In this episode, the first of our new season, we go back to the beginning to learn how The Happier Approach all started.
This is a great episode to listen to if you’re just learning about the podcast. If you’re a longtime listener, you’ll get the in-depth story of how Nancy started her journey toward self-loyalty, catalyzed by a public talk at a wine shop, as well as a personal tragedy.
You’ll hear from all the major characters in Nancy’s life, her husband Doug, her best friend Mary, her mom Jane, and even her dad Ted. Each of them remembers, along with Nancy, how she came to recognize her Monger and her BFF, and rally her Biggest Fan to start her journey toward self-loyalty.
Learn more about Nancy:
Doug: If I could say anything to the monger and have it actually listen to me it would be go away about certain topics like go away about making bread. We don’t need to have monger-bread every time you make bread. So I’d be like, Monger, get on your train and go to wherever breadland is and pic someone else.
NANCY : Hey guys, it’s me. Nancy Jane Smith. Welcome back to a new season of The Happier Approach, the show that pulls back the curtain on the need to succeed, hustle, and achieve at the price of our inner peace and relationships.
If you’re a longtime listener, this season is gonna be just a little bit different. Think of it like a journey. I’m Dorothy and we’re not in Kansas anymore. You’re following me down the yellow brick road to the magical land of self-loyalty and along the way we’re gonna run into all our old friends and frenemies: The Monger, the BFF, and the Biggest Fan.
And if you’re a new listener who’s like, “Uh… self-loyal-who?” and “What’s a Monger!?” No worries! Because we’re gonna start the story of The Happier Approach all the way at the beginning.
So click your ruby slippers, put Toto in your picnic basket, and follow me.
Act I: Doug meets Nancy’s monger
Nancy So you’re gonna hold your phone up like this? off to the side to the speaker. Yeah, like, here’s speaker.
NANCY: This is a guy who knows me really well.
Doug Well, I’m Doug Harris. Husband of Nancy Jane Smith, her nearest and dearest, if you will.
NANCY: Doug’s seen me at my best…
Doug My first impression of Nancy Jane Smith. Was… gotta go with the laugh?
[insert Nancy laugh]
Doug Yeah, I mean, how can you just enjoy it? How can you not be attracted to that laugh?
Nancy You’re so sweet. [laughs]
NANCY : And… he’s seen me at my worst.
Nancy How and when did you get introduced to my monger?
mean, I think as soon as you meet Nancy’s monger, when she’s signing the check, she’s like, how much should I tip this person? I know what they deserve. And I know what I would do if I was them. But I’m just gonna write this number. I’m like, great. You did a great job. You’ve done a wonderful service to this server. Excellent. But do you think it’s the right number? Yes, I agree
NANCY : My monger is the mean ice in my head that makes me second guess myself. The obsessive part of me. The part of me that tells me I’ll never be good enough.
Doug I understand that I would go with a big heavy weighted blanket that keeps you down from moving anywhere
Nancy So what are some of my tells? You said deep sighs but
NANCY : And my monger? She can be REALLY loud.
Doug It’s as if you’re in a pool. And there’s lifeguards all around you watching you and they’re gonna blow the whistle at you as soon as you do something wrong. But there’s no lifeguards, and no one’s watching you.
NANCY : For a lot of my adult life, that’s exactly how I felt. I had this internal commentary constantly telling me how I could improve myself and what I was doing wrong. Telling me that if I wasn’t careful the outside world would find out what a lazy, anti-social, obsessive failure I was.
NANCY : When I became a counselor I was fascinated with the idea of the inner critic, the ice of self-doubt and criticism. AKA the ice I ended up calling The Monger.
When I started writing and presenting about the Monger, everything clicked. People resonated with that obsessive ice of self-doubt. I wasn’t alone. Other people had mongers too.
Sound design (wine shop)
One day, I did a presentation about the Monger at a local wine shop. Going into the presentation I felt excited. Super confident because I was about to share a Monger antidote with my audience, a ice I called The Biggest Fan. She was the Monger’s opposite: a wise cheerleader who always had my back. By listening to the Biggest Fan I could make my Monger quiet.
After my presentation a friend came up to me and said, “I loved that presentation. But I’m not going to do anything you said to do because I NEED my Monger. I need that mean ice or I won’t get anything done.”
