they went quiet or were really hard to hear. In my late 20s, there was a lot of self-doubt, fear, and worry about what I was doing because I didn’t have a stake in the ground with any one thing in particular. I was licensed in all these things, excellent at all these things, doing all these things, traveling, still making money. I never really had anything practically to worry about. But it wasn’t even necessarily a concern of getting older; it was just this period in my life where I started to get scared as a lot of things were changing.
So the whispers started to get really quiet and I felt like my ‘thinky’ brain needed to figure things out. But for my inspiration, if I couldn’t find it, I’d think it through and try to find the answer. But that has never been long-term sustainable when I think my brain is going to figure it out for me. I know that the answers live deeper inside.
I think the whispers started to show up again in my early 30s. And then I lost my mom when I was 33, nine years ago. After that, nothing mattered. It was like, what even is this life? Who am I in this world without her? What was I working towards? What did I care about? Do I still care? Am I still working towards those things? So there was this couple of years phase where I was both deeply mourning and trying to figure out who I was without this steady, known presence in my life that always made me feel like I would be okay, no matter what.
Maybe six years ago, around 2017, they started to show up again, but they were less whispery and more anguished cries. Like, “Alright Annie, you’re not good. Let me conk you over the head with this. Pay attention.” So I started paying attention again and I feel like, okay, I’ve been back to who little Annie always was, who Annie in her early 20s and early 30s was.
It’s really interesting to be talking to you today of all days, because I feel like at this moment in time, I know more. What is today? May 01, 2023. If we had had this conversation on May 01, 2022, it would have been very different. I have moved through a portal that was filled with daggers and knives and fire and deep water that I couldn’t swim in for the last couple of years. Even though I’m on the right side of intuition and knowing now, I feel like a lot of old grief that didn’t fully move through my mourning period, has had to get dealt with over the last year.
When I think of the whispers today, it’s all so simple actually. I really see things so simply right here and right now, looking at things through very different eyes than even four months ago, certainly a year or two or five or ten years ago. I know that the whispers are sometimes really loud and obvious, and sometimes I have to ask God if this is the sign or if I can get one more sign to make sure that this is the sign to confirm. It’s so literal and obvious, that you can’t miss it.
And others are really on a body vibrational-soul-heart level, very subtle body vibrations or little twinges. The slightest twinge of anxiety. which I’ve learned lives very closely in my body. to where my inspiration and excitement live. They’re next-door neighbors in my actual body. So I have to be really discerning and pay really close attention when the actual physical sensation shows up: is that anxiety or is that excitement? And it doesn’t mean I need to run from the anxiety. but it helps me to discern and determine the way to move.
So yeah, I don’t know if that answers your question, but the whispers are there for all of us.
Well, I have so many questions, but I’m going to go back to that early 20s era first, because what I was really hearing from you is that you were clear on who you were at that time and you were following it. You said you just kind of followed where the wind took you and you didn’t worry about anything.
What I’m most curious about is whether you were aware at that time, or able to counter the societal programming, that says that’s not the right choice or that’s not the usual choice. How did you have that clarity and worth and value in living life according to what felt good? I feel like so many of us spend our 20s and 30s trying to figure that journey out, and it continues on into our 40s, 50s, and 60s. So how did you, at that time, put together what was occurring in early 20s Annie Sanchez, that allowed her to do that?
That’s a very good question. Let’s see here. Well, what I find really interesting when I think about it, given how free I felt, is that I felt completely free and like I could literally do anything. And the person who was my constant steady companion at the time was my sister. We’re very different. She’s quite the opposite of me, really, when I think about it. We’re both strategic and practical people who can make things happen and figure it out. For years, all through our early years of school and jobs and interviews and resumes, she was the person I would trust to review things and copy edit in a way that I knew she would give it a thorough eye. And the same was true for me.
Yet there is this free spirit that I know I’ve always been, and I think it’s part of who she is too, but it shows up differently. When I think about what allowed early 20s Annie to be set free if I were to reconstruct it, you know, I think I go back to little Annie: 11-year-old Annie, 8-year-old Annie, 15-year-old Annie. My mom had both my sister and me; she had my sister when she was 19 and me when she was 21. Her and my dad were together until I was in middle school.
