#21 From Dysfunction to Discovery

Today's Guest: #21 Elaine Williams

Today, I interview Elaine Williams who said that growing up, she felt an emptiness– that something was wrong with the world. She experienced childhood depression and anxiety, feeling as if no one was really listening to her.

Later events led to her feeling like “the lightning rod of the family”, having too much directed at her. She felt it was unsafe to speak the truth for fear that it would be used against her. Missing the mark was not an option and her self-image began to crumble.

Elaine credits many angels, educators, and mentors along the way for her self-discovery and spiritual awakening. After letting go of resentments, she was able to heal and find her own boldness and identity. Now, it’s impossible to miss the fun energy she brings into the room!

Email Elaine at elaine@captivatethecrowd.com for a free story handout!

Watch the episode:

Connect with #21 Elaine Williams

Transcript of Interview


Podcast Host: Dr. Doreen Downing

Free Guide to Fearless Speaking: Doreen7steps.com

Episode #21 “Elaine Williams”


Dr. Doreen Downing [0:39]

Hi, I’m Dr. Doreen Downing and I’m here as host of the “FIND YOUR VOICE, CHANGE YOUR LIFE” podcast. I invite guests who have had some struggles with finding their voice speaking up. It’s always a question I have in my mind about what happened that they come into adulthood and don’t feel as free to be who they were meant to be to offer their gifts and to express themselves authentically in this world.

So today, I’ve invited a beautiful, wonderful new friend and I’d like to introduce you to ‘Elaine Williams’. Elaine has been an award-winning comedian and she’s been on places like ‘Saturday Night Live’ and ‘America’s Got Talent. She’s been featured in all sorts of places and has been an award-winning comedian. She’s also joined with Kathy Keegan to do a podcast and I was on that podcast. It’s called ‘STILL HUMAN’. It’s about people being together and being real with each other and having a good time laughing. I enjoyed myself on that podcast with Kathy and Elaine. One of the things about Elaine is that she’s a coach and she helps people do video. She’s been comfortable on camera as a comedian. So, she’s turned a lot of her expertise into helping others be comfortable on camera. Her clients have gone from never doing video or speaking live to having their own YouTube channels, doing international book tours and speaking for NASA. She helps women go from speaking to speaking with conviction. Her mother said she was a late bloomer when it came to talking as a baby and she’s been making it up for it ever since. Welcome.

Elaine Williams [3:44]

Thank you so much, Doreen. I have to tell you, from the moment I met you, I just feel this sisterhood, kinship with you and the way you speak about who you are and what you do inpires me. I’m working on being slightly more mindful, not trying to be too professional or polished but choosing my words carefully because they do make difference, not just for people listening, but for ourselves. I’m honored to be here and I’m delighted. And it was so much fun to have you on our podcast. It’s great to see you again.

Dr. Doreen Downing [4:37]

I’ve talked to you so I know you are self-aware, you’re articulate and you’ve done a lot of personal growth as well. What was it like not having a voice and how did that happen?

Elaine Williams [5:21]

