My advice is that if you’re not fulfilled by yourself, you’ll never be fulfilled with someone else. Put in the work, LEARN to love yourself, learn to be alone and be okay with it. If you’re not experiencing personal growth in your relationship, it’s time to level-up your relationship with YOU.
As a part of my series about “Connecting With Yourself To Live With Better Relationships” I had the pleasure to interview Stephanie Popso. Popso is a well-being coach, retreat guide, yoga instructor and creator of the Empowered Life Planner, a wellness-inspired day planner. Her clientele is mostly women, entrepreneurs, healers & teachers. Her focus is to shine a light on self-care and how it bolsters happiness, productivity, creativity & inspiration. She helps her clients unlearn habits that aren’t serving them & slowly build routines that give them more vibrancy & balance. Popso knows that we cannot pour from an empty cup and she’s living proof. She got into this field to keep herself accountable just as much as her clients. Her goal is to help people step out of their own way and into their magic, and they do this by breaking down their goals into small, achievable, measurable action steps.
Thank you so much for joining us! Let’s Get Intimate! I’d love to begin by asking you to give us the backstory as to what brought you to this specific career path.
To be honest, it was a really selfish choice. They say we teach what we need the most and it was very true in my case.
Like many, in my late teens & early 20’s I had a skewed vision of what ‘wellness’ was. I thought dieting worked, my fears held me back & I judged the hell out of myself. I was constantly stressed, tired & living a surface level life.
Fashion school took me to NYC where I began to discover who I truly was. After buying the book ‘Healing with Whole Foods, I experimented with different ways of eating & gained understanding of how the foods I put in my body affected my mood, energy & productivity. Work in the surf industry took me to California where I became more in tune with my body & the environment. In 2009, family brought me back to Detroit where I was certified to teach yoga (and SUP Yoga). Shortly after that started a vegan catering company because I was in need of things that Detroit didn’t offer quite yet & I knew that others were too. Cooking was gratifying, but I knew I could make a bigger impact.
A year later, I was certified in Holistic Health Coaching through The Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Then in Plant-Based Nutrition through The T. Colin Campbell Foundation. After that, I graduated The Spirit Junkie Master Class taught by Gabrielle Bernstein. I study & teach manifestation and mindset (“The Secret”), happiness, mindfulness & infinite possibility (Wayne Dyer & Brian Weiss) & practical lifestyle management techniques (Dr. Christine Carter). In 2016, I created The Empowered Life Planner, which is in its third year and is the foundation for all I do. It takes just three minutes a day to fill out & helps us to create balance and time where we perceive none.
Like I said earlier, everything I did was initially for my own well-being but ended up being too ground-breaking not to share. Everyone needs these tools and no one should be operating on empty.
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 holding a retreat in the Dominican Republic this May called the Empowered Reset. Yoga, meditation, organic meals, mini-workshops on self-development and lots of free time. The purpose of the retreat is to give participants the space & time to get to know themselves better so they can leave more aware of what lights their fire & how to keep it lit. My Empowered Life Planner is the foundation for this retreat revealing how people can take just 3-minuntes to start their day in a mindful way. It includes prompts for a daily mantra, gratitude, self-care, vibrant foods, physical activity & has . I’d absolutely love to have your readers join me!
I am working on an online program & an app as well.
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?
I grew up in an ethnic family where love was expressed through food. A big stepping stone for me was when I figured out that I could love myself, comfort myself, celebrate my wins and sit with my sadness without the help of food. That I could give myself nourishment in other ways. Food was covering up what I really needed in many situations & it felt really freeing to give myself permission to explore different ways of healing. I had to actually believe I was worth it to start shifting my perspective.
It was really healing to leave home and live in different places as a young adult. It gave me the chance to explore and understand I didn’t want to follow the crowd and that it was actually a gift to be my own person. I realized this sense of not belonging happened for me and not to me. I was able to accept and explore all of the things that make me special and eventually let me to a helping profession.
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?
