Getting To Know: Barbara Erochina of Be With
You know those people that come into your life at exactly the moment you need them most? That is Barbara for me.
I remember first coming across her on Instagram last year when she was doing a crowdfunding campaign for her Be With: Cards for Self-Care. I loved the idea, and desperately wanted to contribute, but at the time I just couldn't swing it. Instead, I intently followed along, and her Instagram stories became a part of my daily routine. One day the topic she was discussing revolved around the idea that your past does not have to set the course for your future. She said, "Your mess does not have to become your message." And that glorious piece of wisdom has been with me ever since.
Barbara has a way about her that is approachable and lighthearted yet rooted in the idea that we should all be seeking to dig one step deeper to live our best lives by being our best selves. She sees the beauty in the everyday. She reminds me to take pause and check in because she knows that our intuition is a strong, guiding force. And most of all, she knows how to have fun!
I feel so very fortunate that we've been able to grow our friendship outside of the app, and I cannot wait for you all to get to know her a bit better.
Let’s dive right in! Tell us about your background and how you landed here with Be With doing life coaching, cards for self-care, and officiating weddings.
My original training was as an Anglican (Episcopalian) Priest. During the second year of my master’s degree, I was working in a church and basically having to force myself to go to work. It didn’t light me up and I no longer felt aligned with the church theologically and even less so politically. Working in the church had been really complex for me for years as a gay woman, but now I was also unhappy. So I began my transition out by quitting school and work, focusing on my writing and studying Gestalt psychotherapy. Then, when I started working with a coach, it just seemed so obvious - why not combine coaching with psychotherapy and offer my own kind of private practice? That’s how Be With was born.
Cards for Self-Care came next and were really developed as a tool out of my coaching practice. My clients and I would often co-create a self-care prompt for them to work with between visits, and soon enough, I noticed the same ones coming up again and again: write a letter forgiving myself, do legs up the wall, go for a walk outside. One day I decided to sit down and write all of them out, and realized I had enough to put together a deck of cards - like an oracle deck, but with self-care. I mocked up a prototype, hired some amazing talent, and then brought it to life with the help of a crowdfunding campaign. It’s been a blast.
Weddings are the newest addition to my plate, and most definitely a passion project. As I’m typing this, I just finished having a couple over for dinner and a ceremony read through and am still on cloud nine. I offer premarital coaching, custom ceremony creation and officiating. It’s this delicious combination of so many of my skills and passions - writing, spiritual and emotional support, public speaking and hosting ritual. I am really excited to watch this part of my business flourish.
What aspect of your work is the most life-giving for you?
Supporting people to feel heard and seen is my jam. At the heart of everything I do is my belief that we are whole just as we are, which is a radical departure from cultural narratives that tell us we are either too much or not enough, and can be fixed by either believing something, buying something or doing something. And this makes us feel like there’s something wrong with us, which then makes us hide who we really are. Undoing that for people - supporting them to actually letting themselves be seen, and finding out that who they are is already always acceptable - that right there is the gold for me.
Was there ever a time when you happily ignored external validation or outside advice about your business so that you could follow the True North that you created for yourself? If so, how did making that choice to follow Your Why impact not only you, but your business?
Ooooh, the struggle is real sister. I’ve got a pretty strong streak of “keeping appearances” up in me, so it’s a tendency I really have to keep in check. For my launch of Cards for Self-Care, I ran a couple of focus groups to see what the customer response would be like to the deck. Part of it was a price point questionnaire where folks had to name how much they would pay for the product. Almost 80% of the group said they wouldn’t pay more that $25, and made comparisons to decks printed cheaply (and often unethically) overseas. At one point, my team asked me to consider moving our printing elsewhere to save on costs, but at the end of the day, my Why is wrapped up in knowing and respecting innate human worth, and printing elsewhere just didn’t sit right with me. So we wrote, illustrated, designed and printed the deck locally in Toronto where I live, and priced it accordingly at $40 + shipping. It launched in November, and I’ve done $16,000 of sales so far, on the side of my coaching business - not too shabby for a small fish in a big ocean. I’m proud of my decision. Not only did I pay my staff + printer fairly but I am also offering a product that reminds consumers what fair labour actually costs. When things are priced too cheaply, it means someone else is paying the price.
Our friendship is another Instagram success story. I felt so connected to you through your meaningful posts and extremely informative (and fun!) stories, and then you were kind enough to reach out first to set up a Skype date. How do you navigate finding those true, meaningful connections in a world with limited attention spans and chronic shiny object syndrome?
Maggie, our connection is the thing my IG dreams are made of. I swear - friendships like this are why I’m on the platform. Lately, I’ve gotten really into following my insta-curiosity to find and foster those meaningful connections - the ones that I feel have potential. For me to connect with someone on IG, I have to feel like they’re really themselves, and like they’re direct. I’m all about diving deep fast. I used to feel bad about that, but as I get older I learned to accept that it’s just how I am and that it’s really kind of a superpower. If you’re still reading this and nodding along, there’s a good chance we’ll get along - so reach out!
What does a typical day look like for you? And do you have any routines/rituals that allow you to be your most successful self?
