Dr. Heather Browne: How To Learn To Finally Love Yourself
When something gets hard or goes wrong, be gentle. Things will go wrong. Learn from it, but be gentle with yourself. Change is hard. Messing up is harder, but it is an absolutely important part of growth. Sit down with yourself and mark out what you have learned, what you can do to change it, and come up with a game plan. If you feel like apologizing to yourself will help, do it. And then tell yourself you will grow and learn from here and that you are really excited about who you right now are becoming.
As a part of our series about “How To Learn To Finally Love Yourself” I had the pleasure to interview Dr. Heather Browne, PsyD, LMFT.
As a relationship expert, Dr. Heather has worked with thousands of individuals and couples. She is published in hundreds of journals, has an active YouTube channel, has been featured on ABC-7 news, was the relationship expert on KDOC Daybreak OC, and is published in Thriving Family Magazine, Light + Life, and Psychology Today. She is a regular guest blogger for both Links for Shrinks and for Marriage Friendly Therapists. Dr. Heather Browne — Home Page (drheatherbrowne.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.
Dr. Heather Browne PsyD, LMFT helps people recognize the power of communication, to ourselves and to others. It is one of our most important skills that we have, and yet we don’t consider our understanding, approach, belief, and therefore, miss our possibilities. Living with a paranoid schizophrenic mother gave Dr. Heather a unique and powerful awareness that no one has the same reality, though we believe we do. Utilizing this revolutionary awareness has allowed her to transform communication within self and within all other types of relationship. This is the hidden key to acceptance. And acceptance is necessary for love. Helping others grow in this is her mission.
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?
I am! I have a few really exciting projects! I just launched a new website which offers a complimentary newsletter bringing tips and techniques in selflove and communication. I also post a weekly blog there too. And I will be launching an on-line course this summer called Speaking With the Heart to help us communicate with ourselves and with others consciously and with deep compassion. All the info can be found on my website.
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?
Yes, there was a huge one! It was freshman year of college. My Mom had died junior year and my father had really wanted me to stay at home and study business at UCLA. I was smart and had been accepted. But I had planned to study theatre at UCLA. My heart longed to pursue theatre. My Dad wasn’t willing to support me in this. So, I flew all the way to New York to be as far away as I could from him and study theatre. I came to college having never seen the campus and without knowing anyone. I had borrowed $10,000 in student loans to go. Back then, it was a ton of money. I had no idea what I would do the following year, or for the school breaks without knowing if I would be welcome home, but I was in New York and excited
A few weeks into the school year, a girl named Susan, who lived on my dorm floor, asked me what it was like to be perfect. I remember feeling shocked. I thought I was a mess. I asked her what she meant. She said I was smart, beautiful, talented, and everyone liked me. She asked what it felt like to be so perfect. She asked what it felt like to be Barbie. Something within me cracked. I realized I was walking around acting all the time. This scared me. I had no idea that I was such a good actress. I knew in that instance that I would be lonely for the rest of my life if I didn’t start being real and open and to let my true emotions out. I immediately started balling. Not a trickle of tears, but snot and sobs and wailing. I told Susan that I was so far from perfect. I was disowned, my Mom had killed herself, I was massively in debt, and I was really scared.
Poor Susan. She had no idea what she unleashed. I think I sobbed for 30 or 40 minutes without letting up. The poor thing had probably thought it would be a minute conversation. Or maybe a quick laugh, but she got 18 years of sadness pouring out on her. She probably had to throw out the shirt.
I apologized following my tsunami and hoped we could be friends. She never approached me again. And I can see why. I was a mess. And the next day I went to see a therapist. I knew I had a ton of work to do to learn how to be me and how to accept me. And I bought a lot of Kleenex.
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?
Isn’t that sad? That less than a third of the adults walking this earth think that they are attractive. There are a ton of culprits: Hollywood, social media, plastic surgery, Botox, filters, Magazines, beauty contests, on-line dating, eating disorders, make-up. We put such emphasis on how we look. And most people have the belief that they “should” be beautiful. In fact, we “should” be average. Whatever that means. We are all unique. Some people are blessed with a few great features. And a few lucky ones with amazing DNA, have a ton. But there is so much more strength in what we do to take care of ourselves that just how we look. I am really tall. 6’1”. A lot of people are enamored with my height. But I did absolutely nothing to be this height. I am blessed with a nice smile. Other than brushing and flossing, that really has a little to do with me. Okay. I do bring out my joy, but I didn’t create my smile.
To me, our real beauty is in how we care for ourselves and what we allow ourselves to become. It is in our unique looks, gifts, and talents. This is partially physical, but also emotional, mental, financial, artistic, spiritual, and social. Our physique is such a little part of who we are. But in modern society it is often the most important thing for being accepted or for starting a conversation. I heard of a little 5 year old girl suffering from anorexia. She had barely started kindergarten, and was already rejecting herself based solely on body size or image. We desperately need to help kids embrace their bodies and learn to take care of them in healthy ways.
To some, the concept of learning to truly understand and “love yourself,” may seem like a cheesy or trite concept. But it is not. Can you share with our readers a few reasons why learning to love yourself is truly so important?
Even with the word “finally” it shows how hard this is for everyone. Why? Why is it so hard to love ourselves? There are 1000’s of books, coaches, mentors, spas all promising to help us get there. But we never do. Why? Our focus is what messes us up. We are trying to look at ourselves differently than we see ourselves. We are trying to tell ourselves that we are really okay. But how long does it last? Until we gain three pounds, or hit a tree, or someone says something cruel? To love ourselves our focus needs to shift to being a person who loves. We can send love out all over the office, the city, or the world. The more we flow love through us, the more we are love and the more we love. And when we flow love, we are part of it too. But instead of focusing on us, we focus on love itself. Love the birds, the flowers, the taco, the sunshine and the more you are in touch with feeling love, see loving, being love, you will begin forgetting you! Feeling and being love is so much bigger, better, and more wonderful!
