As a part of my series about “Learning To Finally Love Yourself” I had the pleasure to interview Angelika Breukers, founder of ABChange4Life. Angelika is an author, mentor, Bowen Therapist and Reiki Master. She changed her life, overcoming childhood trauma which led to her becoming an escort. She found a way out and became successful in the corporate world. Her life purpose is to help people overcome past trauma, using her experiences to inspire and empower them to be free to live the lives they want.
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.
I have overcome various extreme adversities from my childhood which saw me grow up in a household of domestic violence, psychical, emotional and mental abuse. The sexual abuse started when I was five years old and my father used to tell me that when I grew up, I would work as a prostitute to earn him money. The seed was planted and I attracted a man into my life that introduced me to that profession, and I worked for many years as an escort. However, I managed to leave both him and the profession and started a career in the corporate world.
Years later, I became a Bowen therapist working with people to realign and help them overcome stress and tension-based problems and pain relief which affected them on a mental, physical and emotional level. It was during this time that I decided that I didn’t want my experiences to go to waste. Having been on a healing journey for many years I was finding self-acceptance and I was able to separate myself from limiting beliefs. Having been through the ABC process myself I wanted to share my story and my steps to give people hope and help them to change for life as change for life is possible in spite of thinking it is not.
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?
My workshops A, B and C address this on different levels and from different angles. Which takes them on a path of self-understanding where they find self-acceptance and self-realisations. Acceptance is necessary to move from unhappy situations, they need to accept what has happened to them in the past and resolve the issues in order to move from a place of un-wellness to wellbeing. This self-acceptance promotes a better sense of wellbeing that they carry into their relationships naturally.
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 about twelve years old, my father was found out and he was asked to leave. This, of course, was a great relief to me however, I didn’t realise just how deep the fear I had of him was. When I went into town, I would see him and I used to go and hide in shops and behind people to avoid him as I was so deeply scared of him and how he might react to seeing me.
One day I thought to myself “do I really want to be scared of him for the rest of my life?” In a courageous act of self-love my answer was no. I decided to go and visit him, a sort of ‘face the fear and do it anyway’ experience. I felt safe in a way as he had a new family. I can’t even remember what we spoke about but I know that when I had left I felt so accomplished and liberated. I realised that I had a choice. I was no longer on edge when I saw him in town and could just simply say ‘Hi’ and go on with my day. I had accepted what had happened, understood how I felt about it and chose to love myself.
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?
Being unhappy with one’s appearance can be caused by making comparisons of yourself to the unrealistic images that are presented by the media. Goal setting with external markers of success like I want to be a size 0 will not be as sustainable as those who have goals such as I will do this so I feel healthier. The messaging that if you don’t have a certain lifestyle or certain look then you are just not worthy or successful. People then start to believe that they may never be successful as they have not yet found their inner beauty. They need to connect to their authentic self’s as we can only be ourselves, everybody else is taken. The consequences of this comparison making behaviour is low self-esteem, low self-worth and a feeling that something is wrong with them. Lacking confidence and having a negative mindset and attitude towards themselves can result as a consequence.
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 you love yourself you treat yourself better. You make decisions that will benefit you rather than hurt yourself. You are going to be kind to yourself and others and you will have more respect for yourself. You are less likely to be influenced by the external noise and instead will listen to your own intuition.
Why do you think people stay in mediocre relationships? What advice would you give to our readers regarding this?
If someone is in a mediocre relationship, perhaps they shouldn’t have been in the relationship in the first place. Maybe they thought they could change the partner, maybe they were seeking happiness from simply being in a relationship. By the time they realise that they are in a mediocre relationship maybe it has become a habit to them. Rather than facing the situation they tend to live in denial. They should have a good conversation and see if they work on things, if not they should go their separate ways. If they don’t, it will only get worse.
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?
You don’t have to be your idea of perfect before you can love yourself and an act of self-love is wanting to make healthy improvements. We have to accept ourselves as a whole, it is only then that we can make some changes. If we live in denial of who we are then we can’t gain the understanding that is required to make some changes. So, the questions you need to ask yourself is what I do with people who come to my workshops. I teach acknowledgement, the act of knowing where you are in your life at the movement. From there you can plan where you want to get to. When the satnav doesn’t know where you are starting from, it cannot plan a successful journey to take you to your desired destination. Once you know where you are you can evaluate how happy or unhappy you are in several areas in your life: job/career, social life, family life, health, self-development. Once you look at your satisfaction levels in these areas of your life, you will know which areas you need to work on. You probably know deep down why this is, so then the next question is ‘what can I do now?’ By keeping an open-minded attitude and mindset you will receive the ideas and the answers much more readily, however if you have a more closed mind, this is something you will have to address before you begin to change other aspects.
