Gina Bell of Tears & Tulle: “Invest in an Hourglass”

Invest in an Hourglass: An hourglass is a great visual tool that allows the people in our lives (and ourselves!) to know we have taken special time to reconnect with our spirit. We can do yoga, bake something delicious, color, paint, journal, or anything else that allows us to relax a little bit into the […]

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Invest in an Hourglass: An hourglass is a great visual tool that allows the people in our lives (and ourselves!) to know we have taken special time to reconnect with our spirit. We can do yoga, bake something delicious, color, paint, journal, or anything else that allows us to relax a little bit into the present moment.

As a part of our series about “How To Learn To Finally Love Yourself” I had the pleasure to interview Gina Bell.

Gina Bell is an empowerment guide, author, speaker, workshop host, and creator of The Tears & Tulle Movement. She is the author of a women’s empowerment picture book called Tears & Tulle. Gina uses art, metaphors, and colorful tulle to help people all over the world remember their color. She loves eating batter straight from the mixing bowl on an old wooden spoon, playing board games with her family, and stealing her husband’s comfy socks. Gina lives outside of Chicago with her wonderful husband and is the mother of six amazing kids!

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.

A few years back, my life changed on an abandoned overpass in Orlando, Florida. I was wearing a simple black tank and the most magical rainbow-colored tulle skirt. I had purposefully paired the colorful skirt with a black t-shirt to relay a special message to myself and people everywhere. We don’t need to wait for life’s perfect set of circumstances to connect with our extraordinary color. My purpose with the Tears and Tulle movement is to reconnect women with their joy and color, even during life’s darkest moments.

It may sound strange, but the rainbow skirt woke up something wonderful in me! I want women everywhere to experience what I did, a clarifying moment of vulnerability, magic, and happiness.

A year and a half after that day on the overpass, I launched Tears & Tulle. I’m sharing the rainbow skirt with fifty-two people over fifty-two weeks as a way to inspire women everywhere to reconnect with their color (tulle) from within the darkness (tears) of real life. Each woman in the movement is asked to pair the skirt with something black, make their unique magic in it, and share their Tears & Tulle story with the world. Time after time, participants have shared how much love and positive energy the rainbow skirt radiates. Many participants used their time with the skirt to reflect on their greatest struggles. That is what Tears & Tulle is all about. Embracing our perfectly imperfect lives. The project led me to create a women’s empowerment picture book called Tears & Tulle! Learning about people’s experiences and connections with the movement and the book has taught me so much about self-love, taking up space, and honoring our own unique paths.

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’m currently launching the men’s version of Tears & Tulle! It’s a men’s empowerment project called Tears & Taffeta and will follow a multi-colored taffeta fabric cape to the homes of men in different parts of the world. Each man will pair the cape with something black and share their story. This project will offer a platform for men to share their vulnerability, courage, feelings, and expressions connected to being their authentic selves. It will be a place where magic is celebrated from within the darkness of real everyday 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?

Glennon Doyle once said, “You will be too much for some people. Those aren’t your people,” and her words resonated with me so much that I continue to carry them with me daily. Years ago, my husband snuck in the last few minutes of a speaking gig to snap a few photos. Later that night, we looked through the images, and most of the crowd looked like they were engaged and enjoying the talk. One woman in the audience was rolling her eyes and seemed to be super annoyed with my presentation.

Each photo appeared tainted by what I viewed as disapproval. Out of the crowd of smiling faces, I zoned in on her, turning into a Nancy Drew of sorts. Searching for a reason for her dislike that was not about me. But I did not find one. And I also did not celebrate the other fantastic connections I made with the other guests. My happiness was clouded by my negative self-talk and desire to be liked by everyone.

Enter Glennon’s quote:

“You will be too much for some people. Those aren’t your people”.

At the end of the day, I hope to grow a little each time I speak, but I’ve had to learn challenging and sometimes painful lessons. Not everyone is going to like me. It doesn’t mean I’m not bringing my light and color out into the world in the best way I know how and that others aren’t connecting with that message. It doesn’t mean I’m not worthy of self-love. I work on this every day, and every day I become stronger and more connected to my sense of empowerment. I’m either going to live my life scanning the crowd for the unhappy, or I’m going to live my life making connections with those who are ready to remember their magic. I will try my best to choose the latter.

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?

In today’s day and age, I think it’s almost impossible to not be affected by social media, advertising, and what we see on tv and streaming outlets. Celebrities promote wrinkle creams, magazines and social media tell us how to look, act, and smell, and we are not seeing how people age naturally. I follow Justine Bateman, who just wrote a book called Face. She is trying to break through the stereotypical bs we are constantly exposed to.

