Trust Yourself w/ Colleen Mitchell

There's only one real authority in your life, and that's you. Colleen Mitchell, a type 1 diabetic, joins us today to discuss how listening to her own body and doing her own research gave her control over her blood sugar levels, and her life. Whether it’s facing your fears, getting your message out, or defending your health, Colleen is here to tell you why your choices should never be left up to other people.

Highlight Reel

0:30 Type 1 and Type 2

1:30 Fear of public speaking

13:40 Everyone has a message

16:40 Carbs and diabetes

23:40 The processed food industry

30:20 Make your own decisions

35:10 An ideal situation

41:40 Question everything

42:40 Testing for diabetes

Adrienne MacIain 0:01

Hi, everyone, welcome to the That's Aloud podcast. I'm your hostess, Dr. Adrienne MacIain. And today we have Colleen Mitchell. Please introduce yourself, Colleen.

Colleen Mitchell 0:11

Hi. Well, as you just said, my name is Colleen Mitchell. I am a life coach, a podcaster, an author, a speaker, and I'm also a full time analyst/engineer in the power industry. So I do quite a lot. And I have fun while I do it all.

Adrienne MacIain 0:26

Absolutely. So what is your podcast about?

Colleen Mitchell 0:29

My podcast is about type 1 diabetes, it's called This Is Type 1, real life with type 1 diabetes, because I've had type 1 diabetes for over 25 years, since I was two years old. So it's basically part of my identity. And we started a podcast to help improve diabetes awareness and education for the people who don't necessarily know what the differences between type one and type two.

Adrienne MacIain 0:29

And for those who don't, please explain.

Colleen Mitchell 0:33

So for those who don't know, type 1 is an autoimmune condition where the pancreas does not produce any insulin at all. And type 2 is a metabolic condition where the pancreas does produce some insulin, but the body doesn't absorb it like it's supposed to. So sometimes type 2 diabetics will be on supplemental insulin. But if you are dependent upon insulin to actually survive, like if you stopped taking it, and you will die, you were a type 1.

Adrienne MacIain 1:21

Got it.

Colleen Mitchell 1:22

Type 1 is also incurable, and type 2 is generally reversible.

Adrienne MacIain 1:27

Yeah, big difference.

Colleen Mitchell 1:29

Big, big difference.

Adrienne MacIain 1:30

Absolutely. So as you know, season four is all about hindsight 2020. So I wanted to ask you what was the greatest gift that the year 2020 gave you?

Colleen Mitchell 1:42

The greatest gift that I got from 2020 was basically stepping out of my fear of being a public speaker. And into that whole world after a lifetime of absolutely hating it. So if you knew me in college, then you would have been like, you would have seen how awful I was at it, how much I hated it. I like telling the story about the last presentation that we ever gave during my senior capstone project. So our professor told us that we were not allowed to have note cards, because in the real world people don't use note cards for their speeches, which is a lie. And so I spent the, I think, several hours the night before this presentation memorizing my portion of the speech. And the next day, I got up in front of everybody, and when I had to speak, I froze. Because memorizing it didn't help if I can't get past the fear of actually saying the words. And so after that, I was just like, I hate this, I don't want to do this, I can't, I'm not a public speaker, this is terrible, this is awful, disgusting, I don't like public speaking. And so after that, I would avoid every single instance where I was speaking to more than just a few people in the same room. And if I had to give a presentation, I would memorize it as much as I could, and I would basically bolt through it. So I would just get through it as fast as possible and get it over with. And I just grew to hate it so much. I would look at TED Talk speakers and professional speakers and keynote speakers and be like, They look really comfortable doing that. I want to be able to do that. And so there was this moment when I was driving home from work in July of 2019, it's a 12 minute drive, so it's not very long. And I had just gotten so fed up that I decided on that drive home that I was going to offer to present at our next big company conference. And that conference happened in February of 2020. So the next day, I told the conference organizer, told my boss, and I had to figure out how to how to write a speech and actually give a speech. And so I joined Toastmasters.

Adrienne MacIain 3:56


Colleen Mitchell 3:59

So Toastmasters, if you're not familiar with it is this organization that is basically designed for people to improve their communication and their leadership skills. It's a safe space where people can come together to learn how to speak, how to be comfortable with speaking. To get feedback on their speeches, so that they can improve and learn what to look out for. And so I started giving speeches. I gave my icebreaker speech, which is a four to six minute just introduction to yourself, just to kind of get you comfortable with speaking. And then I actually gave a practice run of this conference presentation to the group. And I got really good feedback on it. And so over the next couple months, I spent, like, 50 plus hours, writing the speech, practicing the speech, rewriting the speech, memorizing it, rehearsing it. So by the time I actually gave this speech in February of 2020, people didn't realize that I was not a natural speaker. I spent all this prep time not even considering what would happen after I was actually, like, saying the last words and walking off the stage. No thought whatsoever given to that. And so at the end of this, the speech that I gave was applause. And then our Vice President of safety, it was our safety conference, he walked up and he said, I didn't know we had another keynote speaker here tonight.

