Find time to be alone, and take time to reflect on your current thoughts, and love yourself through self-care. You can schedule a massage, take a bubble bath, and cuddle up with a good book, anything that invests in you!
As a part of my series about “Learning To Finally Love Yourself” I had the pleasure to interview Dr. Benjamin Ritter, a Chicago based social entrepreneur, coach, consultant, mentor, and expert in the fields of personal and professional internal leadership development. He is the founder Live for Yourself (LFY) Consulting, which offers events, focused on cultivating community, and personal coaching that focuses on guiding leaders and entrepreneurs toward finding more meaning at work and in life.
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.
Thank you for having me! It has been a long journey to where I am today and I’ll try and keep it short. During my undergraduate degree, my personal life felt like it was in shambles. I was personally, professionally, and socially lost. I felt alone, ostracized, and uncool. That feeling you get when the cool kids don’t want you to sit with them at the lunchroom table. I had issues feeling and being “attractive” and to say I had ex-girlfriend issues and baggage is an understatement. My professional life was also crumbling in a variety of ways, and my levels of confidence and validation were intertwined with my career pursuits. All of this culminated in various mental health concerns, disorders, and I was truly lost.
This time in my life motivated me to dive into the fields of interpersonal development, mental health, social psychology, and work towards self-improvement. I had enough of feeling the way I did, losing time and years of my life, and it needed to change, I needed to change. The next four years were a journey focused on crafting the life I desired for myself personally and professionally. It consisted of countless hours, researching, graduate studies, introspection, and practice. When I say practice, I literally mean altering my behavior in personal and professional situations, from everything to how I would dress, to how I would speak to people, to the environments I would force myself to experience. I worked odd jobs that would test my social comfort zones and full-time professional jobs, on average 60–80 hours a week, and tried anything and everything that came my way. Eventually, in a serendipitous like moment, I was recruited to work for an organization to help others achieve the evolution I was implementing for myself, and the seed was planted to help others in a way I wish I was helped in the past.
At this point in time, after 9 years of professional and personal experiences, earning a doctorate in Organizational Leadership and coaching, I am unbelievably fulfilled, and that seed that was planted many years ago has grown into the tree that represents my business, LFY Consulting, and the LIVE system which is at the foundation of all coaching programs. Each day, I am grateful for the experiences that have led me to the opportunity to work with, empower, and help others build the skills they need to live the life that has forever been out of reach.
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?
There are a couple of things that are in the works for the next month and that I believe will be a big source of excitement for 2019.
I just added another event to the Live for Yourself event series called Problem Solving. I was noticing that people were coming to my other events and workshops with specific personal problems that needed to be addressed but were outside the scope of that specific event. I created the event Problem solving to provide a group coaching experience to help serve my audience, and also represent the power of coaching. I also recently decided to turn the workshops I offer on Values, Job-crafting, and Decision making into online courses in order to help empower others are a grander scale. Look out for those in 2019!
The next big area of excitement is that an international academic journal accepted an article I wrote on my doctoral research regarding person-job value congruence and senior healthcare leaders. I’m hoping the findings help aim talent and leadership development programs in acute care hospitals in a more effective direction to help improve engagement and the levels of job satisfaction for senior healthcare leaders. You may wonder, how does it help relationships, well if you’re happier and find more meaning at work that will affect your relationships! It’s all very much connected.
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?
My personal story of how and why I arrived at where I am today originates with realizing I didn’t love myself. Sadly, I had to hit rock bottom to realize that, and all too often that is the case with many of my clients. You have two choices at this point, to give up, or decide to take action.
I had a purpose, a set goal for myself growing up. I dedicated my life to it. Literally all my time. I defined who I was by it, and it was how I validated who I was and my worth. Dedicating all of my time to it also meant I avoided creating meaningful relationships, being social, and “having fun.” Instead of focusing on myself, I focused on what I was going to accomplish, except I didn’t accomplish it. I was left empty, without a source of validation, confidence, or progress in life. I didn’t know who I was or what to do. At that point in time, I put in a lot of work on myself and learned a lot about who I truly was. This story was the source of one of the first presentations I ever gave in the field of personal development, What I learned about purpose back in 2016.
That initial fall led me to come up with this tidbit I tell people and clients a lot. You created your purpose, and thus you are more than your purpose. Your purpose is there to motivate you and help you find more enjoyment in life, but it doesn’t come close to defining who you are. You are who you are, just by living and breathing. You are enough and always have been.
