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Author and Actress Vanessa Petronelli: “How To Learn To Finally Love Yourself”

When I was in my early 20s I was in the entertainment industry as an actress, singer, and model, I developed body dysmorphia. During this time in my life, I constantly found myself comparing my body to the other young woman in the industry. I never felt good enough and could never truly enjoy the […]

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When I was in my early 20s I was in the entertainment industry as an actress, singer, and model, I developed body dysmorphia. During this time in my life, I constantly found myself comparing my body to the other young woman in the industry. I never felt good enough and could never truly enjoy the success that I was having while being in that industry because I was always so focused on what was not working and feeling not good enough. It consumed me so much and acted as a catalyst for me to begin to do my internal work after discovering authors like Louise Hay and Norman Vincent Peale. Their words were the wake-up call that I needed to hear. I quickly learned that self-love was not something I would attain by looking a certain way or having more success. It was all about me really becoming whole within myself and accepting all parts of myself, regardless of what I looked like and was happening outside of me. It’s been a journey and a continual practice to have a more loving relationship with myself. It’s taken many years to overcome these challenges that formed in my earlier years, but it has been truly liberating to embody and integrate this lifelong practice of learning to love myself and fully accept who I am.


Asa part of my series about “Connecting With Yourself To Live With Better Relationships” I had the pleasure to interview Vanessa Petronelli. Vanessa is highly sought after for her performance coaching work. Vanessa works with and supports high-performance actors, directors, musicians, celebrities, and influencers to embody and lead from their soul, to find balance throughout their entire lives. Vanessa and her work have been featured on Good Morning America, Parents Magazine, MSN, ABC News, Access Hollywood, Glamour, Collective Evolution, Elephant Journal, Good Morning La La Land, and more. Originally from Toronto, Canada, Vanessa now resides with her husband Jeffrey and rescue dog Leo, in San Diego, California living the SoCal lifestyle of sunshine, sand, and surf.


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.

Starting at age 15, I sang in a pop group, started an event promotions business, walked on red carpets, worked on film sets and did photoshoots, walked down runways as a model during Fashion Week. But the longer I was doing this work the more misaligned it felt because I wasn’t able to really speak my truth and share my fullest expression of my soul in a way that I had once dreamed of and believed that this industry could provide me. So I left the entertainment world, and everything that is offered, in search of doing the thing that I knew I was BORN to do on this planet.

I was guided to focus on my own healing, spiritual growth and helping people professionally as a coach and healer. It was during these years that I chose to commit and dive deeply into my spiritual and personal growth. I worked with many different mentors, healers, and teachers and became fully devoted to the evolution of my soul and my consciousness. I even received my yoga and mindfulness training certification, did a post-grad and built my current business from the ground up.

I finally realized what my purpose was — to help people to connect to the essence of who they are. To fully align with that part of themselves and to express that to the world in a way that is most true for them. I started to work with many leaders, artists, visionaries, entrepreneurs and influencers from all walks of life. I offered online and offline classes, events, workshops, retreats, and one to one work.

For over a decade now, I have been supporting high-performance leaders, visionaries and influencers in becoming more impeccably aligned to themselves, their missions and leadership by creating Soul-Aligned Success. Through my unique trance-channeling events, accelerated Quantum Coaching Method, leadership retreats, keynote speaking, intuitive workshops and transformational online programs, my work provides grounded, strategic results-based transformations — all through learning to embody and lead from their soul and higher consciousness.

Currently, I’m integrating my past decade of work in the entertainment industry to bring my transformational skillset to Hollywood. I love working with celebrities and influencers. I’m excited to help raise the consciousness of the planet through the influencers who are both in front of and behind the camera, on stage and off stage.

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 working on a couple of very exciting projects that I believe will absolutely transform and help people in their personal lives and in their relationships. The first project is completing my book, which I expect to have published in 2020 by major publishers. I’m excited to have a simple and immediate way for people to have access to the tools and principles I teach.

The other project is working on a television show which will allow the masses to witness the power of transformational work, both with everyday people and celebrities. The show will allow people to see what can truly happen when somebody does their inner work and transforms their problems and pain into power and possibility.

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?

When I was in my early 20s I was in the entertainment industry as an actress, singer, and model, I developed body dysmorphia. During this time in my life, I constantly found myself comparing my body to the other young woman in the industry. I never felt good enough and could never truly enjoy the success that I was having while being in that industry because I was always so focused on what was not working and feeling not good enough. It consumed me so much and acted as a catalyst for me to begin to do my internal work after discovering authors like Louise Hay and Norman Vincent Peale. Their words were the wake-up call that I needed to hear. I quickly learned that self-love was not something I would attain by looking a certain way or having more success. It was all about me really becoming whole within myself and accepting all parts of myself, regardless of what I looked like and was happening outside of me. It’s been a journey and a continual practice to have a more loving relationship with myself. It’s taken many years to overcome these challenges that formed in my earlier years, but it has been truly liberating to embody and integrate this lifelong practice of learning to love myself and fully accept who I am.

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?

The media and pop-culture have created highly unrealistic standards of beauty and attractiveness for many decades. Advertising, movies, music, TV shows all paint a picture of what a man or woman should look and act like. We’re surrounded by these standards and conditioned to believe that this is the “norm” starting from early childhood. So we become indoctrinated to believe that these images and ideals are what we need to measure up to. Over time this leads people to feel insecure, unworthy, depressed, and that they don’t belong. We then feel that we need to go to extremes to change our appearance or behave in ways that are not authentic to our true selves.

