“ When we give kindness to ourselves, we create a little pool of kindness around ourselves, and we can share it with others.” with Katherine North and Sasza Lohery

You can’t give what you don’t have. Think about the last time you snapped at your partner, your colleague, or your kids — I’ll bet you $1000 it wasn’t a moment when you were deeply rested, well fed, and smiling lovingly at yourself in the mirror. When we give kindness to ourselves, we create a little pool […]

You can’t give what you don’t have. Think about the last time you snapped at your partner, your colleague, or your kids — I’ll bet you $1000 it wasn’t a moment when you were deeply rested, well fed, and smiling lovingly at yourself in the mirror. When we give kindness to ourselves, we create a little pool of kindness around ourselves, and we can share it with others. But when that pool is dry, everyone goes thirsty.

As a part of my series about “Connecting With Yourself To Live With Better Relationships” I had the pleasure to interview Katherine North. North grew up as a missionary kid yet is now a foul-mouthed heathen mystic, a life coach, and a queer feminist mother of five. She changed her name to Katherine North (at age 42) just because she wanted to. (Is that allowed? Yes, it is!) She might be the only life coach in the world who doesn’t believe in the law of attraction. Her clients are ambitious, successful, and too smart for most of the self-help aisle — but they secretly yearn for more magic, more peace, and more grit. She helps them be bigger and braver than they ever thought they’d need to be through a process she calls “Declaring Dominion.” More than 3,000 women have used her Queen Sweep program to clear their lives of clutter, she teaches sensitive empaths to set energetic boundaries in Practical Magic for Secret Mystics, and she helps kindred spirits become epic f*cking badasses in her EFBA programs. Katherine is the author of Practical Magic for Secret Mystics and The Bliss Conspiracy. She’s also the founder of The Birth Story Project, a nonprofit website that curates empowering birth stories from women around the world. She and her husband, Nick North, who’s a transgender man and trans advocate, recently won a grant to make a documentary about their marriage and their big queer family. You can find Katherine’s work at DeclareDominion.com.

Thank you so much for joining us! Let’s Get Intimate! I’d love to begin by asking you to give us the backstory as to what brought you to this specific career path.

I never intended to be a life coach, but I’ve always had the words “tell me your secrets” tattooed on my forehead in invisible ink. Even when I was working as a voice-over artist or moonlighting as an international consultant in Tokyo, I was always that person in the corner of the party listening to someone’s most intimate story.

That turned out to be excellent training for my current work as a mentor and confidante to ambitious and successful women. When life gets to a certain point, we all need a safe place to process our big, complicated lives so we can go back out and triumph at them.

Life is messy for everyone, even the ones who seem to have it all together (truly), so I help my clients make life gorgeous right in the midst of all the complications and challenges.

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, my husband and I just received a grant to make a documentary about our big queer family. Nick is transgender, and yet on the surface we look like a typical suburban family — minivan, puppy, five kids, assorted stickiness.

Most narratives of transgender people focus on the struggles they face, like discrimination and violence. Those are important stories, but we want to tell a different one: we want to share our ordinary-extraordinary love story as spouses and parents of a big blended family.

Too often transgender people and parents of transgender kids wonder, “Will they be okay? Will they be loved? Will they ever have a family?” And our story is a resounding YES to that question.

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 grew up steeped in a religion that taught me that I was terribly sinful and pretty awful, but salvation was possible as long as I had the right kind of faith. As a kid, I had a terrible secret: I didn’t feel it. I didn’t have that faith, which was a pretty scary thing for a missionary kid.

It wasn’t until my twenties that I reached a crisis point: I could stay in my religious community, stay in my unhappy but sanctioned marriage, stay in my church world, and be safe but in agony — or I could leave it all.

So I left it all, messily, which is how 20-somethings do things, and in that leaving I chose myself. I chose to be true to myself even if it meant hellfire and damnation (something I still believed in at that point).

It was absolutely terrifying and completely liberating.

It’s when I began to heal, with lots of therapy and self-exploration. I began carving out a new life and a new faith apart from everything I’d ever learned was right and true, and that began the journey that brought me where I am today — a happy heathen mystic who now helps other women tap into their own power and magic.

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?

How to say this delicately…that would be courtesy of the capitalist racist patriarchal culture we’re all steeped in, which hurts people across the gender spectrum but is particularly devastating to women, people of color, nonbinary folk, and transgender people.