I never had any memories of my childhood, but good ones. I felt loved, cared for, and safe. I never felt like we didn’t have what we needed, though by almost every measure we would have been in the lower middle class or maybe upper poor people category for sure. But we just felt loved and cared for and had what we wanted.
It felt like that from the very early days, the earliest that I can remember, it must have been like second-grade Annie or fourth-grade Annie. I remember going on a trip with my mom to San Francisco in fourth grade. She did hair for a living in New Mexico but had clients in San Francisco, so she used to fly there every month. And I remember she took me with her in fourth grade. Little Annie, even pre-fourth grade, always wanted to be in a city. I had never even been in a city at that point; San Francisco was the first time, at 10 years old.
My grandmother, who’s still alive and will be 98 this year, often says “Oh, little Annie wanted to live in a city and wear a suit and carry a briefcase.” And she sure did; she really did. So going on this trip with my mom and being exposed to this big city, being exposed to unhoused people, being exposed to the big, tall buildings and all of the hustle and bustle was like “Oh yeah, this is for me.” This kind of life. I didn’t even think “Oh, I’m moving here,” but I was into it.
All through my elementary, middle school, and high school years, because I am free-spirited and believed that I can literally do anything, I got into a lot of trouble. I was testing a lot of boundaries. I got into a fair amount of big trouble. Safety was definitely compromised at multiple times in my teenage years. But my mom never once made me feel like I was failing or screwing up or that things were going to crumble. I often think now about how, at that time, she would have been in her early 30s when a lot of the questionable choices Annie Sanchez was making, were occurring. How did she know how to parent me in a way that centered me and my possibility? She used to say “Annie, you are going to do something so big. I cannot wait to see it.” She would say that until the day she died, when I was 33. She would say “I cannot wait to see what you’re going to do.”
And so that was always present with me every single time I was coming into some kind of trouble: “I’m going to be okay. I’m always going to be okay.” Because we are always okay, so I think that fed into, you know, certainly graduating from high school. My high school guidance counselor in my sophomore year, I can remember sitting in her office and her encouraging me to drop out and get my GED because I was hardly ever there. She said, “You know, I think maybe this might be a better path for you.” And I was like, “No, no. You don’t understand.” And I ended up graduating and walked with my class! Technically, I graduated a semester early.
But my mom had an eye on me every step of the way. In my junior year of high school, she removed me from my environment and sent me to San Francisco where my big sister and her best friend were living. So I did my junior year of high school in the city, right outside the city actually – in Daly City. And thank goodness for that. Thank my mom for knowing to do that. She said, “You would be better off here.” And so it was a way to calibrate my path and put me back on possibilities and “I can do anything” and “I’m here to do something big”, by getting all of the distractions out of the way.
And so when I was easing into my 20s, it was just this purest sense of, I wouldn’t say invincibility – in my teenage years, I definitely felt like I was invincible – but something changed as I became an adult. In my junior year, I had a job and bought my first car. I went back to New Mexico to graduate a semester early. I was one of the kids who had a job and money and could buy things. Things really got fixed in that year.
So as I moved into my early young adult life, I had a sense of responsibility behind me already. I had already been doing things for myself and working, and had already gotten through a lot of really troubling circumstances. It was like, “Oh, I’ve kind of been there, done that. Let’s go travel the world. Let’s go do this thing. I’m kind of excited and inspired by this idea or this thing. Let me go explore it.” And my mom just constantly planted the seed that you can do anything.
Something she used to also say was “You get what you settle for.” Ever since we were kids, she would say “You get what you settle for.” Something that used to bother her is when people would say to her, if something lovely had occurred or whatever it might have been, “Oh, must be nice.” And she would say “Yeah, it is. It really is so nice.” And just this idea that we deserve the life that we want to live.
The fact that she made an arrangement for herself to be traveling monthly to this city that she loved, half of her ashes are sprinkled in the Bay. That was her city. So I got to bear witness to her doing something that was really out of the ordinary for someone coming from where she did, especially where she grew up.
