“All around us we see airbrushed perfection and there is no way any person can measure up.” with Drema Dial and Fotis Georgiadis

American culture teaches men and women (especially) to be critical of their appearance. All around us we see airbrushed perfection and there is no way any person can measure up. We’re inundated by ways to diet, how to smile more, how to style our hair so it’s the most attractive, etc. If there is no […]

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American culture teaches men and women (especially) to be critical of their appearance. All around us we see airbrushed perfection and there is no way any person can measure up. We’re inundated by ways to diet, how to smile more, how to style our hair so it’s the most attractive, etc. If there is no voice to counterbalance this, we believe that these images are what we should be, but we can’t and therefore we self-attack.

I had the pleasure to interview Dr. Drema Dial. She is a licensed psychologist, life coach, speaker and author. She’s living proof that you can design the life and business you want. She specialises in helping people develop a growth and success mindset. Dr. Dial currently lives in the south of France with her partner and travels frequently.

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.

That’s a great question. I originally started out in fashion as a sales director. I loved helping people but one day it hit me that I needed to help in a deeper, more meaningful way. I began by volunteering with the Shanti Project in San Francisco, an organisation devoted to helping people living with AIDS. That showed me I had a calling to do the deeper work I craved. I went back to school, eventually earning my doctorate from the University of Texas at Austin (hook ’em, Horns!).

During the time I was working on my doctorate, I also entered therapy. I unearthed the reasons I had always held myself back and began to dismantle these limiting beliefs. Much of this was centered around trauma. I discovered that I had a great capacity for dealing with pain — my own and others.

Because I had always felt like an outsider, I was drawn to working with people who had been marginalised in whatever ways: sexuality, mental health, trauma, etc. I wrote my dissertation on the different ways people use their bodies to express what they may feel unable to verbalise, covering such topics as tattooing, eating disorders and cosmetic surgery.

I turned to life coaching because I wanted more freedom in how I approached my work. I also wanted to travel more and become location independent. I find that my work now attracts others who want to explore their own sense of freedom, however they may define 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?

I am currently working on creating a Year of Transformation for people who have been or are in challenging situations that they are no longer willing to tolerate. This means taking a hard look at the things in life that are no longer serving them and deciding how to move forward. This can feel overwhelming which is why it’s important to work with a coach who can help guide you, hold you accountable and cheer your changes.

One of the hardest part about any life change is that it can bring up lots of self-doubt, old stories about why you can’t do it, and the fear of failure. It’s easy at that point to convince yourself that ‘it’s not time to do ____,’ or talk yourself out of a change because you’re too old, too fat, too young, not accomplished enough, your kids need you, etc

I love seeing people push through their self-imposed limitations. I love being part of the journey from the what-ifs to the ‘I did it!’ moments. There’s so much joy in unleashing the part of you that’s been tamped down by time.

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?

I didn’t grow up with a lot of self-esteem or self-worth. Due to being sexually abused from a young age until the age of 13, I felt very damaged and alone internally. I covered this up by throwing myself in to academics and to keeping myself as busy as I could.

Despite my popularity, I worried that no one remembered me and would cross the street if someone I knew was coming towards me. I felt shy and uninteresting. I also didn’t feel like I could let anyone in, couldn’t let anyone get to know the real me because I felt so unappealing.

I met someone who initially lifted me up, wanted to get to know me and after two years, we married. He slowly became my tormentor, a constant critic, and I let him. My self-worth was nonexistent. It was our unspoken agreement that he was the better cook, the better looking one, the funnier one, the smarter one and so on.

I left with two toddlers in tow, knowing that I had a choice: stay and disappear within myself, or leave and try to make a life for me and my kids. I knew I didn’t want them to think that ours was a role model for how to have a good relationship.

I went into therapy and also read a lot of self-help books. I challenged myself to take risks so I could build up my confidence. I learned how to celebrate myself. I listened to my self-talk and discovered how harsh and critical I was of myself. I learned how to catch that and began using my self-talk to bolster myself instead of tearing myself down.

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?

American culture teaches men and women (especially) to be critical of their appearance. All around us we see airbrushed perfection and there is no way any person can measure up. We’re inundated by ways to diet, how to smile more, how to style our hair so it’s the most attractive, etc. If there is no voice to counterbalance this, we believe that these images are what we should be, but we can’t and therefore we self-attack.

It may also be that many people grow up with parental figures who were or are critical of their appearance. If someone is constantly telling you that ‘you’d look better if you smiled,’ you’re going to internalise that message and learn to plaster a smile on your face — even if you don’t feel happy. If you received messages about your weight or any other aspect of your appearance, this can become a place of sensitivity and insecurity.

People spend tons of money on their physical appearance and yet, it won’t ease the painful feelings of inadequacy and not feeling good enough. In the US, we spent $16 billion on cosmetic surgery in 2016 alone (American Society of Plastic Surgeons).

