Bossy Babe: Meet Barbara Erochina

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When I created the Bossy List I wanted it to be a directory for folks looking to support feminist/queer women-identified, gender queer, and trans folks. But I also wanted to get to know more about this boss babes and hear their stories. Each month I’ll be sharing a Q&A that I had with one of the bossy babes on the list. This month I got to hear from Barbara Erochina, one of my dearest pals,  whose commitment to self-care and emotional wellness has played an integral role in my growth as a human being and I continue to be inspired by the work that she does. Hope you enjoying reading her responses to my questions as much as I did!

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Floral Manifesto: I would love for you to share the story of how you became a Life Coach. What led you there?

Barbara Erochina: My original career aspiration was to become a church planter – it’s a kind of pastor that starts new churches and grows them from just a couple of folks to a whole community. I didn’t realize growing up to become a badass feminist and queer lady was going to make that super impossible in my conservative Baptist church. So, I kept moving more and more left on the Christian denomination scale to see if I could find a place to fit, and eventually I fell off that scale all together.

After going through a pretty serious depression and getting out of it with the support of psychotherapy, I decided to pursue therapy as a career path and went on to get a certificate in Gestalt Psychotherapy Theory & Methodology (oooooh, ahhhhhh). Here’s where things got interesting. While I was in school, I was also working on writing a play and developing a career as a spoken word poet. I hired a coach to help me figure out how to apply for grants and create enough structure in my life to make that happen, and suddenly things started flowing really smoothly.

The combination of seeing a coach and a therapist did really good things for me – I learned how to practice self-compassion, how to play to my strengths and how to trust my intuition. And then the light bulb went off. Why not combine both approaches into one thing, and maybe mix some spirituality into it while I’m at it?

That’s how my practice as a coach was born. It’s the love child of a bunch of things I love, have studied and that really light me up!

FM: What does “emotional wellness” mean for you and for your practice?

BE: In the same way that a holistic nutritionist will work with you to help you pay attention to how food and eating affect your body, and develop a healthy relationship with food, I will do the same thing for a client, except with emotions.

I differentiate emotional wellness from mental health to help clients thing about their emotional health in terms of their whole lives. Unfortunately, culture is still pretty stuck around the false belief that mental health is just about what happens (and goes “wrong”) in the brain. We now know that just isn’t true and the term mindbody has gotten a lot of airplay more recently to help bolster the understanding that the two are actually one. I guess I also use emotional wellness to remind us that we all have emotional wellness, and it’s about fostering our resilience, no matter what diagnoses or circumstances may be part of our lived experience.

“…it’s about fostering our resilience, no matter what diagnoses or circumstances may be part of our lived experience.”

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FM: What are some of the challenges you faced when it came to developing a sense of self-worth? And if you can answer this question, what are some of the most common road-blocks that your clients face in this regard?

BE: A lot of my personal challenges have had to do with breaking generational patterns of untreated mental illness, emotional abuse and codependency. I grew up in a very loving but emotionally volatile household. I was either the dream child, or selfish, depending on how I was perceived at the moment. This taught me how to manage others’ emotions and needs, and ignore my own. It took years of therapy to unlearn these patterns and actually believe that I am worth taking care of. It’s a continual practice for me – to say, Barbara, it’s okay, actually it’s good to take up space and meet your needs. The interesting thing is that because of the shitty start I got on learning these skills, I’ve worked really hard at them, and in many ways now are ahead of most of my peers in this learning.

The most common road-blocks to developing a sense of self worth are fears of rejection and abandonment. I’d love to say there are other reasons, but when you really boil the essence of anyone’s neurosis down, we’re all afraid of not being worthy enough to be loved.

FM: How did “Be With: Cards for Self-Care” come into being? Why did you feel like these cards needed to be made?

I work with people who are naturally driven, which is a strength in so many ways. Except it can also manifest in us running over our own boundaries again and again in our pursuit of success, growth, fill in your own mountain top here. So I wanted to create a way for folks to tune in on daily basis and practice self-care. The cards are based on the study of self-compassion, which isn’t taught otherwise, and encourage us to treat what we need and long for seriously.

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FM: How do you define self-care? What does your self-care regime look like? What challenges have you encountered when it comes to actually doing self-care? And what is the relationship between self-care and community-care?

