Inner work, Alignment & Success blocks w/ Marlena Tillhon – She Leads She Thrives Podcast Ep 45

Marlena Tillhon_She Leads She Thrives Podcast Ep 45 | Self leadership coach | Thrive Factor Archetypes | Shannon Dunn
Marlena Tillhon_She Leads She Thrives Podcast Ep 45 | Self leadership coach | Thrive Factor Archetypes | Shannon Dunn

In this episode Marlena and I talk about

Have you ever wondered why things don’t seem to be flowing how you hoped they would and considered that some self-reflection could shed light on possible answers and solutions to your reality?

Well, your instincts to look within are ideal according to today’s guest. In this episode, Marlena Thillhon and I have a conversation to explore Inner work, Alignment, and Success blocks. 

Marlena and I share a commitment to supporting ambitious souls as clients, so we had plenty to talk about which has led to an episode overflowing with insights, wisdom, and practical learning. 

In this episode, we talk through the following key topics

  • 6:07 Why is inner work so important?
  • 10:05 The inner work of ambitious women and their aspirations
  • 16:52 How to recognise when you’re out of alignment
  • 20:14 Success is an evolution
  • 27:34 The power of self-awareness
  • 39:11 The four most common success blocks
  • 45:10 Leading yourself compassionately
  • 47:42 What role does leadership play in your life and business?
  • 49:44 How do you know when you’re thriving?
  • 53:03 What’s a final piece of wisdom that you’d like to share?
Marlena Tillhon_She Leads She Thrives Podcast Ep 45 Quote

Connect with guest Marlena Tillhon

Marlena Tillhon is a psychotherapist, relationship coach and self-actualisation mentor for high-achieving women who want to create lives and businesses they love.
She specialises in healing the relationship you have with yourself and using it to create soul-aligned success in all areas of life.

Connect with Marlena

Episode Transcript


She Lead She Thrives, the home of inspired conversations, practical and creative wisdom, expansive leadership and business insights, abundant Bragaudacious moments of celebration and useful info you can actually do something with.


You’ll hear about mindset marketing, money, magnetism, self awareness and the Thrive Factor Framework, it’s Archetypes and more. Amplify your role as a leader, a self led soul. Tap into your effortless success zone. Turn your ingeniousness and wisdom into profitable income streams.


From solo shows to guests you’ll definitely want more from, there’s something for every ambitious ingenious soul. 


I’m Shannon Dunn, a true OG of the business coaching space, with an obsession with thriving. You are so welcome here. Let’s dive into today’s episode.


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Shannon Dunn  01:45

A fabulously big hello everybody. I am so delighted to welcome you to another episode of She Leads She Thrives podcast. I’m Shannon Dunn, your host here, and a business and leadership coach with a lot to say about thriving and a whole lot more things. 


Shannon Dunn  01:45

I have got an incredible guest to join me today. Now Marlena and I connected – we were just having a quick chat before- it was easily two and a half years ago would you say? And like a lot of the incredible guests who are not in my part of the world at all, we met online in various programs and things we’ve done with different coaches and different learning. And I’ve just always appreciated what she has to share. And also sat back and watched her evolve her business and what she’s doing and her focus in that time. So I’ve got lots of questions to ask you about that. 


Shannon Dunn  02:41

But let me introduce Marlena by sharing her a bio with you. So I’m Marlena Tillhom is a psychotherapist, relationship coach and a self-actualization mentor for high achieving women who want to create lives and businesses they love. She specializes in healing the relationship you have with yourself and using it to create soul aligned business in all areas of life. How’s that? Welcome. So glad to have you here. 


Shannon Dunn  03:07

Like many of the guests that I’ve had on the show, while I have a great connection with these incredible women and I really feel like we kind of have a friendship and know each other already, this is the first time we’ve actually managed to have a conversation beyond conversation in DMs and messenger. So I’m really excited about that. But it does feel like talking to an old friend? for sure. So tell everyone a little bit about where you are in the world.  And then I’m going to  dive in and ask some questions about what you were doing when we first connected and the evolution to where we are now. But first is tell us a little bit about where you are.


Marlena Tillhon  03:47

In terms of the world? yeah, I’m in England. So I’ve practiced psychotherapy in England, I’ve got my private practice. And that’s always been my passion. It’s been like healing, growing learning, and then I discovered the online world. And I was like, Oh, my God, there is just a completely different world. It’s lots of people. Yeah, so different. 


Shannon Dunn  04:11

Very different coming from a therapeutic background, which is very much people come to you in the clinic or in an office. And that’s how you work with them.


Marlena Tillhon  04:19

Yeah, yes. And the dynamic is different. Because like you said, people come to you. You don’t have to, like make yourself be seen or anything. It just happens. Well, it doesn’t just happen. There’s a different kind of marketing, where it’s yeah, it’s it’s different. But what I loved about finding all the other female entrepreneurs and ambitious women and driven people, was that we can connect globally and we would never have had the chance to meet if it hadn’t been for this online space, and the online communities people create and that’s just the most mind blowing thing for me the biggest opportunity to connect.


Shannon Dunn  04:56

I agree with you. And the occasional times I hear somebody and complaining about technology, I will often say I am so grateful for it because again, the relationships that we’ve been able to build, the learning we can do from each other, the support we can provide to each other. It’s just so phenomenal. And I’m grateful because yeah, here we are opposite sides of the world, literally, it’s your morning in the UK and my evening in Australia, and we’re having a conversation to share with women that are all over the world are going to listen to it at some point in time. It’s just such a fabulous thing for sure. 


