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What is your relationship with your anger? 

How much of your stress and exhaustion is fueled by repressed anger and rage? 

And how do you respond when those around you express anger?

Our experiences early in life, experiences at our places of work and education, and our conditioning from culture all play significant roles in how we view and respond to anger and rage within and around us. 

And for women–especially Black and brown women–we learn our anger and rage come off as unbecoming and distancing, which can be the death of a promotion, a deal, or financial advancement.

Many experience firsthand the negative impact of expressing our anger, which can bring about a dangerous backlash that can impact not only our well-being but also our safety. 

But when we shift the focus from seeing anger solely as dangerous or something to be feared and instead befriend and learn from it, so much changes in how we lead and do life.

Today’s guest wrote a beautifully written and well-cited book documenting the impact of suppressed rage in women on themselves and those around them. 

Soraya Chemaly is an award-winning author and activist. She writes and speaks frequently on topics related to gender norms, inclusivity, social justice, free speech, sexualized violence, and technology. She is the former Executive Director of The Representation Project and Director and Co-Founder of the Women’s Media Center Speech Project, and also the author of Rage Becomes Her: The Power of Women’s Anger, which was recognized as a Best Book of 2018 by the Washington Post, Fast Company, Psychology Today, and NPR.  

Listen to the full episode to hear:

  • How suppressing anger harms more than just the individual
  • How rage is justified and tolerated differently for men and women
  • How niceness and a focus on the feelings of others is socialized into girls from an early age
  • The anger that hides underneath stress, disappointment, and other ways women minimize their anger
  • The long-term impacts and risks of suppressed anger on physical and mental health

Learn more about Soraya Chemaly:

Learn more about Rebecca:



Rebecca Ching: So what is your relationship with anger, and how much of your stress and exhaustion is fueled by repressed anger and rage? I’m curious, how do you respond when those around you express anger? Our experiences in life, our experiences at our places of work and education, and our conditioning from culture all play significant roles in how we view and, most importantly, respond to anger and rage within us and around us. Plus, so many personal and professional development teachings tell us how to suppress anger instead of encouraging us to integrate and learn from our anger.

These approaches (and many, really, I think are well-meaning) teach us to shut down our anger and celebrate when we repress it without concern for the cost to our physical, relational, and emotional wellbeing or the systems in which we live and work. How we develop such a quick reflex to suppress and fear our anger makes sense. And for women, especially Black and brown women, we learn our anger and rage comes off as unbecoming and distancing, which can be the death of a promotion, a deal, or financial advancement.

Many experience, firsthand, the negative impact of expressing our anger, which can bring about the dangerous backlash that can impact not only our wellbeing but our safety. But when we shift the focus from seeing anger solely as dangerous or something to be feared and instead befriended and learn from it, so much changes in how we lead and do life.

Before we go into today’s episode, I just want to thank everybody for listening as we are on the final countdown to my 100th episode. I am so excited to share with you the learnings I have from doing something 100 times.


It’s kind of incredible. It would be such an honor and so appreciated if you left a review, did a rating, and shared this podcast with some folks that you think may benefit. This really matters, y’all, especially as we’re really trying to get the word out about the podcast. It would mean a lot. So thank you to those who’ve already left ratings and reviews and shared this show. Just thank you for those who are gonna take the time to leave a rating. So I appreciate that! Now, onto the show!

[Inspirational Intro Music]

Soraya Chemaly: Almost every woman I ever talk to would always say, “I’m stressed,” or “I’m tired,” and you scratched the surface just a little bit, just two questions in, and what you find is that, in fact, they’re very angry about some things, that they can’t bring themselves to say, “I’m very angry. I’m chronically disappointed. I feel taken for granted. I’m doing three jobs. I’m taking care of my parents, my children, my spouse, my sisters, my brothers, my coworkers.” In fact, just pushing a little, asking a few more questions, you can really see the degree to which we, ourselves, internalize the need to minimize. So we use all these words that reduce the import of the anger.

Rebecca Ching: I’m Rebecca Ching, and you’re listening to The Unburdened Leader, the show that goes deep with humans who navigate life’s challenges and lead in their own ways. Our goal is to learn how they address the burdens they carry, how they learn from them and become better and more impactful leaders of themselves and others.

All right, y’all, in my recent binge of British crime shows, one of the shows I watched had a moment in its final episode that caused me to hit pause and replay it a few times.


Now, I’ll leave out the show’s name, so I don’t give away any spoilers, but towards the end of this series, a wife confronts her misogynist husband after learning about all the horrible things her husband did to women from one of his victims, and his response was so common and yet still so hard to hear. He replies to her, “Oh, she will say anything. She’s mad.” (I will spare you my attempts at a British accent.) And his wife responded, without skipping a beat, looking at him with a stone-cold glare and asked, “Oh, are all women mad?” [Laughs] Oof.

Now, while here in the US we often use the term crazy instead of the British use of the term mad, but it’s so common, and it’s such a common trope when women have had enough and stand up for themselves only to be dismissed as mentally ill versus credible and worthy of being believed and listened to.

You know, there is so much to be enraged about right now, like so much. And I’ve heard countless stories from clients, friends, colleagues sharing how they were minimized or devalued or not believed when they did not stay silent in the face of injustice towards themselves or others.

I know for me, when I release the pressure on my own internal dam of emotions and feel even a trickle of my rage, I sense it course through my body and feel the immense urge to take action. And then a part of me that is expertly skilled at reigning in my rage quickly chimes in and edits my responses and my narrative around what I’m feeling, often muting or minimizing what I’m feeling. Now, this reflects years of my own internalizing of the many messages to not be angry, to be nice and polite and keep the peace, right? Many of you know the drill.


I’ve been thinking a lot about my clinical training too and how aspects of it have done a number on how so many with my training approach anger and rage too, and instead of hanging out with the anger, some theories teach that anger is a secondary emotion, and we need to get to the root of it to heal it. So, yes, sure, I agree wholeheartedly, but when we weaponize this approach to anger and rush too quickly to name a secondary emotion before witnessing and understanding the anger in front of us, we miss the important data offered by our anger. And when we don’t witness the anger of those in front of us or our own, and instead see it as something to fear, we can collude with culture and reinforce the messages to bypass our anger and rage instead of witnessing it, trusting it, and learning from it.

I believe our anger offers us a powerful compass, and when we suppress it, we lose our way, along with our wellbeing and our sense of self-leadership. Our repressed anger leads to self-doubt, questioning our worth, along with many well-documented health issues, and we end up gaslighting ourselves to survive these messages from family and teachers and bosses in a culture that demonizes anger and rage in women. And we witness, on repeat, the violence caused by repressed anger, along with the inequity of how it can be shared. But suppressed anger and rage in the face of injustice has to go somewhere.

I return to this excerpt from Brené Brown’s book Braving The Wilderness. It is a book I keep going back to since it was released back in 2017, and she wrote:

“Anger is a catalyst. Holding onto it will make us exhausted and sick. Internalizing anger will take away our joy and spirit. Externalizing anger will make us less effective in our attempts to create change and forge connections. It’s an emotion that we need to transform into something life-giving: love, change, compassion, justice. Sometimes anger can mask a far more difficult emotion like grief, regret, or shame, and we need to use it to dig into what we’re really feeling. Either way, anger is a powerful catalyst but a life-sucking companion.”


