Isla Stone: “Maintain a positive outlook”

I focus intently on my thoughts and how I look at my day and my experiences. If something happens that may cause a reaction and negative emotional response this will let me know that there is something that I can work on that could be related to an old belief system that doesn’t serve me. […]

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I focus intently on my thoughts and how I look at my day and my experiences. If something happens that may cause a reaction and negative emotional response this will let me know that there is something that I can work on that could be related to an old belief system that doesn’t serve me. Or there are aspects of myself I can still work on. A positive outlook does not have to be the be-all and end-all, it does not mean that if one feels terrible it’s bad, it just means that you have something to work with.

As a part of my series about “How To Learn To Finally Love Yourself” I had the pleasure to interview Isla Stone. Isla is a new author that has just published her debut memoir: “The Art of Determination.” She is an independent and enigmatic individual with many interests. Her enthusiasm is infectious, and people enjoy her calm and joyful demeanor.

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.

I experienced a lot of emotional trauma as a child and in my early to late teens. These experiences later developed into toxic behavioral patterns and survival mechanisms. I was self-destructive and suffered from alcohol and drug abuse as a side effect. I intentionally numbed myself as emotions were unbearable. I suffered from severe depression and anxiety. Most of all I was very fearful of doing anything. My journey really starts as I entered recovery in 2012 to face the fact that I could no longer control my drinking or drugging.

In mid-2016 I decided that I wanted to make my journal entries into a book. One of my biggest fears at the time was that I would have to concede and do what my mother chose to do, and that was to work in the business industry. She worked tirelessly, I never got to see her, and I spent a lot of my time as a child looking after my sister. My mother hated what she did, she told me that sometimes you must give up your dreams and do what you must, to survive. When I started my book, “The Art of Determination,” I was working at a pharmaceutical company as a financial analyst and I got very little satisfaction from my job. I heard someone mention that one must keep a journal so that one day your journal can keep you. This brought forth the idea for me to take my journal entries and to make it the memoir it is today.

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?

I have many exciting projects in the pipeline. I am in the process of marketing my book, which is very satisfying. In the process, I am now planning my second book. I feel this the book where I am writing my own narrative for my life, where before the narrative I allowed to be told by others. I am working towards creating women’s support groups, as unifying and helping each other is such an important part of healing from traumatic wounds.

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?

It took me a long time to discover who I am. I look back now thinking about this question and I had many realizations on my journey to self-discovery. I still do daily. There was a difficult time that I experienced on my own. I had never felt so alone in all my life. My mom avoided me and so did my sister. During this time, I had many realizations. One of these was that no one will love me the way I need to be loved except for me. I needed to learn to love and affirm myself according to my own needs. I am the person that will be with me for the rest of my life, no-one else. Receiving love from others is an important aspect of being human. Having expectations of others and then feeling disappointed by them if they do not live up to those expectations will only bring about disappointment. I learned that taking responsibility for my own self and experience self-love was very empowering.

Self-acceptance came about slowly. I started off not knowing who I was, so I started learning about what my values were. I then learned about what my likes and dislikes were. I then started learning about all my personality traits. For some of them, I was almost disgusted at first. How could I be self-centered and feel good about that? Well, I came to realize that all my aspects are that of being human. All my personality traits could be used and leveraged to be useful to me even if I didn’t think they were perfect. Perfection is also nonsense. There is no such thing as being perfect, if I were perfect then I would be an Angel in Heaven and not here, living and experiencing life. I am on a self-discovering journey and all my aspects are there for me to look at and to inspect and to appreciate.

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 believe that there is a lot of emphasis on the outer appearance of individuals and that a lot of value is placed on this aspect. We go about our lives and are constantly bombarded with photoshopped images. When in our lives we spend a lot of time forgetting how to love ourselves and try to get affirmation from others by how we look we create a lot of pressure on ourselves to look a certain way. We are all made differently. We all have different body shapes. We have good times and we have bad times. We feel energetic for some time and other times we must focus on other aspects of our lives so the focus on our bodies and their perfect musculature is left by the wayside. I have found that self-love and acceptance are found within, not without. Maybe the greatest focus for me is that I just want to feel good.

