“When we understand ourselves and love ourselves, we can appreciate imperfections as merely manifestations of being human.” with Patrick Tully

When we understand ourselves and love ourselves, we can appreciate imperfections as merely manifestations of being human. In this way, we will be able to connect to others based on a feeling of shared humanity. This feeling is universal and wonderful. However, on the path to self-love and acceptance, we encounter resistance from our minds […]

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When we understand ourselves and love ourselves, we can appreciate imperfections as merely manifestations of being human. In this way, we will be able to connect to others based on a feeling of shared humanity. This feeling is universal and wonderful. However, on the path to self-love and acceptance, we encounter resistance from our minds and thus we must be patient and loving for the level of self-love we have at the moment. As a result, we will become able to be patient with others as we connect with them and deepen our relationships.

As a part of my series about “Learning To Finally Love Yourself” I had the pleasure to interview Patrick Tully, a private practice psychotherapist in Los Angeles. He works with anyone who feels like an “other.” These include but are not limited to individuals and couples in the LGBTQ community, as well as people who have health challenges such as hearing loss. Patrick himself has partial hearing loss and is gay. Having these unique life factors has taught him to survive oppression and has led him to be the person he is today, who is kind and compassionate, and who wants to help others who seek a more fulfilling life. His website can be found at For anyone in California, Patrick offers encrypted video therapy. His office, for in-person sessions, is located in West LA.

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.

Thank you for having me! I grew up in a world where I felt so different from everyone else. I started participating in personal therapy in high school when my anxiety became intolerable for me. I did not know how to manage the pressures and demands of life coupled with school, so coming to therapy and being heard was a fantastic experience. I started to learn that a lot of my self-imposed blame for becoming overwhelmed stemmed from things that were not my fault, but rather were the result of my predisposition to anxiety and needing to handle feeling different along with regular school and life activities. This was all difficult to deal with. I had the pressure of everyday life along with the pressure of being both gay and hard-of-hearing.

It was easier for me to “come out” as gay than it was to openly discuss being hard-of-hearing. I was met with support when I came out as gay. Although I was obviously hard-of-hearing, I didn’t want to even mention it. It was something I lived with, and yes, I wore hearing aids, but I kept thinking maybe it would disappear. I did not want to think of it as part of my permanent identity.

In recent decades the experience of coming out as gay has become more visible. Thus, an established discourse for what that experience could look like already existed for me. So, even though it was scary, the process wasn’t nearly as confusing as coming out as hard-of-hearing — something for which no established discourse existed, especially for a younger person. Due to hearing loss has also traditionally been associates with old age, the fear of being viewed as inferior or being the subject of jokes was not attractive to me. I worked twice as hard at everything life brought about so as to prevent being viewed as inadequate. But I realize now how so much of that effort was based on my fear and not necessarily reality. There were many people who supported me fully, no matter what I went through.

These intersecting elements of my identity would come together later to shape my professional aspirations. Out of high school I went to an acting academy and then after producing a web series and a one-person show, I really wanted to give back to others. I saw such a need for support in the world and had been helped by therapy myself. At first I utilized my web series (co-created with Debra De Liso), as well as my one-person show and stand-up comedy routine, as ways to show others that despite challenges, they too could persevere. After going to an agency showcase with Debra, we shared with each other the struggles of being accepted by agents who saw her age and my disability as negatives. I was tired of being told there wasn’t a box for me to fit into. I didn’t want my disability to define my roles.

Thus, after more therapy and realizing that I was not happy in my existing circumstances, I made the connection to become a psychotherapist. My therapist had mentioned it after she saw how much I wanted to help people with their oppressions. I had let it sit on the backburner, as it didn’t make sense to me at the time. But, now, suddenly I felt a passion emerge to help others empower themselves.

One morning — it was a Saturday — I woke up and everything aligned… I wanted to be a therapist. I suppose in my sleep I had connected the dots that had been laying themselves out already over time. I soon informed my family. Since becoming a therapist hadn’t been a topic they had heard me talk about before, they naturally were concerned about whether I really wanted to go back to school and devote years of my life to this profession. School had always been a source of insecurity for me, and so I never had felt confident in my abilities to succeed. But I always did regardless. It turned out that the acting conservatory where I earned my associate’s degree in acting, American Academy of Dramatic Arts Los Angeles, had an articulation agreement with Antioch University Los Angeles that would allow me to transfer all my credits and enter Antioch’s BA program.

