To get to a place in our lives of doing work we love, we must first go through a time of deep self-examination. Through deep self-understanding, we know the best in ourselves and from this self-love naturally flows. At the time in my career where I was a busy non-profit executive curious if I could create the coaching business I was dreaming to create, I developed a set of questions for self-examination that I found to be very powerful.
As a part of my series about “Connecting With Yourself To Live With Better Relationships” I had the pleasure to interview Gina Marotta. Gina loves work and wants you to as well! She writes, speaks, and coaches on career change toward loving your work. Gina is a two-time career changer herself, and she understands the plight of modern professionals as a former criminal defense lawyer, former executive nonprofit leader, and now as an entrepreneur and social activist. Gina has been featured in media outlets like The Huffington Post, WGN Radio, and CBS Chicago News. More at www.ginamarotta.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.
The idea for my business came to me during a big-picture life planning exercise with a business book club. We explored questions like “Where do you see your life and work in 10 years?” This catalyzed a “light bulb moment” where what I really wanted to do became clear. I realized I wanted to teach people what I had learned about being happy. Years prior, I had walked away from a highly successful career as a rising star attorney because I didn’t feel fulfilled or like I even knew who I was. Thereafter, I spent several years studying empowerment and spirituality and making big life and career changes to align my life with my most authentic self. Now I teach people how to do this for themselves so that they love their careers. The goal with all my clients is that they ultimately love what they do the way I do — they love work so much, it doesn’t feel like work, it feels like playing.
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?
I currently publish a blog titled Love Your Work Weekly (link: https://www.ginamarotta.com/career-advice-blog) and I am also writing a book. Both projects are designed to help people love their work and create workstyles they love. To love one’s career requires great self-understanding. The most important topic I teach about is uncovering one’s genius, which is a combination of natural talents, experience, and passions. When we love our work, overall we experience fulfillment and that fullness overflows into enjoying greater wellbeing and relationships.
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 I started my coaching business, I hired a spiritual teacher to coach me on bringing spirituality into how I work. I had known this woman for years as a teacher of self-love. Ironically, it wasn’t the self-love part I was interested in but her teachings in that area turned out to be essential to me and my work. This teacher had a unique ability to see my inner essence and reflect it back to me. She also taught me how to access personal power within. Seeing my own gifts and how I could use them to help other people was a major turning point for me in self-love and understanding. Over time, what she did for me also helped me refine how I work with clients. I can see the inner genius in people — the work that they will love to do and have the talent within them to begin now. Having this ability to help people see their gifts and open to their career dreams gives me tremendous joy! While not all areas of life come as easy to me, this is a place I have exceptional self-acceptance and confidence.
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?
These days most photos we see are doctored up — be it in magazines or in our social media feeds. We are bombarded with images of women and men with perfect abs, made up as if for the Oscars, with hair and lash extensions, with professional lighting, filters, and photoshopping. These images can skew our views of how we “should” look. I personally find that I feel bad about myself and engage in unhealthy comparison when I follow someone on social media who mostly posts these perfect-looking photos. For now, my strategy is to unfollow any social media influencers who post this way. I believe we all need to take whatever action is necessary for ourselves in screening what we view so that we can know that we are great as we are!
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?
As a career coach, I see self-love as a foundation for people to love the work they do. Having a joyful, fulfilling, and materially successful career requires knowing and utilizing one’s innate talents and doing work that matches one’s passions. This is only possible when one knows, accepts, and values oneself fully. Unfortunately, our societal structures do not direct us to career paths aligned with our best talents. Instead, we mostly choose careers that appear more “practical” for earning money. To follow this societal belief, one often must reject his/her own innate talents, which is ultimately an act of self-loathing. An example is a brilliant writer whose father warns: “you won’t make money in that field” and so she studies business and gets a corporate job. This is an act of self-loathing, and she’ll likely wake up one day feeling like she does not know herself. This is because she had to bury her authentic desires and talents. To someday make a career change toward her true talents and to be materially successful, she must uncover that she devalued herself, let go of that self-loathing, and embrace self-love. That foundation sets her up to love her work.
Why do you think people stay in mediocre relationships? What advice would you give to our readers regarding this?
