Kelley Gunter: “Learn to love yourself and become your very best you”

The most powerful lessons we will ever learn are usually only visible through the lens of hindsight. It typically takes me years to look back and see how something that was so incredibly painful, actually turned out to be something instrumental in the happiness of my future. I believe my destiny came calling, but it […]

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The most powerful lessons we will ever learn are usually only visible through the lens of hindsight. It typically takes me years to look back and see how something that was so incredibly painful, actually turned out to be something instrumental in the happiness of my future. I believe my destiny came calling, but it was clothed in destruction. The only way I could clearly see that was after many years had passed. At the time we are experiencing a turbulent storm in our lives, it’s nearly impossible to see what good could ever arise from it. I can tell you, though, that many powerful and positive things have occurred in my lifetime, but they came disguised as drama. Every painful situation I have survived has allowed me to shine my light for others who still feel trapped in the darkness.

As a part of my series about “How To Learn To Finally Love Yourself” I had the pleasure to interview Kelley Gunter. Kelley is an internationally acclaimed speaker and author of the compelling memoir You Have Such A Pretty Face. She describes herself as a “survivor of sexual abuse, emotional warrior, and connoisseur of comfort food.” Gunter states that her “painful journey to find peace and self-worth began with a 243-pound weight loss, included many dark moments of despair, and eventually brought me to my knees.” In a message that is particularly resonant in these trying times, Gunter says in the introduction to her story on her homepage, “When the world says, ‘give up,’ Hope whispers, ‘try it one more time.’” Gunter has a Masters Degree in Counseling and was a licensed social worker for 27 years. She is currently finishing her second memoir, The Homecoming Queen of Crazy Town.

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 a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I spent most of my life running from the pain of a reality that I couldn’t escape. As much as I didn’t want to come to terms with the fact that my childhood had been riddled with abuse and pain, the truth lurked in every corner of my existence. Regardless of what substance I used to try and eradicate the shame that was silently strangling me, years of pain remained in the cellar of my soul, ominously demanding to be acknowledged. Trauma is steadfast; It doesn’t dissipate with time. Sadly, that unhealed trauma occupied the control room of my soul for decades, dictating all of the calamities of my life.

In my early adulthood, I used food as comfort and eventually weighed in at a life-threatening 391 pounds. After having weight loss surgery in 2002, I flatlined in the recovery room and was on life support for almost a week. The hospital staff told my parents each night, “Prepare yourself, because she most likely won’t live through the night; You need to make her plans.” God had different plans though, and 14 months later, I had lost 243 pounds and I have maintained that loss for 18 years. I lost the weight, I had the extra skin removed, but what I didn’t do, was lose the pain that was drowning my soul. As a result of my weight loss surgery, I couldn’t overeat anymore. I had never faced the demons that were continuing to haunt me and as a result, in an attempt to numb the relentless pain, I branched out into other addictions.

The survival skills I utilized as a child turned into incredibly unhealthy coping mechanisms as an adult. Eventually, a lifetime of poor choices, numerous addictions, and mistakes, caused my entire world to collapse around me. Surrounded in the aftermath of my own self-destruction, I realized that no one was coming to save me. For the first time in my life I accepted that I couldn’t run fast enough to outrun myself, and at this point, I had become the problem. It was then that I entered treatment and my healing journey began.

Healing is not a calm, campfire moment with groups of people singing Kumbaya. Healing takes an intense amount of determination to clean out the poison that has infected your soul. Just because a person has scars, doesn’t mean the wounds healed properly. When I first began working through the trauma from my childhood, I felt as though a giant portal had been opened and I was flooded with repressed memories of abuse resurfacing. I was inundated with intrusive thoughts, flashbacks, and nightmares. It was the darkest time of my existence and there were times I was in so much pain that I prayed, begging God to let me die. I felt alone, broken, and I just wanted to give up.

Healing is a day-by-day, sometimes minute-by-minute decision to learn new coping skills. Healing also includes unlearning all of the unhealthy behaviors that no longer serve you. It takes courage to heal.

It’s difficult and incredibly painful to take responsibility for all of the mistakes that were made during the blur of addiction, but that’s part of achieving and maintaining sobriety.

