“Gratitude Over Guilt.” With Beau Henderson & Melody Godfred

As a working mother, guilt is an emotion that used to consume me. As a working mother during a period of political and cultural upheaval… guilt hit an unprecedented level. When I was at work, I felt guilty for not being with my kids. When I was with my kids, I felt guilty about not working. […]

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As a working mother, guilt is an emotion that used to consume me. As a working mother during a period of political and cultural upheaval… guilt hit an unprecedented level. When I was at work, I felt guilty for not being with my kids. When I was with my kids, I felt guilty about not working. Bigger picture, I often felt guilty about the world I brought them into — and was leaving them with one day. Gratitude rescued me from all that. When I would feel guilty, I would force myself to look around and find things within my literal reach to be grateful for. Even the most mundane detail was worthy of my gratitude

As a part of my series about “How To Develop Mindfulness And Serenity During Stressful Or Uncertain Times”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Melody Godfred.

Self Love Philosopher and founder of Fred and Far Melody Godfred is an entrepreneur and author who is passionate about empowering people to choose themselves through daily acts of self-love and self-care. Melody is an expert at cultivating community and her Instagram account @fredandfar has become a safe space for women around the world to seek inspiration and support while connecting with and uplifting each other. Her latest book, The ABCs of Self Love, is a workbook and primer filled with Melody’s insights and actionable advice for knowing, loving, and choosing your true self.

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?

Iactually discovered my calling as the Self Love Philosopher by getting off my career path. Let me explain. Myfirst career was as a litigation attorney; as a lifelong overachiever, that path spoke to my ego’s need to achieve. Becoming a lawyer was the culmination of 20 years of climbing the educational ladder — from prestigious prep school to top-tier law school. When I reached the summit — winning a position at a renowned law firm straight out of school — I realized I had left my true self behind. So I hit the reset button. I returned to my creative roots and became an author and entrepreneur. That is what led me to my current work as the leader of my self-love movement, Fred and Far, and as the author of The ABCs of Self Love.

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

In 2016, I created the Self Love Pinky Ring, a self-commitment ring for women. With no PR team or connections, I was able to secure one pivotal interview with a fashion website where I shared my story and what this ring stands for. Within days, that single piece of press was picked up by hundreds of outlets around the world and the Self Love Pinky Ring, my company Fred and Far, and I went viral — on a global scale. I struck a chord with women from all walks of life who like me, needed a reminder to be true to themselves, to care for themselves, and to prioritize and choose themselves — each and every day. Women continue to join me every day and it is the privilege of my career and lifetime.

What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?

In order to create a fantastic work culture, the mission, the product or service, and the daily operations of your business need to be clear and aligned. When there is uncertainty about what you’re doing and why, productivity and morale go down and ultimately the overall culture suffers as well. For my team at Fred and Far, the women who join our movement and purchase the Self Love Pinky Ring are our top priority. We go above and beyond to ensure each feels witnessed and celebrated by us from the moment she joins us on our Instagram page or places an order on our website. Our community is our true north. Because we know that, designing our products and service experience becomes easier. Does this serve our community? If the answer is yes, we do it. By sharing the stories of our community both internally and externally via our website and social platforms, we are continually reminded of the impact we are making by empowering women to choose themselves. This fuels our culture above everything.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

When I was in high school I read Going to Pieces Without Falling Apart by Dr. Mark Epstein. At the time, it offered a completely new way of perceiving myself and the world; instead of acquisition and control, it promoted surrender and was my first introduction to the concept of meditation. Although it took about fifteen years for me to truly embrace both its message and its practice, Going to Pieces Without Falling Apart opened the door to who I am now and how I choose to live my life.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. From your experience or research, how would you define and describe the state of being mindful?

Mindfulness is presence. Giving yourself the gift of actually being part of the moment you are in. Feeling it, tasting it, breathing it, being it. Accepting it. Embracing it.

This might be intuitive to you, but it will be instructive to spell this out. Can you share with our readers a few of the physical, mental, and emotional benefits of becoming mindful?

Many of the feelings, thoughts and habits we indulge on a daily basis exist precisely to take us out of the moment we are in. Regret and guilt transport us from the present to the past. Fear and anxiety transport us from the present to an uncertain future. In both cases, we have an out-of-body experience when the only place we should be is in our bodies. Why rob ourselves of the moment we are in when it is in fact the only moment we truly have? When we root ourselves in the here and now, the weight of past and future gets lifted. This weight is physical, mental and emotional and only we have the power to free ourselves from it. Mindfulness is the key to this liberation.

