…Pleasure. Our bodies are wired for pleasure, and our daily experiences offer endless opportunities to experience fulfillment. But too often we get caught up in the race to get things done, so we only get a fraction of the satisfaction we could be getting out of these experiences. For example, you may lose out on the opportunity to let your muscles relax under your warm morning shower, or taste the food you quickly ate at breakfast. We don’t even always make space for enjoying the interactions with the people in our lives because we’re distracted by our phones, emails, and other things. Making time for pleasure and enjoying your daily experiences will leave you feeling filled up, nurtured and cared for which will carry through in how you approach your life and those in it.
As a part of my series about “Connecting With Yourself To Live With Better Relationships” I had the pleasure to interview Antonia Hall. Antonia Hall is an award-winning author, psychologist, and relationship and sex expert. Antonia helps people find more pleasure in their lives- in and out of the bedroom. She is a frequent contributor to top magazines and is regularly interviewed on radio discussing relationships, sex, and how to have a more fulfilling life. She is author of The Ultimate Guide to a Multi-Orgasmic Life, and the Sexy Little Guide book series.
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 completing my undergrad work in psychology, I found myself in a teaching role. I have always been a person to whom others turned for advice on life, especially around sexuality. For many years I wrote a personal development blog, then I followed my passion for people back to grad school. I did a deep dive into historical gender dynamics, mythology, and transcendent experiences. My research on sexuality evolved into my first book, and my work has taken off from there.
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 just launched the second edition of my Sexy Little Guide books, Volumes 1–3, which offer techniques to enable readers to find more pleasure in their lives. We’ve also recently made updates to my website that includes interviews with top experts. Readers can find informative, educational and uplifting articles, interviews and even commentary on the latest studies released.
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?
Yes, about three years ago I got a wake-up call that taught me that taking care of one’s body isn’t always as obvious as one might think. I was seemingly healthy, very active and fit. My daily routine included a lot of care-giving practices like meditation, breath and energy work, and hiking in nature. I loved to climb mountains, the steeper the better, and it didn’t occur to me that my body might not be benefiting from the practice. Our society tends to support pushing oneself, and that can lead to imbalances.
I was shocked to find myself admitted to Cedars Sinai hospital for a number of days, with a “world expert” doctor telling me I needed to follow a traditional Western protocol with which I would never agree. It was a major tipping point, which led me on a journey of self-discovery, even more diligent care-giving and, ultimately, a deeper level of self-acceptance.
We all have to start where we are, and I had to learn to love my body through my limitations. To bring my body back into balance required patience and a deep level of compassion and love for myself. While some of my needs were obvious, like eating healthy, organic meals and carving out consistent hours for sleeping, I found that loving myself back into balance meant being kinder and gentler with myself more than anything else. And that’s a pretty amazing way to find true love for oneself.
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, it’s a very sad and unfortunate commentary on how our society tends to expect levels of “perfection” that don’t exist. We’re a youth and beauty focused society, constantly inundated with images of ideals that can’t be reached. This constant influx can lead to low self-esteem, damaging eating disorders, anxiety, depression and obsessive behaviors like jealousy. Comparing oneself to others will never get one closer to acceptance and self-love. Ultimately, what’s required is a personal process of self-discovery and acceptance within one’s own self.
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?
Your capacity for loving yourself influences how you relate to the world. Your life is a mirror, so if you don’t have self-love, that will be reflected back to you in the people and situations you allow into your life. By learning to love yourself, you’ll find that you want what’s best for yourself, which includes giving yourself the care and respect you deserve and no longer putting up with people and situations that aren’t congruent with that new level of self-respect. There’ll be no room in your life for relationships that deplete you and drag you down. Because you love and value yourself, you’ll have better boundaries, which means you’ll only be willing to give your time and energy to those things that are worthy. That’s transformative. This also makes room for new people and situations to show up, and you’ll find yourself wondering why you ever put up with less than you deserved.
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 it’s easy and familiar, and they’re afraid of change. There’s often a fear that a new experience will be worse than the one they’re already in. Change isn’t easy, and that’s especially true when it comes to ending a relationship or leaving a job, even if the situation isn’t fulfilling. One has to be ready. The more action you take to consciously love yourself, the less apt you’ll be to put up with things that aren’t working 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?
Some of the tough questions I like to ask myself include: Am I doing what I came here to do? Life is short and precious — am I using the time well? I really believe that we all have gifts to bring forth. So I ask myself often if I’m using my talents in a way that feels satisfying to me and hopefully is also making a positive impact on the world at the same time. Am I happy? Is my life fulfilling? Making sure that you are getting true enjoyment out of life is an important barometer. It’s not always an easy question to answer honestly, but when you come to terms with what’s not working in your life, you can begin to move towards new experiences that are better for you.
Some years back I found myself at a crossroads. I wasn’t happy, and I wanted more for myself. I ended up moving across state to attend a graduate program. While it was a huge, scary leap of faith, it was what I needed to empower myself and give myself the foundation needed to allow my gifts and talents to be ushered out into the world.
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)?
I think we haven’t been given the permission and acceptance to be alone, nor are we taught how valuable it can be. Our society isn’t very supportive of being alone, and there’s often a stigma attached to it. Spending time alone frequently has a negative connotation, as though alone means lonely, isolated, sad. Venturing out alone is seen as embarrassing and many people dread answering the “Is it just you?” question.