On one particularly trying day, I was searching on the internet for inspirational stories of people who had rebuilt their lives. I found plenty of stories of people who had survived the unthinkable, but not many of those who were trying to survive the darkness that their own mistakes had partially created. I knew that there were over 82 million adult survivors of sexual abuse in the U.S. alone. I knew that survivors of childhood sexual abuse had a higher likelihood of developing addictions later in life. I also knew that the brains of children who were abused form differently than the brains of children who were not abused. The areas in the brain that are affected control judgment, consequential thinking, impulsivity, and the fight, flight, or freeze response. I also knew that the darkness that encapsulates victims and the shame associated with sexual abuse was stifling.

It was on that day that I made the decision to tell all of my story — the painful parts, the abuse, the mistakes, the addictions, and most importantly, the beautiful hope and faith that saved my life. I knew there were millions of people trying to survive the darkness and I knew that if they looked closely at the difficult path they were walking, they would see my footprints. If I could find my way out and escape the darkness, they could as well. It is my prayer that the truth of my survival will spread the light of hope that illuminates the path of healing for others. There is pain and there is peace — the bridge that connects the two, is healing.

Regardless of what has been done to us, we are worthy and we deserve to heal. Our stories matter. Survivors are incredibly strong and brave. We are more than anything that was done to us or said to us. Silence is the comrade of shame and we don’t have to be quiet about the abuse we suffered. Our voices are important. We certainly don’t have to live in shame because of the abuse we suffered. Those. Days. Are. Over.

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 currently in the process of finishing my second memoir, The Homecoming Queen of Crazy Town. This book is filled with both heartbreaking and hilarious true stories of the wild and inappropriate things I did prior to my healing when the Homecoming Queen of Crazy Town was in charge of my life. I introduced the Queen in my first memoir, You Have Such a Pretty Face. We all have a Queen inside of us who loves to take over when we feel less-than or overwhelmed. If you’ve ever had a moment where you were stressed-out and said to someone, “Let one more person say something to me today and they’re going to find out!” That’s the Queen. Nothing good ever happens when she takes over and we typically always regret the behaviors we display when she is in charge. I hope that readers will be able to relate to the mistakes I made while struggling to discover my self-worth. I discuss, in detail, my healing journey and how differently I would handle things today if presented with similar situations. When readers are able to find themselves in the pages of my books, I believe they are able to begin to recognize their own pain and also find pathways to healing that they might not have previously considered. Discovering our self-love is a journey that we all need to embrace. Many times we are able to recognize our own pain more easily in someone else. That recognition can start a series of events that begin with reflection and introspection and end with healing and the evolution of a soul.

I am currently partnering with Dr. Nina Savelle-Rocklin in leading the healing Facebook group, The Binge-Free Babes. This is a powerful group for women that addresses emotional eating and the underlying pain that is the catalyst for this behavior. Women from all over the world are participating in this group and their progress has been astounding. Diets don’t work long term and learning to address the reasons we turn to food for comfort, is the first step in making peace with food and never having to diet again.

Another project I am incredibly excited about is The HOPE Summit. This is a faith-filled event that will take place in ten separate locations across the U.S. in 2021. It will present a bevy of speakers who share their amazing, true stories of survival, healing, and faith. There will be plenty of beautiful music, food, and the substance that our country is so desperately in need of: HOPE. This event kicks off in Ohio on April 24, 2021, and the other locations and dates will be announced soon.

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 key moment in my life that I describe in my memoir, You Have Such a Pretty Face, is the moment that my plastic surgeon, Dr. Kurtis Martin, refused to revise my scars again. After having lost 243 pounds following weight loss surgery, I had numerous surgeries to remove all of the loose, extra skin that remained. Even though the extra skin was gone, I would stand in the mirror and look at what I perceived to be all of my imperfections. I hated the scars that were left following the skin-removal surgeries, and I was constantly having them revised in hopes of making them less noticeable. Eventually, Dr. Martin refused to do any additional surgeries on me. He told me, “You don’t need them. You HAVE to make peace with your body.”

I remember leaving his office and being heartbroken. Tears streamed down my face — I didn’t know what to do. What would take me years to realize is that I couldn’t make peace with my body, because it wasn’t about my body. Losing 243 pounds didn’t fix my incredibly low self-esteem. As much as I had wanted it to be, weight loss surgery wasn’t the magic eraser for all of my life’s problems. Having a healthy, fit body didn’t repair my incredibly fractured soul.

