I hated my name when I was a kid but now I learned to appreciate it. Kinh means “respect” in Vietnamese and I think it’s something many people today forget to do. I have to remind myself how I want to be treated, especially when I’m having a stressful day. It’s so much easier to yell across the room instead of getting up and talking to someone, to raise our voices when we’re upset, to get heated when people have opposing viewpoints. We think about how we deserve respect but so do other people. They deserve the right to have independent thoughts, to be given the courtesy of your full attention, and to have opposing viewpoints because different is not inherently wrong. We need to start with respecting ourselves, give respect to everyone (including children), to our planet, to our food, and the people who deserve the most respect but get the least attention. Many problems can be solved by reaching a solution together rather than disrespecting each other where no one wins.
As a part of my series about “Learning To Finally Love Yourself” I had the pleasure to interview Kinh DeMaree, a Recruiting Consultant for high-growth startups and a Health and Career Coach for high-performing individuals. She has over a decade of experience working with iconic companies like Facebook, Google, and Anheuser-Busch and venture-backed startups in Silicon Valley. She advises companies on how to acquire and retain the world’s top talent and helps professionals reach their career and health goals. In her spare time, she collaborates with the U.S. Department of State’s TechWomen Program and is a “momager” to her daughter and to her “dogter.” You can connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, or www.kinhdemaree.com.
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.
Thank you, it’s such an honor to be featured. I have an eclectic mix of experience and use my unique skills to create roles of interest to me. I have been a full-time recruiter for most of my career. After working for some incredible companies, I decided I wanted to teach people what I learned behind the scenes. I took a leap of faith and left a comfortable life as a tech employee and started working as a self-employed consultant and startup advisor. I decided to expand my personal coaching services to also include health and wellness coaching because so they are inter-related. Many of the world’s most successful people also strive to be really healthy because they know it helps them focus and perform better.
In fact, I am on a personal journey of transforming my own health which I had neglected while working long hours. Now, I’m able to manage my time more efficiently so I can work smarter instead of longer, and I have more energy now that I’m incorporating wellness and self-care into my life. Although I didn’t foresee that this would be my career path, I realized following my interests allows me to take on opportunities I wouldn’t otherwise have known about.
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 try not to take life too seriously so I pursue passion projects that are fun, empowering, and path-paving. Just today, I joined hundreds of other yogis for a Guinness World Record for the largest goat yoga class. For me, non-intimidating, social classes like glow-in-the-dark yoga and goat yoga were the gateway to try yoga in a low-pressure setting and build my confidence so I would be more comfortable doing it regularly. After all, goats don’t judge.
Because yoga became more mainstream, wellness also came to the forefront including aspects of self-love, self-care, and self-discipline. I love that more and more people are trying yoga but we really need to raise awareness about the toxic chemicals like phthalates, chlorine, ethylene dichloride, vinyl chloride, mercury, and dioxins in traditional PVC/TPE mats. I searched for eco-friendly, sustainable alternatives and am now an advisor for Essential Yoga Elements, a company that makes yoga mats from natural cork and rubber. I didn’t plan on that happening, I just happened to love the product, became friends with the founder, and it naturally became a great partnership because it happened organically (pardon the pun).
I also try to make time for projects that I believe will teach people to think differently and can make the world a better place. For instance, my daughter and I participated in the Hapa Project, which empowers people of mixed ethnicities to be proud of their heritage (Hapa is originally a Hawai’in derogatory word to describe Asians who weren’t racially pure). The project was on exhibit at the Japanese American National Museum and is now heading to an art museum in Japan. Asians are so underrepresented in the media and when I was growing up I didn’t completely fit in as Caucasian or Asian. I’m really grateful for projects like this which help people create their own narrative instead of trying to fit into pre-existing roles. I shouldn’t have to choose a single demographic box to fit in. I identify as 100% hapa; 50% Caucasian, 50% Asian, i.e., CaucAsian. My daughter is a beautiful mix of Egyptian/Turkish/Syrian on her father’s side and French/Irish/Vietnamese on my side.
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?
Being a parent is hard. But being a new mom with a colicky baby who is struggling to nurse is especially difficult. When I was pregnant I read books and took classes emphasizing why breastfeeding is so important but they didn’t talk about how difficult and painful it is for new mothers. I felt like I was failing my baby who was underweight and coming close to “failure to thrive.” I didn’t understand how something that is supposed to come so natural could be so challenging and I was losing faith in myself and my body to nourish her. Despite seeing countless doctors, nurses, and even a hospital lactation consultant, it was me who figured out she had tongue and lip ties which was making it difficult. Instead of spending my maternity leave in bliss with my newborn as I thought, I desperately searched online forums for answers I wasn’t found in books or traditional doctors’ offices.
