Tag Archives: Kathy Caprino

How to Spot a Toxic Individual and Find the Courage To Walk Away Quickly


One enormous benefit of working with thousands of people each year is that you learn to detect in 10 minutes or less an enormous amount about people – their energy, how they operate in the world, their sense of entitlement, generosity and consideration (or lack thereof), boundaries, degree of self-love, values, worldview and much more.

In my line of work, where hundreds of strangers reach out on the phone or online to connect, I have had to develop the capability to discern who I want to move forward with, and who I need to walk away from quickly, in order to protect myself, my time and my energy. If I fall down on that, I suffer, as do my family, colleagues and clients (and my health and well-being).

I’ve learned to see the red flag warning signs of behaviors I know I need to walk away from, and my list of warning signs might be of help to you too. I need to add that even though I walk away from these toxic individuals without guilt or shame, I endeavor to access love in my heart and deep compassion for them. I’m not cruel, harsh or dismissive (at least I try not to be), but I’m as respectful as I can be. I realize that we’re all doing the best we can every day.

But I do know where I end and they begin, and I know when it’s time to end our connection, and fast.

Below are the top 3 signs that help me know when I’m dealing with a toxic individual, and when to walk away:

1) It’s all about them
I’m astounded by people who call me at all hours of the day and night, without a thought to ask for an invitation to talk about their struggles. They launch right in, not checking in if it’s a good time to talk, and it’s all about them.

These types of people are chronically unhappy, stuck in feeling victimized, lacking in awareness of the impact of their own actions and words and that they are co-creating their problems. They’re often angry, frustrated and highly critical of others, and feel that their problems deserve immediate attention, without regard for the world around them. In other words, they believe that their urgency is your emergency.

Anyone who thinks that life is all about them and that their problems are more important or pressing than anyone else’s needs a wake-up call. But the truth is – you don’t have to be the one to deliver that call. Walk away.

2) They have no regard for your boundaries

In my work as a therapist, I’ve connected with many folks with serious psychological disorders, including severe personality disorders. One such disorder is labeled “borderline personality disorder,” and while I’m not a fan of labels, the hallmarks of this disorder are apparent: there is total lack of personal boundaries, and complete disregard for others’ boundaries. It’s virtually impossible to build a positive, mutually-supportive relationship with people who disregard or violate your boundaries, who won’t take no for an answer, and who don’t t even recognize when they’re walking all over you.

Take a look today at the people in your life – do they respect your boundaries? Do they act appropriately and honor when you assert yourself and say “Yes” or “No?” Or do they continually demand of you what you’re not comfortable to give and what you have said you would not give?

Your boundaries are the invisible barriers that separate you from the world around you. They define who you are, and keep you safe and secure, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Having well-developed boundaries ensures that you are shielded from behaviors and actions that are injurious, disrespectful and invasive. Those with healthy boundaries know their limits and are able to express themselves with quiet strength and authority.

Those with unhealthy boundaries push and pull on you in uncomfortable or aggressive ways, and don’t know when to stop. They can’t regulate their behaviors or language to honor and respect the boundaries of others.

Who is trampling on your boundaries today? (BTW, If you have a narcissistic boss who is treating you terribly, check out my Forbes post on How to Tell If Your Boss Is a Narcissist – And 5 Ways to Avoid Getting Fired By One.)

3) There’s no grace, kindness or appreciation

I’m always pleasantly surprised when I speak to a stranger or potential new client or colleague, and they connect with grace, generosity, kindness and appreciation. It’s a beautiful thing – to be greeted by a gentle voice, a kind, open heart, and sincere appreciation for what you do and who you are.

The flip side of this is when people engage with you in ways that are brusque, inconsiderate, demanding, or disrespectful. Givers – who approach life with a generous, giving mindset – are a true blessing in our lives. Insincere, self-absorbed takers, on the other hand, who are always looking for “what’s in it for me” and critically demand of you more than is fair, appropriate or realistic, need to be led out the door of your life.

How do you walk away from a toxic potential client or partner you’ve just met? Here are a few key tips:

1) Be kind and courteous, but make it clear that an engagement or partnership with this individual or his/her business isn’t a good fit for you at this time

2) Be honest – explain what an ideal partnership looks like and why this isn’t it

3) Be BOLD – Thank them for their time, but explain that you have a set of non-negotiables and standards of integrity that you live by. With love in your heart, share that these non-negotiables are just that – immutable rules that help you thrive. Explain your feeling that your non-negotiables would most likely not be honored in this arrangement, and for that reason, you’d like to leave things as they are and part ways.

Who’s toxic in your life right now? What bold, candid conversation do you need to have today to protect yourself from narcissistic, demanding takers and self-absorbed individuals who can’t or won’t respect or appreciate you?

(To learn more about building a happy, successful career, join my free career breakthrough teleclass on April 9th — Make the Right Career Move Now! And to learn how to develop healthier boundaries, read my book Breakdown Breakthrough and check out my one-on-one coaching services.)

Why Attaching To One Outcome Is The Wrong Strategy For Career Success


Welcome to Episode 12 of Work You Love!

Today, I’m tackling a great question from Rick about why it’s the wrong move to overly-attach to one particular outcome when you want more professional success and reward.

Rick asks:

“Kathy – I’ve heard you speak about the idea that “attaching to a specific outcome” is the wrong approach. But I’m at a point as a Director in branding and communications where I feel I’m ready to be a VP and earn significantly more than I am right now, and definitely want to pursue that.  How is attaching to that outcome not a good idea?”

Terrific question! Here’s my take:


The key takeaways from today’s video are:

1. “Attaching” means you’re looking at one particular outcome to solve all your problems.

2. Figure what you want, then what you REALLY want.

3. Uncover what’s in the way of what you want, and how are you a part of the obstacle or impediment.

4. Be very open and flexible to new ways that you can create, build and achieve what you desire.

Today’s tweetable:

Don’t attach to one outcome as a way out of your pain. Identify what you REALLY want, and open the doors for that experience. @kathycaprino

Click to tweet:

I hope that’s helpful!

Enjoy your week, and wishing you many happy breakthroughs.


How To Move From Self-Rejection To Self-Love In a Day (And How a Photo Shoot Can Help)


In my work as a career success coach, I work with women of all ages, sizes, and styles, and one theme has become very apparent – women are incredibly tough on themselves, full of self-rejection, shame, humiliation and doubt, particularly about their looks, their weight, intelligence and their worthiness.

I can count on one hand the number of women I’ve spoken with who feel “just great” about themselves.  The vast majority of women I interact with are indeed brilliant, accomplished, talented and creative – in short, amazing — but feel somehow that they are not good or worthy enough.  I call these women “perfectionistic overfunctioners” – doing everything for everyone around them, and striving so hard to get an “A” in every single endeavor and aspect of their lives.  I should know – I’m a recovering one.

Since “getting an A” is not possible in every activity or area, women then fall short of their unrealistic expectations, and feel even worse, seeing their “failure” as validation that they have to work harder and be better.

Know that I’m not judging here.  I feel deep love and compassion in my heart for all these women, because I can empathize fully.  I’ve done a lot of internal work around this, and I’m proud to say that I now know how liberating it is to free oneself from needing to get an A, and how fabulous it feels to jump off of the never-ending hamster wheel of doing more than is healthy, more than is appropriate, more than is necessary.

I’ve seen first-hand that once you power up, build appropriate boundaries, and start speaking up and honoring what you want and who you are, you begin to operate very differently in the world, and grow happier and more accepting of yourself and everyone around you. You begin to embrace your “imperfect, just-right” functioning rather than striving for an impossible goal of perfection.  But I’m not always there – I fall down and forget to love and accept myself.

I experienced a wake-up call on this several weeks ago, when I spent a day at a photo shoot in Connecticut, for my new website.  The day’s experiences took me from self-rejecting, shameful and worried (once again) about my looks, my weight, etc., to loving it all – embracing myself, my foibles and flaws, my talents, and who I am at my core.  I saw how the right kind of experience (with the right kind of people who align closely with your values, your heart, and your worldview), can help you move from self-rejection to self-acceptance in a few short hours (or in an instant).

I realized there are 5 key stages of transformation from self-rejection to self-love, and if we gain awareness of these stages, and have the courage to move through them, we can accelerate our own growth.

The 5 stages of transformation from self-hate to self-acceptance are:

Stage 1: “I don’t rate – I’m just not good enough.”

I started the day of my photo shoot afraid – afraid to share my wardrobe choices, reluctant to express what I really liked in terms of style, color, makeup, hair, jewelry, inhibited in my movements and physical presence.  I compared myself in my mind to the thousands of other women my wonderful photographer Jacklyn Greenberg had shot before – young and old men and women who I thought were beautiful and charismatic (so it seemed to me).  Along with headshots, weddings, and national events, Jacklyn does “risqué” photography as well, all of it stunning.  Some clients are naked or are only partially dressed and from Jacklyn’s website, all of them seemed gorgeous, vibrant, and unabashedly free.

I thought, “Oh, no – this is going to be a very long day.”

Stage 2: “Wait, maybe I’m not so bad.”

As the first hour progressed, with the help of the fabulous Jacklyn and wonderful make-up artist D.D. Nickel, things changed and I changed. I moved from fearing everything about me was wrong and inferior, to remembering that what I am – inside and out – is not terrible — far from it. I started to see how my fears– about my looks, weight, age, clothes, wrinkles, skin, tummy, etc. – are universal and the only thing keeping me stuck in my insecurity was me. Interestingly, it wasn’t the make-up that made me feel better – it was the understanding that — unadorned — I was just fine.

Stage 3: “Hmmm…I guess I do have some unique, valuable qualities.”

Then, midway through, something interesting happened.  I saw through their eyes that — as I let out who I really am — sharing my authentic personality, what I care about, my quirks, how I’m different –  the shoot went much better, and the day became raucously fun. I forgot I was being photographed.  We talked, shared, probed, guffawed, and as I connected more deeply with Jacklyn and D.D., I saw how my qualities could be seen as unique and valuable – to the experience at hand, but also in relationship with these great new folks I was partnering with, and even in helping spread the word about their work and the stunning property (Winvian) we were lucky enough to be shooting on.

Stage 4: “It’s ridiculous (and a sheer waste of time) to hide – I’m going let it all out.”

Towards the end, the idea of hiding was long gone.  I wasn’t afraid, shy, or reluctant – I was excited, energized, and inspired to be even more of myself.  I saw clearly how stepping up and powering up to share myself in the most authentic, vulnerable way possible was the ONLY way this whole thing would work (in a photo shoot and in life ).

Stage 5: “Ok, I can honestly say – I love and accept myself.”

Finally, at the end of the day as I was driving home, tired but exhilarated, I felt a flush of self-acceptance (dare I say self-love).  I had done something that was scary and challenging for me.  I had stepped up to a very high vision for where I want to go – in my life, in my career, in my professional pursuits — I held out high hopes for I wanted for and the outcomes I’d dreamed of, and I pushed myself to be real enough, and courageous enough, to make this happen.  Not just because I went to a cool photo shoot, but because I believed in myself and the idea that I’m worthy of putting myself out there in the world in a bigger way.

At the end of the day, I was able to utter to myself exactly what my spiritual therapist years ago implored me to state as an affirmation every day – “I thoroughly love and accept myself.”   In the past, I coughed up a hair ball every time I said that.  Now, with each day, it’s much easier.

*  *  * *  *  *

Some women might read this and think, “Wow, what a narcissist Kathy is!” because we’re culturally trained to think that if we love ourselves (and dare to whisper that we love ourselves), we’ll be self-involved, selfish, and self-absorbed.  I challenge that idea.  Self-love is desperately, vitally important and needed in the world today. You simply can’t have a wonderful, rewarding and happy life and career – and you can’t be of service to others fully — if you don’t love and accept yourself – flaws, gaps, foibles and all.

We’re imperfect as humans – that’s undeniable.  But can’t we love our imperfections, embrace our uniqueness and our authentic selves, instead of exhausting ourselves spending so much time, money, and energy hiding our true selves from the world?

Do you have the courage to walk through the five stages of self-hate to self-love today?  Are you ready?

How Carving Out Time For What Matters Most To You Changes Your Life

Kathy at UN Women for Peace March

Kathy at UN Women for Peace March to end violence against women

I’m sure that you, like me, struggle each day to juggle your important conflicting priorities. From dedicating precious time to family and friends, to doing your work well,  to focusing on your health and well-being, to using your creativity, to helping others, to getting enough sleep – there are an unlimited number of important areas in our lives that we attend to daily.  But amidst all of this, are you dedicating time for the things that matter MOST – that make you feel alive, inspired and ready to be more?

In my coaching work with women, we speak daily about the importance of identifying your highest priorities, and honoring them. But in reality – DOING this is far more challenging than talking about doing it.  But when we do – when we say YES! to making the time to pursue what matters most to us – it dramatically changes the shape and direction of our lives for the better.

I had an experience of this yesterday – a deeply humbling, inspiring and moving day that made me realize suddenly that I want to do and be so much more.

I was invited to attend the U.N. Women for Peace annual awards luncheon, and then join a hundred others in a march in NYC to support ending violence against women.  As a person in the media, I’m grateful to receive many invitations to exciting events, and I have to turn many down each month.  But when I learned of this event, in honor of International Women’s Day, something inside me knew I had to make the trip to New York City, and participate.  I had a feeling it would be a game-changer for me, and it was.

I listened with awe and humility as I learned more about the UN Women for Peace (UNWFP).  Founded in 2008, under the patronage of H.E. Mrs. Ban Soon-taek, UNWFP promotes and advances the goals of UN agencies whose missions are to provide opportunities for women through social, cultural, educational and empowerment programs while partaking in a global peace building process. UNWFP focuses on supporting and funding UN humanitarian programs for women in developing countries and countries in conflict, and by providing scholarships to benefit underprivileged women to study at the University for Peace in Costa Rica.

UN Women for Peace also supports the UN Trust Fund To End Violence Against Women. The Trust Fund, established by the UN General Assembly in 1996, assists efforts to prevent violence against women and girls, provides services to those affected by violence and strengthens the implementation of laws and policies on violence against women and girls. The Trust Fund is particularly concerned with ending violence against women in developing countries and countries in conflict. The Trust Fund invests, through its partners, in long term solutions for a world free of violence. UN Women for Peace’s contributions to the Trust Fund directly fund these efforts.

During the awards luncheon, we heard from Trudie Styler -  winner of the 2014 UN Women for Peace Humanitarian Award – speak of her important work for the environment and human rights, through her role as UNICEF Ambassador, her fundraising efforts and documentary film work, and through her and her husband Sting’s Rainforest Fund, an organization devoted to protecting rainforests and their indigenous peoples.  We heard too from Dina Powell, representing Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women initiative, the 2014 UNWFP Achievement Award winner. 10,000 Women is a five-year, $100 million global initiative to help grow local economies and bring about greater shared prosperity by providing 10,000 underserved women entrepreneurs with a business and management education, access to mentors and networks and links to capital.

I share this experience with you because it was deeply inspiring to me, and it spurred me to want to figure out “how can I help in a deeper way?” In that three-hour experience, I met scores of women who are 100 steps ahead of me in how they are using their talents, gifts and passions to make an enormous difference in the world.  They aren’t wasting time – they’ve figured out exactly what matters most to them, and they’re putting their time, money, energy, passion and commitment into to it, full-throttle.  No excuses, no doubts, no confusion, no waffling – they are clear, focused, and passionate about their causes.  As Trudie Styler has so aptly shared, “If I’m connected to an idea, it just doesn’t let me go.”

I left with new resolve to find new ways to help women globally – not just those in the U.S. and abroad who want better careers and lives, but those who don’t have the advantages we have, who desperately need a supporting hand and beacon of light to help them build new lives for their children, their families and their communities.  I’m ready to do more.

Are you?

Do you know what matters most to you, and are you carving out time in your life to pour yourself into those issues and endeavors that make you feel most alive? My dear friend Charles Decker wrote on my Facebook page – “People find time for things that matter to them.”  I love this idea, but sadly, in reality, I see every day that it’s not the case.  So often, we stay stuck in our small worlds and our small spheres of influence, thinking we can’t do more.

In honor of International Women’s Day, I hope you’ll take today to stop your normal routine, step out of your box, and stretch yourself into new endeavors and causes that help remind you of why are on this planet, today.

Are you ready to carve out time and energy for what you care about deeply?

(For more about UN Women for Peace, visit

 (To learn more about building a career that makes you feel alive and of great use in the world, visit The Amazing Career Project, Ellia Communications and Breakdown, Breakthrough.)

5 TraitsTo Embrace To Live Without Regret

Today I had a shock. I heard from a mother of a lovely young woman I had spoken with on the phone nearly three years ago about career coaching. I learned from her mother that this beautiful, vibrant young woman was gone. She had passed away in her home in June 2011, just one month after I spoke with her. And amazingly, the young woman was from my home town.

I was truly rocked by this news. I was so touched by the mother’s beautiful note to me (she hadn’t wanted to just “unsubscribe” her daughter from my newsletter, but wanted to explain, and share the sad news personally). I was rocked because I have beloved children myself who are so precious to me, and I can only glimpse of the pain a parent feels at losing her dearest child so young.

And finally, I was rocked at the idea that this young woman’s life and my own had intersected only for a brief moment in time, and I wondered how she would have experienced and remembered our interaction. I prayed she would have thought of it as helpful and caring. If not, I would deeply regret it.

That got me thinking. We strive so hard to live good lives, to be “happy,” to find our way, and to create success and joy, and share it with others. But I’ve realized lately that it’s just not that complicated. It’s very simple, in fact. Maybe living well, with happiness and without regret, is simply about demonstrating in physical reality five essential traits that help us leave this world a better place than we found it.

If it were truly this simple – just five essential behaviors — would we all do a better job of living without regret, of embracing and sharing joy and love with others, and feeling much better every moment of our existence? I think so.

