I truly believe in order to ask someone to love you or to love someone else you have to fully love yourself, and I’m going to go a step further and say at the end of the day that’s what matters most. Love from someone else, in a relationship or friendship, is so much more meaningful when it isn’t filling a void. It has to be something that is beautiful to receive not needed to survive. And loving ourselves goes beyond loving our appearance, it’s about loving our mind, body, soul, perseverance and knowing we are worthy to be loved just as we are.
As a part of my series about “Connecting With Yourself To Live With Better Relationships” I had the pleasure to interview Michelle Knight is a Branding and Business Coach who has distinguished herself as an entrepreneur by teaching the power of storytelling and its ability to unite people, especially women. She has helped transform the businesses and lives of female entrepreneurs by supporting them in tapping into their story to create a standout brand and message, ultimately leading them to living a life of freedom. Michelle is living proof that no matter what obstacles life may throw at you, or chapters that may contribute to your story, you have the power to write your own ending. As a storyteller and branding expert, Michelle supports women who are unfulfilled in their 9–5 to break free into a life of freedom. Programs include private coaching, self-study courses, and a group program that unites women to create thriving online businesses.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.
Thanks for having me!
On December 21, 2015 my son was born and that’s when everything shifted for me. When my son was born, I experienced my own rebirth in so many ways. I had a very intense labor and suffered from postpartum depression for months after his birth. I mainly struggled to connect with myself, I couldn’t even look in the mirror and was in no way loving myself. It was because I was no longer the same person. I had changed but I wasn’t ready for it.
I kept trying to be the “old” me but that wasn’t happening. Finally, I started to think about the experience as a new opportunity and felt this pull inside to change my career, among other things. While on maternity leave I explored opportunities to start my own business. I had majored in communications and had been working in the field for a few years so I knew I wanted to work alongside this passion and use the power of social media to grow my own company.
Over the course of a year I built my business from absolutely nothing to a place where I could leave my 9 to 5. That first year, while I was juggling a 9 to 5, raising a new baby and building this business I started to discover this idea of authenticity, storytelling and ultimately, personal branding. I fell in love with supporting other women in uncovering and owning their story and amplifying it through their personal brand. Within one year of leaving my 9 to 5 I created a 6-figure business and here we are.
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?
Right now I’m really focused on how I can support women on a more deeper level in the online space. I’m expanding on the programs I’ve created to empower more women to create a truly authentic brand and gain more confidence in showing up to build more meaningful relationships with their audience. I think one of the ways our businesses can have a bigger impact is by stripping it down to what truly matters; community and authentic messaging. My goal for 2019 is to support women in fully understanding their own story and how it plays a role in impacting someone else’s life. This creates a ripple effect and when we can show up as our true selves in business it rolls into our personal lives as well.
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?
This has really been an evolving journey for me since high school. It was around this time when I first noticed that the way I viewed myself and how I loved myself was skewed. I stumbled for about 10 years, but when my son was born it was as if I had to figure it all out again. I was presented an opportunity to somehow start over and I had to because I was no longer the same person. I didn’t think the same, feel the same or look the same.
Through this difficult postpartum experience, that lasted almost 8 months, I struggled to love myself and what I saw in the mirror. I was clinging to who I was before, but that wasn’t working, so I’d say my son’s birth and more specifically the postpartum was my tipping point.
I remember lying on the couch, holding my newborn baby and feeling so much sadness. I never once felt sad about being a mother, I felt sadness because I was clinging to something that was no longer there. No one prepared me for the mental changes that would happen as a new mother, so I felt completely blindsided by the feeling. It’s crazy because I remember going to the doctor and being asked, “How do you feel about being a mother? Have you ever thought about hurting your child?” The answer was always “I love being a mother and I’ve never thought about hurting my baby!”
Looking back what I needed to be asked was, “How do you feel about yourself? What emotions are coming up for you as you step into this role? Do you ever feel like you want to hurt yourself?” That would have been a completely different conversation.
Luckily, I’m surrounded by so many people who love me and I was able to start doing the inner work. I asked myself “who do I intend to be as a mother, wife and woman of this world?” It became clear if I wanted to finally step into this woman I needed to make major changes. I started doing the inner work around my thoughts, old stories I needed to forgive and my ongoing battle with perfectionism. Through that journey I also became an entrepreneur which really sped up the whole “personal development” process.
I’ve learned to really love and appreciate myself for who I am in that moment and to place more trust in my decisions and feelings along the way.
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 might come as a surprise to people who know me personally that I struggled with this for years. I always thought there was something wrong with me if I didn’t perfectly — there’s that word again — mirror the person next to me. It’s so self destructive to compare ourselves to others and I think it’s taught at a young age just by listening and seeing other people.
It’s not intentional, in most cases, but has a lasting impression on both sexes. I think even though we toot the horn of authenticity we don’t fully accept it as a society. We want to fit in or worse blend in and that can really cause beautiful people, with beautiful stories and appearances to hide.
