As a part of my series about “Learning To Finally Love Yourself” I had the pleasure to interview Dr. Froswa’ Booker-Drew. Froswa’ Booker-Drew, PhD has been quoted in Forbes, Ozy, Bustle, Huffington Post and other media outlets, due to an extensive background in leadership, nonprofit management, partnership development, training and education. She is currently the Director of Community Affairs for the State Fair of Texas. Formerly the National Community Engagement Director for World Vision, she served as a catalyst, partnership broker, and builder of the capacity of local partners in multiple locations across the US to improve and sustain the well-being of children and their families.
She was a part of the documentary, Friendly Captivity, a film that follows a cast of 7 women from Dallas to India. She is the recipient of several honors including semi-finalist for the SMU TED Talks in 2012, 2012 Outstanding African American Alumni Award from the University of Texas at Arlington, 2009 Woman of the Year Award by Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. and was awarded Diversity Ambassador for the American Red Cross. Froswa’ graduated with a PhD from Antioch University in Leadership and Change with a focus on social capital, diverse women and relational leadership. She attended the Jean Baker Miller Institute at Wellesley for training in Relational Cultural Theory and has completed facilitator training on Immunity to Change based on the work of Kegan and Lahey of Harvard. She has also completed training through UNICEF on Equity Based Evaluations. She is the author of 2 workbooks for women, Ready for a Revolution: 30 Days to Jolt Your Life and Rules of Engagement: Making Connections Last. Froswa’ was a workshop presenter at the United Nations in 2013 on the Access to Power. She was a Post-Doctoral Fellow at Antioch University and has been an adjunct instructor at several universities. She is a writer for several publications around the world. To learn more about her work, visit https://linkedin.com/in/froswabookerdrew/.
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.
As a child, I saw my parents serving. This really impacted me and I wanted to be a doctor. I just knew that I wanted to do something that helped people and made their lives better. Most of my roles have been in nonprofit management or education. These roles have helped me develop rich skills that as a young person, I never knew were possible. I am currently Director of Community Affairs for the State Fair of Texas. I am responsible for our educational programming, community initiatives and philanthropic giving in the community. As time permits, I provide some consulting and speaking engagements to groups. It’s amazing that I am blessed to do what I love every day which is to connect others to ideas, resources and to one another to impact their lives, their organizations and communities.
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?
Yes, I’ve finished my third book which started off as lessons to my daughter as she prepared to go to college. There was so much that I was afraid that I didn’t tell her that I started to write my thoughts down on paper to share so she would have a point of reference when challenges arose. After I allowed a few friends to read it, they thought it should be a book for not just young women about to leave for college but a book for women in transition. I hope that this book helps young women find their voice, have the courage to write their stories in a way that they can be proud of and realize that change is inevitable. When we realize this, we can embrace it without falling apart. It’s been an interesting season in my life. I am watching my daughter as an 18 -year old discover her voice and my mother, who is 71 feel as if she’s losing hers because she feels she’s invisible now that she is older. I don’t think that as a society, we prepare people for change well. We have all of these strategies for change management for organizations but we don’t seem to have them for our personal lives.
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 a kid, I was bullied profusely. For many years, I abided by Murphy’s Law that if something bad was going to happen, it would. Strangely enough, I began to attract more of this self-fulfilling prophecy in my life. I didn’t trust others and I attracted people into my life who were not trust-worthy. When I changed my way of thinking about myself, my reality began to change. I’ll never forget I invited a gentleman to speak at a previous job and he was remarkable. I told him that I was stunned that I never saw or heard of him before. He asked me what type of car I drove and after I answered, he asked, “Did you see the car more on the road before you had it?” I replied, “No, it wasn’t until I got the car that it appeared everyone had it!” He reminded me that the cars had been there all along, In that moment, I realized that in our lives, the people, the things, the ideas we seek are there. It isn’t until we are ready, that we will begin to notice. That was a tipping point for me. I realized that my mind is a powerful tool and if I focus on less than, I get more of that. When I focus on my possibilities and see myself the way I want to be, life changes in that direction. When I realized that I have what I need, want or desire isn’t beyond my reach, my feelings began to change not only about myself but about others.
