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“I would like to see a greater appreciation of diversity that sincerely values the gifts of different experiences and world-views.” with Rachel S. Heslin and Fotis Georgiadis

On a societal level, I would like to see a greater appreciation of diversity that sincerely values the gifts of different experiences and world-views. We all contribute to the richness of the human tapestry, and devaluation of any of the threads lessens the vibrance of the pattern as a whole. I had the pleasure to interview […]


On a societal level, I would like to see a greater appreciation of diversity that sincerely values the gifts of different experiences and world-views. We all contribute to the richness of the human tapestry, and devaluation of any of the threads lessens the vibrance of the pattern as a whole.

I had the pleasure to interview Rachel S. Heslin, author of Navigating Life: 8 Different Strategies to Guide Your Way. She has been immersed in the study of human psychology for over 35 years, and her work through her company, The Fullness of Your Power, helps people embrace all parts of themselves so they can live deeper, richer, and more fulfilling lives.


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.

My father is a clinical psychologist. As he learned new theories and techniques, he didn’t just try them out on me and my brother, but he also explained them and taught us how to incorporate them into our lives. Because of this, I’ve always been fascinated by why people do the things that they do. It’s only been fairly recently that I realized this was my calling. In fact, for a while, I was trying to develop a career as a website designer! In that role, I especially loved helping people who weren’t comfortable with technology learn how to incorporate websites into their business outreach. However, I soon discovered that my true passion wasn’t websites, but in helping people become more comfortable with themselves. Thus The Fullness of Your Power was born.

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 project I’m most excited about right now is my Handbooks for Healing trilogy. The first book, Rituals of Release: How to Make Room for Your New Life, explores the importance of honoring and releasing old thoughts, feelings, choices and experiences that no longer serve you in order to prepare you for what lies ahead. It introduces the concept of creating “containers” for dealing with intense emotions through the development of personal rituals. The other books in the series are Deeper Sorrow, Greater Joy: Receiving the Gift of Grief and Permission to Go On: The Power of Self-Forgiveness. Life is full of change, and even “good” change can bring a sense of anxiety or loss. Together, I hope that these three guides can provide tools and perspectives to help people deal with challenging transitions so that they can live their lives with a greater sense of ease and flow.

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?

As a child, I was considered precocious. I was very intuitive and had a large vocabulary at a young age. Unfortunately, this led a lot of people to think that I knew more than I actually did. The reason this was a problem is because part of the way that we discover who we are is through interactions with other people. Because people acted as though I knew more than I did, I thought that I was supposed to know more than I did. In order to hide the awful fact that I didn’t know everything, I learned how to pretend. I poured waaaaaay too much energy into developing a façade of confidence, but I was terrified of people discovering the “truth” about my inadequacies.

Although I worked through some of my fears, it wasn’t until I came across Carol Dweck’s work on Fixed versus Growth Mindsets that I finally understood what was going on with me. In a nutshell, people who have a primarily Fixed Mindset believe that who they are, including their talents and abilities, is, well, fixed. It can’t be changed. Therefore, if you fail at a task or don’t live up to expectations, there’s nothing you can do about it except try to shift the blame somewhere else or hide the fact that you can’t cut it. In fact, with a Fixed Mindset, it can feel shameful to ask for help.

In contrast, a Growth Mindset believes that the more you focus your attention and efforts, the more you become capable of doing. This idea changed my world. Discovering that it’s okay to admit that I don’t know everything lifted a tremendous weight off my shoulders. I could finally breathe again. Since then, while I’ve still done things I regret, it is so much easier to transform mistakes and failures into learning experiences. I have a great deal more compassion for myself and my experiences, and it keeps getting better.

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 confess that this isn’t my area of expertise. When I was at university, my weight yo-yo’d up and down like it does for so many people, especially women. Then, in my early 20s, I shifted my perspective from paying attention to what my body looked like and started focusing on what it could do. I try to nurture a partnership with my body, appreciating the way it supports me and listening to how it wants me to nourish it with food and movement. This partnership results in a healthier, stronger body that I love to live in.

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?