I really see anger as our CTA, right? It’s our call to action. When we fear, don’t trust or respect our anger’s CTA, we miss important data and stay frozen, leaving us trapped in our rage. And when we feel frozen and trapped (this would happen to any living creature), this activates any burdens of trauma we hold, leaving us holding a lot of emotion that eventually turns on us or explodes outward in a way that does not align with our values.

Now, I think it’s really important to note that we need to make sure we differentiate between feeling our anger and responding to it, though they often get conflated. And the space between feeling your anger and responding happens lightning fast, often before we can put language to what just happened, and this is what we call, in my line of work, the work, the work of building emotional capacity and emotional literacy, and this work requires us to build lifelong practices versus the quick-fix mindset hacks that are often offered and serve as Band-Aids that, honestly, I think do more harm that good.

The rhythms and repetitions of Internal Family Systems self-leadership practices, Brené Brown’s shame resilience practices, and a systems lens on change are the practices I use myself and teach my clients, and I often say shame resilience clears the way and self-leadership offers the deep roots to sustain courage, compassion, and change.


My Unburdened Leader guest today wrote a beautifully written and well-cited book documenting the impact of suppressed rage in women, on themselves and those around them.

Soraya Chemaly is an award-winning author and activist and, to be honest with you, a really, really just awesome human being. She writes and speaks frequently on topics related to gender norms, inclusivity, social justice, free speech, sexualized violence, and technology. She’s the former executive director of The Representation Project, director and co-founder of The Women’s Media Center Speech Project, and she has long been committed to expanding women’s civic and political participation. Soraya’s the author of Rage Becomes Her: The Power of Women’s Anger, which was recognized as a best book of 2018 by The Washington Post, Fast Company, Psychology Today, and NPR and is also a co-producer of a WMCPSA highlighting the effects on online harassment on women in politics in America.

Her work is featured widely in media, documentaries, books, and academic research, and as an activist, Soraya spearheaded successful campaigns of challenging corporations to address online hate and harassment, restrictive content, moderation and censorship and institutional biases that impact free speech.

Now, listen for when Soraya talks about what happens when we ignore our anger and let it fester. Pay attention to when Soraya talks about how we rationalize men’s anger and women’s anger and the important differences between the two perspectives in our culture.


And notice when Soraya talks about the intersection of gender roles and anger suppression. Such wisdom here and so much that I think you’ll want to pause and take notes, so be ready for that. Now, please welcome Soraya Chemaly to The Unburdened Leader podcast.

Soraya Chemaly, welcome to the podcast!

Soraya Chemaly: Oh, my goodness, thank you! I’m really honored to be here with you today.

Rebecca Ching: Now, I’ve been giddy about this conversation. I think that we’re gonna talk about rage and I’m so excited to talk about this emotion! But you wrote this incredible book Rage Becomes Her, and you wrote it in 2018. 

Soraya Chemaly: Mm-hmm.

Rebecca Ching: So it was a prophecy. What I loved about it was so many things, what you wrote, but you sourced so many incredible areas of research and writing, and it just read so beautifully.

Soraya Chemaly: Thank you.

Rebecca Ching: It felt like it was just one big book of validation and a permission slip to do things differently. And so, your book Rage Becomes Her: The Power of Women’s Anger, I want to go into it, but I’d love for you to share how writing this book kind of brought clarity to your own emotional process, especially regarding your relationship with rage.

Soraya Chemaly: I would say that the book was the result of my going through that process, honestly.

Rebecca Ching: Mm. 

Soraya Chemaly: I think if you had asked me in my young adulthood, really through my forties, if I felt anger I wouldn’t have said yes, I would have said, “No, I’m just not angry. I don’t get angry. That’s just not something I feel.” When, in fact, I was feeling it all the time, I just couldn’t recognize it anymore, which is why when I sat down to write the book, early in the book I was thinking — and I don’t mean to just generalize for myself, which is frankly why the book is quite data intensive, right?


I don’t want to just universalize. But it was very clear to me over decades of studying feminism, writing about feminism, thinking about women’s experiences, that the ability to recognize anger is socialized out of many girls and feminized people. That’s the problem, right? Because if you don’t acknowledge it and do something about it and it just stays festering inside, it really only hurts you and your relationships. And then I argue in a kind of butterfly effect, it is profoundly damaging to the society and to social trust and to all of these other things.

So I don’t think I could have even thought about writing the book without having, in my own personal life, come to terms with what that meant, and I came to terms with it because I started getting sick. I thought, “What is going on? Why do I feel this way? Why do I keep having these very highly physical manifestations and tension and anger and stress?” That is what pushed me. I didn’t want my children and, frankly, I didn’t want women and younger women to go through what I went through. I’m like I really would have loved it if someone had talked to me about this, taught me how to think about it, taught me how to use it. So I kind of envisioned the book as that kind of resource.

Rebecca Ching: Yeah, it really is radically different because I will say we’re taught how to not show our anger and our rage. That, I could go through so many different stages in my life from family to school to jobs.


So it really isn’t a good reframe. And, you know, let’s be honest, there is so much to be angry about right now, even enraged and outraged nowadays, and I was even thinking this before this conversation about rage and how it — I guess I want to ask how do you define rage and how would you differentiate it from outrage?

Soraya Chemaly: So that’s a very good question. I would start by differentiating it from anger. By the time a person feels rage, chances are very good, highly probable, that their anger’s already been distorted and maladapted, right? The whole point of anger is to eliminate itself. You get angry so you don’t have the problem that made you angry, right?

Rebecca Ching: Mm.

Soraya Chemaly: But if you never name the problem, if you never ask for the support that you need, if people don’t provide it, if they take you for granted, whatever the situation is, and you end up in this conundrum of rage which, again for women is not a validated emotion — people don’t like it in men either, but when men are enraged there’s a lot more leeway to interpret it as positive. “He’s enraged because he sees a political injustice. He’s enraged because he was repeatedly unfairly treated.”

Rebecca Ching: Or protecting. He’s protecting somebody.

Soraya Chemaly: Yes, protecting somebody, right? And so, we have all these mechanisms for rationalizing male rage, even when it’s destructive. But we don’t have any mechanism other than kind of mama bear protection that rationalizes women’s rage. All other forms of women’s rage, for the most part, are negatively dealt with. We can understand a mother being enraged to protect her children, but we cannot understand a mother being enraged because, as a mother, she’s treated so poorly by her society.


Rebecca Ching: Is there a difference in your mind between rage and outrage?

Soraya Chemaly: Yes. I think that they’re clearly related, but you can be outraged without feeling rage. You can just be stunned and shocked and appalled, right? But out of that outrage you might end up in a place of compassion, right? Like I am outraged when I — I’m a pacifist, right? So war outrages me, and there’s a quality of rage that goes along with that because I think, my god, every system that we live with is calibrated to cultivate war.

But at the same time, the outrage that I feel can be channeled into, “How do we have compassion for the suffering that war engenders,” as opposed to the rage that people continue to promulgate it. Do you see what I mean? So I do think that they’re related but I don’t think they’re necessarily the same at all.

