How often do you simply say, “no”… Say no when you feel the pressure to say yes, to go along, to do the expected thing? How often do you say no without guilt, without fear of disappointing someone, say no to open yourself up to an abundance of genuine “yesses”.
I’m Melinda Wittstock and today on Wings of Inspired Business we meet an inspiring woman who for 20 years was the Oprah Winfrey’s secret SuperShero.
Sheri Salata was the Executive Producer of The Oprah Winfrey Show and Co-President of Oprah’s production company Harpo Studios and OWN – the Oprah Winfrey Network.
Sheri has a new book out today called “The Beautiful No” – and she describes this beautiful no as one of her biggest spiritual understandings. I’ve gotten to know Sheri over the past year as a much-valued sister in the Unicorn Club for high-performing women entrepreneurs and she has so much inspiration to share. Today we’re going to talk about her journey, her book, her podcast and her inspiring company The Pillar Life.
Sheri is a writer, a television producer, cofounder of the inspirational lifestyle brand, The Pillar Life and cohost of the podcast The Sheri + Nancy Show.
Her widely anticipated book, The Beautiful No and Other Tales of Trial, Transcendence and Transformation, is out today and it is a must-read.
It chronicles her inspiration and action-packed days as Executive Producer of The Oprah Winfrey Show – and what stories! You may have seen them chronicled in the acclaimed docuseries Season 25: Oprah Behind the Scenes. Sheri shares with us today how her20 year career began as Oprah’s Executive Producer, Co-President of Harpo Studios and OWN, the Oprah Winfrey Network. It is not without irony that as she was helping others to spiritual growth it was challenging to walk her own talk in the pressurized 24/7 world of TV production – and what it meant to walk away and now build her own lifestyle business, The Pillar Life – and her podcast The Sheri & Nancy Show.
Sheri never ceases to inspire. She has been named one of Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People in Business, The Hollywood Reporter’s Women in Entertainment Power 100 and the 2017 Feminist Press Power Award winners.
So are you ready for Sheri Salata? I am. Let’s fly!
Melinda Wittstock: Sheri, welcome to Wings.
Sheri Salata: Hi. Oh my gosh, I’m so honored to be on this show.
Melinda Wittstock: I am so honored to have you on this show. And I am so intrigued by the title of your book, The Beautiful No. How did you arrive at that title?
Sheri Salata: This is a book … It’s a memoir, and it’s a book of stories, and some of my greatest learnings and most hilarious stumbles. But The Beautiful No has become one of my greatest spiritual understandings. It’s the title story of the book, and it’s the story of how I got the job at the Oprah Show. In a nutshell I got turned down for a big, huge job at an ad agency right before I got the chance to freelance at the Oprah Show. I got a big, fat no. I was devastated. I can’t remember how many chardonnays I put back.
The day I got the rejection letter I was sitting with my friend, Erin, at this bar, and we were literally weeping into our cups. She said, “God, Sheri, I can’t believe it. We thought you were a shoe-in for that job.” And I’m like, “I know, I know.” I was out of money. I was really out of gas as a human being. I was completely broke. I was totally miserable, and really for probably the fourth or fifth time in my work life because it had been such a muddled [merath 00:02:18 of different occupations that I really felt like I was without hope. I remember that night she said to me, and again who knows how many drinks we had had, she said, “If you could do anything what do you really want to do?” And I said to her, “I don’t know where I really feel like I’m supposed to be at that Oprah Show.”
Now, here’s another little secret. I had applied there years before and had been rejected. They had rejected me. There was a big no there. I go home that night. I’m just like, “Oh God, what’s going to become of me?” And several days later I get a message on my answering machine, “Hey, this is so and so from the Oprah Winfrey Show. We were cleaning out a closet and found your resume and your reel of commercials. Will you come in and freelance in our promo department?” And that was the beginning of a dream come true career.
