Elaine Turner: “Building a fluid and contemplative self-care practice”

Take out a journal or sheet of paper and just start writing. My biggest tip is not to overthink when it comes to what you’re writing. Often, what we need to work through will come to the top of our minds. Set aside 5–10 minutes a day to jot down whatever you’re feeling. As a part […]

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Take out a journal or sheet of paper and just start writing. My biggest tip is not to overthink when it comes to what you’re writing. Often, what we need to work through will come to the top of our minds. Set aside 5–10 minutes a day to jot down whatever you’re feeling.

As a part of my series about “How To Learn To Finally Love Yourself” I had the pleasure to interview Elaine Turner. She is an author, speaker and designer. With unfiltered candor, sharp wisdom, humor, and warmth, Elaine is challenging women to be honest with themselves and with the world — and thus be part of sparking real cultural change. Best known to many as a successful fashion designer and founder of Elaine Turner®, Elaine has a new mission: to help every woman realize she is worthy — and that worthiness is inborn and internal, not determined by any external successes or failures. A mother of an adolescent special-needs daughter and a college-aged son, Elaine lives with her husband Jim and their family in Houston, Texas.

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.

For decades, I hustled to build a name for myself in the fashion industry, which culminated in the creation of my namesake fashion brand in 2000. In 2013, I was named one of the 40 Tastemakers to Watch by Forbes. Then, at the height of my success, I realized that the pressure to be “perfect” at everything as a wife, mom, daughter, sister, entrepreneur, and CEO was debilitating. So, I walked away. I began to realize that I had been living with a deep wound of never feeling like I was “enough.” This life-altering decision led me on a journey to embrace the second act in life and pursue my purpose — helping women realize they are worthy and that external successes or failures do not determine their worthiness.

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’m launching an innovative course; The Know Your Worth program is a framework to guide women in reclaiming and building their self-worth! The program includes three main components: self-discovery, self-acceptance, and self-compassion. I’ve discovered that once we understand ourselves better, we can show up for others with more compassion and intention. I truly believe that compassion and empathy are the birthplace of change. This course will push women across the country to connect with themselves, reject false narratives, and upend the status quo.

Course One: Discover: Launching January 2021, the “Discover” e-course will help you gain better self-understanding, unravel limiting beliefs, improve relationships, and make more confident decisions. This course is the first step in reclaiming your self-worth and is designed to support and guide you in identifying your Personal Processing Profile — Thinker/Head, Feeler/Heart, Doer/Gut. After taking this course, you’ll walk away with custom curated tools and practices for your Personal Processing Profile to help you gain more balance and synergy across all three centers and redefine your personal story and life circumstances.

Course Two: Awaken: The “Awaken” e-course will help you dig deep into your past to identify the limiting beliefs and false narratives you’ve attached yourself to and lessen the power they have over you. You’ll be empowered to rewrite your story, create a life based on your true self, and develop a kinder relationship with yourself, learn how to re-frame life’s circumstances, redefine suffering, visualize your best self, and develop self-compassion. This course will provide you with tools and strategies Elaine uses personally on a daily basis to create and cultivate a deep understanding of self-worth.

Course Three: Manifest: The “Manifest” e-course will help you get out of your own way and see who you could become. You’ll begin to understand your life purpose, and what you can offer the world by unlocking the performance and productivity you gained in the “Discover” and “Awaken” e-courses. Through exploratory exercises that take a hard look at your values, intentions, and motivation, this course will prepare you to offer your gifts to the world.

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 journey to self-understanding and self-love, I had to make a tough but necessary decision to close my fashion company, Elaine TurnerⓇ. While it was a tough pill to swallow at the time, it ultimately led me to discover a deeper sense of purpose. I chose to follow my truth and not shy away from what might seem like a failure or challenge to others. Deep down, I knew it was something I needed to do to be the person I was supposed to become. Walking away from my business at the height of my success set me on a life-changing path of self-discovery, growth, and a new perspective. That tipping point helped me realize that if I was vulnerable and courageous enough to tell my story, maybe I could encourage and inspire others to understand that even if things are not perfect, it does not mean you are not worthy. As hard and painful as it was to figure this out, I discovered that I wanted to share this realization with others, which inspired me to launch my upcoming Know Your Worth course.

