Select Page
Dealing With Dirty Pain vs Clean Pain

Dealing With Dirty Pain vs Clean Pain

Dealing With Dirty Pain vs Clean Pain

CPA MOMS Podcast with Dawn Goldberg
Ep. 72 – Dealing with Clean Pain vs Dirty Pain

Is it just me or does it seem like wherever we turn, there’s another story of tragedy or loss?  Whether it’s news of accidents, children being mistreated or animals being abused, my mind seems to be having a battle between finding gratitude and allowing gut-wrenching sadness.

Unfortunately, no matter how positive you may try to be, pain is just part of the human experience.  There are going to be breakups, endings and losses no matter how hard you try to bubble-wrap yourself and your family.

As part of my ongoing work with The Life Coach School, I was introduced to the concept of “Clean Pain vs Dirty Pain”.  The understanding of this concept has had a profound effect on how I now handle life’s ups and downs, helping me to manage my life in a much more balanced, and less confusing way.

There’s no longer a need to judge myself and others for how we feel, but instead to allow space for compassion and understanding.  It’s incredibly helpful to delineate between what’s necessary or not, and what’s helpful or not, especially when it comes to pain.

By understanding the difference between clean pain and dirty pain, you will no longer be at the mercy of the natural ebb and flow of your life.  Marriages end, jobs are eliminated and good people die; being able to distinguish between clean pain and dirty pain will help you navigate those storms.

This week I’m going to discuss what clean pain is, what dirty pain is, and how to deal with both.

Clean Pain

No matter how hard you might try to avoid it, life is going to naturally be 50/50 when it comes to  positive and negative emotions. From the minute you were born, you began experiencing physical pain and eventually emotional pain.

As you grew up and experienced more of life, you also experienced more painful “firsts”.  For example, the first time someone said they didn’t want to be your friend, your first punishment, the first time you had a relationship breakup or the first time someone or something in your life died.

Whether you were disappointed when something you were looking forward to didn’t happen, or you were horrified when you read about a child who was neglected and abused, you will experience mental and  emotional pain in many different forms throughout your life. Negative emotions are inevitable.

Therefore, clean pain is the negative emotions you feel by virtue of being human.  We all experience emotions like anger, sadness and disappointment, because those feelings are just a part of life.

The reason that clean pain is described as “clean” is because it’s a cleansing experience; like when you have a “good cry”.  It’s allowing what’s true for you, and experiencing whatever negative emotion is real in the moment.

For example, if your college-aged daughter starts behaving promiscuously, spending time with people you are concerned about, you might feel afraid for her.  Clean pain is allowing yourself to feel afraid, and to acknowledge that she may not be living the life you had envisioned for her.

As a mother, your brain is going to offer you thoughts that create the feeling of fear, especially when it comes to your children.  Allowing the clean pain of fear, instead of resisting it, can be exactly what you need in order to be true to how you feel right now.

There’s nothing wrong with feeling clean pain.  It’s the pain you want to feel, and can choose to feel, because it makes sense to you.

For example, when someone you love dies, you want to feel grief.  The clean pain of grief is often in direct proportion to how much you experienced love for that person and is cleansing to process.

In reaction to what’s happening in your life, you may want to feel loss, grief, sadness or disappointment,  depending on the situation. Clean pain is the pain you choose to allow, without self-judgment, and often comes in waves, lessening over time.

It’s important to understand that there’s nothing wrong with experiencing clean pain because it can actually be helpful.  The issue is when you resist it; that is when it can feel worse than the initial pain.

As the buddhist saying explains, “Pain is inevitable.  Suffering is optional”. Experiencing clean pain is an inevitable and necessary part of a well-lived life.

Dirty pain

While clean pain is inevitable and can be helpful, dirty pain is optional and unnecessary.  It’s the suffering you create when you believe that something is wrong, bad or shouldn’t be the way it is.

Author Byron Katie says, “When you argue with reality, you lose.  But only 100% of the time.” Dirty pain is arguing with reality, and experiencing the resistance of what is.

Pain becomes dirty when we believe things like “This shouldn’t be happening”, “It’s not fair” or “This isn’t how things were supposed to go”.  Dirty pain doesn’t feel better on the other side, but instead leaves you stuck in victimhood.