Why do you think people stay in mediocre relationships? What advice would you give to our readers regarding this?
Oh, my goodness. Can you imagine if your partner said that? How is your relationship with Chaya? Ummm, well, it’s, uh, mediocre. Yikes! People stay in mediocre relationships for several reasons: they don’t know how to help make it better, the last one they were in was much worse so this one isn’t as bad, they are crossing their fingers that their partner will change, they aren’t willing to work on the relationship as they have other important pressing priorities, they don’t think great relationships really exist, feel they need to honor their commitment, and the most common….they are afraid of being alone. But there’s a lot you can do to help a relationship grow and blossom.
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 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?
- If I could change anything about me, that I have the power to do so), what would it be?
- Am I proud of myself? Is there anywhere where I am not?
- 3. Am I a good role model for others as I am?
- Am I healthy?
- Is there anything that I haven’t done that I know hurts me?
- What’s on my resolution list that I haven’t addressed?
- What does my boss or family ask me to work on?
- Where do I let myself off too easily?
- What am I doing that I know is hurting me?
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)?
I think it is vital. When you are by yourself, you get to hear your mind chatter, to see how you think and how you talk to yourself. This will clarify the loudness of your internal cheerleader or critic. And then you can choose who you listen too. You will see your level of motivation and commitment. This is fantastic information for helping yourself choose your future. Creativity often comes out of quiet private time. Spending time alone can bring a rush of new ideas, insights, or dreams. Being alone also removes your momentary dependency upon others. This allows you to see how you show up for yourself and how you take care of yourself.
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?
You become more patient, more understanding, and more at ease. You realize that everyone needs to do things when and as they feel they must, and that you are not to decide for anyone else. You also can become a better encourager and uplifter as you personally know the benefit. It lowers your stress, tension, and greatly lessens fear. You tend to be happier, lighter, freer, and more relaxed. And all of these characteristics help you in every aspect of life.
In your experience, what should a) individuals and b) society, do to help people better understand themselves and accept themselves?
I suggest that individuals take a few minutes at the end of each day to reflect on the choices they made, the behaviors they chose, and review the interactions they had. This review can then guide the decisions that you make for the next day. For the areas that didn’t go as you hoped, allow it to be a learning tool so you have more clarity for tomorrow. Both of these are growth, I think it is important to have an intention that benefits you/others for each day. Something like, “Today I will bring gratitude.” Or “Today, I will complete my to-do list.”
Society is created of individuals. If we each take self-responsibility. stop blaming others and correct where we know we can, society will change. Or problem is that we are waiting for someone else to fix us. As long as the individuals who make up society don’t grow, we are somewhat stuck.
Here is the main question of our discussion. What are 5 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?
- Focus on allowing love to flow through you. Focus on sending love out to everything and everyone who is around you. As you do this you will experience more love. You will be creating love. And as you focus on this flow, you will become part of it. One morning I woke up and I felt really blah and really blue. I didn’t want to get out of the bed. I focused on my bed, the warmth, the softness. I thanked God that I had a bed. Then I thanked him for my kitty soft blanket. I caressed it and smelled it and hugged it. I heard a bird outside and thanked God for the bird and my ears that could hear it and my eyes that could see it. I thanked God that I had a window so I could see it and I thanked myself that I was taking this time to see this bird. Then the wind blew my windchime. I love windchimes, and I thanked God for the wind, and my windchime, and my window, and the beautiful bird, and my ears to hear, and my eyes to see, and that I took this time, and my soft blanket, and my warm bed, and I jumped out of bed, really happy and grateful for all that I have and all I had allowed myself to experience right now.
- When a negative thought pops into your mind, ask yourself if this thought serves you or if that thought is one that you want to keep thinking? It is one of the quickest ways to recognize when you are creating a negative experience for yourself. Just yesterday I put on a dress that I haven’t worn in a long time. I also haven’t been exercising as often as I had been when I last wore that dress. My immediate thought was, “Your thighs look big.” That isn’t a thought that serves me well, so I took off the dress, realized it’s time to do some more yoga and thanked the dress for this helpful information. I chose a dress that is looser and I looked great. And tomorrow, I have a yoga class. I will try the dress again in two weeks. Until then, it hangs in my closest to remind me I look better when I do yoga. And that is helpful.
- When you want to be lazy versus complete something that is important, ask yourself “What is the best choice for me to do?” I live alone except for my pets. It would be really easy for me to not do the dishes, not take out the trash, and not pick up he poops until someone is coming over. But I feel better with a clean house and yard. And it is better for my pets and my things to be cared for. It also makes me happy to come home and walk into a clean place that is welcoming. I don’t have to do these things, but I choose to as I feel better about me. And I thank myself for caring about my experience too.
- Treat yourself. Do things for yourself and consider it a treat. Coffee in the morning can be a treat. Do simple things that please you. Listen to music, light candles, watch a movie, eat popcorn, ride your bike, watch a sunset. Remember that you are treating yourself. You can do this a 1000 times a day. Each thing you do can be a gift to yourself. And that feels good. There is joy in simple things you do to bless you.
- When something gets hard or goes wrong, be gentle. Things will go wrong. Learn from it, but be gentle with yourself. Change is hard. Messing up is harder, but it is an absolutely important part of growth. Sit down with yourself and mark out what you have learned, what you can do to change it, and come up with a game plan. If you feel like apologizing to yourself will help, do it. And then tell yourself you will grow and learn from here and that you are really excited about who you right now are becoming.
Thank you so much for your time and for your inspiring insights!