Lack of self-understanding and self-love hinders our ability to enjoy a deep, soulful connection with others because our true self is hidden beneath defense mechanisms and facades we’ve accrued during our lives. As children, we were taught to focus on our achievements, not on developing a strong inner core. This impeded our ability to connect with our true nature. The more we focused externally, the further we moved away from our soul self. When we don’t live in harmony with our core being, we are unable to have an organic connection with others. Learning to love ourselves without condition enables us to be wholly open to all experiences and love with an unburdened heart and mind.
As a part of my series about “Connecting With Yourself to Live With Better Relationships” I had the pleasure to interview Anne Ockene Boudreau. Anne is an inspirational author, coach, and executive who is devoted to helping others develop healthy self-worth. In her new book, “A Human Mosaic: Heal, Renew & Develop Self-Worth,” she reveals how self-worth is a critical element for sustainable personal change. Learn more at www.AnneOBoudreau.com.
Thank you so much for joining us! I’d love to begin by asking you to give us the backstory as to what brought you to this specific career path.
Writing has been a passion since I learned to read. In fact, journaling has served as a silent confidante and, at times, a lifesaver for me. Growing up in Santiago, Chile, my young world was a mixture of volatility and hysteria due to my parents’ turbulent marriage. In search of refuge, I began expressing my emotions in a diary, a habit that I’ve maintained throughout my life.
In my late twenties, I was hired by the CEO of a global engineering and environmental corporation to be the director of corporate communications. Among his many obsessions, the big boss had an insatiable appetite for attention. To make himself appear more powerful, he hired several high-profile businesses, political, and government leaders, making life at the office a hotbed of oversized egos. Working closely with Andrew Young and John Ehrlichman certainly proved to be a remarkable training ground and an eye-opening insight into the good, the bad, and the ugly.
After twenty-one years in the corporate world as a marketing and communications expert, I experienced a profound internal shift. Although emotions of discontent had been brewing within me for years, I’d suppressed them, believing that it was normal to feel unfulfilled. Shortly thereafter, I resigned to pursue what had been my lifelong mission — to write a book. The past six years have been devoted to research, interviews with experts and trauma survivors, and writing about self-worth from every conceivable angle.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you hope that they might help people along their path to self-understanding or a better sense of wellbeing in their relationships?
My book was recently published, and I am now in the process of developing a podcast about self-worth as well as beginning my second book.
The central themes of my writing revolve around self-care and self-healing as the conduit to positive self-worth. Self-worth, or how one values their inner core self, is critical to the foundation of a person’s life and affects every aspect of their existence, as is self-understanding, a process that enables us to connect with our inner self by tuning into our true nature. When we accept, respect, and have compassion for who we really are, we have the ability to engage with others in an authentic and meaningful way. Many people live their entire lives perpetually seeking someone or something to fill their internal void, not realizing that nothing outside of themselves is ever enough to fill the void of low self-worth.
Do you have a personal story that you can share with our readers about your struggles or successes along your journey of self-understanding and self-love? Was there ever a tipping point that triggered a change regarding your feelings of self-acceptance?
When my beloved father died, I sunk into a depression. We shared a deep, soulful connection — he was my pillar of strength throughout my life. After a long bout of mourning, I awakened one morning and realized a profound truth about myself. My father’s death stripped me of all my facades and defense mechanisms. Barren and vulnerable, I was struck by the realization that I had lived my entire life externally oriented, driven by the need for respect and admiration, especially from my father. This was my tipping point, the intersection of my life. I had to choose who I wanted to be and how I wanted to live, and I knew that hinging my identity on how others treated me or how successful I was would not help me in any way.
According to a recent study cited in Cosmopolitan, in the US, only about 28 percent of men and 26 percent of women are “very satisfied with their appearance.” Could you talk about what some of the causes might be, as well as the consequences?
Since my children were toddlers, I taught them to describe others by their character, not their appearance. Even today they refer to their friends as witty, sensitive, creative, goofy, or athletic, not whether they’re Latin or Asian, or tall or short. As parents, educators, and role models, we must teach our children acceptance, compassion, and love for all human beings, no matter their ethnic, religious, sexual, political, or gender affiliation.
Unfortunately, our culture is fixated on appearances. This has promulgated widespread bigotry, racism, bullying, and irrational violence. Some of the worst atrocities in our history were borne out of intolerance and hatred towards differences.
The Cosmopolitan study you mention is reflective of the detrimental impact of social media to the extent that it has created an unhealthy and distorted view of how people believe they should look to be admired or accepted. Those who engage in social media deem themselves “popular” or unpopular based on the numbers of followers they have. Clearly, this is a distorted and harmful perception. Perfection doesn’t exist. There is no living organism that is perfect. In fact, it is our differences that make each individual uniquely special. Self-love should be linked to character, not appearance, which speaks nothing of a person’s inner soul.
As cheesy as it might sound to truly understand and “love yourself,” can you share with our readers a few reasons why it’s so important?
