Money Dates — What do money and self-love have to do with each other? Everything. Caring for your money is a form of caring for yourself, because like it or not, you need money to live a well-lived life. Because of limiting stories and beliefs around money, many women don’t want to look at their money or they don’t take care of it in a way that serves them. Having a weekly money date where you get intimate with your finances is one of the highest forms of self-love.
As a part of my series about “How To Learn To Finally Love Yourself” I had the pleasure to interview, Master Life and Self-Image Coach, Tonya Leigh. Tonya, Certified Master Life and Self-Image Coach, is inspiring women to add more elegance into their everyday lives, motivating many to flourish.
She’s been called an enchanting confidante for women around the world who seek to style their minds and create their lives from a place of joy, passion, and love. In a world that’s constantly telling us that we’re broken and need to go harder, faster, and hustle our way to success, Tonya’s philosophy is a breath of fresh air because we know the truth: no woman is broken. She encourages women to embrace their femininity, cultivates their confidence, and savor their lives — one bold thought, feeling, and action at a time.
With a community of over 75,000 women, Tonya has spoken to global audiences on a wide array of topics ranging from being a woman in today’s world to embracing entrepreneurship as fun and spiritual journey.
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.
My path looks more like windy roads, potholes, and a lot of U-turns, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Isn’t that what makes for a rich life, after all?
I grew up in the Bible belt of the Deep South in a trailer where girls typically became a teacher, secretary, or nurse. I chose the latter, as I was married at eighteen and a mother by twenty-two. I felt like I was living the life that I was “supposed” to live, but there was another life within me that was tugging at my soul. With this said, I didn’t have a clue as to how to get from here to there.
One night while working in the ICU, a doctor asked me, “Tonya, who do you want to be?”
Having the courage to answer that question, and live out my answer, this moment changed my entire life. This led me to sommelierschool, Paris, back to school, finally losing the extra 70 pounds, and ultimately to hiring a life coach. When I discovered the world of personal development and mixed in my love of Paris, I knew that I had a new voice to add to the conversation — the voice of femininity, style, and elegance.
After this, my company was born, and I continue to ask the question, “Tonya, who do you want to be?”
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?
One of the most loving things we can do for ourselves is to stop trying to fix ourselves. We are not broken-down cars that need to be fixed, instead, we are amazing masterpieces waiting to be created. If my journey has taught me anything, it’s that we get to create ourselves on purpose, and not because we’re not enough but because we know that we are.
I’m obsessed with the concept of self-image and how it shapes a woman’s life. I’m in the process of creating a school devoted solely to this topic. I want women to know that no matter their past or what they’ve been told, they get to decide for themselves who they want to be and how they show up in the world. This is the decision that shapes your entire life.
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?
It was a series of moments that changed me little by little until one day I looked in the mirror and deeply loved and appreciated myself.
My journey to self-love was more of a back-door approach. I spent so many years seeing myself as “less than,” which led to an eating disorder, excessive weight gain, dysfunctional relationships, and a life full of insecurity and anxiety. I tried all the self-help tips and tricks — posting “I love you” on the bathroom mirror, reciting mantras in the car, and getting regular manicures. But, my brain was so resistant that it wasn’t working for me, so I started to imagine what a woman who loves herself thinks, and what I discovered is that she doesn’t sit around trying to love herself, she just does.
With this said, trying to love myself was a testament to my lack of self-love. The harder I tried, the more I felt the absence of it. So, I decided to take the focus off of me and just start doing other activities — taking classes, going to the pool (even when my brain tried to convince me that everyone would laugh), going on trips, pushing myself to try new things.
Then, one day, I realized that I had so much respect for the version of me that was living life (even with all the negativity in my brain), but by enjoying the world, I started to enjoy the woman living it. So, ironically, it was so much easier to get on board the self-love train when I stopped trying to love me and simply started enjoying the world more.
· 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?
What a sad statistic, but since I’ve been a part of this 26 percent, I understand psychology really well.
