Your content is more important than your image: It’s easy to get caught up in that perfect Instagram feed or showing only the highlight reels of your life. However, so many people are over-scrolling through perfection. They relate based on realness and authenticity.
As a part of our series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Melissa Monte.
Melissa Monte is a mindset coach, speaker, podcast host and UCSB Women in Leadership Executive Program Advisor. Melissa became obsessed with learning what makes us humans tick after spending a decade being a guinea pig for bad decisions. Through raw stories and inspiring interviews, her podcast Mind Love highlights the incredible role of the mind in creating a life you love waking up for. Mind Love is a top mental health podcast in over 70 countries and has been featured in Forbes, Harper’s Bazaar and NYC Journal.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
During my teen years, I was hit with a series of traumas back-to-back, including sexual assault, losing a friend to suicide and losing my dad to cancer. I had never been taught healthy ways to cope with adversity, so I handled it the best way I knew how: by burying the pain.
What I didn’t realize was that suppressing my pain didn’t make it go away. Instead, it manifested in other ways that I had even less control over, including a serious case of bulimia.
It was as if there was a void inside me that I couldn’t fill no matter how much food, how many drugs or how much alcohol I consumed.
It’s hard to fill a need you don’t know you have. If you would have asked me at age 15 or 17 or 21, I would have said I loved myself. I knew I was talented. I knew people liked me. But I also knew I was flawed, and that is where I put all my attention and energy. Gradually — somewhere between adolescence and adulthood — my self-love diminished, like a frog sitting in a pot of boiling water, completely unaware she’s dying.
The more I focused on all the ways I wasn’t enough, the more I attracted people and situations that confirmed my negative self-image.The less love I gave myself, the more I craved love from other people. The worse I treated myself, the lower my standards became for how I allowed myself to be treated.
I finally hit rock bottom in a destructive relationship with a narcissist who turned out to be secretly involved in criminal activities. When he finally went to prison, I moved to LA to rebuild my life.
People often ask me what turned my life around. The truth is it wasn’t just one thing. It was a series of small good decisions that built a foundation I could stand on.
Yoga helped me connect with my body, as well as connect with a group of people who were focused on more positive things. Slowly but surely, the lessons taught in yoga classes started to seep into my mindset and create new, empowering thoughts.
I began devouring self-help books to change my relationship with my body and mind. Eventually, I became the person my friends came to for advice, not just because I had been through so much, but because I had consciously taken the steps to process my experience and create personal habits that changed the way I experienced myself and the world around me.
While I had made a ton of positive changes in my life, I still felt unfulfilled well into my late twenties. I was good at my job, but it didn’t light me up or feel purposeful.
I started to be more intentional about how I wanted to spend my days. I asked myself questions like:
- What am I endlessly curious about?
- What would my perfect day look like?
- What have I loved / disliked about my past jobs?
- What are my strengths?
- What talents or wisdom do I have that help other people?
I started to realize most of my interests and life experiences culminated around the power of the mind. I also knew I wanted to be a public speaker so I asked myself, “how can I hone my speaking ability with no one else’s permission?”
Eventually, I was inspired to start a podcast where I could dive fully into all the questions I had been so curious about.
My podcast Mind Love grew very quickly, becoming a top 50 mental health podcast in over 70 countries. Since then I’ve launched courses and coaching programs, and I’ve been invited to speak at conferences, universities and other events; and I’m just getting started.
I’m so grateful I had the courage to start when I did. Now we’re raising a family and I get to speak with some of the most inspiring people in the world to create episodes that help tens of thousands of people, while still being home to watch my baby grow.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?
While my career as a podcast host and coach started in 2017, my career as an entrepreneur started eight years prior. I was just emerging from my personal rock bottom and moved to LA to rebuild my life. I would stay up all hours of the night reading digital marketing forums and finding inexpensive courses to take. I ended up scoring a free ticket to the Traffic and Conversion Summit, which is still one of the largest digital marketing conferences in the world.
At the end of the conference, they held what they called The Wicked Smart competition. You could share any marketing trick that’s been successful for you, and the winner would receive a free customized MacBook Pro worth around 3000 dollars.
I remember sitting in the back of the room, listening as professionals shared how they made copious amounts of money through online marketing tricks. While my tricks weren’t making nearly that amount of money, I had figured out a few pretty brilliant hacks that were completely free and had a very high conversion rate. As intimidated as I was, I decided to get in line to go on stage. I won that competition. I not only won a new computer, I also set up my freelance career with clients for the next two years.
The lesson I learned was to never compare my success to anyone else’s and to go for opportunities regardless of my competition.
Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
After years of helping other people make money online, I decided I wanted to do it for myself. I knew I had to pick a passion and become an expert in that niche.
I would spend hours, days and even months looking for the perfect domain, trying to build the perfect website and go back and forth on which niche would make me the most money.
It took me years to realize I was focusing on the wrong things first. Getting caught in the details gave me the illusion of productivity while ultimately creating loops of procrastination.
When I did find “the perfect niche” with just the right domain name, it was unsustainable because I was choosing based on what I thought would be the most lucrative rather than what I was actually interested in doing. I did this twice before I got the hint.
I learned to start with something I’m endlessly curious about, and then figure out how to match my own passion with something of market value.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My husband Shane Michael is my best friend and biggest supporter. Our meeting felt so synchronistic. We both were working for ourselves to build a business online. His company designs websites, and I am the marketing guru. As we built a life together, I’ve been able to help him with growth strategies while he has helped me create a beautiful presence online.