I think many people grew up in dysfunction. I was born in 1968, which was one of the craziest and tumultuous years ever, at least in America. Right. I know that my family was doing the best they could, but they were dealing with their issues. My parents married when they were so young. So, they divorced when I was four. I had this experience, it’s like, ‘something is wrong, ‘something’s wrong with me’, ‘something’s wrong with the world’. I also had this big gap inside this hole and I spent a long time trying to fill it with lots and lots of things. I think nowadays, we have so much more knowledge. They’re teaching meditation and breathing techniques to kids in high school. I tried to introduce it to my niece and nephew 10 years ago, and the teacher wouldn’t let them play their thing, but now they are. But at the time, I don’t think we knew that kids can be depressed or kids can be anxious. I was all of those things but I didn’t have the words to articulate it. I felt something was wrong because my family got divorced, somebody else got divorced and then we kept moving. I’m sure there was a part of it where I had no control. It didn’t matter what I said, because nobody seemed to be listening. I get that perspective because I had food and I had night shelter. My mother was listening in the best way possible. It wasn’t like they were shutting me in a closet. But my experience was I needed a lot more than they could give. I think that’s important because sometimes people think, I wasn’t abused, I wasn’t hit, I shouldn’t have these issues but if you have that experience of not feeling heard, not feeling understood, feeling like you don’t belong in your family, which is such a common feeling for women I’ve met in recovery, feeling like, did I get in the wrong place? Am I in the wrong place? I’m not adopted but I’m the black sheep. I still feel that to a degree. I am a beloved black sheep in my family most of the time but when you don’t have all those words. I had this experience of, no control and had to keep moving. I was sick all the time as a little girl. I think it’s because I had no voice literally. When they take your tonsils out, you can’t talk for a while, you have to relearn how to talk, how to drink, how to eat properly. So, I never made that connection but that was all part of the experience.

Dr. Doreen Downing [8:28]

The environment impacts us and even having an emotional impact is how the body responds and it’s painful. The body is saying, ‘take care of me’. That’s what sickness is all about.

Elaine Williams [9:01]

My father remarried a woman, she had so much talent, she was charismatic, she had very little education but she could have done anything. She had a lot of traumas and she was probably undiagnosed bipolar and became a raging alcoholic addict and incredibly abusive. So, I went from not feeling seen or heard to feeling targeted. I went from not being heard to becoming the lightning rod of the family. It was a very traumatic time and it wasn’t safe to speak the truth because it would be used against you.

Dr. Doreen Downing [10:13]

That phrase you said is resonating with listeners that it wasn’t safe to speak your truth. If you spoke your truth, what might have happened?

Elaine Williams [10:35]

Anytime you admitted insecurity or a mistake. It somehow ends up getting thrown in your face, at some point not right away. I started starving and bingeing and purging at a very early age and was full-blown by the time I was 12. My dad and brother would say, ‘we’re going to send you to rehab’ and I wish they had but they would say it like it was such a threat and such a bad thing. So, I would just lie. They would say, ‘Are you taking laxatives?’ And I’d be like, no, even though I was because it just didn’t feel safe. I feel like that’s another example of not being able to speak your true voice.

Dr. Doreen Downing [11:56]

I feel while I’m holding space here because it is a lot of traumas, negativity, toxic environments for you. How you found your true voice?

Elaine Williams [12:27]

Thank you for holding the space, I’m so grateful because even though there was always chaos. I had a horse trainer, who was my mother in many ways. I had a choir director, even though my family was in chaos, God always sent me these angels. I had a therapist who saw me for years on a sliding scale and I think about all the healers and teachers that have helped me along the way and what a blessing you are and the work that you do, anybody listening, you save lives even if you don’t know you’re doing it every day. What’s crazy is when you’re growing up in dysfunction, everybody’s going to a therapist but nobody’s telling the truth. It’s a lot of wasted time, energy and money. I went to college and I did a little bit of healing. Then I found a course called ‘the landmark forum’. I’d heard about it for years. I went and all these people were standing up and they were self-expressing. They were happy. They were joyful. And I hated them because they had what I wanted. I did the landmark forum, I signed up. It’s a three-day course. I had a huge spiritual awakening and I was able to forgive my dad and my stepmother. The third day of the course. I was sobbing and weeping. And I’m sweating and I’m running to the payphone. I’m like, hey, I’m doing this. And he was just like, Okay, are you okay? Did you have a car wreck? I realized at that moment, he had been loving me, the only way he could. It breaks my heart. He didn’t know how to talk about theatre, or yoga with me. He didn’t know how to stand up to my stepmother. He loved me through my car. So that right there I said, I love you, and I forgive you. And I hope that you can forgive me. And he was like, okay, but he heard me. More importantly, I said the words to him. After that, I sat there shaking and I felt clouds of energy leaving my body.

