Melody Godfred: “Authenticity is the foundation of self love”

Authenticity is the foundation of self love. Until you can know and be your true self, it’s hard to embrace and love yourself. One way to connect with your true, authentic self is to revisit with your childhood self — the version of you that existed before the dust of adulthood settled in. Use a childhood picture […]

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Authenticity is the foundation of self love. Until you can know and be your true self, it’s hard to embrace and love yourself. One way to connect with your true, authentic self is to revisit with your childhood self — the version of you that existed before the dust of adulthood settled in. Use a childhood picture that brings you joy as your lock screen on your phone. When you look at it throughout the day, ask yourself, “What would she do?” Make decisions from that place of childlike wonder and joy and see how your life transforms. When I reconnected with my childhood self, I gained the confidence to publish my newest book, Self Love Poetry for Thinkers & Feelers. My childhood self was a poet and although I grew up thinking that being a professional creative wasn’t a reasonable career, now, as an adult, I’ve honored my childhood self and her dream by publishing a book. Even the book’s dedication is to my childhood self.

As a part of my series about “How To Learn To Finally Love Yourself” I had the pleasure to interview Melody Godfred, the Self Love Philosopher and author of Self Love Poetry for Thinkers & Feelers and The ABCs of Self Love. Melody is also the founder of Fred and Far, a global self-love movement powered by the Self Love Pinky Ring, a ring she designed to serve as a symbol and reminder of self-love that is worn by women around the world. She’s passionate about empowering women to choose themselves and transform their lives.

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.

My current career as a self-love author and community leader has very much been about finding my way home to myself. As a child, creative self-expression was my soul’s playground. From writing music to poetry, I gravitated towards experiences grounded in self-reflection and creativity that allowed me to connect deeply with others. As I grew up, I became increasingly competitive and began pursuing opportunities that fed my ego and need to achieve. This culminated in my brief career as a litigation attorney at a high-profile law firm in Los Angeles. In getting that job, I had reached a peak of achievement. The problem was, I had left my true self behind. When I realized how much I missed my creative, collaborative self, I left that job, started writing, and ultimately founded two companies: the first, Write In Color, my career development company, and the second Fred and Far, my self love movement. Both allow me to be deeply creative and human (two things the law did not). By stepping away from the law and choosing a career that is better aligned with my needs, I discovered my passion for helping others do the same. Today I have the privilege of engaging with thousands of people each day and empowering them to practice self love and self care so they too can build a life that is in alignment with who they are and what they need.

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 recently published my book Self Love Poetry for Thinkers and Feelers, which I’m proud to share was an Amazon #1 New Release. The book features 100 pairs of poems, each on a central theme related to self love including gratitude, forgiveness, surrender, and joy. The left side of each page ignites the left brain (thinkers), and the right side the right brain (feelers). When you read each pair of poems together, you achieve a deeper connection with your true self: which is what self love is all about. The poems are highlights from the most popular poetry I’ve written and shared on my Instagram account over the past four years, many of which have gone viral for embodying simple but deeply meaningful truths. Not only will reading my book, Self Love Poetry, give you a deeper sense of yourself, but it is also designed to fuel a more meaningful, hopeful connection with the world around you, too. One of my poems was recently featured on Today with Hoda and Jenna during their Hodavation feature, which was very exciting.

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?

My self love tipping point came when I was a new mother. My twin daughters were born six weeks early, and from that moment began the race to keep them safe and help them thrive. I was predisposed to sacrifice myself in service to others, but it reached a new level. By pursuing perfection and trying to control every outcome in order to protect my daughters, I broke myself apart and damaged my marriage as well. I had to learn that not only did I deserve my own love and care, but my very survival also depended on it. As I started working on myself, I realized that instead of pursuing perfection, which made me and everyone around me feel like nothing was ever good enough, I started pursuing authenticity. I got to know my true self and reframed my life so it would honor her. My self-acceptance brought me closer to myself and healed my relationships and cultivated a life for my family that we could all enjoy being part of. Today my daughters are eight. They too practice self love and self care because these are foundational elements of our family values.

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?