He has been the ultimate teammate in business, in life and now with our newest journey of raising a child together.
Ok perfect. Now let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?
My podcast Mind Love was inspired by my own journey of overcoming life’s struggles. After spending a decade being what I call a guinea pig for bad decisions, I became obsessed with learning what makes us humans tick.
Now I teach people the tools that turned my life around. Through raw stories and inspiring interviews, Mind Love highlights the incredible role of the mind in creating a life you love waking up for.
Can you share your top five “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing? Please give an example or story for each.
- Take responsibility for where you are: There are plenty of things that may “happen to you” that are out of your control, but you are in control of how you respond. I fell into a victim mentality for the better part of a decade after my sexual assault and the losses I’d faced. I felt I was justified because I had experienced terrible things. I eventually realized no one was coming to save me. I had to decide to save myself. I had to do the hard work to heal from the past, but first, I had to take responsibility for where I was now.
- Give yourself permission to feel: I used to think that strength looked like stoicism. I worried if I let my emotions show, I was being weak. Suppressed emotions manifest themselves in other ways that are often even more painful. It also leads to ego fatigue, or a loss in willpower to make good decisions because holding in emotions takes mental energy. When that energy peters out, so does our ability to control our impulses.
- Sharing is healing: I held a lot of shame about my past. When I started to heal and surround myself with people who were in alignment with who I wanted to be, I remember being afraid that if they knew my past, they wouldn’t like me. I started to share the parts of myself that I wasn’t so proud of, and I began to notice my connections with people got deeper. I learned it’s hard to make authentic connections if you’re being an inauthentic version of you. Opening up was a key part in being proud of who I am, imperfections and all.
- Take care of your vessel: If you aren’t getting enough sleep, eating well, drinking water and meeting your own needs, you can’t show up as your best self. Period. There were quite a few years that I was on an emotional healing journey to deal with my trauma but ignoring my bulimia. I was also still partying as a means to numb what I wasn’t ready to deal with. I didn’t realize at the time how much I was working against my own momentum. I wasn’t properly fueling or maintaining my body and mind, and I wondered why everything felt so hard. Once I changed my relationships with food, sleep and self-care, I found the clarity, energy and self-love I needed to pursue bigger things in my life.
- Spend more time immersed with your offline life than your online life: Digital detox is critical to avoid burnout and maintain balance. So many of us spend more time scrolling through other people’s lives than we do creating our own, and then we wonder why we’re so unhappy. Anxiety and depression rates are higher than they’ve ever been, and I believe it’s because we’re living more in our heads than in our bodies. For too long I made excuses for my tech addiction because I was often working on my business. But I also knew my moods were unstable and I was getting fatigued quite often. I finally started being honest with myself and took extreme measures to limit my tech use and almost immediately I felt clearer, more energized and just happier overall.
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I would start a Self-Awareness Movement. Awareness is the cornerstone to all self-growth. People have been focusing more on self-love and self-care, which is great, but self-awareness brings attention to how we are being in the world, how we care for ourselves and, most importantly, the ways we are being influenced or affected by other people’s agendas.
Those ways in which we are influenced are often overlooked. But in order to live an intentional life, it’s necessary to know how we are being influenced. We live in a fast-paced world full of innovation and technological advances. With each new discovery are also potential downsides. This includes addiction, pollution, depleted nutrition and even the pulls of desire.
If we are unaware of these forces, it’s difficult to understand how to counteract the negative impacts, to take care of ourselves or even to understand our own actions.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
- Release perfectionism: With almost any creation, we can always find ways to make it better. But often that leads to rumination, indecision and failure to launch. Be okay with launching before you’re ready and instead, improve your product or service as you go
- Follow your passion: This sounds simple and obvious, but it’s something I have to come back to time and again, even now as my business is growing. I may see an opportunity I know could be highly profitable, but if it doesn’t light me up and get me excited, I know I need to say no.
- Your content is more important than your image: It’s easy to get caught up in that perfect Instagram feed or showing only the highlight reels of your life. However, so many people are over-scrolling through perfection. They relate based on realness and authenticity.
- You will make more progress through quick actions than overthinking: There will usually be multiple options for your next direction. I used to ruminate to make sure I picked the best option I could. However, learning happens through action. Often I would think I covered all my bases, but through real experience, realized I need to pivot. I learned I will make more progress through quick action than I will by trying to figure out every step before I move forward. Now I take one step at a time and trust the next step will be revealed to me.
- You don’t need to be on every platform: Find one or two platforms to start rather than trying to put 100% into every single one. You don’t need to be on Instagram, Facebook Groups, Facebook Pages, Linked In, Twitter, TikTok, etc. from day 1. Play around with a few, then find one to put your effort into. As you grow, then expand to others when you have the bandwidth. Trying to do too much at once often just spreads yourself too thin to make an impact on any of them.
Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?
This is a tough one because all of these are important to me. However, my priority is always my mental health. If I don’t give my mind love first (see what I did there?), it’s difficult to take care of myself or my environment. Taking time for stillness and to recognize my mental and physical needs helps me to carry more positive energy. From this place I’m able to give more of myself to other people and this beautiful Earth.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
You can find me on Instagram and TikTok at @mindlovemelissa. You can also find my podcast Mind Love on any of your favorite podcast platforms. And you can join over 10,000 people and sign up to receive short notes of inspiration every weekday with The Morning Mind Love. Just text the word MORNING to 33777 to sign up!.
Thank you for these fantastic insights!