Rebecca Ching: And you write and recommend that women hold onto their rage instead of letting it go. Can you say more about why you recommend that?

Soraya Chemaly: I don’t know if this is the part you’re talking about, but I talk about forgiveness, the burden of forgiveness, that is very gendered. Women are always supposed to forgive and forget. If they’re in abusive relationships, they’re supposed to somehow believe that they can forgive and change this person, that it’s their responsibility to participate in the relationship in a way that saves the other person or that if there’s a wrong that happens it’s better for everyone if the woman let’s go of that anger and doesn’t impose it — this is the key — and its demands on other people.


So I do think there is this expectation of letting go, and that expectation is tied to a different degree of sacrifice and selflessness that girls are taught is important to their femininity. So we know from studies of children, many of which I included, that we really hold girls to a different standard of care and other focus. So even politeness norms, right? We expect girls to speak with respect for others, not to interrupt, not to engage in disruptive sounds or activities, whereas when boys do that, we tend to excuse it as their rambunctiousness or even leadership qualities, right? And so, by the time girls are eight, nine, ten, they’re already remarkably other-focused in a way that leads to their self-abnegation. One of the ways we do that is to penalize them and discourage them from expressing anger, which very early on in life is associated with masculinity.

In the same way, in fact, that the softer emotions, like empathy or fear or sensitivity are denied to boys —

Rebecca Ching: Mm.

Soraya Chemaly: — as feminine weaknesses.

Rebecca Ching: Right.

Soraya Chemaly: You know? And so, in fact, we hurt all the children by gendering these emotions, which all of us have.

Rebecca Ching: No question.

Soraya Chemaly: You know? And so, I would say that the other focus isn’t bad. It’s good to be kind to people, but that’s different from being nice for the sake of being nice. It’s different from performing a kind of niceness in a way that is very self-destructive.

Rebecca Ching: Absolutely.

Soraya Chemaly: Right? So that’s how I would make the distinction.

Rebecca Ching: I often say that niceness is complicit in appeasing where kindness is loving and generous.

Soraya Chemaly: It is. Mm-hmm.

Rebecca Ching: I want to circle back to something you said just to clarify, that if women are holding onto this — saying, yes, we should hold onto our rage, but we often get told to let it go because it’s an imposition to others to navigate our anger and our rage. Is that what you’re saying?


Soraya Chemaly: I think it’s an imposition on others that’s considered selfish because anger comes from a place where you say, “I need something.”

Rebecca Ching: “I want, I need.”

Soraya Chemaly: “I want something. I need something,” or somehow you, other person, or you, family, or you, coworker, or you, boss, or you, representative in government have failed me, have disappointed me, have done something that is a threat to me or an injustice. Again, this is why I keep going back to the example of mothers, I talk about this all the time. Many large-scale, influential political movements in The United States have been led by women who start organizations that have “mother” in the name. Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Mothers for Saying Gun Reform, The Temperance Movement, The Children’s Defense Fund, these were mothers, and as long as women tip their hat at the idea that their primary role is maternal and that they’re doing it on someone else’s behalf, we understand that anger. But, you know, the society is not happy.

Imagine if there was a Single Women for Gun Control, or Single Women for Temperance. It’s so absurd because the culture just can’t even fathom that, right? But as long as mothers are acting as mothers and reinforcing that fundamental sex segregated role in society, then they can do and say a lot more. But otherwise they’re selfish.

Rebecca Ching: You nailed it. That’s exactly what I’ve heard on repeat for decades, that if I say I’m mad, I’m bothered, the internal dialogue is, “I am just so selfish,” and so, there’s that self-silencing.

Soraya Chemaly: Yes. Right. “What right do I have?”

Rebecca Ching: Yes.


Soraya Chemaly: “What right do I have?” The other thing too is one of the defining characteristics of masculinity is agency and self-sufficiency, whereas we’re taught that for women it’s relationality and dependence, not even interdependence. We think of women as dependent because they need the protection of men or stronger people, and so, to be angry threatens to break those dependencies and relationships. So many women these days I see all these trends about mental load and emotional labor, and a lot of it is that. A lot of it is the fact that you are supposed to keep all the machinery moving without imposing on people, ever, the fact that you’re doing it or exhausted from doing it, or disappointed because other people aren’t helping you to do it, or just not doing what they’re supposed to.

Rebecca Ching: My brain is spinning a little bit, too, as I’m thinking about this, about how there’s almost this sense of a women’s rage is disconnecting.

Soraya Chemaly: Yes.

Rebecca Ching:  It’s counter to our role, yet those moments in life where I’ve had shared righteous anger, it’s been connecting, it’s been healing.

Soraya Chemaly: Yes!

Rebecca Ching: It’s been validating, and it’s led to other emotions and other experiences.

Soraya Chemaly: Joyful ones and creative ones.

Rebecca Ching: Yes!

Soraya Chemaly: Yes.

Rebecca Ching: There’s such agency and creativity in it. But it’s not, I think, the term outrage porn. It’s not like something where it feels exploitative and people kind of manipulate, especially on social media. But, yeah, I just think that’s the fear is, “I’m gonna lose community. I’m gonna lose connection. I’m breaking the rules.” We are because of how we’ve been conditioned.

Soraya Chemaly: Right.

Rebecca Ching: But that place where my righteous anger and rage has been welcomed and validated has led to deepening connection and learning, too.


Soraya Chemaly: Right and greater intimacy, I would say.

Rebecca Ching: Greater intimacy, yes.

Soraya Chemaly: Yeah.

Rebecca Ching: Say more.

Soraya Chemaly: Because how can you have a truly reciprocal, egalitarian, intimate, caring relationship with people (a spouse, a child, parents, whoever, friends) if you can’t tell them what you need and think that they are okay with that. A lot of women are so fearful of saying what they need because, in fact, there’s a huge risk, which is that they’ll learn that there isn’t reciprocal care.

Rebecca Ching: Yeah.

Soraya Chemaly: That the response is, “Okay, so stop complaining. I’m not changing. I’m not doing,” and that’s a really hard thing because then what?

Rebecca Ching: Yeah.

Soraya Chemaly: You know?

Rebecca Ching: And that’s a wall that a lot of people hit, and there are some hard decisions.

Soraya Chemaly: That’s exactly right. 

Rebecca Ching: That’s where a lot of acquiescing comes into play and a lot of suppressed anger.

Soraya Chemaly: Mm-hmm.

Rebecca Ching: I want to get into the impact of that in a minute, but I want to ask you about another statement that you wrote about saying that you believe anger doesn’t get in the way of women being heard but it’s the way, and I want you to — I know you’re touching on this a little bit but walk me through your thought process for this approach.

Soraya Chemaly: Every political movement starts in anger. Someone feels an injustice. Someone sees something wrong. People coalesce around their outrage or their need or the necessity of their understanding the situation that they’re in and having to change it. And so, I start off by quoting Audre Lorde, who wrote extensively about this and who said, “There’s so much information in the anger that we have, so why don’t we listen to it,” you know? And so, when we detach anger from femininity, when we socialize girls to distance themselves from this very key defensive emotion, they lose access to that information, you know?