I think it starts with how we talk to and around our young children and ourselves. One thing I’ve been so conscious of since becoming a mother is the language I use around my son. I have removed “perfect” from my vocabulary and make a point to not compare him to other children. It’s so easy to just slip into old patterns, I hear it all the time when we are out playing. Parent’s saying, “Look how nice so and so is being.” I think it’s this type of comparing that starts to teach our children it’s just normal, when it isn’t.
So the changes start with how we speak to the younger generation, but I also think we can make changes within ourselves as well. After my son was born I couldn’t look in the mirror without crying, I was so disgusted and as a result I suffered from depression, it took time for me to change my thoughts and focus on gratitude, but over time I started to value myself and as a result put more energy into doing things that made me feel beautiful, not for other people, but for myself. That’s where it starts.
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?
Because I truly believe in order to ask someone to love you or to love someone else you have to fully love yourself, and I’m going to go a step further and say at the end of the day that’s what matters most. Love from someone else, in a relationship or friendship, is so much more meaningful when it isn’t filling a void. It has to be something that is beautiful to receive not needed to survive. And loving ourselves goes beyond loving our appearance, it’s about loving our mind, body, soul, perseverance and knowing we are worthy to be loved just as we are.
Why do you think people stay in mediocre relationships? What advice would you give to our readers regarding this?
Oh man, from my experience it all comes back to worthiness. They don’t feel worthy of something better.
This was my story for so long, until my now husband came in the picture. We really grew together but I remember the month before we started dating I made the decision to leave a toxic “relationship”. I wanted to focus on me and bam here he was. There’s a reason for that, I was proclaiming that I was worthy of something better than what I was “dealing” with.
My advice would be to do the inner work around worthiness and if you’re looking for outside validation be it a partner or friend, why is that? We’ve got to ask the hard questions to grow and sometimes make the even more difficult decisions as well.
And the hard stuff comes from stepping outside our comfort zone. At the end of the day you have to step outside your relationship or situation and say, “Is this truly fulfilling? Is this contributing to my most joyful life?”
Then you have to make the decision to take action. Knowing something is wrong or destructive doesn’t change anything, it’s all in the action.
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?
My brother passed away from childhood cancer when he was just 19 years old, I was 22. It was a moment in my own story where I took a really hard look at my own life and had to ask the tough questions. While my brother was battling cancer, I was making bad choices and was going downhill fast. At this point in my life I didn’t love myself at all and the actions I was taking showed that. When my brother lost his battle with cancer I had to make a decision — I could continue going down this path of self-destruction or I could take a hard look at myself and make a change.
This set in motion really every sort of personal development practice I’ve learned since his passing and ultimately has gotten me to a place where I accept myself fully. At the time of my brothers passing I didn’t love myself because I wasn’t proud of myself or my choices. Through my own inner work and asking the tough questions I was able to get in touch with what I really wanted out of life.
That’s the thing about death, it’s a reminder that your time is precious and also limited.
I think when we are masking our self love we act out in different ways. We might want people to think we have it all together or we are happy, when really it’s a facade. But just like with anything we’re never going to start making change, unless we make the decision to have the hard conversation.
If you find yourself in a situation where you are clearly not proud or happy with the way in which you are living your life I suggest asking yourself:
“What do I really want out of this life?”
“How would living this way make me feel more in alignment with my highest self?”
“What do I need to release in order to make this happen?”
“Why haven’t I made this change before today?”
“How would these changes make me feel about myself?”
“How would these changes affect my relationships or allow me to be in healthier relationships?”
and finally, my favorite, “What is one intentional thing I can choose every day to love myself more?”
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)?
Let me just say I was 100% this person. Looking back now it was a fear of being alone and more specifically being alone with my thoughts. And when we are never alone with the old stories that are truly affecting us we can never heighten our awareness of them. It’s like the distractions and noise from others drowns out our own “work”.
So having that time, no matter what role you play, yes even as a mother, is super important. It’s so easy to just stay on the hamster wheel and keep doing and thinking for the sake of doing just that, when what we need sometimes is a hard conversation with ourselves.
This is why I’m such a fan of free writing (more specifically Morning Pages) because at the beginning of every morning I get to word vomit on the page and stuff comes up everytime. What’s so powerful is that I’m giving myself the space to work through it. It’s a practice I encourage everyone, not just entrepreneurs to have in their routine.
Habits and routines are so important for the hard stuff, you know the stuff we avoid? Taking just 10 minutes every day to perform a routine or even just look on the mirror and say “How you doing today?” is so important.
And then you become aware of the stuff that needs to be dealt with now; it comes to the surface and becomes more urgent. When it’s at the surface you can confidently take the space to be alone and do the work, and if you’re a mother or in a relationship it’s important to ask for the space so you can move through the stuff.
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 we truly love ourselves, accept ourselves and more importantly understand our worth, we are able to be more deeply loved and give that in return. I truly believe that at their core, relationships are about communication and communication determines whether they last or whether they do not. How can we communicate our needs and desires with others if we can’t even communicate with ourselves?
When you reach a place that you are self aware, understand what you want and aren’t afraid to ask for it, it changes everything. Suddenly the relationship is built on honesty and trust and communication more openly flows rather than being forced. And you feel more confident setting healthy boundaries which is so important and leads to more fun overall.
In your experience, what should a) individuals and b) society, do to help people better understand themselves and accept themselves?
Individuals affect society as a whole, so it really starts here. As individuals it is up to us to impact our own lives and our immediate circle (think family, friends, colleagues, coworkers, heck even our social media reach and followers). I know we keep talking about this, but it all starts with you asking the hard questions and admitting if something doesn’t feel in alignment with your highest self.
I truly believe when we start making changes at the personal, individual level it creates a ripple effect impacting those closest to us. When I started to focus on personal development, my husband and I had intimate conversations about what this looked like for him and our relationship and you could see he started to make changes as well. Same with my friends and my family.
As a society I think we can do a better job of listening, truly listening. I think one of the hardest parts of accepting ourselves is the fear that others won’t accept us for who we truly are. So as a society we have to be open to more acceptance and listening to others when they express themselves. This will allow us to grow together, rather than apart.
The more individuals start to do the work at the personal level the more we, as a society, will see a change.
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?
The first is my morning routine. I know everyone is talking about this, but as a mother I struggled with what this looked like for me. Now, I’ve learned to incorporate my son into my morning routine so it benefits the both of us. My goal is always to connect with myself every morning before diving into the day. This can be working out, meditating, writing Morning Pages, listening to music, taking a shower, or all the above. This allows me to check in and see how things are going before diving into distractions and expectations of me in the day to day.
Something my husband and I do are make sure we are regularly checking in with one another. We try to go beyond just, “How was your day?” which usually gets very little engagement, to asking deeper questions along the lines of how we are feeling, what impacted us today or how we are dealing with a particular season in our lives. This helps our relationship, but more than anything it allows each of us to be heard and understood, which makes us feel loved.
Planning allows me to be more productive and when I’m productive I’m feeling really good about myself, I think we all do. So planning is a strategy I not only use to get more done, but to also connect deeply to my goals and desires. I try to plan yearly in my personal life, checking in every month on how things are going and how I’m feeling.
Identify triggers has been a big strategy for me in my journey through perfectionism. So often we get wrapped up in the cycle and something might set us off or affect us, but we don’t comprehend it because we’re just going through the motions. That’s why taking a moment to identify the trigger is huge. It allows us to ask the hard question of, “Why was I affected by this?” and the more I do it the more I’m able to move through it with grace when it comes back up.
Practicing gratitude is something I do daily. I always knew it was powerful, but after learning more about perfectionism from Brene Brown I learned about the power of gratitude. In a nutshell, when you feel grateful you can’t feel sad, fearful or any of the other feelings we sometimes feel when we aren’t in alignment and connected with ourselves. You can work this in your morning routine, or one of my favorites, set an alarm to go off throughout the day and when it does say 10 things you’re grateful for.
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?
Everything and anything Brene Brown. When it comes to loving yourself and removing the shame, especially as a perfectionist her books are everything. My husband and I love the Rise Together podcast with Rachel and Dave Hollis because they are both entrepreneurs and made a pledge to have a more exceptional marriage and it’s great to hear their stories and experiences.
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…
For me it’s truly been about empowering more women to share their story. This all comes back to worthiness and owning your authentic voice. I truly believe this is what’s missing from human connection. Look at the #metoo movement; what made that so powerful was all the women coming together because people had the courage to step out and share their story. The more we share our story, especially as an influencer or brand, the more we’re inspiring this deeper connection. It’s a freaking ripple effect when someone feels seen, heard and understood they then will step up and share their experience and it’s truly beautiful.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” that you use to guide yourself by?
“Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.” — Brene Brown
Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life and how our readers might learn to live by it in theirs?
When I set out to start my own business, I struggled with authenticity. I was afraid to be truly seen because I was afraid of being judged or worse, not accepted by others. This quote was one of the first quotes I ever read that made me cry. It hit home for me because it reminded me that it’s up to us if we want to start seeing changes in our lives.
It reminds me that it’s not about one major action or change, but about the little moments. The moments where we make the decision to show up every single day a little more like our true selves. When we understand that self-love and acceptance starts with us and we make the decision to do it, despite the fear, it’s the most powerful and beautiful thing we can do as humans.
Thank you so much for your time and for your inspiring insights!
About the Author:
Sasza Lohrey is the Founder & CEO of BBXX, a digital platform for intimacy and wellbeing. She is also the host of the BBXX podcast, “Let’s Get Intimate!” which hosts provocative and entertaining conversations with experts in order to challenge the way our culture conditions us to talk about sex, intimacy, and healthy relationships. BBXX was created in order to help people better understand themselves, so that they then can form deeper and more fulfilling relationships with others. Sasza is a former D1 athlete with a background in psychology and digital media. She is a member of the Women of Sex Tech collective, the co-mentorship community Dreamers and Doers, and a regular columnist for several online publications. Originally from the Bay Area, Sasza founded BBXX during a Stanford entrepreneurship program in Santiago, Chile. Learn more on our website and listen to more interviews with experts on our top-rated podcast!