As a part of my series about “Connecting With Yourself To Live With Better Relationships” I had the pleasure to interview Kayley Reed. She is the host of the Self-Care Sunday podcast and mental health advocate. Her journey began in university when she was diagnosed with an eating disorder alongside depression. During outpatient treatment, she began speaking about her mental health experiences and co-founded a Canadian fashion brand to raise awareness for mental health. The line debut at NYFW 2015, and partnered with non-profits like CMHA, the Jed Foundation, and Jack.org to raise awareness and funds for mental health projects. Kayley is a former We Day speaker and has shared her story on stages of 100 to 10,000. She now uses her digital influence and podcast to share insights on self-care and mental health after recovery, while interviewing notable female influencers in the space. You can find her at kayleyreed.com, selfcaresunday.co, and @kayley.e.r on Instagram.
Thank you so much for joining us! Let’s Get Intimate! I’d love to begin by asking you to give us the backstory as to what brought you to this specific career path.
It all sparked with my own journey with mental illness in university. I had the opportunity to intern with a mental health organization coincidentally around the same time I was coming to terms with my own mental health, and it showed me how common these issues are. I was young, and eager to do something, so a friend and I co-founded a startup that blended fashion with a mental health mission. We did some great things in that space- raised tens of thousands of dollars, partnered with leading mental health organizations, and even did a show for New York Fashion Week! The goal was to create as many conversations around mental health with something as simple as the clothing we wear every day.
Ironically, my mental health started growing worse because of the pressures and stress of running a startup. So, I chose to leave the company to pursue advocacy in other ways. I had the opportunity to speak to universities across Canada & the USA sharing my mental health story and had grown my Instagram presence to a point where I was considered “influential” by some in the mental health & self-care space. A few months after leaving the startup, I decided to launch a podcast (Self-Care Sunday) to bring my followers along my journey of self-care while navigating recovery. Conversations with inspiring women and mentors have helped get me through some of the rough times, and so I thought, why not capture those conversations and share the wisdom with my audience?
Now I work part-time on the podcast and part-time in influencer marketing, where I consult with fashion & wellness brands on how to authentically engage influencers to promote their products.
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?
The Self-Care Sunday podcast just turned 1 and I’m hoping 2019 will be the year of expanding to video interviews! I love audio as a medium, but sometimes the visuals help connect you to the guest speaker in a more intimate way, so I’m looking at a traveling tour/series that involves more live-recordings and ways for the audience to feel more involved in each episode.
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?
When I was studying for my bachelor’s degree, I began to experience mental health challenges that I thought were “normal” at the time — like intense student stress. It wasn’t until a couple of years into my degree that I was diagnosed with depression and an eating disorder, for which I was very much in denial. I didn’t open up to anyone in my life about my struggles and very reluctantly sought help from doctors, nutritionists, and psychologists during outpatient treatment. That year was hell, but I somehow managed to graduate top of my class with a B. Philosophy and began to recognize that this mental illness was not going to define me. Taking the step to open up to my parents was terrifying, but the tipping point that triggered this path of self-acceptance. Once I told them, I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders.
It’s been 5 years since then, and I think my greatest motivation now is understanding that happiness and recovery are possible. I never thought it could be for me- I thought that I would always have some lingering things that I would need to cope with. But self-love is real, and I hope that my work can help others recognize that it’s an attainable goal worth working towards.
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?
While I think a lot of it is the unrealistic standards and expectations we put on ourselves, I see Instagram being a big contributing factor to this. A big chunk of my work is in social media — and especially Instagram — and my own experiences have led me to need a curated space online that is positive, and not comparative. Instagram is a visual platform, and almost none of it is real. Photos are curated, posed and edited, bodies are photoshopped and faces are altered with Facetune. Even influencers and celebrities rarely look like they do online. It’s a constant highlight reel, and I think understanding that and being critical of that is a key part of media literacy that needs to be taught to young people.
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?
It’s cheesy, and cliche, but self-care isn’t selfish. We need to take care of ourselves — to love and respect ourselves — in order to be the best versions of ourselves. It’s hard to give love to others, to put effort into relationships, or energy into your career ambitions if you’re starting with 0 love and energy for yourself. A solid foundation is a key to growth, and it all starts with self-love (which I see more as a journey and verb than a noun).
Why do you think people stay in mediocre relationships? What advice would you give to our readers regarding this?