And so, in fact, the expression of anger is almost incidental because just speaking out loud with clear thoughts and asking for change makes you angry, you know? There’s no right way to do it.

So then if you’re a young woman, a girl, no distinction is made as I try to describe between being assertive and confident, being considered aggressive, and being angry. You can be assertive without being aggressive or angry. You can be aggressive without being angry. You can be angry without being assertive or aggressive. They’re different things, right? But, in fact, even starting in very young childhood, a very confident, plain-spoken girl is considered rude or impolite or —

Rebecca Ching: Abrupt.

Soraya Chemaly: — difficult or abrupt, and if she’s a young Black girl, it’s even more dangerous because if she’s a young Black girl, she’s going to be disciplined, suspended, expelled, policed in school. There are real risks that come with this, you know? At every stage there are sort of stereotypes about either age or identity or ethnicity that are just designed to tone-police women and silence them.

Rebecca Ching: And I’m raising a neurodivergent daughter, you know?

Soraya Chemaly: Mm-hmm.

Rebecca Ching: And just even how we experience folks who process information, who communicate —

Soraya Chemaly: Yes.

Rebecca Ching: — differently based on their wiring, too, and their way of experiencing the world and information and emotions. So there’s a lot layered into that too.

Soraya Chemaly: Yes, especially, I would say with neurodivergent girls who it’s much more difficult for them to recognize and conform to societal norms that are imposed on all of us.


So, in fact, very often also neurodivergent children will experience heightened anger and frustration, and that makes it doubly difficult, right, because not only is that a way of saying, “I have needs. Something’s not working. Something is causing me to feel stress or threat or whatever the feeling is,” but then instead of listening to what the person is saying — and this happens to women throughout their lives — people get angry at their expression.

Rebecca Ching: Yep. Yep, and the masking is exhausting, it’s debilitating, and it can lead to mental and physical implications.

Soraya Chemaly: Right.

Rebecca Ching: And we miss out on so much in that.

Soraya Chemaly: That’s right, and girls especially get to be very good at masking at a very early age.

Rebecca Ching: So good.

Soraya Chemaly: They’re so young when they’re already masking, and that’s because all along we tend to have been — this is lots of studies. Anybody can go look them up. But we really do hold girls to a different standard, and this is really interesting to me in the education system. For two decades now, we’ve been hearing about the boy crisis in education, and there are some legitimate concerns.

Rebecca Ching: For sure.

Soraya Chemaly: But, in fact, girls in schools might be getting better grades, but a lot of that has to do with the fact that they might be conforming and quiet because they’re expected to be in much greater numbers, and then they’re rewarded for doing it. And so, they may not even be understanding the work that they’re doing, but once they’re not disruptive, people are like, “Oh, she’s doing so well,” and that’s really bad for everybody too.

Rebecca Ching: You also believe that just saying, “I’m angry,” matters for women and our society over our standard default of self-silencing. So to be able just to name, “I’m angry,” can you say more about that?


Soraya Chemaly: Yeah, I think there’s self-silencing, clearly damaging but easily socialized, right? But beyond the self-silencing there’s also the persistent minimization. “Oh, it’s nothing.” “Oh, I’m just a little tired. That was really irritating.” “I’m stressed.” You know, a few years ago I really realized if I bump into a man who’s a friend and I say, “How are you,” chances, before COVID certainly, were pretty good he would never say, “I’m so stressed. I’m really exhausted. I don’t get much sleep.” He’d probably say, “I’m good, thanks. Work’s good,” or, you know, whatever.

But almost every woman I ever talk to would always say, “I’m stressed,” or “I’m tired,” and you scratched the surface just a little bit just two questions in, and what you find is that, in fact, they’re very angry about some things, that they can’t bring themselves to say, “I’m very angry. I’m chronically disappointed. I feel taken for granted. I’m doing three jobs. I’m taking care of my parents, my children, my spouse, my sisters, my brothers, my coworkers.” In fact, just pushing a little, asking a few more questions, you can really see the degree to which we, ourselves, internalize the need to minimize. So we use all these words that reduce the import of the anger.

Rebecca Ching: I agree, and I just think about a lot of my — I have this wonderful community of mom friends too, but it’s also an occupational hazard with my training —

Soraya Chemaly: Yeah.

Rebecca Ching: — as a psychotherapist and as a coach, right, that if I go too deep too quickly they’re like, “Ahh,” you know?

Soraya Chemaly: Yeah.

Rebecca Ching: They’re like, “Okay, see ya,” you know? But that, if to acknowledge that, it’s like a house of cards.

Soraya Chemaly: Yes, I agree.

Rebecca Ching: And there’s almost this protection, too, that, “I don’t have the space to even go there,” —

Soraya Chemaly: Right.

Rebecca Ching: — is what I sense from a  lot of incredible folks just trying to keep it all together.

Soraya Chemaly: I agree with you. One of the reasons I thought — I am a writer, but I didn’t think this was very interesting — narrative therapy, writing things down, it engages a different part of the brain.

Rebecca Ching: Yep.


Soraya Chemaly: But it also slows you down, right? That fear you described, I think is real. If you have to sit there and you think, “Let me write how I’m feeling, and can I say the words?” A lot of women can’t. I couldn’t, right? For years I would never say I’m angry, and then I thought, “But wait, why won’t I say it? What am I scared of?”

Rebecca Ching: Wow.

Soraya Chemaly: “What’s gonna happen if I say I’m angry, and why is that inhibiting me,” right? And so, I do say it’s important to use the words, so you label all your emotions, you know, not just that one.

Rebecca Ching: Right.

Soraya Chemaly: But then you have to make meaning out of it, and for me, writing has always enabled me to do that in a thorough and thoughtful way, and I think that process is a good way to regulate the fear of everything rushing through the door and crushing you.

Rebecca Ching: Mm. Yeah, I just think this is where it hits on that issue we have overall as a culture. We have a discomfort problem.

Soraya Chemaly: Oh, yes, absolutely.

Rebecca Ching: Our capacity for any difficult emotion isn’t there, and so, I love the approach of writing. The slowing down is scary because then it’s the noticing and the space. And so, by saying, “I am angry,” you said not only does it matter for women, but you said it matters for our society. Can you say more about that?

Soraya Chemaly: Yes, I feel this pretty strongly and the way I think I put it was that a society that doesn’t respect women’s anger doesn’t respect women, right? Because, in fact, anger is a signal emotion.


It’s a sign that there’s something wrong, that there’s a threat, that there’s an injustice, that you or the people you care about are not being taken care of, right? In fact, we recognize all of that for white men. We recognize some of that for other men (Black and brown men).

Now, just to be clear, in The United States, anger is not an accessible emotion for Black men because they’ll end up immediately criminalized for expressing anger, so much so that if you remember the Key & Peele skit, the anger translator for President Obama, they literally had skits where they would show Obama saying something in a calm, measured tone, and then they would do an entire skit about how angry he was and what he really wanted to say, and that was all very funny but, in fact, not funny at the same time, right?

Rebecca Ching: Right.

Soraya Chemaly: Because he was bookended by two presidents who had no problem expressing anger, were rewarded for expressing anger, and leveraged public anger, which is one of the reasons I wrote the book, because that was very clearly the case when Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were running for president. Both of those men could look unhinged, could get red in the face, could act in horrible ways, and people, because it confirmed our ideals of masculinity, trusted them more, thought they were more like leaders.

