Schedule 30 minutes every day to recharge: Be sure to set a reminder at 15 minutes and again at 5 minutes. This allows you to wrap up whatever you might be working on prior so that you won’t have an excuse to get out of it. Meditate, read a little of that book you always said you’d get to, take a nice bubble bath, or anything else to spoil yourself and enjoy your own company. Be sure to schedule a regular date night as well. Treat yourself to dinner and a movie or dessert and a massage! Even if it’s once a month, be sure to schedule a date night with yourself.
As a part of our series about “How To Learn To Finally Love Yourself” I had the pleasure to interview Stormi Lewis.
Multi-published international author and Story Sharing Coach Stormi Lewis helps people over thirty squash their excuses and overcome fears of publishing their stories. Stormi has authored Surviving the Storm, Fuel for the Storm, and the Sophie Lee Trilogy, proving time and again that you can successfully publish a book in 6 months or less, while working full time and caring for your family. After spending a lifetime with bipolar disorder and ADHD, Stormi went from choosing to break her people pleasing addiction, to hosting a podcast “Bookish Chatter” that helps keep new authors from feeling lost or alone on their journey. Find more information about Stormi at www.chasingstormi.com.
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.
I grew up loving stories. Telling them and reading them. Growing up unknowingly bipolar, it was books that saved my life. They helped me to escape the chaos that was going on inside my head that I couldn’t understand. They were also an escape from the bullying that was taking place from being “different” from the other kids. Mental health has the largest stigma in the world still today. I hope by sharing my own story and helping others share theirs, that one day it will be easier for people to talk about these important topics and not feel like they are cursed or a horrible person because they are different.
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 second book of the Sophie Lee Trilogy, The Protector, is now available on Amazon. I am working on the third while helping my father publish two books of his own before the end of the year. I am also the host of Bookish Chatter. A podcast that provides tips, tricks, and honest author journeys so other authors don’t have to feel alone. I am also starting C.S. Press, which will be a publishing company to assist authors in publishing their books the way they want with a higher royalty amount than traditional publishing companies. This is because you deserve to share your story the way you want to. Having the freedom and confidence to share your story as it deserves to be told not only changes your life, but it changes the lives of others. By not feeling ashamed of your story and embracing it instead leads to healthier, stronger, thriving relationships in your life from work to personal.
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 spent the first 21 years of my life feeling like there was something evil in me that I couldn’t control. It led to the development of a people pleasing addiction. I was willing to sacrifice everything, including myself, if I could get people to like me. If they liked me when I was okay, maybe, just maybe they would still like me when I wasn’t. This led to toxic/abusive relationships including a second marriage that left me spending my evenings locked behind a bedroom door so that I could sleep safely. One day he said he was going to take his life, an empty threat he gave regularly. However, on this one day my first thought was, “Please do so we can both be free.” I didn’t even love myself enough to believe that there was any other option outside of death: his, mine, or both. I have never loathed myself more than that moment. I went to the bathroom and the girl that stared back horrified me. My eyes were dark and sunken in. I had no color or life in them much like I had no life left in my heart. That is the day I decided to make a change. Save myself or die with him, one way or another. On 5.5.15 when I was granted my emergency divorce, I knew if I didn’t break my people pleasing addiction, I would keep repeating the vicious cycle until it took my life. I started stepping outside of my comfort zone and trying new things. I tested my fears and learned to love myself again. However, I still had a deep dark secret that felt more like a curse than an asset, and that needed to change too. In 2017 I started to vaguely share that I was bipolar with ADHD and chronic anxiety. In 2019 a friend informed me that I would never truly be accepting myself until I accepted the fact that my mental illness didn’t define who I was. It was simply a part of the beautiful package that made me whole. I made a post on Instagram and was surprised that I had more support than backlash. Just because society has a misconception of mental illness didn’t mean that I had to help them think they were right. That was when my destiny became clear. Share my story so others could find their voice, because your story matters. You matter. What you have to say matters.
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?