Shannon Dunn  05:30

So when we first connected about two and a half, maybe even more years ago, it was definitely in 2020, you were mostly working as a relationship mentor in your psychotherapy business weren’t you, you were doing online stuff. And in those last couple of years or so, I’ve seen you evolve your work as a coach. And as you said, now you’re more focusing on working with individuals in their own personal relationship with themselves rather than interpersonal relationships with others necessarily. So what prompted this shift to kind of move into this area from this online perspective?


Marlena Tillhon  06:07

I think a lot of my work has always followed my own personal evolution and my healing journey. So when I first started, so eight years ago, when that wasn’t when I was entering the online space, it was very much, about the real trauma work and the inner healing work. And then we went into, you know, how it affected my relationships. And that’s what I then shared with my clients. And I’m still passionate about that. But what I did discover was that every single one leads back to the relationship you have with yourself. And that’s the thing most people don’t want to look at. But it is the catalyst for everything. Yeah.


Shannon Dunn  06:40

Yeah. makes so much sense to me. But I was thinking it would be good to hear what you had to say about that. And I’ve seen you sharing more, probably more recently, around the concept of inner work. Like, I know what from my own understanding about what that means. But I wanted to ask you to share a little bit more about that. Because some of our listeners may not understand what that actual phrase means of inner work. So we’re, before we explore why it’s actually important, can you give us a an example of what inner work would be so that listeners can get a better understanding? And we’re all kind of on the same same page as we then go forward? 


Marlena Tillhon  07:17

Yeah, of course. So when we talk about the inner work, it’s more about really understanding what’s going on for you. Because a lot of the times if you have a relationship problem, or a particular argument, or you’re stuck in your business, might want to use that as an example. And you just can’t move past it, even though you use lots of different strategies, different communication skills, you’re creative, and you’re problem solving and action taking, but it’s still not moving or shifting a lot of the time, there’s something within us that holds us back. 


Marlena Tillhon  07:50

So what I then do with my clients is I have a look at all the different things that have happened in their lives. And I can spot patterns and root causes really easily. So that if it’s something like perfectionism, yes, that would have been something that would have kept them safe as children, right? If I’m perfect, I can’t be criticized. But as adults, it stifles our creativity, our authentic self expression, and that’s why then it becomes a success block, or in relationships, you know, you’re trying to be the good wife. But it’s not really authentic, because you’re just trying to fit into a mold. That came out of conditioning. 


Shannon Dunn  08:26

Yeah it’s not you. So why is inner work so important then? Why is this kind of that self reflection, I mean, you and I are definitely on the same page about this, the entire Thrive Factor Framework is focused on self awareness, self understanding, and self leadership. So I get where you’re coming from. But listeners may not understand why it’s important. And as you said, it’s often this looking at self is one of the most potentially uncomfortable or biggest resistances we have is to actually go and look within. So why did why is it important that we do this?


Marlena Tillhon  09:01

And so I think the reason why it feels uncomfortable is because we’re not used to it. I think we grow up in a world that asks us to look outside of ourselves, what do our parents want what do our teachers want? What does society expect from us? What do other people deem as successful? And so we develop this external focus, but we need an internal focus to know how we feel, what those feelings are trying to communicate to us, then what needs we have to meet, – feelings are trying to communicate that. And that’s where the inner work is important at the level of awareness, self awareness raising, because it’s easy for you to make healthy choices for yourself, if you know what you want, what you need, what’s good for you, and that varies from person to person. So people from the outside can’t really tell you, but you’ll feel it.


Shannon Dunn  09:50

It’s very individual, isn’t it? And I think some people dismiss that reality that it is such an individual thing. And while we can perhaps look to others and see similarities No one is going to have the same needs or desires that we have. Yeah, not exactly the same. Yeah, might be similar. So when we’re talking about female leaders, so the ambitious souls of the world, the women that are go-getters want to achieve a lot, and have big expectations for themselves. Why does inner work matters so much for them, beyond the kind of general population


Marlena Tillhon  10:27

Because of the ambition, it’s almost like they want to achieve something that’s extraordinary. And it’s almost like, if you were your tool, you need to number one, maintain that tool really well, know how it works, and then apply it, how you should apply it. So it feels like a lot of the time when you’re just –  I’m not saying just- but when you’re trying to meet a the expected level of success. I think you can get away with not doing as much inner work on yourself. Not that that’s good for you. It’s not something that I would promote. But you can get away with it. But I think it’s like running a marathon with a stone in your shoe. It’s not going to work as well, it’s definitely not going to feel good. 


Shannon Dunn  11:17

You might achieve the outcome as in running a marathon, but the whole experience is not going to be fabulous.


Marlena Tillhon  11:26

No. And that’s why I feel like the inner work is the is the foundational part that makes it feel good, that links it to your sense of purpose, that brings it into alignment with your desires, your gifts. That’s why I think you have to really look at yourself so that you can use yourself in the best possible way. And then the experience will feel completely different. And I think the results are also always very different.


Shannon Dunn  11:55

That makes sense to me Marlena, that their results or the outcome you experience can be significantly different. Once you have those foundations created and nurtured in a different kind of a way. I just want to talk to you a little bit more about the ambitious individuals of the world. I put my hand up as being one, I believe that a lot of the listeners for the podcast would also be people that would identify as being very ambitious, driven, want to create impact, want to achieve something you just said that to the average person may be considered extraordinary. I know in my conversations with clients and women in my world that the ambitious ones of us have often had experiences during our life where we’ve been judged, or criticized or had someone or something, whether it’s real or perceived, try to kind of contain or even squash or eliminate that ambition. What does that have in terms of an impact on our ability or willingness to do inner work and really look at the ambitious part of ourselves?