I want to love my body with good food and good exercise so that I feel great. The consequences of dissatisfaction with our bodies are that there are more obesity, anorexia, bulimia, and other eating disorders. Our relationship with food has become toxic. The wonderful fuel that is filled with so much goodness has become one of our greatest challenges as we cannot accept ourselves for the amazing, beautiful, and unique beings that we all are.

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 not cheesy. While I was writing my book, I had a moment where I comprehended that if everyone loved themselves we would have a peaceful, safe, successful, and happy society. If every politician loved themselves and every drug dealer loved themselves, we would be living in a much different society. Loving the self is about accepting the self. When you love yourself you accept all aspects of yourself and there is no judgment, you are gentle, understanding, and compassionate towards yourself for realizing that you are the human being that you are, that you are in the place and time doing the best that you can at that time.

When you judge someone else, this reflects the judgment you have towards yourself. When you are angry with someone, there is compassion within you that you can grasp towards the other person. When you are completely reliant and self-sufficient in loving yourself, the expectation that you have towards others no longer exists and you can live a life free of disappointment. This all takes practice, it’s a daily exercise. Self-love is not arrogance or ignorance of others. When your cup is completely full of good things, then you can pour those healthy things into other people’s cups.

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

I have done this. For me personally it had to do with many things. I had an expectation of the other person to change. I thought, well these things that I don’t really like about this person will just change over time because I can make them change. This is the biggest pitfall. Going into a relationship one must always remember that the person you are with needs to be accepted for all their nooks, crannies, and personality traits. If these are not acceptable to you, or overtime you realize that you no longer find them acceptable because you have outgrown them then it is time to move on. Expecting someone else to change is never an option. There are also fears that if you leave this person then no one else will want to be with you. What if I leave and then I will be a spinster for the rest of my life? What if they won’t survive without me? What if my whole life has to change? What if I can’t make it on my own? When I ask myself these questions I answer myself with these questions and statements.

Well, what is the worst-case scenario and my worst fear in this situation? Is this fear really that terrible? Did I not find this person, and aren’t there so many other people out there for me to choose from? Did they not survive without me before I met them? Did I not survive without this person before I met them? Life is about change and growth my experience has shown it to me. How wonderful is it for me to go on another adventure to find someone new to bring into my life? What if I can make it on my own, but I have not allowed myself the opportunity to try it?

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?

The good stuff. Changing is what we are good at. The hard questions are about really looking at oneself and understanding that there will be personality traits that are self-limiting. I personally know mine were hard to face in the beginning. When I started this work, I had a lot of resentments and I felt like a victim. I was self-sabotaging, I loved chaos, I was self-centered, I isolated, I was unable to connect with others, I was unable to trust myself, I was angry, the list goes on. These behaviors are limiting and create relationship dynamics that are very destructive. I had to ask myself why I had developed these behaviors and what I got out of them.

What was the payoff? There is always a payoff in behavior and certain belief systems. I had to ask myself why I developed these belief systems and behaviors. Some of them were due to self-preservation due to the abuse I experienced in the home. Others were as a result of running away from the pain I experienced and did not want to face. Others were because I did not trust others as I was afraid that I might get hurt and I wanted to preserve my emotions and safety. As time goes on and you have worked on the bigger personality aspects that you want to tweak, others pop up and you say well, I did not know that I was a jealous person or a vengeful person. Asking the questions and understanding that having these qualities are sort of good because when you work on them you get to transform into a better person. It is a lifelong journey if you want it to be, and the work is never done. When the work is done, you will be in your grave. It is about progress, not perfection.

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)?

Being alone with ourselves is a gift. I personally love being alone and have always enjoyed it other than when I experienced a lot of pain. Our thoughts and emotions are so much easier to access when we are on our own and there are fewer distractions. I know of many people in my past and present that have or still do struggle being on their own. This has a lot to do with a mind that will just not stop. I struggled especially in my active addiction days as I constantly felt guilty, fearful, angry, resentful, bitter, sad, and unhappy. When my mind was in this state of unease being alone was very difficult because I was left with these thoughts of the past that I wish I could change, and a future I dreaded. I can guarantee you that when you decide that you don’t want to feel that way anymore and that you want to change it, you will find your way to the change. No amount of wishing oneself into a place of comfort will make it easy to be alone. The action of working on one little discomfort at a time will. My meaning being, if there are fears that you have to work on those first if you have anger work on that first. Don’t try and eat a whole elephant, eat it one bite at a time.