If you don’t understand and accept yourself, you can’t really be yourself, which robs the world of the unique contribution that only you can make. As I learned, putting time and energy into berating yourself or trying to cover up your “faults” takes away from living and growing. Let’s face it: none of us are able to be our Best Selves 100% of the time. However, we can move towards becoming that person. The more compassion we are able to give ourselves, the easier it becomes to immerse ourselves in the beautiful dance of Life.

Why do you think people stay in mediocre relationships? What advice would you give to our readers regarding this?

It’s almost cliché to talk about being afraid of being alone, but a lot times, it’s actually a fear of what we think it means to not be in a relationship. Our culture seems to promote the idea of “romantic relationship as validation.” In other words, the purpose of a relationship is to prove that someone else thinks I’m worthwhile. Therefore, if I don’t have a significant other, then something is wrong with me.

Of course, this is silly. Pop music and the Disney versions of Beauty and the Beast notwithstanding, love is NOT an indication of worth. It’s something to be shared freely and unconditionally.

Another reason why some people stay in mediocre relationship is because they don’t want to be seen as a failure, unable to commit or tough it out. They don’t realize that they deserve better. The truth is that, regardless of the fact that yes, deep relationships do take work, the purpose of a relationship is to love and support one another. If you’re spending all your time trying to “work things out,” maybe it’s not the right relationship.

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?

Whenever I find myself trying to blame someone or something else for a situation I don’t like, it’s an avoidance of responsibility. Regardless of whether or not my observations about things outside my control are true, by focusing on them, I’m diverting attention from what I can control. The question that forces me to be honest with myself is: “Am I doing absolutely everything I can to move myself in the direction I want to go?” More often than I’d like to admit, the answer is, “No.” I’ve come to recognize that a reluctance to go all in has been attached to that Fixed Mindset: if I give 100% and fail, then I was afraid that would mean that there was something inherently wrong with me. If I don’t fully commit and fail, then I avoid “proving” that I was broken because I wasn’t really trying.

Needless to say, this isn’t a terribly efficient way to create a vibrant and meaningful life. More and more, when I run into that old pattern and admit that I am not doing everything I can to move myself forward, I then ask, “What else could I be doing?” This open-ended question activates the part of my brain that loves solving puzzles. If I just let the question simmer, my mind will start filling with ideas of actions I can take to move towards my goals.

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)?

It’s crucial. It’s about honesty and acceptance. We have all these judgments about who we think we’re supposed to be, and being alone makes it harder to hide from or ignore our awareness about all the ways we fall short of those expectations.

The thing is, if we don’t cultivate that awareness, it’s a lot harder to do anything about it. We can learn and grow and become more of the person who we want to be, but not if we pretend there’s nothing to change.

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?

If you are comfortable with who you are, you’re less likely to try to make someone else responsible for your insecurities. This is especially important because, if you don’t accept yourself, regardless of how much someone else tries to lift you up, there will always be a part of you that discounts their praise, a part that thinks, “If you really knew me, you wouldn’t think that.”

Conversely, self-understanding and self-love give you a solid foundation to share with others from a space of healthy, loving, and mutually supportive partnership.

In your experience, what should a) individuals and b) society, do to help people better understand themselves and accept themselves?

I think one of the most useful things that we can do is recognize that who you are is not dependent upon the opinions of others. Because human beings rely on each other in order to survive, we’ve evolved empathic tendencies to conform to the expectations of those around us. While this can be useful — after all, we do benefit from playing nicely with others — it becomes a problem when we believe that we require other people to agree with us in order for our experience to be valid.

On a societal level, I would like to see a greater appreciation of diversity that sincerely values the gifts of different experiences and world-views. We all contribute to the richness of the human tapestry, and devaluation of any of the threads lessens the vibrance of the pattern as a whole.

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. Meditatation and mindfulness 
     I like to start my days by going for walks and meditating, reconnecting with my heart and nature and a sense of wonder and gratitude for that which is eternal. This helps clear out the stories and static in my head, setting a foundation for greater connection, love, and Flow throughout the day. I also play on the swings, because we can all use more play in our lives!
  2. Forgiveness 
     It’s been said that carrying a grudge is like “drinking poison and hoping the other person dies,” but when it comes to loving yourself, there are two ways in which it is far more important than that. 
     
