Whenever I’m trying to craft something and it’s just not happening, I take a break. I go do something completely different. Focusing my attention elsewhere somehow jolts my brain and magically the answer is clear.
At times it feels like wellness or elevating one’s wellbeing, is diametrically opposed to high achievement and high performance in one’s career. The stress, mental energy, long hours, lack of restful sleep, preoccupation that result from a high-achievement life seem to directly inhibit wellness. And yet, in order to sustain the creativity, flexibility, mental acuity and resilience that are necessary for high performance, wellness and wellbeing of the mind, body and soul are also mandatory. So how do we achieve both? This is the question I’m hoping to answer through conversations with high-achieving women who have gleaned and are practicing their own philosophies on maintaining their wellbeing.
As a part of this series about what successful women leaders do to thrive, both personally and professionally, I had the pleasure of interviewing Cindy Conroy. Cindy Conroy is a fashion stylist and on-air TV fashion expert who brings her signature aesthetic and energetic personality regularly to etalk and The Marilyn Denis Show. She has also been featured in Cosmo magazine, Business Insider and on BT Toronto. Her love for fashion runs deeper than the latest trends — she is motivated by the opportunity to help women embrace their bodies.
Thank you so much for doing this with us, Cindy! 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 and to where you are today?
My journey isn’t a typical one. I went from being a business exec to an on-air TV Fashion Expert and Stylist. As an entrepreneur it’s allowed me to meet some truly incredible women — and as I’ve spoken to them I’ve realized: women need to hear more stories like mine. They need to know that it’s ok to change career paths even when society, family and colleagues disapprove. Even when your closest loved ones don’t believe in you. Women do have the strength, wherewithal and freedom to start anew. I’m proof of that and I’m so glad I believed in myself!
Today my days are truly fulfilling. Whether I’m styling an editorial shoot or photoshoot, going on television to chat about all things fashion, working with brands like Crest Toothpaste, curating looks for models and celebrities or working with select 1:1 clients. It’s a dream. So the fact that I can also bring my passion to the stage as a public speaker is icing on the cake! And I love cake.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
That’s an easy one. The most interesting and terrifying story is by far the first time I went on TV. I was hired to pull looks and dress three models for a morning TV segment. The day before I got a call at 6pm. They had no one to go on-air and asked me if I’d do it. Oh my gosh! I was petrified, but I said yes. Sure enough I didn’t sleep a wink that night, but the next day I walked on set and rocked it. That was my introduction to television and I fell in love.
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?
Years ago when I first started my career, I was in a meeting with someone who was more senior. We were chatting about ecommerce retailers, so I mentioned Net-a-Porter (but I completely butchered the name). She chuckled, corrected me and then moved on. I was mortified! I wanted to crawl under a rock, but for the sake of being professional, I pretended like nothing happened. Then when the meeting was over, I beelined it to the bathroom, looked in the mirror and just thought: Really?
Looking back, it taught me a fundamental lesson. It’s ok to make mistakes or not know the correct pronunciation of a brand. No one knows everything and we all mess up sometimes. We’re human. However when things happen, we have to pick ourselves up and keep learning and trying. Knowledge is everything and it takes time to acquire the nuggets you need to succeed.
What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture and work life?
I can’t say this enough. Don’t be afraid to pause and take a moment for yourself. In order to give immensely to others, you have to take care of yourself first. It makes you a better leader and steers you clear of burnout.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of our interview. In my work, I focus on how one can thrive in three areas, body, mind, and heart. I’d like to flesh this out with you. You are a very busy leader with a demanding schedule. Can you share with our readers two self care routines, practices or treatments that you do to help your body to thrive? Kindly share a story or an example for each.
Routine 1 — Energize that Body: I love a great dessert, but I’ve developed the habit of eating real food. Yes I’m all about a treat but in order to have a healthy mind, I need to have a healthy body. So I eat whole foods and vegetables multiple times a day. I’ve even gotten into the habit of being a “part time vegetarian”. It helps me feel lighter, electrified and allows my body to recover faster post-workouts.
Routine 2 — Morning Light: As often as possible I strive to wake up naturally. That means no alarm clock. I just wait for natural light or a noise to lull me out of sleep. Every time I do it, my body feels more alert and it’s like I get an instant bolt of bliss to start my day.
Can you share with us two routines that you use to help your mind thrive? Kindly share a story or example for each.
Routine 1 — Zen Vibes: If I’m at a model fitting or on set I’ve gotten into the habit of centering myself. I find a quiet corner, close my eyes and take a minute to quiet my mind. Keeping a calm demeanor keeps me stress free (even when things are hectic) so my body doesn’t absorb the chaos and start showing physical signs of stress. Years ago I didn’t do this and my body suffered tremendously — to the point where I couldn’t sleep, was in a constant state of anxiety and ultimately lost 15 pounds. It wasn’t healthy and I vowed that going forward I would take better care of myself.
