Make time every single day for something you enjoy. It could be something simple that only takes a few minutes, or something that takes a little longer. On some days I may need just a few minutes in the morning to enjoy my coffee by myself. Other days I may need some more time to jump in the car and drive around listening to music without doing or thinking of anything else.
As a part of our series about “How To Learn To Finally Love Yourself” we had the pleasure to interview Ella Shae
Ella is the best selling author of From Broken to Beautifully Broken. She is a mental health advocate and public speaker. Through her challenges in life, she teaches her readers and listeners how to find the beauty in all the things you think may have broken you.
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.
In March of 2022, I was admitted into the emergency room for being malnourished and on the way to organ failure. Shortly after I was sent to a treatment program for eating disorders. I spent 4 months in treatment trying to figure out how I had gotten to this place in my life. It was in treatment that I realized the need for me to tell my story. My story may be the voice someone else needs to hear in order to advocate for themselves. By creating relatable moments with my readers or audience, I allow them a safe space to explore their own traumas or life challenges. There are many reasons why I suffered from an eating disorder for 22 years, but what it all boiled down to was one thing…the lack of self worth and self love. I was missing the ability to believe I deserved more, to be loved by myself and others.
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?
Currently I am preparing to speak for a community outreach program with Robert Wood Johnson. The dinner and book signing is solely based on my journey to finding self love and I am so honored to be chosen to tell my story and help others find their voice.
I am also working with My Second Chance, a foundation that provides for domestic violence survivors. I will be one of a few keynote speakers at their gala which will tell my story and the importance of a strong support system in life.
I am working with the Wayne Alliance for Substance Abuse Prevention and recently spoke at one of their meetings. My story was told to promote the importance of healthy emotions in children at a young age. Giving them the proper tools to tackle life challenges with confidence later on in life is crucial.
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 I was 4 years old I was in a nearly fatal car accident. It left me with severe facial scarring but I was alive. I lived with my scars with no issues until middle school. I started to become bullied and that broke my confidence and self love. It continued until my freshman year in high school where I contemplated suicide. Thankfully I chose a better path and switched schools for a clean slate. I had some small plastic surgeries and the bullying stopped. The problem was the years of damage it already caused. I had low self worth, low self esteem, no standards and I developed an eating disorder. The mindset behind the anorexia was that if I kept my body beautiful enough, the attention would be off of my face. Years passed and I suffered emotional, physical and narcissistic abuse in many relationships, including my marriage. I got divorced and raised my two children mostly alone. Luckily enough, I met someone who loved me in the right ways and we got married. The problem was, I still had never loved myself in the right ways. We had a child together after numerous miscarriages and then COVID hit us like a ton of bricks. I suffered from severe anxiety my whole life and my husband and I decided to lock down and see no one, even after the world opened up. We were too fearful. We lost family members during this time, as well as another miscarriage and the depression and anxiety morphed into me giving up. I stopped getting dressed. I stopped seeing anyone. The more I hibernated, the less people would notice my eating disorder was the worst it had ever been. Once I was forced into treatment, and I opened up old wounds, wounds from 34 years ago, I was able to start the journey of exploring why I didn’t love myself and how to fix it.
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?
How can anyone in this world ever be 100 percent satisfied with their appearance when society is constantly changing the beauty standards. They are impossible to live up to because they are unrealistic. Children are worrying about their looks instead of riding their bikes with their friends. They are focused on how much they weigh or what size they are instead of just BEING A KID. Society has created unattainable standards setting everyone up for failure. As parents I think it is so important to build up our children’s self esteem, teach them self worth and focus on the qualities that we have that make us good people instead of how we look. I write in my book that I think we should never comment on a person’s appearance, even if it’s meant as a compliment. We need to take the focus off of appearance and instead compliment each other on achievements, characteristics and qualities.
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 it’s truly so important?
If you can not love the person that you are, then it is very hard to set a standard on how others love you. In order to know what is acceptable in relationships you have with people and what is not, you have to first love and respect yourself. It’s not selfish, it’s not self absorbed, it’s knowing your worth. It’s knowing what you should allow in your life and what needs to be eliminated. It allows you to understand who sits at your table and who needs to walk away. It ultimately will create a sense of peace and calmness when you establish the boundaries you’ve created from your self love.
Why do you think people stay in mediocre relationships? What advice would you give to our readers regarding this?
