Human beings are held to extremely high standards, and often times they are unattainable. Everyday people — and most of us are everyday people — are simply not perfect. We each have our own story and are meant to be different. I do see a change in the media as of late, and we are collectively discussing and challenging the norms. There are more body positive movements, more people talking about mental illness, depression, gender roles, and so on via mainstream platforms. Though it feels like we’re far off from a tectonic shift here, I think this trend puts us on the right path. As individual contributors, I think it falls on us to keep pushing these conversations and do so unapologetically.
I had the pleasure to interview Aimee Ferro. Aimee is the founder and chief designer of Leia Beila Jewelry. Leia Beila is an independent jewelry brand based in Seattle, WA., featuring original bold designs for the modern badass woman. Aimee believes in true self expression through her designs, and creating jewelry that is an extension of body and mind for women who dare to be different. She believes in celebrating individuality and uniqueness. Aimee was raised in Phoenix Arizona, and is a true desert rat at heart. As far back as she can remember she has always created in one way or another, whether sketching her favorite movie characters or crafting pieces out of found objects. Art brought Aimee to Seattle, where she graduated with a BFA in print making, painting, and photography from Cornish College of the Arts in 2010. Her interest in creating jewelry began right after graduation. Fresh out of school and unsure about what may lie ahead, she found herself taking apart old jewelry and putting it back together in a way that made the piece brand new again. After countless hours on YouTube learning the skill of wire wrapping, along with absorbing some other techniques a la internet, she decided to take a beginners jewelry making class offered by a small, local school. That first class turned into another class, and then more classes… And all of a sudden, Aimee had gained a wealth of expertise and knowledge in her craft. She has been in love with designing and making jewelry ever since. In 2013 Leia Beila was born. The business and brand is named after her mother, Linda Beth, who was an avid crafter and an art teacher. Leia Beila was her mother’s Hebrew name. After passing away from breast cancer in 1990, Linda’s passion for the arts was forever imprinted on Aimee. As a homage to her mom, she wanted to create a business based on art, individuality, and strength; to bring high quality, handcrafted jewelry to people who want and deserve to feel beautiful and empowered.
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.
It all came together and happened very randomly, actually. I had just graduated from Cornish College of the Arts where I majored in fine art. I remember feeling stuck and unsure of how I was going to use my degree, but knew that I wanted to work for myself if possible… or at least continue doing something creative. In my free time, as a way to destress and stay creative, I began taking apart old broken jewelry and creating new wearable pieces from them. There was no denying that I LOVED this new art form, and that I wanted to make this my career. I registered for some jewelry classes so that I could learn and evolve in my newfound craft. I wanted to build a brand and create pieces that celebrates individuality, and makes those who wear my jewelry feel empowered and beautiful.
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’m excited to say that I have two new collections lined up for March and May! When people wear my jewelry I want them to feel celebrated and, most of all, powerful. That word in particular (powerful) has guided the way I’ve built my business over the last 6 years. To me, it means to live your life the way you want. To be unapologetic and follow your own path no matter how unconventional it seems. To keep moving forward. To be kind to yourself as often as possible. To wear what feels good to you. This is my hope and inspiration when I imagine clients wearing my jewelry. It should be an extension of who they are and accentuate that feeling of acceptance inside of them.
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?
The loss of my mom had a deep impact on me. I took all of the introspective lessons I learned through her passing, and fed them into building both my business and who I wanted to become as a woman in this world. But, if I’m being completely honest here, the biggest personal struggle I’ve faced is what, eventually, drove me to where I am today.
Like many young girls I had extreme body issues and suffered from paralyzing insecurity. I woke up every day reluctant to see my own reflection, feeling the bottomless pit of worthlessness, always wanting to be in a different body. When I was 14 years old, not having developed any tools to deal with these feelings in a healthy way, I started to self-harm. It was the only avenue I had to express my pain — to have it manifest in a real, tangible way.
After 5 years of keeping this dark secret to myself, in a brief moment of carelessness, I had exposed a part of my arm in front of one of my best friends. She saw the fresh marks. I was found out. She told her mom that very night, who then reached out to share the name of a therapist who specialized in this type of care. I called and set up an appointment, maybe because I felt ashamed. Or maybe it was automatic, like a call and response. Reflecting back, I now think that I was actually ready to get better.
