Self-awareness — I remain very vigilant of my thoughts and my words. If I catch myself thinking or talking negatively either about myself or about a person or situation, I take a moment to reflect on it. I ask myself questions such as, ‘Where has this come from?’ ‘Is this really true?’ ‘Have I considered looking at this from another perspective?’ ‘Would I prefer to hold on to this or let it go?’ ‘What would help me to let it go?’
As a part of my series about “Connecting With Yourself To Live With Better Relationships” I had the pleasure to interview Alie Harwood, a Certified Master Wellness Coach through The International Association of Wellness Professionals and Founder of wellnesswithalie.com. She is the creator of her signature program, The Shy Introvert’s Pathway to A Life of True Confidence: How to Stop Overthinking, Self-Judging and Holding Back So You Can Finally Feel Confident & Excited to Live Life as Your True Self. Alie supports shy introverted women to break free from chronic overthinking, self-judgement and holding themselves back so they can finally feel happy in their own skin and be their true authentic selves around others. You can kickstart your confidence journey today with Alie’s free self-discovery guide.
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.
After finishing school at 18, I took a gap year and went travelling as I didn’t know what I wanted to study at university. In the end, I chose to study Speech and Language Therapy as I knew I wanted to do something rewarding by helping people and I liked that it combined psychology and communication. Although I enjoyed many parts of the course, I knew that something was missing for me and soon after starting my first job as a speech therapist, I took the time to really reflect on my true passions, values and skills. This was such an enlightening exercise for me as I realised how much I loved the field of holistic health and wellness and personal development and in particular how much I loved to relate to the people I talk to and support.
I was aware of life coaching but had never taken it seriously for me as the idea of running my own business was terrifying and far out of my reach. This time however, I soon found myself learning as much I could about life coaching and when I came across The International Association of Wellness Professionals website, I had an epiphany that this was the career for me — I almost cried!
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?
At the moment, my focus is on expanding my tribe and community of like-minded women and supporting these women through my signature program ‘The Shy Introvert’s Pathway to a Life of True Confidence.’ The purpose of this program is to discover and embrace your true self which then becomes the catalyst to creating your ideal life.
We focus, first and foremost, on mindset where we learn the essential practice of emotional expression as well as understanding the influential power of our thoughts and beliefs and how to upgrade them from limiting to empowering. This flows beautifully on to the next step of cultivating self-love and self-care followed by how to attract and nurture meaningful, loving and inspiring relationships. My philosophy here is ‘as within, so without;’ our outer world is a reflection of our inner world.
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?
From my early teens up into my early twenties, I was extremely self-conscious of my appearance, my words and my behaviour, always assuming that people were judging me and only seeing my imperfections, just as I did. I felt like I was never interesting enough, smart enough, confident enough or attractive enough to have any impact on others. I was unsure of my opinions, values and passions. I doubted my abilities and played small.
The first turning point for me came very unexpectedly after reading an inspiring true story that really resonated with me; I discovered that I was holding onto suppressed resentment towards my Dad. Through following a powerful process to release this resentment, I experienced the true power of forgiveness in that I was releasing myself of pain. From this point onward, I entered a journey of self-discovery and growth where I soon realised that the thoughts, emotions and beliefs we hold inside not only determine our whole wellbeing but are also within our control.
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?
Well, certainly in today’s world I believe one of the main causes is unrealistically comparing our appearances to the edited, photoshopped, filtered and seemingly flawless appearances of the men and women who appear in online media.
We must take into account that smartphones only came out in the mid 2000’s and today it is seen as a necessity to own one (not to mention all the other portable internet devices) — even young kids are using them! So whereas before this craze we were only comparing ourselves to the people around us and perhaps models and celebrities in magazines and movies, today we are comparing ourselves with the world. Now that we all have access to the latest editing tools, we can all create perfect images, and yet we are still led to believe that this is how we are meant to look in real life.
Another more direct cause could be that our appearance was judged in some way, perhaps as a child or teenager, and we took this to mean that we were not worthy enough unless we looked perfect.
The consequences of unrealistically comparing ourselves and believing that we are not worthy unless we look perfect might include: developing a distorted self-perception and body image; living with constant shame and fear of judgement which can keep us small, disconnected and judgemental of others; developing unhealthy eating and exercise habits which can lead to eating disorders; developing an obsession with changing or fixing our bodies e.g. with make up, cosmetic surgery and diet pills; depression and self-harm.
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?
Yes, I know the idea of self-love can sound challenging and uncomfortable to many, but once you experience it, you realise that it is the gateway to true self-confidence, happiness, resilience and fulfilling relationships. As a result, it really has the power to affect all areas of our lives!
When you love yourself without conditions, you free yourself to experience life on a whole new level. You know that even when you have bad days, even when you make mistakes, even when you fail, even when you are judged or criticized by others (all of which are a natural and inevitable part of human life), you are still worthy and you still love yourself.
Instead of punishing yourself, neglecting yourself or drowning in your own guilt and shame, you have a different approach. You accept your imperfections, you learn from your mistakes, you seek to understand your triggers, you have compassion towards yourself, you are patient with yourself and you treat yourself the way you would treat your loved ones or best friends.
