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Layne Beachley: let go of adoption dream thieves, sit with discomfort & find your instrinsic value.


Layne Beachley is one of the most successful surfers, male or female, in history with 7 world titles and 29 tour victories. Layne has an experience of a traumatic childhood in losing her mother at 6 and finding out she was adopted at 8. She reflects on her own life and how she wished she had been told at the outset that she was adopted. She wants adopted children to recognise they were accepted into a heart relationship, not rejected.We learn from Layne how winning and success were driven from adoption fear until she reassessed and let go of the story of rejection and judgement and decided to chose connection. That allowed her to stop sabotaging relationships and move towards love. Layne shares some great tips in how we can help children who are adopted, from creating honest, open curious relationships with our children where they are encouraged to be curious and safe to explore their history. She reflects on her own life and how she wished she had been told at the outset that she was adopted. She wants adopted children to recognise they were accepted into a heart relationship, not rejected. Layne shows us that it is intrinsic value that is important, not extrinsic, and she shows us the power of having a really clear vision, which allows one to have the capacity to chose when dream thieves are around. She also encourages parents and caregivers to step back from judgements others project, to empower you with empathy to explore where others have reactions to you or your children. By speaking with love rather than judgement, relationships will thrive, and we can then explore with our children how did that make you feel, why were you uncomfortable, how would you normally respond to this and how can I equip you to ensure you aren't impacted in the same way again. Layne says sometimes the mirror needs to talk back, love silences fear and that we need to embrace silence more and remind ourselves that we are enough.

00:00 - Start 00:50 - Welcome Layne. Who is Layne Beachley? 04:07 - School was cruisy but at best a back up plan. FOCUS: Follow One Course Until Successful 05:28 - Clear clarity of vision gives one the capacity to chose when dream thieves are around 07:30 - Winning was mainly fear based, avoiding discomfort. The education system could do more to embrace and reward curiosity 12:30 - Parents need to honour and articulate their own feelings. Many Dads fix things and Mums tell things, whereas we need to allow children to move through discomfort at their own pace 15:33 - Parenting from trauma requires safety to fail and make mistakes, to ask questions 17:50 - Unsafe situations arise but trusting your own instincts and intuition avoids mistakes 19:55 - The ocean keeps me alive, helps me feel centred and connected 20:40 - Therapies like Neural Emotional Technique and Rebirthing breathing techniques helped, as did yoga and meditation 23:30 - Reconnecting with birth family helped 24:33 - We don’t require external validation to connect with who we intrinsically are. The programs we are on are reprogrammable. Focus on love not abandonment 25:53 - In relationships, its continually evolving how you express yourself and manage triggers, but my safest place is in his arms (husbands) 28:08 - Find a way to contribute to the world and make that your intrinsic motivation 30:21 - Write a list of simple things you can do for yourself and tick them off 34:17 - Birthdays 35:09 - I am enough. Let go of the story, the judgement, and build the connection 39:35 - Have conversations with adopted children often: be honest, encourage curiosity, build connection, love and acceptance so they feel to safe to explore their history 41:42 - Stay detached from the judgement others project on to you. That gives you the empowerment and empathy to go back to them and say has something I have done upset you? Sometimes the mirror needs to speak.


This is Sonia Wagner, representing PCA Families in one of our recordings that capture lived experience and best practice research-based learning that assist kinship, permanent and adoptive parents/carers in supporting young people. PCA Families has a zero tolerance of child abuse. I would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we meet and pay respect to elders past and present and express our intention to move together to a place of justice and partnership.

Today we are discussing adoption with Layne Beachley. Layne needs very little introduction in my view as everyone knows she is one of the most successful surfers, male or female, in history with 7 world titles and 29 tour victories. Further to that Layne is simply one of the most genuinely unapologetically honest people around with an experience of a traumatic childhood that has not defined her but perhaps shaped her.


00:50 - Welcome Layne. Who is Layne Beachley? Tell us more about yourself.

My life story might take the whole hour. Or you can I just leave people to read my book: Beneath the Waves. To shortcut it I was adopted into a beach loving family with a last name Beachley and became a world champion surfer. Tadaa! Life in the fast lane.