In less than two years I had my BA and then earned my MA through Antioch as well. These were years of intense commitment to academics and personal work. I was intensely focused on my studies that nothing could interrupt it. There was just one event, however, that was an exception: I received a specialized cochlear implant. This cochlear implant ttargeted my specific type of hearing loss; an implant that was designed to enhance residual hearing for those with partial hearing loss presented an exciting opportunity for me. The implant was a Cochlear’s Hybrid L24, and the procedure required that I take two quarters off from my BA program. Taking a break from school was scary but it proved worthwhile.

In the days leading up to this surgery I was especially confronted with my existing anxieties about my hearing loss. No surgery has any guarantee so I had to hope for the best. I found that I lacked the coping skills to deal with the anxiety that came with such a transformation.

However, this presented me with the opportunity to focus on personally developing resilience and building skills so I could handle more uncertainty in life. Many people feel guilty when they can’t’ “handle” a life event. I say to many clients who struggle with a significant life change that the emotions that come with uncertain times are natural and since we like to know what will happen, it is no wonder we will respond in unexpected ways given the unusual circumstances such changes often bring.

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 just completed a podcast with a medical professional on LGBTQ Affirmative Therapy, which aims to help affirm and validate the unique experiences LGBTQ people go through in our world. Affirmative therapy focuses on improving self-esteem, anxieties, shame, and other results of being a member of an oppressed group. I’m always excited and honored to receive new opportunities to share my work. When a new collaboration with a colleague presents itself, I’m excited for the opportunity. New venues through which to share my work are exciting. For example, I started creating YouTube videos about therapy so people would see there’s a person in the therapist. I enjoy reaching people to let them know that support is both available and wanting guidance is okay, not something to be ashamed of. I’m thinking of expanding my web presence with more videos and blogs in an effort to connect in an authentic way with people who seek clarity in a world full of uncertainty. This seeking clarity naturally extends to our relationships, as relationships are a part of our lives, whether we are in an “official” romantic relationship or not. My therapy practice is always welcoming not only of individuals, but of couples and other relationships as well.

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?

My struggle was mainly with my partial hearing loss. I had internalized and catastrophized my feelings of failure from having it. This led to shame and a build-up of intense anxiety. Thankfully, with therapy I’ve learned how to deal with and accept the challenges.

Accepting a challenge does not mean we like it or wish we didn’t have it. If I could have full hearing tomorrow, then I do feel I would be thankful to have that opportunity. However, having had experience as a hard-of-hearing person has allowed me to have a perspective that not everyone has. This perspective allows me to feel compassion towards others who have a variety of physical challenges.

The compassion came with time, however. Before I began to accept hearing loss as a part of my being, it was hard for me to also share the struggle with others who had hearing loss. When one isn’t able to accept it, then it’s easy to become stuck in one’s own world rather than appreciate how it affects other people. In processing this in my therapy training, I finally allowed myself to be compassionate towards myself so I could share this compassion with other people.

When I was paralyzed by shame, it led to a decline in the quantity of potential personal relationships because I felt so much pressure to be “normal.” This masqueraded as my appearing to be completely independent, when actually what I needed was more people in my life. I denied not having trouble understanding people in groups or feeling ashamed of who I was. So much time was wasted because I felt somehow personally responsible for my hearing loss. After accepting that it existed, I could let other people into my life in a much deeper way. I was once again confident and could much more easily tolerate imperfection in myself and others.

Through therapy and taking risks to overcome my fears through acting, I started to realize that my partial hearing loss and the devices I wear to better hear others are just a part of my life. I had been running so long to catch the “normal train” that I was risking losing my personal voice and point-of-view. Being gay also added a lot to the mix, and although I accepted it, with that acceptance comes a lot of realizations about growing up with the assumption that heterosexuality is the normal way to be. Self-love and self-acceptance finally came with immersing myself into being a curious psychotherapist, which required and still does require intense personal work to let go of assumptions and become more aware of the wonderful complexities of humanity.