Dirty pain is described as “dirty” because it feels murky and dismal.  It’s the suffering your mind creates in reaction to clean pain and feels heavy, overwhelming and exhausting.

The following will help show the difference between clean and dirty pain:

  • I feel so sad that my mother passed away and I miss her (clean pain)
  • My mother died too soon and I don’t understand why this happened; it’s not fair (dirty pain)
  • I’m feeling hurt and upset that I’m getting a divorce (clean pain)
  • I will never find love and I can’t imagine being happy again (dirty pain)
  • I’m worried about how I’m going to pay my bills since I lost my job (clean pain)
  • I shouldn’t have lost my job and I have no hope for my future (dirty pain)

While clean pain comes in waves but still makes it possible for you to function in your life, dirty pain is the opposite.  It’s created by a negative thought loop that makes it difficult to function, to find solutions and will drain you mentally, emotionally and physically.

Most of us experience more dirty pain than we realize, and have normalized it because we’ve never been taught otherwise.  The issue is that when you layer dirty pain on top of clean pain, you belabor the uncomfortability and weight of the situation.

Since life is always going to be 50/50 and pain is inevitable, it’s important to understand when you are allowing clean pain or when you are creating dirty pain.  One is manageable and useful, the other is unnecessary and depleting.

How to deal with both

Since your female accountant brain interprets uncertainty and unpredictability as a threat to your survival, you will normally thrive on things being the same and controllable.  Unfortunately, most things in life are not within your control, and some of those things will cause you emotional pain.

The greatest lesson I learned in my work with The Life Coach School was that feelings are harmless, and that I won’t die from having a feeling.  No matter how bad it feels, emotions are just sensations in our bodies, triggered by a thought in our brain.

The interesting thing is that it only takes 90 seconds for an emotion to be processed by your body.    According to Harvard-trained brain specialist, Jill Bolte Taylor, when a person has an emotion, there is a 90 second chemical process that happens in the body; after that 90 seconds, any remaining emotional response is caused by you choosing to stay in that emotional loop.

When you experience clean pain, you can feel the emotion washing over you for as long as you need it to.   Each time you think a thought that creates clean pain, you are allowing a negative feeling; you are willing to feel clean pain, because it’s what’s true for you.

However, when you judge yourself for feeling clean pain or feel uncomfortable with it, when you make yourself or others wrong for the situation, this resistance and unwillingness becomes dirty pain.  This judgment and battle with clean pain winds up hurting you more than you realize.

What helped me tremendously was learning how allowing clean pain can be very healing.  It’s acknowledging that while you wouldn’t have chosen it, you are willing to feel whatever comes with certain situations in life.

On the other hand, when you find yourself experiencing dirty pain, or the pain that’s a result of arguing with the reality of a situation, you always have the option to change dirty pain to clean pain.  Since dirty pain is created by your thoughts, it can be changed with your thoughts.

Unfortunately, when you argue with reality, there is no opportunity for relief.  However, when you know you can feel fear, sadness or disappointment without becoming consumed by those negative emotions, you can process the emotions.

If you’ve ever seen or taken martial arts, you may have noticed when the person being attacked relaxes their body and allows the attack in a fluid-type motion.  This non-resistant stance allows them to be more effective, more flexible and prevents serious injuries.

The same is true when you experience negative emotions.  Allowing clean pain to be experienced, to flow through you, creates a much more effective way to process pain and prevent more emotional injuries.

So the next time you are feeling negative emotions like fear, sadness or grief, notice whether you are arguing with the reality of the situation, and drop the argument.  Since pain is inevitable, it’s also more manageable when you allow the experience of clean pain and drop the dirty pain.

Want to listen to more podcasts with Dawn?

Visit the CPA MOMS Podcast site to get instant access to all of her powerful episodes!

How To Win The Battle With Busyness

How To Win The Battle With Busyness

How To Win The Battle With Busyness

CPA MOMS Podcast with Dawn Goldberg
Ep. 71 How to Win the Battle with Busyness

Whether you are a working mom or not, most people identify themselves and their day, based on a sliding scale of busyness.  It’s as if busyness has become the norm and we use descriptors like “kind of”, “super” and “crazy” to delineate how busy we are and to help others understand what we are saying.