Our collective dissatisfaction has everything to do with our collective obsession with perfection. And that vision of perfection is becoming increasingly more narrow — and as such, more out of reach. Without the representation of diverse beauty standards, we don’t see ourselves in magazines, in movies, on social media. And when that happens, who we are, which is all we are ever meant to be, simply isn’t enough. And so we start chipping away at everything that makes us unique. From the bridge of the nose, to the bend of the hip, we alter ourselves physically, and digitally. We Facetune away our histories, our nuances, our very essence and then wonder why we feel empty, dissatisfied, unhappy, unloved. The greatest consequence of the obsession with perfection is that we sacrifice our authenticity for it. And our authenticity is what sets us apart from the billions of other people on the planet. We are intentionally one of a kind, born without a copy in the world, past present, or future. Who we are is our birthright. We shouldn’t give that up so easily.

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 how you achieve peace — with yourself, and with your world. Until you practice it, your focus will be on everyone else, which means that you won’t be meeting your own needs. This is why a lack of self love often leads to a lack of positivity and joy. Self love is what gives you the tools to forgive yourself for past mistakes, instead of being weighed down by guilt. It empowers you to experience uncertainty without fear because you’re rooted in your worth. Loving yourself is what allows you to claim your worth and frees you from seeking validation or approval from others.

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

A mediocre relationship with another person is typically a symptom of a mediocre relationship with yourself. When you don’t know yourself or honor your needs, it’s easy to stay in a mediocre relationship. Mediocre can be safe, familiar, just enough… but not deeply fulfilling or vibrant. If you find yourself in a mediocre relationship, turn your focus inward: are you connected to your joy? Do you know what makes you happy? Are you nurturing yourself? Are you living — or just passing the days? If you discover that you are disconnected from your true self, your needs, your joy — start there. Once you start cultivating an exceptional relationship with yourself, you can start to do the same for your relationship with someone else. If you find that your relationship isn’t able to be anything more than it is, it might be time to decide whether it’s the right relationship 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?

Due to the pandemic, basic survival has been top of mind for me. Making sure we have the house stocked with essentials, providing a warm and happy environment for my kids. But due to my intense focus on my home and my kids, my relationship with myself and my husband have suffered. I haven’t asked myself the basic questions that I usually explore to ensure that I am in alignment with my true self. I haven’t made space to nurture my relationship with my spouse. Many of the questions below are questions that I am now revisiting because I want to do more than survive in 2020. I want to reclaim my joy. These are questions you can ask yourself when you are alone, or with your partner to discover where to focus your love and attention.

Do I know what I need in order to be fulfilled on a daily basis? Am I meeting those needs?

Am I compromising my long-term joy for short-term safety?

How do I actively nurture my relationships (including with myself) instead of being on auto-pilot?

What am I sacrificing right now, and why?

What am I working towards right now, and why?

Am I being brave, or am I letting fear lead?

Is it easy to be in an intimate relationship with me, or are there barriers?

Am I being true to myself in my daily choices, or am I conforming to an external ideal?

How am I replenishing my energy right now?

What gives me delight?

How am I communicating my needs with the people in my life?

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)?

2020 has forced us to be alone — both literally and metaphorically — in an unprecedented way. This has been both a blessing and the greatest challenge many of us have had to face. To be cut off from the comforts of other people, from our closest friends to passing strangers, has been incredibly hard. And at the same time, it has provided an opportunity to experience the self reliance that Emerson wrote about in the 1800s. He explained, “” Nothing can bring you peace but yourself.” And I find this to be profoundly true. Solitude offers a unique opportunity to cultivate self-awareness. To truly know yourself, without bending to social norms or pressure. The challenge is to embrace solitude without filling it with distractions like our phones and televisions. These distractions rob us of the gifts of solitude, while further alienating us from the people we love. Many of us don’t know how to be alone or are afraid of it, because we simply haven’t tried it without our digital devices. The best way to experience healthy solitude is to turn off the electronics and instead move your mind and body. Read a book, try an adult coloring book, do some gardening, cook a meal, learn to meditate, journal your feelings, practice stretching or yoga. The more you move — mind and body — the better you’ll feel.