Adrienne MacIain 5:23


Colleen Mitchell 5:24

And I was like, Oh, great. You guys think I'm a actually legit thing now. And the organizers for that conference called the organizers of the next conference, which was happening three weeks later. And they said, You have to have Colleen speak at the conference. And so I gave the presentation again, three weeks later, for the second conference. And then when we got home from the second conference, everything shut down. So I haven't given an in person speech since then. But I have, as of last month, given five internal company conference speeches, or presentations. Which is honestly ridiculous, if you had known me when I was in college.

Adrienne MacIain 6:01

That's so wonderful. I love that. I'm like, my face is hurting, I'm smiling so much over here. I, believe it or not, I actually have a similar story. Because even though I've been, you know, an actress since I was itty-bitty, I was terrified of public speaking. And I want to just make a distinction here, because a lot of people don't understand that there's a difference between acting and public speaking. When you are public speaking, you are speaking as yourself. And so it takes away this layer of protection that acting gives you. When you are acting, you are acting as somebody else. They can judge the the words that you're saying that somebody else wrote, they can judge your acting, but they're not judging you as a person in the same way. When you are public speaking, especially if you're talking about a personal story or something that really matters to you, that you're very passionate about, it can be this incredibly vulnerable and raw experience for people. And if it goes badly, as you experienced, it can feel like a personal rejection or a personal judgment. And so I just want to validate everyone out there who's saying, Yeah, I'm scared of public speaking too. It can be a very scary thing. But that said, the more you do it, the more you realize, Oh, those people want you to succeed. Like they're not out there waiting for you to fail so they can stick a fork in you. They want to get something good from this, and so they're on your side as audience members. They want you to do well.

Colleen Mitchell 7:47

Yeah. And if there are people out there who want to stick a fork in you, then those aren't the people for you, and you can just ignore their opinions.

Adrienne MacIain 7:54

Absolutely. Because opinions are just opinions. I actually just wrote a thing today called How to Be a Muse. And it talks about, you know, you don't, you're not as good a judge of potential or outcome as you think you are. Right? Like your opinion is just an opinion. And you do not get to tell people that their baby is ugly. Okay, that's just not not your place, nor is it your job. And it's especially not your job to do to yourself.

Colleen Mitchell 8:01

Yeah. And going back to what you were saying about getting better with practice, your skill as a public speaker will definitely improve the more that you give speeches, but your internal emotional state will take longer to catch up.

Adrienne MacIain 8:36

So true!

Colleen Mitchell 8:37

So that first speech I gave, I think, right before I was standing on the sidelines, just like leaning against the wall, kind of pushing up on my feet, I had my shoes off, I was doing like really kind of trying to do power poses, but not letting anybody know I was doing power poses. And my hands are clammy, and before that I was in the bathroom doing our poses. That stuff works, yo, works, not kidding. But in so, deep breathing, I was doing all of the things that I possibly could to keep myself as calm as possible before actually walking out on stage. And then right after the emcee was like, And our next speaker is, and I was like, Okay, here it is, when I actually start walking and start talking. As I'm walking and after that point, it was just automatic. So it was all of that hype up until the point where I start walking on and start talking that it, that's the scary part where you're just feeling all that anxiety and that nervousness. And it does help to reframe it as excitement. And I'll do that now, when I go into things. It's just it's easier to feel excited about something because these people actually want to hear from me. And I know that now based on the response from the first one.

Adrienne MacIain 9:41

Yeah. And the fact that you have that response says you care about this, this matters to you. And so that's great. You can celebrate that you're that excited about something, that you have this really strong physiological response to something, because it matters to you and you're doing it. So, go you! Right?

Colleen Mitchell 9:59

Yeah. Yeah. And another thing is that when you do stuff like this, especially the first time, you get an adrenaline rush. And type 1 diabetes, when you have an adrenaline rush, your blood sugar goes up. And so I'm on an insulin pump and a continuous glucose monitor, if you're watching the video version, it's on my arm right here, just a little patch. And when I was speaking, I could feel my pump vibrating to tell me that my blood sugar was going high. And every five minutes, it would vibrate and beef, right underneath the lapel microphone, it would vibrate and be even like, Crap, I hope nobody's actually hearing this. And nobody did, because I asked some people afterwards, and they didn't even notice. But that was a really good learning experience. Because the next time I gave the speech, I was able to give some insulin upfront so that I wouldn't go as high. And then I also used the graph of my insulin, or my blood sugar spike, in the next presentation to show what stress does to your health, because that was stress in action.