This shared language of busyness can be tempting to use as a badge of honor or as a way to get sympathy:

  • I’m super busy at work, but I’m still balancing all the balls in the air
  • My life is so crazy busy, I don’t know if I can take it anymore

For accountants, busyness seems like a necessary part of the job; like having a computer and a calculator.  An accountant who isn’t describing themselves as busy is looked upon as either lazy or in trouble.

A typical busy day as an accountant and a mom often starts with waking up and already dreading the busy day ahead, walking into the office and getting hit with other people battling busyness and then working through it all in order to get home to keep being busy.  It’s no wonder working moms experience burnout at such a high rate!

But somewhere along the way, accountants seemed to agree to believe that busyness was a fact and that stress was the fuel necessary to get everything done.  If you believe in the formula “accountant + mom = busyness”, then I have a much better way to help you battle busyness, to feel much better and to be more effective.

The heavy weight associated with busyness for accountants and for working moms doesn’t need to be “just the way it is”.  You have more power than you realize to win the battle with busyness, without sacrificing anything in the process.

This week I’m going to share what busyness really is, why it’s a problem and what to do instead.

What busyness really is

As an accountant and a mom, it can seem like you are just stating the facts – you are busy and you feel tired and overwhelmed.  You’re probably surrounded by plenty of people who think and feel the same way.

The important thing for you to know is that busyness is not a fact, even though it feels like one.  I understand that this might be challenging to believe at first, especially for working moms, but if you just let me explain, you’ll realize the truth and the power of what I’m sharing.

To begin with, there is always a thought that proceeds, and creates, a feeling.  Whether you are consciously aware of your thoughts or not (over 80% of your thoughts are unconscious), you have a thought and that thought creates a feeling.

When you describe yourself or your day as “busy” or any other version of busy, you are sharing your thoughts, not a fact.  It will become clear why this is important but for now, just know – busyness is a thought.

When you have a thought like “It’s a crazy busy day”, that thought will create a feeling like dread, self-pity or overwhelm.  When you string together enough days of frustration and stress, you wind up being unable to manage it all and feeling the effects of burnout.

As an accountant you’ve probably normalized thoughts like “This is the busy time of year” or “Once this is done, I won’t be so insanely busy”.  Unfortunately, once thoughts like these are practiced day after day, year after year, they become the default programming in your accountant mind.

Once the belief in busyness is firmly planted in your mind, you will probably find yourself waking up feeling apprehensive, or feeling anxious as you check your emails and possibly feeling angry when asked to do something.  This is all completely normal because you are living at the effect of your default beliefs about busyness.

The reason it’s important to address your battle with busyness is because it’s completely within your control to win the battle.  It doesn’t matter how many clients you have, what time of year it is or how many activities your children are involved in, you can create a much more manageable life.

Why busyness is a problem

The problem with busyness is that it’s subjective.  Think about it:

  • Who decides that a day is “busy”?
  • What defines a “busy day”?
  • What’s the difference between “super busy” and “insanely, crazy busy”?

Since you now know that your thoughts about the sliding busyness scale will create a feeling, it’s also important to understand that your feelings fuel your actions.  What you do and don’t do, is 100% driven by your feelings.

The problem is that once you’ve described your day as “super busy”, that thought will create a feeling like anxiety, stress or overwhelm.  When you feel overwhelmed, for example, you will most likely take an action like complaining or procrastinating.

I’m sure you can see how that ends – you don’t get as much done, you’re more overwhelmed than before, you snap at the people around you and that extra glass or two of wine at the end of the day sounds really good.

If you were looking for a fulfilling, productive day, where you completed your work with energy to spare, you unfortunately missed the mark.  The poisonous thought about having a “super busy day” actually created what you don’t want, and that’s the problem.

When you look at your day as “busy” you make it so much harder on yourself.  It’s like you’re trying to get from point A to point B, but you keep throwing massive boulders in the way; it’s exhausting and unnecessary.

What to do instead

If you are frustrated right now, thinking “But my days are incredibly busy; you should see my schedule!”,  that’s perfectly normal. You have been seeing your personal and professional life in a certain way for a long time and you’ve probably got plenty of coworkers that would agree with you.

