Darcie Brown: “Where there is curiosity, judgment is absent”

…Where there is curiosity, judgment is absent. The more that you are able to free yourself from judgment, the more you allow yourself the space to take an honest look at yourself. And when you look honestly at yourself, you are able to see what’s working and what you’d like to change. As a part of […]

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…Where there is curiosity, judgment is absent. The more that you are able to free yourself from judgment, the more you allow yourself the space to take an honest look at yourself. And when you look honestly at yourself, you are able to see what’s working and what you’d like to change.

As a part of my series about “How To Learn To Finally Love Yourself” I had the pleasure to interview Darcie Brown. Darcie, JD, MA, LMFT is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and holistic wellness coach. Darcie is passionate about living an authentic and purposeful life and supporting others in understanding themselves on a deeper level and creating a life that makes them feel content and fulfilled. Darcie has been quoted as a wellness expert in Women’s Health, Bustle, Better by Today, and Best Life and has contributed articles to media outlets including Elite Daily and U.S. News & World Report. She has a YouTube channel where she posts a new wellness and self-care video every Sunday. She lives in San Diego, CA with her husband and their rescue dog, Piper.

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.

It wasn’t an easy or straightforward journey. While my undergraduate degree was in Psychology, my classes weren’t focused on the clinical aspect of this field. So I left college thinking that it wasn’t the right industry for me.

I pivoted to law and became an attorney. It took a few years for me to become convinced that I was never going to be fulfilled in this career. I began to look into different ways to use my law degree and searched for years, never quite landing on my thing.

Then, in 2015, after a really difficult time in my life, I was guided back to my undergrad degree and decided to take a leap of faith and apply for grad school in Marriage and Family Therapy. It was the right fit for me. I very quickly realized that this was the clinical training that I had been lacking in college, and it completely aligned with my vision for my career.

Fast forward several years, and I’m now a licensed therapist with my own thriving practice, seeing clients in San Diego where I live and throughout the whole state of California via teletherapy.

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?

Yes! I recently launched a YouTube channel where I provide weekly videos on attainable wellness, self-care, and mental health content. In 2020, when we were on lockdown because of the pandemic, mental health issues were surging, and getting support from a licensed therapist was out of reach for many people.

I decided to create a wellness platform where I would post videos on mental health and wellness content with the goal of increasing access to resources. I felt strongly that wellness resources shouldn’t be limited to the wealthy, that everyone should be able to get support, tools, and strategies to be able to grow, heal, and transform. Originally, I launched them on my own website, but recently decided to transition them to YouTube where they’ll be even more accessible. Anyone who searches on YouTube looking for supportive resources to care for themselves will be able to find them and benefit from them.

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?

Since I was very young, I’ve been tall (now I’m 5’9”). In elementary school, I was nicknamed “ogre,” which was very hurtful to me. I didn’t understand why my height was a bad thing and couldn’t understand why I was being called a name that didn’t ring true for me.

While I’ve never wished to be shorter, I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that my height, as a woman, can be intimidating. Throw on a pair of high heels, and I am well over 6 feet. I’ve realized that I need to own this, though. I’m proud of the way that I carry myself, and if my height is intimidating to others, that says more about them than it does about me.

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?

Our modern society fuels dissatisfaction with our appearances through promoting autotuning, filters, and photoshop. With the prevalence of these appearance-modifiers, we start to believe that our natural appearance isn’t “good enough.” In this kind of culture, it’s easy to become obsessed with how we look and always believing that there’s something more we can do to become more like a photoshopped image than our natural self.

The consequences of this include self-esteem issues, social anxiety, and depression. The more that we send the message that we aren’t good enough as we are, the more that mental health issues will surge.

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?

Loving ourselves is the foundation for living a full, content, and purposeful life. When we don’t love ourselves, we don’t treat ourselves well in our thoughts and behaviors, which leads us farther and farther away from a joyful life. Loving ourselves means showing up for ourselves which sometimes can be hard work. It may mean going to therapy to heal from trauma, or it might mean choosing to workout when you’re tired because you know it will make you feel better. Loving yourself is behavioral in nature, and it’s through these behaviors that we are able to live the life we desire.

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

People often stay in mediocre relationships because they fear the unknown. I commonly hear, “But what if I’m worse off if I leave?”

I will often say back, “So what? Then you change course again.”

We often get stuck on the fact that the place we “end up” doesn’t have to be permanent. We can always change course, and the more that we change direction to align with who we are today, the more we realize that we are constantly learning, growing, and evolving, and that we don’t have to be afraid to do so.

I also tell clients that doing hard things builds self-confidence. When we do the things that we want to do, even when we are scared, we realize that we are capable of so much more than we think we are at times.

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?

Great question.

Which habits, behaviors, and practices are serving you, and which aren’t?

Which relationships in your life and serving you, and which aren’t?

Are there patterns of behavior that you observed from your childhood that you’d like to change?

What fears do you have about change, and how might you start to challenge those fears?

What do you love about your life, and what would you like to be different?

Two specific personal situations come to mind.

I touched on the first one earlier in this interview where I talked about changing careers. It was beyond difficult to think about leaving law behind. I had invested three years of my life into law school, studied months for the bar exam and passed probably the toughest bar exam in the country, and then worked for years as an attorney. It was painful to think of all of that time, money, and energy being “for nothing.” It really took a mental shift to realize that my happiness was what mattered, and I’m so glad that I pushed through the fears of leaving law because it led me to the place where I am now, completely fulfilled in my career.