Many years later after leaving treatment, I realized that the same scars I had always tried so desperately to hide, I now looked at with newfound respect. Those scars said I survived something that was sent to destroy me. Those scars were proof that I was strong and that when the rest of the world had given up on me, I kept fighting. Those scars told my story — a story that the world deserved and needed to hear. Those scars reminded me that God held onto me when the enemy was attacking in an attempt to prevent me from fulfilling my destiny. Today when I look at my physical scars, I also see the scars that are on my soul, the scars that only God can see. Those invisible scars are the truly powerful ones. They are indicative of incredible healing from a pain that the rest of the world could not see.

Today I treat myself with compassion because of the weight of those wounds that I carried alone for so many years. I am gentle and forgiving with myself about mistakes I made when I didn’t realize what was fueling my self-destruction. I accept and have an enormous amount of respect for the beautiful mosaic of a human being that I am. I was absolutely broken at one point, but God put me back together, piece-by-piece, using His love and strength as the glue that holds all of my pieces in place. At last, I realized that I don’t have to hide my broken places. The cracks and the broken places are not only where the light gets in, but also where the light gets out. How could I shine for anyone else if I’d never been broken? In that regard, I’m very similar to a glow stick. I had to be broken in order to shine.

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?

I’m actually surprised that the numbers of people who are very satisfied with their appearance are as high as they are. We live in a world that is dominated by filters and photo-shopped images. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good filter myself, but why do I love them? Because they erase the little imperfections that I would love to be without. They soften the places I would like the world to overlook — the nagging wrinkles that remind me I’m on the other side of the mountain and my collagen left the building in search of Elvis. Filters are everywhere and I don’t believe they will be leaving us anytime soon. The accompanying sad truth of that is: very few of us are happy with how we look. But how could we be when we are comparing ourselves to the airbrushed images of models, celebrities, and all of the influencers on social media?

I wrote a blog titled, “Newsflash: I’m Not Airbrushed In Person.” I wanted people to know that when they meet me at book signings or a speaking event, they’re going to experience the genuine, unfiltered version of me. The really amazing thing is that most people who meet me in person tell me, “You’re so much prettier in person.” My mind always silently races to the thought that I need to up my filter game, but then I always settle into the reality that pictures don’t convey my soul. There is no filter for a personality and in person, people are going to experience the actual, unedited version of you. I like to believe that the light that I discussed earlier shines out of all my broken places welcoming others in. I also believe that there is a secret handshake between souls, and those of us who have experienced pain immediately recognize and connect with another we know has also been wounded.

The bottom line is that we live in a world that is obsessed with physical appearance and as a result, we find ourselves living in comparison. The danger of comparison, though, is that many of us may feel that we don’t measure up to others. Eventually, that can snowball into an overall feeling of I’m not enough. When we feel less-than long enough, we are in danger of beginning to settle for situations and people who don’t treat us with respect. We all eat lies when our hearts are hungry. We may begin to overlook the inconsistencies in what our mate tells us because we don’t want to be alone. We may begin to believe that we can’t find anyone better and so we settle for relationships that we aren’t happy in and that we find less than fulfilling.

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?

It was during the darkest night of my soul, that I not only discovered my self-love, but Irealized how crucial it was for me to nurture it and allow it to grow. There comes a time in every life that we have to not just be okay with who we are, but have to begin to celebrate who we are. The one thing I have learned about life is it will consistently blindside you. During your most difficult seasons, there will be occasions when you have to be your own cheerleader. At some point, you will undoubtedly learn the lesson that while you may have a lot of people sitting on your bench, that doesn’t mean you have anyone who is actually on your team. In those moments, it is essential that you have the strength of self and the confidence in who you are that will allow you to say, “This is who I am. There is where I stand. I’ll be fine if you don’t agree or if you walk away.”

Unfortunately, futures have a way of falling down in midflight. When the unthinkable happens and you lose a person you never dreamt you would have to live without, self-love is what will guide you through the darkness. Regardless of how amazing we may be, very few of us will escape being rejected at some point. Rejection is always painful and the best remedy for healing a broken heart is soothing it with a solid dose of self-love. Self-love doesn’t leave you for what is perceived as an upgrade. Self-love knows it already has the best and self-love is constant. Its tank may need a refill every once in a while, but it never stays on empty.

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

I believe that people stay in mediocre relationships because of a lack of self-love and self-worth, and also because many people have a monumental fear of being alone. Many would rather be with the wrong person and tolerate relationships that they aren’t happy in because they think it is better than by themselves. People are so terrified of closed doors that many times they get their fingers and hands smashed trying to keep them open at all costs. One of the gifts of self-love is that we can begin to become thankful for closed doors that prevented us from spending years in the wrong rooms with the wrong people.

