It is important to love yourself because you teach others how to love you. When you love, honor and take good care of yourself, other people will respect you for that and model your behavior. It is also important that we take the time to understand ourselves too. Part of understanding ourselves is to understand our values, needs and wants. If we do not know what our values are, we cannot expect others to understand and honor them. I f we do not make our needs and wants clear, we will find ourselves always giving and never receiving.
As a part of my series about “Learning To Finally Love Yourself” I had the pleasure to interview Montrella Cowan.
Montrella Cowan is the founder of Affinity Health Affairs, LLC. As a licensed independent clinical social worker (LICSW), she is a holistic (mind-body-spirit) talk therapist and relationship coach, trusted for her high-quality service, knowledge, personal care, and passion to help people have healthy relationships and families. In addition to her private practice, Montrella’s niche of a “practical approach” has helped her to become a widely sort after motivational speaker and trainer on national and international platforms.
Montrella is also a specialist in Employee Assistance and WorkLife Programs for the federal government, nonprofit and private sectors. She currently serves as an employee assistance professional for the United States Department of Health and Human Services.
Montrella earned a Bachelor degree in Interdisciplinary Studies and Social Work from Catholic University and a Master degree of Social Work from Howard University. Montrella is from Brooklyn, New York and currently resides in Washington, DC. She is a proud mother of two and enjoys watching movies, cooking, dancing, traveling, and spending time with her family.
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.
As a little girl, I always got a lot of joy out of helping others. It was not until later that I realized my calling of being a talk therapist and life coach. I truly believe this is my calling. I experience a surge of adrenaline every time I help someone climb out of a rut and take a stand in his or her greatness. I believe that social workers are born, not made. I love that through my social work lens, I can meet my coachees and clients right where they are and can always find and help them to see their own strengths in and around them.
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 am working on two major projects at the moment to help people along their path of self- understanding and a better sense of wellbeing in their relationships. Both of these can be found on my website at https://affinity411.com One is my “Love Yourself First” online course. This is an interactive course that allows attendees to accomplish three things:
- How your self-image has been created by your past.
- How to overcome the past roadblocks of a negative self image.
- Create a new self-image that leaves you inspired, happy, and fulfilled.
Second, is my book that is being published in 2019. It is called the Purse: An Essential Guide to Healthy Relationships. It is an extraordinary teaching memoire that will provide readers with validation of their own struggles with relationships. More importantly, every reader will have gained valuable tools and recipes to create and maintain a healthy relationship with self and others.
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 personal experience as a survivor of rape, who then became a teenage mother is probably one of the defining moments in my life. In the early 1990s, there was not a #Metoo movement. I practically went through this trauma alone, as the shame and guilt haunted me day and night. I blamed myself. For anyone who has been violated in such a way, this definitely damages your ability to understand, accept and love yourself. My journey to becoming more self aware, self-accepting, self-loving has been an amazing journey of discovery. Once I became a mother, I knew that I had to be the best that I could be to provide my daughter with the best life possible. Through books, mentors, and intentional pursuit of insight, I now love and accept myself wholeheartedly.
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 the majority of the US population are not very satisfied with itself because we have allowed other people, especially our family members, society, and various forms of media to define what satisfactory appearance is and what it is not. We do not give ourselves enough credit nor do we appreciate ourselves as we should. Self-image really does start from within. Men and women who are not very satisfied with their appearance have to start with loving themselves within before they can love themselves outwardly.
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?
It is important to love yourself because you teach others how to love you. When you love, honor and take good care of yourself, other people will respect you for that and model your behavior. It is also important that we take the time to understand ourselves too. Part of understanding ourselves is to understand our values, needs and wants. If we do not know what our values are, we cannot expect others to understand and honor them. I f we do not make our needs and wants clear, we will find ourselves always giving and never receiving. This can build up resentment with those who we care deeply about. Once we know and understand ourselves we can start to engage with those people who honor us and remove ourselves for negative and toxic situations.
Why do you think people stay in mediocre relationships? What advice would you give to our readers regarding this?
I see this often with both my singles and couples clients. People stay in mediocre relationships because of false expectations appearing real, a.k.a. FEAR; convincing themselves that they do not deserve better; something will miraculously change even though they are doing the same thing, or they have compromised their desires, believing that “this is as good as it gets.” My number one advice would be to seek some help for a relationship therapist or life coach. My most sort after service is my couples coaching, whether it be for two hours to resolve a major challenge or three months to repair and reinvent the relationship.
