Female Disruptors: Dr Elizabeth Degi DuBois On The Three Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Candice Georgiadis

Candice Georgiadis
Authority Magazine
9 min readOct 30, 2022

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First, for those of us who have experienced trauma that undermines our sense of self, and our self-worth (how we see ourselves, and what we believe we are worthy of having/being/achieving), we conflate doing more with being worthy. I call this the “Achievement is my love language” phenomena. I see so many clients who come to me EXHAUSTED because they have been doing and doing and doing and achieving and achieving and achieving and still not feeling the way that they want to feel about themselves, not believing in themselves. They have bought the lie that if they just push to have yet another shiny golden achievement, they will be enough. But feeling enough and worthy and whole comes from self-acceptance, and self-love.

As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Liz Degi DuBois.

Dr. Liz is an executive coach and high-conflict divorce coach. Her work focuses on helping leaders in diverse sectors and high-performers going through divorce deepen their sense of self-worth, get clear on tangible objectives so they can stop wasting time and energy obsessing about what society says they “should” be doing, and focus on their own intuitive guidance as they uplevel professionally and personally. Dr. Liz holds an MA in Sociology, a PhD in Conflict Analysis and Resolution, and is a Certified Divorce Coach (CDC).

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

Sure! It’s a bit of a convoluted journey but it’s given me so many rich experiences that inform my work; I’m grateful for all the twists and turns. The true starting point was when I was 15, and was sexually assaulted by my boyfriend. I iced over emotionally following that experience, and gained a great deal of weight, literally padding myself from the world, especially men’s gaze. I walked around very angry and out of touch with my own sense of self for about a decade, at which point I entered a 12 step program for people with eating disorders. I lost over 100 lbs, and literally the same weekend that I hit a size 4 I had a bit of a mini-breakdown. I felt so unsafe in my own body, so afraid of being seen. I had an amazing boss who took one look at me Monday morning and sent me home for two weeks. He said something along the lines of “I don’t know what’s going on, but you don’t need to be here right now, go take care of yourself.” I did a lot of therapy those two weeks, and walked around the National Mall listening to George Harrison’s “Here Comes the Sun” over and over again, hearing “little darling, I feel the ice is slowly melting.” I felt the ice around my heart melting, and my emotional processing abilities coming back online, rebooting.

I went back to work after those two weeks, stared at my fancy Mac Computer with an advertising spread open on it, looking out the window from my fancy K Street office in DC, and KNEW that I was supposed to be doing something with the journey I had just started back to myself, and with the awareness of how much that assault had cost me.

I left the advertising industry shortly thereafter, started a consulting firm raising money for women focused non-profits, and from there went to grad school. I co-founded a non-profit international research center focused on gender and conflict with two senior colleagues, designed and conducted research on marital conflict, domestic violence, and sexual assualt in four different countries over the span of a decade. When I left non-profit executive leadership after grad school, I felt my heart calling me to coaching. I had two tracks to my practice; trauma coaching, and divorce coaching. Both of those tracks began to meld as I found that I really loved working with high-performers who were hung up on some aspect of family conflict from growing up.

I focused exclusively on executive coaching for a time while I deepened that focus, and then found that I really missed working with clients who were in need of guidance specifically around high-conflict divorce. So I’m back to having two tracks, which can feel a little complicated from a marketing standpoint, but it lights up every area of my heart, and keeps my creative juices flowing because each day brings a new set of emotional strings to help untangle.

My personal experience with intimate partner violence, recovery in the 12 step world, my research, and extensive training I’ve had the privilege of receiving inform what I do everyday, and I’m so grateful to have such a diverse and rich set of tools to draw from as I serve my clients.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

Yup yup! I have a massive bone to pick with the vein of the coaching industry focused on high performers, specifically around the idea of productivity. There are two things that piss me off:

First, for those of us who have experienced trauma that undermines our sense of self, and our self-worth (how we see ourselves, and what we believe we are worthy of having/being/achieving), we conflate doing more with being worthy. I call this the “Achievement is my love language” phenomena. I see so many clients who come to me EXHAUSTED because they have been doing and doing and doing and achieving and achieving and achieving and still not feeling the way that they want to feel about themselves, not believing in themselves. They have bought the lie that if they just push to have yet another shiny golden achievement, they will be enough. But feeling enough and worthy and whole comes from self-acceptance, and self-love. Coaching that focuses on how to achieve external results continues to erode our sense of selves. Coaching that focuses on going inward and releasing self from the bondage of external validation to feel worthy empowers clients to achieve massive accomplishments that are not possible without a strong foundation in believe of self.

