Karen Donaldson: “I love myself list”

I have a “ I love myself list”. We have to remind ourselves of our own greatness and our worth. We create our internal beliefs by choosing our thoughts. My written list is beside my bed and I read it every morning before I get out of bed. It’s also on my phone and I […]

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I have a “ I love myself list”. We have to remind ourselves of our own greatness and our worth. We create our internal beliefs by choosing our thoughts. My written list is beside my bed and I read it every morning before I get out of bed. It’s also on my phone and I read it once or twice a day, sometimes more on challenging days. We have to be our own biggest cheerleader.

Here’s what I want you to do. Sit down for 5 minutes and write out all of the things that you love about yourself (for many this is hard to do because we never ask ourselves this question). Take a picture of your list and keep it on your phone as your screen saver or in your photos. Then look at it and read it everyday.

As a part of my series about “Connecting With Yourself To Live With Better Relationships” I had the pleasure to interview Karen Donaldson, an award winning, #1 multi Best Selling Author of 3 books. She is also the owner of Karen Donaldson Inc., and the brands; Speak and Get Booked and Speak Confident. She is a Certified Confidence Coach, Communication and Body Language Expert, Executive Public Speaking Coach and International Speaker. Many of her clients call her the communication disruptor. Karen has been speaking and coaching for over 20 years, showing individuals exactly how to take powerful action and own their voice, increase their impact and confidence whenever they speak (verbally and non-verbally). She is the secret weapon behind many CEO’s, senior executives, successful entrepreneurs and politicians across North America and the UK, as she guides them and helps them to increase their capacity to authentically connect and engage as they lead and communicate. With her dynamic and interactive style as an expert speaker and coach, she moves her audience and clients into action and shows any “ready and willing” individual, how to become that leader who knows how to connect, engage and empower themselves and others. Karen has been a guest expert on both local and national media and is a sought after leader and certified expert in her industry.

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.

My career path some what found me. Here is my story, that I also call my blessing in disguise. My last year of high school I became pregnant and had to decline a full scholarship to a US school (I’m from Canada). When my peers and teachers found out that I was pregnant I lost most of my friends except for a few. My teachers were disappointed and they made sure to let me know. I became that person that no one wanted to be around and that person that everyone whispered about. I started to become voiceless and my confidence was at an all time low. Previous to that, I was a student mentor, an A/B student, in a lot of clubs, a top athlete, I got along with everyone and I was pretty much a happy confident, head strong young lady. When I came back to school pregnant I started to allow the words and opinions of others to really impact me. I started to believe in the not so nice things that they were saying about me.

Then, there was this one day where I was walking home from school and I saw my reflection in the bus shelter, and I know this sounds cliché, but, in that moment I stopped and said to myself: “Karen you are allowing the words of others to be your truth, you’re not diseased and you’re not contagious, you are the same positive, smart Karen you were before you got pregnant.” That’s when my personal mantra “Words of Others Don’t Define you, You Define You” was born. I went back to school with my head on strong and with a new attitude and level of self love. That year I graduated with the President’s award and with the top athletic awards, even though I was pregnant. I chose to show up as the intelligent, positive Karen I had always been and everyone around me started to receive me that way. I was pregnant and it wasn’t a life sentence — at least not to me. From that year on I began to go out to deliver keynote speeches on self-worth, confidence and perseverance to high schools. Then it moved into the college and university space and eventually it moved into the corporate and association space. That’s where I started doing communication, body language and confidence coaching for CEO’s, politicians, entrepreneurs and everyday people. That is my back story.

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 sure am! I’m in the final stages of developing my new app called Speak Confident, you will be able to find it in the Apple store and on Google Play. The intention of my app is to help individuals own their voice and be more confident and comfortable in any setting, whether it’s in their relationship, the workplace or as a business owner. Most importantly, the intention is also to give people the know how to take back control of the conversations that they have with themselves about themselves — this is the most powerful thing anyone can do. The app has videos, quick read articles, mini courses, mini pep talks for any situation and more. As well, I am launching a new line of “uncourses” on my websites www.speakconfident.com. I’m also excited about my latest best seller, “Speak Like You Breathe: Straight Talk to Say What You Mean, Be Heard and Get Noticed.” It’s not your typical public speaking book, it’s a practical, to the point, easy read, for anyone who is ready to be heard, get noticed and communicate with ease and more confidence.

