You can ask yourself tough questions while still being kind to and honoring the person you are right now. You don’t have to beat yourself up for being this way, you can be kind and compassionate to yourself always, while still understanding that there is room to grow and evolve. Ask yourself, “What can I learn from this chapter of my life?” “How do I want to be, moving forward and what will it take to get there?” “What will it look like when I truly love, accept and believe in myself?”
As a part of my series about “Connecting With Yourself To Live With Better Relationships” I had the pleasure to interview Caitlin Drago is the President of Inspire Improv and Coaching Inc. Caitlin is both an Associate Certified Coach through the International Coach Federation, as well as a trained actor, having spent the duration of her 20s working and studying in Los Angeles. She provides both interactive, improv-based team programs for organizations looking to enhance company culture by improving communication, collaboration and teamwork as well as one-on-one coaching services for individuals to help them get out of their own way and reach their full potential.
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 went to college for acting and, after a brief stint in children’s theatre, moved to Los Angeles to continue studying and pursue a career in the entertainment industry. Acting taught me how to deeply connect with others, to let the outside world melt away as you embody a character that you’ve learned to empathize with, and completely focus on your scene partner. I also studied improvisation at Upright Citizen’s Brigade, where I learned to trust my gut and remove the mental filter that holds us back.
As I neared my 30s, I decided it was time to move on and did the unthinkable, I moved back home to Rochester, New York! I still loved acting and improv, so I found a way to bring them into this new chapter, taking what I learned from my own theatre and improv training and helping professionals (non-actors) to connect and communicate with one another differently and to trust their own expertise and creativity.
Then, while pregnant with my first child, I began the process of becoming a certified Leadership Coach through the International Coach Federation, to build on what I was already doing and have the opportunity to work with clients one-on-one.
Now I have the pleasure of both working with teams using improvisation as a platform for interactive learning, as well as working one-on-one with clients to help behavioral changes to stick. It’s great when others say you’re great, I help people to believe it themselves.
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 into an adult in a city of unrealistic standards. I spent most of my time in LA trying to fit into an impossible mold, instead of accepting and loving myself just the way I was. I spent days going to auditions, hoping and praying that a casting director would like me enough to hire me. My worth was completely tied up in what others thought of me.
Studying improvisation made a big difference for me. Improv is about speaking from your gut, without filtering it through self-loathing inducing questions like, “Is this idea good enough?” “Will people like it?” “Am I worthy of this conversation?” I learned to trust my ideas and all that I was capable of contributing. I learned to love and appreciate my own creativity.
It was this training that helped me to listen to myself, to others and to understand the value that I had to bring to the table. These were concepts that I wanted to share. Thus began my career in teaching the principles of improv to non-actors.
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?
We spend a lot of time looking at screens, with carefully curated images of people whose job it is to look a certain way. As much as we may try to keep that in mind, it is nearly impossible to not compare oneself to these images. We begin to place unnecessary value on outward appearances, cultivating our outward image, instead of tending to our inner-selves.
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?
Loving oneself clears away the self-doubt and fear that gets in the way of us living into our full potential. What are you not doing, because you don’t think you are worthy or good enough? In doing so, what are you keeping from yourself, from your community or from the world? When we love ourselves, we are more able to create, to connect and to love others.
Why do you think people stay in mediocre relationships? What advice would you give to our readers regarding this?
I think there are a lot of things that could go into this, so I will speak from my own experience. We might be afraid that there is no one else out there who will “put up with us.” But the truth is, if that’s the way we see ourselves, there might be some individual work we need to be doing. If, after taking some time to learn to love and appreciate ourselves, we’re still excited to be with that person, at least we are making a choice, rather than sticking with what we may have seen as our only option.
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?
Yes, and you can ask yourself tough questions while still being kind to and honoring the person you are right now. You don’t have to beat yourself up for being this way, you can be kind and compassionate to yourself always, while still understanding that there is room to grow and evolve. Ask yourself, “What can I learn from this chapter of my life?” “How do I want to be, moving forward and what will it take to get there?” “What will it look like when I truly love, accept and believe in myself?”