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?

The causes of such a low percentage of people satisfied with their appearance can include societal messages of what is considered attractive for both men and women. We learn through advertising and media what others think “beauty” is. Childhood is quite a hard time for us, as even those who we assume would not be troubled by their appearance are not immune to the messages of perfection.

In addition, as we grow up we internalize any sort of deviation from perfection as a problem. These deviations don’t need to be rooted in any sort of fact. They can develop from something that someone happens to say that sticks with us, despite the statement not being based in fact. We end up judging ourselves and thinking others are always judging us. But the consequences of our societal push to be perfect leads to us judging others and others judging us. It is easy for us to take any possible judgment as a confirmation of our imperfection. The internalized oppressions we hold against ourselves get projected onto others. Judgment and comparisons are the unfortunate consequence. We let this interfere with how we view ourselves alone and in relationships as well.

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?

Truly understanding and loving yourself means to understand you won’t always accept what life gives you and won’t always love yourself in the way you assumed you would either. We traditionally view understanding and loving ourselves as accepting ourselves without criticism. We include any “bad” feelings as evidence we don’t love ourselves. But the reality is that self-love and understanding are both processes that have no concrete end. Life is not black-and-white or concrete, so our self-love and self-understanding shouldn’t be held to a rigid standard.

In reality it’s impossible to always appreciate and accept every aspect of ourselves. I would suggest to readers that we look at loving and understanding ourselves as a concept that means we work towards acceptance and love indefinitely. Life changes us and we are always hit with surprises. Thus, at each moment in our lives we can be aware of the perspective we bring to the situation. When we accept with love that we are in a given moment and accept our imperfections as we see them, we can also start to value the process of self-love, seeing it as a journey and not just a destination.

We are able to get to a place of acceptance of being wherever we are in a given moment. Although we may not be kind to ourselves at certain moments, we can still love ourselves as a whole when we remember that these moments are a small part of our entire lives. When we love ourselves, we accept imperfections in how we see ourselves and our behaviors. We also are able to finally love others as well because we have the openness to do so.

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

People may be happy or sufficiently content in mediocre relationships. If those outside the relationship view a relationship as mediocre, the people inside the relationship may not feel the same way. So-called, “good” relationships are each structured in a unique way with partners wanting different things. However, if people are dissatisfied in a relationship, then reasons for staying include not understanding how one feels about the partner and relating that to the relationship: we may feel a deep love but not enjoy being with the partner constantly. We may not know how we feel and so the relationship may remain mediocre as we figure that out. The relationship may appear to have less than perfect qualities: the couple is stressed out about money, the couple wants to figure out their life together, and it appears to keep falling flat. But in the eyes of the couple, the relationship may be satisfactory and just normal. However, if the relationship is mediocre according to the people in it, then it helps to analyze why each person feels that way and to then see if the relationship can improve. We can have a fear that if we leave a mediocre relationship that we won’t find a better one. That’s always a risk as life makes no promises. However, one must not sacrifice one’s integrity or sense of self in a relationship, and if that is happening, or if there is any harm in the relationship, then it has fallen into the “get out” phase.

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?

When we accept ourselves, it should never be a blind acceptance. It is crucial that we do personal work in order to accept ourselves as we are in the moment and still be open to making changes. For example, accepting who we are and how we operate interpersonally is often a big struggle. We see people we admire who appear to behave in all the “right” ways we wish we could behave. We see people who don’t seem to struggle with anxiety or depression and who live the lives we wish we lived. However, we need to get honest with ourselves as to what we want and whether that reality is possible. We need to learn how to both accept support but not rely on others for our validation.

Personally, having hearing loss and being gay, I was in a world where I wasn’t sure how to get to any place of normalcy the way I saw it reflected around me. That’s why therapy was so crucial to me, because I finally had a non-judgmental place where I could reflect upon the things I found interesting or odd that normally were not questioned. I could then see how the therapist reacted and create deeper understanding as to my unique perspective given my differences. Brainstorming and questioning could occur in the room with safety.