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?
I am a firm believer that just as we feed our bodies food for nourishment, we also feed our minds. When we spend so much time watching television, viewing social media or magazines, we ingest ideas including perceptions about looks that we are being fed. This is not designed to make you feel better about yourself but to purchase the product. I think there is nothing wrong with the desire for self-improvement but at the core of that desire, you must examine your motivation and intention. If it is to make others like you more or to fit in, then it is for the wrong reason and you’ll never be happy. You are depending on variables that you can’t control like someone’s opinion. My fear is that we will continue to see more body-shaming, cyber bullying and other forms of violence if we don’t begin to start early helping young people realize their value beyond their looks and giving them the tools to love themselves. We also have to continue to affirm this in adults as well. There are so many stories of women who have botched their bodies trying to obtain a look that they’ve lost their lives or altered their health permanently and it isn’t worth that. We might not be able to eliminate social media but we can shape those in our spheres of influence to think about themselves differently.
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?
The way you treat yourself is a guide for the way others will treat you. Loving yourself allows you to be vulnerable and accept the good, bad, and ugly about yourself. Too many people are so busy crafting a life based of what we perceive from other’s as happiness and success. Self-love begins with embracing your narrative. It is being keenly aware of your needs and wants as well as your non-negotiables. Self-love is creating the space for reflection and to process your day. It is recognizing that when we are too busy, we are committing a disservice to our bodies, minds and spirits. Reflection allows us to redirect if necessary and remember when we need to celebrate. Self-love requires the willingness to create boundaries and have courageous conversations when we need to.
Why do you think people stay in mediocre relationships? What advice would you give to our readers regarding this?
Fear is a powerful emotion and tends to keep many of us in bondage. We stay in relationships that are not good for us because there is a fear of the loss of something if we leave. We are afraid of being alone. We are afraid that we will suffer without that person’s company, financial support, etc. I would first advise readers that you can’t focus on what the other person is doing as much as the focus has to be on what you need, want and what is best for your life. When you view it in those terms, you are not giving your power away. Relationships aren’t easy but it really comes down to your value and determining what you are worth. When you realize that you were made for more, you will make a change on your terms. It has to be about you and your readiness to move to something different, better, or safe. I’ve tried to convince friends to leave bad/mediocre relationships and it wasn’t until they were ready — until there was a change in their hearts, minds and souls — they didn’t move. Their commitment moved from the relationship to being more committed to themselves, their survival and their sanity.
When we talk about self-love and understanding we 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?
The tough questions include: 1. Why am I doing this? 2. Does it serve me well? 3. Is this what I want for my life a year from now, five, ten years from now?
Reflection is huge for me. I don’t think we spend enough time processing our day and analyzing our thoughts and actions. It is necessary to create space to think about ourselves, where we are in our lives and where we’d like to be. I realized that I needed to make changes in my relationships. I have such a desire to help people and for some reason, I was attracting in my life narcissists who saw my need and they took advantage of it. Those friendships were draining mentally, financially and spiritually. There was no reciprocity. I learned a valuable lesson from those experiences. When people never take responsibility for the part they play in their past, they will not take responsibility for their current condition either. When they always blame others, it is a red flag and so often, we ignore the flags and our intuition to give people the benefit of the doubt. When I realized that in my desire to be helpful, I was actually harming myself, I knew something had to change. I had to change and began to distance myself and ultimately cut off ties with those individuals. It was not serving me well and I had to be honest with myself in recognizing not just the part they played in the experience but own my role in this dysfunction. I didn’t deserve to be taken advantage of and yet, I realized that I had to create stronger boundaries and make wiser choices about those I allowed into my life. I deserved more. I deserved better.
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)?