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?

I know, it’s so cringe-y to say “love yourself” — but it’s basically the secret of the universe.

The thing is, the world doesn’t believe your PR — it believes the energy actually you bring with you. The way you feel about yourself saturates every email you send, every pitch you make, and every contribution you make in a meeting.

The words you say are being drowned out by how you feel…and consequently how you make others feel. No one cares if you spout nice ideals if you’re steeped in self-loathing and trip over apologizing for yourself; they won’t know why, they just know that they feel awkward and squirmy and kind of icky around you.

On top of that, the way you love yourself is what you’re modeling for your children to do (terrifying thought, I know!).

At the end of the day, until you can extend compassion and love to yourself, you literally don’t HAVE it to give to anyone else.

Why do you think people stay in mediocre relationships? What advice would you give to our readers regarding this?

I believe we’ve inherited archetypal memories, sort of a spiritual DNA, from all the people we’re descended from (both physically and culturally). So women have thousands of years of history instructing them on a subliminal level that their primal safety and that of their children is tied to staying in their relationship. (Because that was simply a fact for generations, and is still true in many parts of the world.)

That’s why leaving a relationship that is mediocre feels truly dangerous and transgressive; it’s linked to the past. It’s really only a recent blink in history where women have been able to earn and keep their own money and financially provide for themselves and their children.

My advice is to take a good look around your actual reality. What are you truly capable of? (Probably more than you think.) Will immense harm come to you if you leave this relationships? (Probably not — and if it will, get professional and legal help immediately.) Would you want your beloved child or friend to stay in a relationship like this one? (Ah, there’s the kicker.)

People are surprised by how much these deep primal murky emotions color their decisions. After working with thousands of women, I can’t think of one single person who said, “I wish I’d stayed in that mediocre relationship longer,” but I can think of dozens off the top of my head who say, “I can’t believe I didn’t leave sooner! What was I waiting for???” I think people are waiting for permission, and that’s something we have to give to ourselves.

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?

A powerful question to ask yourself is, “If I knew I would be 100% safe and okay on the other side, what would I do or say?”

My husband and I have a motto in our marriage: KIND & BLUNT. It’s lovely when we can manage to be kind AND truthful, but we’ve agreed ahead of time that if we can’t be gracious, we have to err on the side of the blunt truth.

The thing you believe you can’t say is usually the exact thing that NEEDS to be said. These awkward, squirmy conversations have led to some of the biggest breakthroughs and negotiations of our marriage. Sometimes harmony lies on the other side of discomfort.

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)?

Oh my goodness, it’s essential! This isn’t about being introverted or extroverted; it’s about having a grounded sense of self that lets you stay YOU, with your own edges, even in relationship with someone else. Our culture has such a warped view of intimacy that depicts it as collapsing or dissolving into each other. But that’s not true intimacy, that’s just mushy codependency. Actual intimacy requires two separate adults who can stay true to themselves while also engaging each other in a deep, authentic way.

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?

You can’t give what you don’t have. Think about the last time you snapped at your partner, your colleague, or your kids — I’ll bet you $1000 it wasn’t a moment when you were deeply rested, well fed, and smiling lovingly at yourself in the mirror. When we give kindness to ourselves, we create a little pool of kindness around ourselves, and we can share it with others. But when that pool is dry, everyone goes thirsty.

In your experience, what should a) individuals and b) society, do to help people better understand themselves and accept themselves?

I think every person on earth would benefit from a good life coach or a therapist. We have doctors and trainers for our physical bodies, but most people have no support, training, or guidance when it comes to their emotional and relational lives!

Life is a paradox that requires us to be both fierce and tender in equal measure — fierce in our actions but gentle toward our own tender insides. And the more loving and gentle you can be to the sometimes-scared self who lives inside you, the more you’re able to step out and do brave and fierce things out in the world.

I also think that we’re at a tipping point collectively where we’re busting out of old gender roles. When we can reimagine our careers, marriage, and parenting arrangements outside the old restrictive gender boxes, everybody wins.