I took charge of my body and after getting her tongue and lip ties clipped, I was able to nurse her into toddlerhood. My goal was to make to continue breastfeeding until at least 2 years old, per the WHO recommendation and I’m proud we made it past that. As a result, she is incredibly strong, healthy, and we have an unshakeable bond. I can now add “lactivist” as another unplanned but welcome role to my repertoire and was elated to find out we were selected for the Public Breastfeeding Awareness Project. If there were initiatives like this decades ago, my parents would have been much more likely to make breastfeeding work and consequently and I wouldn’t have had health problems that are correlated with not being breastfed.
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?
It’s tough because we’re expected to have this multi-faceted identity which is unattainable for most people. We’re supposed to be successful, attractive, have a FOMO-inspiring life. It’s particularly hard for women because they are expected not only to be CEO of the household but also to work, hang on to their youth, make Pinterest-worthy projects, and be sexy (but only for their husband or they’ll be criticized for that too).
We’re judged against what we see in the media. However, celebrities have “glam squads” perfecting their hair, makeup, and manicures and even when they’re picture-perfect in real life, their photos are still photoshopped so no one really looks like that — they don’t even look like themselves. Their job is to be attractive and yet even they have to face body shaming and natural processes of gaining, losing weight, and aging. When people have to hide behind facades of filters, photo editing apps, and “planned candids,” it’s rare for anyone to be comfortable in their own skin or proud of their #nofilter #makeupfreeselfie. On the other hand, there are so many body-positive activists and inclusivity campaigns that people are slowly opening up their minds to appreciating different types of beauty. After all, what’s seen as attractive is largely a cultural construct and not only varies internationally but individually.
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?
Self-love is essential because it sets a standard for how other people will treat us. When people love and take care of themselves, it shows in everything they do. Their quality of work is high, they are energized, happy, and they can help others because they’re taking care of themselves and feeling great. When they’re constantly stressed and not enjoying life, there are not as productive and also bring down others around them. We should surround ourselves with people who help us love ourselves, who celebrate our successes with us, encourage us to be and do even more.
Nowadays there are incredible people leading by example. I love projects like the Fourth Trimester Bodies Project and the Techies Project, which share people’s life stories, their insecurities, and their strengths. They are raw, real, and empowering because they encourage people to be bold and find beauty and strength in their unique differences. Even though it takes strength and courage to put themselves out there for the public to pick apart, I bet they too had imposter syndrome at one point in their lives, if not right now. At some point, if we continue with our affirmations and are encouraged by our community, we will one day realize how much we have to offer.
Why do you think people stay in mediocre relationships? What advice would you give to our readers regarding this?
People stay in relationships even when they know they aren’t happy because they’re comfortable and they don’t want to face the alternative of being alone. For some, they feel validated and wanted when they’re in a relationship and it’s still stigmatized to be single. Even though the divorce rate is so high and there’s an abundance of single people out there, it’s really hard to find a substantive relationship. The dating pool is already shallow and more people are staying single by choice since it seems like the quality of prospects is so limited these days. Often, people in relationships don’t believe they will find someone better or they wait until they do meet someone else and then they are unfaithful. People are afraid of the unknown and it is truly scary to be single again, especially with kids. But life is short and we either shouldn’t waste time being with someone who doesn’t make us happy or we should strive to get that relationship back where it was.
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 for 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?
That’s a great point! Self-love is not a pass to be permissive but to strive for continual improvement and love ourselves despite being imperfect. We can’t change things we’re not aware of so taking an honest look at our issues is the only way we can solve them.
Am I where I wanted to be by this age? Why not? Acknowledge the curveballs life threw us and move on. A great predictor of success is not the lack of adversity but how we deal with it and the ability to move on and overcome it instead of dwelling on it. Everyone has struggled but many choose not to make that their identity, they become the person they want to be, not who they were in the past or what happened to them. I am not at the place I thought I would be at this age. When I’m hard on myself, I think about how I’m a single mom in my 30s who sold all her pre-IPO Facebook stock to travel the world and who still have to hustle to support her family. Instead of living off passive income from all the great. I didn’t make, my main hobby is adulting — making sure my mortgage is paid, constantly working, and making short-term sacrifices for the future. On the other hand, I think about all the things I did do right — I have enviable life and work experience, an incredible daughter (I may be biased), and even though I must still work, I’m grateful it is fulfilling and allows me the flexibility to choose what I want to do. When we appreciate all our successes and the things that really matter in life, we can put it in perspective and see we’re doing a pretty good job after all. Even when you are feeling at your worst, I bet there are many people who would love to trade places with you.
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)?
With technology always surrounding us, even when we’re alone, we’re not truly alone. We may be sitting alone in our car, but we still have to deal with people driving and walking around us and we likely have our phones connected to Bluetooth. It’s not realistic for most people to completely disconnect and go off into the wilderness without responsibilities. So, make use of what you can do — only check social media at certain times (or never at all) when you won’t be distracted, don’t check your email when you’re on vacation or when you’re spending quality time with your family, and appreciate the time you can spend doing nothing — like when you’re in line at the store or when you first wake up in the morning.
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?