I have chills because it’s so interesting how the universe works. When we have rejection, when we feel at our worst just setting an intention, just saying, “Actually, this is what I really want,” and things line up. It’s so crazy. It wasn’t right in that moment, but years later all of a sudden I was sitting there one day thinking about really counting my blessings just going, “Wow, what a ride this is.” I just appreciated so much … I feel like Oprah is paying me to build a spiritual life. It was that extraordinary.
And then it occurred to me, “Oh my God, if I would’ve gotten a big, fat yes to that staff job with a lot of money at that ad agency I would’ve taken it, and I never would’ve quit a short time later to freelance at the Oprah Show.” That’s when I realized, “Wow, that no was really beautiful.” And, Melinda, then I started to think, “I wonder if all my no’s are that beautiful.” And that kind of set off a little treasure hunt where I realized that, “You know what, here’s my proof, my own proof in my own life, that there is a divine intelligence that I’m co-creating with, and if I could [inaudible 00:04:50 time and in the moment I get a devastating, disappointing no say to myself can’t wait to see how this turns out.” I could save myself a lot of misery.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh, gosh, that is beautifully said. I think in all the women that I interview for this show, all very successful women, seven, eight, nine, 10 figure entrepreneurs, women who have had extraordinary careers like you, and almost everyone arrives at this conclusion that ultimately it is a spiritual journey. I love what you said about Oprah was paying you to go on this spiritual journey.
Sheri Salata: Yeah. That really is for sure. I was raised Catholic and lapsed in college because it-
Melinda Wittstock: Because you do.
Sheri Salata: Yes, exactly, as you did. I haunted the self-help shelves of every bookstore that I could find. I was looking for my path. I was looking for my language. I was looking for something to resonate. I think the first thing that really broke my open was Marianne Williamson’s A Return To Love.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh yes.
Sheri Salata: Because all of a sudden, oh my gosh, there’s a sense of “quantumness”. There’s the sense of energy and the real power of love as both the destination and the answer and the way. And from then on that just kind of cracked me open. Then all of a sudden I had Deepak and The Spiritual Laws of Success. Just one after another of these teachers I got exposed to, and I could just feel the foundation just getting fertilized and ready and open, and I could feel my heart expanding. It became very exciting to watch that develop in myself, that connection, that alignment to everything, to source, to everything, to whatever you choose to call it.
Melinda Wittstock: Along that journey there are yes’s and no’s and ups and downs and all of that. So there you are. You’re so successful making it look easy, and yet there were probably a lot of things, just little challenges here and there that were, I guess you could say, sparking a little bit more spiritual growth. What were some of the biggest challenges that you faced that nobody knew at the time because I think we all have a tendency to have masks on like making it look easy, being super successful, but under the surface we all have these 3:00 in the morning worries, we all have fears, we all have these things. What were some of yours?
Sheri Salata: I wouldn’t say they were all super secret, but I would say that … And I’m a middle of lifer, so some of these things are being raised by a woman of her generation that I always had some worthiness stuff going on like am I good enough, am I worthy of these riches. Who do you think you are? All those kind of buzzwords from being raised in my generation. And the second thing was even though, and oh my gosh you’ll so understand this, I’m steeped and immersed in the information of how to take care of yourself, like the leading edge stuff. The first place these authors would come would be the Oprah Show, and there I’m sitting with my notebook. So I have all the information on to really take care of myself, and I absolutely did not.
I was last on my list. Everything came before any kind of self-care. I was smoking. I was one of those producers that in order to maintain some façade of calm I was smoking, I was drinking vats of diet soda and lattes, eating like crap, and gaining weight, then going on a plan and losing weight and gaining even more weight, and then running two half marathons. There was a very unsettled place in me, an unwillingness to really treasure myself. One of my big epiphanies when I could step away from all of it was I had been an untrustworthy steward of my own wellbeing. It shook me to my core.
Melinda Wittstock: So you have access to all this wisdom, all these teachers, and I think it resonates so much with me that you’re putting yourself last. I think a lot of women do put themselves last. We do everything for everybody else. We become “human doings” instead of human beings until there’s nothing left. Was there a moment or an aha moment when you just said, “Okay, that’s it. I understand that I’m not valuing myself. I need to change the way that I’m working. I need to change my habits,” all of that. What was the ‘aha’ that came?