Marlena Tillhon 12:58

I think, first of all, it motivates us. It’s almost like we were then driven to overcompensate and to prove something. I think that’s the first thing. And when you do the inner work though it changes away from that, and it changes into almost like a sense of joy, curious joy into how much can I achieve? What can I do? What can I create? It’s not so much proving any anyone or anything wrong anymore. It’s more like starting to enjoy being human, being the creator that you are. So I’ve felt that shift, that it goes from having to prove something which comes more from an unworthiness issue and lack.


Shannon Dunn  13:38

So almost like if I think about about it, certainly from my own historical experience, not I don’t feel like I have to prove anything anymore. But when I was younger, I definitely felt like that. It was almost if someone said, you can’t or you shouldn’t or this is not right for you. And I think as women, as younger girls, we often have that kind of you’re a girl, you can’t do, you shouldn’t do that, then that can be a bit like, let me show you, like I’ll show you, like you just wait and see , which is coming from a space of having to prove- that’s not a good energy around that. And take us away from our authentic selves, right?


Marlena Tillhon  14:16

Yes, yeah, absolutely. Because then we’re trying to prove something to that person. And it’s almost like something to impress them, something that they value, but it might not be something that we value. So then that’s how it becomes inauthentic. 


Shannon Dunn  14:31

yeah, definitely. So another word that I’m seeing you use more these days is the word “alignment”. Yeah. I feel like it’s a word that’s been used a lot. Maybe not necessarily something that everybody understands what its meaning is and I think it’s a very commonly used word in the coaching, mentoring, self development space. But outside of that, others in different types of businesses. Alignment maybe or what is that? Is it a wheel alignment for your vehicle or like, you know, what is the alignment all about? So how do you describe alignment to somebody? And then tell us a little bit about why it’s something that women leaders are going to benefit from focusing on?



Yeah. So I kind of use it in two different ways, depending on the client’s level of self awareness and openness. So when I talk about my own business, it’s more like I’m aiming for soul alignment, so that it’s more about what my soul wants to express. And trusting that over my head, which is where I was when we first met was like in my head and strategies. 


Shannon Dunn  15:34

Yeah, I remember that now. It was very much about the how, how do I do this? So how do this? How do I Yeah, rather than the trusting feeling space?



Yeah, yes. But with my clients, most of them when I talk about alignment, I helped them to see what they want. It’s almost like they have to start there, that that’s the set point. And then everything else has to align. And that means their energy, the way they think, the way they feel, the way they act. And that makes it a lot easier for them. Because if they have a clear goal in mind, whether that’s a career goal, a life goal, or relationship goal, you can always ask yourself, is that going to lead me to that goal? is that in alignment with it? Do I have to think that way to achieve this? is that going to make it easier or harder? and it becomes more practical. 


Marlena Tillhon  16:23

So then it works really well when you even when you talk about the inner work, it’s like, okay, it’s aligned to your deepest desire, aligned to what you want to achieve. And then is that way of thinking like full of self doubt, and I can’t do it, and I’m never going to achieve it and look at these other people and how much they achieve. Is that way of thinking in alignment with your desire? And if it isn’t, have to uplevel the way you think, change the way you think.


Shannon Dunn  16:52

So for someone who may have a clarity on what they want to achieve, as you said, whether it’s a life goal, a business goal, career goal, relationship goal, doesn’t matter what the goal is, but there is something in  their world that they are really clear about what they want to achieve. And they recognize that they’re not in alignment, where do they start?


Shannon Dunn  17:12

Because I found that women in my world that, I would say, are not in alignment, whether that’s language that they use or not, can sometimes be in a space of so much overwhelm, and having had that clarity of where they want to go or what they want to achieve, but it feels so far away. Or like they just they don’t have the personality, the tools, the the trainings, the money, the whole lot. There’s like all of these things that seem to be in the way of them actually moving forward. So they can be in a space of overwhelm, or in that maybe unhealthy mindset, energetic state, feeling state, where it’s just the kind of stacking up against themselves, where does someone start when they recognize they’re out of alignment, where they kind of just don’t know what to do about it?



It can feel exactly like that, really overwhelming. And there’s like a million things that you should be doing and a million ways that you should be different. 


Shannon Dunn  18:08

Like revery time you turn around, there’s another list with an extra things that you can add to that. And they everyone will tell you that this is the exact way you need to do something and its not wonder we get confused?



Yes, but that’s the point. Right? It’s again, all of that is external. And we’re trained to focus on the external. And then we get really confused because we haven’t focused on the inside. So I would start with remembering to focus on what’s going on within you, bringing it back, like how do I feel in this moment? What do I want in this moment, and you start small, like, you might have had leftovers from dinner, and you’re like I’ll have it for lunch tomorrow. But then it’s lunchtime, I want you to ask yourself, if this is still what you want to eat right now, it might make sense in your head. But it might not be what you want in this moment. It might not be in alignment with your desire in that present moment. And that’s a massive up level and an energetic shift. Because you’re not just in autopilot, like Oh, yesterday I said I was going to eat the leftovers. Now I just have to eat it. 


Marlena Tillhon  19:08

You starting to become more conscious around what you want, how you act on that, whether you act on it, and it’s just about becoming more aware about yourself and your patterns and your ways of being, your ways of thinking. So one of my pattern has always been going into what I call surrender, where I’m like, Oh, it’s fine, that will do. Right I settle. I tolerate things, I can make do with things, I’ve got like low standards. So I have and I always had to kind of learn to push myself. 


Marlena Tillhon  19:43

If you weren’t prepared to settle for this, what would you aim for? What would you ask for? And then I had to learn to ask for things which is like the next chapter. So it unfolds. There is no point of perfection. There is no  pressure you have to put yourself under. Alignment is something you do in everyday life, and it grows as you grow, as your self awareness grows. So it’s about when you already feel overwhelmed, you don’t need a spiritual to do list. No, it’s the last thing  you need. 