In the career context, we tolerate mediocre relationships because as happens in romantic love we think this is as good as it gets. I advise clients who complain of a professional relationship not working to first look at themselves because that’s where they have the greatest power to create change. We all have ways we sabotage relationships due to negative thoughts or behaviors from past experiences. People can always feel our negative energy and will react to it. So in relationship challenges, I suggest individuals focus on understanding and clearing out their own negativity — like Marie Kondo-ing your inner self! By clearing out the past, we can create great relationships going forward in the future. This does not mean changing our own thoughts and behavior will get us the precise results we want in every relationship. We can’t control how other people act around us. But when we are acting with love for ourselves and all involved, we improve most relationships and let those go that are ultimately not aligned for us.
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 for 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?
To get to a place in our lives of doing work we love, we must first go through a time of deep self-examination. Through deep self-understanding, we know the best in ourselves and from this self-love naturally flows. At the time in my career where I was a busy non-profit executive curious if I could create the coaching business I was dreaming to create, I developed a set of questions for self-examination that I found to be very powerful. They are:
1. What was the best part of my day — what did I most enjoy doing/ I felt good and alive?
2. What was the hardest part — what did I do that drained me?
3. What did others compliment me on or did I notice I did well?
4. What insights do I get from what I’ve observed today and in combination with past information?
I tracked my responses to these questions over a month or two and the answers helped me understand where I shined in my work and where I was ready to expand. For me, this was great because my responses proved that I had the talents I needed for my new business. These were already my favorite areas of work and where people felt I provided great value. I now call these “Genius Tracking Questions” and share these with my clients.
To interpret your results:
– The answers to question 1 and 3 give you clarity around the work you love and excel at and so when you do more of this you will experience much confidence and self-love. This is work that feels fun and easy and it is a game-changer to spend our days doing what is simply fun and easy. Work no longer feels like work, it is just being our authentic selves and we feel valued for it and know we are living at our highest potential.
– The answers to question 2 show you work you might think you should do because you can but this actually is not in your genius zone, and so it is important to take these tasks out of your routine. When we do work that feels hard because it is not in our best talents, we experience self-loathing. We think we should be able to do it better or faster, but the truth is that is not in our nature. We’re better off to give that work to someone who loves it, and it will help them love themselves.
– The answers to question 4 are to help you capture insights about what you’re learning about yourself through the questions. Ideally, you’ll notice trends from how your answers are turning out over time that point you to your genius and the work you’d love to spend your days doing.
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)?
To be alone, particularly in times of reflection and meditation are game-changing. We need to be able to know ourselves, allow our emotions to flow, and access our higher wisdom through silence. To some, it may seem like self-time is a luxury but in the busy modern world, I have found it is really a necessity. One important recommendation I make is that we not start our day with our cell phones and reading messages. When we start our day with something centering and sacred — a prayer, a meditation, a cup of tea or hot lemon water — we set ourselves up to be more connected to our authentic selves throughout the day and we, therefore, make better choices that give us greater peace.
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 we have self-understanding and self-love we are able to take care of our own needs and then it is easy and joyful to share ourselves with others. When we do not know how to love and care for ourselves, we go into relationships either “needy” and expecting others to take care of us or we go into relationships like a “hot mess” acting out with drama and defense mechanisms. That is no fun for the people on the other side, and we won’t get the loving and supportive relationships we really desire.
In your experience, what should a) individuals and b) society, do to help people better understand themselves and accept themselves?
So much more needs to be taught and reinforced in schools and families and workplaces to help people gain self-awareness, emotional intelligence, and good self-care. But until those institutions change, we need to rely on ourselves to create self-understanding and acceptance. For myself, I have created self-understanding and acceptance out of my deep commitment to be happy. Out of that commitment, I have been resourceful to gain new tools and methods of support. This means I have read many books, attended many seminars, hired coaches, attended church, worked with spiritual mentors, created supporting relationships with friends, taken deep self-inventories, and even interviewed other people about their experiences with me. No one can do all of this at once! For anyone wanting to create greater self-understanding and acceptance, I recommend feeling into what most resonates with you or what opportunities show up that feel like the right fit for this moment.
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?
Lovingkindness Meditation — There is a wonderful meditation format called lovingkindness. It involves sending love and blessings to yourself by saying: “May I be well. May I be happy. May I be free from suffering.” Then, you speak similar statements to other people and ultimately to all beings. I always feel good after doing this meditation. Here is a guided version on the Insight Timer app (free): https://insighttimer.com/bodhipaksa/guided-meditations/developing-lovingkindness.
Movement breaks — My holistic doctor said to me recently: “sitting is the new smoking.” As someone who has sat at a desk most of my professional life, I have finally realized this lack of movement takes a toll. And so I have an alarm set on my phone for 2 times during the day to get up and take a dance break or at least do some kind of movement. My body is always grateful for this!