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?

So many people are unsatisfied with their appearance because we are constantly bombarded with unrealistic imagery 24/7. These images tell us that we need to look a certain way when, in reality, we don’t. We’re part of a culture with an intense form of communicating the “norm” — implying that we need to be rich, thin, and young to be worthy. Unfortunately, we are all vulnerable to lies and myths put forth by outside influences like this as humans. Far too often, we fall victim to comparison and measuring our worthiness by others’ unrealistic standards.

Also, today’s modern women were raised by a generation of women who could not discover their worthiness because of the strict “ladylike” standards expected from them at a young age from their mothers. There has to be a generational break of women who say that worthiness is not about your body weight or hair color; it is about who you are beyond your appearance. Our culture is built upon outdated and unrealistic standards of worthiness, and social media only continues to amplify this cycle.

However, what brings me to hope is that there is an open-mindedness among today’s adolescent generation regarding gender roles and body image. They understand that it is up to them to decide what they believe about their worthiness. I’m inspired that today’s youth are aware of the mess and illusion that previous generations have created, and am hopeful that they will continue to work to change it.

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?

Truly understanding and loving yourself is the foundation upon which we are each individually and uniquely built. Until we build, cultivate, and nourish a respectful, loving relationship with ourselves, we can’t go out in the world and fulfill our purpose and offering. I believe we are all here to help each other, and we can’t do this without loving ourselves first. My new online course, Know Your Worth, is all about building contemplative practices to help you with self-reflection, honing your intuition, trusting your inner wisdom. To fulfill your purpose and offering in the world, you need to build the practice of self-love and make it a priority over everything. In such a fast-paced society, not too many people are prioritizing this work for themselves.

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

The people you have relationships with (friends and partners) are ultimately reflections of how you view yourself. We unconsciously gravitate towards others who we feel will allow us in based on our relationship with ourselves. I heard once that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with, and believe this to be true.

People stay in mediocre relationships because they don’t believe they are valuable or have enough to offer. Fear is another factor in this; many people think they’re unworthy or unmotivated to grow. Mediocracy grows from mental and emotional laziness.

My advice to those staying in mediocre relationships would be to do the inner work: Engage, cultivate, and nourish the most important relationship of your life; The relationship with yourself. By doing this, you’ll realize who you are and what your purpose is, and, once you come to a place of acceptance and love, you’ll look at your relationships differently because you’ll have more inner confidence. You’ll realize you’ve been stuck in negative patterns and that you may need a “friend edit’ so you can begin to surround yourself with people who will push you to grow.

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?

I always advocate that self-understanding is not about loving every aspect of ourselves all the time. It takes a lot of effort and courage to embrace the fullness of who we are. Nobody has it all together, we are all perfectly imperfect humans, but we seldom embrace our imperfections and impurities in our society. It’s important to remember that we are not meant to be perfect — we are meant to grow and be dynamic. Unfortunately, this concept gets lost in the personal growth industry. Personal growth is not just about loving life; personal growth also means embracing your negative feelings and becoming mindful of them. Mindfulness is about being aware of the present moment as it is, recognizing the fullness of your feelings and reactions. It’s about embracing the messiness of who we are- the good, the bad, and the ugly.

When it comes to self-love and understanding, everything boils down to self-awareness. Suppose you see a repetition of toxic behavior, habits, and emotional outbursts from yourself that are not serving you well. In that case, you have to have the awareness and courage to recognize it. Awareness without change does not mean anything. We have to ask ourselves, what can we do to shift our mental state? To break through discomfort and initiate change, you have to build a self-awareness practice. You can’t skim over your life and chalk up bad habits or feelings to a one-off occasion. We need to have the courage to see habits and patterns for what they are, good and bad, and develop actional concepts to shift our neurology. Ask yourself why you are reacting or feeling a certain way. It can be uncomfortable, but it will also help explain your habits and patterns. For example, after years of hustling as a mother, wife, daughter, sister, entrepreneur, and CEO, I realized I had bought into the limited ideal that I needed to hustle to be worthy. That was, until I had an epiphany and engaged in a lot of inner work and realized I needed to change. I needed to redefine myself and know that I was worthy without the hustle.