We are exposed to an ideal of beauty from a very young age. I grew up during the era of the supermodels, such as Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, and now, it’s the Kardashians. Notice how the standard of beauty is always changing, which makes feeling beautiful an impossible goal if we’re looking outside of ourselves for validation and approval.
The consequences? It’s the demise of the most important relationship you have, the one with yourself. Can you imagine dating (or even marrying) someone who’s constantly telling you that you’re not enough, that you should lose weight, or you need to get rid of cellulite. That would be a terrible relationship, right?
Although, this is exactly what we do to ourselves. The cost of this relationship is that we never feel enough, and we work hard to fill that void, but nothing outside can offer this. It’s a decision that you must make for yourself — “I am enough, no matter what.”
When you feel enough, you become unstoppable, and you take action, not to prove yourself, but instead to express and honor yourself. The intention behind your action is everything.
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?
Oscar Wilde said, “To love one’s self is the beginning of a lifelong romance.” Without self-love, you’ll forever be trying to get love from outside of you, seeking validation and appreciation. You’ll sell your soul for a sliver of love, and at the end of the day, it was only yours to give yourself.
How you get to self-love will be an individual journey of commitment and persistence, but to love yourself is the best decision you’ll ever make. However, self-love is way more than self-care. Love is fierce.
When a woman loves herself, she shows up fully in her life, she respects herself, she trusts herself, she expects the best for herself. She’s tough with herself, only because she wants the best for herself. Imagine a loving mother that doesn’t allow her child to play in the streets. Sometimes that’s how we need to be with ourselves.
Why do you think people stay in mediocre relationships? What advice would you give to our readers regarding this?
You don’t get what you want, and you get what you expect. If you’re in a mediocre relationship with someone, it’s because that’s what you think you deserve. This is also a sign that you have a mediocre relationship with yourself. Once you start having a love affair with you, you won’t tolerate anything less than what you deeply desire.
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?
Every day I have moments where I reflect on myself and realize what changes are necessary. For example, a recent moment is that I had promised myself that I was going to work out. When the time came for me to go to the gym, my brain had a little temper tantrum and convinced me that I “deserved a break.” I skipped the workout and spent the rest of the day feeling bad that I had left myself down.
Now, some would think that self-love is accepting that decision and moving on, which is partly true. I am not an advocate of beating yourself up … ever! But, I also know that one of the best ways to destroy the relationship that you have with yourself is to break promises to yourself. Imagine dating someone who promised to pick you up at seven for dinner and didn’t show. Yet this is what we are doing to ourselves.
So, I had to be tougher on myself the next day when it was time for my workout. My brain had the same temper tantrum, but I put on my gym clothes and kept the promise to myself. The reward was not only feeling better but knowing that I am a woman who shows up for herself (and on those rare occasions when I don’t, I don’t sweep it under the carpet but commit to doing better).
As my mother used to tell me, “I love you, but I don’t like your behavior.” I now understand what she means. Turns out tough love, when driven out of deep care for yourself, is one of the highest forms of self-love.
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)?
I was once one of those people who was afraid to be alone, and today, I love my alone time. What changed were my thoughts. If you don’t like being with yourself, it’s because you don’t like who you’re being with yourself. Many people want to escape themselves because the thoughts in our minds are so horrendous. It’s like hanging out with an abusive boyfriend all day. Who wants that? Yet, we do that to ourselves. When you create a more loving image of yourself, you may find that your company is the best company in the world.
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?
Only when you truly understand and love yourself can you offer the same to others. It’s when we don’t that we find ourselves doing what I call “emotionally outsourcing,” which basically means: I don’t love myself, so can you love me? Or, I don’t understand myself, so will you understand me?
We outsource our emotional lives to people who can’t even manage their own, and then we wonder why our relationships are so dysfunctional?
When you start to care for yourself emotionally, it shifts your energy. You set boundaries with love, allowing people to be upset if they choose. You stop trying to manage other people to feel better. You show up in rooms with an attitude of “I need nothing from you and I want everything for you.”
It just so happens that the world respects that kind of woman.
In your experience, what should a) individuals and b) society, do to help people better understand themselves and accept themselves?