Adrienne MacIain 10:59

Oh, yeah.

Colleen Mitchell 10:59

I was able to tie that into the next speech, because it really tied into the whole topic. And just being able to use my diabetes as kind of a teaching mechanism for things that are not specifically related to diabetes was really awesome.

Adrienne MacIain 11:11

Yeah. So I went to this administrative professionals conference back when I was an admin. And what I found was that people kept assuming that I was one of the presenters, and asking when my presentation was going to be, because I'm just a big mouth. Right? And so finally, I was like, Alright, fine, I'll do a presentation. And so I signed up to be one of the presenters. Well, even though I knew exactly what I was getting myself into, somehow, when it actually came down to doing this, it was like, I'm looking at this giant room that they put me in. I mean, it was a big room, like, much bigger than I expected. And I'm looking at all this and just going, Oh, God, how do you fake an embolism? That was really my thought process, like, I have to get out of this somehow, like I cannot do this. And thank god, my husband was there, and he talked me through the whole thing, and like, held my hand was like, You got this, babe, you're gonna be great. And of course, the night before my computer crashed. And so thank god, he was there, again, for like, not just moral support, but tech support, to get me through that. And then, you know, the day of everything that went wrong, could go wrong, you know, that could go wrong went wrong. And so my first presentation was kind of bumpy. And it was right after the big keynote speaker that everybody was like, Oh, my God, that's like the best speech I've ever heard in my life. I'm like, Great. But the second one went really well. And then the third one went even better than that. And so I think it's just one of those things that, you know, the more you do it, it's not just kind of getting over the fear or getting used to it, it's that, like you said, you see that there are, there will always be parts of it that go better than others. But the bottom line is that people walk away with good stuff. And if you're willing to take that adrenaline rush, and take that stress spike so that they can get the good stuff that you have for them, then it really feels like a gift. And then it becomes fun.

Colleen Mitchell 13:21

Yeah, those high blood sugars are totally worth it, because now I have that experience of giving these speeches. And I also have the experience of my co-workers asking me to present at other conferences and being open to when I want to present, because they know I'm going to come up with something good.

Adrienne MacIain 13:35

That's awesome. So what do you think is your main message to people who are listening today who might also be nervous about public speaking?

Colleen Mitchell 13:47

While I was thinking about this before, that I think we need to de-stigmatize public speaking as something to be afraid of. Because there's that old Jerry Seinfeld joke or whatever, that more people are afraid of giving a speech at a funeral than being in the coffin. So we're more afraid of, like, talking to people who are not us or not our family than we are of being dead? Which is kind of ridiculous.

Adrienne MacIain 14:12

Fascinating, right?

Colleen Mitchell 14:13

Yeah. I mean, we need to de-stigmatize the fact that when we, when we share our ideas, it's a good idea to share ideas. Some people are going to shut down those ideas, but those people don't matter. And when we listen to the people whose opinions are that we are stupid or dumb and we shouldn't be talking, then we're closing ourselves down from creativity, from wisdom. And when we do that we're not shining as brightly in the world. So if you have something to say, don't be afraid to say it because of what other people might think. That's the important message here.

Adrienne MacIain 14:46

Yeah, everyone has a message that is important. Everyone has knowledge that it's important to pass on. Everyone has a story that's worth telling. And if you live in that fear, in that shame of like, Oh, they're gonna judge me, it's gonna be, you know, it's gonna feel yucky. Like, those people need to hear that story.

Colleen Mitchell 15:07

So we judge ourselves so much worse than other people will, we are our own worst critics.

Adrienne MacIain 15:12

Absolutely, yeah. And, you know, on that third speech that I gave, this woman came up to me afterwards, and she was like, You just inspired me to quit my job and change my life. And I've stayed in touch with that woman, you know, all these years afterwards. And she's doing great. She's out there thriving. And she's still, you know, will write to me randomly and be like, Thank you so much for that speech. Like I gave one speech, you know, years ago, and it's still with her. So you just never know who's that person that you're really going to affect with something that you have to say.

Colleen Mitchell 15:47

Yeah, you don't know who's listening, you don't know who's watching. I mean, if you go on Facebook and you do a Facebook Live, it might be scary at first, and maybe nobody shows up, but maybe somebody watches that in a year and you save their life. And you won't ever know, because they probably won't tell you. But the fact isn't, the point isn't to be getting this validation from other people in the form of clicks and likes and comments. It's just putting yourself out there and knowing that your message is meant for maybe one person, and believing that that message is reaching the right person at the right time is enough.