Try new things. Whether it’s finally attending an art class or that adult soccer league you’ve been wanting to try, push yourself to get out of your own head by getting out of your comfort zone. Fear of the unknown will always hold a person back, and the days will keep passing by, so it becomes our responsibility to not allow it too and make the most of our lives!
As a part of my series about “Learning To Finally Love Yourself” I had the pleasure to interview Rachel Ann Dine, LPC. Rachel Ann was born and raised in the beautiful, coastal town of Pensacola, Florida. She grew up in a household where self-expression through creating art and playing the violin was heavily encouraged by her mother and father and feels today that this encouragement helped shape who she is. Rachel Ann was drawn to the field of psychology after attending a high school psychology class with a very inspiring, existentialist teacher and began volunteering at her hometown’s crisis hotline shortly thereafter which only solidified her love of mental health counseling. She obtained both her undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of West Florida in Psychology, eventually becoming licensed to practice counseling in both Florida and now Virginia where she currently resides with her husband. She worked in agency settings over the course of about 14 years, gaining experience in acute and long term residential psychiatric hospitals, substance abuse, military and family counseling, working in an Emergency Department providing mental health assessments, and writing courses on psychiatric disorders for hospital staff. Rachel Ann believes a turning point in her life was when she let go of her fears of leaving the comfort of the agency counseling setting and started her own practice, Humanitas Counseling and Consulting, LLC, where she developed a niche skillset in empowering women and teens to be their best selves. In addition to owning a practice catered to women and teen mental health, she is a frequently asked community presenter and contributing writer to events and publications geared towards self-love and living empowered.
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?
Yes! As a matter of fact, I have just released my women’s wellness book, Live. Learn. Love. Real-talk tips for the woman who is ready to be her best self on Amazon for Kindle and print! In our world, women hear it all the time: practice self-care, love yourself, and be empowered, but sometimes it’s difficult to know exactly what these terms mean and how to practice them in your own life. Live. Learn. Love. provides realistic (real-talk!) ways women can achieve mental wellness in life, and throughout the book, there are reflective take-action assignments that help readers engage in self-exploration and goal-setting in order to be more self-aware, develop more self-love, and live the self-care lifestyle.
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?
Honestly, the tipping point for me was in my mid/late 20’s when I decided to take a hiatus from dating after several back to back relationships that didn’t pan out well and left me feeling disappointed. On this conscious hiatus, I spent nine months cultivating a stronger relationship with myself — immersing myself in activities I loved like creating art/painting, going to the beach, running, taking myself out to events I was interested in (art festivals, the symphony, whatever looked appealing!), and spending time with good friends and family. I spent a lot of time by myself and look back and view those nine months as one of the happiest and most carefree times of my life because I truly learned to be okay alone which was also a complete confidence booster. After not dating for so long, it made me less tolerable of treatment that I didn’t deserve and I became very in tune with what I wanted from a potential partner. I encourage all men and women to take time to be alone and learn to love yourself without anyone else around — a major mindset shift occurs when you are able to validate yourself and not depend on external validation from others!
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 know we have all noticed it — the cell phone has basically become an extension of a person’s arm — which only means access to the internet and social media use has escalated. I believe the internet and social media have encouraged a false sense of reality — beautiful airbrushed photos, elaborate photo shoots with designer clothes only a small piece of the population could afford — are all over the place. It can be natural human instinct to develop a false belief you are less than if you don’t fit the same physical mold of the models and or people who you are being exposed to on the internet — to engage in a comparison of yourself and other people. Images can be very powerful, and the use of excessively thin and or airbrushed models can cause an impressionable teenager or adult who may be dissatisfied with their appearance to start engaging in over-exercising, restrictive eating or purging because he/she believes they need to look a certain way. Falling into the comparison trap also encourages low self-esteem or feeling as if something is wrong with you. Validation of self must start within, but unfortunately, I believe this age of technology, while it allows for much good, also can have a dark side if a person doesn’t already appreciate who they are first.
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?
Love yourself has become such a cliché statement, but it is so true! All love must start within. If you don’t truly love yourself, much less like yourself, whether you realize it or not, you will behave in ways that will prevent you from truly being who you want to be and or living the life you want to. So much happens at the subconscious level and it can become very easy to push how you feel about yourself aside and focus on external factors (read: distractions!), but when a person does this, nothing internally will change! When you achieve and practice self-love, you start letting go of toxicity in your life and instead, start only accepting what you deserve. I highly recommend seeking out a therapist if attaining self-love is confusing or a struggle — take the journey with someone!