To some, the concept of learning to truly understand and “love yourself,” may seem like a cheesy or trite concept. But it is not. Can you share with our readers a few reasons why learning to love yourself it’s truly so important?

I believe learning to love ourselves is one of the most beautiful gifts we will ever give ourselves. I also think loving oneself can produce a ripple effect that helps others better see their own self-worth and connection with self-love.

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

I think we tend to stay in mediocre relationships because we are afraid of the unknown. We get so comfortable in our patterns and have trouble imagining a world where things aren’t predictable. We are scared to be alone. I believe our ego is looking for security and validation while our wisdom whispers to us in quiet moments. We fear loneliness without realizing that we have created our own prison. Our spirit whimpers out a cry for help, and we do not even know we hold the keys to a more connected life in our very own pockets.

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?

I think asking new questions that are outside of our own inner dialogue is so important.

Who am I outside of my cocoon? How is this person my teacher today? How can my tears water the dreams in my heart? What can I learn from pausing and breathing deeply? How is my pain creating conflict? How is my anger keeping me from seeing clearly?

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)?

Paul Newman once said, “You only grow when you are alone”.

I think there is something so powerful about being alone. You can learn so much about yourself. A pause that can allow for deep connections within our souls. Sometimes fearful at first, but then there is a beauty in the surrender. This is especially true in nature as we can learn to make friendships with the setting sun and delight in the mystery of dusk. Sunshine warms our imagination, and the moon seems to guide us down an unfamiliar path of exploration. The wind seems to sing a song of wonder, and it is as though we remember our most authentic selves.

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?

The more I practice connecting with a sense of self-love, the more capacity I have to deepen relationships with the people in my life. Learning to be gentle with me has been key and blaming less and learning more has been essential to strengthening relationships in my life.

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

Let us work towards really seeing each other! I have a Mahatma Gandhi quote taped to the mirror in my bathroom. It reads, “Be the change you wish to see in the world”. I think as individuals, we have a responsibility to bring real-life wisdom into the world. We live in a social media environment that is constantly photoshopped and filtered, and I think we tend to compare ourselves to others who seem to have it “all together.” I have often found that many of us are comparing ourselves to people who are comparing themselves to others. Based on my own experiences of wanting to be liked, I believe the “have it all” lifestyle is all smoke, mirrors, and filters. As a recovering perfectionist, I try to find the beauty in how life is so often perfectly imperfect if we slow down long enough to see it. I believe that the more we can “be the change” the more we will come together as a deeply connected society.

Here is the main question of our discussion. 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?

My five strategies for connecting with self-love come from continuously going deeper into myself from within the darkness of negative self-talk, unexpected detours, and everyday chaos.