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?

By understanding myself intimately, it becomes easier to understand others. We are so similar as we are different and unique. In understanding my experience, my responses and reactivity, my behavior and my belief systems and then accepting myself wholly and completely it becomes so much easier to accept others and their intricacies. In understanding and having compassion for my own experience, I have developed an ability to have empathy for those who are experiencing adverse behavior and difficulty because I myself was there. If I have not experienced exactly what they have experienced I know that I cannot judge them, as I myself am not perfect and that is why I am here. I am here to learn. My ability to connect with and love others in the deepest and profound way has become so much more in tune with an empathetic outlook rather than a judgmental one.

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

Lead by example

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. Meditate/connect with my Higher Power

When I meditate I allow myself some time that is just mine. I do not need to worry about anything else. It is a designated time that I spend with myself and my Higher Power that I get to enjoy that is precious to me.

2. Positive self-talk (listen to how I speak to myself)

I listen to how I speak to myself and the words that I use. I focus intently on if I reprimand myself or lovingly speak to myself. I readjust how I speak to myself if I speak to myself in a harsh way. After much training and focus I now mostly speak very lovingly to myself and it is very satisfying.

3. Maintain a positive outlook

I focus intently on my thoughts and how I look at my day and my experiences. If something happens that may cause a reaction and negative emotional response this will let me know that there is something that I can work on that could be related to an old belief system that doesn’t serve me. Or there are aspects of myself I can still work on. A positive outlook does not have to be the be-all and end-all, it does not mean that if one feels terrible it’s bad, it just means that you have something to work with.

An example of this is the following:

Recently I felt as though someone that is in my close circle doesn’t like me anymore. There was no reason why I should think this, other than she seemed a little off with me. I then quickly thought back to my past experiences and as I am quite practiced at this I realized that I just resorted to an old belief system of “I always do something that upsets someone else, therefore they will always reject me.” Which is a lie I used to tell myself. I then managed to readjust my thought process and understood that she was just busy.

4. Keep healthy boundaries

I keep good boundaries to ensure that I do not allow people to step on my toes, as this is something I used to allow often. This has helped me to trust people more and to trust myself with relationships and to build lasting relationships going forward.

5. Invest in myself

In knowing that I am worth it, I invest time, money, and energy in myself in the form of courses, healthy food, exercise, therapies, hobbies, and fun growth-related activities that keep me engaged and where I meet new people with similar interests as me.

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?

Louise Hay — “You Can Heal Your Life”

This woman… Louise Hay has a way with words in her book and I resonated with her ability to speak about how to love yourself. This book assisted me to see myself in a different way and to start the journey to loving myself in every way.

Julie Cameron — “The Artists Way”

This book was a great book to dig deeper into some of my more hidden and stickier belief systems and behaviors that I needed to change. It was a very transformative book and required focus. It had a great impact on my life.

Esther and Jerry Hicks — “The Essential Law of Attraction Collection”

I still listen to Abraham. There is just so much more to the Law of Attraction than simply getting what you want. There is a whole realm of self-transformation and evolution that happens if one takes the time to listen to these conversations and delve into the nitty-gritty details of what it all really means. There is a lot of speak about acceptance of self and others. Self-love and understanding as well as just allowing people to be who they are which makes life so much easier.

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 would like to create a fund or means for women, especially in South Africa, to be able to write their stories about their experiences. I know so many that have written a manuscript or intend to but have not got the means to publish their book. These stories are all so inspirational, and that is what we need as a world community. More inspiration and love, and less about things that have no meaning.

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?

“The secret to happiness is freedom and the secret to freedom is courage.” Thucydides –

I have always just wanted to be free. I wanted to be free from my circumstances at home, and then I wanted to be free from my life that I created. To change and find the path to this change I required courage because I had to face so many truths that I had been in denial about for many years. My freedom required courage, and some days still do. So, when I feel a little fearful I just think to myself, ‘All I need today is a little courage because I have set myself into motion for this wonderful life of freedom.” Then I am set for the rest of the day.

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

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