Staying in any relationship is easy. What’s hard is change. What’s hard is starting over. Many people settle in life because the thought of starting over seems so overwhelming. However, if you look at the bigger picture and remember what it is you deserve out of this one life you have, you’ll understand why it’s so important to leave instead of staying in your safe zone. In my chapter on divorce called The Empty Casket, I had to disassemble my entire family. I had to hope my kids would be alright. I had to say goodbye to everything I had thought my life would be. The thing is, tomorrow is never promised and if I could leave my kids with one thing, it was an example of how to be treated by a man and how to treat a woman the right way. The thought of them being in a relationship that was “mediocre” was heartbreaking and I had to do better. I had to be the example they needed to find their own self worth.
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?
When you are reflecting and processing things in life in order to love yourself, there needs to be a level of accountability. Sure things may have happened to you that caused you to have lower self esteem or confidence, but it’s important to really sit with your trauma or circumstance and feel the grief. Accept what has happened, own your part in it, forgive yourself and learn to forgive others without ever possibly getting an apology from them. In order to truly change our patterns or worth we need to sit with our own thoughts. These thoughts can be uncomfortable, but in order to understand your triggers and how to respond to them , to ultimately be the best version of yourself, you have to sit, process, grieve, reflect and take accountability for what is yours.
When I was in treatment for restrictive anorexia, I was forced to face the things I had brushed under the rug. The things that were easiest to avoid and pretend weren’t happening were the ones that affected me the most. I had to own my part, so for example, when I felt taken advantage of instead of staying quiet to appease or keep the peace, I had to advocate for myself and speak up against people I loved. I was a people pleaser, so knowing I was going to offend them by doing so, hurt me to the core. Here’s where self love comes in. Once I was able to defend myself, and speak on my feelings, I was proving I loved myself more than I cared about how other people felt about it. In return, I also learned who actually cared about me! If someone was offended that I had my own opinion or feelings on something that did not align with theirs, then this person really could care less about my well being. On the other hand the people who truly cared about me listened and understood my point of view. I had to cut some people out of my life, but in the end I now know who my people are, and that’s just as important as loving yourself…surrounding yourself with a support system of people who love you the way you deserve.
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)?
Here is the sad truth that many of us have to accept, myself included…everyone leaves. At one point or another you will lose the people in your life at different levels and you need to be prepared for that. Relationships with others are a great addition to your life, but remember this is
YOUR life. You control it in all aspects, so you have to be comfortable with steering the ship
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?
When you understand yourself on a deeper level you understand your needs, your wants, your boundaries, your triggers, your expectations etc. Knowing all of these things will help you to evaluate who has the ability to fulfill your needs, who has the capability to meet your expectations and who will trigger you and leave you feeling unsettled. When someone meets these expectations, you find yourself valuing and respecting them greatly, which deepens your connection. Contrary to that when someone upsets you and you’ve spent the time understanding your triggers, it will be much easier to eliminate contact with this person before you become attached and in a possibly harmful relationship
In your experience, what should a) individuals and b) society, do to help people better understand themselves and accept themselves?
LISTEN! Individuals need to listen to their thoughts. Slow down and process what your mind is thinking. We need to internalize our feelings and sit with those uncomfortable feelings until we understand why the situation is making us uncomfortable in the first place. Society needs to be the support system that others may need. When you are on a journey of healing or growth it is so important to have a support system who is not only there for you, but who takes the time to try and understand what you are going through. People who will do the research to understand what you need from them to recover successfully or grow to your best potential are the ones who will get you there faster. Society also needs to work on eliminating the shame and stigma associated with so many mental illnesses. Some of us are trying to figure ourselves out, while suffering from a mental disorder. It’s hard to be honest with ourselves and others if we feel shame associated with having brain health issues.
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?
1. Make time every single day for something you enjoy. It could be something simple that only takes a few minutes, or something that takes a little longer. On some days I may need just a few minutes in the morning to enjoy my coffee by myself. Other days I may need some more time to jump in the car and drive around listening to music without doing or thinking of anything else.