It’s just a lot of positive reinforcement and affirmation that really set me up in my 20s. And any little glimmer of excitement or inspiration to go somewhere or do a thing, I would just do it. I would just do it and knew I would figure it out along the way.
Beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing that. I love hearing how your mom’s support made such a difference for you, in terms of being able to be clear on yourself, during that era. And that’s an interesting thing, because when I think back to myself, not living life according to what other people were really encouraging me to do or what you’re supposed to do at that time, I did it in journalism, which is a corporate ladder in its own sense. So hearing from you, it’s like having that baseline support from your mom, really made such a huge difference. It sounds like your mom was such a part of that. And then I’m curious because you shared that she passed when you were in your 30s and that was very destabilizing for you. How did you find an anchoring again, once she was gone? Was it still her or was it something else that gave you that when the whispers came back later? What helped you feel that value and worth again because she was teaching it to you? What I was hearing is that she provided that anchor, and then she passed. Then it’s like, ‘Oh well, that anchor isn’t her’. She was just teaching you how to anchor.
When we’re younger, we don’t understand that distinction, almost because that person IS the anchor, rather than realizing she was teaching you to fish. But you had to figure out that she had taught you to fish. And that’s what I’m curious about: how did that process go for you?
Oh my gosh, that is such a beautiful question. It’s a huge question. Let’s see if I can answer this. So in addition to my mom being my best friend in every way, I mentioned that the relationship with my sister was really close. We lived all over together, traveled all over together, and shared a bedroom until I was 29 or 30. And she is three years older than me, so there was this sense of safety in her.
When our mom died, we grieved differently for sure. She’s a mother of three and lived a block from my mom. I was still free-spirited Annie Sanchez, doing my thing. And we grieved differently. It took us both quite a bit of time but in different ways. And I think when I finally was able to really be in the world again, which probably took me about eighteen months, around 2016, there were a couple of key people who I didn’t necessarily think of in this way, and I think I’m kind of realizing it as I’m saying it to you. They were kind of like mentors.
This little unit of my mom’s best friends, she had a few key people throughout her life that she really considered her best friends. Everybody loved her and thought of her as their best friend. And I remember in 2015, less than a year after she died, I started working at a nonprofit job that the only reason I even said ‘yes’, was because at that point I was just living off my credit card and trying to figure out what I was doing with my life, because I thought maybe I would move. But the person who hired me and wanted me to work for her, was one of the first people I met when I moved back home in 2012. I had left right after high school and she had just been a steady presence for a couple of years. She said, “I really want you to come work for me” and I said, “You just want me to come work for you because you’re sad that my mom died.” And she said “No, I’ve been wanting you to work for me since you moved here and now the position is opening and you’re the only one. You need to come work for me.” And I loved her, and felt safe with her, so I said ‘yes’.
I started working for her and it gave me a sense of feeling safe and loved in this environment that I otherwise would have never found myself in. Of all nonprofits, it was a very corporate-like nonprofit, not the traditional grassroots scrappy community work. but higher up and more philanthropic and just not my vibe at all. But I loved her and felt safe with her, and we were doing this very cool pocket of work within the organization. About a year into working together, we were sitting in her office for a normal one-on-one meeting, and she said, “Okay, before you leave, I have to tell you that I’m moving to Colorado in a month.” And I was like, “What are you talking about?” I burst into tears in her office. “What am I supposed to do? Where am I supposed to go?” I felt safe and anchored by her. Her name is Amy, and she happens to share my mom’s birthday.
So anyway, after I finished crying and cussing and freaking out, she said “Okay, what you’re going to do is this: you’re actually going to take my job. But you don’t have to.” And I was like “What are you even saying? I’m a server. I’m only doing this thing that you told me to do. I don’t even know what you do.” And she said “No, no, but you do and you’re going to do it. You’re going to take it. This is what you’re going to negotiate for. This is how much I make. This is what you’re negotiating for. And you only really need to stay a year or two max, and then you’ll move on. And when you’re ready to move on, we’ll talk.”