Between Hollywood, Reality TV and social media, it’s hard to NOT get stuck in the comparison game. We’re shown a REALITY where women wake up with a full face of perfect makeup, men are perfectly groomed with six-packs, where cellulite doesn’t exist. If we submerse ourselves in these worlds, comparison becomes our normal. Also, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how fearful most Americans are of aging and death. It’s not something we talk about or embrace here and it shows in our quest to avoid what eventually happens to every single one of us.
When we immerse ourselves in fake reality, it’s very easy & normal to exist at surface level. To truly get to know ourselves we have to put the work in an get under the surface, peel back the layers, tear down the walls. The consequence is that we may never truly get to know ourselves on a deeper level. At that level is where we get to experience the self in a different way: appreciation, reverence, respect & love.
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?
Loving ourselves is important because it’s the key to understanding our needs and learning to fulfill them. Loving ourselves gives us the energy work towards our goals. It’s the life-blood to being comfortable in our own skin, accepting ourselves & knowing that we are ENOUGH. No one else can do that.
Why do you think people stay in mediocre relationships? What advice would you give to our readers regarding this?
Some people may stay because they are ignoring their intuition. It may be an inner voice or a feeling, that you keep stuffing away. My advice is to trust your gut, even if it’s the scariest decision you’ve ever made.
Others may feel like they can’t or don’t know how to be alone, or that they may not find someone better. My advice is that if you’re not fulfilled by yourself, you’ll never be fulfilled with someone else. Put in the work, LEARN to love yourself, learn to be alone and be ok with it. If you’re not experiencing personal growth in your relationship, it’s time to level-up your relationship with YOU.
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?
What are my personal well-being goals? What are my 1 year or 5-year goals? If nothing changes in 5 years, what will my life look like? Are the challenges I might face worth the growth? Will I be truly happy if I don’t take the steps to grow?
I have an almost 2-year-old named Rosie. When she was first born, I had very unrealistic expectations of time in general. While taking care of a newborn, I expected to get as much done at work and at home as I did before she arrived. I was really hard on myself without being able to assess my current situation. I knew if I didn’t make a shift I would crash and burn. I worked in my planner to prioritize the most important tasks for each day. I also started seeing a therapist to help me understand my current roles & this new version of myself. This was a turning point…when I realized that asking for help didn’t mean I was weak.
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)?
Doing ‘self’ work is some of the most important work we can do. Whether it’s in a crowded yoga class or in a cozy corner of our home, the space we create, where we turn our focus in, is imperative to growth. When we practice being with our breath & connecting our mind and bodies, we’re able to quiet all the noise of the outside world and begin the real work. Teachers, guides and retreats can help facilitate these practices, but the individual has to WANT to do this work & surrender themselves to it. If you’re not comfortable with being alone, start small. Carve out time to be with yourself at home or even take yourself out somewhere. This helps us to start a healing inner monologue. The goal is to start listening to what the body and mind have to say. They are constantly speaking to us.
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?
To truly be able to connect with others we have to be able to connect with ourselves. If we’re not able to get deep with ourselves, it’s very hard to have meaningful relationships with others. True friendship deserves vulnerability. Vulnerability, in my experience, makes itself present when we begin the work of loving our dark side or dark corners. These are emotions or qualities in ourselves we wish would go away. This practice alone, can help us to have meaningful & empathic relationships that also help us grow.
In your experience, what should a) individuals and b) society, do to help people better understand themselves and accept themselves?
For a better understanding of ourselves, we should explore different types of self-care that are fulfilling to us and learn how to make space for them in our lives. Creating rituals around these things can help us to understand ourselves better and on a larger scale, understand what life is really about.
Gratitude is also key. It’s a daily prompt in my planner. When we are able to cultivate gratitude even on a day where we wake up on the wrong side of the bed or get upsetting news, we are more flexible to be less judgmental of ourselves and others. Being able to embrace the imperfect & still find gratitude is very healing. Research also shows us that people that practice gratitude are happier in general.
Lastly, having realistic expectations for ourselves and people in our lives can help us understand ourselves and others better. When our expectations are unrealistic, it generally means our wheels are spinning so fast that we have not made space or time to check in with ourselves. People can live their whole lives like this and experience disappointment after disappointment. If we can stop, take a few breaths and assess ourselves in the moment, our expectations can come from a realistic, healthy place.