Whereas, for a woman to do that, because it’s so transgressive, it undermines her moral authority and her leadership. So Hillary Clinton, then, had to stay perfectly calm at all times, which meant she really couldn’t tap into populous anger, and then was additionally called inauthentic because she just couldn’t show emotion.

Rebecca Ching: Yeah. 

Soraya Chemaly: Because any emotion she showed would have been weaponized against her.


Rebecca Ching: It was a horrible vice grip, which leads me to my next question. You wrote extensively about this in your book, and it’s something that I’ve been sitting with and having conversations with people about. I first want to ask what was going through your mind when you saw the data that the majority of white women voted to elect Donald Trump for president, someone who was explicitly not respectful of women in so many very clear and crass and violent ways? What was your experience when you saw that data?

Soraya Chemaly: I think I’m probably not a great person to ask because, in fact, probably — I grew up in a Black majority country. I came here when I was a teenager to finish school. My experience of race and racial dynamics and gender are — my form of experience was in a British colony, not even a country that had independence yet.

Rebecca Ching: Mm.

Soraya Chemaly: So I’m still in the process, decades later, of figuring out race in America, right? Thinking about the differences. And so, as a young woman feminist in high school and college, my feminist formation was in a lot of Black radical thought. So it was not surprising to me that white women voted for Donald Trump. It was disappointing. It was frustrating. But I could understand it. I could understand exactly why they voted for Donald Trump, and they voted for Donald Trump because of a whole long — I mean, the list is as long as my arm. That doesn’t make it any better, you know? It is what it is. They voted for him, and they will again, you know?

And so, that comes back to me, to what you said about discomfort. We refuse to sit with the discomfort of our history, of the violence of our history, of the white supremacy of our history, of the genocides of our history, and of the way that misogyny is threaded through all of those things.


Rebecca Ching: So, okay, getting a little vulnerable here. My shock when I saw that — I mean, obviously the bubbles I’m in, the privilege that I have, I get it, and still there are parts of me that it’s like one of those things that just seems so obvious why this is not a good choice.

Soraya Chemaly: Yes.

Rebecca Ching: And yet I read, and obviously I’m steeped in psychology. I understand —

Soraya Chemaly: Yeah, you can understand it all.

Rebecca Ching: But it’s still this internal dialogue. So can you name some of — you said there are reasons as long as your arm. What are some of the top reasons there?

Soraya Chemaly: Well. Sure. I’m a secular woman activist. So one reason, to me, is that religiosity is much more powerful in The United States than in other paired nations. So you had a lot of white Christian Evangelicals and Catholics voting for Trump, and those are very conservative gender binary, sex segregated, complementary roles for men and women. In those systems of belief, even if you’re a strong, intelligent, working woman, you still go into a place of worship where women cannot have priestly authority, and where access to the divine has to be mediated by a man, and into spaces where women’s voices are silenced. Let me just put that out there.

So, culturally, the runoff effects of conservative, religious cultures include men as leaders and women as followers. That’s thing one. Thing two is that if you’re a white woman in a white supremacist society and you feel that you’re under assault and that darker people are coming to get you and will change your society and are taking — I mean, there’s a lot of fear and disgust and contempt. And so, proximity to a person who has power in that society (a white man and a white power structure) makes logical sense. “I need to align myself with the thing that’s gonna keep me safe.”


So all over the world we know that the first people to support authoritarian leaders are women who are in the most unequal societies gender-wise. It doesn’t matter if you are in Afghanistan, if you’re in Illinois, if you’re in Germany, if you’re in Kenya, if you’re in Brazil, the same dynamic happens because what those women want is rules, punishment for people who break those rules, and a strong leader who’s gonna make them feel safer.

I’ll just add one last thing which is the intimacy of relationships matters. If you love your spouse, if you love your children, particularly if you have young, white boys who feel under attack in this society — that’s a whole other conversation, right, the privilege and entitlement versus the oppression. So that’s a complex equation, right? So we need white women to break with whiteness in order to find a path to saner gender relationships, you know?

[Inspirational Music]

Rebecca Ching: Oof, leading is hard. Leading is also often controversial as you navigate staying aligned to your values, your mission, and your boundaries. Hold those boundaries. They’re sacred. Navigating the inevitable controversy can challenge your confidence, clarity, and calm, and that could be scary depending on your relationship with anger.


Now, I know you don’t mind making the hard decisions but sometimes the stakes seem higher and can bring up old echoes of doubts and insecurities during times when you need to feel rock solid on your plan and action. Finding a coach who gets the nuances of your business and leading in our complex and polarized world can help you identify the blocks that keep you playing it safe and small.

Leading today is not a fancy title or fluffy bragging rights. It is brave and bold work to stay the course when the future is unknown and the doubts and pains from the past keep showing up to shake things up. Internal emotional practices and systemic strategies are needed to keep the protector of cynicism at bay and foster a hope that is actionable and aligned and has a deep respect and appreciation for the wisdom of your anger and rage.

So, when the stakes are high and you don’t want to lose focus, when you want to navigate inevitable conflict between your ears and with those you lead, when time is of the essence and you want to make hard decisions with confidence and clarity, then Unburdened Leader Coaching is for you and where you deepen the capacity to tolerate the vulnerability of change, innovation, and doing things differently than the status quo.

To start your Unburdened Leader Coaching process with me go to www.rebeccaching.com and book a free connection call. I can’t wait to hear from you!

[Inspirational Music]

Rebecca Ching: I want to get to some of the very juicy, powerful quotes from your book that I’d love for you to elaborate on. This one just jumped out at me. Here you said:

“Self-help is a neoliberal view saying that everything is the fault of the individual. We can’t self-help our way to being heard, taken seriously, paid fairly, cared for adequately, and treated with dignity. We cannot self-help our way to peace or to justice.”


Can you say a little bit more even though that’s a whole conversation, too?

Soraya Chemaly: Yeah, I mean, I think the summary of that is you need self-help when you’re not being helped, when your society doesn’t care for you, when the people around you cannot possibly meet your needs because you’re living in systems that are designed to deny you your rights and your needs. And so, yeah, I’m not a big (you can tell) self-help fan. I mean, certainly, we can all do things to improve, maybe, our day-to-day lives or to reduce the stressful impacts of the circumstances of our lives, but self-help is not the path to revolutionizing society or changing norms. I mean, it’s just not. It’s a very conservative ideology.

Rebecca Ching: Mm-hmm, it’s also one that costs money and time —

Soraya Chemaly: Mm-hmm. Especially women.

Rebecca Ching: — and makes us feel bad. It’s a Band-Aid that doesn’t stick.

All right, so this is another quote that I think encapsulated a lot of what my leadership clients, in particular, talk about. You wrote:

“When a woman shows anger in institutional, political, and professional settings, she automatically violates gender norms. She is met with a version perceived as more hostile, irritable, less competent and likable; the kiss of death for a class of people expected to maintain social connections. The same people who might opt to work for an angry-sounding, aggressive man are likely to be less tolerant of the same behavior if the boss were a woman.”