     For one, I’ve found that condemnation of others usually carries with it a shadow that reflects upon myself. A lot of the time, the reason why things that bother or upset me about others affect me so strongly is because they are mirroring back things I don’t like about myself. Even if I point at others to say, “This action is unforgivable,” if I’ve have done similar things, it reinforces a subconscious fear that I am unforgivable. The flip side of this is, if I use the trigger of blame to be honest with myself, it becomes easier to forgive others.
     
     The other way that forgiveness impacts our ability to love ourselves is when we think that forgiving the other person means that we deserve to have had awful things happen to us. Like the idea of love being about validation, this is another one of those beliefs that, although far too common, is untrue. None of us deserve to be treated badly or betrayed. Becoming aware of and acknowledging those fears about yourself is the first step towards healing them.
  3. Self-Forgiveness. Forgiveness of others is about acknowledgement and acceptance. However, in order for self-forgiveness to be effective, we need to actually change. Interestingly enough, it was far easier for me to forgive others than to forgive myself. I could tell myself that they didn’t know any better, but I always knew when I had missed the mark of my intentions. Coulda Shoulda Wouldas drain the soul. I needed to acknowledge those I’d hurt, do my best to make amends, and learn from the experience to do better in the future. No, it’s not easy, but it is a crucial step in accepting the messy parts of our humanity in a way that helps us continue to grow and become the people we want to be.
  4. “Give what appears missing”
     
    This concept had a profound impact on my life. One of my mentors, Derek Rydall, observed that, if you feel like you are lacking a specific quality in your life, by actively seeking to give that quality to others, you become filled with it in turn. For example, if you feel like you’re not getting enough love, by setting the intention to be more loving, it opens your heart to feel more love. Almost as a side effect, it also becomes easier for others to love you as well.
  5. Consider possibilities
     The human mind is really good at finding problems and coming up with reasons why dreams aren’t realistic. I side-step arguing with myself by simply asking, “What if…?” That way, when I’m creating visions of what I’d love to unfold in my life and that little voice starts trying to convince me that it would never happen, I can respond, “Maybe it won’t, but what if it does? Wouldn’t that be amazing? What else might be possible…?”

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 highly recommend the book Mindset by Carol S. Dweck (https://amzn.to/2GpV9FY). This is the one that gave me the key to change how I approach my life. If you prefer watching video, she has a TED talk at https://www.ted.com/talks/carol_dweck_the_power_of_believing_that_you_can_improve

Emergence by Derek Rydall is both a book (https://amzn.to/2X4SgPQ) and podcast (https://derekrydall.com/category/podcast/). I love Derek’s work and, as I mentioned above, consider him one of my mentors. His philosophy is very similar to mine in that we both believe that we have everything we ever wanted to be already inside us, and all we need to do is find ways to allow and encourage it to emerge into the world.

Core Brain Journal (https://www.corebrainjournal.com/) is an absolutely fascinating podcast about all aspects of being human. (If anyone is interested in hearing me talk about how the stories we tell ourselves impact our experiences and opportunities, the episode I was on is https://www.corebrainjournal.com/2018/08/245-reframe-your-narrative-life-heslin/) I especially like the episodes about human physiology.

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…

● Be a little bit kinder than you need to be.

● Be a little bit more generous than you need to be.

● Give others the benefit of the doubt.

● Look for ways to create ripples of love, acceptance, and inspiration in those whose lives you touch, however briefly that connection may last.

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?

Most of the major religions have some version of The Golden Rule which, in its essence, is, “Don’t be a jerk.” The one that resonates with me most is Hillel’s iteration: “Do not unto others that which is hateful to yourself.” If someone treats you poorly, it’s easy to react in kind (or in unkind, as the case may be.) However, I’ve found that it’s my own response that determines my experience. If I become defensive or accusatory, the lack of alignment with my ideals twists me up inside.

This quote reminds me to step back, breathe, and ask myself, “Is this how I would like others to act towards me? If not, how can I choose to give more respect, compassion, understanding, and support?” As soon as I shift towards love and acceptance, my tension evaporates, and I am at peace with who I am.

Thank you so much for your time and for your inspiring insights!

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