I found my childhood to be filled with fun and adventure. A fair share of trauma. Having lost my mother when I was 6 and being told I was adopted at 8. And that was the moment that really shaped me that was the moment that I started to subscribe to this story that I was worthless and didn’t belong anywhere. And the only way that I could prove myself to be worthy of love and belong somewhere was to become the best in the World at something. So at 14 I decided to become a world champion surfer. Much to my school teachers disappointment. Why? Because I was very studious. I was really good at science, maths, English and geography. In year 9 I started to dabble in competitions and came dead last in the first events I competed in and that inspired me so I decided to keep working at it. And then in year 10 I won my first regional event and then won the State events then went to the national events and thought I really like this. This winning, this losing and just surfing. So I started distancing myself from my studies and focussing my attention elsewhere. So I failed during year 11. My year 11 report card literally said lock up Layne’s surfboard, it is a distraction from her studies and it will amount to nothing.

My heart goes out to everyone doing their HSC. There is so much pressure on these young adult shoulders to be really clear about where they are going and what they are going to do to change the world and very few people actually have the capacity to define that at such a young age. There are still people in their 50 and 60s that still don’t know what they are going to do.

04:07School seemed cruisy for you but for many of the children in our families that isn’t always the case?

It wasn’t cruisy but at best a backup plan. Because I focussed the majority of my attention outside of school. I had a couple of girlfriends at school I relied on for social interaction, mentoring and social interaction and connections and community. But I also had a bigger and broader and more fun and enjoyable community outside of school so that really helped me maintain perspective and balance. Even today and while I was winning world titles, the majority of my friendship group didn’t surf. So I had this really good balance in life. It wasn’t all just one thing. Even though I prescribe the FOCUS Acronym: Follow One Course Until Successful. But that’s when your on that course. So when your not competing I go to the bush or go snowboarding or hang out with friends that don’t surf and do something else. Maintaining that equilibrium in life is really the challenge.

05:28You had that really clear goal. Is that important for every adoptee to find? Or is it about having balance in groups of people to go to?

I think its really important for every individual to find. It’s got nothing to do with whether you are adopted or not. It’s having that sustained success model. Having a really articulated vision for yourself. As young adults we are easily persuaded. With peer group pressure we want to belong and connect so we feel like we need to fit in. I was fortunate to be so focussed and driven to succeed in this world of surfing that anything that conflicted with that I saw as a distraction and I just pushed it away. Whether it was late nights, drugs, partying, even boys. They were a distraction from my surfing. It gave me a really clear set of boundaries that I placed on myself. But that was because I was fortunate that I had a really clear vision. So I feel that it’s the clarity of vision of knowing where we are going and why, gives us the power to choose. Second to that is having the dream team around you. To elevate and nurture that in you. Are we all born world champions? No not me. But I had a dream team around me. That’s not to say that I didn’t encounter my fair share of dream thieves. My school teachers. Dream thieves. Some of my peers at school. Dream thieves. Some of my peers on tour. Dream thieves. Some of the guys at Manly. Dream thieves. I was surrounded by them.

07:30You have reflected that winning never satisfied you so you kept raising the bar and that was a way of avoiding rejection and that you sabotaged relationships and found it hard to find empathy for self.  You also won titles in both a love and fear mindset. 

I won 7 world titles and 6 of them consecutively, but I won 5 in a state of fear and 2 in a state of love. The difference between the two, and being number 1 and number 7 were in love, the bookends of my career, is that the first and last were in love. The fear based mentality is the adoptee mentality. The fear of rejection, the fear of abandonment, the fear of disconnection, the fear of looking stupid, the fear of not being enough. Can you see my t-shirt that is a daily reminder that says “I am enough”. We all need triggers and we all need reminders no matter how grounded or present or aware we are, sometimes the stories we subscribe to take us off track and we need circuit breakers to bring us back and wearing t-shirts like this is one of my circuit breakers.

