Julie Burton of ModernWell:“People stay in mediocre relationships for a wide variety of reasons; The most common roadblocks are fear and insecurity”

Kristin Marquet
Sep 10 · 11 min read
Credit: Belu Photography

People stay in mediocre relationships for a wide variety of reasons. The most common roadblocks that prohibit people from making relationship changes are fear and insecurity. Fears around money, children, loneliness, and ‘failure’ convince people that they are better off staying in a mediocre relationship rather than venturing off by themselves into the scary unknown. My advice for people who are in unfulfilling relationships is to start out by working on themselves. Talk to a therapist or trusted friend and examine what is missing and if there is anything you can do to find more fulfillment and love within yourself. From that place of self-love, you can then look at what is missing in your relationship, find the confidence to ask for what you need, and the strength to walk away if there is no chance that the relationship can be healthy, joyful, and rewarding for you, as well as the other person in the relationship.


As a part of my series about “Learning To Finally Love Yourself” I had the pleasure to interview Julie Burton. Julie has spent the past two decades working as a freelance writer, author, self-care expert, fitness instructor, and teacher while mothering her four children alongside her husband of 26 years. After co-founding the Twin Cities Writing Studio in 2015 and publishing The Self-Care Solution: A Modern Mother’s Guide to Health and Well-Being in 2016, she combined her passion for writing, self-care, and empowering women to be their best selves and founded ModernWell — the first women-centered co-working and wellness center in Minneapolis. Julie writes and speaks about motherhood, relationships, the aging process, and self-care. She lives in Minnetonka, Minnesota, with her family.


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.

As life often goes, the way I came to this work, or more accurately, the way it hit me over the head, is not a pretty story. In fact, my story was a source of deep shame for me for many years. But the realization that if I did not release myself from years of self-loathing and self-destructive behavior, I would stay stuck in the downward spiral of an eating disorder and may not survive. My path to healing brought me to this work as I realized that in order to not only survive, but to thrive, I would need to find a love and acceptance for myself and stay solidly grounded in my own health and wellness. I also realized that for my path to wellness to be truly impactful, it would need to become much bigger than me so I made a life-long commitment to helping others on their journeys to heal and grow through self-love and self-acceptance.

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?

Yes, I am working on two new books. One is a guided journal about instilling values in children. This interactive keepsake explores 14 fundamental values and guides parents through a series of exercises that invites them to take a deep dive into their own foundational value system. The goal for this book is for parents to find more clarity in how they developed and uphold their values so they are able to readily pass on their values to their children. The other book is a memoir/prescriptive non-fiction book that piggybacks on The Self-Care Solution and offers the reader more depth and insight into solidifying your relationship with yourself as a way to help formulate better connections with your partner, family members, your community and society as a whole. It also looks at a woman’s “second half” of her life and the feelings that she wrestles with in relation to menopause, children getting older and leaving the house, navigating your partnership, marriage or being single, and the many blessings and some curses of the aging process.

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?

“A riveting pain throbbed in my heart and in my head as the word ‘disappointment’ flashed incessantly in my mind’s eye. I desperately needed to numb the feelings of devastation, self-loathing, and rage toward myself and the world around me. With startling clarity and determination, I made a decision that it would be better if I disappeared — and I turned a full-fledged firing squad onto myself.” (-The Self-Care Solution) At the age of 17, my deep self-loathing morphed into a slow suicide, triggering a five-year life-threatening battle with anorexia nervosa. For the past three decades, I’ve championed the message of self-love and self-care through writing, speaking, and teaching, and my work at ModernWell. From my own personal experience, countless hours of research, and from my interviews with thousands of people, I am certain that self-love IS the key to a healthy and happy life. One of the main impetuses for opening ModernWell in 2018 was the desire to create a physical space where people have the permission to say “yes” to themselves and find the community, positive energy and support needed to nurture themselves professionally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually every day. It is an act of self-love by making a commitment to your mind, body and spirit by carving out the time and space for you to work, create, and connect with yourself and others in a healthy, productive and meaningful way.

Credit: Ackerman Gruber

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?

For my upcoming book, I have done some of my own research about women’s feelings about their bodies and had similar findings (actually an even lower percentage of body satisfaction for women). Images of women and men that flood social and mainstream media are unrealistic. Sculpted and perfected bodies are not the norm, yet if we are anything less than that, we feel truly “less than.” Eating disorders, anxiety, and depression are rampant, and much of it stems from feelings of self-loathing. Some of this might start with negative feelings about one’s appearance and subsequently turn into something much deeper than that. Or maybe it is the other way around. As a society, we need to place much more value on the core of a person, rather than how they look. Celebrating and bringing attention to more people who are kind, generous, thoughtful and creative, and are making the world a better place would be a good place to start.

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?

For the past three decades of my life, I have studied the self-care/self-love conundrum with a passion and urgency. The essential self-care principles I have uncovered through thousands of hours of research and interviews drive the way I parent, nurture my relationships, write my books, teach my writing and yoga classes, and run ModernWell. My quest to understand self-care and self-love and to share my findings with as many people as possible is motivated by first-hand and research-based knowledge that engaging in a loving, compassionate, and nurturing relationship with yourself is the key ingredient to living a joyful, fulfilling, purposeful, and meaningful life.