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 launched my business Karen Donaldson Inc. on a full-time basis almost 10 years ago, most of the people around told me not to do it. I was told that no one would hire me as a communication coach. I was told that it would be really hard. One person even told me that they would see me back there in 5 years because that’s the point when most businesses fail. When I launched my business I tried so hard to fit in, I googled the heck out of public speaking and communication coaches. I wanted to assimilate with all the other coaches in my industry. The assimilation thing wasn’t working and that was a good thing. I would show up at clients offices and their assistant would ask me if I was actually Karen Donaldson. I’ve been asked if I was Karen’s assistant, if I was Karen’s intern and if I was Karen’s co-op student. I’ve been told I don’t look like a public speaking coach for senior managers and more! It was hard, it felt like I was constantly struggling to prove myself. I just wasn’t accepting me for me. It took a client, who’s now a friend to say something to me for me to truly get a handle on my own self acceptance. I met him at his office for one of his coaching sessions and he said this to me: “Karen you are so untraditional in your approach and how you do your work that it’ refreshing and really effective.” That day I had my “aha” moment. I am who I am and I am proud of who I am, what I stood for, the colour of my skin and being a younger person in the industry who could provide results. That day I reconfirmed with myself that I did not need anyone’s approval, I accepted myself for me. Yes, I looked different than most of the other senior level communication coaches out there in the world — and so what! I knew that I could over deliver. They were entitled to their opinion and so was I — and I chose mine.

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?

That’s such a low number and it breaks my heart. Most of the time it comes down to our self worth, how we measure ourselves and who we measure ourselves against. Too many people have relinquished their power to be “ok with and love how they look”. They have relinquished their power to societal standards. I often have this conversation with clients and friends, and it goes like this: who is society? If we wanted to find society’s cell phone number where would you look? You’ve given over your power to fit into a fictitious standard. The the issue is that we have relinquished our power to choose for ourselves in a way that is uninfluenced by anyone and anything. Too many people have allowed their environment and their experiences to dictate what they think about themselves. When we do that we start to become our own worst critics. We start to put ourselves down, we start making self-deprecating comments like, I could never wear that I’m too chubby, that was stupid of me to say, I’d wear that but…., I hate how my (fill in the blank) looks. We start to train our minds to focus on our faults and we start exisiting in a world of “comparison-it is” (that’s a Karen D word), and when we do that, the only result we get is that we are not enough. Those are the biggest consequences.

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 at all, and I think because many people believe that it is “cheesy”, they are not intentional about making time to connect with themselves and love themselves. My friends, there is no one in the world like you, no one walks like you, leans to the side like you do, laughs and talks like you do, and by those virtues alone you are valuable beyond dollars and cents. When you can learn to love yourself as is, with all of your perfections, perceived imperfections and unique assets, you give yourself a break from “performing” and trying to fit in. You start to enjoy life at a whole new level. You start to act confidently, because confidence is not an emotion, it’s a behavior that you can choose any time. You also start moving away from “comparison–itis”, you start to love and honour self just because you say so and you start to see personal growth as a positive thing. The key is to be kind to yourself, and treat yourself with the most love. When we treat ourselves with love and respect, we show others how to treat us as well.

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

People stay in mediocre relationships because the unknown scares us, and we settle with good enough instead of great. We’ve gotten accustomed to being okay, because many people believe that to get to great, it a huge sacrifice and risk, and we get caught up in the fear of the “what ifs.” What if it doesn’t work, what if I don’t find someone better, what if I never find anyone again?!