For me, there is solitude in being alone and spending time in silence. I participated in a silence retreat for three days in June. It was important for me to take some time from work but quiet the noise overall in my life. My friend had passed away earlier in the month and I needed to pause. I stayed in a convent with no clocks, contact from the outside world and lots of time to think and write using some guided tools to help my process along with prayer and meditation. Sometimes we can’t hear our thoughts. Every once in a while, I think it is important to step away to remember what is important, count your blessings and remind yourself of your value. I started taking silence retreats some years ago and actually led a group of women through one to help them sit still and reflect. Just to detach from the daily grind for a few days is a gift. I learned so much about myself in the silence and time alone. I believe I have so much more to offer to others and the world when I know more about myself — when I am able to be alone to listen to my thoughts and understand my feelings.
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?
I think it is critical. How can you know what you want or don’t want if you don’t spend the time learning and loving you? How can you expect others to love you well and know what you want when you are not sure of those things yourself? It is a dangerous path to believe that when we get in relationships that others will complete us. They can’t. They are trying to figure it out as well. We miss out on wonderful opportunities for connection because we are not able to articulate and demonstrate how we want to be treated. People can’t read our minds and if we aren’t clear on what we expect, we are bound to get a lot of confusion in our relationships as well.
In your experience, what should a) individuals and b) society, do to help people better understand themselves and accept themselves?
I am a big fan of journaling. Journaling has saved me so many times. Just write down thoughts and feelings and to review them days, months and even years later has been a life line for me. I could see my growth. In the moment, especially when something didn’t go right, I saw my faults and failures. With time, rereading my journal gave me hope and inspiration that if I got through something awful, I could make it again. I love journals with prompts because they make you think and reflect. This can help people to better understand themselves and why you make the choices you do but again, if you write it down and without processing the thoughts, creating the space for learning — you don’t grow. Our society has become meaner in our dialogue and care for others. When you read the comments of trolls on social media, it is a reminder that somewhere along the way, there are a lot of angry, enraged individuals who are hurting. It has to begin in our homes and with our spheres of influence to create this necessary change. We model for our children behaviors more than we realize — it isn’t what we say but what we do and they are watching. How do you talk about yourself in front of your kids? Your loved ones? It starts with a thought, with our language that we use to comment on ourselves and others. Our thoughts and words become actions. We have to become intentional about each.
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?
- Create space for reflection. Take time to think about your day, your thoughts and actions. How did those things serve you?
- Listen to your intuition. So often, we make mistakes because we override our gut, our spirit in telling us what we need and what’s important.
- Surround yourself with people who love themselves and treat others well. I think we confuse arrogance for confidence and they are not the same. People who truly love themselves have no need to make you feel less than to build themselves up. They see your value which doesn’t diminish theirs.
- Find activities that are affirming, life giving and offer hope. Whether that is volunteering or finding a hobby, finding an interest allows you to grow and have a good time. You learn more about yourself and your abilities.
- Watch what you feed yourself. Just as we know that there are certain foods that are not good for our health, there are certain situations and people that are toxic to us as well. Learn to recognize the warning signs and create boundaries that protect you. No is one of the most liberating words. Be willing to use it.
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 love Louise Hay. Her affirmations can change the way you see yourself and others. I enjoy her work, Edward Nightengale, Bishop T.D. Jakes, Wayne Dyer, and Dr. Joe Dispenza. I love Super Soul Sundays and some of the guests that Oprah has interviewed such as Brene Brown. There are so many wonderful teachers available. There are also some great apps that can help change your thinking and the way you feel about yourself: Fabulous, Happify, Affirmation Reminder, Remente, Happego and ThinkUp. These are amazing tools that can help with self-love and care.
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 dissertation research brought together a very diverse group of women who were various races, religions, occupations and ages. This experience taught me so much. I realized that in our society, we don’t have a lot of safe spaces for people to talk and share. I would love to recreate these guided dialogue groups to help women and men feel safe to share their experiences, build trust and realize they have more in common than they are different. I would love to build networks that bring different voices to the table to affirm, teach and share our stories with one another to create the change we so desperately need. Years later, these women are still friends, connecting despite their differences. There is power in our narratives! I’m ready, willing and here for it!
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?
This is one of my favorite quotes in the world. It is by Marianne Williamson: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you notto be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” When we are willing to be ourselves, we help others. When we realize our vast potential, we can help others to do the same.
Thank you so much for your time and for your inspiring insights!