Because it’s easy and comfortable. It takes courage to step out of your comfort zone and let go of something mediocre when there’s no certainty of what’s on the other side. My advice would be to analyze how the relationship is affecting your self-perception (and relationship with yourself). Is this mediocre relationship causing you to doubt your worth? Does it make you feel stuck? This is where self-love and self-respect come into play… Because it might just be self-care for you to leave this relationship and focus on you. I always loved the line “We accept the love we think we deserve.”
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 for 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 love this perspective and completely agree. What has been helpful for me, is asking myself what my best potential is in any given category, and why I haven’t reached that?
For example, in relationships: am I being a good partner and treating the other how I would want to be treated? Am I being selfish in this? What kind of love do I want to receive, and am I giving that?
I find this best-potential reflection helpful in work, too. This year, I stepped into freelancing full-time and at first was taking on any and all clients that would pay me, while continually discounting my rates because I felt “bad” or “guilty” being my own salesperson. I was still unhappy and not financially free a few months in, so I reflected on what my best potential could be as a consultant in this space, and I quickly doubled and then tripled my rates for new clients. I became very picky about the work I took on and started saying “no” to anyone or anything that didn’t fit my ideal client. Suffice to say, that a few months later I earned that career freedom and started hitting milestones that my “best self” was proud of because I took the time to be critical and double down on my process.
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 important. We are with ourselves more than anyone else. We constantly talk to ourselves and that should be a positive relationship, not a negative one. I think recognizing that and recognizing how you treat yourself (in your mind, self-talk, actions) is a big piece to making changes and learning to be okay being alone. I think we have a heavy dating culture right now, amplified by apps and social media, and so there’s an added pressure to be with someone to feel “whole”. I went through a break-up last year that forced me to re-evaluate my relationship with myself, and “date myself”. I literally did all the things I would want to do with a partner (go for dinner, go to a concert, see a movie) but alone, and it forced me to enjoy that time with myself while also not holding back from the things I love and want to do. I think more of us need to spend time dating ourselves, treating ourselves, and bettering ourselves so that we are already whole when we meet the right person, not seeking completion.
In your experience, what should a) individuals and b) society, do to help people better understand themselves and accept themselves?
a) Individuals — reflect on yourself, your experiences, meditate and do more of what you love. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable, and open with others. It’s the only way to develop deep relationships.
b) Society — be open to listening, refrain from judgment of experiences and perspectives that don’t align with your own, and encourage individual expression & ownership of self
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) Time alone — basic, but necessary, especially as an introvert. I try to spend my time doing hobbies that I love as it’s easy to push things aside and lose passion for them. This might include recording a solo podcast episode, playing piano, playing video games, or going for a walk outside.
2) Unplugging — turning off notifications and/or putting my phone in another room. This is especially helpful when trying to deepen my relationship with self, during that ^ time alone so I’m not distracted by “noise”.
3) Fun Self-Care — I love getting my nails done, so sue me. It’s a small investment I never used to justify making, but one of those things that keeps me feeling a little happier and more put together every day. Bubble baths are another “fun” self-care thing I love, but it varies for everybody. Taking the time to treat yourself is important to strengthen that relationship, even if it’s as small as a Starbucks latte that puts a smile on your face.
4) Boring Self-Care — Even more important than the fun self-care, is the boring — but absolutely necessary — self-care. Things, like cleaning the house, running errands, doing laundry, and organizing your desk, are taking care of your future self, even if it’s no fun to do. We often prioritize self-care in the moment, but loving ourselves is so much more about looking out for our future self, versus treating our present self.
5) Putting gratefulness out into the universe — I’m not a religious person, but the law of attraction gets to me. I really do believe that
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?
I’m loving the podcasts: Girls Gotta Eat and Schnitt Talk. Both are female-hosted by friends that talk everything from dating apps to sex and self-love but with a lot of humor. I think these topics can get too serious and stiff sometimes, and it’s nice to listen to something funny that’s also relatable for women!
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…
What a question! I’d love to inspire more individual ownership. That might sound boring, but we really are in control of so much in our lives, each of us has so much potential, and we are our harshest critics. If we look inward and take responsibility for our actions, there is so much to accomplish and so much growth to be had. I love the saying “If you want to change the world, start with yourself.” (I think that was Gandhi)
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” that you use to guide yourself by?
“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”