Sheri Salata: It was the big one. I would way it was, aha might even be too light. It was a revelation to be sure, but I had to step away and step off the path. I sat with myself and did a reckoning, and my revelation was I had manifested a dream come true career, something I wanted so desperately, but not a dream come true life. And what I decided was, “Okay, so you’re in your 50s, and with modern science if you get this together, Sheri, if you get this together and you make self care a priority you might live another 50 years, girl. So have you lived your glory days or what are the most glorious days yet to come and are you willing to do what it takes to have not just dream come true work and dream come true projects and dream come true accomplishments but a real fully integrated whole dream come true life?” And that is what I’m about right now. That is my day in and day out priority.
Melinda Wittstock: I love that, really abundance in all areas of your life not just one. We get so out of balance. Well, we can.
Sheri Salata: It’s easy to do because in my case, and everybody has their different reasons, but in my case I would default to the area I got A’s in. Romantic relationships were harder for me, so it’s like, “Okay, that’s a big pain in the ass, so I’m not going to do anything for it. I’m going to put that on ice for a while, and let me do more work stuff and get more yay’s and more A’s and more promotions.” I have friends that became the devoted mother, the devoted mother archetype while they put themselves last and piled on the pounds and kind of lost any juicy, sexy sense of themselves as they are in complete servant mode to their children and their family. And that would’ve been true of me too if that would’ve been my path that there was something in this that I could not treasure my own “beingness”. I just couldn’t do it. Not only that, I didn’t even barely understand what that would mean.
Yet, I created the results. And I went, “Okay, so you can decide that you’ve done the best you can,” which of course I had at the time, and you can just say, “Okay, I’m going to punt. This is pretty good. Not too many people get this far,” and that’s going to be it for you or you can really take this on as a love project for yourself and really build on all these accomplishments and achievements and build something even deeper and richer and more filled with joy.
Melinda Wittstock: It takes so much courage, though, Sheri, to get off the merry-go-round because there you are in safety and something that you know you’re excelling at. Everybody knows you have all these amazing connections. All this stuff is going on. Really lauded for everything you’re doing. And then there’s a day where, “Okay, you know what, I’m just going to do something different.” Was that scary?
Sheri Salata: Yeah. Here’s what was scary. There was a fear, but the fear was if not now, when? And even deeper with me, and if not now maybe never. That was the scarier thing, and I had begun these conversations with one of my best friends of 30 years, Nancy Hala, who I do a Podcast with.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, I love your Podcast. It’s great. You’ve got to listen to it. We’ll have all the details in the show notes. But, anyway, I’m sorry, go on Sheri.
Sheri Salata: No, but she and I that’s what we would have our late night Chardonnay conversations. She had a different road that I had. She raised two great children, and I had a front row seat to that. But we’re sitting there looking at each other going, “I’m not done, are you?” And she’s like, “I’m not done, are you?” And it’s like, “But, do we believe that it’s never too late to live the life of your dreams?” We both said yes, we really do believe. And that’s when we really, really put it to ourselves, if not now when? And that was the fear I felt that, “Oh man, you just don’t want to spend the rest of your life almost having an amazing life or having one great amazing area, and the rest is like [inaudible 00:15:46.”
Melinda Wittstock: Right. This is so true. I see so many women who get to their 50s, female entrepreneurs and executives, real trailblazer, powerhouse women who burn out. Their hormones are shot like mine were.
Sheri Salata: Me too.
Melinda Wittstock: My adrenals were gone. I had nothing left. I literally went to the doctor about a year ago. I was like really there’s nothing left. And after that really 30 years plus of just total adrenalin.
Sheri Salata: Right. I can totally relate to that. I had the same thing. All the information, I do all the blood tests and everything, and I find this great doctor, and she tests me here, there, and everywhere, and the results come in and it’s pretty sad.
Melinda Wittstock: Right, I know. And this is a real thing.
