“There Is Nothing More Important Than Having A Loving And Caring Relationship With Ourselves.” With Bianca L. Rodriguez And Joanna Vaiou

As a part of my series about “Learning To Finally Love Yourself” I had the pleasure to interview Joanna Vaiou is a Search Engine Optimization Specialist at her own SEO company JoannaVaiou.com, helping established brands in architecture, construction, automotive and other industries with their organic web presence and rankings in Google. She is also a Personal Development advocate and deeply involved with the self-improvement industry.

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.

From when I remember myself, I was dreaming of freedom and independence, I wanted to see the world.

I grew up in an old fashioned family environment where women only one had 1 role in life, to be wives & mothers. My ambition and dreams to see the world with my own eyes, without someone else providing for me, seemed too crazy, revolutionary and impossible (to others).

From my childhood, I was a free spirit, so I never felt content being in a regular job, I did not manage to stay more than 3 months as an employee as well, in jobs that I did not “see” myself continue doing after 5 years.

Generally, I did not like any type of restriction in my life and my daily choices of how, where and with who I would spend my most productive hours, day in and day out.

Long story short, I realized 10 years ago that there is a career path for me to follow that would offer me the freedom lifestyle I always dreamt of:

  • Working from anywhere with my lap top, my own hours
  • Setting my own prices and
  • choosing my partners and clients

There is nothing more satisfying than that.

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?

My involvement with self-development is not commercial so. I don’t sell motivation or any type of expert advice. What happens sometimes is, that my personal life-changing example has inspired few people along my journey and that is the reason why I like to share my personal experience with the world.

I consider myself always a “work in progress” so as I continue to improve myself, the better impact this will have to other people, who will appear on my path.

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?

As I shared earlier, in my early days of being in university and after that, I struggled a lot with finding meaning in my life. I had no clear direction of what I wanted to do in until I was 28 years young. It was then when it hit me. I realized I was not content and happy with myself and my life.

In hindsight, I always had big expectations from myself and for many years I had them from others too.

The thing is, other people will always disappoint us. Also, we can’t change other people, only ourselves. So, I started focusing only on things that I could change and eliminate my expectations from others.

At my 28 years of being alive, I started my Personal Development journey with an online course from USA, named “The Discovery Series”.

This was the tipping point where I realized that I had to change, to improve, to build skills, to find something to do that I would love and to become great at it. We are not entitled to anything in our life. It took me lots of time to understand. I had to find something to LOVE first.

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?

People (either men or women) who are not very satisfied with their appearance probably haven’t found yet a purpose in their life. When I found purpose in my life, to improve and go after the life of my dreams with all the hardships and sacrifices that this required, the last thing I had on my mind was my appearance or how other people saw me. I seriously did not have the time or the energy to focus on anything else, other than my life’s purpose and goal: to become a happy person and go for the life of my dreams. It is really simple to me.

The consequences are that when we are not satisfied with our physical appearance, we waste time that we could invest into improving ourselves. We (human beings) are very lucky because unlike trees, we can decide to move and leave a place when it does not make us happy.

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?

There is nothing more important than having a loving and caring relationship with ourselves. It really is the base on which everything else is built on, either in our personal or professional life.

If we don’t love ourselves we will not be happy because we will have the expectation of love to get it from other people. If we have love inside us first, if we feel and show love and generally our vibes are those of love, we will be happy, no matter how other people treat us. But how can we love ourselves if we don’t know ourselves?

We need to become self-aware, get to know ourselves first. It is not sane to expect to get something from external resources if we don’t have it inside us first.

Everything we think we need from external resources, we already have it inside us. But looking deep inside us is a painful process for a majority of people. Change is painful, this is a fact. Fear of change is crippling people’s dreams and lives.

To me, what is even more painful is REGRET. Staying at the same place for ever and not growing, forgetting how to dream and act up on our dreams… I can’t think something sadder, really, it breaks my heart. Life is short and so uncertain.

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

When someone stays in a mediocre relationship, this signals to me that they don’t think they deserve the absolute relationship. It is us who put a price on our “tag”. it is not other people’s fault when things are not amazing in our life.

Though, it is our responsibility to change our life for the better. How? By looking deep inside us and find the love and the strength we need in order to go after our dreams and goals.

Happiness and contentedness are more likely to be experienced if we tie them to goals, not things or people.

My advice to our current readers is:

Find something to do that makes YOU happy; either it is a hobby or something that can be turned into a full time successful career later on.

Generally, find a nice purpose in life that makes you smile, your heart beat faster and motivates you to wake up in the morning and see the sun (or the rain).

When you do, be sure you will not depend anymore on other people’s approval or mediocre relationships.

You will only focus on what makes your heart beat faster and what challenges you to become a better version of yourself, a happier and more fulfilled version.

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?

Yes, I can give you an example of this type of questions.

“Is this the best you can do in your life?”

In every job that I stayed for few months in my life, I was asking myself: “Is this the best you can do with your life?”