BE: I define self-care as practicing awareness of my needs and wants, and actually giving those things to myself. There are some forms of self-care that are very easy for me to offer myself – think having a bath, going out for dinner, or doing a tarot reading. However, once the investment of time or money increases (mine or someone else’s) that’s where my resistance starts to increase. It makes it harder for me to take action on basics like as taking enough vacation/time off, reaching out to others or going dancing.

I think this is also where the line between community and self-care gets blurry for me as well. There is a certain amount of labour that goes into accessing community care that sometimes when I’m in need of care, I don’t actually have to give. I think community care is vital, but to do it well and create healthy interdependent relationships, we need to make sure out own cup is filled up first.

FM: What role does feminism and/or your queer identity play in your work as a life coach and in the creation of “Be With”?

BE: I take an anti-oppressive approach to power dynamics in my coaching relationships, and work from an intersectional feminist lens. This has become especially important as I’ve noticed that a large percentage of my practice is folks of colour, queer folks, immigrants or other folks who have visceral lived experience of being marginalized. So much of my work in saying “That belief you have about yourself. It’s not your fault. It’s internalized __________, so it’s time to let you off the hook.”

“That belief you have about yourself. It’s not your fault. It’s internalized __________, so it’s time to let you off the hook.”

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FM: Have you encountered any conflicts between the work that you do and your feminist politics? Have you been able to overcome those challenges and if so, how?

BE: Yes, specifically around making money or asking for the sale. My business works within capitalism whether I want it to or not. I may be informed by anti-capitalist & spiritual values that prioritize humanity over production, but at the end of the day I need to put food on the table.

I’ve worked around this challenge by staggering price points at which folks can access support with me. My cards are the cheapest way to access my work at $40 a deck, then I have a couple of sliding spots in my practice that range from $55-$100 an hour, and then my services transition to a pricing range more appropriate for coaches with my three month program at $1,250 for three months, and my upcoming urban retreat at just over $200 for the day. I mention my prices because I think it’s important as feminists and as bosses to not be afraid of the numbers – to be real about how much it takes to make a living. Unfortunately globalization means we expect things at prices that don’t allow for fair living wages elsewhere, so sourcing things fairly and locally can be a shock to the wallet.

FM: You’ve got some serious Instagram-game happening. What role does social media, and Instagram in particular, play in your business?

BE: I LOVE Instagram stories, like more than I thought I could love a social media channel. The immediacy, the freedom of posts disappearing in 24 hours, and the fact that I really can’t plan for them makes it right up my alley. For the first little while of using IG, I felt mixed feelings about it because it just felt like a more image-based version of everything else I was using (facebook, twitter, etc). Something shifted when I ran an Indiegogo campaign this fall because I actually began to reach out to strangers who I followed/who followed me to help with the campaign. That personal connection changed everything! I’m no longer afraid of messaging a stranger and suggesting a skype date to get to know each other. I’ve used IG to grow my professional network as a coach, connect with clients, and challenge myself to show up more fully and honestly. Life is messy and beautiful, and I feel like insta-stories helps me capture that. 

FM: What does being a boss/bossy mean to you? How do you define being a boss?

BE: Being a boss for me goes hand in hand with being creative. Whether I am creating my next offering, getting creative with freelancing about how to pay the bills, or using my creativity to come up with the perfect metaphor in a coaching session – creating is the name of my boss game. I love being a boss – managing, that is hard work, but being my own boss, that’s awesome.

FM: And because this is also a fashion blog, are there any outfits that make you feel in your bossy power?

BE: Because my work isn’t in a stuffy office environment, it means I am a lot more playful with my fashion choices these days, like these striped painter overalls. I just couldn’t leave them on the rack. I saw three clients that day. When I’m in packing mode, comfort is the name of the game – jeans and simple blouse, and I’m good to go. I’m out and about on the city a lot, and my days always look different from one another. So having outfits I can bike in is so important. I need to go skirt shopping for spring and summer, and bike-ability is at the top of the priority list, perhaps trumped only by fit and style.

This outfit [pictured below] is one of my all time faves – denim shirt with my purplish pleather jacket and a pencil skirt. I feel sexy, powerful and hip in it. However, since this IS a fashion blog, one thing you should know I can’t wait to spend some sweet cash on is working with my pal Rebecca Jacobs who focuses on style for entrepreneurial women. Her insta @rebecca.jacobs is totally swoon worthy.

“creating is the name of my boss game”

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This post was written by Margeaux

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