I was able to sustain for a handful of years by simply choosing to not self-harm anymore. But with most voids, that just won’t do forever. I relapsed at the age of 25. It was the perfect cocktail of pressure, not having a sense of purpose in my work, feeling weighted down with overwhelming emotions, and not having the actual tools to heal from the very things that got me there in the first place.
It was jarring and terrifying, and I was adamant about getting control over this before I was lost to it again. I had a desire to love and trust myself, like I never have before, and sought out therapy on my own. That was my pivotal moment — owning my pain, but not letting it own me. Through this work I found myself, and through finding myself, I found my art.
My work and creative process gives me strength. I wake up these days inspired, motivated, and at peace.
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?
Who doesn’t feel impacted by the exotic, tall, slender models they see on television and in magazines? Who hasn’t experienced some level of bullying because they didn’t fit into some ridiculous norm? We are exposed every day to unrealistic standards, and are confronted by the feelings of inadequacy that stem from comparing ourselves to the aforementioned.
In my own experience, the ripple effect can be incredibly damaging. I used to doubt myself at every turn… Am I pretty enough? Am I good enough? Most of the time my internal response was “no”. It held me back from seizing opportunities, taking risks, finding my voice, or even from engaging people in a normal social setting. Few things have felt as isolating as that type of self-doubt.
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?
We can be our own worst enemies. When we learn to be compassionate with ourselves, our worlds just open up. When I started to dig into this type of self-love work, I found that it gave me the confidence and the strength to face any obstacles that came my way with more ease. I now appreciate the time I’m gifted to simply sit with myself, and be comfortable in my own skin. I also discovered that in creating more space to love myself, in turn gave me a greater capacity to love others. I see this every day in my relationship with my husband.
Why do you think people stay in mediocre relationships? What advice would you give to our readers regarding this?
I think this happens for a lot of reasons, but so far as my own story, I was afraid of being alone. Even though I wanted to feel a connection, I was either afraid of the next step, fearful of the unknown, or terrified of rejection. The funny thing is, the moment I chose myself over a my unhealthy, mediocre relationship, was when that shift towards self-love happened. I stopped worrying if I was going to find someone else and started focusing on me. That was enriching and empowering. I had never experienced a sensation like that before. My key bit of advice is that there is nothing to be afraid of. Choosing yourself, taking risks, and diving into the unknown is what life is all about. It’s an adventure, and we all deserve the gifts the universe has to offer.
When we talk about self-love and understanding we 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?
I find that I often ask myself, “Why am I feeling this way?” I also try to pay attention to how I talk to myself, “How is my inner dialogue effecting me? Am I being kind and gentle? Am I being harsh or judgmental?” I know these seem simple, but they have a really strong impact. We can be so quick to shut ourselves down when we feel overwhelmed by a mood or an emotion, or even by a specific situation. When I approach myself with a tender curiosity, absent of judgement, I come upon some amazing and eye-opening discoveries. The things that surface aren’t always comfortable, so I make sure to stop, breathe, and give space to each thought that appears. This practice helps to create a bit of a barrier where I can think logically, and not get so wrapped up in the feeling of whatever I may be working through.
Being an entrepreneur definitely amplified my inner critic… I was an artist with NO experience in the realm of business, so naturally I was always telling myself that I was going to fail at one point or another. When I began to ask those questions, I would always come up with a handful of possibilities. And putting words to the fears and insecurities somehow gave them less power. Taking on the title of “business owner” becomes less intimidating each time I have that internal conversation.
Humans aren’t inherently born with tools like these. Therapy has helped to guide me toward the path of self-love and self-worth. It will be something I continually work on throughout the rest of my life — it’s a commitment I have made to myself. And though it’s always hard work, it comes to me more naturally the more I show up and put it into practice.
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)?
It’s easy to confuse alone with lonely, and I know that this was where I have struggled — I couldn’t separate the two. Funny enough, once I could differentiate, I felt lonely a whole lot less.
I think finding a way to be comfortable with being alone is paramount. Knowing that you don’t need to rely on the presence of another to feel a bit of worth is freeing.