  1. Meditation Practice: Dang! Meditation can be so hard. There is all this chatter in our heads, and we’re expected to sit still. Sometimes all we can think about is the grocery list, that thing we said thirty years ago that hurt someone’s feelings on the playground in middle school, or anything else we would rather be doing than sitting with ourselves. It is called a practice for a reason. No one meditates perfectly. Trust me when I say it is totally worth it too! Years ago, I had been doing sitting and walking meditation at my sangha for quite a while and noted it had become easier to bring myself to the cushion over time. Several years ago, and after practicing meditation consistently for a while, I found myself in an uncomfortable situation. I was waiting in the hospital hallway while my kids met their new half-sister for the first time. It was a special day for my ex-husband, the woman who would later become his wife, and my children. I felt really out of place. I began to do walking meditation in the hallway. After several minutes I was invited into the room, and to my surprise, I was much more present and calmer than I expected myself to be. Over time those moments happened more and more. A simple pause before reactivity was revealed more regularly, and I began to have a genuine appreciation for the practice and my ability to be gentler with myself. If you are new to meditation, try sitting for one minute a day for twenty days. Add a new minute each day until you have reached twenty minutes in twenty days. I sit cross-legged with my eyes open and GENTLY come back to my breath when my mind wanders away for a bit. Just keep showing up.
  2. Even When Especially Then Exercise: Around here, we call the Tears & Tulle moments of life the “Even When Especially Then” moments. They help us remember that it’s okay to show up as our perfectly imperfect selves- especially then! It’s the “Even When Especially Then” Tears & Tulle moments that remind us that we are all in this together. They remind us that we don’t have to wait for perfect circumstances to show up in the world. They remind us that unexpected detours are a part of being a human being on this planet. A gentle reminder that we are brave, beautiful, capable, smart, and empowering- even when we are climbing out of the laundry pile of life. Here’s how they work: I am — — — — — < you fill in a positive word like brave, loved, smart, beautiful, etc. Even when — — — — — < you fill in a struggle/hard/funny/weird/unexpected life detour etc. moment. And you end the sentence with the words “especially then.” Examples: I am brave, even when I’m afraid of the sound the crescent roll tube makes when it pops open, especially then. I am smart, even when I forget my Netflix password, especially then.
  3. Invest in an Hourglass: An hourglass is a great visual tool that allows the people in our lives (and ourselves!) to know we have taken special time to reconnect with our spirit. We can do yoga, bake something delicious, color, paint, journal, or anything else that allows us to relax a little bit into the present moment. They come in different time increments, and they can be a great way to pause for a moment. I have three-, five-, ten-, and twenty-minute hourglasses that sit on my shelf. I love the way the variety in time allows me to stay flexible.
  4. Name Your Fear Chihuahuas: For years and during workshops, I have taught people, including myself, to name their “Fear Chihuahuas” and to teach them new truths. “Fear Chihuahuas” are cute little doggies that show up to remind us of our fears. We run from them when things feel unfamiliar, and in doing so, they somehow end up several miles ahead of us and leading the way down boring and ridiculously misaligned roads. We all have them, and our relationships with them directly affect our relationships with our creativity, dreams, and the moments in life that make us feel the most alive. They keep us mired in the past with their persistent and deluded reminders that we cannot achieve our most amazing dreams. Making friends with our Fear Chihuahuas and teaching them new truths is a fantastic way to reconnect with our most creative selves and practice self-love in a new way. My first “fear chihuahua” was named Cuddles Snuggles Fluff after a favorite childhood dog. Learn to teach your Fear Chihuahuas new truths. By now, your Fear Chihuahuas are probably pretty confused. Feed them doggy treats made from courage and honesty. For example, “Hi Caramel! I know you get nervous when I am about to speak on stage. Here is a new truth for you to learn and remember. I am spreading a message of hope, and I am so capable and full of wisdom when I’m working towards helping people shine. I got this. Even if I mess up, I will learn something new about myself, and it will be okay. You can take a little nap while I speak.” Try this: Acknowledge that a Fear Chihuahua has come sniffing around. Name your Fear Chihuahua something friendly. Sit with your Fear Chihuahua and teach it new truths. Add new Fear Chihuahua names over time.
  5. Mirror Talk: Chat up the person you see in the mirror every day. Let them know how much you love them. It may feel silly at first, but you can learn to love yourself more deeply over time. Here are a few to get you started. You are so capable. Look at how determined you are to share your wise heart with the world. You are so brave. You are amazing when you learn from unexpected detours. Your message glitters. GIRL, YOUR MESSAGE GLITTERS! Look at you, making time for yourself. Jump in with both feet. I see what you did there. You are so dedicated to the things you care about.

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?

Untamed by Glennon Doyle changed my life in the first few pages. I highly recommend this book for anyone needing to remember their deep and wildly beautiful spirit.

Signs: The Secret Language of the Universe by Laura Lynn Jackson is a book that challenges us to look at the world with new eyes.

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron introduces us to Morning Pages. I’ve been doing the Morning Pages exercise daily for about nine years, and it has become an integral part of my journey to connect more deeply with my creativity.

What Do You Do with An Idea? by Kobi Yamada is an excellent book about not giving up on our dreams.

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…

The Tears & Tulle Movement is a global celebration of reconnection with light from within the darker places of life. Let’s start a Tears & Tulle Day! People worldwide could tie a piece of tulle fabric somewhere on their property to signify the creation of one big tulle skirt. All the layers from all the places will help us come together to remember our dreams, ideas, and support for one another.

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?

Pema Chodron says, “Fail, Fail Again, Fail Better.” She says, “What do we do when life doesn’t go the way we hoped?” “We say, ‘I’m a failure.” But what if failing wasn’t just “okay,” but the most direct way to becoming a more complete, loving, and fulfilled human being?”

When my daughters, Sam and Izzy, went away to college, I sent them each with a “FunFailStic” Jar and some little note cards. I asked them to consider filling the jar with what they thought to be fun times, failing times, and fantastic times. They both brought them home filled with memories. They made space in their lives to document the ups and the downs. Acknowledging what we perceive as failures is an often-overlooked practice and such an essential part of growing, learning, and finding our way in the world.

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

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