Sheri Salata: How are you sitting there? And I’m like, “What?” Right. That’s it, like sheer will. I’m held together with spirituality.
Melinda Wittstock: Meanwhile my body … Yes, because we do as women tend to overdo. It’s that martyr complex. So as you were putting together this new life like if not now, when, and so you step into the when and you’re doing it, what was the toughest thing to change in yourself as you’re in that transition?
Sheri Salata: What is the toughest thing? Okay, I’ll tell you the most significant thing, and maybe it has been the most challenging because I really had to keep on that. I had identified, I had finally stopped, focused, and listened to that voice that runs in my head on a tape, on an endless loop. And I finally stopped and listened to the tone, the tenor, the language, everything about it, the vibration of it, and it was damaging, damning, destructive, humiliating, mean, discouraging. I knew if I was going to have any shot at these new dreams that I had and have a shot at really once and for all really understanding that the life I wanted was mine to design and in my hands. I had to change that voice, and I had to change it to the voice that I use with my English bulldogs, Bella and Gist.
Melinda Wittstock: It’s resonating so much because we all have this inner bully. We wouldn’t tolerate even a stranger talking to us like we talk to ourselves sometimes.
Sheri Salata: Yeah, and I think, Melinda, we dismiss that too. We make light of it, but here is the deal. If your thoughts and your speech are creative tools that are literally creating outcomes in your life we better get busy paying attention to what we’re saying. You’ll sit and you’ll be like, “God, I feel so blue.” Oh, no wonder you’ve been literally beating yourself over the head with a big block of timber. You’ve been taking yourself up and down. You’re fat, who do you think you are, you’re not worthy, that was a stupid thing to say. Those are just old patterns. That might not even be reflective of how you feel right now, but it’s having an impact in some way.
Once I said, “Okay, I’m going to use my Bella and kissy voice and I’m going to put on a pair of glasses, and the lenses are going to be tender. I’m going to find that tender, tender place that I would approach a dear, dear friend who was in trouble or who needed compassion. That’s the voice I’m going to use.” It’s a day in and a day out thing that I have to pay attention to. I think it’s the hardest thing to change that I’ve found to change but the most impactful.
Melinda Wittstock: It is really hard. I think one of the things that I learned, I think it was from reading The Untethered Soul and The Surrender Experiment, those two books. Have you read those?
Sheri Salata: Oh yeah, it’s great.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh my goodness, they were so transformational for me because it was this moment of like, “Oh my goodness, when bad things happen, just like you’re describing about The Beautiful No, and they trigger some sort of emotion in you it’s like oh, this is great. This is an opportunity. I can now let go of these old patterns or this old fear that I have or whatever it is that is driving it.” And in seeing those moments as a true opportunity to grow, but it does take some discipline. It was kind of imperfect for me for a while, but now it’s almost like you get a muscle memory around it. Do you find that too?
Sheri Salata: I think that’s right. I know exactly what you mean by that. The way I describe it for myself is I just lean into consciousness. Any time I’ve gotten into any trouble at all, whether self neglect or anything else it’s been through unconsciousness, and sometimes very deliberate unconsciousness. I just choose to slam that inside a drawer and not look at it. Well, we all know how that turns out.
Melinda Wittstock: I’m curious about something. Could you have done your job as the executive producer of Oprah in a more conscious way without having to burn yourself out kind of in the way that you did? If you go back in time and you think, “Oh God, with what I know now if I change the inner voice and I put myself forward,” would you have been able to do that job to the level that you did?
Sheri Salata: Yes because my big thing was when I think of what I used to say or the excuses I used to make it was about not having time. I’m so busy and not having enough time. Sheri’s so busy. I don’t have enough time. I’m so busy. But I wasn’t too busy to mindlessly watch TV, kind of zoning out for hours on end on a weekend, and I wasn’t too busy to order carryout food and open a second bottle of Chardonnay. I wasn’t too busy to do some of those other … There were hours that could’ve been super supportive and truly stress reducing. So, yes, I absolutely could’ve.