Why do you think people stay in mediocre relationships? What advice would you give to our readers regarding this?
When I hear the term mediocre relationships, I equate the term to accepting less than you deserve and or staying in an unfulfilling relationship. Getting involved in and then staying in mediocre relationships can happen over time if a person goes from one relationship to another without a break or reflective period in between to evaluate what they want out of a partner/what didn’t go right with the last relationship, or perhaps the person has been with their partner since a young age and didn’t really know who they were at that time and now fear of the unknown and or, finances tie them to their current partner. When I have clients who present this as a source of stress for them, I start by asking them to define a list of traits their ideal partner would have. To write down on paper everything they have always wanted in a partner — emotionally, spiritually, physically, everything — I have noticed that this can be difficult for many people and they have never taken that time to define these traits. The next step when this is completed is to ask if their ideal traits match up to what is actually happening and then figure out specifics on the missing traits — is it a character issue, substance abuse or infidelity occurring, not feeling supported, and or not going on dates, etc.? The list helps to define what may be lacking and if the person is willing to, what can be worked on with their current partner. Key point here is people will only change if they want to, not if their partner wants them to. Very important for a person who is in a mediocre relationship to know this! Fear of the unknown will always hold a person back and to embark on life single can be scary — but when you’re accepting treatment you fully deserve and have always wanted, the payoff is so worth it.
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?
I go into this in great detail in my book, Live. Learn. Love. because I believe it’s such a powerful tool for self-growth. While I’m a huge believer in knowing interactions that occur in your life are not always about you and instead are another person’s own emotional experience coming out, it’s so important — and healthy! — for a person to practice self-awareness and gain a sense of understanding on how he or she affects their slice of the world. If a person consistently has negative or even positive interactions/experiences with other people, it’s vital to engage in self-exploration to see what is working and what may not be. At the end of the day, we are the common denominator in all aspects in our lives. Consider this example: you’ve just been let go of your job and received feedback about a mistake you made. This is an excellent time to learn from what happened — not mentally beat yourself up — but use this situation to try to be better the next time around. Asking yourself honestly if you have a problem with anger, time management, and or communication skills, then taking steps to try to be better. I’m a major advocate of making lists about yourself, engaging in a self-study of sorts to figure out the traits that may need to be tweaked — especially if you observe a common emotional experience within yourself coming up after certain interactions or situations. I encourage you to reach out to a therapist if you have trouble doing this on your own — self-reflection and understanding can be a difficult process and therapists are trained to pick up on emotional experiences that you may not even realize are occurring!
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)?
When you spend time cultivating the relationship you have with self and learn to love and like who you are at the core level, it causes you to be less tolerable of negative treatment from others. If the foundation of self-love and knowing what your boundaries are in life are strongly intact, it also promotes an overall sense of confidence and well-being. You’ll be less likely to second guess yourself and be more intentional on the people, places, and things you allow to come into your life. Think about it this way: if you set a foundation for self-love, then you’ll know (and be much less likely) to let anyone or anything into your life that doesn’t also honor you! Achieving comfortability in being alone is vitally important because at the end of the day, even with the most supportive partner, family, or friends, we’re still all alone because no one lives in our head or body with us. Get in touch with yourself and practice kindness with your self-talk and thoughts — practice experimenting with solo activities you’ve always wanted to do (the art class, the bicycling adventure, the yoga class) and build a strong foundation of self-love that will set the tone for all other areas of your life.
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?
When you intimately know who you are and your areas for improvement as well as your strengths, you’re better able to live authentically. If you know you’re impatient, or can easily say unkind things when angry, then when situations arise where you may act less than, you can not only own your mistakes but work on improving! Being in relationships with others is a practice of humility, of knowing when you may have messed up and then working to correct your response the next time. Likewise, when you know who you truly are and what you need from your relationships with others, you’re more apt to find people who meet these needs, thus causing you to feel fulfilled and content. This may sound like a silly example, but I’m a homebody. I recharge by spending time in my home and when I dated my now-husband, he was on the same page. If he needed to recharge by going out all the time, I don’t know how well we would have worked out! There is such a thing as opposites attract and if it works for you, that’s perfect, however, what you need from your relationships is going to be different from other people you may know — and achieving a level of self-understanding and self-love allows relationships to deepen because you’re being authentic (and true to yourself!) by choosing friends and a partner who meets your unique needs.