Self-understanding and self-love are integral to our health and well-being. Every facet of our lives is filtered through our internal sense of self — how worthy and lovable we believe we are — our value as a human being. How we feel about ourselves impacts our attitude, energy, enthusiasm, ability to handle challenges, our focus, productivity, immune system, ability to heal from illness, sleep, sexuality, resilience, and more.
Millions of people go through life without understanding that the internal tension they feel, the inner self-doubt — that missing piece, so to speak — is due to lack of self-understanding, self-acceptance, self-love, and self-value.
Why do you think people stay in mediocre relationships? What advice would you give to our readers regarding this?
There is a direct correlation between self-value and a person’s predilection to remain in an unfulfilling relationship. According to a renowned psychoanalyst, Erik Erikson, trust is the fundamental building block of one’s development. When we lack self-trust, our sense of self-love and self-value plummets, and our brain harbors negative thoughts about how we don’t deserve to be respected or loved… I will never find anyone else…I’m scared of being alone…I need him/her even though they’re abusive.
An important step one can take is to create a set of values by which to live. A person who does not value themselves is likely to put up with unacceptable behavior. Personal values are immensely important to self-understanding and self-love. Set boundaries for yourself and learn to say no. Live with integrity, be honest with yourself, treat yourself with respect and compassion, and be responsible for your actions.
A few questions to consider asking yourself are:
What am I actually feeling when I’m with this person?
Why am I willing to accept mediocrity?
Does this person treat me with honor and dignity?
Am I afraid to speak my mind?
Do I feel joy with this person?
Am I growing and becoming a better version of myself?
You deserve to be in a healthy and loving relationship. Anything short of this is not acceptable.
When I talk about self-love and understanding I don’t necessarily mean blindly loving and accepting ourselves the way we are. Many times, self-understanding requires us to reflect and ask ourselves the tough questions, to realize perhaps where we need to make changes in ourselves to be better not only for ourselves but for our relationships. What are some of those tough questions that will cut through the safe space of comfort we like to maintain, that our readers might want to ask themselves? Can you share an example of a time that you had to reflect and realize how you needed to make changes?
What we do not know, we cannot change. This rings especially true when it comes to our own internal health. Why are we willing to work long hours for a job, or take care of others, yet ignore ourselves? When I was eight years old, I was bullied by two girls who I had considered good friends. Their vicious attack endured for sixteen months and shattered any of my self-love or self-worth. This trauma was never addressed by my parents or anyone in my life, which deepened my wounds. It wasn’t until I was in my mid-thirties that I found the courage to address what had occurred. It was then that I chose to heal myself.
Self-awareness and mindfulness are two key practices that will help you in the process of self-understanding. Be aware and conscious of your thoughts and emotions as they flow through you; observe them without judgment, rather than suppressing them. What we suppress never disappears, and only takes more space in our brain.
I love this quote by John Dewey, an American philosopher: “We do not learn from experience; we learn from reflecting on experience.” Self-reflection is a process of consciously thinking through and evaluating thoughts, beliefs, and experiences as a means of learning about yourself. It offers you the opportunity to pause and detach from your busy life, thus permitting you to consider new interpretations of what you’ve experienced.
Self-Love Requires Attention. Make time for activities that nurture and nourish you. Be compassionate with yourself. Self-love is the origin of all good things you want to feel inside of you and is central to your existence.
A few questions to ask yourself:
What is my intuitive voice telling me?
How do I feel about myself as a human being?
Do I truly know myself? Who am I internally, in my core being?
Are my external actions/behavior in tune with what I think and feel inside of me?
Have I been programmed to view myself merely by my accomplishments or failures?
Do I feel constantly judged by others?
Do I second guess myself and doubt my decisions?
Am I filled with insecurities that I cannot seem to shake?
Do I behave in ways that I know are not healthy, yet I continue to do so anyway?
What experiences have factored into my lack of self-love?
So many don’t really know how to be alone or are afraid of it. How important is it for us to have, and practice, that capacity to truly be with ourselves and be alone (literally or metaphorically)?
One of my favorite quotes is by Mark Twain, “The worst loneliness is not to be comfortable with yourself.” For people who’ve struggled with their self-value, fear of being alone is a common symptom. It feels easier to surround ourselves with people and rush from one activity to the next, rather than deal with the true cause of our angst.
My greatest thinking and emotional catharsis occur when I am alone in contemplation.
Making time to be alone is as important, if not more, than being social. It is key to our mental, emotional, and spiritual health as it enables us to sit in silence, reflect, and reinvigorate ourselves. Time alone also enables us to detach ourselves from the hectic pace of life and learn from our experiences. Some of the benefits of alone time include increased self-awareness and self-understanding, increased concentration, clarity, productivity, attitude-adjustment, relaxation and restoration, clarity, enhanced energy, boosted immunity, perspective, and equanimity.
When you learn to become your closest friend and advocate, you will relish alone-time.