Second, back in 2015, I ended a relationship that I really wanted to stay in at the time. It was a situation where my then-boyfriend was feeling confused about his own life which was causing him to question our relationship. Months went by where I felt shut out from his personal journey, and it came to the point where I had to move on. It was incredibly painful to have to make this decision when I didn’t want the relationship to end. But I realized that I wasn’t getting what I needed from the relationship, and that my own needs mattered. The end of this relationship was actually what led me to returning to grad school and starting the next chapter of my life as a therapist.

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)?

So true. It is extremely common to be afraid of being alone which is often connected with not having the tools to cultivate a loving relationship with yourself. We are at our most confident when we are empowered to create the life that we want, and when we have that, we realize that we don’t need to rely on other people to meet our needs. We can meet them ourselves.

While humans are social creatures and are wired for connection, this is not the exclusion of knowing that we can trust and rely on ourselves. At the end of the day, we can only control ourselves and our own behavior. And when we know that we always have our own backs, we can feel confident in taking risks and doing what’s best for us, even when it’s hard.

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?

True connection is fostered through authenticity which requires a certain level of self-knowledge and self-understanding. Additionally, our wounds have the power to hurt people, so the more we understand ourselves and our triggers, the better we’re able to take action to heal from those wounds and change our behavior to foster closeness not separateness in our relationships.

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

I want to share this interesting paradox from psychologist Carl Jung. He said, “We cannot change anything until we accept it.” Until we accept our flaws and imperfections, we can’t change ourselves. Why is that? Shame and self-criticism will be so loud that they will prevent us from taking action. So, the first step to improvement is acknowledging and accepting where we are.

Next, learn more about your values (I have a YouTube video on this). I see my values as a lighthouse, guiding my actions. When I’m living in line with my values, I am more peaceful, content, and fulfilled.

Third, honor your own journey. As a society, we want to underscore certain lifestyles as the way to happiness. But happiness is homemade, and it looks so different person-to-person. While one person may love traveling the world, another may want to stay put in their small mountain town. When we all start to honor our own wants, needs, and pathways, we give ourselves permission to allow ourselves to be exactly where we are and choose the life that’s meant for us.

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. Approach my thoughts and behaviors with curiosity. Where there is curiosity, judgment is absent. The more that you are able to free yourself from judgment, the more you allow yourself the space to take an honest look at yourself. And when you look honestly at yourself, you are able to see what’s working and what you’d like to change.
  2. Accept that I am meant to grow and change. Humans aren’t meant to stay the same, but oftentimes we resist our own desire to grow which leads to feeling disconnected from who we are. The more that we lean into the human need to evolve, the more we will feel connected to ourselves right where we are, not where we wish we would be.
  3. Recognize that I’m not perfect and that perfect isn’t the goal. Perfectionism is a dangerous trap, and freeing yourself from this unrealistic standard is so liberating. It is something that I consistently work at to be sure that I’m motivated by my values, not by an unattainable goal of trying to prove my worthiness by being perfect.
  4. Engage in behaviors I enjoy. I’ve said several times through this interview that loving ourselves is rooted in the behaviors we engage in. If we treat ourselves well, that fosters a loving relationship. Oftentimes, we think that we have to love ourselves in order to treat ourselves well. But it’s actually the other way around. When we start to be intentional about treating ourselves well, that’s where loving ourselves blossoms.
  5. Consistently turning into my wants and needs and making adjustments as needed, even when it’s hard. Because humans are meant to change, our wants and needs will change. The process of tuning in regularly is essential to ensuring that we are meeting our needs. What we need day-to-day differs so, while habits can be useful in achieving consistency, I believe that intentionality in our behaviors is essential for authentic and wholehearted living.

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?

Anything and everything by Brené Brown. If you are looking to learn more about yourself, I’d highly recommend checking out her books and podcast. She writes and speaks with such honesty and authenticity, and the content is backed by her research on shame, vulnerability, feeling good enough, and so much more. She has the amazing ability to make her readers and listeners feel seen and understand which is such an essential part of being human.

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’d love to see everyone committed to working on themselves. This looks different for everyone — for some it means going to therapy and for others it means watching YouTube videos. There’s no right or wrong way to get to know yourself. But the more that each of us works through our stuff, the more that we as a society are going to be more connected with each other and have a more loving and accepting world.

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?

It’s a longer one by Yung Pueblo. He has some of my favorite self-development quotes.

“They asked her, ‘How do you love yourself well?’

She answered, ‘Make your well-being and healing a top priority. Have the courage to create boundaries that will support your flourishing. Listen closely to your intuition, respect your need for rest and connect with people who are emotionally mature. Being intentional with your life is loving yourself well.’”

The last part is the most impactful for me. One of the themes on my Instagram account as well as in my YouTube videos is intentional living. It’s so easy for all of us to get on autopilot, but that’s when we slip out of touch with ourselves and become disconnected from ourselves and what matters most to us.

To reconnect and stay connected with ourselves, we must be intentional in our thoughts and actions. We must consciously choose to engage in supportive behaviors and disconnect from the things that harm us. It can be tough work, but it’s also the pathway to self-love and sharing love with others.

What is the best way our readers can follow you online?

Connect with me on Instagram

Subscribe to my YouTube channel

Follow me on Medium for mental health and wellness content

Work with me for therapy or coaching

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

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