Noticing when I’m tired and allowing myself to rest. I can’t believe I have this on the list but sometimes I truly feel like a little kid that just doesn’t want to go to bed even though I’m exhausted! I guess I still have FOMO sometimes or just want to finish one more thing. But rest is just as important as food and water and exercise.
As a part of my series about “How To Learn To Finally Love Yourself” I had the pleasure to interview Bridget May. Bridget founded Green Bee Botanicals in 2015, a cannabis wellness brand because she wanted to show that our bodies, including our skin, know how to heal themselves with a little help from mother nature and that healthy is beautiful. Because Green Bee tests every product batch for over 100 toxins and impurities they are bringing real change to the beauty and wellness industries by redefining the meaning of ‘clean’. Bridget spent a long career in the biotech/pharmaceutical industry working as an analytical chemist but left it behind in 2018 to pursue her passion for plant medicine full-time.
She’s been an environmentalist since childhood and donates her time and money to fight social injustice and climate change. Along with this her values of kindness, quality, sustainability, self-care, and community permeate the brand. Bridget brings science, art, and a healthy dose of wisdom to this topic.
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.
After I graduated with an art degree I went straight back to school to study botany and chemistry because I didn’t want to be a “starving artist” (ha ha. I still paint in my ‘free’ time). My whole family is artists and we have plenty of friends who’ve made a living teaching art but that wasn’t my calling. I really hoped to get a job as an environmental biologist helping to save wildlands and animals but the jobs I was able to find right out of school were in the pharmaceutical and biotech industries. Here I learned a ton about how drugs are manufactured and tested and everything about FDA regulations in addition to analytical chemistry techniques and instrumentation. It was fun, and I loved wearing a lab coat, frankly, but my heart wasn’t in it.
I never thought I’d be working in the cannabis industry but after years working in corporate healthcare, I was looking for a change. I wanted to feel excited about my job. Looking in the mirror in my forties I was definitely worried about aging and about the way I looked AND about what I was doing with my life. I’d heard about how cannabis was changing and all the new cannabinoids being discovered. I found that a blend of THC and CBD really helped me with sleep and anxiety, which was a gamechanger and led me down a rabbit hole of scientific papers that was astonishing and provocative so I was intrigued by the idea of cannabis skincare. I found early review papers on the benefits of cannabinoids used topically and I started experimenting with my own extractions and formulas for facial products. From the friends and family I gifted these prototypes to I got the encouragement and motivation to turn it into a business. My goal with Green Bee is to not only help people look and feel as healthy and good as they can at any age but to change the conversation from “anti-aging” — we all get older, if we are lucky! — to “healthy at any age.” Learning to embrace the way we look at all stages of life is part of learning to love and accept yourself. As I get older I’m glad to be wiser and more comfortable with myself. This is something that comes up a lot while finding balance in my life running a startup and still staying healthy!
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?
Aside from running a cannabis and hemp company and getting ready to launch 3 new products(!), I’m also working on my personal project of learning to maintain balance in my now-early-50s life. My latest self-care challenge is meditating every day, even if it’s for only 5 minutes. Which reminds me, I have yet to do it today…
It has been proven that meditation actually alters the structure of the brain, a big change from what was thought earlier, which was that your brain cells and central nervous system were unable to regenerate. The practice of meditation was even shown to shrink the amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for the fear response. I could really benefit from having a smaller fear response! I’m sure a lot of folks could, and this would help with not reacting or overreacting to what others, including our loved ones, are doing and saying.
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?
Wow, that’s a big one. I feel like I’m forever learning to accept myself and that you never really arrive at a place of utter perfection, but that there is always more work to do. I have, on occasion, reached a few plateaus where I felt like I could relax for a minute, though, thankfully. 🙂
When I was in my teens and early 20s I had an eating disorder. I would try to diet, but that would only last for a couple of days at best and in between I would binge on junk food like doughnuts and Cheetos. I started gaining weight understandably and I felt helpless to stop, but the worst part of it all was how much I loathed myself and how alone I felt. Thanks to writers like Geneen Roth who I found amongst the shelves of the psychology section of the library, books which I tried to hide under classic novels when I took them to check out, I started to understand how to take care of myself. I spent lots of time journaling and examining my feelings and finally, I was able to learn to eat intuitively. It took years, and I went through some very dark times of really hating myself and my body. I was completely in the closet about my relationship with food and the very hardest part of it was admitting it to others. I have a distinct memory of binging on a package of NutterButter cookies literally in my closet when I still lived with my dad as a young adult. I was so ashamed. The ironic thing is that the shame is part of what kept me in that binge-eating cycle.