If you’ve always believed that stress is necessary for accountants, it’s because you’ve made a connection between being busy, the feeling of stress and getting things done, but that’s not true.  Your brain has just made a thought-feeling connection that you’ve practiced so often, it feels true for you.

The secret to battling busyness that no one tells you about is watching your language.  The way you describe and label anything becomes wired in your brain, making it easier and more efficient to consistently perceive things the way you’ve chosen to.

You may not have control over the things you have to do, but you do have control over what you think about the things you have to do.  With some awareness and a shift in the way you choose to think, you’ll be better able to manage it all.

The amazing thing about your female brain is that it has a powerful filtering system that will show you proof of what you believe.  For example, it’s the reason why you “just happen” to see a lot of red cars on the road when you’ve decided you are in the market for a red car.

Therefore, if you keep thinking you are “super busy” or “insanely busy”, that’s what your brain will show you proof of.  Unfortunately, it then becomes difficult to get off the stress and overwhelm merry-go-round because what you believe will continue to feel true for you, even though it isn’t serving you.

So the important question is – if you couldn’t use the word “busy” to describe your day, your time or your life, how would you describe it?  Since we know that the sliding busy scale makes us feel dread, stress and overwhelm, what is another way to explain what you have to do, or what you have done?

See if any of these resonate with you:

  • Today I got to help my clients with their financial reports/statement/tax returns
  • I’m going to prepare the Form 1099’s for my clients by the deadline
  • I will get my work done, take my daughter to soccer practice and then help with homework
  • I’m going to do what I can today

These statements don’t sound dramatic, do they?  That’s exactly the point! Unfortunately, your female brain is a bit of a drama queen, often seeing things in a very dramatic fashion, in order to protect you; it’s naturally programmed to see everything as dangerous to your survival, especially when you’ve thought the same way for a long time.

By learning to watch your language and remove the drama, you will actually feel much better which will result in you doing much better.  Choosing less dramatic language will reprogram your brain to not automatically think busyness is normal.

The truth is that we all have things to do for work and for our families.  In order to win the battle of busyness, you just need to start choosing thoughts on purpose that give you a feeling other than stress, overwhelm and dread.

You may have a Google calendar full of things that need to get done, but how you show up personally and professionally is 100% within your control, no matter what is on that calendar.  in order to be at your best, you need to become aware of how you describe things and start telling a different story.

When you decide to tell a different story, you naturally get a different ending.  That is how to win the battle with busyness, how to feel better no matter what’s on your plate and how to get more done with much more energy.

Want to listen to more podcasts with Dawn?

Visit the CPA MOMS Podcast site to get instant access to all of her powerful episodes!

The Key to Building Self-Confidence

The Key to Building Self-Confidence

The Key to Building Self-Confidence

CPA MOMS Podcast with Dawn Goldberg
Ep. 73 The Key to Building Self-Confidence

On the surface it would appear that self-confidence shouldn’t be an issue for accountants; the inherent combination of intelligence, respect and professionalism, should make self-confidence a non-issue.  As a CPA and a mom, you should have even more to be confident and proud of, and should be strutting around like a proud peacock.

So, since on the surface it would appear that self-confidence wouldn’t be an issue for you as a hard-working accountant and mom, then what’s the problem?  From the outside looking in, you’ve got what it takes to have a successful career as well as be the best mom you can be.

Interestingly all of these assumptions are exactly the reason why self-confidence can be an issue for accountant moms.  That’s because your intelligence, outward achievements, accolades and successes aren’t responsible for your self-confidence, or lack of.

The key to building self-confidence isn’t found in the number of professional designations after your last name, the school you attended, or your technical acumen; it’s found in learning how to manage and master your mind.  If you haven’t learned how to manage your mind, then it’s no wonder you may have issues with self-confidence.

Learning how to build self-confidence is some of the most life-changing and career-changing work you can do as a working mom.  Unlocking the secret to building self-confidence means there’s nothing standing in the way of creating and having the life you want.

This week I’m going to discuss how self-confidence works, and the key to building it.

How self-confidence works

One of the most difficult questions most working moms (and women in general) have an issue answering is “What do you want?”  The reason this question is so challenging is because of your female brain.