Shannon Dunn  20:16

And I love that you highlighted that it is an evolution. I think that when we talk about success or attaining a certain goal, we see that as the endpoint of something. It’s almost like that we dismiss the journey, the experience of getting to whatever that is, and then that in itself will evolve. I don’t think I’ve ever had a conversation with anyone who’s achieved a significant goal that they were working towards, and they’ve got there and gone, okay, this is it, and I’m done, I’m all completely satisfied, then there’s something new, a different kind of calling maybe from their soul that they’re working towards. But I think there’s such an opportunity there to maybe pause and enjoy the journey more than it said, be more mindful, be more conscious. Rather than push, push, push, I often refer to it as being caught up in the busy-ness of business. Where we’re doing almost for the sake of doing, ticking off those to do lists and making new ones just because we ticked off one, let’s make another one, so we can show that we’re doing stuff and the proof kind of thing.


Marlena Tillhon  21:18

Yeah, it’s exactly how you describe it. And I’ve had so many clients who have achieved their big goals, but they feel really depressed or just an emptiness. And that’s because I see it as two separate processes, you can achieve any goal and work towards it and do, but there has to be a foundation of being and if you don’t practice that as you do, it’s almost like expecting two people, this is a common problem, right? People want to get in a relationship, because they think they’ll be happy once they’re in a relationship. But if they don’t know how to be happy, then it doesn’t matter what environment they put themselves in what goal they achieve, they haven’t got almost like the skill of happiness at that point, right? 


Marlena Tillhon  22:03

Because it’s like a dual process where you achieve on the outside, and it’s like the human doing part. But then you’ve got the human being part where you have to think in terms of emotional evolution and capacity. And we’re practicing happiness, am I recognizing my smaller achievements so that I can then recognize the big achievement? You know, can you allow yourself to be in that energy of achieving, of receiving, of enjoying? Or is everything conditional, like when I achieve that goal, then I’ll allow myself to feel something. But it’s almost like saying, when I’ve achieved that goal, then I will speak a different language, but you never practice or learn that language.


Shannon Dunn  22:42

That’s a good analogy to understand that isn’t it? I find it fascinating that the phrase “human being” is how you know, that’s what a human is, we describe ourselves as human beings. But how often do we actually pause and consider the actual reality of the notion of what it means to “be”? Yeah, I think it’s a big missed opportunity for a lot of people.


Marlena Tillhon  23:06

It is because, you know, you can have all these achievements. And I was definitely once in that position where I felt like I ticked off all the boxes. I did all the things that I thought society was expecting of me. And it didn’t feel good.  Because I wasn’t in it. And I wasn’t present for it. I was just doing doing, doing, doing. And there was just no feeling in it. It was just head, and hands.


Shannon Dunn  23:33

Going through the motions of living, isn’t it without actually living.


Marlena Tillhon  23:37

Yeah. And then of course, you’re going to do more of that, if you’re not connected to yourself. Because there’s just no motivation. There is no spark. There’s nothing that lights you up to do the things in the way that you want to do them.


Shannon Dunn  23:51

Yeah, yeah. Completely. So if somebody is more of a thinking person, as you said, like the thinking and the doing so, but without the heart, what would you recommend in terms of something simple that they could try so they could really connect in with their actual emotional self and what their souls true desires are? Like, where do we start with that if we are so you know, into like our ideas and our achievements, and it’s all about the headspace, the mindset, the thinking, and then operating from there. Where do we start?


Marlena Tillhon  24:24

And that makes me think about where I started because that’s exactly I was just always in my head. It’s also like a coping strategy. You know, when you’ve had things happen in your past, there was a lot of trauma for me, so I was always in my head because it felt safer and it didn’t have to feel, I was disconnected. So it is about reconnecting to yourself,  to your feelings and in practical terms, what that looked like to me was noticing when I was getting triggered, agitated, how I was feeling. 


Marlena Tillhon  24:55

So there is something you can download. It’s called the Feelings Wheel, Wheel of Emotion. And it’s just to help you raise your self awareness, your emotional self awareness, like how do I feel in this moment? And then at one point where I would take it as like, Okay, what does this feeling need, so that I would learn to take care of myself. So if I was bored, right, it was going to be a different response to if I felt hungry or lonely. Hmm. And then you can start to align these actions with your emotional state. So I’ve focused a lot on emotions, because I was disconnected from them, but I always felt I was a deeply emotional person, but I just had to, like shut it all away, you know, hide it.


Shannon Dunn  25:35

And as you say that it becomes a coping strategy or coping mechanism, doesn’t it? And I think that is a common thing for a large percentage of people in the world, is that they shut off parts of their human beingness. To believing that that means that they will be able to maybe function in the world, achieve whatever it is that they feel that they are called to do, or being asked to rise to, like you said, in a relationship, for example, be a good partner or whatever that looks like, or in business, being able to be a great boss, or a great employee, or whatever that looks like. 


Marlena Tillhon  26:12

Yeah, it’s definitely about being more emotionally connected. Because a lot of people like had this comment last week, like a little debate, where someone’s said I think people are too soft, you shouldn’t focus on emotions, you should just pull yourself together. And obviously, think about it, not because I’m offended, but I’m like, okay, there was a point. But the point I was making was that when you allow yourself to develop emotionally, and it was for me a delayed development, because as a child, it was like, you know, don’t express your feelings, be a good girl. So then I had to do the development later on, I did it in my 30s. And it was just about knowing how I was feeling, how to act on those feelings, what they were trying to tell me. But that then allowed me to be more resilient, more confident, more capable and achieve more. 