What I learned from Geneen was that I didn’t really want the food but something else. After eating all those cookies, I always felt worse. I had a deeper need that wasn’t being fulfilled and my craving was standing in for it. I needed a hug or to feel safe or to feel loved or to really cry. The key was listening and acknowledging those feelings.
I’m very anti-diet now and I wholeheartedly believe that your body knows what it needs to be healthy. Dieting never worked for me anyway but listening to my body did and I naturally lost weight in the process. But I had to get to the point where I decided it was more important to love myself even if I never met the standards of beauty I thought I should. It’s not easy to get rid of your scale and your calorie counter but it is possible! My body isn’t perfect but it’s what I’ve got and I’m really proud of how far I’ve come.
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?
Those numbers don’t lie. It is a kind of epidemic, not to get too dramatic about it, but really. I remember growing up and seeing an afterschool special about anorexia and then later in my teens actually having the thought that I wished I was anorexic or bulimic so I could lose weight! Wow, crazy I know. But the pressure to be thin and beautiful is incredible, mainly because of the media and the way celebrities and ‘popular people’ are portrayed. Social media has made this much worse (see The Social Dilemma a frightening documentary), and even though there are a lot of folks pushing back with their “love yourself” memes, the consequences for teens are especially are dire. The suicide rate increased 57% for people aged 10 to 24 in the U.S. between 2007 and 2018. I have no doubt that much of the depression leading to suicide is caused by low self esteem related to personal appearance and how people compare themselves to others. Eating disorders are just part of the problem.
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! I’ve suffered from mild to debilitating depression and anxiety for a lot of my adult life and I know that it held me back from doing lots of things I wanted to do. I never got very close to suicide but I know a lot of people who’ve attempted it and tragically, some who have succeeded. When we talk about “loving yourself” I think some people get turned off by that because they think it sounds arrogant. We must always put others before ourselves and not be self-absorbed or self-promoting, right? The way I was brought up (my parents were raised Catholic) it was rude to sing your own praises. But if you look at the scriptures (I’m not Christian, but more of a Buddhist, if I had to choose a religion) we are meant to “love your neighbor as yourself.” Doesn’t that mean it’s OK to love yourself? People who truly love themselves are more productive and easier to be around. They aren’t constantly acting defensively or out of fear and they have room for compassion and more energy to help others.
Why do you think people stay in mediocre relationships? What advice would you give to our readers regarding this?
As they say “it takes two” and every bad relationship is a shared-fault situation. I’ve found that when a relationship ends, most of the dynamics that bothered me the most seem to follow me to the next one. You can’t run away from yourself! Once I realized this (which only took 40 years!), I decided that the love I was really looking for was for myself. (Of course, I’m not talking about putting up with abuse, but you didn’t say ‘bad’ relationships you said ‘mediocre.’) My advice is to always look at yourself. You can never change another person but you CAN change yourself. You can change how you react to that person, even how you react to the things about them you can’t stand! You can choose to ignore those things and focus on the wonderful. You have the power to make your mediocre relationship better.
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?
Whenever I’m having a difficult time with my partner or a friend I ask myself: what can I do to make this relationship work better? I mean, after I get all judgey and annoyed and ask myself “what have they done for me lately?” It’s hard, I know, and having a critical side to my personality doesn’t make it easy. I can be judgmental and sometimes I even catch myself being hypocritical. I often criticize my boyfriend for not keeping the house more tidy, but then I look around and a lot of the clutter strewn all over every surface is mine. Or I criticize him for not being loving enough and I realize that I’m actually very self-centered sometimes. When you want someone else to change, the best thing to do is to look at yourself and see what you could be doing to alleviate the problem. Maybe not focusing on the problem would be more helpful. Instead of thinking about how you’re not getting what you want or need, you could take responsibility and be the loving person you want them to be. This is hard to do in the heat of the moment, especially when your clouded, fearful mind is so convincing that the only solution is that THEY change in order for you to be happy.
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)?