I’m so grateful that I found the place and the timing. I don’t know what happened in the course. But I’m going to do more. I did two more years of training with the landmark, which then, in turn, helped me get sober as I moved to New York City. So that was another huge line of demarcation in my healing process.

Dr. Doreen Downing [16:48]

I am so blown away by everything you’ve said. You’re a coach now and you help people in finding their true voices, tell us more about that?

Elaine Williams [17:44]

I’d love to go back just a smidge because I feel this might help somebody. I’m sober and I’m auditioning. There was a lot more healing to do and a lot more training but I had an ego, ‘I got to make up for lost time. And living in intensity when you’re already intense. And then you’re adding intensity. It’s not a great recipe. People would ask, you’re funny but you’re in the intensity lane. Have you thought about improv? Have you thought about comedy?

I did Neil Simon and musical theatre comedy but I didn’t have a lot of sense of humor, because it was just hard. I had to figure out how to make money, audition, and New York City, it was a lot. And luckily, I kept going to a meeting and then I started working, I met Debbie Ford, my friends who have been talking about it forever. She did one at omega. They used to come to New York City in April. I’m good. I’m moving. I just did a commercial. I had no idea there was still so much there. And realize I keep myself so busy pursuing my thing. There was still a big disconnect. And thank God, I’ll have some more of that, so, trained with her for five years and that’s how I became a life coach. Because I loved her work. I felt like landmark was a lot about mindset and I felt her stuff was a lot about emotional education and release. They’re both great. I would not have been ready for it until then. And that’s what went down. When I found my chi and then after Debbie Ford, I did peak potentials. I don’t know anything about marketing. And then I fell into speaking, it’s an evolution, It’s still an evolution.

Dr. Doreen Downing [20:35]

I’m glad we’re friends and I get to be on this evolutionary journey with you as we go forward. What was the missing piece in becoming more confident as a coach and developing your expertise?

Elaine Williams [21:08]

I need to be reminded because I’m a slow learner.  Sometimes I need to hear something and sometimes we have to hear it many times. We’re in a different place. It’s great to be reminded of that. It’s an evolution. Nobody rolls out of bed today. Oh, I’m a master. I’m doing stand-up by this time, and I wasn’t good in the beginning. People kept saying, You’re funny. Then the very first comedy show that I did in 2007. When I started talking about the dysfunctional family, I saw people bent over and laughing and I was like, oh, my God, I’m supposed to help people. And my life made sense, not everybody’s going to go to therapy. Some people will come to see a comedy or see me speak and that was a big missing piece. I love comedy because it helped me lighten the heck up. If you could laugh when you’re learning, you’re winning. My intention is always to infuse comedy into whatever I’m doing because it helps us laugh and connect as humans.

Dr. Doreen Downing [22:45]

I love the phrase. Laughing helps you learn. It’s the whole idea of laugh and learn.

Elaine Williams [22:55]

All of that is part of the evolution with the coaching and the speaking. I thought it was supposed to have to do heavy topics on college campuses, which was hard during those days. So, I was talking about assault, before the “ME TOO” movement was so mainstream. That was hard. It was challenging. I’m really happy that it’s coming out a lot more. I still have a book and a talk. I’m so happy to talk about that if it’s the right thing. But I realized I think I was supposed to help more people in other ways. So that’s why I developed the captivate the crowd. Because I realized a lot of people as kids don’t realize about past or future. And then life happens, our family happens. So, my goal is to help people express themselves on camera or doing live or trying comedy. I have a program that I take people through. And yes, we talk about lighting, camera and crafting your story. But we also talk about what’s that inner block.

Dr. Doreen Downing [24:43]

You’ve been there so you could recognize them and, in a way, you tickle people inside and find their laughter and be able to be lighter. Laughter and learning all together.

