Fear: People stay in mediocre relationships because they know what to expect. There is a lot of comfort in knowing the habits of your partner, even if you wish he/she had different habits. The thought of trying to mix things up can really scare people because there is no telling how things might turn out.
As a part of my series about “Connecting With Yourself To Live With Better Relationships” I had the pleasure to interview Dr. Jameson Mercier, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Doctor of Marriage & Family Therapy. His areas of specialization include Marriage/Family Therapy, black fatherhood, and Relationship Systems Consulting. He is the creator of Manfident™ and Dadfident™. He earned his Ph.D. from Nova Southeastern University where he studied black fathers in their role as primary caregivers. He also earned Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Clinical Social Work. Dr. Mercier and his wife, Herdyne, own and operate their private practice, Mercier Wellness & Consulting, where they provide coaching and counseling services to individuals, couples and families. He serves the community in various capacities including counseling and mentoring teens and working with military veterans and families. In addition to their clinical work they host a weekly podcast called The Couples Counsel where they give marriage advice to couples. Dr. Mercier has been featured in various media outlets including HOT 105FM, The Miami Herald, The Huffington Post, and The Discovery Channel.
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.
I was nine years old when my father died. The grief of his death was further compounded by the fact that I had only met him two years prior. Following my father’s death, my mother struggled to raised us on her own. However, the piece that stuck with me was the emotional toll his death had on my family. In my later years, I realized that my entire family could have benefited from seeing a counselor. It would have helped us out tremendously. When I was introduced to the field of mental health, it took me back to my younger days and I’ve been working in the field ever since.
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?
A few months ago my wife and I launched our brand new podcast called The Couples Counsel. It a weekly podcast where we talk about the challenges associated with marriage and intimate relationships. We offer tips and practical advice along with interviews of couples willing to share their experiences.
One of the worst things about any challenge is the feeling that you are alone in that challenge. Its easy to be weighed down by the idea that nobody else understands. The podcast serves to remind people that others have gone through similar challenges and that they will make it through like many who have come before them.
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?
When my first child was born, my wife and I decided that it made more sense for one of us to be home with her. After talking about it, we decided it would be me. Transitioning from wage earner and provider to stay-at-home dad was huge. Initially, I struggled. I was forced to confront ideas I held about myself and masculinity that no longer fit my profile. Did this mean I was not a man? was I okay with people pointing and making comments? I had to evaluate who I was and how I defined myself.
Over time I learned to embrace my new role. I no longer denied or was embarrassed by the fact that my wife worked while I cared for the kids. I worked hard to be the best dad possible to my kids and homemaker to my wife.
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?
We live in a society where the “ideal images” portrayed in the media don’t look like the viewers, which is often the case with social media influencers. Over time, individuals can develop this idea that they have to look like the cool guys or dress like popular girls. Some people are bullied and put down for being too skinny, too fat, too tall or too short. Others are harassed for being immigrants.
Some of the causes for this range from being narrow minded to prejudice. It could be innocent bias or blatant racism. Regardless, the consequences often include isolation and feelings of depression. Many teens are unable to cope with being ostracized and ridiculed for being different that they turn to suicide to make it all stop.
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?
1. No one can love you if you don’t first love yourself.
2. Self love and self compassion are essential for emotional health and well-being.
3. Only you know what love feels like and means to you.
Why do you think people stay in mediocre relationships? What advice would you give to our readers regarding this?
1. Fear: People stay in mediocre relationships because they know what to expect. There is a lot of comfort in knowing the habits of your partner, even if you wish he/she had different habits. The thought of trying to mix things up can really scare people because there is no telling how things might turn out.
2. Sharing your life with someone is a major decision. If you’re going to invest in a relationship, then it makes sense that you strive to make the most of it and not settle. You owe it to yourself.
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?
1. What is it like for you being married to me?
2. Knowing what I know now, would I do it all over again?
3. Do I feel like I can do better?
Early in my relationship with my wife I had very rigid ideas about relationships. One such idea was that she had to earn my love. As a result I found myself withholding love and affection until she met my criteria. Needless to say, this was not good for our relationship. I found myself drifting away from her and feeling upset that she was not meeting my criteria. That was when I decided to make a change. I made up my mind to love and accept her for who she was and where she was rather than wait until she met my criteria.
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 is vital that we spend time alone. When you spend time with other people, you are concerned with their needs and put yourself on the back burner. At some point we must prioritize ourselves so we do not merely become extensions of the people around us.
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?
I find that understanding and loving yourself makes it possible for you to show up as authentically you. When we present a genuine version of ourselves, it is only natural that that deeper, stronger, and more meaningful relationships emerge.
In your experience, what should a) individuals and b) society, do to help people better understand themselves and accept themselves?
a) Individuals should embrace their uniqueness and stop trying to be like everyone else.
b) As a society, we need to encourage more diversity.
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?
1. Minimalism: A few years ago, I realized that my stuff was controlling my life. That bothered me because it kept me from doing the activities I enjoyed. That was when I decided to reduce my belonging s to only the things I need and enjoy having.
2. Journal: another way I connect with myself is to journal. I have been doing this for over 15 years. The practicing of journaling allows me to process and reflect and gather my thoughts.
3. Old Westerns. I enjoy movies. I especially enjoy old western and regularly treat myself to an old western movie. Old westerns for me is the thing I do alone that none of my friends/family enjoy…and I am okay with that. I do not feel like I have to conform to impress others.
4. Meditation: In addition to journaling, regular meditation has done much for me. Now meditation comes in many forms. One of my favorites comes in the form of camping. I enjoy being disconnected from all the hustle and bustle of everyday life to connect with myself…and nature of course. When I can’t escape to nature the way I’d like, I enjoy a bike ride around town alone with my thoughts
5. Fitness: Mental health and physical health go hand in hand. I’m not much of a gym rat, but I do my best to squeeze in a few workouts a weeks. What medication does for my mind, working out does for my body. The truth is somethings the only thing that works for me is flipping tires and lifting weights.
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 listen to a lot of podcasts and read a wide range of books. I like to expose myself to different authors and other resources because there is a lot out there. A couple of my favorites include the latest by Mark Manson and Gary Chapman’s 5 love languages. I appreciate their simple yet thorough approach.
When it comes to podcasts, I am an NPR nerd and listen to a ton of their shows. I really enjoy their show, This American Life. I believe that we all can learn a lot from the stories of others. They do a great job.
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…
The movement I would like to inspire involves creating a space for men to share their emotions. As a society, we fail to understand that the true meaning of masculinity is not rooted in money, women, or fast cars. Manhood and masculinity is much deeper than that. Men need to be able to talk about their struggles without feeling like they are less of a man.
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?
One of my all-time favorite quotes:
“Nothing changes your life like the books you read and the people you meet.”
Thank you so much for your time and for your inspiring insights!