Too often, people in their personal and professional life, invest and define who they are by what they can accomplish. It is such a risky decision, and one of the greatest beliefs I work with clients on reprogramming is their perception of success and failure, along with how they define who they are.
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?
You may not like my answer but it’s not going to tell people that they need to love themselves no matter what. I’d go to 72 percent of men and 74 percent of women and ask them what they are currently doing to improve their levels of confidence and their appearance. Are you eating a healthy balanced diet? Are you working out? Are you reading books on mental health and wellness? There are free resources, and paid services for all of these areas. What are you really doing to take control of your life and work toward the things you’re unhappy about?
Now, yes, I couldn’t do this question justice without saying that your environment influences what you feel is attractive. The images that are promoted to you, at your fingertips right in your social media feeds and the messages that are constantly conveyed through the media will alter what you feel is attractive. We also have the power through filters and photo apps, to alter how we really look. We are constantly “told” that our faces are not enough. I think this part of the question is important (the message from the media), but personal accountability is still where I would want to steer this conversation. The media will always exist. Instagram models use to be Sport Illustrated models. It’s just more prominent now, every second of every day.
We can’t control the media, but we can decide to focus on ourselves.
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?
No one is going to love you as much as you can love yourself, and no one’s love is more important than the love you can have for yourself.
Loving yourself is an unlimited source of love that isn’t dependent on anyone else. It’s always going to be there, and if you can learn to access it, you will never need love from someone else. More importantly, when someone that you receive love from disrespects your boundaries, you will have the power to take a stand and communicate your expectations without fear of losing that love, because you love yourself more. You don’t have the mindset that love is a scarce resource.
Loving yourself also allows you to live a life more honestly and fully to your values, since you fear the judgment of others less because you are only dependent on yourself for love. Living true to your values is the key to cultivating fulfillment in your life.
Why do you think people stay in mediocre relationships? What advice would you give to our readers regarding this?
People stay in mediocre relationships for more reasons than just “love.” The feelings that we label as love motivate people to invest more in a relationship, neurologically bonding you to that person, thus creating greater levels of attachment.
Now, you are in a mediocre relationship, things aren’t that great, you’re not getting your needs met, but you are already attached and invested, so you’re highly stressed, which causes very emotional situations that bond you even more to that person. It’s a self-defeating cycle. Add in the fact that you don’t love yourself enough and believe that you deserve better, it’s a recipe for disaster and a lot of lost time.
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?
Any person that says they are perfect and never feel an ounce of regret or guilt is lying to you. I can recount multiple times where my actions in past relationships played a part in the conflict or destruction of the relationship and I’ve had to face those facts head-on with curiosity, and figure out how I could have improved the relationship despite my excuses that it wasn’t my fault.
Situations and emotions can greatly affect your behavior. You are not defined by anyone instant or action, but if you don’t learn from those moments you risk the chance of repeating the things that you regret. You can ask yourself the following questions to cut through the safe space of comfort that we like to maintain:
· We all could improve how we act in a relationship. If it’s being more understanding, staying goal-oriented, committing more to the actual relationship, taking our ego out of the way, catering more to our partner, etc. Think about your past relationships. Review the most meaningful ones, and think about your actions. What did you do, to cause those relationships to end?
· Are you acting intentionally when it comes to your relationships and life? What are your goals and are you spending the majority of your time trying to achieve them?
· Who do you value in your life? Do they know it? If you looked at how you were spending your time, would that be clear?
· What behaviors have caused the people you love and yourself stress? Do those behaviors serve you? What are you doing to change those behaviors?
· If your life stayed the same for the next 5 and 10 years, would that be ok?
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)?
Too often people confuse the action of being alone and the feeling of loneliness. You can be surrounded by people and still feel lonely. You can be alone and not feel lonely.
Loneliness is the feeling that they are not understood and that people do not care about you. Feelings of loneliness can also be heightened by feeling that other people are cared for and loved more than you. Today, it’s incredibly easy to think that other people are “less lonely” than you due to social media. Scroll through your newsfeed or watch your Instagram stories and you’ll find someone, somewhere, surrounded by people, having a very “unlonely” time.
Being alone or even in the midst of others without feeling lonely requires that you love yourself, and hold the understanding that moments in time don’t define who you are, only you do. Being at that one party doesn’t matter. The fact that no one texted you today doesn’t change who you are. Seek to understand the big picture, instead of defining yourself by one singular experience. Life is a journey, we aren’t supposed to be perfect, no moment in time is truly perfect, and progress is true perfection, and you are always making progress.
