As a part of my series about “Learning To Finally Love Yourself” I had the pleasure to interview Melony Hill is a survivor many times over. Constantly counted out by society due to emotional instabilities and a traumatic upbringing that led her down a path meant to destroy her, Melony has reclaimed her life and now, seeks to help others do the same. Through Stronger Than My Struggles, she aims to heal through the written and spoken word, offering resources and services to survivors from all walks of life. As the author of 8 books, a life transition coach for survivors from all walks of life, speaker and advocate, Melony Hill is determined to impact the lives of survivors worldwide.
Melony is not only a college lecturer and public speaker but also hosts a series of workshops in the Baltimore area including a free weekly therapeutic writing workshop. Taking her mission to connect others with their purpose seriously, Melony is the National Curriculum lead and facilitator of the Baltimore branch of the Freelancers Union, a national organization with 400,000 members nationwide.
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.
Becoming a Life Transition Coach seemed like the natural next steps for Me after finally finding My happiness through My own personal transition. For so long, because of a horrible upbringing, I didn’t love Myself nor find peace in day to day life. I hated everything about Myself from My physical appearance to the people in My life and the daily habits and routines I’d developed. It wasn’t until I thought I had lost it all and was challenged with finding and loving Myself again, that I realized how much I and many other survivors needed a guidebook or map to navigating societies expectations of us when on the path to finding self.
In 2017, I launched Stronger Than My Strugglesand for the first time, I felt I had stepped square into the place I belonged, helping other survivors create the lives they desired and deserved as well.
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’m currently creating a new coaching program, “Pain to Platform” to help other survivors from all walks of life, like Myself, create a platform that will help them connect to and help others who have walked in their shoes. In addition to the program, I’m writing two memoirs to release this year that detail distinctly struggles I had in loving Myself and how I overcame them. One memoir will focus on My 20-year history of life with an incurable STD, how that’s affected My life and relationships and what it’s taught Me about loving and accepting Myself. The other, with a focus on My journey over 2 decades in the adult industry, how My mental illness and sexual assault led to it and how I’ve recovered since retirement.
I hope that the program as well as books, inspire others to know that they too, must come to love and accept themselves for each part of them. My goal in being so transparent with My life and journey is to encourage others to lift their head to live, laugh and love with pride despite their circumstances.
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?
So many stories come to mind, but the one that sticks on the most is My hair journey. As a Black woman, hair is very important, it’s an integral part of My day to day style and sadly, confidence. From a young age, I was told My hair was too thick, too kinky, dare I say, nappy. Perms, chemicals and weaves were constantly applied to straighten it, make it look more acceptable by societal standards. I’ve always admired the more natural women, long flowing locs of natural hair have always been My dream. I was constantly told, even by the people who raised Me, that locs were dirty, a sign of being unprofessional etc. In 2013, I made the decision that I would start My loc journey so that I could love the image I saw in the mirror instead of constantly attempting to change My hair to look acceptable. I was tired of being an impostor and still never feeling good enough.
I cut all My hair off so that the chemicals were removed, Growing My hair from a shaved head to long enough to loc to now, where it’s past My shoulders natural and beautiful. I wake up every morning knowing who I am, I look in the mirror and I always look like Me. It was so liberating. I’ve been growing My locs for 4 years now and I’ve never been happier.
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 truly find that the sub-conscious pressure put on society from all angles plays the biggest role in that. We’d like to think that our thoughts are all our own, however, we are constantly being bombarded with subtle cues as to not only what is acceptable, but what is expected day to day. Through various forms of media, we are shown what the “ideal” haircut, body type, car etc is for the season or year. Social media creates an atmosphere of comparison and competition.
We’re seeing the number of diagnosis of mental illness, especially depression and anxiety, rise regularly. People are spending so much time wrapped up in the lives of strangers and celebrities, attempting to keep up with the current trend, go viral and get likes. We’ve seen not women die from this behavior, getting illegal injections to enhance body parts. Comparing yourself to others can lead to other illnesses such as eating disorders as well. There is no ideal body type, no one hair style that works for us all. Individuality is scarce in this internet age.
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?
The most important reason is that we teach people how to treat us. So often, people wonder why they get the short end of the stick or others are quick to walk all over them. Believe it or not, they’re taking cues from you. People pay close attention to how we carry ourselves, the things we let slide, even how we talk about ourselves and treat us accordingly. If you’re constantly putting yourself down, or others before you, others will do the same.
When we love ourselves truly, we can have healthy and stable relationships with ourselves and others that involves us
- Setting healthy boundaries
- Being able to separate our needs from the wishes and expectations of others
- Find purposeful hobbies and interest instead of engaging in time wasting activity
Why do you think people stay in mediocre relationships? What advice would you give to our readers regarding this?
I could list a myriad of reasons people seem to stay in mediocre relationships
- They have kids and responsibilities that they feel outweigh their own happiness
- They don’t think they deserve a better partner
- They’ve suffered some type of trauma and identify with feeling helpless
The truth is if I listed 20 reasons, they’re still all boil down to one common denominator, low self-esteem. People stay in mediocre relationships because they don’t think they expect better because of how they feel about themselves because of something in their past.
Childhood trauma manifests in so many forms and often reemerges in out dating habits and practices. I often counsel My clients when dating to do regular assessments of their relationships, checking in to see how happy, secure, loved etc they feel and to ask if they are truly in the best relationship for them. I also suggest that if their partner has any toxic traits that resemble the environment they grew up on, they analyze why they date that type person. Sometimes, we seek out familiarity even when it’s not something that’s good for us, because familiarity brings comfort. The best things in life are outside of your comfort zone. Don’t get stuck reliving your past over nd over with new partners.