Marlena Tillhon  27:06

Had I contined to to pull myself together, I might have achieved certain things, but I felt I was burning out on it. And I think I would have just given up and just stayed at the same level. Because it’s just not sustainable. And it’s also not the strategy we have to resort to any more today. It’s something we had to do in the past, when we didn’t have access to all the information and the practices that we have today. Can you pull yourself together, you can, but you don’t have to anymore.


Shannon Dunn  27:34

Right?! That’s it. I love that too. And thank you for highlighting that. Because we do live in a world where I hope that this is true for anyone, wherever you’re listening from, but that there is more help out there, because we are connected in the online space, than there ever has been to take up some self learning, to read, to listen, to explore, to have conversations with others. And also to get professional help if that’s what you need, or choose to follow that path to help you to connect with your emotions. I think if you’re someone that is completely feeling like you’re stuck, out of alignment, can recognize some of the patterns that Marlena sharing today, then you don’t have to do it all on your own either. There are so many people out there that can help you or organizations or apps or …so many options, right? 


Marlena Tillhon  28:28

It ties in with what you said before as well that even if you’re overwhelmed, you have difficult life circumstances or lack of money, it doesn’t stop you from doing any of the inner healing work because there is such a richness of information that you can take from the internet, all the different places that you feel drawn to, and then implement them in your life. There is nothing standing in your way. And like you said there are charities, other organizations, there’s always someone.


Shannon Dunn  28:55

So many. I think that for some people, the biggest thing is actually recognizing that it’s time to either start the inner work or to ask for help and then allow themselves to go on a search looking for help or to receive help if someone offers it. Particularly if they’ve kind of not ever done that for their whole lives. I’m immediately thinking of a lot of the different Thrive Factor Archetypes where that is a behavioral pattern to not allow easily that asking for what you want and need and desire and kind of supporting that to actually become your reality. The Advocate Rescuer being one of them, which is a very common Archetype amongst women who probably in that 40 plus age group, also appears in younger women as well. But there’s definitely a large percentage of women out there in the world that are Advocate Rescuers and they’ll say yes to everybody, have often very weak or non-existent boundaries, don’t know how to actually support themselves. because they’re too busy doing everything for everybody else, often accused of being very sensitive and overly emotional, but you actually could talk to them and they would say that they’re not really emotional at all, because they don’t even see that kind of interaction. What they’re putting out into the world, they’re so disconnected from often. 


Marlena Tillhon  30:24

I think that’s the thing I noticed, that’s what actually brought me into the coaching space was, you know, co-dependency and it’s you see those co-dependent patterns a lot. It’s still prevalent, and definitely something to address, because it’s just not a necessary way of being anymore. But it is deeply ingrained in us to be serving, to be the good girls, to sacrifice ourselves, and then we lose ourselves in these relationships that just doesn’t feel very fulfilling. We’re usually appreciated for it.


Shannon Dunn  30:53

Yes, it’s such an interesting dynamic to kind of unravel it all and see it from all different sides and unpack it. So this with a little shift now to talk more about business specifically in relation to the work that you’re doing. And this is a thing that you suggested that we talk about, and I loved it, it was like, Yeah, I hadn’t thought about it, makes perfect sense to me. But Marlena, how can we use our business as a tool for healing?


Marlena Tillhon  31:19

So that’s, that’s what I found the most exciting. When I realized in the past, I was like, Whoa, your relationships, like the perfect opportunity to heal. And then I said, Well, you have a relationship with your business. Yes. So it’s exactly the same thing. But it challenges you in different areas. And I think, for me, it was about creativity and self expression. So I found, it really gave me an opportunity to express myself more, to expose some things that I hadn’t felt comfortable sharing before, but also to kind of push yourself and to discipline yourself. So it’s like lots of different ways of learning and growing, because you are exposed to a completely different challenge. 


Marlena Tillhon  32:01

Running your own business is a completely different challenge. Especially when you have to use yourself to say things, to try and promote your services, to receive, right, so already, you can see that the inner work can stop you from being successful if you’re not open to receiving, because in your conditioning, it’s like no you serve you don’t receive. And then it has a knock on effect on like, your pricing, whether you’re going to burn out, you take on too many clients. So it just felt like it was it’s just a perfect opportunity, like the business problems show you that there is some inner work that you can be doing, some healing work, some growing work, just part of your personal evolution. But it’s a unique opportunity to do that. 


Shannon Dunn  32:44

Yeah, I can see that for sure. And I remember in the early days of being in business, which is quite a while ago, now, you know, going to was probably an in-person seminar, because that was what you did back then that was the word. You know, there were some things happening in the online world, but nothing like we experience now. So access to learning  in that kind of environment was very much in person, but I remember someone sharing this whole notion that being in business would be one of the biggest, most impactful self development or personal development journeys you’ll ever go on. 


Shannon Dunn  33:16

And I kind of got it, but I don’t think it really fully kind of…I didn’t embody it in terms of really understanding it until I was more fully into my business. And recognizing all of those things about myself that I hadn’t even considered would be so like skills or traits or things I’d be learning or things doing. And as you said, classic one is that putting yourself out there, talking to camera on video, when there’s actually no one to interact with on the other side. It’s such a foreign concept until you kind of just do it all the time. 