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. Pay attention to your feelings, your gut instinct, and intuition. These innate tools have been gifted to us for a reason and when you ignore those little pangs that cause you to feel unease after an interaction with say, a date, a job interview, or a new, potential business partner, you can start to become disconnected with self, not too mention get yourself into trouble! Paying attention to how you feel and being in touch with your gut instinct will only aid in developing more self-awareness — and being self-aware is both healthy and empowering.
2. Be intentional in your life about where, who, and what you are giving your time and energy to. Are the people, places, and things you are engaging with serving you well and helping to propel you forward to be your best self? If they are not, it may be time to start letting go and cultivating boundaries on what you will and will not tolerate in your life.
3. Be okay spending time by yourself and find activities to engage in that bring you happiness in your life. My go to activity for creating happiness and reconnecting with myself is creating art. When I moved 14 hours from my hometown several years ago, I painted a self-portrait. Being a true analyst, when I reflected back on why I had created this portrait, and why I felt such a sense of peace, I realized the self-portrait was a reminder that no matter where I live, what I do, I’m still the same person. It allowed me to reconnect with the artistic side of myself and was very comforting. I tell you this example to encourage you to find your own activities that instill a sense a joy and happiness because they are excellent tools for staying grounded and connected with yourself.
4. Practice excellent self-care at the basic level. This one may sound like a no-brainer, but I see it too often not to share! When we are under a lot of stress or are unhappy, the basic self-care maintenance activities can often be the first to go. Practice consistently getting enough sleep, eating well, and engaging in some form of physical activity. I make the effort to at least walk everyday with my dog or go to hot yoga because I know it is vital to my mental well-being to be outside and expend any anxious energy through exercising.
5. Try new things. Whether it’s finally attending an art class or that adult soccer league you’ve been wanting to try, push yourself to get out of your own head by getting out of your comfort zone. Fear of the unknown will always hold a person back, and the days will keep passing by, so it becomes our responsibility to not allow it too and make the most of our lives!
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?
By far, my favorite author is Brene Brown. I believe she really has spearheaded the self-compassion movement and has done so in a completely transparent and relatable way. Her book, The Gifts of Imperfection was a game changer for me and I often recommend all her books to clients. I’ve always been a fan of Dr. Drew Pinsky and believe anyone in the mental health field should give his podcast a listen as he has a therapeutic style that reads as knowledgeable but also down to earth and authentic. As you can probably tell, I value relatability and authenticity in the podcasts, books, and people I look up to. Last but certainly not least, because of my faith, I listen to Andy Stanley to get religious guidance and stay in touch with who I want to be. He breaks down biblical messages and applies them to real-life scenarios, making it easier to translate lessons to your own life.
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 want to inspire a movement where people internalize the concept that self-care is my lifestyle! Self-care is SO much more than engaging in a once a week treat to self, it is a way of living and viewing who you are on a daily basis. In my book, I break down the self-care is my lifestyle mindset by providing corresponding methods to each letter in self-care. Part of making self-care your lifestyle means advocating for yourself, watching your self-talk, creating happiness in your life through engaging in activities that bring you joy, and living authentically by expressing who you truly are (and not who others think you should be). In my practice, I’ve been able to see firsthand how women are able to feel more empowered and reconnected with who they are at the core level when they live the self-care lifestyle and become intentional about who and what they are giving their precious time and energy to. Make self-care your lifestyle, living life in a way that is fulfilling to you!
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 favorite life lesson quotes is “wherever you go, there you are”. If you are unhappy in your life, you are the only one that can make the changes to find happiness and contentment. Relying on external factors (the nice car, beautiful home, the job you believe is your dream job, a romantic partner, designer clothes, etc.) to receive validation or happiness work for a short period but will never be fulfilling long term because it’s not getting to the core reasons for discontentment. I had to realize in life that I am the common denominator in all my interactions and situations I’m in. Sometimes it’s uncomfortable to live this way, but I’ve realized that growth doesn’t come from comfort, it usually comes from accepting responsibility for our own happiness or lack thereof and then making positive changes that aid in mental well-being. Feel empowered to know you are in control of yourself! It’s freeing to know you often hold the answers to what you need to do to be happy, instead of relying on external sources for happiness. Structure your life so that no matter where you go, there you may be a happy and fulfilled individual.
Thank you so much for your time and for your inspiring insights!