As a part of my series about “Connecting With Yourself To Live With Better Relationships” I had the pleasure to interview Ellen Palmer. She is an award-winning Certified Holistic Health & Life Coach and Keynote Speaker. Ellen has worked with thousands from 7-year olds to CEO’s to help them create their unique blueprint for thriving using science and spirituality. Ellen is the CEO of Ellen Palmer Wellness, COO of Healing Meals Community Project and Founder of Ideal Life MethodÔ. She speaks regularly on the topics of Peak Performance, Life Design, Food As Medicine, and Empowerment.Some of the organizations she’s presented to include: Merrill Lynch, Wells Fargo, Pacific Life, University of Connecticut, United Technologies, Raw Food Institute, and 1199 Training Fund. She has appeared on Fox 61 News, CBS News, and Clear Channel Radio.
Thank you so much for joining us! Let’s Get Intimate! I’d love to begin by asking you to give us the backstory as to what brought you to this specific career path.
I was fortunate to have had an exciting and successful corporate career as a Sales and Marketing Executive at CIGNA Health Care. I received numerous awards along the way but none more exciting than being asked to help build a $44 million subsidiary start-up. However, the stress I was carrying combined with other emotional turbulence in my life led to physical symptoms and conditions. I sought out specialists and experts in Western medicine, which led to medications, surgeries, and procedures.
Through all of this, I never felt better. I wasn’t happy or healthy. When my son was born and needed surgery at just two months old, I needed to find answers to prevent him from going through what I went through. I researched Alternative, Functional and Integrative Medicine, left my corporate career and went back to school to figure out how to get well and help others do the same. I learned in the process that I felt the most ease in my body as I learned how to manage my thoughts and emotions, let go of judgment and create the life I wanted to live instead of settling. I have been coaching and speaking professionally for 10 years and have never felt better physically, spiritually and emotionally.
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 have two important initiatives underway that I am really excited about.
In our non-profit, Healing Meals Community Project, we are teaching youth personal development and leadership through cooking meals for families in a health crisis. Their sense of confidence, ability to communicate with one another and sense of pride in supporting their neighbors in need, all improves their self-love, which then gets shared in all their relationships. This spring, we are collaborating on a peer-reviewed study to determine if healthy food made with love improves symptoms of depression among young adults.
I am also co-creating Executive Wellness Organization, which helps executive leaders live more joyfully and thrive by developing the skills and ability to overcome stress and overwhelm. When people have the structure and support to learn new skills for managing their thoughts and emotions, they grow exponentially, which transforms their relationship with themselves, their team and their families.
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?
Throughout my life, I have suffered from many health conditions including hormone imbalance and as a result, also depression. I’ve had numerous surgeries, procedures, and prescriptions and did what it took to keep moving forward using Western Medicine. When I was at the top of my professional corporate career and living an active social life, I felt the worst and hid the sadness and despair I often felt. Nothing seemed to work. I was in physical and emotional pain every day.
After our sons were born, I thought I would feel better and happier but sadly, I didn’t. I had tried everything. What was it going to take? If I only had this one life to live, how was I going to live it? Answering these questions changed my life.
I believed that life was a precious gift and I wanted the best for me and my family. I didn’t want to keep blaming my body, my husband and anything else I could. I accepted that I had let myself suffer for far too long and took full responsibility for understanding the triggers that created the imbalance. I studied holistic and functional medicine and realized that many of my health issues were caused- and made worse- by emotional intensity, perfectionism, and self-criticism. With this awareness, I developed the skills and protocols to manage my health and emotions over the years. I am careful about what I eat and drink, spend as much time as I can outside in nature and exercise regularly. Most importantly, I actively practice self-love daily, especially when I am frustrated about something or someone. I know that it is something within me begging to be seen, loved and learned from. I accept myself unconditionally most of the time and am proud to be a reformed perfectionist!
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?
I believe we’ve developed an unrealistic view of what we are supposed to look like. We compare ourselves to supermodels and movie stars and get caught in an endless quest for perfection and are, therefore, never satisfied with how we look. We even do this in our everyday lives where we compare ourselves to our friends. The consequence of comparison can be low self -esteem and lack of confidence, which affects every relationship we are in.
Another reason men and women are dissatisfied with their appearance is because they aren’t committed to looking their best as a lifestyle choice. We want things to be quick and easy and often give up when they don’t get results instantly. It’s happened to me too! We can be on an endless cycle of building the motivation, trying a fad diet or exercise protocol that isn’t designed for our body type, feel like a failure when it doesn’t work and then quit. It’s important to understand why you want to look your best. Knowing why will help you stay motivated and inspired even when the going gets tough. Next, understand specifically what works well for your body and set up a plan for long term success. Most importantly, celebrate milestone wins along the way as looking good is really about feeling good about yourself. Develop the habit of loving yourself well!
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?
Your perception or judgment of yourself is affecting every decision you make and is, therefore, creating everything in your life: how you show up in the world, how you relate to others, how much health you can experience, how much success and fulfillment you experience in every relationship. To truly be happy, healthy and successful, we must understand what we perceive about ourselves and up-level this perception through awareness, forgiveness, acceptance, life design, positive self-talk, gratitude for life and the many blessings we already have and celebrate them. Otherwise, we travel through life as a victim of everyone and everything, which usually causes us to be dissatisfied in our relationships.