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 I wholly embrace myself, it allows me to be authentic in my friendships and marriage, and even in the art I create. I can be truly present, honest and open, and find that my doubts and fears no longer have the spotlight.
In your experience, what should a) individuals and b) society, do to help people better understand themselves and accept themselves?
In terms of individuals, I would say try not to let that negative voice inside of you take over. Imagine talking to yourself as though you were a child. We don’t yell at children when they encounter a challenge or make a mistake. No, instead we approach them gently and sweetly, trying to help them work through it and feel better. We all have an inner critic that can take over and bring us down. Creating a kinder and intentional dialogue within ourselves can lead us to a clearer understanding. And only when we know and trust ourselves, can we really accept and embrace who we are.
The societal aspect is obviously more challenging. Human beings are held to extremely high standards, and often times they are unattainable. Everyday people — and most of us are everyday people — are simply not perfect. We each have our own story and are meant to be different. I do see a change in the media as of late, and we are collectively discussing and challenging the norms. There are more body positive movements, more people talking about mental illness, depression, gender roles, and so on via mainstream platforms. Though it feels like we’re far off from a tectonic shift here, I think this trend puts us on the right path. As individual contributors, I think it falls on us to keep pushing these conversations and do so unapologetically.
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) I put my phone down. To me this step is probably the most important. Social media can create a lot of anxiety for me, and before I know it I am comparing myself to others and getting really down on myself. I can draw a direct line from social media and my low self-esteem. So I now have a rule that I stick to: if I am on social media and I start feeling bad (even just a tinge of negativity) I immediately put my phone down and do something else. I then focus my energy elsewhere in a more positive way, like self-care or working on my art. I also have a no phone before bed rule. I don’t look at my phone (including social media) before and while in bed. I get better sleep and have a clear mind when I do this.
2) I keep a WIN JOURNAL! Yes, it might sound cheesy but by writing down 3–5 positive things (wins) helps keep things in perspective. This could be anything from having made a really good cup of coffee that day, or having hung out with my family, or if I got any errands done. Before I started to track these types of things, I would often feel as though I hadn’t accomplished anything and I was a failure. But when I write in my win journal I have all my accomplishments laid out in front of me, and I get to celebrate all the amazing things I did.
3) I meditate as often as I can. This gets me out of my head and into my body. It forces me to be in the present instead of obsessing over what was and what might be.
4) I give myself permission. This could pertain to shopping, eating “unhealthy” food, or anything else that I’ve labeled as a vice in my past. Removing the shame from these things frees me in ways I couldn’t have imagined. And if I start to feel a twinge of guilt, I tell myself that every moment is an opportunity to make different or better choice.
5) I take the time for self-care as much as possible. I listen to my body and give it what it needs, whether it’s taking a bath, doing my make-up, exercising or sleeping more. It’s like hitting a reset button, and I can feel more energized and connected to myself.
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?
“Art and Fear” — Although this book has a lot to do with being an artist, I think it can be beneficial for all types of people. It really opens up the conversation of fear. How we get in our own way a lot of the time and how it can effect other aspects of our lives.
“You Are a Badass” by Jen Sincero — If you want to feel like you can accomplish anything AND learn the tools to achieve this goal, then read this book. She is not only funny but incredibly insightful. She makes amazing points and it is unbelievably motivating.
“The Gifts of Imperfection” (book) and “Listening to Shame” (TED Talk) by Brené Brown.
Brené is a wonderful and incredibly intelligent and inspiring woman. I think the most fascinating thing she explains is her logic behind human behavior, and our behavior towards ourselves. She really breaks it all down in an honest and understanding way. She helps reveal the compassion and strength we all know we have, but may not know how to find.
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 love this question! I often think about starting a network of women who advocate for each other. My business is all about lifting each other up, celebrating one another, and finding our own inner-ferocity… I would love to be a part of a movement that supports individuality, embraces differences, and is welcoming to all of those who identify as women no matter — or especially because of — where they come from.
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?
Throughout my life my dad has always said this Latin quote to me: Illegitimi non carborundum, which means “don’t let the bastards grind you down.” This quote has so many meanings to me and I apply them to many different situations. When I start to feel rejected or hard on myself in my business (or life in general) these words pull me through and make it easier to shake off what others may think of me.
Thank you so much for your time and for your inspiring insights!