What I love most about my business is that I’ve built it in a way that no two days are alike. Sometimes, I’ll create some routine for myself just to stay sane but overall I love a lot of variety. Most days are a combination of writing, seeing clients, thinking about how to sell cards for self-care, dreaming up new branches to my business (just for funsies), planning for retreats & workshops, and sometimes giving talks at events or on panels.
I adore my deck of Be With cards, and have them on my desk to help inform how I’ll spend a break within each day. What was your major inspiration for creating these?
A lot of the practical work of my coaching practice is about teaching folks how to feel their feelings, especially the difficult ones, so that they can learn how to move through and learn from them. The most important emotional intelligence skill that is necessary for this to happen is self-compassion, which is unfortunately tremendously underdeveloped in most people.. Dr. Kristin Neff is one of my heroes, and someone who has studied self-compassion in depth, so her work was a big part of the inspiration when I decided to create Cards for Self-Care as a simple tool to help individuals build self-compassion through the popular language of self-care. In that way, it’s a bit of a trojan horse, because self-care in itself is important - but it’s also all the deeper stuff that’s happening underneath the surface when we practice good self-care that really has the power to support us.
You hold a certificate in Gestalt Psychotherapy, and I know that you like to incorporate a collaborative approach to your coaching with your clients. Can you share a little bit more about your coaching style? Oh, and what would you say is your coaching superpower?
My coaching approach combines Gestalt psychotherapy, co-active coaching and spiritual directions - each of them is its own discipline and methodology of support. I tie them all together, by using each according to their strengths and what my client’s needs may be. So if someone is stuck in a certain arena of their life because they are running from feeling what they actually feel (I’m unhappy in my job/marriage/city), then I may focus on using Gestalt methods to actually feel the feelings - both in their bodies and with the help of their emotions. Alternatively, if someone is blaming themselves for a struggle (I hate my body) that is actually the fault of a culture (fat-shaming is everywhere), then I may use a coaching peer-to-peer approach to help them recognize they are part of a larger system and aren’t to blame. I coach people from an understanding that they are the expert on their own lives and needs, and that my role is to guide them to get curious about hearing, understanding and following the wisdom of that internal expertise. And my coaching superpower is most definitely my intuition, as it guides me in what questions to ask and techniques to try out.
If someone isn’t sure they want to go the full coaching route yet, do you have any books, podcasts, other resources that you could recommend that will allow them to start asking some of those great questions on their own?
BOOKS: There are so many amazing resources out there so it all depends on the kind of support you’re looking for. For a great bird’s eye overview of how to create better emotional health, I strongly recommend Emotional Agility by Susan David - it’s very accessible while still being based on ground breaking research. If you’re someone who struggles with taking care of/controlling others in order to feel worthy, check out Codependant No More by Melody Beattie - it’s an oldie but a goodie. And then, if you get stuck in patterns of self-criticism and judging yourself, Dr. Kristin Neff’s Self-Compassion is a stellar resource.
PODCASTS: Invisibilia is a fascinating listen - with one of my favorite episodes being The Problem With The Solution which unpacks why treating any part of us like a problem just makes any struggle we have worse. A Therapist Walks Into A Bar is so so good and looks at everything from relationships, to white privilege to substance use. The Robcast is a spiritual take on the questions, and is my go to when I need to be lifted up and reminded of what’s really important in my life.
How do you define self-care? And what is your best piece of advice for someone who is starting to discover what their own self-care practice might entail?
I define self-care as anything that supports you in the moment or in the long run. Sometimes self-care is soaking in a tub, and sometimes it’s getting my taxes done with a bottle of rose on the table! My favourite question to get folks who are new to prioritizing self-care is “What’s the gentlest thing I can do for myself?” When you’re not used to slowing down it can be easy to convince yourself that hot yoga is self-care even at the end of a 14-hour day when you haven’t eaten properly. Except usually it’s not in that circumstance. So I encourage folks to start at the gentlest side of the spectrum and work backwards.
Is there a commonality amongst your clients with their struggles, worries, and fears? If so, what is your recommendation to help combat those universal challenges?
For so many of us, the root of our struggles boils down to fears of not being enough and being abandoned. However, because at the core those fears are mucky, existential and very difficult to move through, most of us avoid them and put our conscious focus on problems which are more within our control. Except those surface “problems” are almost never the problem. If you find yourself repeating the same pattern over and over again in your life, it’s time to look into what’s happening deeper down - at the core of the issue. Get into therapy, or coaching, develop an inquisitive practice like vipassana meditation or journaling - anything that leaves you face to face with yourself and your own truth. The only way out is through baby.
What are some ways that you love spending your time?
Hobbies - real, fun, silly, good for your soul, don’t produce $/status/external value but just feeeeeeeel good. Find those things and incorporate more of them into your life. I’ve been doing more of this lately and it’s been a game changer. My current favorites include painting with watercolors and flower arranging. Pure freaking bliss.
Want to know more? Eager to connect with Barbara? Here's how:
Work with Barbara:
I offer a free thirty-minute consult to give folks a chance to see if working with me might be a good fit for them. Book a call and learn more about coaching with me here.
Fun little extra:
If you nodded vigorously above when I was chatting about being self-critical, then download and ACTUALLY work through my 8 step guide for taking self-criticism in for self-kindness. It’ll blow your mind. And you’ll hear from me on the somewhat regular about feelings, self-care, and fostering a better, more loving relationship with you.