So I just did what she told me to do because I needed somebody to tell me what to do. I took that position in 2016 and immediately it was like “What am I doing? I literally have no idea what I’m actually doing. I don’t understand the job.” It took me a while to get my sea legs under me.
You’ll remember that the 2016 elections were really awful here in the United States, really toxic and scary. So that happened in November 2016 and I took this position a little earlier that year. So a whole year goes by, and I was just trying to figure out how to be the director of this organization and the first woman of color in that position as well, which was a whole other thing. My partner and I were sitting in a restaurant in November of 2017 and I remember wearing my work clothes, I must have been wearing a blazer or something because I came from the office. And we were having dinner and he said something very simple: “Isn’t it weird that next week it’ll be a year since the election happened?” And I just completely lost it. I could not stop crying, sitting there in that restaurant, just a waterfall of unstoppable tears. Our poor server was like “What?” And I couldn’t even talk. I was so sad reflecting on the fact that a year had gone by, that our former horrible president had been doing so much harm for a year, that so much had been going on.
Meanwhile, I’m just trying to figure out how to do timesheets and lead a team and do things. And I was like “What am I even doing? Another year of my life has passed and what do I have to show for it, meanwhile all this harm has been done”.
I was just really overwhelmed by the passage of time and sitting there in that restaurant, I thought “I have to quit my job. We have to break up. I need to move. I’ve got to get out of here.” It was like old Annie and her tendencies to travel, to do things, to move, to change things up. I had to go. I couldn’t stay. I remember talking to my boss, a different boss who replaced my last boss, and told her “I’m quitting. I’m leaving. I’m breaking up with Matt. I don’t know where I’m going but I’m getting out of here.” And she said, “Hold on, hold on, hold on.” And she helped me get some time off. I sat in her office crying through it, very similar to about a year or a year and a half before that. And she said “Just take some time.” And I was just in so much gratitude that somebody could see me as not weak, or not having it together, because that’s what it felt like.
So I took a month off and drove to Chicago where one of my mom’s best friends lives. I arrived on her doorstep and stayed with her for a month. And I thought I would get back into running, but it was January of 2018 and January in Chicago is not for running; it’s for sliding and slipping on ice. And that’s what I did: threw out my back. I ended up spending about a month going to the acupuncturist down the street from her apartment. And then took a couple drives and spent a little bit of time in Detroit while I was out there, just calming my mind.
I was so overcome with anxiety, not just in that period, but for a couple of years. While I was in Chicago, the goal was to arrive with all these ideas of what I was going to do and goals to kind of get myself back, but none of that could happen because I threw out my back. So I just stopped.
And for the very first time at that point, I didn’t have any social media at all: no Facebook or anything at that point in 2018. But I was feeling really compelled to write, so I started a blog called ‘This Beloved Life’ at thisbeloved.com. It doesn’t exist anymore, but those blog posts still do. And I was compelled to start writing. It was like “I don’t care if anybody reads this” but it felt a little exhilarating that somebody might.
I was writing almost every day that I was out there, and by the time it came for me to come back home a month later, at the end of January 2018, I felt like a different person. It was like “I’m back. I’m good. I can go back. I feel ready. I can totally do this.” And there was this really important project at the organization that I was director of, and I thought “I’m going to go back and finish that project. I think I could stay until the end of the year.”
I went back in February of 2018 and immediately all the sirens were blaring like “Nope, nope, nope. You’ve got to get out.” I stayed until July, because there was this project that felt important to me, and then left. And during all this time, I kept leaning on this friend in Chicago who is still such a sense of safety for me. My sister and I had really grieved in very different directions after losing our mom about three and a half or almost four years before this point. And it was difficult because we didn’t have each other to turn to anymore.
And really, only recently in 2023, have we started to understand and fully grieve, scouring the corners of those grief containers, not just for losing our mom, but also kind of losing each other too, because we don’t have a relationship anymore. We’re a lot like a divorced couple who just communicate around the kids.