Ok. Here is the main question of our discussion. The past 5 years have been filled with upheaval and political uncertainty. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have only heightened a sense of uncertainty, anxiety, fear, and loneliness. From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to develop mindfulness and serenity during such uncertain times? Can you please share a story or example for each.

Over the past five years, with each jolt of the news cycle, I found myself and my community submerged deeper and deeper into the thought that “this can’t be real life.” These five strategies have been my reprieve from the resulting hopelessness, fear, and pain we’ve collectively felt.

1. Gratitude Over Guilt

As a working mother, guilt is an emotion that used to consume me. As a working mother during a period of political and cultural upheaval… guilt hit an unprecedented level. When I was at work, I felt guilty for not being with my kids. When I was with my kids, I felt guilty about not working. Bigger picture, I often felt guilty about the world I brought them into — and was leaving them with one day. Gratitude rescued me from all that. When I would feel guilty, I would force myself to look around and find things within my literal reach to be grateful for. Even the most mundane detail was worthy of my gratitude — like my dog barking at the street because people were walking by (a sound that used to make me mad, but now represents signs of life enduring in an uncertain time). Gratitude has been my personal antidote for not only my feelings of guilt, but also for feelings of disappointment, unworthiness or even resentment. Why does gratitude work? Because it roots you in the present moment. It forces you out of your ego and into your true self. And your true self is fueled by love.

2. When In Doubt, Try Self Love

Self love isn’t something I ever learned about or sought out proactively. In fact, it’s something I discovered almost by accident, due to an extreme reaction to the opposite of self love: self sacrifice. By the time I was in my early thirties, I had grown so accustomed to self sacrifice I was completely absent from my own life and lived every moment in service to someone else. When I reached my breaking point, I knew it was time to reclaim my life or suffer some disastrous emotional, mental or physical consequence. Self love was my path to mindfulness, to presence, to engaged living. Once I got to know and love all parts of myself, I was able to build a life that aligned with my true self instead of being in constant opposition to it. If you’re not sure how to practice mindfulness, take time to connect to yourself and ask yourself what you truly need to feel happy and peaceful. When you take time to discover and love yourself, mindfulness becomes intuitive.

3. Schedule Time To Simply Be

We’ve all become quite accustomed to our lives as busy bees with miles-long to do lists and back-to-back meetings on our calendars. If being in quarantine due to COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that we could all live lives that are a little less busy, a little less scheduled, a little… less. Less stuff, less work, less shopping. While we do have new responsibilities (in my case, homeschooling two seven-year-olds and running after a two-year-old), there’s still space for us to claim that simply didn’t exist before. Schedule some of that space for doing nothing. No mindless scrolling on your phone, no watching TV, no busy work. Instead, see if you can simply be in the moment you are in — with bonus points if you can do this outside. As one of my seven-year-olds suggested to me, “Lay down in the grass and listen to the birds — they’re singing more now.” And you know what? She’s right.

4. Plan What You Can and Surrender The Rest

For the first few weeks of being quarantined at home, I spent the hours of 11 pm to 1 am endlessly searching for cleaning supplies online. Not that I was able to ever find anything I was looking for. But somehow, the act of preparing for the worst gave me some level of solace in the moment. In retrospect, I wish I had spent that time sleeping. Now, I plan for what I can and I surrender the rest. Do I have enough Clorox wipes to last me for several more months of self-quarantine? The answer is definitely no. Will I be okay nonetheless? Yes. Because I’ve surrendered. I have let go the idea that I can perfectly manage or control my response to this unprecedented and uncontrollable thing we are collectively experiencing. I plan for what I can — which in my case means having enough milk, butter and eggs for my kids — and then I let go of the rest.

5. Free Your Mind by Moving Your Body

For most of my life, I didn’t release my thoughts. Instead, I let them hibernate in my muscles, in my bones, in the very fiber of my being. Now, I’ve learned that not only are the thoughts I’m thinking optional — I can decide whether I let them live with me long-term. Release comes in a lot of forms; it can mean writing them down in a journal, or, as I’ve discovered over the past few years, exercising them out. When California issued its shelter-in-place order in mid-March, the past version of me would have instantly used that as an excuse to stop exercising. But the current, more mindful version of me knows that exercise is as much a mental and emotional cleansing tool for me as much as it is a physical release. By moving my body, I also release stagnant thoughts and feelings that do not serve me. Moving my body frees my mind and brings me into the present moment. It’s the one hour each day that I’m absolutely not thinking about COVID-19. And for that I am grateful.