Why do you think people stay in mediocre relationships? What advice would you give to our readers regarding this?
I think people stay in mediocre relationships because they don’t believe that they deserve better and it’s very likely that they’re running low on self-worth and self-love.
My advice would be to give yourself full permission to be totally honest with yourself and to answer the following (without placing any limits on your responses):
● Are you truly satisfied with your relationship? Could you happily continue with it as it is without making any changes? If not…
● How would you really love to feel within your relationship?
● How would you love to be treated by your partner? How would you love to treat them?
● What qualities do you feel make up an ideal relationship?
● What are you willing to try or do differently to improve your relationship?
After reflecting on these answers privately, I would then initiate an open and honest conversation with your partner — talk about your feelings, your values and desires and listen to theirs in return. From here, you can determine together how willing you both are to improve the relationship. Listen to your heart and trust that you know what is best for you.
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 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 think some of the most effective questions we can ask ourselves concern our judgements of others. Our judgements are a useful reminder to look deeper as they are often a reflection of ourselves. Whenever you catch yourself judging someone, ask yourself the following questions to find out where the judgement is really coming from and what it means:
When you judge someone’s appearance/personality/lifestyle:
- What part of myself have I not been willing to accept?
- What don’t I like about myself/my life?
- Do I wish I was more like that? Do I wish I had that? Is this really jealousy or envy?
When you judge someone’s behaviour/habit:
- Do I do that? When have I done that in the past?
- Have I let the person know how I feel about this without blaming them? (Or am I just expecting them to read my mind and getting internally more resentful when they don’t?)
When you judge someone/a group of people based on a one time observation:
- Am I making an unfair assumption about this person/group of people?
- Can I be sure that they always do/say that?
- When have I done something that I later regretted?
A few months after I started dating my now husband, there was a point where I found myself focusing on the things that annoyed me about him. One night in particular, when he was out of the country and I was out with friends, he rang me for a chat and asked me where I was and who I was with. This really annoyed me! I perceived his questions as possessive and so my reaction was to be very aloof with my answers. ‘Why should I have to tell him everything?’ I thought. Soon after, I found myself questioning whether I wanted to continue our relationship.
Fortunately, this is where I decided to look at my judgements; to explore what was triggering me and to look at them from different perspectives. Not only did this show me that I was judgemental of myself (which gives rise to judgements of others), but that if I had been out the country and heard that he was out with friends, I would have naturally wanted to know more details too. I also realised that I was repeating a pattern I’d played in previous relationships where I felt the need to be somewhat mysterious to ensure that the guy would not see me as predictable and lose interest. What a revelation this was! Needless to say, things improved greatly; I continue to learn and grow so much in our relationship and am so grateful to be married to him.
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! It’s very easy these days to feel the need to be occupied or to be doing something all day, every day. I’ll be the first to admit that I can fall into this trap as I try to get through my never ending to do list, as well as catch up on emails, messages, articles, podcasts and videos whilst on my breaks. But whenever I overdo the constant ‘doing,’ I feel the effects; it drains my energy, gives me headaches and makes me moody. Being constantly busy and distracted doesn’t just affect us physically though, it also stops us from being present, from checking in with our feelings and from acknowledging our struggles and our desires.
My favourite ways to just be with myself are by meditating, journaling and dancing alone to my favourite songs where I’m totally free to express myself. The more you can truly be with yourself, the more you will discover and understand yourself, and it’s only from this place that we can really love ourselves, accept ourselves and embrace ourselves.
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?
It’s actually a very simple concept — the more we understand and love ourselves, which you can also extend to how compassionate, accepting, forgiving, respectful, honest, grateful and present we are with ourselves, the easier and more natural it is to feel all these things towards others!
It is still possible — and common — to know, love and care for others more than you know, love and care for yourself, but in this case, it is very likely that you are resistant to receiving (from yourself and from others). This only creates an imbalance, and eventually, too much giving causes burn out. Two main factors that can cause this situation are when you feel unworthy of receiving love and when you feel pressured to maintain your reputation or responsibility of being a giver.
In your experience, what should a) individuals and b) society, do to help people better understand themselves and accept themselves?
As individuals, the more honest and open we can be about our feelings and experiences, both the struggles and the breakthroughs, the more we invite others to do the same. It can feel scary and vulnerable, but I’ve seen the effect first-hand. Now that I share my personal journey and challenges on my website and in my emails and blogs, I regularly receive thanks from my readers telling me how much they can relate and how they thought they were the only ones. Equally, this continues to bring me a sense of comfort as well as empowerment to know that I am not alone in my experiences, and that we can support and inspire each other simply by sharing.
As a society, I would love to see more focus in schools on topics such as emotional expression, the power of your thoughts and beliefs, self-love and care as well as the encouragement of regular self-discovery where you check in with yourself and reflect on your unique needs, passions, values, strengths, struggles, fears, opinions and desires. This is how we really get to know ourselves and stay connected to our true selves rather than going along with what we think we should be doing and feeling. It is from this place of self-knowing and understanding that we can accept where we are in each moment, embrace our uniqueness, set personal goals for ourselves and in turn accept and respect others for where they are. The more that parents can encourage this in their children too, the better foundation the child will have before becoming more independent.