Soraya Chemaly: You know, I think we see that everywhere. We see that in schools with disrespect for women teachers.


We see it in the workplace for the double standards that women who want power, like power, claim power, have power, they’re just subject to a totally different set of rules. They cannot express anger the same way. When they express the anger, it rebounds on them in a negative way. I tried to cite, frankly, as many studies as I could find because I’m a first-born Catholic girl, which means I try and use data to convince people even though I know it won’t work. It’s very hard to be a woman leader without signaling that you’re gonna nurture people and care for them and put them first. Men don’t have to do that the same way.

But what we also know is that even though the anger helps men’s leadership profiles, it doesn’t actually help them lead. This is the catch, right? In times of crisis, people trust women more. They trust women leaders more and they trust women leaders because in the end, whether they put it this way or not, the anger that men have, the chest thumping, the machismo, we see that with leaders (presidents, especially) all the time. The ones who can express anger do express anger, but that’s no substitute for substantive policy. You know, there’s lots of bluster, but what the women have to deliver is more substance.

Rebecca Ching: Yes, exactly. Yeah, it’s a false sense of security, that kind of hubris, where it actually just perpetuates more violence. It makes folks so vulnerable.

All right, another quote is — and you had a whole chapter of this, and I wish I had that chapter early in my clinical career because I’ve seen this play out. But you said:

“Women who repress their anger are twice as likely to die from heart-related disease. Noting that is the number one cause of death for women of a certain age, too.”

Soraya Chemaly: Mm, yes.


Rebecca Ching: So, yeah, can you say a little bit more about that?

Soraya Chemaly: You know, there are a lot of studies about this at this point.

Rebecca Ching: Yes.

Soraya Chemaly: And what was shocking to me, I will tell you, not once but twice during my copy/edit process a fact checker and a lawyer (both men), were the only men who read my book before it was published, both men called me out on that entire section and said I was wrong and that that wasn’t true. And I had cited, as I do, ten studies, right?

Rebecca Ching: Yes!

Soraya Chemaly: And so, the first time it happened, the copy editor read it, and literally I could feel his anger. He was like, “That’s not true. This is a disease that affects men more.” And so, I wrote back to my editor, and I said, “Listen, I know I’m a little long and you wanted me to cut words, but I need you to understand that I’m adding a thousand words right here for this man because he’s an example of the problem in action, and I’m not removing this. He didn’t even read the citations,” right? So I add whatever, and then it goes to the lawyers, and the lawyer comes back with, “This can’t possibly be right. I think you need to remove this section.” And I’m thinking what is so threatening about explaining that women are suffering from heart illnesses? And I think it’s because for most of the twentieth century, the latter half of the twentieth century, heart attacks were associated with men having stress at work.

Rebecca Ching: Ah.

Soraya Chemaly: So, in fact, the fact of heart attacks is like a masculine thing, and I’m like, “No, actually. Don’t fight with me. Fight with the CDC. Fight with Johns Hopkins. Fight with Brigham Young. Fight with Mass General. I’m literally just sharing information that you don’t like.” But yes, and it’s not just the heart, right? It’s everything. It’s autoimmune disorders, self-harming behaviors, anxiety and depression.

Rebecca Ching: Right!


Soraya Chemaly: There are so many things that suppressed and repressed anger are a part of, not necessarily direct causation. Pain regulation, right?

Rebecca Ching: Yes.

Soraya Chemaly: Right? The list just went on and on.

Rebecca Ching: Yeah, the autoimmune piece has been really fascinating to watch. I see that when people have healed, whether it’s from complex PTSD or a long-term eating disorder, and then all of a sudden there’s more stuff that comes up. [Laughs]

Soraya Chemaly: Right.

Rebecca Ching: But the complex trauma piece has been pretty consistent with folks who have had a lot of relational trauma in their background and then had these autoimmune struggles.

Okay, this one also stood out to me:

“If your appearance is important to you, and you know that the studies show that it is for an overwhelming majority of women, it’s important to consciously balance how our bodies look with our body’s health and competence.”

And then you add:

“Self-objectification makes it hard to feel your anger or do anything about it.”

Soraya Chemaly: Mm-hmm.

Rebecca Ching: Can you say more?

Soraya Chemaly: Sure. So self-surveillance, which is that constant watching that we do of ourselves — our hair, our eyes, our weight, our pose, you know? There are so many ways that we learn to self-surveil so that we look our best, so that we don’t look too old, so that we don’t look too young, so that we don’t look too mad, whatever it is, right, there’s self-surveillance. Self-objectification is a deeper quality of that, which is where our bodies, we only see them from the outside as objects the way other people see them. And, really and truly one of the more disturbing facts that I’ve had to process in this work over decades is that in The United States, girls start sexualizing themselves and self-objectifying at the age of six.

Rebecca Ching: Mm. Yep.

Soraya Chemaly: And they did some very clever studies to look at that, and when you self-objectify, in fact, you lose the ability to feel your own sensations, enteroception (which is the ability to feel what is happening inside of your body) is reduced.

Rebecca Ching: Right.

Soraya Chemaly: So things like feeling your own pulse. You lose the ability to do that. Your heartbeat. So, along the way, you also lose the ability to connect what’s happening in your emotions with your body, and we tend to think that emotions happen in the brain, but in fact, it doesn’t work that way.

Rebecca Ching: Nope.

Soraya Chemaly: Right? Emotions are entirely embodied. Your cognition is embodied, and there’s this rapid — we can’t even process it. It’s just a back and forth throughout our entire system and we lose the ability to recognize when we’re angry. That definitely, I know, happened to me at one time. I couldn’t even — you know, whatever it is, a racing heartbeat or the flush or whatever it is that you might have thought when you were 7, “Oh, I’m angry about it,” when you’re 27 you don’t have that sense. You’re like, “Oh, I’m not angry. I must just be hot.” And then three days later you’re like, “Oh, man. I was fucking mad!” But then it’s too late, you know?

Rebecca Ching: Yeah, and the fact that it’s still hard for folks to trust that we feel things and are processing things before we get language around it.

Soraya Chemaly: Yes.

Rebecca Ching: And to start paying attention to our bodies.

Soraya Chemaly: Yes.

Rebecca Ching: Yet that self-objectification and the protection that happens and the masking and the conform — how that really does shut down our anger and other emotions. We’re shutting down our data center.

Soraya Chemaly: Yeah! We’re hurting ourselves when we do it, yeah.

Rebecca Ching: Yeah, and billions of dollars are spent to celebrate this process too.


Soraya Chemaly: Right? And I think it’s interesting too, I’ve just written another book about resilience and the bankruptcy of resilience narratives, and the thing that’s really striking to me is that women, of course, are much more associated with the body and with irrationality. It became very clear to me along the way that emotions are irrational, right? And we think thoughts and then we have emotions. But, in fact, that’s also not true, the way that whole equation works. But anger is rational, right?

Rebecca Ching: Yes.

Soraya Chemaly: When something happens and you have a response that is a rational response to the bad thing, you’re going to feel angry. You don’t feel giddy with happiness when something bad happens. That would be an irrational response, right? You become hysterical, that’s irrational. Mind you, I’m using the word “hysterical” with the full knowledge that that, too, is part of the problem, right? We’ve got seminal works in hysterical women, but I think that we really need to break down that mind-body, rational-irrational dualism to get to the heart of this problem. 