From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?

During these uncertain times, we not only have to be mindful for our own benefit, but for the benefit of those around us as well.

1. Offer the Gift of Your Attention

I read recently that attention is prayer and this resonated deeply with me. Instead of praying for your loved ones (or in addition to), offer them your attention. Your undivided attention. Spend time with them without electronics. No phone, no TV. Look in their eyes. Hold their hand. Hold space for their feelings and experience simply by being present with them.

2. Cultivate and Share Healthy Habits

Every day at 5 pm, my husband takes a break from working from home and initiates a family walk. I’ve come to realize that this daily ritual of getting outside together is the single most powerful stress reliever for our entire family. My daughters look forward to it all day and come back exhilarated and refreshed not only from the fresh air, but from the quality time with the whole family.

3. Stay In Contact

The text messages I send and receive to my friends around the country aren’t particularly profound. They don’t include nuggets of wisdom for thriving during a pandemic. Oftentimes they don’t even get a response. But I know that for my friends, knowing that I’m thinking about them is enough. And when my girlfriend sends me a random recipe or a single emoji, it lets me know she’s thinking about me too. We feel less alone, and oftentimes manage to get a laugh out of our exchanges too. It’s easy when your world is limited to your home to cut yourself off from others completely — don’t do it. The world needs you.

4. Perform Random Acts of Kindness

Last week my mother-in-law posted a meme about going stir-crazy at home that asked the viewer to send chocolates. So that’s what I did: I sent her chocolates. She was delighted! I also sent someone else a Postmates gift card out of the blue. Within my own household, I’ve surprised my kids with art supplies and delivered lunch to my husband who is working 12–14 hours days out of our bedroom. And my loved ones have done the same for me. My kids made me breakfast in bed. My friend sent my son birthday gifts even though his birthday party had to be cancelled. These little unexpected acts of kindness go a long way in quelling the mounting anxiety we all feel.

5. Be Mindful About Your Output

Even though we’re isolated, we still connect with the world at large every day through social media, text messages, emails and beyond. To help alleviate our collective anxiety, think about what you’re putting out there before you post or share it. Is what you’re sharing alleviating anxiety or contributing to it? Being thoughtful about the content you consume and share will also impact your own anxiety.

What are the best resources you would suggest for someone to learn how to be more mindful and serene in their everyday life?

There are many, many books, podcasts and apps that are now available that explain, promote and empower mindfulness. A few that I enjoy are the Calm app and the Spire breath tracker. Before I tried the Spire, my breath patterns were incredibly fast and shallow (especially while working on a computer or my phone). Now that I’ve used the app to become more mindful of my breathing, I’m able to take deeper, slower breaths — and this has had a tremendous impact on my overall well-being. I’ve also found that since many of us spend so much time on social media, it’s helpful to follow accounts that promote mindfulness by providing inspiration and resources. A few that I enjoy right now are @babaramdass, @drawnbymary, and @chaninicholas.

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

“So what?” — my dad

When I was younger and would complain about things to my dad, his most common response was “So what?” And I found that to be infuriating. I felt unseen, misunderstood, unappreciated. Now as an adult, I finally understand what he was trying to teach me with this less-than-eloquent phrase. He wasn’t trying to minimize my experiences, thoughts or feelings. He was trying to focus me on the fact that most of them didn’t matter. As we’re quickly learning, it’s the big things that matter; our health, above all. And I was never complaining to him about my health. When your thoughts start to go in a negative spiral, try asking yourself, “So what?” Sometimes that might be enough to help you regain your sense of perspective. Right now, I am in my home with my family. We are safe. We are healthy. For me, right now, that is enough.

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. 🙂

I’m proud to say that I’ve already started this movement with my book, The ABCs of Self Love. “So many years of education, yet nobody ever taught us how to love ourselves and why it’s so important.” This quote inspired me to write my book, which is designed to make practicing self-love and self-care on a daily basis easier for women of all ages. To empower a generation of self-loving women who know that they are whole, worthy, chosen, and loved just as they are — this is my life’s work.

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

You can follow me on Instagram @fredandfar and on my websites, and — my book The ABCs of Self Love is also available on Amazon.

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

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