LA is not easiest place to date, as there are a lot of shiny things to look at. Understanding this, in my early 20’s, I would commonly shape myself into what I thought my current love interest wanted me to be, so they wouldn’t be tempted to go after someone more dazzling than me. It wasn’t until I asked myself these questions, that I realized that, if I couldn’t be myself, the person who I came to love, then they were not worth being with.
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)?
It’s important to be able to be alone, literally, because it gives us a chance to reflect on where we are and how we’re treating ourselves. It’s a chance to check in with ourselves and make sure we’re on a path that we’ve chosen, vs. a path that has been chosen for us. Are we doing something because it brings us joy or because someone else expects it of us? If we just keep going and going, without this reflection time, we can get lost in a story that is no longer ours.
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?
Often the focus is on needing to gain approval and love from others. We place so much pressure on getting others to like us, we glaze over the most important part, loving ourselves. When we fail to take care of and love ourselves, it is felt by everyone we come in contact with, whether you’re the leader of an organization who is burnt out because you’re not taking care of yourself and are riddled with self-doubt or a new parent who is beating yourself up because you can’t seem to get parenting “right.”
When we do love and appreciate ourselves, we can better love and appreciate others selflessly, because we don’t “need” it. We can more fully connect with them, because in conversations we are present with them, rather than worrying about what we’re going to say or how we are coming across. We know we are loved and whole and can put our full focus on that other person while with them.
In your experience, what should a) individuals and b) society, do to help people better understand themselves and accept themselves?
For individuals, it’s about becoming aware of our own thoughts. We all have an ego or inner critic, that is constantly spewing negativity at us throughout our day. It’s the ego’s job to keep us safe and one tactic is to make us think that we are not good enough, so that we won’t take risks or make ourselves vulnerable. By taking a page from Eckhart Tolle and simply noticing those thoughts and letting them go, we make room for self-love, creativity and allow our inner-wisdom or intuition to come through.
For society, I think it is about allowing time for self-reflection, whether it’s a company providing time for meditation breaks, or conducting personality assessments. We spend so much time looking outward, forgetting that it’s equally as important to look inward.
Of course, I also think more people should do improv. Improvisation keeps us in the present moment. Most days are spent either stuck in the past, regretting things we’ve done or failed to do, or worrying about the future. Working without a script, we get to experience what it is like to be in the moment and accept ourselves as we are. Understanding that we’re always improvising, we then take that awareness and acceptance into our everyday life.
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. Create a morning routine that serves you. I have a three-year-old, so I get up an hour before him each morning to meditate and exercise. This allows me to start my day the way I want it to, rather than being thrown into the chaos right away. From here, I can better love and connect with my family and clients, since I’ve taken care of myself first.
2. Notice when you’re saying, “No” and see if you can turn it to a “Yes.” Whether it’s saying “Yes” to an opportunity you don’t feel you’re quite ready for, or simply to your Mom offering to take your kid for an evening and not feeling guilty about it.
3. As a mom, wife and business owner, it’s easy to get stuck in those three categories. I intentionally find a day or weekend every few months to go away on my own and do something completely for myself, to remind me that I am also my own person.
4. Notice negative thoughts and let them go. Don’t get caught up in them or get into the pattern of then feeling bad about having those thoughts, simply notice and let them dissipate.
5. Create a mantra or phrase that, no matter what emotional state you are in, it can act as a reminder that you are of value. Mine is, “I’m here to love.” I find that when I come from a place of love, love for myself and love for others, there is no room for self-doubt or fear.
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 am a big fan of anything by Brené Brown, she speaks so eloquently about vulnerability, fear and setting boundaries out of love for yourself and love for those around you.
The Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle was a game-changer for me. He teaches about how to identify and separate oneself from the ego, the part of us that generates thoughts based in fear.
The Lively Show podcast. Jess Lively also focuses on going beyond the mind, or ego, to connect with our inner voice, or intuition, for guidance.
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 the world would change drastically if we simply learned to listen to one another. Not listen to respond, but listen to understand. It’s not that we have to agree with others, but provide the space they need to simply know that they’ve been heard.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” that you use to guide yourself by?
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. Your playing small does not serve the world.” Marianne Williamson.
Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life and how our readers might learn to live by it in theirs?
I truly believe that we are all much more capable than we give ourselves credit for, we just need a reminder here and there. Imagine what the world would be like, if everyone made a choice to step into their greatness each day?
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!