It’s very difficult, because Annie was becoming this independent person, separate from her sister. Now I understand that it was also a pretty co-dependent relationship. It took therapy to understand that. I was like “Oh, oh yeah, that’s what… okay, that makes sense. That makes a lot of sense.”
So there was a lot of finding myself, really trying to understand who I am on my own two feet. Who doesn’t need my sister to sign off on something, or my mom to tell me what to do, or my boss to guide me in the right direction. It’s so important to have mentors and beloveds and chosen family and family of origin, who do get us and see us. But if I’ve learned anything, it’s that I literally have everything I need.
I am my own champion. I love me. I love hanging out with me. I’ve got the answers, the hugs, the love, and the compassion that I think is inherent and at the core of who I am as a nurturer and caregiver. I felt like I needed to give care and love to other people in order to receive it and feel loved, and that may still be true in some ways.
But now I really understand what it means to trust myself, which is not something somebody who’s lost wants to hear: “Just trust yourself. Just listen.” It’s like “Tell me the answer.” But I know deep in my bones that I am the person I’ve been looking for. I am one with the answers.
My mom taught me and my sister showed me, but really it was like “Okay, I figured it out a little later than most people have. to get on their own feet at 18 or 20 or whatever. I figured it out around 35.” And then had to keep figuring it out, unlearning and untangling old trauma and old pain and old this, that, and the other. And now at 42, I feel like “Okay, now I’ve got it.”
Well, thank you for sharing your journey because I feel like so many of us are on journeys similar to yours. And people listening, I know, are on those journeys of like “What does that look like?” What does it look like because you kept saying “people who you felt safe with”? And what I heard from you at the end was you understanding how to be safe within yourself, which I feel like is something I work with women on a lot.
It’s like, how can you not be outsourcing your safety to somebody else and instead learning what that safety within looks like? Because that safety within is actually going to provide you with the answers and the things that you’re looking for in your life, and your ability to discern the right choices for yourself. And not outsourcing worth, outsourcing safety, outsourcing decisions, and choices in your own life.
And that’s where I feel like women get so fragmented and lose who we are because we’re outsourcing things even to really wonderful people, until we start to learn that those answers only really do reside within. And that requires us to really be in that work of understanding our own worth and value within ourselves. And then valuing our own opinions enough to say “Oh, that’s the right choice for me.” Does that feel like an accurate assessment?
Absolutely, it feels really true for me. I can remember when my beloved boss and mentor left, and I took her job and then had a new boss, because now I was in a new world. I was reporting to the VP of the department that I was in, and I remember her, this second boss whom I love so much, her name is Jen. I remember her telling me about some project or something that I was pitching an idea for. It was like my first time in a “jobby job” because my path was totally different in my 20s. So I was like “There must be a standard way to present something, to share the thing.” And I asked her “How do you want me to show it?” And she said “Just whatever you want. Just write it up. Whatever you think. Give me the thing.”
I remember being so hung up on not knowing how it was supposed to be done, thinking that there must be a standard way, because I had never done something before, there must be a way. Like somebody would let me just look up the way to pitch the thing or propose the thing. And so it took having to go through the discomfort of not knowing how to do something, in fairly high stakes, fairly high-level professional world, with things having to do with national partners and stuff, where I didn’t want to look stupid or like I didn’t know what I was doing.
So in a way, it was like “Okay, well if Jen would just tell me how she wants it, then I’ll do it how she wants.” But then realizing “Oh my goodness, there’s actually no standard way to do anything in the whole wide world, in this life that we live. There is no actual way.” Every single thing is made up and maybe something is repeated enough times that somehow a collective, or a whole society of people, or a whole community of people, starts to agree that this is how we do it. Hello white supremacy culture. But in reality, it’s all made up. Everybody is making it up. It’s like “Let me type this thing up and now this is the thing.” And it’s like “Great, that’s okay.” I had always wanted a blueprint for things. That same was true when I started my business: if I could just find the blueprint, I would follow the steps and then make it my own.