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 process life, who we are and to take time to listen to our own voice we must be able to be comfortable spending some time alone with our self. We can explore what we like, love and what our dreams are. When people don’t like to be alone, they may not like the emergence of the internal self-talk. If this is not a positive story, then they won’t be comfortable with it and will seek distractions by not being alone with themselves for too long. My recommendation is to practice mindfulness, a state of being present with oneself in the now. This will alleviate the worry about the future and also ruminating on the past.
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?
You can have better, deeper, more meaningful relationships when you understand yourself more and you know what your preferences and goals are. When we have self-understanding and self-love, we will attract and be attracted to others with the same mindset allowing for better and deeper communication which comes from a place of understanding and love.
In your experience, what should a) individuals and b) society, do to help people better understand themselves and accept themselves?
Individuals should get busy with themselves, they need to make some choices in their best interest. By focusing on mindfulness and doing things that they feel nurtured by and which give them a sense of fulfilment and growth. By learning what serves them and what doesn’t can really guide them in the direction of self-understanding and self-acceptance. Having the confidence to think for yourself and find your own answers and your own truth.
Society will benefit as each individual increases their level of understanding and acceptance for themselves. Society as a whole could focus less on the drama and the gossip and be less judgemental. People never know the whole story. Society as a whole should spread the message of kindness and empathy and have this replace messages of hierarchy and comparisons which do not serve individuals or society as a whole.
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?
I continue to apply the ABC steps that I teach, where I find a way to acceptance, not just only of the past but on an ongoing basis so I am always aware of being accepting of these.
I question myself about the beliefs that I hold, when I ask myself if a particular belief or value is actually mine and if it does not really resonate with me and it is not mine, do I really want to keep it?
I always remind myself that I always have a choice, despite it seeming like I don’t have any alternative solutions. It might not be apparent in the moment of distress but by choosing to stay as calm as possible. Knowing that you don’t have to make a choice straightaway allows you to open your mindset so that the answer to solving the problem will come.
I am constantly looking to learn and evolve as my aim is not to just get to a certain destination but about growing and developing in order to have a fulfilled life.
If I am faced with a situation that I could do with some help with I am not afraid to ask for it.
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 am reading a few books on trauma healing at the moment such as Bessel Van der Kolk’s The body keeps the score and Peter Levine’s Awakening the tiger within. What I like about these books is that it furthers my understanding of how any type of trauma can have an effect on a person and therefore their life if the trauma is not resolved. Another group of books cover the learning about the mind like Dr Joe Dispenza’s Change the habit of being yourself, Bruce Lipton’s Biology of belief and I like listening to great minds like Gabor Mate online too. Other authors such as Louise Hay, James Redfield, Caroline Miss, Neal Donald Walsch, Eckhart Tolle and Napoleon Hill have such expertise. I love the understanding and knowledge that I gain from them which has helped me on my own healing journey. They resonate with me as their teachings hold a truth for me and allow me to become a better version of myself.
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…
My movement would have to be about promoting the truth. I feel that we are living within a society that you feel pressured to fit in rather than being celebrated for who you really are. Some people may have had experiences which has induced shame and guilt which holds them back so they are unable to speak openly about their own truth. This is so important as the truth heals. As this could involve deep issues, I would recommend that people first seek out a person who they can trust and who is able to help them. And for everyone, remember to always try to be truthful to yourself. Let your authenticity shine through.
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?
One of my favourite quotes by Einstein is ‘Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome’.
I also love the serenity prayer which says ‘God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.’
I thought to myself that if I hold on to my patterns and limiting beliefs that my life wouldn’t change. Thoughts and words have energy so where the thought goes the energy flows. If I wanted change, I would have to look deep inside and make adjustments to what I thought. The serenity prayer has been a constant reminder that it is possible to be accepting of yourself and move forward instead of being held back by past events.
Thank you so much for your time and for your inspiring insights!