With what I know now, how about with what I knew then. I knew it then. It was never an informational thing for me. I can’t use that as an excuse, but I can say this. When you don’t equate those behaviors with the same thing as choosing happiness, choosing a happy life, and you don’t equate that with really building that self-love foundation or even understanding what it means. When you don’t put that together then you’re very likely to say everything else comes first, then just feel resentful about it.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, this is so true. We talk a lot on this Podcast about time and the fact that women entrepreneurs, women generally their go to phrase is, “Oh my God, I don’t have enough time. I don’t have enough time in the day.” You raise a really interesting point because time is really choice. There’s plenty of time if you’re focusing on the things that are the most important like where you’re in your zone of genius, doing the things you love to do, focusing on self care, all these kinds of things. It’s almost like time suddenly miraculously opens up.
Sheri Salata: That’s right.
Melinda Wittstock: But it is a choice, though, isn’t it, just getting really very clear about what you want, who you are, what makes you happy, those sorts of things.
Sheri Salata: Really, and also, which is an interesting thing for women in the middle of life is really understanding that boundary piece, which is not saying no to things you don’t want to do, I mean not saying yes to things you really don’t want to do. And really only surrounding yourself with the most uplifting of people and not doing things out of guilt or obligation or at least paring that down to a nub. I would challenge anybody including myself to say the next time you say you don’t have enough time for a 20-minute meditation kind of go through your day or your week and see how many minutes you have found yourself down the rabbit hole scrolling through Instagram or Facebook or just scrolling through your phone mindlessly. There’s ways for us to really take back our lives in simple ways like that.
Melinda Wittstock: It’s really interesting, though, because trying to figure out your own priorities I think we do a lot of things through guilt and obligation and what not, and we think that we’re just being really nice. We’re being nice people in doing that. But we’re not really being that nice to ourselves.
Sheri Salata: Yeah. Isn’t that something. And that is the cold water on our faces, and it should be. That understanding is the person that you need to be the nicest to on this planet is yourself and really understanding those old concepts of it’s selfish to put yourself first, that is just such old fashioned, unenlightened thinking that is best discarded because I’ve come to see that the greatest gift I can offer anybody in my life, anybody I’m working with, anybody in my new town, anybody is the gift of my own happiness. And I’ll tell you what, when I’m around happy people the sun is shinier, the colors look brighter, I’m moved to “upliftment” when I’m around happy people. And that’s why it’s such a powerful choice and a powerful offering to the world that we move around in when we’re willing to be so true to ourselves, to have our own backs so loyally that we just won’t settle for anything less than happiness.
Melinda Wittstock: That’s so beautiful. Sheri, I want to talk to you a little bit about women in their 50s specifically because I think it’s a wonderful time of reinvention. I see so many women just getting to 50 and saying, “Oh screw it. I’m just going to be myself,” like stepping into authenticity, letting go of a lot of stuff, just really growing and actually growing in business. There’s so many women who are launching their first businesses in their 50s or finally figuring out how to create a scalable business in their 50s, and I guess playing a little bit bigger. I don’t mean creating a big business but playing bigger in the sense of having a fuller life. What do you see as the potential for women, and anyone listening here right now who thinks, “Oh my God, my life is over. I’m 50.” What’s your advice to them?
Sheri Salata: Well, there is a big choice to make. There is a big, big choice to make. And it’s between two things. The one choice is to listen to old cultural messages and buy into that story where you’re winding down as the clock is running out, and you’ve had your chance at the dance and you either made it happen or you didn’t and now sit down in your easy chair and make sure all your pants are elastic and you have a short, sensible wash and wear hairdo, and wait and hope you can be useful to somebody to babysit the grandkids because there’s nothing much left in which you’re the center of it. Or you can decide, “I am a juicy, vibrant woman whose most glorious days are ahead of her. And I am going to have great passionate love. I’m going to have interesting, creative, and innovative projects. I’m going to bring new, new, new into my life every way I can. And I’m going to squeeze the juice out of the second half in a big, huge way.”