Elaine Williams [25:07]

I think sometimes we develop things because we needed them. I can’t tell how many times, I’m at home, I’ve warmed up, I’ve visualized and I’m ready to go right with my comedy or my speaking and then you get in a car and stuck in traffic. And then you get to the event. I’ve learned so many tips from auditioning, how do you stay your biggest best self-right? We stay away from that crazy people. You sign in, and then you move away. I walk around. I don’t sit because if I sit, that’s when I start to collapse. I do lots of movement and breathing. You learn different things to do to stay in your zone. When I did, America’s Got Talent, I got through 11 gatekeepers, I had an appointment. My goal is to be unstoppable. And to at least be seen once because it was a crazy call. I had an appointment. I just kept going through the gates. And then when you audition for industry, they always say they don’t laugh. They don’t look at you.  I handed out my T-shirts. I did my four minutes. And they watched me and they laugh, which makes you funnier, they said, don’t change anything, do it again. So, I went through that, to learn so much but each level of judges was slightly less friendly. And then I got those six rounds. I did the interview. I don’t think my act was big enough Gladiator enough for the show. But I’m so proud that I did that. My goal is to use all of those techniques to help to teach people so that when they are going to go do their big talk, they should be ready.

Sometimes you’re ready to go and they’re like, can you hold because there’s an aero plane or they have to rehang a light. So, I learned another trick, I’ll share. So, a lot of times people go Okay. And then you go in your head. And so, I will tell them, I’m going to talk to my friend, or the co-host, so please interrupt us when you’re ready. Because if I can focus on the other person and just talk to them for a minute and not sit there, I stay in my focus. I’ve learned that it is going to help me stay open. And more in my zone than if I’m sitting there in my head going, what’s happening? So, it’s like nuances but it’s just ways to keep us expanded and coming from our heart and our best self.

Dr. Doreen Downing [28:56]

There’s a channel that you’ve created if you engage with somebody else. There’s a circle you’re in, you’re listening to somebody, you’re speaking to somebody, it’s not just you in your head, trying to speak to yourself. It’s an actual connection that helps you stay open.

Elaine Williams [29:30]

I want to make an addendum to that too if that’s a specific person you’re on set with. Before I go on stage for comedy, talk to me after the show because I am nervous. It takes energy to start to be present because I’m trying to breathe and remember my settings and not get distracted. So, I feel that set tip is like a specific onset. It’s one person as it’s easy to get to accidentally allow your energy to dissipate or it gets scrambled. Instead of stumbling on stage, I just had to listen to these crazy fans. One time, the comic yelled at me right before he went on stage and I could not get it together. It just threw me. And my friends in Austin were there and said, that was not the best set.

Dr. Doreen Downing [30:56]

Where do people look for more help from you?

Elaine Williams [31:26]

I created the hottest handout about the story, your signature story, which you can use for video or live stage because everybody’s wanting to get back out again. So, if you want to get this handout, please contact me at captivatethecrowd.com.

Dr. Doreen Downing [32:14]

Any last words?

Elaine Williams [32:20]

When we can drop in, it’s such a gift to ourselves and the world. I would encourage everybody, the more you can drop in and be in your body, on stage, and camera. That gives you access to your authentic you. The bonus prize is a lot of times when you’re being yourself, you’re funny without even trying. So, it’s a bonus and it takes a little practice.

Dr. Doreen Downing [33:16]

These were very beautiful words to end our show today. Thank you, Elaine.

Elaine Williams [33:32]

Thank you for having me.

Also listen on…

7 STEP GUIDE TO FEARLESS SPEAKINGPodcast host, Dr. Doreen Downing, helps people find their voice so they can overcome anxiety, be confident, and speak without fear.

Get started now on your journey to your authentic voice by downloading my Free 7 Step Guide to Fearless Speakingdoreen7steps.com.

7 STEP GUIDE TO FEARLESS SPEAKINGPodcast host, Dr. Doreen Downing, helps people find their voice so they can overcome anxiety, be confident, and speak without fear.

Get started now on your journey to your authentic voice by downloading my Free 7 Step Guide to Fearless Speakingdoreen7steps.com.