“It is so hopeful to understand how much neuroplasticity our brains have; we absolutely have the ability to change, heal and integrate our brains.” with Fotis Georgiadis & Jillian Weis

We can start by educating ourselves on a societal level and individual level about all of the advances in neuroscience. It is so hopeful to understand how much neuroplasticity our brains have and that we absolutely have the ability to change, heal and integrate our brains. I had the pleasure to interview Jillian Weis, a […]

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We can start by educating ourselves on a societal level and individual level about all of the advances in neuroscience. It is so hopeful to understand how much neuroplasticity our brains have and that we absolutely have the ability to change, heal and integrate our brains.

I had the pleasure to interview Jillian Weis, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, a confidence coach, and founder of Balancing Boldly. Jillian teaches ambitious women to restore mental clarity, create authentic confidence, and cultivate a career and life they are proud of.

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 have always been curious about the human experience. From a young age I can remember being fascinated by what makes up someone’s true essence. But it wasn’t until I had my own personal experience with pain from an abusive relationship in college, that my eyes were opened to the world of therapy. This is when I discovered the healing and power of human connection.

That traumatic relationship was a catalyst for me to dive deep into my own journey of self-growth and discovery. I was totally blindsided because I hadn’t grown up in an abusive home and I didn’t understand how I ended up in an abusive relationship. During my time in therapy I learned a lot about intergenerational trauma and how patterns of behavior can be passed down from one generation to the next or even skip a generation, without us ever having a conscious level of awareness of it.

Fast forward ten years; my graduate work was complete, and I was finally in a place where I was stepping into my own confidence. After marrying a beautiful man and starting my private practice, my husband and I bought our first place, and took a big leap; we packed everything up and moved to Europe! I had always wanted to live abroad, and got the opportunity to pursue a dream that had been put on the back burner while I followed the path I thought I was “supposed” to take. My heart had always been drawn to travel and working with different cultures, and the move allowed me to work with a population that interested me- US Military. Over the years we have lived in Germany, Italy and France. We currently reside in Rome, Italy; a dream destination for both of us for many years.

After six fulfilling years of working with the military, my life goals shifted again when I had my daughter. I was mentally and physically exhausted from the pace and nature of work I did, and it was time for my husband to focus on his career. Once I took a break and regained some clarity, my blog and coaching business were born! My own journey of self-discovery is what has led to my passion for guiding women. I am dedicated to teaching women to step out of their comfort zones and take a leap towards something that will bring them purpose and meaning. I believe that once someone has a clear picture of what they want, the confidence that is needed to accomplish it can be created. You have to take action first, take that leap into the unknown, and through experience the confidence will come. If I can do it, anyone can!

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?

Through my blog and coaching business, I help women to develop an awareness of what it is they really want out of their lives and career. Then, I guide them in shifting their mindset to having confidence in themselves. Confidence truly comes from the inside out. Once you learn to block out all of the noise that is telling you what is expected of you and get quiet, you can really start to feel confident in your purpose, strengths, and whatever unique perspective you bring to the 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?

I don’t have one single experience that I can pinpoint that shifted my feelings of acceptance for myself. For me it was absolutely a culmination of experiences. I was awakened by that abusive relationship I was in years ago, which forced me to question why I would ever find myself in such a dark place and then choose to stay there.

However, it took the combination of my graduate and post-graduate time studying attachment theory, trauma and neurobiology coupled with my time as a psychotherapist, to really teach me to practice self-compassion. I believe as human beings we are doing our best with what we have. Over the years I’ve had the privilege to work with so many inspiring people and have found that we all have very similar struggles, wants, and desires as human beings. What we are really all craving is love, connection, and acceptance, and I am no different. It’s the way we are wired. Once I understood this, it gave me permission and understanding to have love and have compassion for myself.

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 find this study very sad, but unfortunately, it doesn’t surprise me. Our society allows the media to predetermine so many of our standards of beauty, especially in this age of social media. There is so much pressure to portray a perfect image and life to the world. Numerous studies show that people feel bad about themselves and unsatisfied with their lives after spending time on social media.

I am not against social media. The problem is that it rarely represents real life, and not everyone understands that; especially the youth. I can tell you from years of working with clients in a confidential setting that most of the time the assumptions we make about people based on “appearances” is false.

The consequence is that people begin to develop feelings about their own appearance based on this comparison to others. It creates a real barrier for the opportunity of true self-acceptance and ability to create authentic confidence. Unfortunately, it isn’t just the younger generation who suffers from this. I have many female friends and family members who are constantly and openly berating themselves over their appearance. These are beautiful, talented, amazing women who are selling themselves short!

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 does sound cheesy, and that mainly comes from the self-esteem movement in the 90’s, but it is about so much more than self-esteem.

I think the most important aspect of “loving yourself” is to accept all of the aspects of yourself that make you human. Especially all of our feelings and thoughts. Letting go of fear and other things we can’t control can open up our world tremendously. If we can accept and try to understand our own feelings, it increases our capacity to truly attune and connect with others.

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

There are so many reasons. Because they are comfortable. Because even if the relationship isn’t healthy it feels familiar or similar to relationships in their own family. People stay because they fear they won’t find anything better with someone else. Another very common reason is because people often perceive their partner or significant other as providing a sense of protection for them. Many women that are victims of sexual or physical violence also look to their partner for protection. This is not a conscious decision but a very real one. Also, many people just don’t like conflict. They don’t want to create any sort of conflict within their relationships or within themselves, so they simply avoid their lack of fulfillment and stay in the relationship.