And when you make that second choice even if you’re unsure what that means and you’re not exactly sure what your next steps are at least you’ve put yourself in the game. And then you kind of look at, and I think this is what you were eluding to, that you get into your 50s there’s some part of you that cares so much less about what other people think.
Melinda Wittstock: Right. It’s liberating.
Sheri Salata: Yes. The ground is fertile. If you’re willing to reimagine your life and reinvent what being in the middle of life means the ground is fertile. And you’ve been readied to grab it and go for the gusto.
Melinda Wittstock: What does your life look like now? Take me through a typical day. Do you have a miracle morning routine? What are some of the things that you do that really allows you this new balance or abundance in all areas of your life?
Sheri Salata: They’re identified as what Nancy and I created as the Pillar Life Guidance System because we need help because next thing you know we’re off in the weeds drinking a case of wine and eating too much cheese.
Melinda Wittstock: You did move to Napa. [Laughter]
Sheri Salata: I did. Let’s talk about dropping myself in the middle of temptation. Basically was like, “Okay, these are the areas.” And the bigger … I’ve tried every program, and I’ve tried every expert’s program. I am the queen of all the experts on the planet. But what I see is that it’s a very personal recipe. So here’s what it looks like for me. You’re asking me what it looks like. And I tweak it all the time, and I try new things, and I go, “That’s not for me.” Right now I continue to practice TM meditation, transcendental meditation. That’s my jam. I have a red letter day when I get to it twice, 20 minutes twice a day. It’s usually once. I have a little, itty bitty 10-minute yoga routine in the morning. It’s a really great day when I make sure I get something like getting your water in. It sounds like such a small thing, which is why it gets dismissed. It’s a game changer. It’s a game changer emotionally and spiritually and physically when you get your water in.
Let me think, what else do I think has been super transformative? I work to have a lack of rigidity. Right now I’m promoting a book, so there’s more stuff going on and I start to feel like my old to do list. I start to feel little strangled like that feeling of I’m never going to get to the end of this. It’s never going to be over. And then I just bring myself back and say, “Nope, nope, nope, nope, this is actually very fun and you’re just not going to go back to all those old patterns where you have to make all kinds of things happen. You’re going to instead develop more meta qualities and qualities of alignment. That’s pretty much what it is. And Saturday is no real different than Thursday. I try to lean into what feels good moment by moment.
Melinda Wittstock: I love that. There was a certain point where I switched from doing a to do list to doing an intentions list, just really thinking less about the doing and more about the results like how did I want to feel through the day, what did I want to feel at the end of the day? What did success look like? What were the things that could bring me the most leverage like if I did one thing it would have a multiplicity of results. And that was the thing that … I also do meditation, yoga, all these sorts of things as well, and I totally hear you on the water. But this kind of shifting from being a human doing to being a human being was challenging for me as a kind of type A. But it’s really been transformational. The more I’m in that kind of habit of in the morning thinking, “God, yeah give me inspiration and let me hear it, let me receive it.”
Sheri Salata: I like that. I like that so much. And I think you’re absolutely right. I think that’s the pivot. That’s the pivot from the old way that created stress and burnout to a new way of fully inhabiting your life and enjoying it moment by moment and knowing that it’s steeped in meaning because that’s what you intended every day.
Melinda Wittstock: Someone once told me that women when we’re still, like when we actually take time to just be still for a moment we’re at our most wise. What do you think of that?
Sheri Salata: Yeah. Listen. That kind of I get shocked when I hear because this isn’t really one of my issues, but that anxiety thing, that clutching at your heart, that anxiety that comes over a lot of women that I know. And the medications that have to accompany that because of this terrible, terrible anxiety. I understand the emotions behind that. And the only thing that I have found to be an anecdote to that really is meditation like that total focus and quieting your mind. And when that mind is quiet like I’ll come out of a meditation or when I first wake up in the morning, and thoughts will come to me that are such great ideas for next steps. I’m like, “Oh my gosh, that would be good or that feels good or that would be good,” that are very different than the thinking I do later in the day. I think setting yourself up to be wise is a really good practice.