Routine 2 — Kit Kat Breaks: Whenever I’m trying to craft something and it’s just not happening, I take a break. I go do something completely different. Focusing my attention elsewhere somehow jolts my brain and magically the answer is clear.
Finally, can you share with us two routines that you use to help your heart, your emotional or spiritual life to thrive? (Kindly share a story or example for each.)
Routine 1 — Love Affirmations: As women there are mornings and days when we struggle to accept ourselves, whether it be our bodies and/or capabilities. So like I tell other women, I tell myself. On those days say, “I am doing great” and “I love myself.” It might feel weird to say these things out loud but it will give you the strength to forge onwards. It always helps me, so I highly recommend it.
Routine 2 — Workouts: I don’t love going to the gym or working up a sweat — but I love the way it makes me feel. After a hard P90X or gym workout (with a mix of cardio and weights) I get this inner strength that fuels me. Sprinkles of this throughout the week really helps me achieve my goals.
When life is very busy, and you cannot stick with your ideal routine, are there any wellness practices, rituals, products or services for your mind, body, or soul that you absolutely cannot live without?
I can’t live without my Vitamin C, Oregano oil and acupuncture. When life is busy these are my go-tos for keeping my mind and body healthy. Especially if I’m travelling to different parts of the US (like New York or LA) or across Canada. These are my life savers that keep me invigorated and ready to tackle anything.
All of us have great days and days that are not as great. On days when you feel like a rockstar what do you do? What does that day look like, and what did you do to get there?
On days when I reach my goals (small and big) I take a moment to be proud of myself. Whether I do something like go out for a meal or simply close my eyes and soak it in, I celebrate. Then I keep pushing forward — because the reality is, you need multiple irons in the fire at all times. Some avenues will pan out and others won’t. If you’re constantly putting yourself out there, eventually an opportunity will knock on your doorstep. You just have to have patience, believe in yourself and keep trying.
In contrast, on days when you feel down, what do you do?
I let myself feel those emotions. There’s no shame in having those moments because they’re a reality of life. So when I do, I like to retreat and take some “me time” to reflect and recharge. Maybe watch a movie or indulge in a spa afternoon to lift my spirits.
You’re a high achieving business leader, and you also have family and loved ones that may require a different side of you at home. How do you leave the executive at the door, and be the most loving caretaker at home?
The lines are often blurred because I’m always in work mode — even when I don’t mean to be. However I make a conscious effort to mute that side of my brain when I’m with family and friends. I’m present and truly focused on them and on building our relationship. If I’m lounging at home, a comfy pair of sweat pants always helps!
Is there a particular practitioner, expert, book, podcast or resource that made a significant impact on you and helped you to thrive? Can you share a story about that with us?
Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, was such a fantastic read that it has stuck with me to this day. For years as I moved within my career I had the nagging feeling that I couldn’t “do it all” (despite what others said). So when her words confirmed my suspicions and revealed so many other gems it was like a weight was lifted off of my shoulders. It helped give me permission to strive for the life and career I wanted.
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 goal is to help women look in the mirror and actually love the person looking back. I want them to feel worthy, capable and beautiful. I didn’t have that as a teenager so I’d love to build a community — with women across the US and Canada — that’s all about self-love. Where women share their stories of pain, fear and triumph to empower each other to persevere and excel beyond our wildest dreams. A sisterhood where we support and take care of each other!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
“None of us really changes over time. We only become more fully what we are.” Ever since I was a teenager I’ve loved this Anne Rice quote. It just spoke to me because with every passing year, it rings true. As I get older I do become more fully myself. Embracing who I am, my desire to help people via kindness and fashion and to live a life of service through my volunteer work.
What are the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
They can follow my fashion adventures on Instagram @iamcindyconroy and Facebook at CindyConroyTO.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!
About the Author:
Ming Zhao is an entrepreneur, business strategist, investor and podcast host. She is co-founder and CEO of PROVEN Skincare, a technology-powered personalized skincare company that won MIT’s AI Technology of the Year award and is backed by Y-Combinator and Stanford StartX. She is an immigrant, a third-generation entrepreneur, and a mother whose daughter is the same age as her startup. Prior to founding PROVEN, Ming was a private equity investor where she frequently worked 80-hour weeks, wreaking havoc on her skin and soul, leading her to pursue personalized skincare. She has an MBA from Harvard University and lives with her family in San Francisco, CA. Checkout PROVEN’s Skin Genome Quiz at www.ProvenSkincare.com.