Parham Parastaran: “I remind myself daily that I am not perfect”

The secret to life is connection…connection with other humans…parents, children, friends, etc… connection is LOVE and you cannot connect and love others unless you love yourself!! As a part of my series about “Learning To Finally Love Yourself” I had the pleasure to interview Parham Parastaran, an Iranian-American entrepreneur and author with a passion for […]

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The secret to life is connection…connection with other humans…parents, children, friends, etc… connection is LOVE and you cannot connect and love others unless you love yourself!!

As a part of my series about “Learning To Finally Love Yourself” I had the pleasure to interview Parham Parastaran, an Iranian-American entrepreneur and author with a passion for discussing mental health issues in the business community. After fleeing Iran as a child during the midst of the Iranian revolution, Parham became the epitome of the American Dream. He built multi-million-dollar business Car-X Tire & Auto, a franchise of tire and auto repair shops that quickly grew from a single store in Champaign, Illinois to 16 locations.

Although he enjoyed success as an entrepreneur, he had a secret: He suffered from severe depression and addiction. A rock-bottom moment led to signing himself up for psychoanalysis, starting a journey that opened up the darkest doors within and found him revisiting a childhood of trauma. Over 15 years after that first psychoanalysis session, he chronicles his powerful story in new memoir, Perfect Pain.

Shifting to a focus on mental health advocacy, Parastaran stepped away as a business owner and successfully sold Car-X Tire & Auto in 2017 to Monro Muffler Brake, a New York-based publicly traded auto company that operates in 25 states and owns over 1,000 locations, adding over 15 million dollars in revenue to Monro’s business.

He graduated from the University of Illinois, and later attained an MBA through the university, where he often returns to give talks to current business students. Parham is married to his wife, Jennifer, and they live in Champaign, Illinois with their three daughters.

Thank you so much for joining us! 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?

My projects in this area haven’t changed. My focus is to engage with as many people as possible regarding their journeys of self-discovery, and ultimately, mental health. I do this one-on-on, through interviews, podcasts and national radio. I like to use different channels of communication to deliver the message of positive mental health.

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?

I have too many stories to tell. That’s why I wrote my memoir Perfect Pain. The initial journey was filled with many struggles and many successes. What started out as way to “fix” my 1500 dollars a week cocaine and alcohol addiction turned out to be a journey into my soul and a journey into better understanding who I am and what my internal conflicts were all about. Through 15 years of psychoanalysis, and over 1200 sessions to date, I managed to overcome my addictions, understand the root of my conflicts and ultimately love and understand myself.

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’m surprised it’s that high! Your appearance is just another way of describing your self-esteem. The reality is that you can be a very good-looking person and not feel like you are good looking. This is because at your core, the insecurities and conflicts that existed in your childhood still remain unresolved. At the same time, you may be an overweight individual or average looking person (by society’s standards) and feel absolutely terrific about yourself. This individual has developed a strong sense of self and self-love as a child, which is largely due to their upbringing.

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?

The secret to life is connection…connection with other humans…parents, children, friends, etc… connection is LOVE and you cannot connect and love others unless you love yourself!!

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

We stay in relationships that we think we deserve! We get what we think!!! So, if we stay in a mediocre relationship then that’s what we feel we deserve. What we think we deserve is a function of how we feel about ourselves. If we are weak at the core and have a weak sense of our self, then we will inadvertently find ourselves in a mediocre 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?

First of all, anyone who blindly loves themselves is basically a narcissist and by definition has insecurities and issues. If you are self aware, I believe that you need to love yourself! Whoever you are at any given time still deserves to be loved regardless of any imperfections! With that said, you should still identify and recognize the need to improve aspects of yourself in the areas you find need for improvement! For example, I was a person that frequently exaggerated and altered the truth to inflate my weak self-esteem. I clearly didn’t like this about myself and I clearly recognized that I needed to get to the root of why I did this. But while I was working through this I was capable of loving and forgiving myself for this imperfection.

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)?

It’s absolutely critical! Being alone is the practice of sitting in your own thoughts and feelings. It forces you to see who you are, the REAL YOU. I see this all the time in relationships and in daily practice. There are those that bounce from one relationship to another because they can’t stand being alone. They are afraid. This also applies to people on a daily basis, we are on the phone, TV, out with friends. We stay busy and occupied to never face ourselves. But, you can’t grow if you don’t face yourself and get to know who you are!!

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?

Self-understanding and self-love mean that you are capable of being “real” and authentic in regards to who you are. It further means that you must allow yourself to be vulnerable…I can’t think of a better characteristic that will help you connect and have deeper relationships than being able to be vulnerable!

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

Individuals need NOT to feel bad for working on their insecurities and weaknesses. They need to view it as a sign of strength and not a sign of weakness. The same applies to society…society needs to embrace and acknowledge the strength that comes from self-development. Also, if we have a world full of people connecting with their “real” selves than we will have a happier society and therefore a better world!

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?

I don’t have five strategies. I have only one. I remind myself daily that I am not perfect and that a better version of me is out there. How can you not love yourself when you are aware and progressing?

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 only have one favorite book and I read all the time. I have probably read it 30 times. Drama of a gifted child by Alice Miller. It always reminds me that I was once a little boy and that will never go away!

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 movement would be simple. Bring mental health awareness and self-development to schools at an early age. Don’t wait until someone is depressed or diagnosed with anxiety to begin talking about it. Teach kids at an early age to ask “why” do I feel this way? “Why” do I want to be a doctor or fireman? This will help make people be more authentic.

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 assume responsibility for everything that is happening in my life. You get what you think about…If I think negative and think ill of myself than the world will present me with events, people and circumstances that confirm my negativity or ill thinking. I focus on “me” and my role my attitude and actions play in everything. I am extremely self-aware and it’s powerful!!

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