I think that life is too short to stay in an unhappy relationship. Relationships should be supportive spaces that provide nurturing and challenge us to be our best selves. Both parties deserve to be happy and healthy. You aren’t doing your partner or yourself any favors by staying if you are terribly unhappy.

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?

Questions like are we really living in alignment with our values, our passion, our purpose? Are our relationships supporting us in a way that challenges us to be better- or are they holding us back? Are we behaving, or living in ways that are inauthentic, unhealthy, or avoidant?

I had to ask myself some tough questions when I realized my job as a psychotherapist with the military was emotionally and physically burning me out. It was a very difficult time because I loved the work and the people I was working with. For some reason it is often challenging for us to take a step back and admit that we are vulnerable beings. I found myself drinking too much, not exercising like I used to, and just not taking care of myself in a way that allowed me to be my best self. It was absolutely impacting my marriage in an unhealthy way. I was so emotionally drained from my clients that I wasn’t showing up for my husband in the way I wanted. Many clinicians (and other professionals) can experience something called “secondary trauma”, which happens when you are working with people who have been traumatized and you start to experience similar symptoms, and let me tell you, it isn’t pretty!

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)?

The concept of being alone with myself used to confuse me because I know how powerful relationships are. Humans are created and born out of relationship, and we won’t survive without some sort of nurturing relationship in our lives. I always thought there was too much of a focus on individualism in our culture. It wasn’t until I was introduced to the world of interpersonal neurobiology that I really started to understand how and why it is so important to have an opportunity for introspection with the purpose of integrating our own minds so we can better connect with others.

This can happen in many different ways including mindfulness, meditation, prayer, and moving our bodies. Walking, running, hiking, or being out in nature by ourselves can give us opportunities to be alone and reflect.

There are many people who are terrified of being alone with their thoughts because of trauma they have experienced. I had clients who would become triggered simply by closing their eyes to begin a visualization. The hopeful news is that science shows we can learn strategies to change our brains and get to a place where being alone with our thoughts and memories doesn’t feel so scary.

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?

Once we have compassion and love within ourselves it allows us to build empathy with others by having a deeper understanding of our own feelings. This is the key to really connect with others in a deep and meaningful way. When we have a better understanding and acceptance of ourselves, it allows us to share and be vulnerable with other people in a different way. Sharing our feelings and thoughts and learning to listen and hear someone else’s feelings without being fearful or judging them, is what true intimacy is all about.

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

We can start by educating ourselves on a societal level and individual level about all of the advances in neuroscience. It is so hopeful to understand how much neuroplasticity our brains have and that we absolutely have the ability to change, heal and integrate our brains.

Also, education about the role of attachment, especially early attachment (from 0–5) is important. I’ve had so many clients who couldn’t understand how their early childhood experiences had any effect on their current lives, but it is this knowledge that can help us shape our relationships with our own children in a different way and normalize our personal relational experiences.

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) Get enough sleep- I am a very sensitive person when it comes to the amount of sleep I get. When I don’t get enough sleep even for one night, I am lethargic and my outlook on the world completely changes. My self-talk shifts to being negative and dark. Sleep is an essential piece of my self-care and intricately tied to my ability to connect with myself. I think most people don’t get enough sleep and could benefit from more.

2) Move more- If I go for a long period of time without exercising, dancing, or even just walking, I start to feel pretty bad about myself. For years I got up first thing in the morning and went for a run or a walk. Now that I have a child, I’ve had to change my strategy, so we go out walking several times a day. Living in a big city like Rome where it is easily walkable definitely helps, but everyone can look for opportunities in their own space to move more.

3) Be in Nature- Since I was a child, I have always felt most alive when I am outside walking in the woods or hiking up a mountain. If I go too long without getting outside and away from everything and everyone, I lose my clarity.

4) Practice Meditation, visualization, breath work, reflection, and gratitude. I often use a simple breathing technique to regulate myself in situations when I am overwhelmed with emotion. I also know that practicing gratitude is such a powerful tool to help me to shift my thinking when I go to a negative place.

5) Connect with others- When I have the chance to talk with friends or family about something that is swirling around in my head it always leaves me feeling lighter, clearer, and better.

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 like anything by Daniel Siegel because he explains interpersonal neuropsychology better than anyone. I especially like one of his more recent books called “Mindsight”. Also, Sue Johnson who is a couples and adult attachment expert. She has a great book called “Hold Me Tight”. And of course, Esther Perel is a genius when it comes to sexuality and intimacy in relationships.

As far as podcasts go, I will always be loyal to This American Life with Ira Glass. His mother was a well-known couple’s therapist who wrote some fantastic books about recovering from an affair.

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 start a movement called Relationships Matter. There are so many studies that show we are becoming more isolated as a society, which I feel is directly correlated to all of the mass shootings that keep tragically occurring in the U.S. We would all be happier and healthier if we truly understood the value of relationships.

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?

“You get in life what you have the courage to ask for” — Oprah Winfrey

I am a believer in dreaming big and not allowing fear to drive my decisions. I don’t want to leave this world with a lot of regret, and I try to live everyday with this in mind. I have the pleasure of living in Rome, Italy which didn’t happen by chance. I had the courage to make it happen and I am grateful every day for this opportunity.

I believe your readers could benefit by learning to break through the barriers they have set in place for themselves and develop the “courage” to try something that really scares them.

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

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