There’s a saying in therapy, “Compare and despair.” When we compare ourselves to others, we rarely are focusing on what we like best — instead we’re comparing my belly to hers, his full head of hair to my male pattern baldness, her cute nose to my honker, and so on.

Consequently, we are our own worst enemy. We internalise the sense of inadequacy and can turn to outside distractions such as alcohol, food, overworking, or overexercising in an effort to numb the feelings. Without knowing it, we are constantly in a battle with ourselves and run the risk of depression and self-loathing.

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?

When we love ourselves, we take better care of ourselves. We take care of what we value. So when I love myself, I’m going to pay attention to my needs, and ensure that I get proper sleep, eat well, monitor my stress level, and have healthy, fulfilling relationships.

So many people tell me they ‘don’t have time’ for self-care. That tells me they don’t have a lot of self-love — remember, we take care of what we value. When we dig into what’s behind the statement, usually I hear what amounts to ‘I don’t think it’s that important.’ And usually the person in front of me is also telling me they’re stressed out, feel down, tired, frustrated, and that they don’t remember what it’s like to be happy.

Self-care is about showing yourself some love. It’s not all about bubble baths and mani-pedis. Self-care is allowing yourself to slow down, take a day off, cry if you need to, call a friend, or do anything that brings you back to yourself. So many people spend their time running from place to place, task to task, without ever being present.

By being present and mindful of your thoughts and feelings, you can begin to appreciate yourself more. I ask my clients to create a List of Awesome for themselves. This list should go back as far as you remember with all your awards, achievements, accomplishments, degrees, certifications and so on. Nothing is too small for this list! (Mine includes my Good Citizen Award from kindergarten and Best Penmanship in third grade!) The point of this is to have a visual reminder of what you’ve done in your life and it’s a great resource when feeling low.

Loving yourself means remembering that who you are is unique and letting yourself appreciate that fact.

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

I stayed because I didn’t believe I deserved any better. I believed that he was right and it didn’t cross my mind for a long time that he might be wrong. When you don’t love yourself, it’s easy to want to hang on to whatever love you get. Even if it’s toxic and you know it, getting a little bit of love suggests that you are loveable and worth something.

People who value themselves set healthy boundaries around how they are treated. If you’re in a mediocre relationship, it won’t change overnight but it’s possible to make changes. However, the hard part comes from recognising that you have to work on yourself first.

Maybe your partner frequently makes comments that hurt your feelings. You have to be willing to say, ‘that type of comment hurts my feelings, can you not do that?’

Initially, your partner might get defensive, or claim it was just a joke. You can say again, ‘that hurts my feelings.’ A partner who truly cares for you will care enough about your feelings to change.

It can take courage to start speaking up for yourself. But that’s the only way to determine if your relationship can change. Mediocre relationships exist because people are willing to settle for less than what they could have. When you stop settling, you start living more freely.

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?

I was standing in line at the library. I glanced at the library schedule and my heart stopped. My husband had been spending every Sunday morning at the library the last few months. Except the library wasn’t open Sunday mornings. In that moment, my future opened up to me: I could go home and act like I hadn’t seen the schedule. I could go home and stay in this less-than life I had. Or, I could take half of our savings, kick him out, and figure out how to have a new life — one that I wanted.

I opted for kicking him out and started working on myself.

It was easy to beat myself up. It was harder to start getting curious and asking myself the hard questions: Why had it been okay with me to be mistreated? Why had I let his opinion of me become more important than my own? Why had I disappeared in my life? When had I let go of myself?

Hard questions don’t always have answers and sometimes they just lead to more questions. But I knew I needed to ask myself all the questions so I didn’t get into another relationship that didn’t support my well-being. During this process, I re-connected with the parts of me that felt strong and confident and I began building those parts into bigger pieces, working them like a muscle until I felt proud of myself.

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)?

Being alone is an essential skill. It means feeling comfortable with yourself, knowing that you can fill up the time and space. There’s a big difference between being alone and feeling lonely but sometimes a person doesn’t know that difference.

If you’re accustomed to filling up your time with other people, it can feel weird to be alone. But, like you would with a new friend, you can ask yourself, ‘What do I want to do? What would make me happy right now? How can I best enjoy this time?’

Having the capacity to not only tolerate but enjoy one’s company signifies self-love and acceptance.

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?

When I can love myself fully, I am open to loving others.

When we don’t know ourselves well, we are more guarded and less likely to make ourselves vulnerable to others. Instead, I am always holding myself back, afraid of judgment and/or rejection. I fear that the parts of myself that I don’t like won’t be liked or accepted by others.

When I understand myself and not only accept myself for who I am (quirks, flaws and all), I can love myself, knowing that who I am is fundamentally okay. This allows me to open myself up in relationships, to be authentic, and vulnerable. I am less concerned with what others may think of me and more concerned with having a loving, intimate relationship.

This foundation is something I can take into any relationship — the idea of openness and acceptance.