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)?

People are afraid to be alone because they’re trained to be afraid of it. They’ve been trained to believe that life is to be lived in reactively instead of proactively. This mindset is rooted in our culture, but we have to upend the paradigm and say NO. COVID-19 is a huge opportunity to shift the paradigm. Life has slowed down, so let’s seize the opportunity here to embrace uncertainty and discomfort and take the time to look inwards. During this time, I’ve tried to press deeper into my feelings of fear and loneliness and not be afraid of it. Leaning into it is how you ultimately will learn to get through it. Many of us are scared to talk about our pain and validate it, but loneliness is one of the most significant mental health issues. It’s essential to build resilience by embracing what scares us.

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 give you the ability to walk out into the world as your true self. Once you do the reflective work, it allows your true self to show up! When that happens, your relationships improve because they’ll become built on authenticity and transparency. Your opportunity to learn also enhances, which leads to incredible amounts of compassion for yourself and others. I believe that self-understanding is how your growth becomes exponential in your relationships.

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

I believe it all starts with the individual. If we do individual work, then we show up and do collective work. Individuals need to do inner work and cultivate a relationship with themselves to understand and accept themselves ultimately. If we do this work individually, then as a society, we can collectively shift. If you don’t invest in yourself, you’ll have a hard time shifting society, and vice versa.

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. Building a fluid and contemplative self-care practice

· We all need a custom self-care practice. Your self-care practice can include exercise, yoga, meditation, journaling, etc. You need a self-care practice that keeps you present so you can figure out what’s going on inside of you! For example, I try to keep my practice flexible and try to tune into what I truly need that day. Some days I need a brain dump- where I just free flow journal for 15 minutes; other days, I need to practice restorative yoga to rest and relax completely; other days, I just need to sit in stillness and meditate. I say trust yourself and trust what you need to feel better and more whole.

2. Engaging in an embodiment practice

· I am a big believer in embodiment practices like restorative and slow flow, mindful yoga. The body is a second intelligence, and it plays a huge role in our healing and overall processing. I have gained tremendous benefits from restorative yoga in that it has taught me to accept myself as I am. The complete surrender of the practice has taught me to know that I am enough, yet there is also an unraveling that occurs where we release what we no longer need. It’s a dichotomous experience- we accept and let go in embodiment practices.

3. Reflection journaling through free consciousness

· Take out a journal or sheet of paper and just start writing. My biggest tip is not to overthink when it comes to what you’re writing. Often, what we need to work through will come to the top of our minds. Set aside 5–10 minutes a day to jot down whatever you’re feeling.

4. Devotional prayer

· There is only so much hustling we can all do before we have to decide to make the ultimate surrender to a higher power and realize that, despite all of our highs and lows, we will be loved no matter what.

5. Meditation practice

· Meditation is an extremely powerful practice that can keep you grounded and completely shift your mindset. I focus on Vipassana meditation, which is a Buddhist practice. In this type of meditation, you are focused on the present moment and highly in tune with your thoughts, feelings, and emotions. It allows you to see your mind for what it’s is and takes you deeper into your inner wisdom. I’m not saying you should meditate for 30 minutes a day. Start with 5 minutes a few days a week and work your way up!

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?

● Brene Brown books are amazing for self-education. She helps redefine concepts and emotional constructs that many of us struggle with like vulnerability and shame.

● I enjoy classes from NICABM, an online psychology group. I learn so much from these classes, and it helps me understand more about the way I think.

● Darling Magazine has amazing articles and tools to empower women.

● For podcasts, I am a big fan of the Ten percent happier App with Dan Harris and On Being with Krista Tippet.

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 is about women. If we can create more wholeness within women and help women embrace and understand their worthiness, it would shift the world, economies, families, and communities. Until women rise to their truth, we won’t achieve that. That’s why I decided to start the Know Your Worth program. This program is a framework to guide the process of reclaiming and building our self-worth as women.

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?

“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” — Viktor E. Frankl.

I can often be emotionally reactive, and this quote helped me see I had a choice in my response. That was a life-changing moment for me. It was realizing that I didn’t have to be a victim to my feelings. Just because I’m in touch with my emotions does not mean I have to be a slave to them.

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

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