Those 5 world titles in the fear based mentality were essentially win at all costs. That was sabotage mode. Operating out of fear. As an adoptee, there seems to be a continuous theme or constant fear of rejection or abandonment. The way that it shows up in my life is that if I am pushing people away, I am operating out of fear of rejection, so I like to push people away before I can be rejected. If I am behaving in a way that I know is not congruent with who I am, because now I am operating in a way that gives people a reason to reject me. So those two styles of behaviour are literally validation points. They are confirmation bias. I know if I behave this way I will get pushed away. Then I get pushed away and I say see I told you so. We have to challenge our own confirmation bias because over time they become anchors and when we anchor ourselves in these belief patterns they become self-serving and become self-fulfilling prophecies and we wonder why our lives have turned to crap and we wonder why no one wants to reach out and love us and support us because we have spent so long pushing everyone away to protect ourselves. I think that is what I was referring to earlier about why children have trouble in school. Im no good at maths I’m going to play up over here and the teacher will let me out and I will go see the principal. We have never been taught how to embrace discomfort. If we can accept discomfort because we stopped responding years ago.

That’s what we do in life. If we find ourselves in a state of discomfort, we have never been taught how to embrace that.

A state of acceptance ends all suffering. But if our immediate response or reaction actually, because we stopped resonding years ago, when we stopped owning the emotion. If class clown to to detract eveyrones attention away from the fact that we feel stupid or not smart enough, then that can become a theme throughout our whole lives. Unfortunately our education system fails us in some ways because we are told if you have the answer put your hand up. Shouldn’t we encourage curiosity. I don’t understand, what are you talking about? I guess for parents, exploring feelings and being more aware of their own feelings.

12:30What can parents be doing with their children to help their children move through those feelings?

Parents need to learn how to honour their own feelings. If they can’t sit in their own feelings they cant really sit with their children’s feelings. That’s where we have a bit of a disconnect. If we can teach adults to honour their feelings and honour everything that comes with that, then they will have the courage and the vulnerability to sit with their children and create the safety for their children to do that. I never had the safety to do that with my family, so I had to find friends to do that with. But I also recognised at a young age the importance of owning my own feelings or otherwise I was a lay blamer and reacted out and became the class clown and did all the things that sabotaged my happiness and my education. What I am doing with my own online education platform, called the awake academy is helping parents own their truth, starting with understanding their relationship with a variety of different emotions. How they articulate it and how they connect with it. Because we can’t move past what we can’t see. We cant shift an emotion until we feel an emotion. If we want to be happy all the time we literally manufacture things around us to make us feel happy whereas deep inside we are deeply unhappy. To transcend the unhappiness we need to honour it and give ourselves permission to feel unhappy.

The other thing I’ve noticed with parents is that many Dads like to fix things, because Dads don’t like to feel uncomfortable, so they are the first to come in and fix, and Mums are very quick to come in and tell. Poking a hole through your own biases and your own reactions to the discomfort of your children and allowing children to move through discomfort at their own pace in their own time through their own processes and systems. Just because it worked for you in 1975 doesn’t mean its going to work for you in 2021. And that’s more time consuming and harder. It actually cuts the long term struggle. It hijacks the self-sabotaging behaviours that we adopt in our 30s, 40s and 50s.

15:33There are practices we are aware of that help such as compassionate parenting, strong connection and playful parenting and physical exercise, which seemed to work for you. I wonder about reflecting back on these types of things?

The words that keep coming to mind for me is felt safety. That doesn’t mean I have walls around my home and heart. That means have the safety to fail and to make mistakes and not being berated and dragged across hot coals for it. Having the safety to not know the answers, and being encouraged to ask questions, which our education system does not encourage. And having the safety to define who I am and explore the world and have a sense of independence and freedom. I was very fortunate to grow up in a time when there were no mobile phones and social media.  So if you aren’t feeling safe on these things get off. The world will keep spinning without you on there. People who you are friends with will still be friends with you. Do what makes you feel good that is legal. And if something makes you feel uncomfortable, then sit with it and ask yourself why am I uncomfortable in this space, before you blame everyone else for making you feel this way. You were actually the one that chose to feel this way. I wish I had this understanding in my teens. I probably did because I was very conscious of who I spent my time with and I always surrounded myself with people who are older than me because I felt safer with them and they would give me a hard time but from a loving lens.