Shannon Dunn  33:52

And I know that for me a common conversation I’ve had with some of the ambitious women that I have as clients has been around visibility, and feeling safe to be seen, trusting that they know what to share, what to say, being able to trust themselves and be both using their the ins and outs of pricing, but also trusting their intuition on that. So knowing you know how to calculate from a technical perspective, but also trusting themselves and being able to feel confident to ask for a certain price and even go through the sales process. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t come to business having any sales skills. Absolutely none. Right. So then yeah, there’s this massive learning curve, which brings up all of our personal stuff, right, if we put it into like a box and use the word “stuff”. So it’s no surprise that we see so many women in business are both sharing their ups and downs or their challenges, but also those that are in the coaching, mentoring, kind of guidance space, focusing on helping people that are in certain situations, exactly like what you’re doing, right?


Marlena Tillhon  35:04

Yes, yeah. And this is the thing, I guess that’s where a full blown embodiment comes in that I was always really deeply inhibited, didn’t really share anything and didn’t want to bother anyone with my problems. And then in this kind of business industry, you have to share. And in comparison to other people, I’m not like, as fully expressed as they are, but I feel like there are also different levels, you still in control of what you share. So I don’t have to share in all areas, but it is about feeling safe to share, feeling safe to be seen, feeling in control of that, and knowing that you don’t have to overshare. And so you can still honor your boundaries. That’s what’s healing. If you feel like you have to share and you share against your will, right, just because you think you should, that’s not going to be healing, that’s going to be almost like a re-traumatizing experience. So that’s where the fine balance comes in. And the internal focus where you have to listen to yourself. Of course, it’s going to feel scary the first time you do things, but it’s different to going against your own boundaries.


Shannon Dunn  36:10

For sure, I understand that completely. Now, when you first moved into the online space, having come from a background as a psychotherapist, I bet there were not many people with your background sharing online. You’ve got a very active Instagram handle, I think that’s where I first kind of got to understand how much you knew and what your passion was, in terms of you those early days of us connecting around relationship coaching. And I remember, I’m sure I remember you sharing that its not a natural way for you to come and to do a live and to share a video. And I remember looking at your content, oh, it doesn’t look like that, because you’ve got so much of it in that space. 


Shannon Dunn  36:56

And this I think is interesting, because there’s so many people, so many women particularly, have various barriers, often some that they put in their own way around showing up but also others that feel that they have to do certain things, because it’s what other people are doing. So how did you find those shifts, though, from psychotherapy, where that was not what people in your profession, possibly wasn’t even considered professional to get on Instagram, and talk about things? How did you find that evolution and that change for yourself? And that shift to moving into the online space away from what was I guess, considered maybe even acceptable in your profession?


Marlena Tillhon  37:34

Yeah, it was really hard at first because as a psychotherapist, you’re trained to be like a blank canvas, and people shouldn’t know anything about you. Well, those rules are like from the 1960s. And of course, there’s some validity to it, but how our lives have moved on. There was no social media back then. And I can’t use this profession, to keep myself imprisoned in inhibition, and not expressing myself. So it was going to go against my work, like the complete opposite of embodiment that I would have to be deeply inhibited. Not matter. Stay in a very co-dependent role, and sacrifice my self expression to serve my clients, right. And I did not feel that that was an integrity. 


Marlena Tillhon  38:18

And I chose to almost like go against the guidelines, in terms of social media usage. And I thought, well, if anything ever comes from it, I’ll deal with it then. But it was more important to follow my calling, what I felt I had to do, I wanted to share what I was learning, which wasn’t necessarily from the books or university, it was more like my lived experience, and reading lots of spiritual literature. And then using life experiences, and my clients stories and experiences, to kind of make it all come together because it feels like I didn’t want to sit on it, I needed to share it. And at that point, there weren’t that many Instagram therapists yet. Now there are. So it’s good. I’m good now, but it was scary back then.


Shannon Dunn  39:04

I bet it was and as you said, and someone who that’s not your natural state to be, I guess, what’s the words? I think, you know, we see a lot of people online that have these big bold loud personalities, that are very naturally extroverted, that’s not you. It doesn’t mean that your voice and your truth and what’s important, doesn’t get a space and doesn’t get an opportunity to be shared. But I think some of us that are quieter, can feel like we get drowned out by all the noise thats online and people that are more naturally, I guess, attuned from their personal attributes to take up space and the have presence.


Marlena Tillhon  39:40

I found that too. In terms of at first I just thought, well, I’ve always been this way and it’s never going to change. And I don’t want it to change. Like I don’t see it as a shortcoming. I feel like I’ve got more like a calm confidence. Just because I’m not shouting and loud doesn’t mean I’m not confident and competent, but also that sometimes it does feel that people are still more drawn to the more extroverted people and louder people, but also the ones in the masculine energy, which I always find really interesting in our coaching space, that it’s all about leaning into the feminine essence and your feminine power. But it still feels like the top coaches – very much like in their masculine energy.


Shannon Dunn  40:24

Yes it does feel like that doesn’t it? And  it is interesting. You and I both have different understandings of the kind of psychology behind thinking and feeling and behavior. And for me, I don’t know about you Marlena, but I kind of nerd out on observing behavioral responses from both the people that are kind of in those certain levels in our coaching industry and self help industry and other kind of related helping industries, and those that seem to follow them and want more from them. I find it so fascinating. And of course, I’m looking at potential Archetypes everywhere as well, all the time. So interesting. 


Shannon Dunn  41:01

So as a success coach, I imagine that you work with clients in a number of different ways in depending on where they’re at what they’re trying to achieve, but in relation to success, and what is influencing their success. So tell us, what are the inner success blocks? You know, what are they? What are the common ones that come up? And then how do we dissolve them?


Marlena Tillhon  41:21

Yeah, so I found four of them, there are more but what I focus on the four most common ones, and one of them was definitely perfectionism. And that has a lot to do with the external focus and having, you know, like school, right, you’ve got the curriculum, your grades and everything. And so we’re not really focused on authentic learning, authentic creativity and self expression. So perfectionism will hinder you but then co-dependency is another big one. We’ve touched on that. Just because it creates such an unhealthy dynamic. It leaves you to burn out because you sacrifice so much of yourself and don’t protect yourself with boundaries. 