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) Spend time alone to bring focus inward: Even if it’s 5 minutes, with your door closed, at your desk. Or an extra few moments in your car before or after work. Or may be you need a bigger shift & decide to come on my retreat. Each morning I wake up an hour before my family to spend time alone in our back room. I do a short meditation, create my day in my planner, drink my celery juice, do a short workout routine, then have my coffee with adaptogens. I call these my non-negotiables (things that make my day better that I won’t go without) & they are the foundation of my self care.
2) Have positivity handy by creating a mantra or affirmation to carry with you throughout the day: My planner has an area to fill in a daily mantra and it’s so helpful in creating my positive outlook for the day and CHOOSING happiness. My word usually has to do with something I’m working on or struggling with and I use it as a support system when my positivity starts to waver. Even if you don’t choose to write it down, decide on a word or affirmation for your day. “I am worthy” I am peace” “Breathe” “Grow”
3) Plan Your Day: YOUR time is valuable. Remember that even Beyoncé only has 24 hours in a day. Our to-do lists can take over our lives if we don’t put them in check. Remembering ourselves & weaving that time in for us can make a huge difference in HOW we value our time and ourselves. It takes me 3 minutes to create a PLAN for my day and break down my goals into actionable steps. It also helps me make time for healthy choices.
4) Move your body and see it as an investment in you. Every morning after my meditation I do a push up and sit up routine. On a crazy day where I don’t get to fit anything else in, at least I know I made that initial morning investment. I try to get to a yoga class or go for a quick run on the treadmill at least 3x a week. It doesn’t need to be a big investment in time, but rather a ritual that we can build on, so it grows. Even 5 minutes 5x a week adds up. It’s a whole 25 minutes you may not have gotten the week before.
5) Eat vibrant food and see it as an investment in you. Garbage in, garbage out. Our bodies know when we’re not fueling them right & act accordingly. It messes with our mood, creativity, productivity and even our outlook. Each morning I drink celery juice or a detox greens mix, I put adaptogenic herbs in my coffee & try to add lots of color to every meal. I don’t complicate it with counting calories. I simplify it by adding color.
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?
Dr. Christine Carter: The Sweet Spot
Her book teaches us how to find balance at work and at home by learning healthy habits and unlearning the ones that don’t serve us. She has greatly impacted the work I do with clients as well as my own personal work. Each chapter is an eye opener and a mini-course on how to live life with less stress, baggage & complaints.
Dr. Wayne Dyer: The Power of Intention
He was & still is a great spiritual teacher and leader. His ability to connect with everyone & show different pathways to manifesting a life well lived is astounding. This book is a cornerstone in my work and personal life because it empowered me to be accountable for my destiny and all of my choices.
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…
To get outside each day. Nature is our greatest teacher. It challenges us to pause & breathe and notice all of the tiny miracles around us. We need to get off the hamster wheel and challenge ourselves to ask what life is really about. Nature is the conduit for leading an intentional life where we can actually see our sameness rather than our difference.
Let’s start a challenge where we step outside every morning (electronics not invited), breathe in some fresh air (yes, even city dwellers), announce 3 things we’re grateful for (aloud) and come up with our mantra for the day (yell it).
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?
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” Lao Tzu
Thank you so much for your time and for your inspiring insights!
About the Author:
Sasza Lohrey is the Founder & CEO of BBXX, a digital platform for intimacy and wellbeing. She is also the host of the BBXX podcast, “Let’s Get Intimate!” which hosts provocative and entertaining conversations with experts in order to challenge the way our culture conditions us to talk about sex, intimacy, and healthy relationships. BBXX was created in order to help people better understand themselves, so that they then can form deeper and more fulfilling relationships with others. Sasza is a former D1 athlete with a background in psychology and digital media. She is a member of the Women of Sex Tech collective, the co-mentorship community Dreamers and Doers, and a regular columnist for several online publications. Originally from the Bay Area, Sasza founded BBXX during a Stanford entrepreneurship program in Santiago, Chile. Learn more on our website and listen to more interviews with experts on our top-rated podcast!