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 greatest conflicts in relationships stem from either triggered wounds or having unmet expectations. A wound is a traumatic experience or emotional pain that we hold deep within ourselves, often beyond the bounds of our consciousness. When we are unaware of this wound and haven’t done the work to heal it, our partners may inadvertently trigger that wound — causing not only deep pain but also the distance between partners as we project that wound on the one we love. When you do the work of getting to know and love yourself, part of that is going to your darkest parts — like your wounds — and feeling and healing them. In my book Self Love Poetry I share this poem: “Want to experience time travel? Love yourself enough to revisit old wounds and heal them.” Healing old wounds is truly one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself — and your relationship. The second way to deepen your relationship with others is to love yourself enough to forego expectations and replace them with gratitude. In my book, The ABCs of Self Love, I explain, “Expectations closed my eyes. Gratitude opened them.” Self love empowers you to not only know what you need but to have the confidence to express it. Instead of having silent expectations, you can express your needs and make agreements with your partner to honor them. The second part of this is of course gratitude. Instead of focusing on all the things your partner isn’t doing for you (expectations) be grateful for all the good and express it — often. Because gratitude changes everything — within yourself, within your relationship, and within the world.

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

Knowing and accepting yourself doesn’t just happen naturally. It requires work. I think this is the biggest reason why most people are surprised at some point in their lives to discover that they don’t actually know themselves all that well. For me, I had an awakening when I was in my early twenties. I was living with roommates for the first time, and one of them said I was very argumentative. I was shocked. I went to my closest friends and family and asked, “Am I argumentative?” They all laughed and said, “Yes, of course.” I truly had no idea. I hadn’t done the work to know myself — both my lightness, and my darkness, my skills and my weaknesses. Once I discovered this new fact about myself, I was able to dive in and learn why I was prone to arguing, and from there decide whether that is something I wanted to continue doing. (Update: I’ve learned the healing power of the phrase, you’re right).

Now, I’ve learned to make space in my life to reflect and be intentional with regard to how I live my life. Whether that means quietly meditating, journaling, or most frequently expressing my thoughts and feelings through poetry. I take stock of how I move through the world, and in doing so I get to choose what I want to heal, what I want to nurture, and what I want to let go of. It can be as simple as stretching to relieve some pain in my left hip, or as complex as making peace with the fact that a long-term friend of mine has ended and it’s okay to let go.

From a societal standpoint, there is tremendous pressure to conform to a perfect ideal. This disincentive getting to know yourself, and worse yet, deciding that you are different from the norm and proudly sharing that. The more as a society we can share individuals’ stories, the easier it will be for each of us to embrace our own. Through my self love movement Fred and Far, I get to share the self love stories of women around the world. I’m consistently blown away by the strength, vulnerability, and magnitude of each woman’s story. And from the comments and DMs I get after I share each one, I know that these stories are changing the world and making it easier for others to be and embrace their true selves, too.

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?

When I wrote my book The ABCs of Self Love, my goal was to make self love actionable in daily life. It’s easy to tell someone to love yourself — but that begs the question, “How?” Here are five of my favorite strategies from the book:

A is for Authenticity

Authenticity is the foundation of self love. Until you can know and be your true self, it’s hard to embrace and love yourself. One way to connect with your true, authentic self is to revisit with your childhood self — the version of you that existed before the dust of adulthood settled in. Use a childhood picture that brings you joy as your lock screen on your phone. When you look at it throughout the day, ask yourself, “What would she do?” Make decisions from that place of childlike wonder and joy and see how your life transforms. When I reconnected with my childhood self, I gained the confidence to publish my newest book, Self Love Poetry for Thinkers & Feelers. My childhood self was a poet and although I grew up thinking that being a professional creative wasn’t a reasonable career, now, as an adult, I’ve honored my childhood self and her dream by publishing a book. Even the book’s dedication is to my childhood self.

B is for Boundaries

Boundaries are a powerful tool for knowing your needs and honoring them. When you set and communicate a boundary, you’re not only actively loving yourself, you’re honoring your relationships by being transparent and proactive about communication. Think about where you can set some boundaries in each of the following situations: friendships, family relationships, work and pleasure. Remember: boundaries aren’t only about what you say no to, they are also about what you say yes to and make space for. For me, setting boundaries has deeply enhanced my relationships because I don’t feel taken advantage of or depleted anymore. I’ve set clear boundaries around the kinds of conversations I feel comfortable having, and when I’m comfortable having them (i.e. no bad news conversations before 12 noon).