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?

Yes, just “love yourself” is one of the most cliché phrases. Yet it’s one of the most powerful. And let’s re-define self-love. I view self-love as a combination of 1) valuing yourself and 2) being kind to yourself. And one reinforces the other. The more you’re kind to yourself, the more you’re demonstrating that you value yourself. And the more you do and say things to value yourself, you’re more likely to be kind to yourself.

Now, why is this important? When you love and value yourself, you tolerate a lot less BS from other people. You can more comfortably set healthy boundaries with people. You also make yourself more attractive to be around because you feel empowered. Most of what people have experienced in relationship to others and within themselves is conditional love. When you start to value yourself and are kinder to your entire being, you develop and reinforce unconditional love which is what we all crave and are desiring to experience deep down.

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

Well, first of all, I think a big part of the problem is that many people enter into relationships for less than ideal reasons. They are lonely. They are unhappy with themselves. They think that a person is going to complete them. It’s that chapter of their life and they need to check off a box to please their parents or keep up with their friends.

Now as for what to do if you wake up one day and realize you’re not happy in your relationship? First thing is to look at your life in general. Are you fulfilled with your job/career? Health? Social life? Your self-care? Family life? Because you want to rule out that you’re not just making the relationship the sole cause of your unhappiness.

Then you need to take a look at the actual relationship. What is it specifically that you’re not happy with? Are you in conversation with your partner about it? Do they feel similarly? Have you sought out any resources to try and improve things?

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?

Some of the core questions I always ask myself and my clients are:

  1. What’s working really well in my life right now?
  2. What’s not working in my life right now?
  3. Where have I been out of integrity with my own values and promises to myself?
  4. Where have I been out of integrity with my promises to others?
  5. Are there any difficult conversations that I need to have to repair or close relationship or friendship?
  6. What internal resources can I lean on right now?
  7. What external resources can I seek out for support?
  8. What is one action step that I can take today that will move me one step closer in the direction I want?

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)?

To me, it’s essential. One of my favorite quotes is from Joseph Campbell:

“You must have a room, or a certain hour or so a day, where you don’t know what was in the newspapers that morning, you don’t know who your friends are, you don’t know what you owe anybody, you don’t know what anybody owes to you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be. This is the place of creative incubation. At first, you may find that nothing happens there. But if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen.”

That means that we must always be cultivating a relationship with ourselves. We are the only person that is always with us 24/7. So taking time and energy to know how to be with ourselves is so important. Whether it’s meditating, journaling, walking in nature, or whatever else that gets you to slow down and enjoy your own company.

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?

Self-awareness is huge. The more you can develop continual awareness about who you are and what makes you tick, the more empowered you’ll be in relationships. Because as self-aware as you might be on your own, the minute you enter into a connection or relationship with another human being, you’re mixing two worlds. The interactions will inform and school you both. Also, the more you’ve cultivated your own sense of self, the less likely you’ll be swept up in the demands, desires, and dramas of the other person.

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

  1. Meditate.
  2. Journal consistently, get your thoughts and feelings out on paper.
  3. Ask for regular, honest feedback and reflection from people you trust.
  4. Learn to communicate with compassion and with a genuine curiosity for your own and other people’s experiences.
  5. Feel your feelings, stop repressing and avoiding feeling a certain way. Learn to be with and learn from all parts of yourself, including the uncomfortable aspects that you wish to not look at more closely.

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?

There are a few things I do every day to maintain my connection to myself and to my mind/body/soul. I have a daily meditation and prayer practice as well as a regular yoga practice several times a week. I love spending time with myself in stillness reflecting on the day or the moment or even just what’s going on in my life. I believe that having time alone, in solitude is one of the greatest ways to honor and listen to what my body and Soul is feeling and needing. I am constantly checking in with myself throughout each day. One of the biggest things that have been liberating for me is fully holding and acknowledging all aspects of myself and my emotions. From these practices, I have developed the ability to sit with discomfort and pleasure, sadness, anger, pain, love and joy more than I ever have. This also helps me powerfully hold space for others personally and professionally, as well.

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 work, Marianne Williamson, Elizabeth Gilbert, Marilyn Jennett, Susan Shumsky, Esther Perel, Michael Singer, and Amir Levine & Rachel Heller.

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’m already in the process of creating this movement and have been for many years. My passion is making transformational work something that is accessible and necessary for all. When we learn to connect to ourselves and heal our past, we become liberated and have the ability to align with and become the highest version of ourselves. Doing your inner work isn’t just for when you’re struggling or when you’re in some type of life crisis. When people understand that they have the ability to change their circumstances and improve themselves, this creates a more empowered population. When we gift ourselves the ability to love and approve of who we are, we create more compassionate and loving individuals and communities.

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?

There are many different phrases and mantras that I use and share with my clients, but one of my favorites is “slow down to speed up”. Understanding that when you slow down and tune into stillness, it actually causes you to be more productive and focused. We also have the ability to respond vs. react in situations. The old paradigm of “faster and bigger is better” doesn’t work so well anymore. It’s created a society and culture of stress and excess. We need to show up differently and more powerfully moving forward.

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

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