Rebecca Ching: No question, and that’s the work where there’s so much in the self-help industry: “Change your thoughts, change your life,” you know?

Soraya Chemaly: Yes. Mental toughness.

Rebecca Ching: Oh, gosh, yes.

Soraya Chemaly: Yeah.

Rebecca Ching: All of that and you do a good job addressing this in your book. It’s not about just raging on and spilling our rage on everyone without guardrails or respect and  boundaries. You really do do a good job of talking about it’s not whatever goes. But it’s just to start connecting with our anger and getting to the heart of that.

I guess, you know, I’m curious how has your understanding and expression of anger in your life changed since you were younger and what does your relationship with anger mean to you today?


Soraya Chemaly: Well, I had to teach myself how to be angry. I had to teach myself how to even think about being angry because it was so off-limits to my mother, to my grandmother, to me, and I also didn’t have an angry father. I was blessed to not have an angry father. The number of times my father expressed anger to me, personally, I could count on one hand. He just wasn’t a raging, angry person. If he had a problem, he would tell you what the problem was, and then you would talk about it, you know? I’m really fortunate because I know that that’s not a lot of people’s experience. I write about that too, in fact, because it gave me the freedom to say things and to test and to push because I never was scared of him, and too many people grow up scared at home, you know, and that’s a lot because of dysfunctional anger. Mothers get enraged, fathers get enraged, and then you’re just shut down, you’re too scared, you know?

But in my case, it was more a good-girl syndrome, you know? It was just, “Be a lady. Be polite.” I won the courtesy prize in fifth grade. It was important to be considerate, all the sort of virtues of femininity. I started questioning all of that when I was fairly young, in fact, and it was because I was very close to my brother. My brother and I were best friends. We were two years apart. We did everything together, and then we reached an age where people didn’t allow that to happen anymore, and they didn’t allow it to happen in a way that gave him more freedom and restricted me, and I just knew that was wrong. I was like, “Well, there’s no way that’s right, so why are people doing that?” I’m still on a lifelong quest to understand that question, you know?

Rebecca Ching: Mm.


Soraya Chemaly: But I will say that I was driven to it out of necessity. I just thought, “What is happening? I don’t want to be sick, and I don’t want to feel this way, and so, I better understand what’s happening.” And it didn’t take me long to get to this, to be honest.

Rebecca Ching: So what are the stakes, for all of us right now at this time, to express our anger instead of silence it?

Soraya Chemaly: Well, first of all, I want to acknowledge what we just talked about is that that’s not an option for many people.

Rebecca Ching: Yeah.

Soraya Chemaly: They are in dangerous situations. They’re in vulnerable situations.

Rebecca Ching: Yeah.

Soraya Chemaly: They’re in dependent situations, right? So there are lots of ways. One of my goals was not so much that people should be out there expressing their anger but that they should understand the ways in which it was self-destructive not to understand their anger, right? So very few people ultimately are free to express their anger in productive ways, and that’s the goal where we can all have all our emotions and feel safe and that we have trusted societies around, trusted people and societies.

Rebecca Ching: So let me reframe that, because you’re absolutely right, and I appreciate that you address that in your book, too, that this is not an option or a luxury for a lot of people in a lot of different situations.

Soraya Chemaly: Right.

Rebecca Ching: What are the stakes for those of us who can express our anger, to do so and not silence ourselves in support, especially of those who are not able?

Soraya Chemaly: I think that’s very important, right? I think it’s very important to say things on behalf of people who want you to say it and can’t say it, to put a stake in the ground, to be public, to be active, to change the stereotypes. It’s a funny thing. Stereotypes change all the time. They really do.


They evolve, and so, if you don’t have an image of what positive, productive anger looks like, you can’t change the stereotype, right? The stereotype of the crazy woman, the angry Black woman, the hot Latina woman, the sad Asian woman, the spoiled brat teenager, the old hag. You can’t change any of those stereotypes until you have enough critical mass, until you have enough movement in the society that enables people to say, “That’s a lie. That stereotype is wrong.

Look at what’s happened as the result of women coming together in anger. Every feminist activist movement I have been part of, every intellectual movement I’ve been part of starts off with pissed off women who have a good sense of humor, have unbounded energy, are willing to go out, ask for money, find money, organize, do what needs to be done, find friendship, sometimes find a lot of dissension, but are dedicated to making change. People have to do that in different ways.

For some people, it’s baking. For some people, it’s painting. For some people, it’s community activism. For some people, it’s raising children in a different way than they were raised. It doesn’t matter, you know? There’s no rule about how people should channel their energy, and the anger is a form of energy. But you have to make meaning from it, and you have to have enough self-compassion that you don’t want it to hurt you anymore.

Rebecca Ching: That’s incredible. Thank you so much. Before we go, I’ve got some quickfire questions that I often ask guests at the end of our conversation, and I’m curious, what are you reading right now?

Soraya Chemaly: Oh, my god. Ah, my god, I just read a book called Reproduction. I loved this book, and I hated it at the same time. Do you know this book?

Rebecca Ching: I don’t.

Soraya Chemaly: Okay, hold on. It is a novel by Louisa Hall, and I knew what I was getting myself into. I knew it, but it’s the most comprehensively written book I’ve ever read that describes pregnancy and childbirth and what it’s like to be a woman of reproductive age.


I wrote in rage about the fact that my rage about abortion laws. The cruelty of abortion laws stems from many different things along the way, but if you have ever carried a baby, you understand that there’s no separation. That’s a fiction. It’s a fantasy. It’s some kind of abstraction that men came up with based on their experiences. And if you’ve had a child, you are building that child out of your own body and your blood and your energy and your food and your cells. There’s just no saying, “Oh, you’re a vessel, and you’ve got this –,” I mean, it’s just absurd.

It’s also brutal, and I’m happy for the earth mothers of the world who don’t think that. But for the vast majority of women who have ever carried pregnancies to any length of time or given birth, died, lived, whatever, it’s scary, and it can be very dangerous, and we don’t talk about that because then people would really stop, [Laughs] you know, if they had the choice. This book does not hide any of it.

Rebecca Ching: Okay. Thank you for that. What song are you playing on repeat?

Soraya Chemaly: Ah, that’s so funny. So I’m gonna have to look at my — I do play a lot of songs on repeat. It depends on what I’m doing. Let me see. I actually do have one really great song. One second. 


It’s called “Do You Know Me By Heart” by Cameron Avery, and “Say What You Will” by James Blake, and oh, Imogen Heap’s “Hide and Seek.” For some reason those are the songs I was listening to on a loop this past week.

Rebecca Ching: Awesome. What is your favorite piece of eighties pop culture?

Soraya Chemaly: Oh, my god. Honestly, I’ve gotta say that the gender-bender-ness of seventies and eighties pop culture, it’s sometimes I think really hard for younger people today to really appreciate the sense of change and imminent freedom before the backlash hit. Does that make sense?

Rebecca Ching: Yeah. Yeah.