F is for Forgiveness (Freedom)

So much of the weight that pulls us down and inhibits our ability to experience joy and love has to do with being wronged by others or doing wrong ourselves. Forgiveness is, in this respect, freedom. For both parties. Write two letters of forgiveness — one to yourself for something you blame yourself for, and one to someone that you have previously been unable to forgive. Feel the feelings. Get them on paper. Let go. Whether you send the forgiveness letter or not doesn’t matter. The freedom comes from feeling it. The most powerful thing I’ve ever done is forgive myself. As a recovering perfectionist, I have a lifetime of “I should have done better” experiences cataloged in my mind. By writing a forgiveness letter, I addressed my tendency to be profoundly hard on myself. I let go of mistakes from the past, and freed up space to see all the good instead.

L is for Light

Each of us are born with an inner light: our true self, which expresses itself as intuition. An inner knowing that guides us where we need to go. When we rush through life from distraction to distraction, and make decisions from a place of ego, or guilt, or fear, that light gets dimmed, and our connection with ourselves gets lost. To reclaim your inner light, and to give your intuition room to lead, light a candle every night for a week and meditate on it for twenty minutes. As you watch the light flickering, mentally clear away the barriers that stand between you and your true self. And once you connect, use your light to brighten the world around you. When I engage in this candlelight ritual, I find that my intuition gets amplified and the universe starts feeding me answers — big ones, and small ones, from helping me decide what to do next with my business, or knowing whether to turn left or right in a parking lot to find a space. Intuition is real — be prepared to listen when yours speaks to you.

R is for Rest

In a culture where busy is worn as a badge of honor, rest is often treated as a four-letter word. The problem is, without meaningful rest, our imaginations shut down, as do our bodies. A big element of self love is self care, and there is nothing more essential to self care than rest. Rest is more than just the sleep you get after a long day. It’s deliberate downtime throughout the week. Schedule a few periods of rest on your calendar at random times throughout the day — even if you only have thirty minutes, schedule that rest period and take it, without distractions (that’s right, no phones, no TV). Whether you’re taking a nap or are awake, simply be in a state of rest. Let your mind wander, your body relax, and your soul replenish. My most critical period of rest is in the morning. I give myself at least a half hour to ease into the day before my three kids and multiple email accounts take control.

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?

We’re lucky to live in a time where self love is no longer a dirty word. For a long time self love and self care were perceived as selfish and negative. Now there are an abundance of resources that will not only empower you to know and love yourself, but will enrich your relationships as well. My favorite author who writes about authenticity and self love is Brené Brown. Her work is so thoughtful, thorough and clear. When it comes to intimacy and relationships, I love Esther Perel’s work (her podcast, TED Talks, and books are all phenomenal). Her take on desire will transform how you view and engage in relationships.

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’m profoundly grateful for Fred and Far, the self-love movement I started in 2016. Being part of this community of extraordinary women around the world has changed my life. Each day, I am privileged to watch this special sisterhood practice self love and self care as they go out into the world and transform it for the better. My wish would be for more people to embrace self love as a natural and necessary part of our culture, and teach our children from a young age to embrace their authentic selves and take responsibility for their own happiness, worth and wholeness. If we could all go out into the world from a place of wholeness, imagine the possibilities?

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?

“I thought 2020 would be the year I got everything I wanted. Now I know 2020 is the year I appreciate everything I have.” I wrote this quote in the early months of the pandemic, and it has informed every single one of my days since. We all came into 2020 with big plans. This was going to be THE year we manifested our dreams. 2020 had other plans. And while there has been immeasurable suffering and uncertainty and loss, there has also been a monumental shift in our perception: we have unprecedented clarity. 2020 means perfect vision, and for me that means seeing everything I have and appreciating it instead of focusing on what I’m missing. 2020 has made gratitude the foundation of my life, and in that has empowered my self love, my joy, and my resilience.

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

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