In discovering how I want to be treated, I also strive to treat others that way. In figuring out what I want to work on, I try to find people who already have those strengths so I can learn from them. People close to me have commented on how much more relaxed I am now that I am more introspective and give myself some love. Even though it sounds a bit paradoxical, the more time I spend on affirmations and self-love, the less self-centered I become because I can focus on other people when I’m more complete.
In your experience, what should a) individuals and b) society, do to help people better understand themselves and accept themselves?
I know that it sounds clichéd but I really believe it’s important to give back to the community that has helped you. The reward you get when you give is much longer-lasting than the fleeting feeling of excitement you get when you receive it. I have gotten so much back out of the effort I’ve put into mentorships, volunteer time, and knowledge sharing. I’ve made lifelong friendships, colleagues who truly support me, and I’ve learned a lot from each and every single person I took the time to get to know. The world would be a better place if we focused on the community rather than just the immediate people around us.
Not everyone will be able to do this, but if they can make it work, I recommend they take a “travattical.” Taking time off work to travel is life-changing and you’ll have great stories and memories. After all, studies show that it’s more rewarding for people to spend money on experiences than material possessions. Just don’t sell all of your assets as I did. It’s also a great way to combat burnout, find out who you truly are, and become more open-minded to different ways of doing things. Society is becoming more open to the idea of people taking sabbaticals. Digital nomads are becoming more common, more jobs are remote, and many companies can see the value of life experience and pursuit of personal goals while on break. In fact, some companies even offer sabbaticals so people can come back to work refreshed and with new ideas to apply to work.
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?
I love little self-care rituals and daily gifts to myself. First thing when I wake up, I rehydrate by drinking water with lemon. Then I perform an ayurvedic cleansing ritual to get rid of the ama, the toxins. I use a copper tongue scraper before brushing my teeth with a neem toothpaste. Then for breakfast, I make a nourishing smoothie with a healthy fat like avocados or MCT oil for my brain, freshly chopped spices like turmeric and ginger, and microgreens I grow in my kitchen. I believe it’s important to have fresh, plant-based foods daily, and putting together different concoctions each day is fun. My toddler even helps me make smoothies and loves when she changes the colors by adding different fruits.
To maintain my body from the outside, I use a dry brush on my face and body and then apply oil afterward. It’s a great way to exfoliate and moisturize but it also helps the lymphatic system eliminate toxins that are inevitable with all the environmental pollutants. I also give myself a quick gua sha facial with a jade stone in one hand and rose quartz stone in the other. It relieves facial tension, stimulates blood flow, and helps my serum sink into my skin.
To take care of my mind, I write in my gratitude journal the things which I am grateful for each day. No matter how bad my morning, there’s always something for which I can be grateful. I also spent an hour before my daughter wakes up on self-improvement (at the moment it’s the Mind Body Green, Cabral Concept, Doctor’s Farmacy, or Medical Medium podcasts). I also say daily affirmations and have found if I say something inspiring statements enough, I start to believe that. I refer to myself as the person I want to be rather than who I am currently because the person I focus on is what I will become.
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?
Somewhat surprisingly, I’ve learned a lot about adult relationships and introspection through a parenting course for highly spirited kids. Not only was I able to strengthen my relationship with my kid but the Love & Logic courses taught me a lot about how to interact with adults on a professional and personal basis. The founders use humor and love above all but they also sacrifice short-term comfort in order to maximize long-term gain. Their methods require discipline and self-restraint in stressful situations and it has helped me remain rational when I’d otherwise react reflexively rather than strategically.
I also really like Gary Vaynerchuck because he’s inspiring and caring, but also direct about what people need to do (rather than what they want to hear). He’s the like the friend I wish I had who tells me when I’m being ridiculous and helps me come up with action steps instead of just criticizing me.
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 hated my name when I was a kid but now I learned to appreciate it. Kinh means “respect” in Vietnamese and I think it’s something many people today forget to do. I have to remind myself how I want to be treated, especially when I’m having a stressful day. It’s so much easier to yell across the room instead of getting up and talking to someone, to raise our voices when we’re upset, to get heated when people have opposing viewpoints. We think about how we deserve respect but so do other people. They deserve the right to have independent thoughts, to be given the courtesy of your full attention, and to have opposing viewpoints because different is not inherently wrong.
We need to start with respecting ourselves, give respect to everyone (including children), to our planet, to our food, and the people who deserve the most respect but get the least attention. Many problems can be solved by reaching a solution together rather than disrespecting each other where no one wins.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” that you use to guide yourself? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life and how our readers might learn to live by it in theirs?
In response to many situations, I’ll think about a simple quote I heard in one of Tony Robbins’ programs. “People know what to do but they don’t do what they know.” This can be applicable to almost any situation. It can explain why people intend to go workout but then they end up making excuses. People do what’s urgent (like answering the phone) instead of what’s important. I write down a list of daily must-do items and don’t go to bed until they’re finished. Although urgent things always come up that I must attend to, the list keeps me accountable and makes it so that it’s not convenient to forget or put off what I know is important.