Really realizing that’s just someone else’s way of doing it. Does that work? Sometimes it’s helpful to have a first draft: give me a first draft and then I can work from there. But in reality, when we’re talking about the really deep and meaningful things that sort of shift the trajectories of our lives, our businesses, our relationships, our own ideas about who we are as individuals, I really think that the idea of getting comfortable with being uncomfortable could not be stated loudly enough.
And unfortunately, the only way to do that is to get uncomfortable. You have to go through the thing and feel like you don’t know what you’re doing, feel kind of stupid, feel ill-equipped and unprepared. When in reality, the more you do it and the older we get and the more wisdom we gather, it’s like “Oh nobody actually knows what they’re doing. Everybody’s just figuring it out as they go.”
Well, what you’re saying too is that getting uncomfortable takes some level of being okay with that. What would you even say to someone who’s like “Okay, I want to start to get uncomfortable. How do I even start to venture down that route?” Because it’s scary. It’s like “Oh well, comfort feels good. I know how to do this job. I know how to live this life. I know how to be in this relationship. I know how to be the child that my parents expect me to be or the sibling that my sibling expects me to be.” And then you start to venture outside of it and it’s like “What…?”
And even me saying this, I’m like “Oh my gosh, that sounds totally overwhelming” because none of us want to do that because it doesn’t sound very fun. It starts to change things, right? What would you offer to someone who’s on the cusp of that journey because they also know that comfort is killing them? That comfort is killing their soul, their desires, their purpose. What would you give them as that first step? What is one little thing that they could do to start saying “Okay, I’m going to go down that pathway instead”?
It’s sort of abstract, but it leads to the tangible. And I’ve tried it enough times and coached enough people, that I know the way. Something that Adrienne Marie Brown says in Emergent Strategy is about taking the most graceful next step. What is the most natural, graceful next step?
And I think when it comes to making a change, if you’re doing something that’s sucking your soul and spirit, even though it might all look good on the surface, but you want to make a change and you know that you have to get uncomfortable, it’s like “Oh my God, how am I going to get by without my salary for the period if I want to start my own business?” As an example, it’s a lot of things I work with people on.
I think it’s really important not to just leap into starting the business or leap into the thing, but to actually do nothing and allow yourself to daydream. If we can imagine ourselves in the situation that we desire, not just “Oh, it would be nice to…” like the quick movie montage reel, but really “What does it feel like to be there? What would it feel like?”
Yes, it will be scary to not have this comfort that I’m used to, whatever that comfort may be. But I know that I’m yearning for a change, and I may not even know what that change is yet. But I know it’s not this. I need something different than my current reality.
Rather than stepping into a place that feels super scary, I think there’s something really beautiful and very simple and very potent about imagining what could be. And not capturing it or whiteboarding it or goal planning or strategizing, but really kind of unencumbered cloud gazing, daydreaming.
Maybe you know, going out and doing whatever we do in our normal daily lives. Like maybe somebody’s a runner and they’re like “Okay, I could do it while I’m out running.” But consciously not listening. Don’t put earbuds in. Don’t listen to a podcast. Just be with yourself.
Like I was just talking to somebody very recently, in fact a couple of weeks ago, who I had met early in 2018 when I had started my business. And he had just recently been laid off from a big corporate job and was trying to figure out where to go next. And he was asking me about doing a visioning session, like could we just do a 90-minute visioning session? And I was like “Oh no, no. That’s not going to happen in 90 minutes. I want you to do nothing for as long as you financially can. Is it a week? Don’t look for a job for a week. Just rest like your life depends on it. Sleep and nap and veg and wander and literally stare at the clouds for as long as you can, and even beyond that.”
Because usually, as long as we can is our comfort level, but going beyond that for another day or another week is like “I need to be doing something. I should be…” And it’s like “No, no, no. Just do nothing for a little bit longer than makes you feel comfortable.”
I know this amazing elder, this Tewa woman here in New Mexico, named Kathy Sanchez, who is from Tewa lands and is just this brilliant elder who has created an amazing community of support for Pueblo Native women all over the country, but with a focus here in New Mexico on the Pueblo folks. She talks about quantum thinking and how quantum thinking is not pulling out all your whiteboard stuff and post-its, but these short maybe 10 or 15-minute sessions after the daydreaming, after the imagining, after the unencumbered cloud gazing.