There it was. The belief that I’d unconsciously held for so long. I needed that ice. I needed the Monger. I felt a mix of relief and shame. Relief that I wasn’t the only one who believed I needed the Monger, and shame because I felt like I was presenting about something I didn’t fully understand.
That moment was enough to make
that Monger antidote ice, my Biggest Fan, get quiet again. I stopped talking about the Monger. And for a while, I let her run my life.
That is, until my dad got sick.
Act II: Ted
Video Nancy: Okay Teddy
Video It is July 19th 2015. Mom: Is this on?
NANCY : This is an interview I recorded with my dad, Ted Smith, a few years after he was diagnosed with Parkinsons and dementia.
Video N: What comes to mind when you think about growing up in Columbus?
Video Ted: living on a farm and working on a farm
NANCY : I wanted to record some of his memories, to freeze him in time as the larger-than-life character I’d always known.
Video how did you meet your wife and how did you know she was the one?
Video I met my wife in a sunday school class at united methodist church Mom: cause i wore the pink dress? I don’t know I just got the impression that she was the one. Nancy: that’s such a romantic answer. Screw you LAUGHS.***
NANCY : Of course, my mom’s one of the people who knew dad best. And loved him, idiosyncrasies and all.
Nancy Did you kill the bottle?
Jane Yeah, but it was not. It wasn’t full.
Is this on?
Jane My name is Jane Smith.
Jane Nancy Jane Smith is my dear darling daughter.
Jane Ted was three years older than I was, and my sister was two years older and she and her friends. They were all all about Ted, and he dated all of them. In fact, I counted, I think 20 people that he dated before he dated me.
Jane And Ted knew what he wanted. And he, he had, he had his rules.
Jane everything had to be done. quote unquote, perfect, you know,
Nancy to his expectations
Jane I will say that he was very direct. And he always spoke his mind. And
Nancy even if it was inappropriate,
Jane Oh Yes Definitely
Doug I remember Ted being a really good guy. I remember him being old and proud.
NANCY : That’s my husband Doug again. He and my dad had a good, odd couple kind of relationship. They were sort of opposites. But they got along really well.
Doug he always wished for the good old days back when he was mowing the yard or whatever you did at that house for fun. But very proud and never quite good enough. Which was bizarre. It never quite made sense to me, I’m like, you’re a fully accomplished man.
Video Well… I never really accomplished that much I guess. For somebody to look at me and say you’re this person, I don’t think I’ve ever done that. I don’t know, I don’t wanna be like that.
NANCY : My dad got sick around the same time I had that revelation about my Monger. You know, the one where I thought I needed a mean ice in my head to survive? And spending so much time with my dad, I started to recognize the ice of the Monger in him.
Video you have to watch out. People are not honest. So you have to protect yourself, try to raise your kids so they can protect themselves and you protect yourself.
NANCY : Seeing the Monger in my dad broke my heart. Here was a man I adored. He was in his late 70s, strong, intelligent, resourceful, and kind. And all he could talk about were his failures.
Jane he was very rigid,
NANCY : That’s my mom again.
Nancy even like, we’d go to fancy resorts, and he would pull out his bran flakes and yet Grape Nuts. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. And he would eat that instead of eating the buffet or whatever, cuz that’s what he ate.
Nancy he couldn’t eat the crap that was at the buffet, right?
Nancy So what do you remember about his dad’s illness?
Jane his illness was long, I mean, long standing.
Doug Yeah, it’s like, Ted was the sun and then the sun went out. And so Nancy didn’t know what to do. She was a solar powered individual
Nancy : My dad’s death brought me to my knees. It was… devastating. He was a guiding force for me and without him I felt lost.
Nancy because dad the grief over dad was so great. That for the first time. Yeah, for the first time, I couldn’t ignore my feelings. Yeah.
Jane I get a lot of tears in my eyes, you know, and when I look at the Cardinals out, you know, I know that Ted is there, his spirit, you know, I, you know, I know that he is with me. And even though I tell him that I wish he was here. And, and I, but, but he isn’t, but I know he’s here in spirit.
NANCY : After my dad died I decided a way to honor him was to figure out once and for all how to quiet this Monger ice. This ice that had plagued him, and tortured me. I was going to find a way to shut down the Monger once and for all.
