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Elaine Turner: “Take a close look at your relationships”

Accept that we cannot control everything Whether you are spiritual or not, there comes the point in most of our lives where we must surrender to something larger than us to find peace. It allows us to go to a place that transcends the self and the limited ego we all possess. It allows us […]

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Accept that we cannot control everything

Whether you are spiritual or not, there comes the point in most of our lives where we must surrender to something larger than us to find peace. It allows us to go to a place that transcends the self and the limited ego we all possess. It allows us to realize there’s more going on than meets the eye. There’s a purpose to our existence. We are more than flesh and bones; we serve a very calculated purpose in the world around us. In my eyes, life is about discovering that purpose.


As a part of my series about the “5 Things Anyone Can Do To Optimize Their Mental Wellness” I had the pleasure of interviewing Elaine Turner.

Elaine Turner 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 doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

I started my fashion and lifestyle brand, Elaine Turner®, in 2000. I was fortunate that it thrived for many years and, in 2013, was even named one of the 40 Tastemakers to Watch by Forbes. However, in recent years, we faced extreme challenges in the retail environment. Changing consumer habits, coupled with online selling’s popularity, created an unsustainable path forward for a brand our size. In 2019, we made the heartbreaking decision to close our last remaining store. I felt like I had hit rock bottom. I remember crying to my husband and wondering who am I now? What am I going to do next? I then came to realize, through a lot of deep self-reflection, that I had spent much of my career hustling for approval. I had so much pressure on me to be the perfect wife, mom, daughter, sister, friend, boss, and business owner. I realized I had been living with a buried, personal wound — The story of “not being enough.” This life-changing moment set me on a path of self-discovery and growth from a new perspective: we are worthy, and our worthiness does not depend on external factors. This entire journey has led me to what I consider my greatest passion — guiding women to believe they are worthy. By inspiring women to discover the truth of who they are, they can begin to adopt the idea that regardless of our circumstances, our jobs, our weight, our bank accounts — we are always enough. Once we know this, we can live from a place of courage, compassion, and connection and create a life of deep meaning and purpose.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

The most interesting thing that’s happened to me since I started my career is that I completely switched career paths! I started in fashion and made the jump to personal growth. I never envisioned myself where I am today. I grew up loving fashion. It was my main form of self-expression and creativity. Also, I was always praised for being good at it, so that validation led me to create a career from it. When I made the leap over to personal growth, it was scary. But, it has been one of the most fulfilling decisions of my life. It’s allowed me to discover how passionate I am about empowering women through sharing my story, insight, and inspiration.

Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?

When I was first starting out, I began my business by making handbags. I had them produced in Brooklyn, New York. Initially, I was only making small production runs of the bags. I was so young, had just moved into this new office space, and felt like I was on top of the world. I finally got an initial order of handbags that I had designed, ordered, and manufactured from this factory. When I got the order in, I gasped. There was none of my branding on ANY of the handbags. I called them up and was very angry that they had forgotten such an essential detail. Then, they explained that they never received my logo to use. I realized I had completely forgotten to send it to them! I remember I was SO embarrassed and just started laughing! I had to send all the handbags back and start over. Back then, I thought I knew it all. It was a lesson in reminding myself to slow down, take a step back, and never get too caught up to forget the basics.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Without a doubt, my husband. He has been my rock throughout my career. We’ve been married for 23 years, and we’ve experienced both successes and challenges together. In challenging times, we’ve had to come together and adapt to those challenges and reinvent ourselves. No matter what life throws at us, I know we always can be there for each other and adapt to any hardship that comes our way.

What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?

Most importantly, the first thing I recommend it to acknowledge that you are, in fact, burnt out! Many of us don’t even recognize that we are- we continue on the hamster wheel until it’s too late. We breakdown, continue to cope with numbing behaviors, or we stay in complete denial. The way we can gain more self-awareness is by slowing down and listening to what we truly need. It’s not easy, but it’s necessary. My second tip is to decide what you’re going to do about it. This step is about taking action to begin to feel better. Once we see things for what they are, we can soften our perspective and begin to take steps toward feeling better. Another thing I recommend is to talk to the people around you who can support you. Then, I suggest taking a hard look at and reclarifying your values and priorities. I’m a huge believer in aligning your behavior and time with your values. Once you do this, you will be more comfortable saying “no,” and your life will begin to simplify. You will start to will make better choices that feel fulfilling rather than draining.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Mental health is often looked at in binary terms; those who are healthy and those who have mental illness. The truth, however, is that mental wellness is a huge spectrum. Even those who are “mentally healthy” can still improve their mental wellness. From your experience or research, what are five steps that each of us can take to improve or optimize our mental wellness. Can you please share a story or example for each.

1. Develop a personalized self-care practice

I am a huge believer that we each need a custom self-care practice. Your self-care routine can include many different types of practices- exercise, healthy eating, and good sleep, to name a few. However, I highly recommend incorporating a contemplative (or some might call it a ‘stillness practice’) into your daily life. These modalities can look like anything from yoga, meditation, gratitude journaling or prayer, etc. It doesn’t need to take up a lot of your time. It could be an added 5 to 10 minutes a day. You need a self-care practice that keeps you present so you can figure out what’s going on inside of you. Now more than ever before- it’s important to tune into yourself and self-reflect. Otherwise, you’re living in reaction mode, leading to burnout, stress, depression, and anxiety.

2. Take a close look at your relationships

Your interpersonal relationships are where you learn the most about yourself. And they are also where you get the most fulfillment and happiness in your life. Science tells us that people who have nurturing long-lasting relationships in their lives end up happier and living longer lives. Do the reflective work to figure out if the people in your life align with your values and help you become the person you want to be.