Marlena Tillhon  41:59

The one that I’m always most fascinated by now at this stage is invisibility, we still try to hide. Yes, so I’m like, the way I phrased it was, I think, I’ve got a quiz for success blocks. And it was like wearing the cloak of invisibility, the cloak of perfectionism, the cloak of co-dependency, so we hide ourselves there,  and then don’t get to express ourselves fully, and then don’t get to actualize and achieve the success. And then the other one that was, you know, the thing that I’m still looking at was surrender. We just like give up, given to self doubt, given to strategies and following them mindlessly, instead of being proactive and creative and more empowered. So those are the four main success blocks that I’ve experienced, and that I see a lot of my clients struggle with.


Shannon Dunn  42:49

Listening to you to talk about surrender, it seems that  it’s kind of the space that people can maybe find themselves in where they think they have no choice about something. Yeah, it’s giving up, giving in. 


Marlena Tillhon  43:01

It is linked to like the learned helplessness earlier on in your life, but then stepping, like learning, the skill of self empowerment. That’s the shift that goes on there where ways you don’t really see a lot of opportunities, because it’s always been provided from the outside in, or because you didn’t have the skills or resources. So you have no choice but to give up. But that’s a way of thinking, like a mindset you can get stuck in. And then that leads you to not look at different perspectives, at alternative ways of solving problems, getting what you want. Instead, you just give up.


Shannon Dunn  43:41

Yeah. So how do we dissolve these? You’ve just talked about four inner success blocks, four common                                                                                                             ones, as you said, there’s more, but I am sure that everyone listening will identify with at least one of those even in those very brief descriptions, might not be present as much now, but they understand it. How do we dissolve them? What do we do about that?


Marlena Tillhon  44:00

So I think self awareness is key. You have to like raise your level of awareness, when that shows up, when it holds you back, how it holds you back. It can be useful to know why, but I found that that’s more like, it’s a nice to have. But if you can’t, you know, lead it back to a source that’s not a problem. And then you have to commit to your desire, who you want to be, what you want to achieve. Because that’s the motivation you need to break the pattern of that success block. 


Marlena Tillhon  44:30

But what I usually do with my clients and myself is always find a different coping strategy. So I don’t take a coping strategy away without replacing it with something else that’s more helpful and healthy and more loving. So it’s about finding that and again, that’s fine tuned to the client. Some people you know, need something cognitive, like a new mindset, a new perspective. Other people need skills of self regulation. So we focus more on the body and how they feel and then other people obviously it’s more emotional regulation, self soothing. So it’s different skillsets that then help you to break that old pattern, develop a new one, so that you can achieve what you want to achieve.


Shannon Dunn  45:10

Yeah. And I think there is something around the whole notion of being ambitious and wanting to succeed. And as you said, an extraordinary kind of a level that can often bring an urgency to things for people that are in that space, and just starting with the inner work,  dissolving the blocks that are coming up. How do you find they are in relation to how fast they think something should happen, as opposed to the reality of what it actually can play out like?


Marlena Tillhon  45:40

Yeah, it’s, this is one of the most common problems, no matter even if I’m not working with ambitious clients. It’s like, how am I progressing? How am I doing? When am I going to be over my heartbreak, this kind of thing. It’s always like the rush and everything. And obviously, we don’t want to linger in bad feelings. That’s not the point. But it is about letting yourself go through experiences compassionately, without added pressure. Because that pressure adds more anxiety, and then it’s harder for you to actually process the real feelings because you’ve gotten another layer of anxiety on top of that. It iss about learning to like, yeah, yeah, relax, relax, more regulate, deal with anxiety. Watch your mind when you have, I would just go stay quite practical and superficial with it and go when you have those kind of rushing urgency thoughts, trying to fuse from them, let them go. They’re not helping you in that moment. What else can you think of that might be helping you more right now? What will calm me down? What will help you? You know, take the next step? Just keep it in that moment.


Shannon Dunn  46:22

Yeah, that makes complete sense. I often talk with my clients and teach this in a lot of my master classes and programs, something are referred to as the “lens of curiosity”. So it’s when something comes up that is a thought, a feeling, an emotion that doesn’t feel helpful or useful to pause and to go, Oh, I see you or, you know, I’m hearing you again. I wonder where you’ve come from today. I wonder what you’re trying to say, and look at it as an invitation to pause, not to respond or react, to judge, criticize, those kinds of things. And I always say that, along with the lens of curiosity is the lens of compassion for self. Yeah. Be kind to yourself, particularly if you’ve spent decades of responding or reacting to something in a certain way. You’re not necessarily going to undo that overnight.


Marlena Tillhon  47:40

Exactly, yeah.


Shannon Dunn  47:42

Interesting, isn’t it? I love it. So we’re coming towards the end of the podcast, but I’ve got some specific questions. I’d love to ask you now that I’ve been asking all of our guests, just to bring us back to this whole notion of She Leads She Thrives, is about leadership, and also about thriving. So firstly, I’d love to know what role leadership plays in your life and business?


Marlena Tillhon  48:02

For me, it’s at the moment, it’s focused on self leadership. Yeah, it’s definitely it definitely hasn’t been my most developed skill. So that’s the the area I’m focusing on, because you have to learn to lead yourself. When you wake up in the morning, and you don’t feel like doing anything. You have to learn to lead yourself. And it’s not pulling us out together, it is leading yourself, there is a big difference. I think that leading yourself is focused on being connected to your purpose, to what you want to achieve next, it feels bigger than just dragging yourself out of bed and putting clothes on. Leadership is more like how can I lead myself in that way, like you would expect a leader to lead the group of people or business but it’s just directed at yourself? And it feels like the hardest thing to do sometimes.