Learn to love yourself and become your very best you. You will never regret building your self-esteem. People who love themselves don’t settle for disrespect or being treated poorly because they know how to walk away and enjoy their own company. Staying in a mediocre relationship emits a signal of desperation. Healthy people aren’t desperate. Healthy, whole people are magnetic and they are irresistible. There is a reason they aren’t alone for long. Don’t settle for any relationship that is less than what you want. While it’s true there are no perfect people or perfect relationships, there is someone and a relationship that will be perfectly suited for you. Hold out for that person and that relationship.

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?

It’s incredibly hard to look at yourself without the filter that protects you from pain, but that is the only way to improve who you are and change things that need to be changed. Unfortunately, none of us escape the realization that life isn’t easy. As a result of our battles and bruises, we tend to develop many defense mechanisms and barriers that shield us from perceived pain. The problem, many times, is that those barriers also prevent us from developing genuine, loving relationships with others.

Throughout the course of my healing journey, I have lost many people. There were people who didn’t understand my trauma, people who were angry and hurt because of my poor choices related to my addictions, and people who were frustrated and impatient with the healing process and just didn’t want to deal with the drama of it all anymore. The way I handled all of those losses, and there were many of them, evolved as my healing continued.

The first thing I had to do was begin to accept that people had a right to feel whatever they were feeling and they had a right to walk away from me. No one owed me anything. No one had to remain in my life. It’s easy to get mad at people for leaving us. I initially felt abandoned and betrayed, but I eventually got to the point where I wanted to understand and take responsibility for the part I played in their leaving. I wanted to fix the behaviors that were related to the mistakes I had made so that I didn’t hurt anyone else and so I didn’t repeat the mistakes in the future. It’s a very hard thing to do. I also had to accept the fact that how I thought I treated people didn’t necessarily mean that was how they felt they were treated.

I had to look at myself in very honest ways and ask myself a lot of hard questions. Was I that selfish? Was I that manipulative? Was I a bad friend? Was I insensitive? Some of the answers I didn’t like, but I knew I couldn’t become my best self if I wasn’t honest. I had to take note of all the things that I felt I could have done differently. I knew I couldn’t salvage the relationships that were gone. I had to let go of many people, because trying to go back is almost always a terrible idea. If a relationship has died, it’s best to just let it rest in peace. Trying to breathe life into something that was already pronounced dead, is a recipe for disaster. Completing an autopsy on those expired relationships and figuring out precisely what role I played in their death, was essential if I wanted to make sure I didn’t repeat the same mistakes in the future.

I made sure that I incorporated all of the lessons I learned into my healing plan and I accepted that there were some things that I could not change. I had to make peace with that fact and move forward.

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)?

During the times that we find ourselves alone, if we embrace the process, we can experience remarkable personal transformation. It is during times of solitude that we can hear our soul speaking. What really makes us happy? What are we really searching for? What do we believe our purpose is? Newsflash: it’s not being miserable so that everyone else can be happy. The concept of “He completes me,” is a bunch of bull. It may have been a great line for a movie, but it isn’t accurate in terms of relationships. I hate to be a killjoy, but it just isn’t healthy. No one completes a healthy person.

You would need to be half a person for someone else to complete you. Keep in mind if you are half a person, that means you will eventually become a drain on the whole person because they are working at keeping your whole. No one will want to tolerate that forever. It doesn’t matter how beautiful, sexy, rich, successful, or funny you are. No one will want to lift you up forever. It’s exhausting. Work on making yourself whole. When two people come together who are wholes individually, they already have the foundation for a powerful, successful relationship.

There is a big difference between being alone and enjoying the solitude. In both situations you are alone, but one is fulfilling and one is lonely. Learn to embrace the beauty of solitude and all the invaluable lessons you can learn during those moments.

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?

Once I achieved a certain level of self-love and self-understanding, I was able to become a much better friend and family member. One of the things I learned during my treatment was that I just wanted to be heard. I truly needed someone to understand how I felt. As I continued to heal, I learned that everyone else wants to be heard as well. People want to be heard because they truly want to be understood. When I was brutally honest with myself, I realized that most of the time when others were talking, I was so busy constructing my response that I didn’t really listen completely to what they were saying and I especially wasn’t cognizant of how they were feeling.