Maybe tomorrow there’s like a 10 to 15-minute quantum thinking session where it’s like this deep going down into the well, almost strategizing, but if I’ve just imagined what could be for 10 or 15 minutes, how would I get there? And not dragging it out, but capturing it after. And then it’s like you’ve got this combination of daydream components and quantum thinking components and it’s like “Okay, what would be…?” Looking at it, only you can collect that information. Right? Only you have that thinking inside of you, that knowing, that deep inner wisdom about what your most graceful next step is. A coach can’t really tell you. We could ask the right questions, or some questions, but it might not be the right one for that person.
It takes time but we can actually coach ourselves by getting quiet and then doing these little spurts of deep concentrated thinking, and then we capture that on the whiteboard or on some post-its and start to see where we can see – only we can see where a dot might be able to be connected or where it might make sense to go next. And making sure, as Julia Cameron says in The Artist’s Way, to keep the wet blankets away: the people who don’t get it, who are going to be like “Oh what are you thinking? You could never do that. That’s a terrible idea. You don’t want to leave your safe salary job”, or whatever.
Keep the idea protected like a little sacred seed and hold it really close. Maybe there’s one or two really trusted safe people that you could share it with, who might be able to guide or clear a little bit from the path to determine what the actual next step is.
But I don’t think it’s an action-oriented step to begin with. I really believe that it’s deep, deep quiet for as long as can be.
Yeah, thank you for that. I feel like that deep quiet and space is so needed for all of us, anyway. And to understand that deep quiet and space on its own, is beautiful, and can actually start to lead you into the things you really wish you knew. And you just have to actually be in that exploration of self for that. So, thank you so much for sharing that, Annie. It’s such a lovely vision to understand how to do it.
Alright, are you ready for some rapid-fire questions? They’re very gentle, I promise.
Let’s do it. I’m a little scared but yes, let’s do it.
What was the last thing that you watched on TV.
What was the last thing? Sopranos – we’re currently in the middle of watching it from beginning to end. I think we’re in season 4.
That is such fun. Yeah, that’s a really fun, deep dive. I love the Sopranas. Awesome! Okay, what is on your nightstand?
“Radiant Rest” by Tracee Stanley, “The Shamanic Bones of Zen” (I’m missing the name of the author, but she’s a Zen Buddhist who lives in Santa Fe). Those two books, a lavender lip balm, and a blue highlighter.
Going to highlight your books, awesome. When was the last time you tried something new, and what was it?
That’s a very good question. I’m having a hard time remembering the last time I tried something new, but I will share one that I’m going to do. In the last two weeks, which have been really potent for me, I’ve decided to do something that’s very outside of my comfort zone. I work very hard at not looking foolish, not stumbling, and falling while walking, and having it together. But recently, I’ve decided that I’m going to take an acting class in order to get out of my body. I’m not trying to be an actor, but I want to push myself and it could not be more new or more uncomfortable or scary. But I’m excited. I just decided this about two weeks ago.
Fantastic. I can’t wait to hear how that goes. That sounds like that would be way outside my comfort zone too, right? And then what are the 3 top most used emojis on your phone?
Oh, the dark red heart. The one that is technically like the playing cards – that heart. The melty face emoji. I love that guy, and it’s probably back and forth between the lightning bolt and the little plant sprout.
Awesome, I Love it. And where can people find you or learn more about you, from this conversation.
My website Anniesanchez.co will take people to all the places, or my podcast Courage, Culture and Clarity – season 3 is about to come out now. So, Courage, Culture, and Clarity and Anniesanchez.co
Well Annie, it’s been such an honor to have you and hearing your wisdom and your sharing, and also your journey, which I feel like for me is the intention really of this podcast – it’s for people to understand journeys and understand – but really it never ends, and we’re all on one, and to hear from other women who are so strong and really have done so much of that work for us to all learn from. Thank you so much for sharing who you are, with all of us, here on School of Self-worth.
Thank you for inviting me and my story. This is an honor, truly, thank you Nicole.