Some people fear being alone and avoid it by filling each moment with external stimuli. Then it’s good to ask: what am I afraid I’ll discover about myself if I spend time alone? How can I expect others to love spending time with me when I’m unable to enjoy my own company? By making peace within yourself, you’ll see a shift in the quality of the relationships in your life. Being able to spend time alone is invaluable. By carving out time to greet yourself, you’ll discover an amazing soul who has been waiting for you. You’ll open a dialogue with parts of yourself that wish to be expressed and may find yourself diving into forgotten passions. Without the distractions of other voices, you’ll find you can gain a deeper, more profound knowledge of yourself. And this can lead to more self-acceptance and self-love.
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?
When you understand yourself -and this includes the full range of the human condition- you’ll have a greater capacity for compassion and understanding for others in your life. All is not joyful and a rainbow unicorn fantasyland. We all have shadow sides, too. Recognizing and loving all of the parts of yourself will transform your relationship with yourself and others in your life.
In your experience, what should a) individuals and b) society, do to help people better understand themselves and accept themselves?
We’ve already proven that introducing empowering practices to children at a young age has a profound effect on society. Therefore, give children more art programs, because artistic outlets create more well-rounded, happy, and creative kids. Teach meditation and yoga, because we’re living in a fast-paced, over-stimulated society and need to learn to slow down so we can stay balanced. Get kids out into nature. The more they understand they’re a part of nature and the greater whole, the more they’ll understand their place in the world, and want to be excellent stewards of this beautiful planet. All of these tools foster understanding and acceptance, in oneself and others.
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. Eat properly. It seems so basic, but many of us cut corners where food preparation is concerned, and that often means eating processed foods that compromise our health. After I was released from the hospital, I began to learn about and implement a very disciplined nutritional program to ensure my health would recover. It wasn’t easy, but it was a golden opportunity to stir my creativity and learn about new foods, flavors and ways to turn local organic produce into beautifully prepared, delicious, healthy meals. It is an incredible way to show love for myself, which my body appreciates.
2. Play. We are all creative beings, and we all need playtime in our lives. I give myself ample time for self-expression that uplifts, inspires and replenishes me. I love to dance, sing, and paint. Making incredible meals for myself has become another form of play. If you implement more playtime into your life you’ll see how it fosters creativity. It helps you find solutions you otherwise would never have dreamed. Playing leaves you feeling nourished and loved.
3. Connecting inward. There are numerous ways to connect with yourself, but we can get so caught up with being busy that we forget to make that time. When I first awaken, I start the day by putting my hand on my heart and saying aloud to myself, “I love you, Antonia.” Then I express gratitude for another day of life and the opportunity to create anew. I like to do a guided meditation in the morning, some breath work in the afternoon, and a full-body evening check-in with myself. These practices help me stay in touch with my body, my needs, and gives me the peaceful mind required to be my best in my outward endeavors.
4. Pleasure. Our bodies are wired for pleasure, and our daily experiences offer endless opportunities to experience fulfillment. But too often we get caught up in the race to get things done, so we only get a fraction of the satisfaction we could be getting out of these experiences. For example, you may lose out on the opportunity to let your muscles relax under your warm morning shower, or taste the food you quickly ate at breakfast. We don’t even always make space for enjoying the interactions with the people in our lives because we’re distracted by our phones, emails, and other things. Making time for pleasure and enjoying your daily experiences will leave you feeling filled up, nurtured and cared for which will carry through in how you approach your life and those in it.
5. Healthy friendships. Having a good support system is imperative to one’s health and well-being. The people with whom you share your life have an incredible impact on it. There has to be mutual respect, love and appreciation. I am grateful for dear friends, and appreciate that we want what’s best for each other, which means lifting each other up, supporting growth, and expecting the best from each other. Making time for shared collective experiences enriches my life immensely, and I’m ever grateful for these beloved people in my life.
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 love to watch Ted talks and related videos that pop up. I have long loved Paulo Coelho books, and The Alchemist is ever a favorite of mine. Deepak Chopra has guided meditation series that I enjoy, and I often turn on Supersoul Sunday interviews. I love quotes,and find reading everyone from Maya Angelou to Ralph Waldo Emerson brings wisdom and upliftment when needed. I like to be intuitively guided to resources and soul food. There are so many great websites, videos and podcasts out there. Be open to things as they cross your path, pay attention to flashes of inspiration, and you’ll find the messages needed in your life.
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 love to start a movement that gives people the permission and tools to love their bodies and their sexuality. Sexuality is an inherent part of who we are as humans, and the fabric through which we all arrived. Like all of nature, we are sexual beings, and it’s time to cast off the bonds of years of oppression and shame attached to sexuality, so we can find full acceptance of and appreciation for that valuable part of our lives. My books offer guidance on how to make peace with your sexuality and practices to tap into the immense potential of sexual energy to transform your life. If more people were experiencing the pleasure their bodies are capable of, it would transform our world, without a doubt.
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?
“Argue for your limitations and, sure enough, they’re yours.” -Richard Bach
Our minds are like computers, and they tend to wire in the direction of what’s wrong, rather than what’s right. Rewiring one’s thinking requires daily mindfulness. Loving yourself helps, and part of that is observing your thinking. Thoughts and words have power, and they reflect back to us. I have become more mindful over time, yet I still catch myself arguing for the opposite of what I desire. Then I laugh and say, “Hey, Antonia, are you really trying to support these negative thoughts?” Then I consciously shift my thinking towards what I do want to manifest for myself. And I move into an energetic of gratitude, because you can’t be grateful and negative at the same time. I strongly encourage this kind of mindfulness as a way to shift one’s life in more positive directions.
Thank you so much for your time and for your inspiring insights!