The really beautiful thing was that once I became a whole, healthy person, I was able to enjoy being with friends just to experience the beauty of them. In the past, I always wanted to get together with friends to tell them all of the things that were transpiring in my life. I needed their input and I needed them to lift me up and in essence, help me be whole. When I didn’t need them to be anything except who they were, I was able to celebrate their presence and their being. I was able to lift them when they needed to be lifted. I was able to experience them as the wonderful people that they are. My healing allowed me to become a much better friend. Yes, I still have times that I lean on my friends — that’s what friends are for — but I no longer lean as a means of my existence.

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

As individuals, the process of understanding ourselves is a lifelong journey. Depending on where we are at in life and what is happening, things affect us differently. Digging into and gaining an understanding and perspective of what has shaped us into the people we are today, is essential to our future successes. If I don’t understand what fuels me, how can I ever fill up my tank? When we don’t comprehend the complexities that make us who we are, how do we ever improve? Each of us is born with limitations and imperfections, and understanding those truths help us to accept the reality of who we are and what we can achieve. Acceptance should never be the reason for lack of effort or improvement. When we are consistently working on being our very best and making a constant effort to learn and improve, we can then peacefully accept who we are. We don’t have to make excuses for ourselves. Learning to accept where we came from, what we are equipped with, who we want to be, and how we hope to accomplish those things, is the first step in learning to grow.

As a society, we have to begin to accept each other with compassion and without judgment to create a safe space where individuals can embrace who they are and who they feel they were born to be. There are infinite ways to find your own way and when society can begin to allow people to walk their own path, whatever that path may be, individuals will truly begin to work toward acceptance of who they are and what their purpose is in this world. Each of us is equal, simply because our hearts are beating. When society begins to allow that truth to permeate its existence, the world will be a much better place to live in and people will move toward being able to unabashedly accept themselves.

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 consistently remind myself that I am a work in progress and that healthy is a lifelong goal. Each day is a new chance for me to become healthier and to choose healthy food options to put into my body. I enjoy food. I love to cook and bake. Those are both things that I learned from my Grandma and they bring me a lot of joy today. Having struggled with my weight in the past, I know it’s essential that I remain cognizant of what I am eating and more importantly, why I am eating it. Inevitably, there will be days that I don’t make the healthiest choices. I don’t come down hard on myself. I show myself compassion and I remind myself that tomorrow is another chance to eat a little healthier. Healthy living is a crockpot thing, not a microwave thing. It is achieved slowly over the course of my life. I don’t deprive myself because deprivation never worked for me. I allow myself to eat what I want within reason.

2. I don’t beat myself up over past mistakes.

There are days when life is hard that it would be easy for me to think about all of the mistakes I’ve made, the people I’ve lost, the things I’ve done wrong, and the painful results of those choices. I realize how toxic it is for me to allow those thoughts to enter my mind. As soon as one of those thoughts jumps into my consciousness, I immediately remind myself that I have to stay focused on my future. Nothing will ever be accomplished by mentally going over all of my mistakes. Negativity doesn’t produce anything positive and if I allow myself to jump down that rabbit hole, I will be inundated with the backlash of dark and self-bullying thoughts. When those thoughts begin to surface, I tell myself that I did the best I knew how to do at the time and I allow myself to focus on the future. An obstacle is what we see when we take our eyes off of the goal.

3. I remind myself that I am a child of God and I trust Him to open my doors. My faith is a very important part of my everyday life. I know that I am created and loved by the greatest power in the world and I know that He knows my intentions and my heart. I find great peace in knowing that in spite of all of my flaws and all of my imperfections, I am loved. I did nothing to deserve that love and yet, I am incredibly grateful for it. No person on this earth can see my intentions, but God can and that fills my heart with happiness. I know He knows everything there is to know about me, and for me, that is everything. I trust Him to open the doors that I need to be opened in my life and to close the doors that need closed. I don’t question the closed doors anymore. In my memoir, You Have Such a Pretty Face, I write about how closed doors actually saved my life. I will always remember that.

4. I remind myself that people need to hear my story. I get tired like everyone else. I have days when I want to give up and when I feel like I am not making any difference and my existence really doesn’t matter in the world. On those days, I remember the darkest days of my life and how I would fall asleep at night crying and I would wake up in the morning crying. The pain I felt seemed so insurmountable and I truly didn’t think I would survive it. Because I know that there are people out there now who feel the same way I felt then, I continue to tell my story and speak my truth, hoping that those who need to hear it, will somehow hear it. I have had people tell me that they have read my social media posts for months, but never made any comments. One person told me that he put down his gun after reading one of my posts. Another lady told me that my account is the first place she goes when she wakes up, to read what I have written for the day. Even when I feel my worst, I remind myself that someone, somewhere, just might need to read something I have to say. That keeps me going.

