With great interest for what she does, I met Elizabeth M. Johnson through a mutual friend. I was immediately struck by her passion, her concise thinking and her compassionate heart. Elizabeth is a coach and health educator who helps women feel and act with greater confidence in their everyday lives. She’s spent most of her career helping women listen to themselves, make time for what works and say ‘no’ to what’s holding them back. Her professional background includes time in corporate America and the non-profit worlds, most recently as the crisis line coordinator for a local domestic violence agency. Elizabeth has worked with survivors of violence for 10 years and is one of only three educators worldwide certified by Penny Simkin and Phyllis Klaus to deliver the trauma-informed training based on their book, When Survivors Give Birth. Elizabeth holds a Masters of Arts degree in Women’s Studies from Southern Connecticut State University. She lives in Durham with her daughter and husband. To get a sense of what she does, Elizabeth made some time to discuss more in depth about what her services are about and how they serve women and their particular needs.
What does it mean to be “Outside the Mom Box?”
“The Mom Box” is a metaphor for the way that society categorizes and compartmentalizes women. To be “outside the mom box” is to step outside the boxes that we’re placed in as women whether that’s mom or childfree, wife or single, and create a life that’s not only larger than a box but reflective of who we are as an individual in the world.
What is it about motherhood that moms can get lost in?
Motherhood, especially new motherhood, is an incredibly vulnerable time for women. I see this in my clients and I experienced it myself. In addition to the physical strain that having a child has on our body, the double standards that exist for us as women are amplified when we have a child. Double standards like: be ambitious but not aggressive, be beautiful but don’t look like you work at it! Moms are also often forced to make choices like keeping their job or taking time off to be with our newborn. Choices like these aren’t really choices at all. Double standards and false choices take a huge emotional toll on moms. The result is often that it’s hard for moms to tune into themselves. That can be the start of a loss of personal identity.
Tell us a little about your work with women.
My work centers on helping women feel and act with greater confidence in their everyday lives, whether that’s personal or professional. I do that in three different ways: Group coaching in the form of two eight-week personal growth workshops – one dedicated to confidence building; the other centered around self-exploration, kind of like a ‘What’s next for me?’ program. I also offer individual coaching as a 14-week, highly-personalized program for women who have a specific goal that they want to attain. Lastly, I facilitate a trauma-informed, confidence-building training called When Survivors Give Birth for professionals who deal with new moms and pregnant women to help them better respond to the needs of survivors of physical and sexual violence.
What do you clients get when they work with you? What are their takeaways?
My clients are buying success, support and accountability. Practically speaking, this takes the form of tools and trainings that bring their gifts and talents to the forefront. And of course, there’s also thoughtful guidance to identify what’s not working and how to get rid of that. My clients also buy my authenticity: me working as hard as they are, taking risks, showing up, modeling vulnerability and imperfection. When our work is finished, my clients walk away with the time, energy and direction they lacked, along with the personal and/or professional happiness and satisfaction they desire.
Why would a woman work with a coach instead of a therapist?
Coaching is usually time-limited and specific. It’s not about periodic check-ins without real structure. My personal style of coaching centers on accountability and action as well as support. I challenge my clients! They show up and work hard, knowing that I walk my talk and am as imperfect as they are. Unlike therapy, I’m not there to heal my clients. We’re on an equal playing field. I see them as smart, creative and whole women who need support and resources to live better. My job is to empower them to make personal changes that can integrate into their life in a way that feels authentic.
To learn even more about what Elizabeth does, check out her fabulous newly-designed website at www.outsidethemombox.com.