Act III: The birth of the happier approach
Mary Teddy came in my office. And literally, I don’t even know if he said hi. He said, You need to break up your boyfriend.
Mary Oh, I started laughing when I thought about this because I’m like, I was like, Who is this guy?
NANCY : This is Mary, one of my oldest, best friends. She knew my dad too, and she watched me struggle after he died.
Nancy So do you see some of him in me?
Mary You think [Laugh]
Mary yes the rules and the ices and the same I’m sure beating yourself up even though to me he seemed like this you know like my dad we want to see them as this big competent person but um but I think he was probably driven by the demons that you are as well with you know, go go go and you got to do better all the time.
Nancy Did you see a link between that and me writing the book?
Mary I think it brought the mongar front and center and brought it to life.
Mary I think since it kind of controlled you and him now that he was gone.
Mary You needed to dissect it and really bring it bring it to life it could no longer basically just go unanswered.
NANCY : My grief over my Dad was all-consuming and writing the Happier Approach was one way I could channel it. I told myself that if I was going to write a book I was going to be 100% honest. No more pretending that something might work when it wasn’t working for me. I was going to own how hard self-acceptance was.
Mary I think you told me you’re going to kind of lay out the ices in your head.
Mary And then it was so cool, because you really did dissect your, your three parts of you that are constantly talking
NANCY : Those three ices: the mean Monger, the overindulgent BFF, and the wise Biggest Fan, are the main characters in the Happier Approach. AKA the ices that are constantly cross-talking in my head. And getting to know them has been the key to overcoming my Monger.
Nancy So how would you say do you think it’s made a difference in me?
Nancy I was a little nerus you were gonna be like, No,
Mary no, I definitely do.
Mary I think you do accept yourself more and see, you know, who you are in a much better light than you used to.
Doug I hate to say it wrote itself, because I wasn’t the one typing it by any means. I was just sitting downstairs and she’s typing upstairs. Probably crying.
NANCY : Cue my husband Doug again.
, like you just dove into your brain, and your intellect your experience, and you put it down.
Nancy But looking back, it was it did kind of write itself. Like I felt like it. Like sometimes I’ll read that book and be like, Oh, my God, I can’t believe I wrote this, you know, because it, I think some of that was just I was so all encompassed by grief that I don’t remember the struggle of writing it. But also, my mongar was pretty quiet during that process.
NANCY : THAT was the wildest part of writing the Happier Approach. Even though the characters and the methodology just flew out of me and onto the page, the actual, craziest, part was that the whole time my Monger was: quiet.
She showed up from time to time but she didn’t stick around long. And I think it’s because while I wrote the book, I was being radically honest with myself. In other words, I was practicing self-loyalty. Finally listening to that wise ice of the Biggest Fan way in the back of my head. And bringing her up to her rightful place: front and center.
NANCY : That’s our quest this season on the Happier Approach: to shine a spotlight on that self-loyal ice. We’re going to get to know each of those cross-talking characters: The Monger, the BFF, and the Biggest Fan. We’ll talk to experts in neuroscience, ex-journalists, and labyrinth-builders to learn how to tap into that wise inner ice of the Biggest Fan, and hop, skip, jump into the magical land of self-loyalty. A place where the Monger is quiet, and the Biggest Fan is queen. I’ll be learning right alongside you. And honestly, I can’t wait to get started.
NANCY : When I had that recent conversation with my mom, she brought out a copy of the Happier Approach, and flipped to the acknowledgements page.
Jane And then I looked up your acknowledgments I thought, Oh, you wrote my mom. You acknowledged me. In your book. You
NANCY : She reminded me who this book, this podcast, the whole Happier Approach is for.
Jane then you said, Thank you for giving me the gifts of roots and wings. And then you said for your dad, you taught me the power, integrity, perseverance and showing up. You were the inspiration for the book. I only wish were here to read it. And I miss you every day.
NANCY : So… thanks dad. And thank you for listening.
NANCY : The Happier Approach is produced by Nicki Stein and me, Nancy Jane Smith. Music by Pod5. For more episodes, to get in touch, or to order a copy of my book The Happier Approach, you can visit www.live-happier.com. And if you like the show, leave us a review on iTunes! It actually helps us out a lot. We’ll be back with another episode in two weeks. Take care until then.