Hydration — I never used to drink water or much of anything really. I’ve learned that dehydration alone can cause a lack of clarity and emotional distress. Yes, properly hydrating causes many more trips to the bathroom but that creates more movement, which again is an act of self-love for me! Fun tip: when our pee is yellow, we’re dehydrated. When well-hydrated our pee is very near clear! The suggested water intake is half your weight in ounces per day. I add lemon to make it more interesting, and I also drink filtered water.
Reading oracle cards — I find oracle cards very fun and playful as prompts to help me work through the ups and downs of life and work. I ask a question and by pulling one or several cards I receive guidance that helps me gain clarity and understand the lessons a situation is designed to teach me.
Mastermind group — Self-love involves a lot of alone time but for me also includes time in the community. One of my most sacred communities is a business mastermind. My mastermind group is made up of 4 women, all entrepreneurs in different industries. We meet once per month and give each other support and guidance around each other’s businesses. We call ourselves “the Board” because it is like we are on the Board of Directors for each other’s businesses. When I am struggling professionally with a decision or feeling insecure about something I want to do, this group helps remind me of my greatest strengths to help me stay on my most authentic course. I feel safe and supported in my work and life thanks to these magical women!
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?
Anything Brene Brown –
Brene Brown is all over the internet with her Ted Talks, Oprah interviews, online classes, and books. She is a brilliant teacher and researcher in Social Work. Her work emphasizes wholehearted living with an emphasis on the power of human connection. She helps us understand human psychology in layman’s terms and so we can more lovingly connect with ourselves and with others. I always feel more equipped for difficult situations when I get a dose of Brene’s brilliance.
Return to Love –
Return to Love is a seminal book by spiritual teacher and activist Marianne Williamson. In the book, she reviews multiple areas of life — work, relationships, health, etc — speaking of how we are often living in fear and teaching us how to return to love. I always say this book is “mindblowing” because every time I read even a small section, Marianne says something that completely blows out of my mind the normalized fear thinking of today’s world and replaces it with more loving and warm thoughts that I know help me be a better person to myself and others.
Super Soul Sunday Podcast –
Oprah has a show on OWN that she also airs as a podcast called Super Soul Sunday. It is a lot like the Oprah Winfrey show in that she uses the interview format, but here every episode goes deep into the soul. She interviews many spiritual masters, religious leaders, activists, celebrities, and athletes who have spiritual awakening stories to share. I pick up many tips for living and working more joyfully and peacefully hearing the stories and teachings of others.
Tony Robbins Podcast –
Known as a motivational or success guru, over the past decade Tony Robbins has also worked much more with a sense of heart and love. On his podcast, Tony does one-on-one interviews with interesting people and also features segments of his live events where you can tune in to hear his powerful coaching and techniques for living fully in love and power. I always take away great practical advice I can use right away to improve in work and relationships by tuning into Tony.
Truth Transformed Podcast –
Hosted by Chicago preacher Rev. Gaylon McDowell, the Truth Transformed podcast offers spiritual principles and hands-on guidance to live a life of prosperity and in right relationships. Rev. McDowell teaches from the New Thought philosophy which is very much about personal responsibility. I always walk away from a Truth Transformed podcast feeling empowered and like I have encouragement and new tools to gain greater power to improve in my work and relationships.
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 DISCOVER YOUR GENIUS Movement:
As I’ve shared, when we know our genius — our natural talents, experience, and passions all leading to work we’d love and would do with ease — we can give to others at our highest potential and feel full and in love with ourselves and our purpose. When we don’t know who we are, what we can contribute — and even worse might be doing work that drains us and leaves us feeling bad about ourselves — we experience self-loathing. Nowhere are we taught to discover our genius. Instead, we are told to go to educational institutions to learn skills that others say are important. A movement for people to discover their genius would create great joy in individuals, and also give people an opportunity to use their genius to solve many of the world’s problems today. (What a love fest that would be!)
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?
“Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” — Albert Einstein
This quote is why I do the work I do and why I advocate for everyone to discover their genius. Too many people are walking around feeling down on themselves because they are spending their time doing work that is wrong for them. Each time I changed my career it was because I was experiencing self-loathing because somehow the content of my work did not allow me to feel my greatness and shine. It is through working toward deeper self-understanding to know our genius that we can get back to self-love and being a great contributor to others. Nothing else feels so good!