As I get older I find more and more that no matter who you’re with or how great your relationship is, there’s really only one thing you can count on and that is change. I think it was comedian Mike Berbiglia that said, and this is supposed to be funny somehow, “The very best one can hope for in a marriage is that you’ll live happily together until one of you dies.” Life is so tragic! And even in the most loving relationship, there will be times when your partner won’t be there or will need space from you. Out of necessity over the years I’ve learned to love my alone time. I remember a time after my first marriage broke up watching a beautiful sunset by myself and feeling an intense longing for someone to enjoy it with and then years later witnessing a similarly beautiful spectacle and realizing that I could have the very same enjoyment of that beauty all by myself. Being alone didn’t take anything away from my ability to enjoy nature and life.
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?
It’s pretty closely related. As you become better able to love and accept yourself as well as your inevitable imperfections and failures it enables you to be more compassionate and empathetic to others and their foibles. As you learn to meet people where they are without judgment — which seems impossible sometimes — you can stop arguments and fights before they begin. By letting go of your end of the rope, the tug of war power struggle just doesn’t happen. It’s an ongoing learning process and I admit I still have more work to do.
In your experience, what should a) individuals and b) society, do to help people better understand themselves and accept themselves?
I have found the very most helpful thing I’ve done was learn to meditate. Vipassana, which is the meditation technique I learned on a 10-day silent retreat in North Fork, CA, is really learning to accept things as they are. One of the exercises that I found both extremely challenging AND helpful was while sitting in meditation, not moving. The teacher explained carefully that we should sit still (sometimes for an hour or more) and notice our breath. And then to notice any sensation in the body. As these sensations come and go he asked us to not respond to any of them but just to notice.
So, when the inevitable itch would arise, “just notice the sensation but do not move, do not scratch it.” This excruciating practice was enlightening when, after a time, I noticed that the itch would change, as everything does, into something else, and then it would go away. This teaches you to do the same with your thoughts. There are negative thoughts about myself that seem to appear out of nowhere sometimes and I’m more able to stop and just notice them and not react, and not believe them…or follow them down into a bad place. In addition, in my relationships with others, I’m more able to notice a thought that I want to say something critical and stop myself before I do. I find that it keeps my family life much more pleasant.
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?
- Exercise. I try to get some exercise everyday. Preferably outside where I can feel the air and see the sun and sky. This connection with my body changes my mind for the better.
- Meditation and visualization. I meditate for at least five minutes a day and also sometimes do some creative visualization. I visualize a beautiful space, a garden or a forest that makes me feel safe. Or if I’m having a particular issue in my business or personal life I visualize it working out with the best outcome for everyone involved.
- Self-talk. It’s helpful to notice what words I use to talk to myself and if they are negative, refusing to follow them and instead replacing them with something loving. It’s so much more helpful.
- Looking in the mirror. This goes with the self-talk, looking and smiling and saying nice things to myself: This isn’t always easy but I believe in “fake it till you make it!” “Hey, good lookin!”
- Noticing when I’m tired and allowing myself to rest. I can’t believe I have this on the list but sometimes I truly feel like a little kid that just doesn’t want to go to bed even though I’m exhausted! I guess I still have FOMO sometimes or just want to finish one more thing. But rest is just as important as food and water and exercise.
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?
The book my mom gave me when I was 18 (and sad) was You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay and I love it because Hay believes that any problem you have in your life is caused by a lack of love for yourself. It’s pretty simple but I think it’s true.
Another book, Unlearn Your Pain by Dr. Howard Schubiner, which I picked up more recently, explains how pain works in the body and how much chronic pain is caused by learned neural pathways in the brain, and that you can change these pathways because the brain is plastic — just like I was saying before when I was talking about meditation. People who have suffered from chronic pain for many years can be cured. I have knee and hip pain that I’ve had on and off for years and this book has helped me immensely.
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…
Meditate. Just do five minutes a day! There are plenty of how-tos on YouTube but a great way to start is just by sitting with your eyes closed, in a comfortable position, preferably with your back straight and simply observing the sensation of your breath as it rises and falls in your body. You could bring your attention to the space just below your nostrils and notice the sensation of the air as it passes in and then as it streams out. Five minutes is such a small amount of time that no one can say they don’t have time for it. And whenever I do my five minutes I almost always want to do more because it feels so good!
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?
“You wander from room to room hunting for the diamond necklace that is already around your neck!” — Rumi
I find this inspirational because the panic I sometimes feel in my daily life often comes from feeling like I need to get somewhere or become something in order to be happy but if I sit very still and listen carefully there is a quiet voice inside reminding me that I have already arrived.
Thank you so much for your time and for your inspiring insights!