I say turn that “what if” into what if there is someone and something better out there for me, what if I find someone who loves me for me and loves me unconditionally and vice versa. My friends do not settle! If you’re not being treated the way you want to be treated, say no, not to the other person, but no to thinking that you are not worthy enough to have someone treat you like a queen or a king. No to thinking that you are “ not enough” to receive everything great. It starts with you. What you are willing to accept is completely dependent on the level of love that you have for yourself.

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?

Self-understanding and self-love also include a willingness to always be creating a better version of ourselves, as we learn more about ourselves, and that includes change. The issue that many people have is that they view change as a negative thing because they fear change. This is where we need to shift how we perceive change and start to view change as an opportunity for better, for deeper connections.

Some of the tough questions we need to be asking ourselves are;

Who am I being right now? Would I want to be with me? (If your answer is no, ask yourself are you giving what you are asking your partner to give to you, and how can you start?)

Do I often have a need to feel and be right?

Is being right more important than a positive end result for both my partner and I?

If something is not working between us, what part do I take responsibility for? This is one of the most difficult questions to ask and answer honestly to ourselves.

I’ve been married for 15 years and I remember there was a point early on in my marriage where I needed to be right in every conversation that we had. Due to the fact that I always needed to be right, I left no room to even hear what my husband was saying because in my mind, I was clearly right. There came a point where I had to ask myself what was more important; me and my ego around being right, or creating a space where he could be heard and where both of us could be heard. I had to shift, I wanted to be heard, I wanted to feel heard, and I also realized that he simply wanted the same too. That was work that I had to do, I had to start being present when I had conversations with my hubby and stop pre-empting everything he said with a defensive strike back. It took some work, but it was so worth it.

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 vitally important. When we are alone we can create a space where there are no distractions, no external opinions, no one to please and no one to take care of but ourselves. When we practice being alone, we can truly ask and honestly answer questions about our likes and dislike and do more of what we love, just because. You become the best partner in any relationship when you have a great relationship with yourself first.

If you are a person who is afraid of being alone and spending time with yourself it actually comes down to an issue with intimacy. An issue of intimacy with yourself. When you have intimacy issues with yourself it seeps over into your relationships. You have to begin to ask yourself the question: what am I afraid of that I’ll find out if I spend time with myself? You see, we busy ourselves because we don’t want to be intimate with ourselves. It’s extremely important for us to take time out for ourselves and truly discover how we feel, what we think, what our personal opinions are with no outside influences.

You can start with something small right now. Choose what you love to do and do it by yourself. It has to be meaningful to you.

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?

Here’s the reality, whether you believe it to be true or not. No one can love you like you want to be loved unless you love yourself first. If you believe someone else can, you will always be on a search for it. The love that you believe you need from someone else is not out there, it’s inside of you. Someone cannot give you enough love that will make you love yourself more…that’s an internal job that only you can initiate.

When you have a certain level of self-understanding and self-love you can give more of yourself to your relationships, the neediness and heightened insecurities will disappear. The competition stops and you start to compliment and appreciate each others abilities and differences. This is when your ability to deepen the connection in your relationships truly starts.

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

People need to start making the choice to choose. Individuals need to choose, to not allow their external environment to influence their choices and their thoughts. Continually be asking yourself what do I think? Regardless of what we read, watch and hear, how do you personally feel? Continually ask yourself, what do I love most about myself. Too often we get caught up in what we need to do better, what we need to fix and what we need more of, that it then becomes our focal point for everything. We focus on what’s not working instead of what is working and asking ourselves how we can do more of that.

Regarding society, as shared earlier I’m a believer that “society” in itself is not a fixed person or thing. The grouping of opinions, that to me make up society, will continue to do what it does. “Society” is a business, and it’s role is to influence a certain set of opinions.

You see here is the reality as I see it, the only thing we will ever have control of is ourselves, our thoughts, what we do and don’t do, how we choose to respond and that is it. If we focus on these things and act intentionally in these areas, society will no longer have the ability to influence how and what we think about ourselves.

I say: to heck with society and let’s all take back our power to choose and then CHOOSE.

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?

Strategy #1.