Soraya Chemaly: It was just this wide-open thing, and I know we have incredibly revolutionary queer cultures everywhere going on, but pop culture stopped being that for a long time. It wasn’t until maybe eight years ago that women pop artists would even say the word “feminist” because it was such a dirty word to them. That just wasn’t so true in the eighties, you know? If you think of someone like Debbie Harry, think of what it meant to have reggae and ska and punk and all of that happening at once.

Rebecca Ching: There’s some magic there for sure. What is your mantra right now?

Soraya Chemaly: I have no mantra other than “can I please sleep through the night.”

Rebecca Ching: [Laughs] Amen to that. What is an unpopular opinion that you hold?

Soraya Chemaly: [Laughs] The unpopular opinion I hold is that boys are in distress and a lot of it has to do with their cognitive dissonance over not having dominance handed to them on a plate.

Rebecca Ching: And who or what inspires you to be a better leader and human?

Soraya Chemaly: Honestly, I really struggle with the fact that we live in a world that has such immense suffering, and that so much of the suffering is unnecessary and avoidable.

Rebecca Ching: Mm.


Soraya Chemaly: I am no longer Catholic, and I have a very secular orientation, but as a very young child I will say that the Catholicism I grew up with was a social justice Catholicism, and you couldn’t grow up in it if you were a child like me and not think that that can’t be, we can’t allow that to continue. So I don’t know if there’s one person or one thing, but I just think everything has to happen at the same time always, you know? Every little bit counts.

Rebecca Ching: Every little bit counts. That’s a great, great thought to end on. Where can people find you and connect with you and your work?

Soraya Chemaly: That’s a good question too because, of course, social media is just such a complete shit show at the moment, right? I have an Instagram page that’s dedicated to my writing called @ragebecomesher page and Facebook pages and Twitter as well. I haven’t been doing a lot of regular writing because I’ve been writing this book. But all of those places are where I would share my work.

Rebecca Ching: Okay, we’ll make sure to link to all of that.

Soraya Chemaly: Thank you.

Rebecca Ching: And I really do hope you come back and talk about this book that you’re working on.

Soraya Chemaly: Oh, I will! I’ll make sure that I send you a copy.

Rebecca Ching: Oh, I’d be honored.

Soraya Chemaly: Yes.

Rebecca Ching: This was a joy. Thank you so much for making the time.

Soraya Chemaly: It was so nice to talk to you. It’s so great to talk to you.

Rebecca Ching: And I look forward to reading your new book. So thank you so much for all that you put out in the world. I really do value it.

Soraya Chemaly: Thank you!

[Inspirational Music]


Rebecca Ching: Before you go, I want to make sure you take away a few of the many important nuggets of deep wisdom from my Unburdened Leader conversation with Soraya Chemaly. Soraya put language and many citations in her book around why so many women feel angry and how anger in men is treated so differently in women due to gender roles and the ways women’s anger is valued as a parent and domestic worker and not valued outside of the home. She also discussed why women are so afraid to say what they need and the well-documented impact of this suppression and what it has on our health, our heart health, autoimmune diseases, chronic pain, and so much more.

Soraya also shared the dangers of detaching anger from femininity and how this causes women to lose connection with the protection and wise information that anger offers us. This conversation was an important reminder of the connection between stress, exhaustion, and unexpressed and unwitnessed anger. So powerful.

After listening to this conversation, what stirred in you about your relationship with anger? How do you want to shift your relationship with anger and what do you need to unlearn about how you see your anger and anger in others? I’m seeing more and more women reclaim their rage and channel it to action, speaking up, pushing back, and saying, “Enough!” But this often comes at a great cost in a culture that still says, “Be nice. Be agreeable. Be conciliatory. Be controlled.” We’re not taught to trust our anger, and instead suppress it for fear of the consequences. But the call now, more than ever, is to do the ongoing deep work so we can recognize, learn from, and metabolize our anger in ways that our values align.


This is no easy task in a world that wants to capitalize and exploit our outrage and to control us. This is the ongoing work of the unburdened leader.

Thank you so much for joining this episode of The Unburdened Leader. You can find this episode, show notes, and free Unburdened Leader resources, along with ways to sign up for my Unburdened Leader weekly email, and work with me at www.rebeccaching.com!

And if this episode was impactful to you, I’d be honored and grateful if you left a rating, a review, and shared it with some folks that you think may benefit from it. And this episode was produced by the amazing team at Yellow House Media. Thank you, Yellow House! All right, there you go! We’re on our way to episode 100!

[Inspirational Music]

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meet the founder

I’m Rebecca Ching, LMFT.

I help change-making leaders get to the root of recurring struggles and get confidently back on track with your values, your vision, and your bottom line. 

I combine psychotherapeutic principles, future-forward coaching, and healthy business practices to meet the unique needs and challenges of highly-committed leaders in a high-stakes world.

This is unburdened leadership

EP 29: Frank Anderson, MD – Challenging the Fear of Rejection and Leading with Vulnerability – Part 2

Everybody’s carrying a burden that’s weighing them down. If you dare to care, it is inevitable you will end up carrying the burdens from grief, betrayal, and rejection. And these burdens are often unseen. These invisible struggles fuel loneliness, shame, and despair. Eventually, the unaddressed burdens we carry start to impact our ability to live […]


EP 27: Frank Anderson, MD – Challenging the Fear of Rejection and Leading with Vulnerability – Part 1

We watch leaders crash & burn all the time. We watch with morbid fascination as leaders fall out of grace because their unaddressed pain led them on an unsustainable path of poor choices–even dangerous and deadly choices–to avoid feeling the vulnerability of rejection. Those times when you experienced the pain of rejection leave their mark […]


EP 21: Leading With Body Resilience with Co-Author of More Than A Body, Lindsay Kite, PhD

Caring about those you lead means caring about the harm you may unknowingly be doing. Many of us who fit western standards of beauty and live in conventionally abled bodies don’t understand how our choices can cause pain. We’ve internalized ableism and fat-phobia to the point where we can’t even grasp how our words & […]

Mental Well-being

EP 19: Defining Your Own Version Success with Natalie Borton, Founder of Natalie Borton Designs

The quickest way to crash and burn your business and life is to place your worthiness and safety with the opinions of others. This may sound like a captain-obvious statement but the pull to care what others think is something fierce. And it is sneaky. The competitive drive is no stranger to many of you. […]

Work-life Integration

EP 17: Community Over Competition with Co-Founder of The Rising Tide Society Natalie Franke

Community over competition is indeed a well-worn hashtag. The cynical can dismiss it. Those beat up by year after year of injustice understandably call BS. But in practice, leading with the lens of community over competition is subversive and culture-shifting. Community over competition requires deep life-long work to unburden the load we carry of scarcity […]

Leading Teams

EP 02: How Self-Leadership Saves You From The Relentless Drive To Succeed with Dr. Richard Schwartz

My body was telling me to take a step back and reevaluate. Five years ago I had pneumonia and I couldn’t really do anything other than prop myself up on the couch and breathe… …breathe and think about how I ended up in this mess I’d run myself into the ground. My schedule was full-to-overflowing. […]


And clearing the way for a more innovative, inclusive future.

Unburdened Leaders are breaking
cycles of workplace burnout…

Are you about this, too? Let’s meet and see if I’m your coach – no expectations. Just connection.