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

Some schools are teaching kids how to meditate and how to use EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique, or tapping). This is teaching kids how to learn to use themselves as a resource. It helps the child learn the physical and emotional cues that he may need calming or that she may need quiet.

Meditation in particular teaches the mind to calm and to be present. Using techniques such as this can be tremendously helpful on the path to better self-understanding and acceptance.

Learning how to get curious about one’s self, rather than leaping to judgment and criticism, is also tremendously helpful in shifting towards self-understanding and acceptance. It’s hard to be curious and critical at the same time!

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 ask people to write down three things each day that they did well or that they liked about themselves. I use these tool because I noticed that when I began doing this, it shifted my self-perception from someone who wasted a lot of time to seeing that I was someone who actually got a lot done. It also highlighted for me that my expectations might have been too high.

A former client was extremely harsh with himself. I asked that he begin this practice with giving himself credit for simple things like brushing his teeth and tying his shoes. He balked, saying that he had to do those things and so shouldn’t get credit. I pointed out those behaviours were a choice: he didn’t actually have to brush his teeth or tie his shoes. He began to see that by giving himself credit in these areas, he could find more areas to highlight and feel proud of himself.

2. Most of us pass a mirror and immediately have a criticism of ourselves. I challenge myself and my clients to go to the mirror and issue compliments. This exercise proves to be difficult for many initially. Some cry. It’s so much easier to be a critic than to express love!

Learning to look at one’s self with love and appreciation is deeply rewarding. Sometimes I just say, ‘You’re doing the best you can and I love you.’

3. Learn to tell people about your accomplishments. People are fearful that they will be seen as bragging or boasting and so are reluctant to do this. It’s not bragging or boasting to share something you feel good about! Practice with a friend or loved one until you feel less self-conscious.

When we allow ourselves to expand our capacity for happiness, it can show up in how we present ourselves to the world. By sharing with you how good I feel about a project I worked on, or a new recipe I created, we’re saying, ‘I’m okay with who I am. I like that I can do things and I like that I feel good about it.’

4. Set aside time to connect with yourself. This can be through journaling, meditation, walking in nature or even something like daydreaming. In the busy day-to-day, it’s easy to put our needs last. But sometimes just having 5–10 minutes can make a difference.

I have an exercise I suggest to all my new clients that I call Take Five. Using your morning coffee (or any beverage) as an example, it looks like this:

Get your coffee.

Set a timer for 5 minutes.

Now, focus your attention on the coffee. How does it smell? Taste? What’s the colour? How does the warmth of the cup feel in your hands?

Each time your mind wanders, pull it back to the coffee.

The point of this exercise is to help calm your mind with intention. It’s a mini mediation that gives your mind something specific to focus on.

Clients who do this 7 days in a row report feeling calmer throughout the day and a decrease in their overall stress level.

5. Delight your inner child by getting out the colouring book and crayons or finger paints. I love doing this when I need some quiet time but also want to do something that feels creative and without any stress.

Coloring allows me to play and is a reminder to not take myself so seriously! It’s also a good way to stay in touch with my inner critic and remind her that we’re playing and there aren’t any rules.

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?

Jen Sincero’s book, “You are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life” has a lot of great reminders of why you’re awesome.

Brené Brown’s “The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are” is a great book for self-acceptance and self-love.

My own podcast, “Design Your Dream Life” showcases people who have learned to get out of their own way so they could create a life they loved. We discuss the challenges of finding support, dealing with self-doubt, and what it takes to fail.

EFT tapping: “Loving Yourself” with Brad Yates. I enjoy Brad’s calmness and approach to tapping. He has a wealth of YouTube videos on topics related to self-love, intimacy and relationships.

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…

I want to preach love. Love of self, love of others. Love and compassion are intertwined and should be experienced together. When we love ourselves, we can extend that love to others.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” that you use to guide yourself by?

“You haven’t lived until you’ve failed.”

To me, this means you’ve put yourself out there, moved out of your comfort zone and taken a risk. The end result matters less than the fact that you’ve made an effort and let yourself try something new.

When we allow ourselves to fail, we’re also showing that we know and love ourselves enough to know we’ll be okay — regardless of the outcome. I’ve failed spectacularly at times. Despite the pain of failure, it’s taught me that I can survive, pick myself up, ask what happened, and move on.

Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life and how our readers might learn to live by it in theirs?

When I decided to end my marriage, my kids were very young. I applied and was accepted into a doctoral program. I encountered a lot of naysayers — ‘You can’t go to graduate school with two young kids!’ ‘You’re in your 30’s, don’t you think that’s too old to go back to school?”

I had to reach down deep and question if I was willing to fail, if I was willing to ‘go big or go home.’ Obtaining my PhD was absolutely the right decision for me. It was hard at times but it showed me I could do hard things, that I could parent and be a student. I know my detractors wanted to keep me safe by protecting me from something that might be hard, and something I might fail at. I’m glad I didn’t listen.

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

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