Why do you think people stay in mediocre relationships? What advice would you give to our readers regarding this?

People stay in mediocre relationships for a wide variety of reasons. The most common roadblocks that prohibit people from making relationship changes are fear and insecurity. Fears around money, children, loneliness, and ‘failure’ convince people that they are better off staying in a mediocre relationship rather than venturing off by themselves into the scary unknown. My advice for people who are in unfulfilling relationships is to start out by working on themselves. Talk to a therapist or trusted friend and examine what is missing and if there is anything you can do to find more fulfillment and love within yourself. From that place of self-love, you can then look at what is missing in your relationship, find the confidence to ask for what you need, and the strength to walk away if there is no chance that the relationship can be healthy, joyful, and rewarding for you, as well as the other person in the relationship.

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?

Our perception is our reality. So often people create their own narrative of their lives in order to disconnect from painful issues. Denial, avoidance, detachment, and withdrawal are all tactics used when we don’t want to face our truth. “I only have two drinks a day. I am not an alcoholic.” “My husband just loses his temper sometimes. He does not mean the horrible things he says to me. I am not in an abusive relationship.” In order for us to face the reality of our lives, we have to be willing to confront pain. There have been multiple times in my life when I have hit a brick wall and realized that I was not being honest with myself. Times when I was numbly moving through life in order to avoid having difficult conversations with friends, my husband, or family members because I was afraid and didn’t want to “stir the pot.” Stuffing these feelings caused me tremendous anxiety and led to an overall feeling of unhappiness. Sometimes the pot needs to be stirred in order to disrupt dysfunction. Asking yourself questions like, “What would I say/do if I wasn’t afraid? Am I being my best self? Am I treating myself and others with respect and kindness? If not, why? What changes do I need to make within myself and within my life to live fully and authentically? What support do I need to make these changes?

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)?

Being comfortable with your own company is one of the most important aspects of self-love. If you truly love someone, you want to be around them and feel immense satisfaction in their presence. Same applies to you. Being truly content with yourself means that you can spend time alone and feel at peace and not feel lonely. Granted, as humans, we are wired for connection so, on the flip side, it is also important that we do not go to the other extreme and isolate ourselves. Finding a balance of spending time enjoying your own company and the company of others is key. Some people require more time alone than others, and some people have a higher need for social interaction. You get to determine what your needs are and part of your self-love and self-care practice is making sure you are honoring those needs as best you can.

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?

I truly believe that you can only love another person as much as you can love yourself. The more honest, loving, and authentic your relationship is with yourself, the better equipped you are able to establish that type of a relationship with those around you.

In your experience, what should a) individuals and b) society, do to help people better understand themselves and accept themselves?

a) Read Brene’ Brown, keep a journal, surround yourself with positive, honest, and supportive people, connect regularly with a mentor, counselor, therapist, or spiritual or religious guide. b) Promote more messages about what unites us as human beings rather than what divides us; and share more stories of personal growth, resilience, and positive transformations.

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) Nourish yourself physically, emotionally, relationally, mentally, and spiritually with exercise, good food and plenty of water, inspiring people, books, workshops, music, art, and connecting to your faith/spirituality.

2) Keep a journal of your thoughts, experiences, ideas, hopes and dreams.

3) Connect with a trusted advisor, therapist, mentor, clergy member, or coach who can provide you with the feedback you need to make sure you living your truth and being kind to yourself.

4) Spend time in nature and allow the beauty around you to help you connect with the beauty within you.

5) Ask for help when you need it. Part of self-care and self-love is trusting that you are not alone and that it is okay to lean on people during times of need.

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?

Anything and everything by Brene’ Brown. She speaks the truth in a way that makes me want to dig deep and do the works that it takes to learn, grow, and live truthfully, generously, wholeheartedly, and authentically

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…

Mental, emotional, and relational health receive as much air time as other components of wellness do. For every exercise, diet, nutrition, and erectile dysfunction ad, there is one about mental and relational health — suicide prevention, eating disorders, addiction, abuse, or depression/anxiety.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” that you use to guide yourself by?

When we deny the story, it defines us. When we own the story, we can write a brave new ending.” –Brene Brown

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 felt like I was being held down by a heavy blanket of shame. I didn’t want anyone to really know me. Because if they knew me — my flaws, imperfections, quirks, fears, insecurities, they would not like me. I was drawn to people who also were shame driven; secret keepers — hiding their truth from themselves and others. And even though I thought it was where I belonged, and I could stay safe there, I felt very alone, hurt and let down in those relationships that were filled with comparisons, jealousy, and coveting. I realized that I was letting myself down. That I was setting myself up for hurt and disappointment. Once I started sharing more of my truths and connecting with myself on a deeper level, I craved connections with people who were able meet me there, and take this valuable connection a step further — cheering each other on in a truly authentic way.

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film, Sports and Tech. Authority Mag is devoted primarily to sharing interesting feature interviews of people who are authorities in their industry. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

Kristin Marquet

Written by

Publicist and author based in New York City. Founder and Creative Director of FemFounder.co, TheSplendorStudio.co, and DEFTMagazine.com.

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film, Sports and Tech. Authority Mag is devoted primarily to sharing interesting feature interviews of people who are authorities in their industry. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

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