You can’t give what you don’t have. To develop self-love, you first need to realize its importance and then commit to building a loving relationship with yourself, one day at a time. Love yourself well to love others well!
Why do you think people stay in mediocre relationships? What advice would you give to our readers regarding this?
People stay in mediocre relationships of all kinds (parenting, partnering, friendships, jobs) for three reasons:
1) Low bar: They may feel like their relationship is an improvement from others they have had or grown up witnessing with their parents. Consequently, they may commit to accepting mediocre because it would seem selfish to want more for themselves or ask more of their partner.
2) Commitment to comfort vs fulfillment: People also stay in mediocre relationships because they are committed to being comfortable. They know they are dissatisfied, but they are not willing to feel the fear or discomfort of asking for more of themselves or of their relationship. It’s the devil they know and they’d rather play it safe for themselves, their partner and their family.
3) Lack the clarity & skill: Some stay in mediocre relationships even when they feel they deserve more because they aren’t clear about what they truly want or how to ask for it of themselves or others, so they don’t.
The most impactful way to create more fulfilling relationships is to start with the most important one ~ you. Take the time to slow down and love yourself well every single day. Honor who you are by starting each day with gratitude for your qualities. What we focus on grows. When you notice the good within you, your appreciation and love for self growth. Do something you love every day and count your successes at the end of the day. In the process, you will be developing the habits of awareness, compassion, and gratitude. When you have them for self, you will share them, which makes communication so much easier and connections so much deeper.
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-understanding and self-love are what create your ability to deeply connect with others. When you truly know and feel good about yourself, you have the confidence and energy to show up vulnerable in relationships. You allow your guard to be down and are more willing to ask meaningful questions, listen more deeply and stay in curiosity versus having to be heard and be right. Good communicators make fewer assumptions and don’t take things personally when they shouldn’t. When you show up in a relationship with love to share, you can simply enjoy each other for who you both are, which automatically feels easier and more connected!
In your experience, what should a) individuals and b) society, do to help people better understand themselves and accept themselves?
I think as a society we should be teaching self -awareness and personal development skills starting in Kindergarten. We spend so much time, energy and resources teaching important skills like reading, writing, math, social studies, foreign language, history, and science but if we don’t also teach how to manage thoughts and emotions, we are setting our kids and our society up for overwhelm. Everyone has thoughts and emotions. Our ability to manage both create the interactions we have in the world and how we apply our knowledge. Without a strong foundation of personal awareness and skill for thriving, each person has to learn through trial and error, which creates hardship and suffering. Everyone is isolated on their path which makes it harder to communicate, relate to one another, collaborate and problem solve. It would benefit everyone in our world to start with these core critical personal skills while we are building intellectual skills.
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?
We get good at what we practice. Once I realized that my health and happiness were tied to self-acceptance and self-love, I knew I needed to set up a structure I could practice daily. Here are 5 strategies I use to maintain my loving connection with myself:
1) Start my day with gratitude ~ not for what I have, but who I am. For example, I am grateful that I am a great listener as it strengthens my relationships and helps me support others.
2) Practice kind self-talk ~ The words we all use leave a lasting impression on our minds and hearts. I realized that I would NEVER say the harsh things I used to say to myself to an innocent 4-year-old. If it would crush them, it would crush me. I often repeat these words: I am enough. I am worth it. I am doing a great job. I appreciate myself.
3) Weekly soul date ~ Make a list of the things that you used to love to do BYFF (before you forgot how to have fun ;). It doesn’t even have to cost anything. When you appreciate yourself, you appreciate others so your soul dates are a win-win for your friends and family too! I now take myself on a soul date almost every day now by meditating several days per week, walking in nature and reading.
4) Healthy habits ~ The mind, body, and spirit are intricately linked. I thrive when I fuel with healthy foods, exercise daily, filtered water, supplements that my specific body needs to stay balanced, happy thoughts, time blocking for projects, travel and healthy friendships.
5) Success journal ~ Create a list of all the things that have gone right throughout the day. As a perfectionist, I used to focus on what wasn’t getting done or done well, which caused tremendous stress. Now, I use the end of the day to celebrate all the goodness from the day.
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…
Without a doubt, I would continue my mission to provide all youth with the tools, skills, and support to learn how to manage their thoughts and emotions in a fun and loving way. We need to teach kids how to be human and how to thrive before we teach them how to be successful in a job. What does success in a job mean if people aren’t happy and healthy? The model we have in our schools now promotes overwhelm, competition, and survival. The way we relate to one another in the world would change dramatically if we knew how to thrive.
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?
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” By Albert Einstein
Everything is perception. If we take on false criticism, we perceive that we are not good enough and all of our actions are then aligned with this belief. All talent is accomplished by skill building and practice. Yet, we judge ourselves or are judged by others harshly based on incorrect information and skill we haven’t yet developed. We think we have a character flaw when really, we just need to learn and practice a new skill!
Whenever I am being critical of myself or someone else I’m in a relationship with, I stop and ask myself if I am being realistic? More times than not, the answer is no. For example, this past fall, I was frustrated with my son because he wasn’t finishing his college essay. I stopped to realize that he’s a great story teller but he’s never written a college essay before, which has a very specific structure. Instead of being critical of him, I took the time to help him find some resources to build the skill for writing a college essay. He has since gotten into his top choice and our relationship is intact ~ success!