Your female brain has a lot of complicated stories that it likes to tell you; about what you can do, about what’s possible and how you probably shouldn’t try to change the status quo. If these stories started at a young age, they are firmly embedded and often difficult to become aware of.

I just went to see the Broadway show “Mean Girls” with my 27 year-old daughter and during the intermission I overheard some mothers of teenage girls talking about when they were in high school.  The memories of “who said what” to them, which at the time had damaged their self-confidence, was still very fresh in their minds.

The main antagonist in the play, Regina George, represents all the “mean girl” things that your female brain tells you, without your conscious awareness.  This unconscious dialogue can be challenging because just when you think you’ve gotten past a lack of confidence in one area of your life, a new situation often dredges up all your old limiting beliefs.

The reason this happens is because your female brain is so powerful that it will look for proof of whatever you believe, matching your beliefs with evidence of those beliefs.  Just like a twisted version of for your brain, if you lack self-confidence, your brain will confirm all the ways that that’s true for you.

For example, if you don’t believe you can train for that 5k, your brain will show you all the reasons why you’re right.  It will offer you thoughts like “Remember how you hated running in gym class” or “Do you really have the time to take on something like this?”

Your female brain is amazing, but it’s also negatively biased and has a job it takes very seriously – keeping you safe.  It interprets change as danger, so even though you may want to do things like push yourself out of your comfort zone by training for a 5k, advancing in your career or going back into the dating world after a divorce, your female brain wants you safe and warm under the covers.

What often happens for accountant moms is that you believe that your accomplishments will finally give you self-confidence, so you try things like working longer and harder, dieting or exercising more radically, or trying to please everyone.  The issue is that when you try to fix self-confidence by creating something external, it doesn’t last.

Unfortunately, if you think that something like getting a promotion will build your self-confidence, most likely you will wind up still feeling insecure in the new position, often faced with imposter syndrome.  The reason this happens is because your outer circumstances don’t create confidence.

Finding a mate, losing the weight or hearing the praises, are the effects, and not the cause, of your self-confidence.  If you didn’t have self-confidence before going after these achievements, you’ll quickly fall back into your old belief system because beliefs don’t change without some work.

That’s why achieving the professional status of CPA, while also managing being a working mom, won’t build self-confidence if you haven’t changed your underlying beliefs about yourself.  If you struggle with self-confidence, it’s because you haven’t addressed the cause.

The key to building self-confidence

Since self-confidence doesn’t come from the things that you’ve achieved, then where does it come from?  Self-confidence is created by your thoughts and beliefs, specifically the thoughts about yourself and your ability to trust yourself.

You don’t need accomplishments and validation from other people to produce confidence.  In fact, it’s actually the complete opposite – you need to believe in your ability first, before you can accomplish something with confidence.

It’s important to understand that you don’t need to know how to do something, you only need to trust in yourself and your ability to figure it out.  That’s when change and growth become possible; by overriding your female brain’s default “mean girl” setting, you can rewire your brain to create self-confidence.

In the beginning, if your self-confidence is pretty low, then it can be helpful to acknowledge your previous accomplishments by listing them and reminding yourself of what you’ve already been able to do.  It will give you a temporary boost, and lessen the grip your brain has on some old limiting beliefs about what’s possible.

For example, don’t overlook the fact that, in reality, you probably had to work very hard to become an accountant.  Or, if you are a mom, that you brought a child (or more) into this world and are supporting your family financially, doing your best to balance it all.

But in order to take this to the next level, you need to create self-confidence where there is no evidence.  This happens when you learn to create a new belief and trust in your ability to create something in the future, that you have no evidence for from your past.

For example, you may be a CPA employee who has a dream to own your own practice or be a solo mompreneur, but lack the confidence to leave your familiar job. It’s completely natural for your female brain to come up with all the reasons why this idea is impossible.

Remember, your brain sees change as threatening. But in order to create confidence where there is no evidence, you have to override the default beliefs that keep you stuck where you are, and begin to gradually believe in a new future that’s different than the past.

Self-confidence comes from believing that you already have the qualities you will need.  You may not have the knowledge, skills or experience, but you can choose to believe that you have the ability to figure it out, to get the support you need and get the results you want.