How does achieving a certain level of self-understanding and self-love then affect your ability to connect with and deepen your relationships with others?
This is a fabulous question! Lack of self-understanding and self-love hinders our ability to enjoy a deep, soulful connection with others because our true self is hidden beneath defense mechanisms and facades we’ve accrued during our lives. As children, we were taught to focus on our achievements, not on developing a strong inner core. This impeded our ability to connect with our true nature. The more we focused externally, the further we moved away from our soul self. When we don’t live in harmony with our core being, we are unable to have an organic connection with others. Learning to love ourselves without condition enables us to be wholly open to all experiences and love with an unburdened heart and mind.
In your experience, what should a) individuals and b) society do to help people better understand themselves and accept themselves?
The first question I ask all of my clients is, “How passionate and devoted are you to sustainable change?” When I interviewed a renowned psychotherapist during the process of writing my book, I learned that the only way to achieve sustainable, transformative change is when it is rooted in desire, not compulsion. Change that is forced upon us or is stems from guilt… I need to, I should, he really wants me to… is unsustainable because it is not congruent with your true thoughts.
Rather than base how you feel on how others treat you, look inside for your unique blessings and nurture the miraculous life you have. Stop believing you need to meet a certain set of fictitious standards and drop the “p-word” (perfect) from your vocabulary. No living organism is perfect, nor is there any universal standard for perfection. Accept yourself and the brilliance that lives within you.
As a society, we have all been exposed to the dramatic negativity that permeates our culture. Our focus must be to unite to create a movement of positivity and love. This is the only way to quash the negativism and promote optimism, healing, acceptance, compassion, peace, and love. We each need to do our part to develop our own healthy sense of self so that we have the capacity to spread love and peace.
What are five strategies that you implement to maintain your connection with and love for yourself, that our readers might learn from? Could you please give a story or example for each?
Choose Optimism. In my mind, there is only one choice, every single day. It is to choose optimism. It is an unfailing tenet by which to guide your every thought. No matter what the circumstance, an optimistic mindset always wins.
I have the tendency to be impatient. What I do to diminish this emotion is to listen for triggers that arouse impatience within me. As soon as I feel that twinge or edginess moving around in my brain, I take some deep breaths, put the situation in perspective, and in minutes, there it is — Positivity Plus. It works every single time.
Lead Your Life. When you decide to consciously and conscientiously guide your thoughts and behavior, you will gain tremendous power. There is one person responsible for the quality of your life — YOU — so seize your inner power, and enjoy the freedom to grow and become the brightest and healthiest version of yourself.
Listen to Your Intuitive Voice. I spent the first part of my life suppressing my gut instinct, my innermost intuitive voice. I found that when I invalidated my gut instinct, I misstepped. Great strength and wisdom are gained by listening to your inner voice.
Check Your Temperature. Make it a habit to check in with yourself throughout the day, or as I refer to it, take your temperature. This is a daily go-to strategy for me, and an immensely valuable practice to gain insight into your thoughts as they flow through you. Being aware of your thoughts and emotions in real-time offers you the chance to adjust them as needed.
Exercise! Regular exercise is a ritual for me, especially cardio, as it is an indisputably effective stress reliever, energy booster, focus infuser, clarifier, and an amazing source of relaxation and inner peace. The abundant mental, emotional, spiritual, and physiological benefits of regular exercise are incomparable.
Finally, never, ever give up on yourself. No matter what you’ve been through, never give up on yourself and the one life you have here on earth.
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources for self-psychology, intimacy, or relationships? What do you love about each one and how does it resonate with you?
“On Becoming A Person,” by Carl Rogers, is the book that I used to support my journey to healing from low self-worth. Rogers believed that every human being has the capacity to solve their own problems and heal themselves once they establish self-trust. This book is not a light read; however, Rogers’ principles are truly foundational to the process of self-change.
A podcast I highly recommend is Shrink Rap Podcast, with Dr. David Van Nuys.
Dr. Dave explores all areas of psychiatry and psychotherapy and interviews people from diverse backgrounds and life experiences. (https://shrinkrapradio.com.)
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? Maybe we’ll inspire our readers to start it…
My mission is to help spread the critical importance of healthy self-worth as a healing agent and teach others about its sacred power to diminish fear, hatred, negativity, and wounds amongst all people. The preponderance of violence, bullying, and other negative issues stem from a lack of self-love and low self-worth. If we each could do our part to model acceptance and love for all people, our collective, universal energy would begin to change our world in brilliant and beautiful ways.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” that you use to guide yourself?
Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life and how our readers might learn to live by it in theirs?
A quote from Buddha has guided me throughout my life: “Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.” After my work to heal myself and years of research, this quote has been the most revelatory. As I’ve mentioned, nothing outside of us will bring peace. Equanimity comes when we live in harmony with our inner core being. Instead of hoping for someone or something to make you feel better, dig down deep and therein you will find the answers you seek.
Thank you for all of these great insights!