17:50You did put yourself in many unsafe situations as well.  Can you contrast that felt safety with safety.

I’m not saying I always felt safe. I proactively and voluntarily put myself into an environment that was unsafe such as riding really big waves and travelling to places I had never been to before and figuring it out as I went and sleeping on couches in England and hitch hiking and being picked up by strangers, But as long as I trusted my own instincts because when I didn’t trust it that’s when I made my biggest mistakes. I think we tend to stray away from our instincts when we feel like we have to fit in or belong.

It’s not only courage but also silence to listen to our gut instinct. If we are stuck in our own thoughts and stuck int the world that’s always spinning, we don’t tune into it.

19:55 - The ocean keeps me alive, helps me feel centred and connected

The ocean is my life force and my liquid Valium at the same time. It keeps life in perspective. It keeps me well balanced, happy, centred and connected. It’s a place where I feel really free and I love running to it when I feel sad or running to it when I’m excited. Its where I heal my hurts, its where I process my pain, its where I celebrate my joys and happiness. It’s that one place I feel truly connected and centred. I still surf every day.

20:40Was there anything else that helped you with unravelling or any therapy that you did?

I am still unravelling. I have done a variety of different therapies. In the last decade, in my late 30s and 40s, I have been going through NET, Neural Emotional Technique to help me disconnect from some of the things that trigger me. To get to the fundamental basis or get to the original event of this thing that happened and how that triggers me in my late 40s. You show me the woman I will show you the child. Always reflecting back into my childhood and wondering what is it in that moment, why did that trigger that behaviour? Oh that’s the story I have associated with it!

Another thing I do is rebirthing. I do a breathe every once in a while to transmute all of the stuck energy in my body and release it. As opposed to having to always having to think about it and talk about it. Because the body keeps the score, the body stores the emotion, I can process the emotion without actually having to go through all the thoughts associated with it. At the time it can be quite painful and confronting because my hands can be really tight fisted and my body is all tight and hyperventilating, but as I continue to breathe into it and breathe deeper into it it’s like I’m surrendering to it and it releases and then I’m free from another layer of stuff.

My naturopath does it and I’m interested to teach it myself.

It was essentially the rebirthing technique that I did back in 1997 that shone a light on my fear of rejection due to my adoption. If we can sit in silence and tap into the wisdom of our own sweet hearts. We believe we have to figure everything out which is the opposite of feeling through things. If we can get out of our heads for a moment. Which is why surfing is a beautiful thing for me to do because it brings me back in connection to my body and my heart. I meditate and do yoga every day to help me sit in quiet and give myself clarity and detach from the fear based story and at least change the story to something more self serving and less sabotaging.

23:30Did reconnecting with birth family help with your life journey?

It did actually. We all want to know where we come from and we want to know why we are the way we are . Im so different from my adopted family. They are all so tall with white pasty skin. I am 5 foot five, with olive skin and I have bright blue eyes, I look very different to my family and I behave very different to my family. So getting an understanding of what are the life events and genetic traits of my biological family that are so entwined and connected to me now. So meeting my mother was literally like looking into the mirror in 17 years time. There was no question that she was my mother. There were times we did connect. I went and stayed with her for a week because she lived in America. Observing her and going oh ok and watching her gave me some understanding of why I am the way I am.

24:33 We don’t necessarily require necessarily external validation to connect with who we intrinsically are. We know who we are and we get to chose that. Our programs we are subscribing to are reprogrammable. Its just a matter of owning who you are and where you are and recognise that if you have this fear of abandonment, fear of rejection, fear of worthlessness and love, then what you fear you are trapped by. Your focus needs to expand. It wasnt until I recognised that that behaviour was fuelling me for so long. Now Im here to tell you I was very successful with that mentality. But at what cost? When I had that realisation or that awakening that the way I was behaving wasn’t congruent with who I am and how I wanted to show up. It destroyed relationships and cost me sponsorships and I wasn’t being remembered for the things I wanted to be remembered for so it was time to change.

25:53Experts suggest adoptees like yourself choose really good life partners. They choose someone who will be there for them, with felt safety. Is that something that resonates for you?

Yes I am fortunate I have chosen well. I was setup on a blind date with a rock star that does love me and adores me and is so supportive and so encouraging. There are moments I don’t feel like he is there for me 100% of the time. That is kind of unrealistic.  Deep down I know he is. But then he is triggered by things I do that piss him off. He needs to have the comfort to express his criticisms and judgements and guilt. Establishing parameters around how we do that is a forever evolving process. Let’s call it marriage. Fortunately marriage and lockdown for us has become better. We spent the first 5-6 years together apart so we have grown together as we have become older. Deep down I know he is there for me irrespective of how I behave. I do feel very embraced. The safest place that I know that I always retreat back to is in his arms.

You have experienced trauma but you are a lover of life and a powerhouse for women and change and a pioneer for women and equality. Why you and how do I tap into that?

If I can bottle it and sell it. Yes please. It comes down to your intrinsic motivation. And you are doing it in your way by hosting podcasts like this. If we are contributing to society and contributing to the world then we are fulfilling our purpose and it doesn’t matter how you do it, as long as you do it. If you are waking up every day thinking about what can I do for myself, then you lose that sense of connection with a greater purpose, and then you lose connection with that intrinsic motivation and then you move to extrinsic motivation. A lot of people go through life like that and that is ok. I was probably misread to be that kind of person especially when I was competing. But I always had a greater vision for myself on the tour than just showing up and winning world titles. That adoptee mentality drove me to be a 6 time world champion but during that and on that journey and that pathway I was deeply invested in changing the landscape in women’s surfing. Changing how it was perceived, the value it had, creating opportunities and equality for women. That’s why I sat on the Board of directors for 15 of the 19 years I was on tour. So every day I wake up and think about what can I learn today that’s going to shortcut the struggle in other people. How can I be better today and in doing that how can I help someone else be better tomorrow. My attention is always focussed on the greater good and that’s anchored in my own self worth.

30:21 Time out is necessary and it starts with writing a list of simple things you love to do

It’s necessary otherwise you get burnout. I had to care for my Dad for a whole week and I had resentment by the end of the week. How do people do this 24/7 and not get resentful and bitter and twisted and angry. What are you going to do about it? Are you going to stay that way or actually do something for yourself? Start by doing this. Write down a list of all the things you love to do. Over the next month tick one off every day, week, month whatever, but start. During lockdown we feel like everything we love has been taken away from us. There are so many valuable, quality, less expensive, less time consuming, less exorbitant things, really simple things that we love to do but we don’t make the time to do it because we don’t give ourselves permission to do it  it or we make excuses or we haven’t thought about what is it we love to do because I have to focus on all these things. But the more we do something for somebody else the more you are depleting of yourself. So for you to show up as your best, what are you going do to for yourself. Im not saying everyday you will have time to do that. But only you can. The timeframes they have to work, they are not paid enough, they don’t have enough support. These teachers, paramedics and all these front line workers need some time to reboot themselves and rest and regenerate. No one can give them that time other than them.

One of my girlfriends did this on her birthday during lockdown. She decided to get her top 10 list and she ticked off all of those items on her birthday and she said it was the best birthday she ever had. And it was simple things like walking barefoot in the grass.

If you write it down you are 40% more likely to achieve it.

34:17How I celebrate birhdays and my 50th

That all depends on all the rules and the health regulations I have all sorts of ideas but I might just end up hosting a few people at home. Either way I will celebrate it. I love my birthday. With age comes wisdom. With age comes empathy. With empathy comes stronger connections. Even though my friendship group is getting smaller my connections are getting stronger. I love celebrating birthdays. That way you remember them.

35:09 - Remember the message “I am enough”. Let go of the judgement and build connection.

I would love to come back to the message on my t-shirt. I am enough. Adoptees can rely on extrinsic or external circumstances to validate themselves. Remember Steve Jobs said what is it about you adoptees. You always think you are rejected rather than accepted. For those of us fortunate to be adopted into very loving families, we are literally accepted. We are brought into family and loving and belonging and connection and acceptance. We may not be a blood relationship but we are a heart relationship and a bond. When I start to sabotage that relationship with family I have to remind myself it is the story I am telling myself that is preventing me from creating the connection. That story is normally anchored in judgement and fear. I have to pull myself up. What are the judgements I am casting that are preventing me from connecting with the other person.