In order to create this level of self-confidence, it’s more helpful to think of things that you’ve found challenging, where you persevered.  Think about those times that were difficult, where you didn’t give up; those moments that took character, strength and tenacity.

Try to recall the times you struggled, suffered setbacks or got knocked down but got back up.  It could be a time when you had to roll some change to pay the electric bill, or broke up with someone and felt depressed for weeks but eventually got past it, or maybe you failed a test but didn’t let that stop or define you.

When I’m struggling with self-confidence, I always remind myself about the period of my life where my ex-husband was struggling with an addiction.  I had never dealt with anything like it before; I had to manage my accounting career, my children’s needs and get us all the support that we needed.

There were moments where I just wanted to give up but I pushed through; I took it one day at a time and showed a perseverance and strength of character that I didn’t realize I was capable of.  It was extremely challenging and scary, but I decided that falling apart wasn’t an option.

Fast forward to now, and whenever I need a boost of self-confidence because I’m exploring new career options or considering doing something I’ve never done before, I remind myself of the time I was faced with the challenge of dealing with someone else’s addiction.  I didn’t give up then, despite having never done anything like it, and there’s no reason to doubt my abilities to figure things out now.

I want to point out that I struggled with self-confidence for most of my life and that I could have told the story of dealing with my ex-husband’s addiction in a completely different way.  I could have focused on the fact that I had no idea he was an alcoholic, how other people knew but I didn’t, and how I couldn’t trust my instincts anymore because of that.

The big question is – how would that serve me?  What’s the upside to telling my story that way? There is no upside which is why my self-confidence now comes from focusing on how I handled the situation once I found out the truth, how I made sure my children had consistency in the midst of chaos, and how I stayed strong under the weight of all the challenges I was facing.

Even though past challenging situations may be completely unrelated to what you are dealing with now, the strength, perseverance and qualities that you used then are still relevant now. Self-confidence is much less about what you did, and much more about your thoughts and beliefs about yourself.

Today I have confidence in my intelligence, in my ability to figure things out, in my strength in the midst of chaos, in my ability to create balance, and in my ability to manage my mind no matter what.  This confidence has opened more doors to opportunities and growth than I’ve ever experienced in my life.

My confidence doesn’t come from the things I did, it comes from what I choose to think about the things I did.  I can choose to think in a way that makes me feel worried and doubtful, or I can choose to think in a way that makes me feel courageous and determined.

Now it’s your turn – think about the times in your life where you feared you couldn’t do something and you did it; where you kept going or did something that you hadn’t done before.  Instead of looking to outer accomplishments to create confidence, look to those moments where your inner character shined.

You will always be challenged with something new, and your female brain will naturally resist it every time, but you have the power to override any doubt.  By building a mental resume of all the character traits you possess that have gotten you where you are, your brain will show you evidence of those traits.

A word of caution – as women we are often taught at a young age to be humble, to not shine too brightly and to be in a supportive role.  I’m here to give you permission to own your intelligence, your strength of character and any other quality that makes you a badass working mom. .

By consistently practicing thinking about how you have overcome challenges, no matter how big or small, you will begin managing your mind.  When you change the way you think about yourself, you create the feeling of self-confidence on purpose.

The key to building self-confidence is overriding any limiting, “mean girl” thoughts and instead managing your mind and deliberate choosing the beliefs you want to have about yourself.  The best part is that nothing outside of you can give you confidence; it’s all within your power to create it for yourself.

You’ve got this!  Now stop playing small momma, and strut those peacock feathers!

Want to listen to more podcasts with Dawn?

Visit the CPA MOMS Podcast site to get instant access to all of her powerful episodes!

Covid SBA Loans Simplified

Covid SBA Loans Simplified

Covid SBA Loans Simplified

I was a little confused at first about where to go on the SBA website ( to access the small business Covid funding available. As busy entrepreneurs, I find the need to for information to be simplified. I want to know what to pay attention to, and more importantly, what to ignore.

Here is a DIRECT LINK to the page you want to focus your time and attention on.

By the time you read this post, funding for the first two options (PPP and EIDL) will probably be gone. If you want simplified explanation or more information and resources on what all of these funding options mean for your business, visit us at

For step-by-step instruction on how to get to this page on the main website, here goes: