Marisa Ferrera: “Every morning I spend 15 to 45 minutes meditating”

Every morning I spend 15 to 45 minutes meditating. Taking this time to be still and to connect with my heart and soul helps me to remember the truth about who I am and I’m able better able to connect with the love that I feel for myself. It also helps me to be more […]

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Every morning I spend 15 to 45 minutes meditating. Taking this time to be still and to connect with my heart and soul helps me to remember the truth about who I am and I’m able better able to connect with the love that I feel for myself. It also helps me to be more grounded and connected throughout the day.

As part of my interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Marisa Ferrera. She, like many others, grew up in a dysfunctional family where speaking up for herself resulted in very unpleasant consequences. It took many years of inner work and learning to love herself before she had the courage to not only create healthy boundaries but honor them…even in the midst of drama and conflict. Marisa is the author of the International Best-Selling Book, Magnify Your Magnificence. Her passion and mission are to empower others to create healthy, loving boundaries within their family, so they can stand in their power. Marisa shows people how to transform conflict into compassion, to deepen relationships and connections.

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 began my first career over 40 years ago as an Early Childhood Educator. As I continued my studies, completing both a Bachelor of Education and Master of Education degree, I transitioned into teaching in an elementary school and later founded and operated a wholistic private school.

After closing down my school, I began reflecting on how I could continue to share my gifts and passions in a way that would make a positive difference in the lives of those I served. What I realized was that throughout my career, what brought me the greatest joy was to empower others to see the magnificence of who they are and not who they were conditioned to believe they are.

I also loved teaching about how conflict could lead to deeper and more meaningful relationships. In fact, I held weekly class meetings to support my students in learning how to better communicate with one another and deal with whatever challenges they were experiencing with their friends and families.

These passions, along with the knowledge and expertise I gained during my decades-long journey of healing from my past and learning to love myself, led me to the work I’m doing today — empowering men & women to create healthy boundaries and family relationships, so they can lovingly stand in their power and authentically express themselves even in the midst of drama or conflict.

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 already have a powerful program that takes my clients on a journey towards creating healthy boundaries and more harmonious family relationships, and I have plans to create 2 new programs. The first one is related to my book that’s all about creating happier relationships and a joyful life.The teachings and accompanying exercises in the book can support people in connecting more deeply to their authentic selves and release past wounds, negative thoughts and limiting beliefs that stop them from having the life and relationships they really want.

This will be a group program that will give participants the opportunity to delve deeper into the information provided in the book and receive some coaching as they integrate what they’re learning along the way. Information without implementation can only take us so far and when we try to do things like this on our own, we often give up when we get stuck and don’t know how to apply what we’re learning to our unique challenges. It’s much easier to implement what we’re learning when we get support and have a forum for asking questions that relate to our specific situations and life circumstances.

By the end of this program participants will have a much deeper understanding of who they are and their ability to love themselves will be increased significantly. They will also have a better understanding of what contributes to their challenging relationships and what they can do to improve the relationships that matter to them.

The second program I plan to develop will focus on Authentic Communication Mastery. Learning how to effectively communicate, especially in times of disagreement, confrontation or upset, isn’t something most of us were taught in school and this is one of the biggest challenges I help my clients with.

This program will include powerful techniques for clearly and authentically communicating from the heart. Participants will learn how to speak so they’re understood and how to actively listen to better understand others. They will also learn how to minimize conflict and how to better deal with it when it does happen.

By the end of the program, participants will better understand why and how communication breaks down, so they can avoid the pitfalls and be able to powerfully communicate in a variety of situations and in a way that’s empowering for everyone.

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?

Like many others, I grew up in a dysfunctional family where I experienced physical and emotional abuse. I ended up with no self-confidence, self-esteem or self-love.

It wasn’t until I was in college and started seeing a counselor that I discovered that as a means of protecting myself from experiencing pain, I had disconnected myself from most of my feelings and had difficulty connecting with how I felt about anything or anyone. This realization terrified me. I knew that unless I was willing to unlock the door to what I buried deep within me, I would never be able to experience what it was like to love someone and be loved by them.

An experience I had that demonstrated to me how much I’d grown in loving and accepting myself was when I broke off my engagement to a man I really loved, even though the reception hall was booked, I had paid a deposit on my wedding dress and many other arrangements were in place. You might wonder why I’d do this if I was still in love. Well, the reason was because every time I visualized our wedding day, instead of sensing excitement in my fiancé’s energy field, I sensed hesitation and uncertainty. I intuitively felt that my fiancé wasn’t ready for marriage even though I believed he loved me. This feeling was confirmed when I met with him and told him I was calling off the marriage.

I was at a point in my life where I loved and accepted myself enough to let him go and make room for someone else to show up in my life who would be ecstatic about marrying me.

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 believe that one of the causes is the fact that we’re continuously being bombarded by the media about what beauty and handsomeness look like and since the standards are so high, it’s impossible for us to ever reach them. If we compare ourselves to the models whose photos are photoshopped to perfection, it’s not a surprise that we aren’t satisfied with how we look.

Another reason is a result of childhood conditioning. It’s common for parents to tell their children they’re being conceited or they’re bragging when they say something good about themselves, including if they say something like, “I’m pretty” or “I have a great body.” This type of reprimand creates a feeling of shame and can result in thinking less of your appearance over time.

Being ridiculed or teased by others if you’re overweight or have crooked teeth or don’t measure up to society’s standards of physical beauty can also contribute to low levels of satisfaction with your appearance.

Not feeling good about how you look can lead to a lack of self-worth and a lack of self-love, which can have devastating consequences in many areas of your personal and professional life.

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?

Until you learn to truly love yourself unconditionally, you will continue to seek and need validation and approval from others in order to feel good about yourself. You will continue to give away your power since your self-worth will be dependent on what others think about you. You will experience a lot of emotional pain and suffering when others judge, criticize or reject you.

When you’re able to love yourself, you take back your power and what others think about you will no longer matter. The words or actions of another will not activate feelings of hurt, anger or disappointment because you would have healed the wounds that caused these feelings in the first place. You’ll know that what others say about you really has nothing to do with you and is actually a projection of their own limiting thoughts, beliefs and unhealed wounds.

When you love yourself, you’ll find it much easier to create healthy boundaries and confidently stick to them even when others confront you or try to manipulate you into not honoring them.

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

People stay in mediocre relationships for different reasons. Sometimes it’s based on their financial situation and sometimes it’s based on emotions. It can also be a combination of these. The underlying reason in all cases is fear.

Before I talk about these fears and what can be done about them, I’d like to recommend that if you’re not feeling satisfied in your current relationship, ask yourself if you want your relationship to work and if you’re willing to work on making it better. If so, the next step is to find out if your partner is interested in having a better relationship with you and if he/she is also willing to do the necessary work to improve it.

If you both want things to be better between you, then I advise you to get the help of a coach or counselor who can first guide you in exploring the underlying causes of the challenges you’re experiencing and then provide you with tools and strategies for transforming your relationship from mediocre to magnificent.

You’ll also need to be ready for the possibility that once you uncover the root problems, you or your partner might not be as ready as you thought to make the necessary changes to make your relationship work. I’ll share a personal story about this in a few moments.

If you know from the start that you or your partner aren’t willing to do the necessary work to improve your relationship, then what? In this case, it’s time to look at your fears and what’s keeping you stuck in a relationship that no longer lights you up.

If you’re afraid of not being able to financially sustain yourself outside of the relationship, my best advice is to start taking steps to become more financially self-reliant. The steps you can take will depend on your specific situation. If, for example, you and your partner have separate bank accounts and share paying for joint expenses, think about how you can you start saving more money. It might mean not stopping at a coffee shop on the way to work or not buying new clothes for a while. Or perhaps you’ll have to stop going out to restaurants for lunches or dinners. Is it possible to get another part time job? Do some brainstorming around how you can save and/or earn more money.

Another option is to consider asking a family member or good friend if you can stay with them for a while until you’re able to afford a place to live. Then make it a top priority to focus on improving your financial situation so you can move into your own place.

The questions to ask yourself are: 1) Am I prepared to face my fears and not let them stop me? 2) What am I willing to give up? and 3) What am I willing to do in order to be able to leave my relationship?

If you believe you can financially support yourself and you’re still choosing to stay in an unfulfilling relationship, there’s a good chance the reason is based on fear of the unknown or fear of being alone. Even if your relationship isn’t great, at least you’re familiar with it and you know you can manage it because you’re managing it right now.

You may have fears about what your life will be like if you end the relationship and end up on your own. If you’re afraid that your life could end up being worse or that you’ll never find another mate, you might decide to stay where you are rather than take that risk.

If you can relate to this scenario, I encourage you to explore what you’re really afraid of and ask yourself if you’re prepared to settle or if you’re willing to face your fears and courageously walk into the unknown.

No matter what situation you find yourself in, I can tell you from my personal experience that it’s much easier to explore what options are better for you if you seek the support of a coach or counselor who can guide you each step of the way.

Let me tell you a personal story that relates to all of this. After about 8 years of marriage, I found myself feeling that my husband and I were drifting apart. I was growing and expanding in my awareness of self and exploring my spirituality in new ways and my husband wasn’t. In fact, he was trying to discourage me from moving in this new direction, telling me I was being led down the garden path and I was losing myself. The truth was, I was finding myself and getting to know myself on a much deeper level than ever before.

Neither one of us wanted our marriage to end. After seeing a counselor together and individually for a number of months, it became clear to me that my husband was not interested in personal or spiritual growth. He was trying to make changes to make me happy but ended up slipping back into old and familiar patterns. I had to make a decision. Stay in the marriage even though I could feel my Spirit dying more and more as time went on, or take the leap and end our marriage.

I decided to take the leap and I’m so glad I did because about 20 years ago, I met the man I’m still with today and we’ve created a relationship with one another that we both acknowledge is beyond what we ever dreamed was possible.

As a result of taking this leap, and many other leaps in my life, I’ve come to believe that when we have the courage to follow our inner wisdom and guidance, we will always be led to the fulfillment of our heart’s deepest desires.

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?

I agree that in order to better understand ourselves, we need to be willing to ask ourselves some tough questions and a great place to start is to ask, “Am I willing to take 100% responsibility for what my life and my relationships look like today?”

The truth is, unless you’re willing to let go of blaming other people or circumstances in your life for whatever challenges you’re experiencing, you’ll never be able to change anything. This has nothing to do with blaming yourself either. Focusing on blame changes nothing and will only keep you stuck.

Once you’ve taken responsibility, the next step is to ask yourself, what’s really going on when you get triggered by others and react with anger, hurt, disappointment, etc. When you no longer blame others for how you feel, it forces you to look deeper. Your triggers are clues that can lead you to the unhealed wounds that are the root causes of your relationship and life challenges, including your inability to love yourself.

As you become aware of your wounds, you then need to ask yourself what you’re willing to do to heal these wounds so that they will no longer have power over your ability to love yourself and others.

I admit, when I first learned about the importance of taking responsibility for all my feelings and reactions to others, I had trouble accepting this. I told myself that my feelings were justified, since they were the result of someone else’s actions. I believed that if they acted differently, then I would feel differently. Sounds logical, right?

Well, even though there’s some truth to that, as I continued on my healing journey, I uncovered an even deeper truth. I was able to see that whenever I got triggered it was because an unhealed wound was activated, and my reactions were simply projections of this wound.

It’s been my experience that the more I’m able to take responsibility, uncover and heal my wounds, the more I’m able to love myself and the better my life and my relationships become. It’s been a process and even though I’ve been doing inner healing work for over 40 years, I still get triggered at times as more layers of my past wounds come to the surface. The difference now is that when I get triggered, I become aware of it more quickly, so I can take responsibility for it instead of blaming others. I’ve also noticed that my triggers are not as intense as they were in the past and I’m able to move through them a lot faster.

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 believe it’s very important for our emotional and overall wellbeing to become comfortable with and enjoy being alone. When we need to be with others in order to feel safe, secure or loved, this creates a state of co-dependency where our emotional state is dependent on being in the company of another.

Being alone is a wonderful opportunity to reflect on your life and to explore what’s working, what isn’t and to connect with what you really want…without having anyone there trying to influence you.

When you’re alone, you can indulge in whatever you wish to experience and give to yourself whatever you want. It’s incredibly liberating and it’s a wonderful opportunity to build a more loving relationship with yourself.

If you’re not sure how to be alone, start by scheduling some alone time every week, or daily if you can. Do whatever you enjoy. You could go for a walk, take yourself to the movies or for lunch. It may feel uncomfortable at first and over time you might find yourself enjoying it so much that you’ll become more adventuresome as you explore other activities you can enjoy alone.

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?

The more you know, love and accept yourself the easier it is to understand, love and accept others. When you recognize that everyone, including you, is doing the best they can, it’s much easier to have compassion and empathy for others when you notice them reacting to you. You’ll also be better able to not take their reactions personally and will find it much easier to forgive.

As you begin to understand the root cause of your triggers and take responsibility for them, you’ll begin to communicate in more effective and loving ways with others thus creating more meaningful and deeper connections with them. If they’re open to it, you can also share with them what you’ve learned, so they too can benefit from increasing their self-awareness resulting in an even better relationship with one another.

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

The best way to better understand and accept yourself is to start by asking self-reflective questions, including the ones I previously shared. It’s important to be brutally honest with yourself when answering them if you truly desire to better know yourself. It’s also important not to judge yourself in any way. If you do, you could get stuck in a downward spiral and the point of this is to move toward self-love, not to beat yourself up. One way you can help yourself during this process is to focus on acknowledging yourself for your willingness and courage to go through this process, so you can become a better version of YOU.

Since a society is made up of individuals, as more and more individuals make a conscious decision to better understand and accept themselves, our society will shift from one of blaming and shaming others to supporting and empowering them to be the best they can be.

Imagine the shift that would take place when those in power and those who control the media would begin promoting messages of love, acceptance, and compassion for ourselves 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?

Every morning I spend 15 to 45 minutes meditating. Taking this time to be still and to connect with my heart and soul helps me to remember the truth about who I am and I’m able better able to connect with the love that I feel for myself. It also helps me to be more grounded and connected throughout the day.

Journaling is another strategy that I’ve found to be helpful. I started journaling when I was around 17 years old and this practice has supported me over the years in connecting more deeply with myself. Through the act of writing down my thoughts, fears, concerns, etc., I often uncover what’s blocking me from loving myself and from moving forward in my life. This awareness provides me with insights and opens up new possibilities for me that weren’t visible to me before.

Another strategy I use is to replace any negative self-talk that I become aware of with a positive and more empowering thought. For example, if I catch myself beating myself up for making a mistake, I lovingly tell myself that it’s okay. I don’t have to be perfect. I did my best and that’s good enough. It’s impossible to love ourselves if we keep talking to ourselves in unloving ways and this simple strategy can make a huge difference.

Booking “me time” in my calendar is something I started doing recently. It’s an opportunity for me to let go and give myself permission to do nothing or to do whatever I feel inspired to do. Sometimes I read. Sometimes I sit outside and enjoy the spectacular view of the Andes Mountains in front of my home. I’m thinking of picking up my guitar again. since it’s been a while since I’ve played it and I’m also starting to feel a desire to start exploring my creativity through watercolor painting. The beauty of scheduling this time is that there are no rules and no limits to what I can do.

One of the most powerful strategies I use is honoring my boundaries. I used to be a people pleaser and always put the needs and wants of others above my own. I was taught that it was selfish to think of my needs first and yet I learned over the years that giving to others from a feeling of obligation or to be accepted only led to feelings of anger, resentment and burnout. I now believe that saying NO to others more often when it means saying YES to myself is an act of self-love. It’s become easier and easier over time.

I know others struggle with this too, so I created a free Create Healthy Boundaries Guide to help them out. It’s filled with a number of scripts you can use to confidently and lovingly respond to number of different scenarios you might find yourself in.

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?

As much as I love being a guest on podcasts, I have to admit that I don’t listen to them very often. I’m a visual learner, so I prefer to read.

The first self-help book that got me started on my healing journey in my early 20’s is a book by Jess Lair called, I Ain’t Much Baby But I’m All I’ve Got. This book helped me begin to look at myself differently. It helped me to see myself beyond my limiting and negative beliefs that had shaped my life up until that point. It also gave me the courage to step out of my comfort zone and to start moving in a new and more empowering direction in my life.

Another book that I love, and I’ve read a couple times is called, The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. The more I live according to these agreements — be impeccable with your word, don’t take anything personally, don’t make assumptions, always do your best — the more I experience peace, love and joy within myself and in my relationships. It’s not always easy to live according to these agreements and yet the results have been life changing for me.

The book, The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman is one I recommend, especially to couples. So often we start believing our partner doesn’t love us when in fact they’re showing us their love through their love language and not ours. When we understand our love language and the love language of our partners, and other people who matter to us, we can then do our best to show our love in ways that others actually recognize it and can receive it.

Of course, one of my favorite books is my own called, Magnify Your Magnificence: Your Pathway to the Life & Relationships You Truly Desire. This book was actually channeled through me and I share how this happened in the preface. I made reference to this book earlier when talking about the program I plan to develop around the content in the book. The only thing I’ll add is that the messages in the book are very powerful and I love how the information is presented in a simple step-by-step process that can be implemented right away. You don’t have to wait until you finish the book to start experiencing results.

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…

That’s a great question. I believe a movement that focuses on self-healing and self-love would make a huge difference in the lives of people from around the world. I’ve often said that there’s no possibility for us to have peace on earth when we don’t have peace within ourselves or within our families. I believe the path to this peace is through healing and self-love.

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?

There are so many life lesson quotes that I love and live by and the one that stands out for me is one I referred to earlier: “When you take 100% responsibility for ALL your experiences, you take back your power to create the life and relationships you truly desire.”

It wasn’t until I stopped blaming my painful childhood for everything that wasn’t working in my life and for my feelings of sadness, lack of self-love and self-worth that I was able to recreate my life to what I’m experiencing today.

Every time I take full responsibility for whatever I’m experiencing, I’m able to tap into my inner wisdom and guidance to see a path that can lead me to what I really want. Following this path isn’t always easy. In fact, there have been so many times in my life when I made some very difficult choices like resigning from my secure teaching position and ending my marriage in the same year.

By taking responsibility for the fact that both my career and my marriage were no longer aligned with what I wanted in my life, I was able to let them go and open the door to new possibilities. I now live a live that I absolutely love, and I’m blessed to share it with the love of my life.

I believe that anyone can create whatever they want and make their dreams come true and the first step is to take back their power by taking 100% responsibility for what their life and relationships look like today. The next step is to take time to reflect on what they REALLY want and then start courageously moving in the direction of their dreams, one small step at a time. The key is to not let fear, or the opinions of others, take you off your chosen path.

Stay focused on what YOU want and listen to and follow your inner guidance that will lead you to it.

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

You’re welcome. It was a pleasure sharing some of the insights and wisdom I’ve gleaned through my life experiences and I hope it inspires others to create a life and relationships that they love.

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