Suzanne Wylde: “Be kind to yourself”

This way of thinking often accompanies a perfectionist attitude, but we learn and experience more from the gray areas. Of course, we always try to move towards the positive and we have to have some ability to be discerning, but my suggestion is that you see as many shades of gray as possible and try […]

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This way of thinking often accompanies a perfectionist attitude, but we learn and experience more from the gray areas. Of course, we always try to move towards the positive and we have to have some ability to be discerning, but my suggestion is that you see as many shades of gray as possible and try to reserve judgment for a little longer — especially when it comes to other people.


As a part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Suzanne Wylde.

Suzanne Wylde is a coach and author of several books on self-development. She has a background in Traditional Chinese medicine and bodywork, so is trained to think about people and situations holistically. Her latest book Perfect is an inclusive picture book that helps young children to learn about self-love and resilience.

You can find more information on this as well as other resources at: www.suzannewylde.com/perfect


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?

I came to alternative therapies early on in life as I enrolled in a degree in Chinese medicine right after school, and after graduating I began my career as an acupuncturist working both privately and on the NHS. Later I trained in stretching and after some time developed my own method called Moving Stretch, which I went on to run teacher training courses in and write a book on. My journey with coaching then began two years ago, when I felt that there was a better way of supporting people to reach their potential.

When I started my degree, the culture was quite different and people would occasionally get quite angry and demand why I “didn’t believe in western medicine/ surgery” as if we all had to choose one or the other. Nowadays there is a lot more acceptance and I am not seen as the outlaw or crackpot so much as someone who might offer a beneficial service and advice.

I have loved growing as a practitioner and coach, creating a very varied tool kit and experience of what works to my repertoire. I have come to see people as very multifaceted and unique, while always having those characteristics of humanity we all share, and working within a holistic framework that can expand to meet the needs of the client has been very satisfying to me.

One of the biggest advantages of being self-employed is that I can schedule a time to write books, which I find hard but very fulfilling, especially as I grew up loving books and completely surrounded by them. I never imagined I would end up on the other side of that relationship and become an author.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?

It is not one specific story, so much as learning, that people will often surprise you. Both healing and self-development occur on their own schedule, and both the timing and destination are completely out of our hands as the coach or therapist — we are just there to support the process. So you may be stretching a client for a month, working on scar tissue or a restriction, and one day she shows up and her body has returned to its healthy, close to symmetrical state — after lots of effort with no apparent progress. Or a client who experiences a lot of stress is suddenly able to shift their perspective and feels calm and grounded and their quality of life skyrockets. Although it best not to focus too much on the payoff (we can often prevent it by causing tension and pressure from the very effort of trying to reach it), it is so satisfying to see our work pay off. And sometimes it doesn’t, or it does so in ways that are not immediately apparent, so it is a good idea to really celebrate the wins when they do come.

Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

When I started I would try and offer everything to everyone. It can be smarter to work in a niche because you will gain a lot of experience and maybe even become an expert, and it is also much easier to market yourself, but I wanted to offer what everyone needed. I won’t actually say that this is wrong necessarily when you are starting out, because if you specialize too early you may pigeonhole yourself and get stuck working in an area you are not actually interested in. However, there is way too much to learn if you try to generalize and work with everything.

So, if you cannot specialize yet (because you don’t know what you like, or the market is not there) then try to be specific within that generality. To give you an example; if you are not ready to say “I treat office workers with lower back pain”, but you do want to work with musculoskeletal issues — you can just say that. Or if you do not have a target group in mind but you are passionate about reducing stress, then have that be your area of interest for the time being. It is wise to try and choose an area that you feel excited about because you’ll be able to stick with it for longer and once you have one, you can align your website, emails, and social media messaging with that and attract the clients you want.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I am really grateful to my former boss Giovanni Maciocia, who was a well-known Chinese medicine author. I was still a student at university when I called him to enquire about his ad for an assistant. He told me the position had been filled already, but I persuaded him to give me one chance with no obligation to keep me on if he didn’t like my work. 8 years later I was still helping to create his presentations, proofread his books, and do research for him.

One year his publisher had pushed forward the deadline for one of his textbooks and he asked me to come out to his holiday home to help him. Luckily for me, that was near Amalfi and we spent the mornings swimming and the afternoons proofreading. I learned that it is important to try to have a balanced life, enjoy your success and put the hard work in, and not to deny yourself relaxation and fun even while working toward a deadline. Now that I am an author currently working towards a deadline I really appreciate that. He also told me he wished he had explored self-publishing while it was still an option and now that I am doing that for myself, I feel really grateful to have learned some of the pros and cons of the writing business from someone who based a large part of their career on it.