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?
Great question! We must constantly check in with ourselves as ask the following:
- Am I happy?
- Am I being a people pleaser or doing what I like?
- Do My actions, words and thoughts match up?
- What are My values?
Self-love for Me meant after 20 years, publicly admitting that I had Herpes. Not only was I tired of having casual and random sex, avoiding commitment and lying about who I was until I felt I could trust someone, I wanted people to live without the constant fear of being discovered then ostracized. Checking in with Myself using the questions above, I knew that I wasn’t living authentically. I lost My mom to AIDS, have Herpes and My younger brother also is HIV positive, it was time for Me to take a stand for STD awareness and better relationships for Myself.
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)?
Wow, I used to have a hard time with being a lone Myself, I felt this question. It’s extremely important to make time to be alone and still. Time for reflection and introspection should be built into our daily schedule, it is when we have time to ask ourselves about our day, relationships, emotions and listen to ourselves for the answers.
There is growth in stillness, when we spend time alone, we have time to plan our next moves, pen our next best seller, or even figure out why we haven’t left the job that makes us so miserable yet
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?
It allows you to show up in every situation as your most authentic self. Being authentically you is a great way to figure out who really likes you versus who likes the idea of you and what you bring to the table. You lose the fear of “will this push them away?”, when it comes to speaking your mind and setting healthy boundaries. There are so many benefits involved that allow you to live full out instead of from other people’s perception of who you should be.
In your experience, what should a) individuals and b) society, do to help people better understand themselves and accept themselves?
- Individuals can avoid comparison, it’s true that as they say, it’s the thief of joy. They can also be real with themselves about their needs, wants and wishes. Often, we have our mind and eyes set on goals that matter to society, not ourselves and we get so caught up in trying to be this version of us that is expected of us that it leads to depression and self-loathing.
- Society is a bit trickier, however, as a whole, society can be better trained to recognize and respond to emotional instabilities such as depression, anxiety and PTSD. When we are aware of these invisible illnesses, we can stop to understand people’s actions better. We are able to recognize when someone is hurting and talk to them on a different level of understanding. Additionally, the pressure to be a clone of the latest trending celebrity or influencer could be lightened.
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?
Self-assessment — I know that it is important to do self-checks regularly. It’s extremely important because at times, when things start to go off track, it is easy to look for someone else to blame. Instead, when things are going wrong and I feel bummed out or self-loathing, I check in to see if I play any part in the situation that is making Me feel less than. I ask Myself a series of questions that cause Me to be 100% honest with Myself in My answers.
Journaling- I truly believe that journaling is an act of self-love. Journaling gives one the opportunity to sit down with their thoughts and analyze their day, experiences and life in a state of retrospect and growth. Through this reflective writing practice, I’ve been able to look back and appreciate not only how far I’ve come in life, but actual proof of My strength as I can see all I’ve overcome. That alone, makes Me love Myself more on a bad day.
Self-care — Self-care is one of those tricky phrases like love. How does one practice self-care? It will look extremely different for each of us. For some, self-care might be bath bombs and candles, for others, it’s an all-inclusive vacation, and yet still others, it’s saying no regularly, exercising twice a week and not counting calories.
Learning — It may seem like an odd way to practice self-love, but we humans feel good when we learn new things and are able to accomplish more in life. The more knowledge and skills we amass, the more doors open for us and the higher our self-esteem rises as our confidence in ourselves and our capabilities grow.
Living healthy — The key to living healthy for you, is doing it for you. Living healthy is an act of self-care and your healthy body and lifestyle will not look like your neighbors look. There is no set amount of time that you should exercise per day or week, no perfect shape or size that one should be. What there is, is a lifestyle that makes you feel healthy, free and at your best. That can look like exercise, eating right for your body, getting enough sleep, avoiding toxic relationships and a myriad of other things as well.
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 can honestly say that there isn’t any podcast or book that I’ve fallen in love with and find to be a go-to resource however, I have found that motivation, inspiration and validation of My journey from following and working with speaker and life coach, Lisa Nichols.
Coming from a less than desirable background of young single Black motherhood, losing it all, being in a violent relationship that threatened her life, I can totally relate to her story. The way she has used her journey to not only elevate herself and others who had low-self esteem because of their pasts struggles, is inspiring.
Her journey, her words, live events and programs have been great resources.
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 think it’s like what I have started with Stronger Than My Struggles. I’d start a universal movement of survivors who are living authentically while creating the life they desire and deserve no matter the circumstances that come from. Stronger Than My Struggles is a worldwide movement that we can all relate to. While our struggles are all different, we do all have them. When we take away all the things that divide us and focus on our similar struggles, we are able to not only heal ourselves but extend that healing to the world around us.
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?
“You either win or learn.” For a long time, like many, I thought the age-old adage, “you win some, you lose some”, was reality. Through My tumultuous upbringing, violent relationships, bad career and life choices, what I’ve learned is the opposite. There are no losses, there are wins and there are life lessons. Sometimes, the thing we think we have lost is instead, a blessing or destined part of our journey.
Life is a series of learning and growth experiences. I wouldn’t be where I am today if I had not learned to embrace that one lesson.
Thank you so much for your time and for your inspiring insights!