5. The most powerful lessons we will ever learn are usually only visible through the lens of hindsight. It typically takes me years to look back and see how something that was so incredibly painful, actually turned out to be something instrumental in the happiness of my future. I believe my destiny came calling, but it was clothed in destruction. The only way I could clearly see that was after many years had passed. At the time we are experiencing a turbulent storm in our lives, it’s nearly impossible to see what good could ever arise from it. I can tell you, though, that many powerful and positive things have occurred in my lifetime, but they came disguised as drama. Every painful situation I have survived has allowed me to shine my light for others who still feel trapped in the darkness.

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 love Brene Brown’s Book, The Gifts of Imperfection. This book spoke to my soul and allowed me to embrace all of who I am and not feel embarrassed or shame for the parts of me that needed work. I wrote furiously throughout this book — highlighting, underling, circling, and drawing hearts with exclamation points. This book is a gift to every person learning to love themselves.

I devoured Steven Furtick’s book, Unqualified. His message in this book is so powerful and hit a bullseye in the middle of my heart which always believed that I would never be enough. The message is simple and clear — God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called. If God has a purpose for me, then He has already qualified me and He will continue to qualify me. People don’t give me my worth. That worth has to come from my creator and if He has given me a purpose, it doesn’t matter whether people think I am qualified or not, God himself qualifies me.

The Secret This is an oldie, but a goodie. I have read this book over and over and I utilize the components of this book to send out my desires to the universe. I love the law of attraction and am a big believer that our thoughts create our reality. Our thoughts are powerful and they are filled with energy. What we think, we eventually speak, and what we speak, we eventually become. It’s a friendly universe we live in and this book is loaded with that powerful truth.

The Castle of The Pearl by Christopher Biffle. I journal a lot and this book is a journal of self-discovery and reflection. I have had it for years and every year or so, I do the entire process again. I love the exercises and the self-reflection that is contained. I always write my answers in a notebook so that I can continue to use the book over and over. I believe you can buy copies on Ebay, but the book itself is no longer being produced.

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…

We live in a world that is full of survivors. The walking wounded are everywhere and I was one of them. I know how it feels to walk blindly through life, bleeding on the inside, and hoping no one notices. Each of us has survived something. We have all been hurt, we have all suffered, and we all need to heal from something. Each of us has lived in the house of pain, we’ve just occupied different rooms.

The world is full of angry people. Anger is simply pain that was ignored too long. Hurt people always hurt other people…even when they don’t mean to. As a society, we desperately need to heal. We need to be allowed to grieve. We need to show ourselves and everyone else some compassion. We need to learn to love again. Anger doesn’t heal the pain. Hurting others will never heal you. We all desperately need to heal, but we can’t heal what we don’t acknowledge. We have to begin being honest about our pain, both with ourselves and with others. If we don’t learn to exist without the fears that we think protect us, we will never discover how wonderful it is to live without them. The world needs to love again. The world needs to laugh again. The world needs to heal.

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?

My Grandma, who we called Nonnie, always told me, “Saying someone else is ugly, doesn’t make you any prettier.” I heard this time and time again and in so many ways, it affected my daily life and shaped who I am today. Another version she said was, “Blowing out someone else’s candle, doesn’t make yours shine any brighter.” It’s a different quote, but it’s the same concept. We don’t have to put other people down in order to lift ourselves up. Saying something negative about someone else doesn’t cast a positive light on us. It just doesn’t work that way. Healthy people don’t insult or criticize other people. Healthy people don’t have to put other people down. Insecure people do that. Unhealthy people do that. People in pain do that. When I hear someone talk disparagingly about someone else, I know right away that person is someone who needs to heal.

The truth is that what we say about someone else always says more about us than it ever says about them. It’s a difficult thing to do, but the next time you start to criticize someone, ask yourself why you are really doing it. That person has most likely triggered insecurity in you and rather than deal with it, you are lashing out at them. Do some soul searching. This is where self-love is so important. People who have a strong sense of self-worth and who love themselves, don’t have to put others down.

Strong people lift others. Be the hand that lifts, not the hand that shoves people down. The easiest way to start loving others is to start loving yourself.

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

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