During my period of becoming a psychotherapist, I realized I needed to make changes to how I saw myself in order to serve both myself and others in the best possible ways. This required examining my past and connecting moments to the present. I also delved into writing and discovered many assumptions and judgments by writing about my life. It was a big help that Antioch University Los Angeles, where I received my Master’s degree, put a lot of emphasis on writing and doing so consistently and daily.

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)?

Being alone is scary because we are only with our thoughts and often, we don’t listen to our thoughts. It’s important to practice being with ourselves so we learn to breathe and feel grounded without the help of others. It’s okay to feel sad or upset. So many feelings we don’t feel comfortable with are important to let through and being by ourselves allows us the space to start feeling those. When we are truly alone, we have no one to perform for or to entertain, and therefore we only have ourselves as an audience. It’s easy to then get lost in the anxiety. This is why practice is so important. We can be alone and learn how to be present from repeating this experience.

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 understand ourselves and love ourselves, we can appreciate imperfections as merely manifestations of being human. In this way, we will be able to connect to others based on a feeling of shared humanity. This feeling is universal and wonderful. However, on the path to self-love and acceptance, we encounter resistance from our minds and thus we must be patient and loving for the level of self-love we have at the moment. As a result, we will become able to be patient with others as we connect with them and deepen our relationships.

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

People would benefit from developing self-care strategies that focus on loving-kindness and also accepting each moment for what it is. This could include lying down on a comfortable couch and allowing uncomfortable emotions to “just be” and accept them for what they are. If we are distraught, that’s what we’re feeling. Then later, it’s important to remember what makes us special and to remind ourselves of that, perhaps through writing or doing artwork.

There are assumptions in our society of what “normal” is and what constitutes acceptable ways of being. People can help let go of these pressures by examining what society expects of us and choosing whether to follow that expectation or our own. Our thoughts and choices are often based on societal viewpoints. When we think critically about the choices we are making in relation to how they make us feel versus satisfying the expectations of society, we are able to broaden our own perspective and make progress over a period of time. I wish society would view therapy as a sacred entity to whom people truly can express how they feel without fear of retribution. Or if fear is felt, then that can be freely explored with safety.

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) I breathe and mindfully take in what is around me in order to be present in my body.

2) I take a moment every day to write down my thoughts, no matter what they are. Examining my thoughts helps me more deeply understand my current thinking state.

3) I practice affirmations, personalized for myself, that remind me of the qualities I possess that make me special and deserving of love, not only by others but by myself first.

4) I give myself permission to let go of a responsibility: let the laundry wait until tomorrow. This has been especially powerful for me as some form of structure was always something I used to fall back on in times of uncertainty.

5) Allow myself to ruminate for five minutes: Allowing my brain a certain period of time to ruminate and feel badly often allows me to realize how harsh I’ve been with myself. When we completely suppress either positive or negative feelings, a lack of self-awareness is the result. Thus, having the freedom to think in whatever way we are thinking is important.

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?

Belleruth Naparstek produces wonderful audio CDs of guided imagery and affirmations. Her voice is magical and very grounding and calming. I feel like I’ve taken a vacation after immersing myself into a series of her meditations.

A book I really treasure is Lucille Ball’s autobiography. We all know her as Lucy Ricardo, husband of Ricky Ricardo on I Love Lucy. However, the real life of this extraordinary actress was inspiring due to her overcoming health difficulties and surviving a tough upbringing.

I also go online and explore topics that seem fascinating. Before I know it, I’ve spent an hour learning about fifty ways to declutter my life when I didn’t realize there were so many ways to do this. It can be great fun to just browse and learn.

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 would inspire a movement of compassion for others and ourselves. Perhaps it would be related to some way we could more openly express appreciation for each other without fear. In our society, we are taught to be self-sufficient and that reaching out to others, not to mention strangers, is viewed as weak. If we could have a movement focused on appreciation, that would be wonderful.

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?

“Stop acting so small. You are the universe in ecstatic motion.” ~ Rumi

This is one of the endless quotes by Rumi that resonates with me. I really appreciate this one as it reminds me of how small we make ourselves when actually every one of us contributes so much to the world. We make ourselves feel so small too often. By learning to love and accept ourselves, we can accept ourselves as loving people who deserve love in return.

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

Thank you for providing me with this opportunity. I hope this helps readers question assumptions and gain clarity in their lives.

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