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?
- Self-awareness — I remain very vigilant of my thoughts and my words. If I catch myself thinking or talking negatively either about myself or about a person or situation, I take a moment to reflect on it. I ask myself questions such as, ‘Where has this come from?’ ‘Is this really true?’ ‘Have I considered looking at this from another perspective?’ ‘Would I prefer to hold on to this or let it go?’ ‘What would help me to let it go?’
- Affirmations — Upon identifying my limiting thoughts and beliefs and understanding the reasons for them, I consciously choose to upgrade them to ones that empower me. For self-love, I like to hug myself and quietly repeat, ‘I love you, I accept you, I appreciate you, thank you.’ Other ones include, ‘I am totally worthy and capable of fulfilling all my desires.’ ‘I express myself freely and confidently.’ ‘I trust and believe in my abilities and decisions.’ ‘I am patient and loving towards myself. I take care of my mind, body and soul.’
- Gratitude practice — I try to list at least 3 things that I am grateful for each day. I either write them in my journal, say them in my head before going to sleep or say them out loud in my car. I also acknowledge my successes (no matter how small), the choices I make and actions I take each day towards my goals and towards living a healthy, fulfilling lifestyle.
- Mind-body check in — I regularly check in with how I feel mentally, physically and emotionally to help me know what I need in that moment. If I feel brain fog or a headache coming on, I know I need a break from the computer or perhaps to drink more water. If my body feels stiff and lethargic, I know I need to move and stretch. If I feel irritable or anxious, I know I need to express my feelings either privately in my journal or with my partner or loved ones.
- Prioritise your passions — I make time to do at least one thing I love every day. For me, that includes yoga, dancing, singing, spending time in nature, learning about topics that fascinate me and making delicious, healthy meals.
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?
When I first started my personal development journey, one of the first books I read was ‘The Power of Now’ by Eckhart Tolle. This really woke me up to how we unknowingly identify with our minds and with all the labels that our minds have accumulated such as our possessions, social status, profession, beliefs, abilities and so on. In other words, we believe that we are these things when in fact, we are not any of these things, nor are we our minds. Tolle explains that at our core, we are pure consciousness, aka the awareness behind our thoughts. This is how I first learnt to become the observer of my thoughts and emotions rather than identifying with them and letting them control me.
My favourite podcast is the Melissa Ambrosini Show. Melissa invites a whole range of inspiring guests on her show to chat about everything related to health, wealth and love. She’s a massive advocate of self-love, gratitude, and living your passion — all things that I value greatly too. Her bestselling book ‘Mastering your Mean Girl’ is great too!
When it comes to relationship advice, I’m a big fan of Katie and Gay Hendricks work at www.heartsintrueharmony.com. They cover topics such as how to communicate difficult feelings with your partner; how to create more connection, joy and intimacy; and how to break negative patterns in your relationships, all of which have helped me in my own relationship.
I also love receiving weekly blog posts from all different authors at www.tinybuddha.com. They cover a wide range of topics from happiness and fun; love and relationships, meaning and passion; mindfulness and peace and work fulfilment. What I love is that each author courageously describes their personal challenges with such honesty and vulnerability, followed by the tips and techniques that helped them overcome the challenges. I find them really moving and inspiring.
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…
I want to inspire a movement of self-discovery and self-love which then leads the way to self-empowerment. Since our outer worlds are a reflection of our inner worlds, I believe that this is the way to rise above limited, fear-based conditioning and to make truth, love and joy our new norm.
I know it can feel as though all this focus on the self is selfish but as I mentioned before, the relationship we have with ourselves sets the tone for the relationships we have with others, and with the world in general. By filling up our own cups with love and understanding on a daily basis, we are then able to fully show up in the world with an ever-increasing capacity to love and understand others. In doing this, we become role models to others — and just by loving ourselves!
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?
My most powerful life lesson is my personal vision statement as a coach: There’s no greater fulfilment than knowing your true self and no greater freedom than owning your true self. This is where we find our peace, our passion and our purpose.
For many years, I compared my quiet, introverted nature to my outgoing, seemingly confident peers and I saw my personality as inferior. As a result, I targeted my body and my appearance; trying to look as perfect as I could at all times in order to gain the love and attention that I secretly craved. I also did my best to go along with the crowd, adopting the interests and views of others and copying the behaviour of others, purely to fit in and feel liked. All the while, I felt alone and unhappy inside, desperately wishing that I was different but feeling like it was a hopeless case. Little did I know, I was becoming more and more disconnected from my true self.
My personal journey of self-discovery has been about getting back in touch with my true self.
To me, your true self is the You who is underneath all the labels, expectations, limiting beliefs and societal conditioning. It’s the You who was born into this world with the freedom to be yourself; to do whatever your heart desires in the moment, without fear of judgement and without ever questioning your own self-worth. It’s an ongoing journey and one that I intend to commit to for life.
How can our readers be in touch with you?
Thank you so much, this was very inspiring.