2. Write. Our days are packed with so many things. We are juggling so many balls that oftentimes we don’t have the proper amount of time to process things. We are conditioned in life to make split second decisions and hope it was the right one. Someone always needs us or
something always requires our attention and oftentimes we have to quickly decide things in order to move on to the next thing. At the end of the day, have a notebook, and write down the major events of your day. Write down what you decided and if you think that was the right decision. Process it a bit longer. If it is something you can change the next day if need be, then do that. If what’s done is done, then the reflection will help you with future decision making. The key is to not obsess. Write it, process it, reflect, make a change or not, and then move on. 3. Do something that makes you FEEL good about yourself. How you feel about your body is huge. It will affect you in so many other avenues of your emotional health. If you feel beautiful after a manicure or haircut, massage or yoga…THEN DO THAT. Keeping in touch with the things that make us feel good about our bodies and appearance will only benefit you in every aspect of your life.
4. Invest in mental health. We pay so much money for gym memberships, diets, personal trainers so that we can stay physically healthy or have the “ideal” body type. Why are we not that enthusiastic about investing in our brain’s health? People go to the gym to maintain a healthy lifestyle. It’s much harder to start the gym when you are at an unhealthy place in your life. It’s easier to always go, on routine, to maintain the optimal level of health. The same goes with your brain and emotions. Going to therapy after something happens is hard. It’s necessary, don’t get me wrong, but WHAT IF, we had gone to therapy before anything severe happened in our life. What if we spoke to someone simply to help us handle everyday life. It would then be possible that when something else arises, that’s a bit more complicated, our learned skills in therapy will help us to navigate those issues more smoothly. Therapy will give you the safe space to explore your thoughts and feelings and what better way to learn to love yourself than that?
5. Affirmations. Start your day, every day, with something you love about yourself. Repeat it often during the day so it becomes something you no longer have to convince yourself of, but rather wholeheartedly believe. Praise yourself even if no one else does. Reward yourself, it’s not selfish, and always end the night thinking of something you are truly grateful for.
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?
Right now I am using the Shadow Journal. I really enjoy writing and reflecting with this book. It deals a lot with inner child traumas and what caused us to have these darker “shadows” in our personality. I think it is extremely reflective and can teach us why we don’t love parts of ourselves and how to change that.
I don’t have too much time in my life to listen to longer podcasts or read longer books at the moment. I have 3 children at all different stages of life and I am just starting my career as a best selling author. I do however absolutely love listening to Dr Sara Al Madani on Instagram. Her advice resonates with me and the things I have been through in life are very much aligned with the talks she gives.
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…
I truly believe that we need to teach our youth about emotions and how to deal with them in a healthy way. We have these societal “norms” or generational standards that we pass down to our children. We aren’t actually thinking about the words coming out of our mouths and how they impact children. Big boys don’t cry, is one of the ones I hear most often. As a parent you may be saying this because your child is crying over something you think is ridiculous and you just want them to stop crying. By saying this we are actually teaching our kids that crying is not what adults do when in actuality it is what we absolutely should do. Most people who suppress their emotions due to shame often end up with anger issues. Unresolved sadness or hurt turns to anger. Why don’t we teach our children that crying is a healthy way to express the sadness we are feeling inside. It helps to verbalize why you are sad instead of turning the tears off because you’ll look like a baby. We need to give our kids the tools they need at a young age so that later on in life they understand how to process their emotions and use those tools to navigate life challenges successfully. Expressing emotions in a healthy way can lower the percentages of depression and anxiety. It can lower the rate of suicide and in the simplest form, it creates healthy adults with self awareness and the mindset they need to be successful. So what would my movement be? Lessons on how to deal with your emotions in a healthy way in elementary school, not middle school and certainly not high school when the ship has sailed. We need to build the foundation instead of throwing the life vest when the boat is sinking
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” that you use to guide yourself by?
Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life and how our readers might learn to live by it in theirs?
I have two. One, find your freedom. This quote is huge for me because it reminds me that only I know what makes me feel free and it reminds me that I never want to go back to a place where I no longer have control over the things in my own life. Never give up the little control that you actually have in life. Most things in this world, we can’t control…so don’t EVER give up what little control we do have. Two, always find the beauty in the things that broke you. It’s so hard to change your perspective in certain situations. It’s hard to find the “life lesson” or silver lining, but it’s so important to try and change your mindset and look at your situation through the lens of empathy. What is it that you can take with you to grow, out of something that you thought was meant to break you? There is always something if you just change your perspective.
Thank you so much for your time and for your inspiring insights!