Melinda Wittstock: One of the things that I’m really intrigued by, and it literally took me lying on a banana leaf in the middle of the Amazon jungle looking up at all these millions of stars to say, “Oh God, the thing that … I know what’s held me back all these years. I’ve had lots of success in my life, but there have been lots of ups and downs as well, was fear, simply that, fear but like the subconscious kind that we inherit. God, it could be even just from watching a TV show when we’re three or overhearing our parents bicker about money or just what our friends told us in school. All these stories that we invented about ourselves before we even had a frontal lobe and that can drive you your whole life.” When you think about your life, Sheri, and the concept of fear what were some of the things that … What were the fears, I guess, that you’re conscious of now that were driving you at that time?
Sheri Salata: I often wonder. I think this happened like, gosh, second or third grade. I was dogged by a very acute fear of humiliation for a long, long time. And it would just show up where if there was any chance of me being humiliated or foolish I wouldn’t take a risk. And that would really plague me in my love life. That would plague me any time that it was something that didn’t come … Like if it was school, grades, or work it was a home run. I always try to figure out where did that come from, and I’m honestly not sure. Gosh, when I was in second grade I threw up in the hallway on the principal’s shoes. And I remember feeling really humiliated. I don’t know if that’s it, but even now when I look at that, and now it’s like okay, you know what I mean, you’re way past that. You’re way past that even idea of humiliation as a barrier to new experiences. I just try to be mindful of it that there needs to be a big attitude of screw it in order to transcend and elevate to the next level.
I had that kind of universal female fear of what other people would think or not being liked or little people pleasing going on there where you people please until you have so much seething resentment inside of you it starts spilling out of your pores. There was some of that going on. For many of us we’re raised by women who did the best they can, and it was a different time. It was a different time. Women were the servants of the family and needed to keep moving and volunteer and cook and clean and drive and to and fro, and it was just a different thing.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, and the other one, and this was one that I’ve identified in myself and it comes directly from my mom saying, “Oh God, men don’t like strong women.”
Sheri Salata: Oh yeah.
Melinda Wittstock: At one point I just thought oh my goodness because you can go either way on that if you actually buy into that. You think, “Okay, I’m going to play a smaller game because I’m actually afraid of success like if I really shine my light, if I really step into it I’m going to be alone.” Which is the deepest, deepest fear I think so many women have.
Sheri Salata: Okay, so you’re singing my song. It was like, yes, I can think in so many relationships with different men or moments or dates or encounters I could feel myself like I’d think in my head, “Who are you right now? Are you, like, from the 1950s right now? You’re acting like the little woman. Oh my God.” But I definitely for sure … I’ve got some shadow beliefs there too I’m still unpacking, which is that men don’t like that, that you need to dial it down, keep your mouth shut, and don’t be all smart and bright and shiny. That’s not the kind of beauty that they’re looking for, which of course is not true because plenty of bright, shiny, powerful, smart women are partnered. But, yeah, I got a little bit of something there still.
Melinda Wittstock: It’s interesting, too, because if you think of it in the context where women of our age the only role models we had for the most part were men. So I think to succeed we thought, “Oh my God, we’ve got to be like dudes in skirts.” So if we bring that home it’s not that sexy to a guy.
Sheri Salata: That’s for sure. Oh my God, that is for sure. I did, as part of this whole radical self-care in my middle of life reinvention I called upon an old Oprah Show expert and a friend, Dr. Laura Berman, and we actually did these sex therapy sessions where she was just like, “Hun, you’ve got to awaken this feminine quality. You are the make it happen, push the boulder uphill, drive, drive, drive, push, push, push, make it happen, make it happen.” She’s like, “That is all masculine energy.”
Melinda Wittstock: Right.
Sheri Salata: And I’d sit there and I’d go, “I know, I know, it’s like I can’t help it.”