He passed away a couple of years ago and I feel so lucky to have worked for him and learned so much. Although we did not have much in common (there was probably a 30-year age difference!) and he was described as being a bit of an Eeyore sometimes, we had a good working relationship and he taught me a lot about hard work, dedication, and professionalism. I will always remember him fondly for that and be grateful for what he taught a young Chinese medicine practitioner just starting out.

Ok perfect. Now let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?

Wellness is a very broad term, isn’t it? I started my career mainly focusing on health and then because of the connection between illness and emotional issues that emerged almost immediately, I realized how important self-development was for wellbeing. People seemed healthier when they were living well-rounded lives, expressing themselves, and working towards goals that were meaningful to them personally. And this did not mean the absence of an issue or an illness — they might be in pain or even have a chronic degenerative condition. But they tended to have more color in their skin, more shine in their eyes, more of a sense of humor, a bounce in their step, and like they had more to live for if they were more self-expressed. I realized that my passion was for supporting people in living full and happy lives and I broadened my skill set to include coaching as well as other more alternative studies including shamanism and energy work. Over time I learned many tools for self-awareness and self-expression and even created a few of my own.

However, because I wanted to be able to help more people than I could reach doing 1-to-1 work, I decided to share my knowledge through online courses and books. First I wrote a book on my stretching method and then I began a series of self-development books. My aim was to empower people by sharing what I had learned about physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual wellbeing. My latest book is an inclusive picture book called Perfect, which is a colorful exploration of self-love, self-acceptance, and resilience. It has very simple exercises in it that young children will be able to use to make themselves feel better. It also includes a very varied cast of characters including children with; a disability, a cleft lip, a port-wine stain, a limb difference, a visual impairment and a little girl with Down syndrome, all of whom are of different ethnicities. Representation is very important, especially in books that do not solely focus on that one feature or challenge. I also believe it is important that we get used to seeing people who look different from a young age so that we are not uncomfortable or prejudiced when someone does not match what we have been taught is “normal”. As the book says, we are all perfect in our own way.

Can you share your top five “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing? Please give an example or story for each.

My top 5 tips are:

  1. Try not to view things as solely right and wrong, or good and bad.

This way of thinking often accompanies a perfectionist attitude, but we learn and experience more from the gray areas. Of course, we always try to move towards the positive and we have to have some ability to be discerning, but my suggestion is that you see as many shades of gray as possible and try to reserve judgment for a little longer — especially when it comes to other people. This will probably help you to feel less stressed and to go easier on yourself (and others).

2. Follow your own experience of what works for overcoming bad habits

You already know what your bad habits are and you probably know what the perceived correct course of action is. But if this has not worked, do not waste time beating yourself up, just try to shift your strategy to something that works for you and feels manageable. The trick is to avoid giving up because you can’t do it perfectly straight away, which may be what part of you wants. Take a small first step and use any strategy that works as long as it is healthy, ethical, and safe. So if you can stop eating cupcakes on Tuesdays if you reward yourself with a visit to a hot tub, or if you know you hate running but you’ll run towards a Pokémon GO location (safely and without looking at your phone while running of course!) then just do that. Don’t feel you have to achieve your goals in one specific “right” way.

3. Be kind to yourself

What kindness to yourself is may shift and move from moment to moment. One day it might be eating healthily and exercising, the next it might be lying in a field, another it might be working hard, and then next it might be doing breathing exercises. Listening to your body and spirit will guide you towards real contentment, so challenge yourself to try tuning in to what they are calling for rather than drowning them out with tubs of ice cream or lots of screen time. Again, this is not a Victorian forcing of good behavior, but an honoring of the Self.

4. Express yourself

The ultimate goal in terms of emotions might be to learn to be able to express them in real-time, in positive and empowered ways, but for a lot of us, this is a lesson we are still learning. If you feel a bit shaky in this area, I recommend you start off with a journal, expressive drawing or dancing even, talking to friends or a therapist.