I had that relationship with my biological mother. She told me aspects around being conceived through date rape and all sorts of things that I just wouldn’t believe. Because I chose not to believe her I created my own story and I just wanted to be right with my story that prevented me from connecting with her on a meaningful level. When I recognised that holding onto this story that was anchored in judgement of her, it prevented me from connecting with her on a meaningful level. I had to let go of the judgement and righteousness because my connection with her was way more important to me than being right about my own story.

The story that I had in my mind was that she was young and promiscuous and of course there was no way she was raped and of course she could remember my father’s name, who doesn’t remember the person they were pregnant to. She never really wanted me, she was too young to keep me and of course her parents told her she was too young and to gave me away. All judgement which means pushing, pushing, pushing. Which means validation, validation, validation.

We have been talking about advantaged thinking and how we bring that into what we do – it’s not about what happened to you, it’s about you were accepted so let’s focus on the acceptance and how we move forward from that mindset.

It all comes back to this. I am accepted therefore I am enough. Every one of us is enough exactly how we are. Nothing is broken or needs fixing. We just need to accept because acceptance ends all suffering. So if you can accept that you are enough then you are coming from a foundation of love and acceptance which is a stepping stone to much greater things. But if you are coming from a fear based state of rejection and abandonment and therefore not enoughness and worthlessness, then you become what I became, a compassionate less tiger shark that annhialates everything in front of it and lets you bleed out, because if you are not with me than get the hell out of the way. Win at all costs.

39:25Struggling with conversations around adoption with your child? Have conversations with adopted children often: be honest, encourage curiosity, build connection, love and acceptance so they feel to safe to explore their history


If any parents are struggling with conversations with their children around adoption, from my experience, please just be honest with them from the start. Let them be curious and let them know because that will build the connection with your child. That will help them know they are loved and accepted irrespective of where they have come from. It will give them a safe space to chose to explore that aspect of themselves. If they choose to do that its no reflection on you. If anything it’s a positive connection because you have empowered them with safety to allow them to explore that connection.

I wished my dad had been honest with me earlier on. It came as such a shock.

I never had reason to question why I looked different.

All my friends started to ask questions. I would just say I don’t know, I belong here don’t I?

Had I been told I would have been able to silence the questioning by saying I was adopted. Ok. Right. Instead of why do you look so different? Where did you come from. I don’t know. I don’t know.

41:42 - Stay detached from the judgement others project on to you.

(We have a couple of African girls in our lives so sometimes walking into a restaurant, 2 brown children and 2 white children, sometimes people are so obviously in shock to our presence.  They wore hoodies a lot to hide from it, living in a very white world.)

I stay in touch with my half-sister who lives in America, my biological mothers daughter. Some people call her weird and things like that. I said to her, when people want to bring you down or want to judge you and criticise you. It’s an opportunity for you to ask yourself what does that say about them. It’s not about you. It’s just triggered a story, a thought or feeling and they don’t have the filter to monitor how they are responding. What does that say about them? In the event that its inexplicable or unacceptable, then if you can stay detached from the judgement that they are projecting on to you, therefore you don’t take on the judgement, then that gives you the empowerment and the empathy to go back to them and say is there something I have done that has upset you.  What has given you reason to say what you have said or to behave in the way you have behaved. We are all mirrors to each other. But sometimes the mirror needs to speak.

But if you speak from judgement and fear, you may come out as a lioness. That’s when we go I’m glad I didn’t say anything. That’s when you may come out as a lioness. That’s when you have to ask the children, did that persons response to you make you feel uncomfortable. If so why. How do you normally respond to this. How do I equip you to ensure that that behaviour that will continue to occur doesn’t impact you in this same way. My advice. Smile at people.

Love always silences fear.  Going away with the mantra I am enough. Thankyou.



Layne Beachley

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