In order to help people better understand and accept themselves, collectively, we need to start teaching basic emotional tools. Most people don’t understand that the reason why they feel the way they do is because of thoughts in their heads. They think it’s the outside world that’s creating their anxiety, worry, overwhelm, sadness, or whatever emotion they are experiencing, but it never is. You are always the one creating your emotional life.
When you truly understand that, you stop trying to change the world (or your appearance, income level, or any other circumstance) to feel better. And, as you start to feel better, you start to attract things into your life that was so hard to create when you were at war with yourself.
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. Journaling — every day, put your thoughts on paper: your ideas, your goals, your crazy thoughts, all of it. There’s something powerful about getting things onto paper and looking at them instead of carrying them around in your head. Every morning, I wake up and grab my journal. Some mornings, I write down the thoughts that are causing my anxiety, and other mornings I write letters from my future self. Future self journaling is very powerful. You go into the future to the version of you that’s created what you desire and let her offer you support, ideas and lots of love.
2. Dressing Up — we underestimate the power of style in our lives, but all your choices are a reflection of your inner world. Style is one of the ways I create my days on purpose. Instead of waking up in a bad mood and throwing on a pair of sweats to confirm that mood, I put something on that reminds me of who I want to be, and like magic, my energy shifts. Plus, for me, it’s a sign of self-respect, as I don’t dress to impress others, though I love impressing myself.
3. Body Checks — many women are very disconnected from their bodies. In fact, many women don’t want to be in their bodies for various reasons. Years ago, on my weight loss journey, I got into the habit of doing hourly body checks, which is basically checking in with your body to see how it feels and what it needs.
Sometimes, it’s a little encouragement or some food. Other times, it wants to go for a walk or dance in the living room. But, this ritual has helped me get back into my body and pay attention.
4. Goals — this may not seem like a form of self-love, but I see it as a way of taking care of myself. My grandmother used to tell me, “an idle mind is a devil’s workshop.” Having goals that move my life (and my development) forward keeps me focused and gives me something to wake up to every day.
5. Money Dates — What do money and self-love have to do with each other? Everything. Caring for your money is a form of caring for yourself, because like it or not, you need money to live a well-lived life. Because of limiting stories and beliefs around money, many women don’t want to look at their money or they don’t take care of it in a way that serves them. Having a weekly money date where you get intimate with your finances is one of the highest forms of self-love.
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?
I started my personal development journey with Martha Beck, who wrote Finding Your Own North Star. That book will forever have a special place in my heart because it was a defining moment in my life when I discovered that my mind (not the outside world) was the source of my struggles.
One of my best friends, Brooke Castillo, owns The Life Coach School. Her work is brilliant, and her podcast is full of tools on how to manage our minds and lives.
I’m in an interesting stage of my life, however, where I’m not reading a lot of self-help books. There are seasons for everything, and I’m in a season of creation, not consumption. What I mean is that the artist needs to be inspired and then she needs to inspire. I see so many clients get stuck in constant self-help consumption that they spend more time reading about life than actually living it. I often say that the best way to improve your life is to enjoy your life, so right now, I’m reading books that simply delight me — books on style, poetry, fiction, and design.
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…
As I mentioned earlier, I am obsessed with self-image and how it impacts our lives. You can’t become wealthy if you’re being poor. You can’t become healthy if you’re focused on disease. You can’t be loved if you feel unlovable. Your self-image shapes the jobs you have and the partners you choose.
For this reason, the movement that I’m currently ecstatic about is challenging women to have the courage to answer the question, “Who do I want to be,” and then living out their answers.
I want every woman in the world to look in the mirror and see what she desires to see — strong, confident, beautiful, sexy, wealthy, healthy, powerful, whatever she decides to be.
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?
One of my favorite things that I say to myself daily is, “Bring it! I was made for this.” There is something so powerful about this statement because it forces you to not fight with what is, but to become the kind of person who is willing to experience it and rise about it. My maiden name is Rising, after all.
Thank you so much for your time and for your inspiring insights!