While holding in our emotions in the short term can protect our reputation, career even certain relationships (if we do not know how to express them healthily at the moment), it is wise to express them when you can. If you hold them in for too long they will start to leak out in unhelpful ways or may even damage your health. As with so many things this requires practice and the clearer you get on your feelings, the easier it will become for you to express them clearly and cleanly (again therapists can really help with this).

5. Don’t put off your dreams forever

This may seem like an odd tip for wellness, but I do feel that if left unexplored a dream can hang over our heads, making us feel like we are missing out and regret is a difficult emotion to live with. Although we cannot all have the perfect version of our dreams I do recommend thinking about what might be possible and how you can take steps toward achieving that. Once you have tried it you will likely get some clarity on what that dream had to offer you and what you truly want in life, and it will no longer be an unattainable carrot on a stick or a weight on you. Even if you discover you do not want it anymore, you become freer for realizing that and that is more freedom you have reclaimed to play within your life.

If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?

I think learning some key self-development tools would do so much good, especially if they were learned at a young age. When I was little there was no guidance on managing our emotions or talking frankly about personal development. As I watch the children of today being educated I know that we are doing so much better. However, a few simple tools could help children learn how to better self-regulate, love and accept themselves and tune in to their core Self. And this is such an important issue now that they are forced to create a “brand” of themselves when they enter the social media world of their peers before they even really know who they are. These tools could help them stay connected to themselves.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?

  1. You will definitely make mistakes, so try and learn as much as you can from them more than spending energy feeling bad about them. Perfectionism is not very helpful for learning and growing as it is a narrow way of being and an open way of catching more information.
  2. Some people do not have their best interests at heart, listen to people’s words but pay attention to their tone and their actions. I am a pretty honest and open person — if you are too then you may not realize how underhanded some people can be. Take time to check in with your instincts, then get agreements in writing, get paid upfront, check references, whatever you need to do to honor the warning bells in your head. Take steps to safeguard your interests and maintain your boundaries.
  3. Take the time to consider the financial side of your business. You need to get the right balance between spending money on training and business expenses and saving for those lulls in your business. Bearing in mind that different people have different personalities and as a result, very different strategies work for them, I would say spend your money wisely, do not throw money at a problem but take the time to understand what the root of the issue is, because if you do not understand that money will probably not help. This also applies to marketing — I would only spend money on marketing if you understand how to target it, measure the results and adapt it as needed. Word of mouth can be much more effective and is free of charge. There will be times when, through no fault of your own, a business may get quiet for a bit and this is a great time to train in something if you have enough saved to allow you to do that, or to self-study if not.
  4. After starting down one career path you may want a change. Rather than feeling embarrassed at having chosen the “wrong thing” (really there is no wrong first step in a direction), do as much research as you can when feeling out a new area. Maybe even see if you can intern with someone working in that role, or attend a day of lectures if it is a course you are interested in. Take your time and follow your passion and interest.
  5. Ultimately you do have to protect your interests. This may be always making sure you are properly insured and only working within the scope of what you are insured to do. In another area, it might translate to being careful with your time and not taking a meeting with everyone who asks. You may want to be nice and you may be a very kind person, but your capacity to help others will be dictated by how good you are at protecting your energy, time, and boundaries so that you are more free to focus on the person in front of you. The more you leave yourself too wide open, or give too freely, the less you will be able to show up for your client in a meaningful way. So do remember that working in wellness does not mean that you owe everyone everything, or that any person in need can dictate how you use your time and energy. Sometimes the best way to help people is through modeling self-care and healthy boundaries in yourself.

Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?

I would say mental health is one of the biggest topics for me because if people are centered and feel love for themselves, this usually spreads out to their attitudes toward other people and the planet. In some ways, the environmental issues we are facing are a reflection of our individual inner state and the shadow aspects of our collective culture. We need support in facing up to the reality of what we have created in terms of what it is within us and within our culture that has given created the current crises. We also need external action and solutions, of course, but to really solve a problem you have to go to the source. For many of us that may be using materialistic strategies to try to solve problems of emotional or spiritual hunger or giving in to greed to try to ward off our fear of mortality, perhaps. Knowing the core issues causing our current dilemmas will help us to set genuine and heart-felt intentions for solving them. These intentions may then support and uphold the solutions we endeavor to implement (whereas merely “good intentions” may run out and cause us to falter before we cross the finish line).

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

You can find me on Facebook @Wyldesuzanne, Instagram @suzanne_wylde, and LinkedIn @SuzanneWylde.

Thank you for these fantastic insights!

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