I say no to things and don’t get overly apologetic about it.

We have to preserve our own energy and the greatest gift of self-love is love ourselves enough to know when we need to take time out for us. Saying no, shows that you love yourself. I used to be a people pleaser and said yes to almost everything even if it meant putting myself out of the way. I started to say no to people and then I’d go into this big apology. Then one day I said to myself, “I don’t owe anyone an apology for choosing to take care of myself and my energy.” And that’s where it ended. When I choose to take care of myself, I can be at my best for my family, friends and clients.

Strategy #2.

I take mini vacations by myself. A couple times of year I jump on a plane (or book a new hotel downtown) and just go away for a few days, simply to re-center and reenergize myself. When away, I mostly operate with no plans, I go with the flow of how I feel. I’m a lover of animals and outdoors (to some extent, I don’t do camping I do glamping), I’ll walk for hours and enjoy the the skyline. I just be free, and do everything that I love. If that means sleeping for 3 hours at 2pm in the afternoon I do that. If that’s means eating a nutella filled beignet for breakfast, I do that (that was what I did on my last solo trip in January lol).

Strategy #3

I have a “ I love myself list”.

We have to remind ourselves of our own greatness and our worth. We create our internal beliefs by choosing our thoughts. My written list is beside my bed and I read it every morning before I get out of bed. It’s also on my phone and I read it once or twice a day, sometimes more on challenging days. We have to be our own biggest cheerleader.

Here’s what I want you to do. Sit down for 5 minutes and write out all of the things that you love about yourself (for many this is hard to do because we never ask ourselves this question). Take a picture of your list and keep it on your phone as your screen saver or in your photos. Then look at it and read it everyday.

Strategy #4

I meditate daily.

In the beginning I thought meditation meant this big daily ritual that could only be done in a specific space and yada, yada, yada. It took a dear friend to share with me that meditating is a personal practice that can be done anywhere and at anytime. Yes, there is a special place in my home that I like to meditate, but I also meditate in my car while the sun shines down on my face (parked of course).

Strategy #5

I go around daily with an intention to make people smile. I believe that that there is so much good in people, but because of circumstances, their experiences etc. they forget that for themselves. Wherever I go, whether it’s to the corner store, an event, checking in at the hotel or on a walk…I will always find away to make someone glow. It makes me feel great and I that is my gift to others around me. It reminds them of how great they are and always have been.

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?

For videos and audio’s I watch and listen to anything from Abraham Hicks. Abe Hicks speaks about law of attraction and shares how we create our own reality and always have whether we realize it or not. This is my go to morning audio as I do my hair in the bathroom. It’s also what I listen to most in my car.

My favourite books that I keep re-reading: Man’s Search for Freedom by Victor E. Frankl and

You’ll See It When You Believe It by Wayne Dyer. They are both life changers and share about the power of our beliefs.

Outwitting the Devil by Naoplean Hill. Please, please forget about the title and read it, it’s freakin’ brilliant. It’s all about breaking through road blocks, taking on our self-limiting beliefs, it’s about true secrets of success and happiness.

For relationships it’s the book: The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman. This is the go-to book of the century for all couples. It’s a kick-ass book that helps to give you fresh perspective on understanding yourself better, your partner better and how to deepen the connection in your relationship. There’s not much more to say that except read it ASAP!

Rising Strong by Brene Brown, it’s all about getting back up.

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…

It’s the ‘I Define Me & My Voice Counts Movement.’

It’s taking on the belief that “Words of Others Don’t Define You, You Define You” and living in that truth.

The aim is to remind people that we are not powerless and that no one can define us unless we give them the power to.

It’s a movement where people realize that their voice counts and always has.

Supporting people and each other with tools so we can act confidently and freely speak up in any and all situations and settings.

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 quote:

“Good things don’t come to those who wait…good things come to those who go out and get it”

I always ask myself, what do I want and how am I going to get it.

Who can I ask for help from?

Where can I find it?

How can I do it?

Everything is attainable if I make the choice that I want it and put action behind the choice.

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

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