The answer was always no, until my 28 years of being alive, when I found my purpose and started building a better version of myself that would deserve the life of my dreams. I had nothing to lose you know.

Everyone said “you can’t do it”, “who do you think you are?”, “why do you think you are special?” etc. Nevertheless, I thought I’d try either way. I wasn’t afraid of failure. I was eager to build a better me. My passion and love for change and evolution were much stronger than my petit fears. I don’t like fear as an emotion. I find it repelling.

“Can you imagine doing this for the next 10 years of your life?”

The answer to this question was always no (for the same reason that I shared earlier).

It is our responsibility to live our life, this gift we have been given, being driven by happiness, passion, purpose and love instead of:

  • fear of the unknown
  • fear of ourselves
  • fear of responsibilities etc

I have realized that what people mostly fear is the power that is hidden within them. Many people cannot manage power efficiently. It is easier to put the blame on others, I understand that, freedom and independence are very demanding when it comes to our ability to take full responsibility of ourselves and our life.

Many people prefer to be lead in their life (living someone else’s life in the end) and not design and lead their own. What kind of life is that? Who is it for?

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)?

The ability to stay alone with ourselves is crucial for our self-development and overall progress in life. I never got along with too much noise around me. I enjoy spending time alone and I am also a solo traveler… The sense of freedom when I travel alone is amazing.

It is only away from the “noise” around us that we can truly hear and connect with ourselves, become emotionally strong and independent individuals.

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?

During my self-development journey I have become much more selective with the people I choose to spend time with. It is because I value my time more now.

My time here on earth is my greatest asset. As a result, I keep less people in my life and develop deeper and more meaningful relationships. I am on a certain path in my life that not everybody can understand. And that is totally ok.

To me, it is always quality over quantity.

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

  1. Individuals should find a purpose in their life, put their fears of unknown aside and start improving their mindset and the relationship they have with themselves. Change starts from within. It will not come from external sources. When an individual improves, they become a better example for other people around them.
  2. Societies are groups of individuals like the ones above. A society can help people better understand and accept themselves when they educate them about the benefits of self-improvement and inspiring them by showcasing real life examples of individuals who changed their lives from their involvement. Societies should encourage people to express themselves without shyness, fear or guilt. People (usually) love authentic people (or not, but who cares? We are not here to be loved by everybody).

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?

Of course.

  • Solo Travel: I have a healthy addiction to travelling solo. To me there’s no experience more liberating that the feeling of freedom and adrenaline I experience, when I travel solo.
  • Yoga: I find yoga and breathing exercises very helpful to my energy levels
  • Spend quality time with my close people: Spending time (not only with me) but also with the few people I love, telling them that I love and appreciate them, is a must. Our time here on earth is not to be taken for granted.
  • Unplug for few days: Once or twice a year, I just unplug my lap top for a few days to regain my energy from working many hours online.
  • Treating myself well: I always make time for self-care activities like: Thai massages, weekends at the beach, dinners and other gifts.

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?

My favorite Self Development book is “School for Gods” of Elio D’ Anna. It has powerful meanings and truths inside as well as exaggerations.

I will always remember a quote from the book: “Bet on yourself and life will bet on YOU”.

It is exactly what I did and it has worked for me. Taking chances has worked for me in the end. I am here for the best possibilities and outcomes that I can experience as an alive human being.

My life is in my hands to create and lead. I am in love with life’s possibilities and I am in love with the gift of life that I have in my hands. I see life as a great opportunity to explore the greatest possibilities. I am a dreamer and (also) a doer. Staying in the “dream zone” forever is not a good strategy!

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…

For a change, why don’t you bet on yourself and see where that leads you? What is the worst thing that can happen to you?

  1. Discover how truly powerful, strong and divine being you are?
  2. Realize that you alone are the creator of your reality?

Go ahead, take a chance on you! You are worth it! Cut the noise of those who tell you otherwise.

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?

“The past needs to be blessed and healed… Go into every fold! Bring light into every corner! Transform the past with a new understanding… Your past will be healed when you cease to indulge in anxieties, doubts and fears. This is the real meaning of ‘inner forgiveness.” 
Stefano D’Anna, The School for Gods

The above life lesson quote from Elio D’ Anna, is a situation that I have personally experienced in my life while trying to let go of my fears, insecurities and limiting beliefs of my past and set a new base, where I would grow a better version of myself, step by step.

When I found my own purpose and the inner strength to go after my dreams, I stopped being afraid of failure, of myself, of what others will think of me. I changed my focus from the external and turned it on the inside of me. It was not easy. It was so worth it!

Improving our life is really simple (in hindsight). It has to do with where we focus our energy on: our heart, body and mind.

When we learn to love, accept and forgive ourselves, we focus on making ourselves happy first. We simply can’t fill other people’s cups if ours is empty. We can’t offer what we don’t have.

By choosing where to spend your time and where your attention is, it is only a matter of time that your life will become better. Juts hang in there and learn to love the process.

Life is in our hands and it is a 100% our responsibility to make it dream-like!

Thank you so much for your time and for your inspiring insights!