Melinda Wittstock: Right because we get so … I worked in television for many years, too, before being an entrepreneur. And that kind of grind very much in masculine energy. And now we’ve talked about this already, not only does that burn you out but it’s not great for the love life. I think though, too, that somewhere along the line we were hoodwinked into thinking that the feminine qualities of like empathy, intuition, relationship, all those things in an archetypal sense were someone weak. They were even described as soft power. I think it’s really that kind of authentic feminine is badass actually when we really, really step into it and leverage it because it opens up time. We can manifest things. We can attract things to ourselves and make it much, much easier than having to go be guys in pursuit like hunting the wildebeest.
Sheri Salata: Here’s what I say to myself as well, and maybe this will resonate with anybody who’s listening. At a certain point you’ve got to walk your talk. And if you believe you’ve got to make your beliefs … You’ve got to inhabit them and fully live them. And I do believe in magnetism, and I do believe in energy, and I do believe in alignment that when you are aligned with the capital Y of you that all of a sudden you’re in a flow where synchronicity can rise up and meet you. And what seems like coincidence, which is really just the energy universal forces just coming to your aid because you’ve figured out how to draw it in, how to stand still, how to use expectation and hope as kind of your tools, your tools of creation where you’re managing your thoughts and what you’re saying to yourself. You’re only speaking what you want. You’re not complaining and grousing about what’s gone wrong. I feel like then all of a sudden you’re on the easy road [inaudible 00:45:28 put ourselves on the hard road many times.
Melinda Wittstock: I know because I think, “God, why was I doing that when I didn’t actually have to.” Oh God, like sigh, like I can breathe now, what a relief. I know. What do you think will surprise people most when they read your book?
Sheri Salata: What do I think will surprise people. I will tell you this. I think it’s very easy when you see somebody who on paper has the kind of career and good fortune that I’ve had to see how much struggle. It wasn’t like I hatched out of an egg and started working at the Oprah show. I had started over more times than seems reasonably possible in my 20s. I was broke so many times and felt quite hopeless so many times. I think for the middle of lifers maybe my book will feel like a rallying cry. And if you are much younger than that it’s going to feel like a cautionary tale, and I’m happy for it to be both. I’m happy for it to be both.
Melinda Wittstock: I love that you’re sharing in your book so vulnerably and courageously really about some of the really, really tough times like as you say when you’re broke or really grieving or just really in a difficult way because I think for people it de-stigmatizes that. That’s just like part of a journey. It’s perhaps just a lesson from the universe that you’re just on slightly the wrong track, and maybe there’s a lesson here to learn or something to clear and to move on. And I think what really helps all of us, how we help each other is when we can just see ourselves in each other’s stories. And then we feel less alone like, “Oh my gosh, I felt humiliated. Oh my gosh there are moments when I felt very un-beautiful or I felt unworthy or I was cracking myself up with great hilarity. I’ve committed all those foibles, or I’ve had the same yearnings, and yes I still have dreams I want to make come true. Now, gosh, maybe if you can do it I can do it.” There’s so much that we have to offer one another through our story telling, so that would be my dream.
Wouldn’t that just be great for it to land on people like that. And I know that it will. I thank everybody today, Sheri’s book is out into the world June 5. Go get the book. We’ll have all the links and everything in the show notes. Sheri, I want to ask you what’s the best way also for people to find you, work with you, check out Pillar Life, your Podcast, everything, and of course get your book.
Sheri Salata: Oh great. The main website is thepillarlife.com. The Sheri and Nancy Show is on all the Podcast platforms. If you’re an iTunes person or not it’s anywhere, Spotify, anywhere you want to look for that. And we have lots of information at thepillarlife.com about The Beautiful No. And, gosh, I just so appreciate this time with you. It has been such an honor, and these are the only conversations I really want to have anymore.
Melinda Wittstock: It’s an honor to spend time with you, and I so respect and I’m so inspired, Sheri, by your journey and how you’re sharing it. Thank you because you’ll help so many women, and I think men too, who need permission to kind of step into this also.
Sheri Salata: Yeah.
Melinda Wittstock: So thank you so much for putting on your wings and flying with us today.
Sheri Salata: Thank you. Oh my God, that was so great. Thank you.
Sheri Salata: I loved our talk.