3. Do an audit on yourself to discover your values

Every six months, I recommend doing an audit on yourself to rediscover your values. Take a piece of paper and write down your top 5 values. From there, you can begin to understand your motivations and intentions. Just write — don’t worry or overthink. You can always revise it again if needed. When you do a self-audit, you can begin to see what you want in life. You can then see if your actions, choices, and behaviors are aligning with your values. This exercise has helped me so much in my life because it keeps me aware of the changes in my life and how that inevitably shifts my values.

4. Make sure your foundations are solid

There are three fundamental parts to wellness that need to be stable before working on other areas to enhance your wellness practice. This is a big message that I preach. Those three things are diet, exercise, and sleep. It’s imperative that you follow a balanced diet, incorporate some movement into your day, and get regular amounts of sleep. This is the foundation of our overall sense of well-being.

5. Accept that we cannot control everything

Whether you are spiritual or not, there comes the point in most of our lives where we must surrender to something larger than us to find peace. It allows us to go to a place that transcends the self and the limited ego we all possess. It allows us to realize there’s more going on than meets the eye. There’s a purpose to our existence. We are more than flesh and bones; we serve a very calculated purpose in the world around us. In my eyes, life is about discovering that purpose.

Much of my expertise focuses on helping people to plan for after retirement. Retirement is a dramatic ‘life course transition’ that can impact one’s health. In addition to the ideas you mentioned earlier, are there things that one should do to optimize mental wellness after retirement? Please share a story or an example for each.

Let’s face it — Retirement can be scary! Contribution, purpose, belonging, and connection are essential to the human spirit thriving. If all of a sudden, you don’t feel like you have a purpose or an offering, then your soul feels like it is dying. As a society, I think we romanticize retirement as an idyllic period in one’s life. Unfortunately, that’s not the case for a lot of people. We see so many people get depressed and lonely when they hit retirement age. Because of this, I think retirement needs to be completely redefined. I believe it should be viewed as a transition to manifesting one’s higher purpose. But this starts by recognizing how hard retirement is for people and providing support.

As we get into the second act of our lives, we have to be willing to be open-minded about who we are, what we have to offer, and who we are here to serve. For some retirees, that can look like mentoring, volunteering, or part-time jobs. For others, it could be a renewed focus on family and friends and building their interpersonal relationships. Whatever it is, my advice would be first to ask yourself, “what community do I want to serve?” Before I ask myself what skills I have, I’d ask that question because once you know who you want to serve, the rest falls into place. If you are needed- it doesn’t matter about skills- you will have a place and a purpose because there is a need! Stay connected to others! That’s the key.

How about teens and pre teens. Are there any specific new ideas you would suggest for teens and pre teens to optimize their mental wellness?

This particular generation of teens and pre-teens has grown up completely different than previous generations. They are truly technology kids. They have had technology around them, 24/7, since they were born. Because of that, it created a unique dynamic with themselves and the world around them. I have two teenage children, and the one thing I tend to notice more than anything else- is that they don’t know how to sit with their emotions. Technology has given them an easy out to divert from uncomfortable feelings. But something we need to remember is that it’s not their fault. They didn’t ask to grow up with the constant connection. Because of that, we need to have empathy and compassion towards them.

I have a teenage son. I always encourage him to build space and time throughout his day, where he’s not in reaction mode and takes small breaks from his phone. It could be a 5-minute break a day — it doesn’t need to be extensive, but a mindful moment where you decide to put your phone down and not be in reaction mode to technology. I truly believe that mindfulness practices for teens can be transformative. I’m not talking about 20 minutes of meditation — that is a big ask for anyone, let alone a teen or pre-teen. For example, I encourage my son to be mindful and intentional with his thoughts while he’s in the shower. Instead of thinking about what he needs to do for the day, or who is texting him, or schoolwork he needs to finish, I encourage him to stand there and feel the hot water. Smell the shampoo. Enjoy these few minutes of peace. Remember that you have all day to react, and you are choosing to be present in this moment.

It’s hard for teenagers to understand that social media is an illusion they’re living under. They think everything they see on social media is real. Unfortunately, this is where social comparison and depression come into play. I think there needs to be a lot more discussion with teens so they can understand what reality is. We need to have open conversations with our kids and validate what they’re going through. It’s essential that they feel heard and understood — it can go a long way.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?

Daring Greatly by Brené Brown changed my life. The gift that Brené gives us is that she was able to take complex and rarely talked about emotional constructs (like shame and vulnerability) and make them socially acceptable. She was able to take these topics and make them easy to understand. All of a sudden, she put language around these ideas and made them mainstream and less taboo. It’s like she took the lid off the pot and said-ok, world, let’s get REAL!

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

My whole movement is around female empowerment! As women, we will go through great lengths to please, accomplish, and meet other people’s expectations. But at what cost? For me, the cost was losing my sense of self. I discovered that I had abandoned who I was by trying to prove my worth to others. And that is why I decided to start the Know Your Worth program, which launches in the fall! This program is a framework to guide the process of reclaiming and building our self-worth. The program includes three main components: self-discovery, self-acceptance, and self-compassion. Doing this type of work creates deeper self-understanding so you can feel a stronger sense of inner trust, self-acceptance, and self-compassion. All of this increases your compassion for others and improves your interpersonal relationships. As a result, we begin to believe in our inherent worthiness, which leads to the greatest gift of all: self-love.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

“You either walk inside your story and own it, or you stand outside your story and hustle for your worthiness.” Brené Brown

The gist of this quote is what my program, Know Your Worth, is all about! That we are all worthy and that worthiness does not depend on external factors. We don’t need to hustle for our worthiness to meet other people’s expectations. Our worth is our divine, eternal nature, and it is the foundation on which all else is built.

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

○ Instagram — @elaineturner

○ Facebook — ElaineTurnerx

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

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