When we talk about self-love and understanding we don’t necessarily mean blindly loving and accepting ourselves the way we are. Many times self-understanding requires us to reflect and ask ourselves the tough questions, to realize perhaps where we need to make changes in ourselves to be better not only for ourselves but 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?
Three surface-cutting questions you can ask yourself are, (1) Who am I now versus who do I long to be? (2) How would I describe my ideal partner? (3) Who do I need to be to have my ideal partner? One of my biggest values is education. However, when I was involved in a relationship with my son’s father, he did not share in this value. I realized that my life was making a turn for the worse, because it was constricting rather than expanding. Once I overcame the false expectations appearing real (FEAR), I quit this relationship. I started to pick up all the pieces of me and got back in the driver’s seat of my life. I went back to school. It has been uphill since then!
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)?
Sometimes a breakup -even if it was a really bad one- is a blessing in disguise. If we can start to focus on the lessons learned from past relationships when can then take this new knowledge and apply it to a more healthy and loving relationship. Quiet time alone is often the best time to get centered, hear our authentic selves, and truly appreciate ourselves. If we instead jump from one relationship to another, without learning to be comfortable being with ourselves, we continue to attract the same toxic relationships over and over again.
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?
Relationships should be a mutual exchange of energy between two people. Self-understanding and self-love are forms of emotional intelligence. When you take the time to do this important self-work, connecting with others is a lot easier. You are also able to validate others, as you are now able to validate yourself. This is a huge part of any successful relationship.
In your experience, what should a) individuals and b) society, do to help people better understand themselves and accept themselves?
On an individual level, people should read more books such as Psycho Cybernetics by Dr. Maxwell Maltz to help better understand and accept themselves. At the societal level, place higher emphasis on positive images and role models, rather than glamorizing the negative, such as suicide ideation and such.
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?
Five strategies that I implement to maintain with and love for myself are as follows:
- Practice spirituality. It is important that we recognize that we are part of a divine and infinite source. With that comes faith. Once we accept our true nature as spiritual beings, we will know that we have everything we need and want and can be whoever we want to be.
- Dress for success. A wise person once said, “Fake it ‘till you make it.” I take pride in dressing according to my body type and wearing my hair in a style that fits the shape of my face. It is okay to get a makeover every now and then.
- Maintain physical health and wellness. I try to exercise at least four times per week. My auntie always told me, “Keep it moving!” We can do anything from a regular fitness routine to taking stairs, walking, or public transportation to get exercise. Another important part of physical health and wellness is through nutrition. Plenty of water, fresh fruits and vegetables, and other things that you know work. I also treat myself to massages and engage in other self-care activities. I schedule it just like I do for my business activities.
- Surround yourself with positive people. I ask my clients to check and see if the people in their lives are making more deposits or withdrawals. I stay away from people who are jealous and competing and surround myself with people who are healthy, loving and supportive.
- Study, study and study. I pride myself in learning new things to help me understand and love myself. One of my daily affirmations is, “Every day in every way, I get better and better.” At the beginning of each year, I set out to read a certain number of books for that year. I also attend conferences, specifically for women and other interests that I have.
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?
The number one book that I would recommend for self-psychology and intimacy would be Psycho Cybernetics by Dr. Maxwell Maltz. This book does a great job of explaining our self-image and how we can change it. It also covers specific topics, such as self-acceptance and forgiveness.
Eric Thomas of ET Inspires is one of my favorite motivational speakers related to self-acceptance and relationships.
One of my favorite authors is self-made millionaire Lisa Nichols of Motivating the Masses.
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…
My purpose is to be an example so that others are inspired to step into their greatness. If I could inspire a movement it would be, “Step Into Your Greatness!” I believe that every human being has a purpose on this planet. Too many people do not take the time to discover their life purpose, let alone live on purpose. My life coaching program helps people to discover and live their purpose.
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?
My favorite life lesson quote that I used to guide myself is as follows:
”Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
This quote has helped me to remember who I am and to not be afraid of me and my power. It has helped me to love myself and to love and appreciate others. This quote can help readers to recognize themselves and their greatness. This quote can help build readers’ confidence and courage to step into their greatness.
Thank you so much for your time and for your inspiring insights!