It’s hard to appreciate how you look when everything that is thrown in our faces every minute of every day is telling us we’re just not quite good enough unless we try the latest wrinkle cream remover, weight loss fad, look like the models on the runway, or have curves that magically don’t fit into any of the clothes sold in stores. Our worth quickly is based on the size of your jeans, how much you spend on makeup/jewelry/clothes, and what kind of car you drive. Even if you are at your ideal weight, there’s always something being marketed to you letting you know that you are “good”, but you could be “better” if you just…(fill in the blank). I can tell you from first-hand experience being a red headed, freckle faced, skinny, bipolar girl from the trailer park just made me a target for bullying. With social media it’s Mean Girls on steroids, and teens are becoming the highest age group to commit suicide. It was bad enough when I was a kid, but it didn’t follow me home. I didn’t carry a cellphone that gave people access to belittle me 24/7 in my back pocket. When kids don’t feel good about who they are at 5 or 6 years of age, it statistically doesn’t improve by the time they are in their 20s, 30s, 40s, or older. It only gets worse. Sometimes age graces you with the ability to reach a point that you just don’t care anymore, but it tends to not come until you’re 40 or even much later. There is a difference between wanting to improve yourself physically and mentally to live a healthier and longer life. It is completely different if you can’t even stand to sit with yourself because you don’t even like who you are. When you don’t like who you are, you tend to look for something to take the pain away. Drugs, alcohol, food, bad choices that lead to putting yourself in harm’s way regularly, etc. You become so desperate to find a quick fix to help numb the pain that the scars left behind become too deep and take much longer to heal from.
To some, the concept of learning to truly understand and “love yourself,” may seem like a cheesy or trite concept. But it is not. Can you share with our readers a few reasons why learning to love yourself it’s truly so important?
I settled in my first marriage. I believed all the people that told me that I wasn’t good enough to wait for someone I deserved and should just accept the first person that “tolerated me”. Although I was in love the second time, I didn’t love myself enough to leave sooner. I thought the only way I would be able to leave was through death. Even my third long-term relationship had me so frustrated with myself, because I started slipping back into my people pleasing thinking and I resented myself for it. In my defense, you can’t expect to break a 30+ year habit in just 2 years. Now, I enjoy spending time with myself, which became a good thing when the pandemic came. I love myself to not settle for a terrible job, a terrible relationship, or a terrible anything quite honestly. I am proudest of the woman I have become, and I am extremely proud of the things I accomplish. I won’t argue if you give me praise or a compliment, however, I know I don’t require it to keep going and be happy with myself and who I am. I am sick less often. I am depressed less often. I feel I have purpose in this world, and I was destined for great things. I will always be worthy of anything I desire, because I’m finally worthy enough for myself.
Why do you think people stay in mediocre relationships? What advice would you give to our readers regarding this?
They stay because they haven’t quite realized their true self-worth. They stay because it’s comfortable and convenient. They stay because they think if they give enough love to show their partner what “true love” actually looks like, they will change. They stay because they’re the ones that can hide the keys, empty the vodka bottles, and try to keep society safe from their partner. I know because that used to be me. At some point they will either reach their breaking point, or they will convince themselves they don’t deserve better until proven otherwise. I would tell your readers this…Nothing that happens to you defines you. It’s just simply a part of the journey.
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?
I reflect often due to being bipolar. I have to ask myself regularly if I am actually upset or if I was simply feeding off of someone else’s emotions. I think that comes in handy whether you are dealing with a mental illness or not. Emotions are a powerful thing, and they can derail you without your permission or awareness of it taking place. Sometimes just taking a deep breath and asking yourself if what was being thrown at you something that actually bothers you, or is it something that you can let go and walk away from. If it can’t be let go of, then you have to decide how you’re going to address it to make sure that you can remain calm and get to the desired resolution. Being a recovering people pleaser I still have to ask myself if I am sacrificing myself to make someone else happy or is it something I am content doing. If I am becoming anxious about something I have to ask myself if I am scared becomes it means a lot to me, or am I scared because it is something that will harm me more than do be good. Sometimes simply acknowledging the fact that I am not on my “a-game”, accepting it, and allowing myself grace is the best thing I can do for myself instead of pushing myself to a breaking point.
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)?
I was terrified the first time I took myself to dinner and a movie. I thought people would stare and talk behind my back. I quickly realized that no one looked at me, pointed at me, or whispered about me as I had feared. Now, I laugh when the wait staff continues to ask me if I am still waiting on company and I tell them “no”. I stretch out in the movie theater and enjoy getting lost in the story without someone chatting in my ear. I do whatever I want whenever I want, and it’s more gratifying than I will ever be able to explain to another person. When I stopped being ashamed of being seen with myself, I found confidence I didn’t know was being muffled from within. By being comfortable and appreciating time with myself, I was set up for success by the time the pandemic arrived. If you can truly be alone, and enjoy your own company, you will experience a freedom like no other.
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?