What are these 5 traits that are essential to regret-free, joyful living? I believe they are:


Kindness is the sweetness of life. It’s a gentle hand when we’re down, a non-judging, listening ear when we have a problem, and it’s an unselfish act that puts the best interests of others first. It’s giving without looking for “what’s in it for me.”

I, like you perhaps, interact with hundreds of people each month, and I endeavor to be kind to each one, but sometimes I fail. When I’m tired, over-worked, stressed, frustrated – you name it – my kindness wanes.

Truthfully speaking, I can often get grumpy and agitated when strangers desperately want and demand something from me. But I have found that I can overcome that agitation, and I am more successful at that when I’m more “present” in my life. When I can step back from what’s at hand, take three deep breaths and remember what I’m doing here on this planet, and when I connect to a higher dimension of myself that isn’t so worn down from the obligations in front of me, my access to kindness opens. Then, I’m able recalibrate and re-energize, and find my heart again. It’s not hard – it just takes commitment and practice.

Kindness heals sorrow, binds broken relationships, and mends souls (our own and others’). So why then are we so unkind?

What takes you away for your kindness and what helps you restore it? Can you make a habit of rekindling your kindness each day?


To me, caring is about taking the time to give a hand to someone, to show that their issues and problems are important, and their worldview matters. Caring means that you validate the individual before you, and show that you understand who they are at their core, and love and respect that essence.

The opposite of caring is the snarky back-stabbing, gossiping, hateful behavior we see around us every day – online and in person. Making someone wrong and judging them mercilessly is a hallmark of it. This lack of caring reveals that you’ve forgotten one core truth – that everyone is inextricably connected, and each person is a facet of you. So if you’re hateful to another person, you’re hateful to yourself.

Are you as caring for those around you as you’d like to be? Are you caring to yourself in equal measure (that’s where most women fall down.) What holds you back from exhibiting more care and concern for yourself and for others?


Of all of these traits, I believe compassion is the most powerful to heal the world. Compassion represents the feeling of empathy for others, the emotion we feel in response to the suffering or experiences of others that inspires in us a desire to help. In my work as a therapist and coach, I’ve observed that those who were raised without compassion, without empathy – by parents who were narcissistic, cruel, distorted, and unable to feel compassion – are those who suffer the severest forms of pain, isolation, and suffering.

Is your compassion for others and the world somehow being strangled by your current struggles and your mindset? Can you find a new way to grow your compassion for yourself, and for others?


In working with women to move away from careers they dislike, there is inevitably a sense of meaning, purpose and helpfulness that is missing and that they long for. As Maria Nemeth shared in her powerful book The Energy of Money, we are all happiest when we’re demonstrating in physical reality what we know to be true about ourselves, when we’re giving form to our Life Intentions in ways that help others.

I know too many people who focus only of what they have in front of them – either their struggles and strife or, on the flip side, their wealth, achievements and outer “things” (toys, cars, houses, bank accounts) they are amassing — with no regard of how they can be of help in the world.

In the end, if you focus only on yourself and your tiny sphere of influence, you’ll be wasting your talents and your abilities, and losing a precious opportunity to make a real difference in the world. The result will be that, at the end of your life, you will experience deep sadness, regret and remorse that you wasted your precious time, energy and your life looking out for only yourself.

Who can you help today?


Finally, I’ve seen that people experience deep pain and suffering from the lies they’ve told – to themselves and to others. Lying reflects a deep-seated fear that we are not “enough” – not strong, smart, courageous, good or powerful enough – to deal with the real consequences of our true actions and beliefs, so we lie. But lying hurts. When you lie to yourself, you rob yourself of the chance to evaluate accurately and fully how best to move forward. And lying to others limits their ability to make the right choices and decisions for themselves. The bottom line: lying stops you and others from growing, living and loving life to the fullest.

The flip side – truthfulness – does indeed set you free. Truthfulness allows you to be free with and accepting of yourself, and lets others be themselves, and act with honesty, authenticity and transparency as well.

Where are you being false, and what truth can you share today that will change everything for you?

* * * *

These five traits can be viewed as agreements you make with yourself. If you commit to being to being more kind, caring, compassionate, helpful and truthful each day, I guarantee, without reservation, that your life experience will improve dramatically, and regrets will fade.

(For more on the power of giving, check out Adam Grant’s great new book Give and Take. For information on helping others and the world through your career and professional life, check out Breakdown, Breakthrough  and the Amazing Career Project.)



Career Path Self-Assessment




Finally, gain the self-knowledge, insights and answers you need to improve your career today!