Shannon Dunn  48:53

Right?  I remember listening to Mel Robbins and her 5 Second Rule. And I remember thinking how useful that would have been to so many people, as it was a kind of a tactic for leadership of you can lie there in bed, hitting the snooze, almost procrastinating about getting up, thinking about all the bad things that could happen in the day, or you can count  5 4 3 2 1 and act, take action. And that felt like such a simple way to start taking ownership responsibility and leading. There’s so many great examples out there. But that one always stuck in my mind because it felt like it would be so useful to people that were stuck and just didn’t know willing to start with their so yeah, I’m with you definitely around the self leadership. 


Shannon Dunn  49:44

And I find it interesting that so many people talk about leadership in an external sense, because often that’s our only understanding of leadership has been we’ve been told about leaders and they’re all people that  have big groups of people that follow them and these kinds of things. And yet what quality of leader can you actually be without self leadership? That’s kind of the question I’m more curious to get insights into. So, Marlena, how do you know when you’re thriving? What does that look like for you?


Marlena Tillhon  50:12

For me, it’s a feeling. I can be thriving in any moment, which makes me feel more empowered, and less dependent on outside circumstances. And that always feels like the most secure foundation to try and pursue success from. It’s not always like that, right? I don’t want to like paint this picture of perfection. I don’t always feel like that. But that’s when it feels like I’m really thriving when I’m just feeling so happy. And I’m feeling confident and calm. And I have nothing to prove. And I can just create, for the sake of creating and it feels because that’s what I was born to do without it being attached to any numbers or results.


Shannon Dunn  50:52

Yeah, no, I get that completely. I think it’s interesting, just kind of, we can just can take a side step here, which I love that we can do this and in these conversations is, and particularly with your background in psychotherapy, that you have a different viewpoint and different understanding both from a theoretical and an intellectual perspective, and then your lived experience that sometimes we can get, it’s almost like a misunderstanding of what success may be, or what even thriving may be, because we’re focused on – and this is definitely reinforced by that self development industry –  that everything has to be positive, perfect, high vibe. And yet, what I’ve come to understand from my own experiences is that I can actually be having a really terrible day, and I’m still thriving, that those emotions of we can  feel happy and sad at the same time and it doesn’t mean anything. Yeah. So is there anything you want to comment about that  from your expertise?


Marlena Tillhon  51:55

Yeah, so absolutely, I feel like what I’m aiming for is real. And being a real human being means that you have all the feelings at random times, sometimes things don’t make sense. And there is beauty in that. And you can feel terrible, but also wonderful and grateful at the same time. And that’s the duality that people describe. But that’s why I think it’s so important to embrace being human whilst pursuing success. Because that’s the magical ingredient. 


Shannon Dunn  52:27

Love it. All right. So how can people connect with you? Where did they find you? Well, we’ll make sure all the links that you’ve given us are available in the show notes. But tell us now, so anyone that’s a singing that wants to take action, and go and find you online. Where’s the best place for them to do that?


Marlena Tillhon  52:41

Well, my website is And if you put /success, you’ve got two different versions. So one is more for like success and inner healing the other one for relationships. But I’m on Instagram, @lovewithclarity, and the other one I gave you like @soulalignedsuccess. So again, once more for relationships, one’s more for success and self actualization. So just wanted to keep that separate,


Shannon Dunn  53:04

That makes sense completely. So if you’re interested in one or the other, or both, you’ve got options here to go and follow those. That’s great. And so through the lens of your expertise, and what we’ve talked about today, what’s a final piece of wisdom that you’d like to leave for the ambitious souls, because they’re definitely a big part of my community that are tuning in and listening to our conversation today.


Marlena Tillhon  53:26

I think it’s to remember that the magical ingredient is always you. Because the more of you you can be, the easier it is to attract the right kind of people, the right kind of clients, partners into your life. So it is about embracing yourself. Just allowing yourself to grow more into yourself.


Shannon Dunn  53:47

I also think that what often gets missed in the “it’s hard to be me” or “I don’t know what it’s like to be me” is that it’s actually easier when you recognize or when you can see who you are and you can allow yourself to be more of you. It is so much easier. It feels like it’s not possible. Trust us. It is for sure. 


Shannon Dunn  54:11

So thank you so much for your time today. It’s been so fabulous. Being able to chat with you finally, in this kind of a way into create a conversation that we can share on She Leads She Thrives. I really appreciate it, Marlena and finally, as I said, it feels like a long time coming for us to actually have a conversation. But hopefully it’ll be the first of many over the years. 


Shannon Dunn  54:32

And listeners thank you for tuning in. And you know, listening to what we had to share today. If you feel that you want to know more, or you feel motivated to take action in some way or to reflect on something in some particular way. I encourage you to do that. Don’t just enjoy the listening, definitely enjoy what you hear in every one of the episodes that we have on She Leads She Thrives, but do something with it. That’s going to really create a richness in your life and really, I feel really support you in the thriving that you’re potentially trying to achieve and the success and whatever that looks like. 


Shannon Dunn  55:01

And also, I’d like to leave you with this reminder that you were born to thrive. I truly believe that and I will continue to be the cheerleader for thriving around the world for sure. So thanks again everyone. Thanks Marlena. Have a beautiful day wherever you are in the world. And I look forward to being back in your ears, in your podcast feed with a new episode very soon.

Thank you

Thanks for tuning into today’s episode. You are so valued and appreciated.


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