Second, methodology focused solely around accountability and “high performer hustle,” as I call it, reinforces the narrative that to be more we have to do more. This is where we see nonsense like daily planners, check-lists, and self-help gurus that encourage people to get up at 4:30am, keep grueling schedules, tout massive to-do lists getting checked off before the rest of the world gets up out of bed. This type of one-size-fits-all approach reinforces late-stage capitalism ethos that keeps people burning the candle at all ends in order to feel like they are, once again, worthy and enough.

I have several clients in the seven figure income bracket, clients managing $500M books of business, they are fit and driven and massively successful by any number of indicators. The common factor that helps my people move further and faster is realizing that they have nothing to prove, and so they drop the grueling pace and constant self-beratement, and they find they have SO much more energy to put towards not just their goals, but their family life and personal joy, because they are no longer draining the gas tanks trying to keep up with someone else’s flavor of “the right way” to do it.

I have three different clients that, over the course of our work, said, “omg Dr. Liz, I was able to climax with my spouse last night for the first time in years!”. I am not a relationship therapist, nor a sex therapist, nor a financial planner, nor a parenting coach. But across the board my clients’ relationships, sex lives, finances, and relationships with their kids improve because they are no longer pushing themselves to meet external markers of someone else’s version of success. They relax, step into who they are authentically, and lead from a place of deep trust in themselves. That’s a wildly different approach than striving to meet external markers of accountability, or to model someone else’s version of what “success” means.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

OMG I make crazy scheduling mistakes all the time. I have clients in 8 different time zones. I am in Australia when I should be in Vancouver, and Wisconsin when I should be in Washington DC. My zoom room has more frequent flier miles than Richard Branson.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

My biggest mentors have been my coaches, hands down. I think the biggest thing in aggregate that I’ve learned from them, beyond a specific story, has been to stop being clandestine about what I really want. We — women especially, but it goes for men as well, just not in as pronounced a way — are socialized to be coy about what we desire, if it’s outside the mainstream. It’s OK to say you want to get married and have kids, but to say, “I want to be wildly wealthy and be director at a heritage brand and drive a luxury car and have a second home in Malta” is so outside the boundaries of what’s considered safe, what’s acceptable. It’s audacious for a woman to say, “I want to have hot sex with a partner who prioritizes my pleasure, clients that pay me thousands and thousands of dollars commensurate to the value I bring into their lives, and a house that I pay someone else to clean.” We’re supposed to be OK with the bare minimum, to not be greedy, and for SURE not to ask for what we want when it comes to pleasure and pay. I’ve learned to drop all of the shame around boldly stating, this is what I expect and I won’t settle for less, and that boldness and permission is something I learned from my coaches.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

This is a profoundly important moment in American history. We are seeing institutions built on racial injustice crumble that have been in place from before this was even a nation. That is disruption that pushes us to become more human, more invested in each other, just freaking better. However, this disruption, this dismantling, has prompted such a negative backlash that we are seeing disruption that quite literally is treasonous within the eyes of the constitution. The events of January 6, 2021 are perhaps the most egregious example of this type of disruption. I believe that disruption that challenges and even dismantles systems that propagate inequality of any kind is positive, no matter how messy.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

Relentless

Easy does it

Compare and despair

One day at a time

Be all of yourself, all the time.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

I honestly, literally take it a day at a time. That’s a big ethos in the 12 step world, and the deeper I get in my relationship with my own knowing, and with a Higher Power, the more I find comfort and freedom in the idea that I don’t have to have a perfect plan… or even any plan at all. I have priorities: my spirituality, my recovery, my son, my family and friends, and being of service to the world through the work I do and my writing. I let inspiration lead, and move from inspired idea and project to the next, and try not to overthink the big picture. Is it fun? Is it of service? Does it align with my priorities? Is it feasible, and if it’s not but the idea feels important, what do I need to do to make it so? If it’s a full body YES, I make it happen.

How can our readers follow you online?

Readers can connect with Dr. Liz through her Instagram @soul.dr.liz or find her on LinkedIn or Facebook.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

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Candice Georgiadis
Authority Magazine

Candice Georgiadis is an active mother of three as well as a designer, founder, social media expert, and philanthropist.