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 will greatly improve your ability to connect and deepen your relationships with others. Too often the main thing that can hurt your relationships is defensiveness and fear of judgment, which are dispelled through self-love and understanding. Without those two areas (defensiveness and fear of judgment) you are able to be present in your relationships and not in your own head, trying to “protect” your sense of self.
In your experience, what should a) individuals and b) society, do to help people better understand themselves and accept themselves?
In my experience, if we want greater levels of acceptance for individuals and throughout society, we need to completely demolish the idea that there is one right way to live, other than following laws of course, and that life is a journey of evolution and exploration. Every person has the right to believe whatever he or she wants, and your beliefs don’t change your value as a human being (as long as those beliefs don’t hurt anyone).
Individuals and society should also help others understand their beliefs through active listening, valuing relationships and moments (get off your phones, stop numbing your mind through substances), and asking more questions. If you want to understand yourself, and want others to better understand themselves, then we need to promote an environment where we don’t need therapists or coaches to really listen and ask meaningful questions.
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?
5 strategies to maintain your connection with and love for yourself:
· Explore, define, and align your values. Understand who you are and then align your life to those values. Moments, where you feel incredibly stressed or “too busy”, are a great opportunity to stop and think, why are you doing this, what is the meaning behind your efforts, and will everything be ok if I just slow down for a moment and enjoy life a bit more.
· Express gratitude each day. You can do this at the start of the day or at the end, but pausing in life and taking a moment to appreciate what you have will empower your connection and love for yourself.
· Celebrate your wins each week. Anytime you can be more aware of your life and accomplishments will reinforce the love you have for yourself. It’s too easy to negate the things you do right, and focus on the things you “do wrong.”
· Evaluate the things that you “did wrong” with curiosity instead of judgment or fear. It’s too easy to put your head in the sand when things don’t go right or you act in a way that embarrasses you. Hiding from the truth though only reinforces your guilt and causes you to love yourself less. Facing your disappointments head-on with an interest and curiosity to grow will increase the connection you have to yourself.
· Find time to be alone, and take time to reflect on your current thoughts, and love yourself through self-care. You can schedule a massage, take a bubble bath, and cuddle up with a good book, anything that invests in you!
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?
There are so many! Just to list a couple:
· Reframing by Richard Bandler. This book is crucial to reprograming your mind and understanding how your thoughts and experiences can control who you are.
· Crucial Conversations by Joseph Grenny, Al Switzler, Ron McMillan. This book will take your conflict management skills in personal and professional relationships to another level.
· The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. This is a story with so many important underlying themes about life and love I had to mention it.
· That’s Not What I Meant! by Deborah Tannen. Conversation in relationships can be difficult just based on gender differences and communication styles. This is another book that can help how you communicate in relationships.
· Anything by Esther Perel. She’s a leading expert on sexuality and relationships and isn’t afraid to speak the truth or ask the questions we all want to ask.
The following three podcasts interview leading experts in the field of personal and professional development. They hit on some cutting edge stuff a lot of the time, and you can find some tidbits of gold in almost every episode.
· The Tim Ferris podcast
· The Lewis Howes podcast
· The Aubrey Marcus podcast
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…
The movement I want to inspire further is the movement I’m focusing on as the founder of Live for Yourself Consulting. I would love to inspire a movement for everyone to live truly for themselves. This movement involves diving into what matters to you and then aligning your life with who you truly are. It isn’t as easy as it sounds but if this occurs it would vastly improve the amount of love and connection there is in the 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?
If there isn’t anything afterlife, then nothing you want to achieve externally truly matters, if there is something after this life, then nothing you want to achieve externally truly matters. This idea focuses on how you define your level of success or achievement. It ultimately implies that who you are cannot be defined and shouldn’t be defined by anything other than who you truly are.
The most important thing in life, are the moments, which we too often miss because we are so focused on something external. I thought of this concept when I was first starting off in the field of personal development. I was speaking about how the worst advice I ever believed was to follow my purpose, and I lost myself to it. I defined myself by my accomplishments and my purpose, instead of remembering that I created my purpose, and thus, I am so much more than my purpose, and YOU are so much more than your purpose.
Thank you so much for your time and for your inspiring insights!