By having a certain level of self-understanding and self-love, I respect myself not to settle for less than I deserve. I understand my limits and strengths a lot more which means I can offer more of what I excel at, and establish healthier boundaries so I don’t expand past my limitations. I am more inspired to be around people that keep me up instead of tearing me down which in turn motivates ongoing personal growth. Because I know what I desire in the people that surround me, there’s no hesitation to connect on a deeper level once I find them.
In your experience, what should a) individuals and b) society, do to help people better understand themselves and accept themselves?
Individuals need to be willing to get uncomfortable and face their fears of being scared to be alone with themselves. The world will continue to rotate. Most people won’t take the time to look away from their phones to even notice. The resulting peace, confidence, and happiness that comes from accepting yourself and loving who you are will make it impossible to ever go back to feeling ashamed for being you. I think society is improving, but if you look at marketing most of it remains focused on fixing yourself to fit in. Marketing strategies are based on FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). Advertising focuses on beautiful couples, families, friends. Every Barbie still has a Ken doll to go with it. Families desire their family traditions and bloodlines to continue on for many generations to come. People that have large families get their own tv shows. When I found myself 35 and single for the second time, there was no one to really look up to, or a whole section of self-help books in Barnes and Nobles at the time. A book or two, but definitely not a shelf’s worth. So, I wrote my own rule book and made it up as I went along. My parents still worry since I haven’t found a “nice man to settle down with”, but that’s just because our versions of settling are quite different.
Here is the main question of our discussion. 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. Schedule 30 minutes every day to recharge: Be sure to set a reminder at 15 minutes and again at 5 minutes. This allows you to wrap up whatever you might be working on prior so that you won’t have an excuse to get out of it. Meditate, read a little of that book you always said you’d get to, take a nice bubble bath, or anything else to spoil yourself and enjoy your own company. Be sure to schedule a regular date night as well. Treat yourself to dinner and a movie or dessert and a massage! Even if it’s once a month, be sure to schedule a date night with yourself.
2. Practice gratitude: By practicing gratitude, it’s easy to find the goodness in yourself and your life. Start your day by writing down a minimum of three things every day. You may think it will be difficult to come up with three things every day, but you’ll find it’s actually quite easy. Plus, by always looking for the good in yourself and in the world, it will attract even more goodness into your life.
3. Say “no” when you need to: Setting healthy boundaries is an important part of self-care. People will tell you to remove all the toxic people in your life, but some people you can’t remove like certain family members. However, you can limit the time you spend with them. Agree to the family functions, spend time with those you actually like, let people that are guaranteed to take shots at you take them, and after two hours leave and go back home to resume living your life the way you want to.
4. Set a time every night to wind down: I shut off everything at least an hour before bedtime. No phone. No social media. No work. Just watching something that I won’t get invested in, and then listening to Dauchsy meditation. If I don’t wind down, my ADHD will never slow down enough to get some rest. If I don’t rest, I’m not able to be my best self the next day. Making sure I get 7–8 hours of rest and drinking plenty of water helps my body keep going, and helps me keep my connection with myself.
5. Give yourself grace: Not all days will be good. Sometimes life will happen, and it will be a struggle to even get out of bed. Acknowledge that you are not the absolute best version of yourself, but you’re going to do the very best you can for that given day at that given moment. Celebrate every win even if it’s simply getting out of bed and putting on something other than your sweats or pjs. Know that it’s okay not to be one-hundred percent all the time.
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 really enjoyed reading Fear is Not the Boss of You by Jennifer Allwood. I believe that was the last nonfiction that I read. I’ve been reading more fiction because I enjoy the escape. I don’t listen to a lot of podcasts because they don’t work well with my ADHD. I loved that book because when I came out as an author on Instagram I was busy trying to copy what other successful authors were doing. However, it just led to more stress and being overwhelmed and burnt out. It was the first book I read that gave me permission to shut down and just focus at the tasks at hand. It also motivated me to really stop comparing myself to others, and just keep being me and doing my own thing. It’s so much more enjoyable to do social media for my business now. I don’t let social media run me. I run it.
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… Mental illness still has the world’s largest stigma attached to it. I want people to not be ashamed of who they are whether they suffer from a chronic disorder, seasonal symptoms or temporary symptoms such as postpartum depression or anxiety. We should be able to talk about it as much as physical ailments without fear of being fired, being isolated by loved ones, or more.
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?
Nothing that happens to us defines who we are. It’s simply a part of our journey. For we are designed to survive, and come out stronger on the other side. For we are all Storm Chasers.
This is the motto I live by and share with others. It keeps me going on my weakest days, and reminds me that no matter what happens I will always be okay.
Thank you so much for your time and for your inspiring insights!