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. My key daily practice is taking a little bit of time to scribble in my journal. It’s basically just stream-of-thought rambling, but it’s like taking a shower for my mind and heart. It’s a conversation just between me and myself, and it’s both grounding and nurturing. When I’m feeling lost, I simply express love for the different parts of my life and myself, even the messy ones. I’ll literally write out, “I love you, overflowing email inbox. I love you, self-who-dreads-calling-the-insurance-company. I love you, pants that don’t fit any more. I love you, solitude.” For me this is much better than a traditional “gratitude practice,” which often just made me feel guilty and rebellious.

2. I show myself love and respect by creating physical spaces that reflect my worthiness. A clear desk says, “New ideas are coming here.” A freshly made bed whispers, “You are allowed to rest and recharge.” A jar of tulips says, “Oh hello, beauty!” This is the foundation of my program The Queen Sweep, where we start with outer order and beauty and find that it brings more space and loveliness to our insides, too.

3. Like many of my clients, I’m very sensitive to others’ feelings. I can be like a sponge, soaking up people’s distress or anger or irritation or sadness, which leaves me feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. So learning to set emotional and energetic boundaries was a key step to loving myself. That sensitivity is actually a superpower — it’s how so many of my clients can read a room and intuit what’s going on under the surface — and when they can wield it deliberately it instead of being overwhelmed by it, it’s an incredible secret weapon.

4. Most of us have learned that being an adult means squashing down a lot of our truths. But the more truthful I am — even if it’s just in the pages of my own journal — the lighter and brighter life feels. Sometimes it’s about the small things, like admitting that I really hate volunteering for the PTA. Sometimes it’s about big things, like deciding to change my name to Katherine at age 42, and make up a new joint name with my husband, just because it felt like the right thing to do! The more you practice with little things, the easier it gets to handle the big things. Let yourself build muscle slowly in this area!

5. I take time just to be with myself. As an introvert, nothing fills me up like solitude — but with five kids, two businesses, a husband and a puppy, silent solitude is in short supply! So I deliberately and proactively schedule a quarterly solo retreat each quarter. I block off those couple of days several months out and it put it in all my shared calendars, and it’s remarkable how the world seems to arrange itself around those plans. But if I wait for a magical weekend filled with lots of empty hours, that’s never going to happen. I have to be deliberate about it.

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 love The Passionate Marriage by David Schnarch — a very different take on intimacy than most traditional couples therapy, based on the idea of differentiation. Esther Perel’s podcast “Where Should We Begin” is so wonderful, both kind and incisive. I trained years ago with Dr. Martha Beck and I still have enormous admiration for her work: a great entry point is her book Finding Your Own North Star. And of course, I’m wildly excited about my own set of resources and writings for fierce and tender kindred spirits, which can all be found on my website.

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…

Life is messy, but we can make it gorgeous anyway. This starts when you declare dominion over your OWN life. It’s yours, and no one can do it for you. It’s your gift but also your responsibility — so don’t let anybody else’s rules, memories, politics, gender roles, or bulls**t get in your way. At the end of the day, you have to answer to yourself and to no one else.

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?

Something I say to my clients all the time is: You are a f***ing cathedral. Life will bring you beauty and joy, sorrow and disappointment, injustice and delight and peaches and rain and crayons. And you are big enough for all of it.

There’s so much pressure to be small and pinched versions of ourselves. But in order to handle the magnificent and glorious and messy and chaotic wonder that is real life, we will need to grow absolutely enormous. We will need to put down deep roots into the earth. We will need to take breaths into lungs as big as forests. Luckily, you can totally do this. You can contain magnitudes. You are vast. You know, like an effing cathedral.

Thank you so much for your time and for your inspiring insights!

About the Author:

Sasza Lohrey is the Founder & CEO of BBXX, a digital platform for intimacy and wellbeing. She is also the host of the BBXX podcast, “Let’s Get Intimate!” which hosts provocative and entertaining conversations with experts in order to challenge the way our culture conditions us to talk about sex, intimacy, and healthy relationships. BBXX was created in order to help people better understand themselves, so that they then can form deeper and more fulfilling relationships with others. Sasza is a former D1 athlete with a background in psychology and digital media. She is a member of the Women of Sex Tech collective, the co-mentorship community Dreamers and Doers, and a regular columnist for several online publications. Originally from the Bay Area, Sasza founded BBXX during a Stanford entrepreneurship program in Santiago, Chile. Learn more on our website and listen to more interviews with experts on our top-rated podcast!

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