“You can learn to love yourself if you make time for your hobbies” with Elise Williams

Make time for your hobbies. Your hobbies are things that make you happy. Whether it’s reading, cooking, or just having a wine night with your friends, prioritizing what makes you happy is a great way to maintain a connection with yourself. Your hobbies also help you to destress; when I come home and cook with […]

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Make time for your hobbies. Your hobbies are things that make you happy. Whether it’s reading, cooking, or just having a wine night with your friends, prioritizing what makes you happy is a great way to maintain a connection with yourself. Your hobbies also help you to destress; when I come home and cook with my fiance, I’m so focused on measuring ingredients and chopping vegetables that the stresses of the day melt away. (Especially if I do it while sipping on a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon!)

As a part of my series about “Connecting With Yourself To Live With Better Relationships” I had the pleasure to interview Elise Williams, Managing Editor at Inuvo Inc. and Co-Founder of Earn Spend Live, a women’s lifestyle website devoted to helping women navigate their career, manage their finances, and master adulthood. She also wrote two books with Earn Spend Live’s other co-founder, Meleah Bowles — You Goal, Girl: A Goal-Setting Workbook, and Common Cents: A Budget Workbook.

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.

Writing has always been a huge part of who I am, but I didn’t think I could ever realistically make a career out of it. So when I got to college I asked myself, “what am I good at?” and the obvious answer was correcting people’s grammar. So I chose to pursue a career in editing. I grew up reading Seventeen and Cosmopolitan religiously, so digital publishing was a natural fit for me.

About a year out of college and into my career, the imposter syndrome started to hit me hard. I was managing a website geared toward career advice for those “climbing the ladder,” and I realized I had no idea what I was doing. I had never negotiated my salary. I had never managed a team. I had just gotten on the ladder, but I had no idea how to actually start climbing the thing.

So my co-worker/BFF Meleah and I created Earn Spend Live in 2015. Luckily, our boss gave us free rein on our target demographic, and after several months of research, we found that we weren’t alone; young, twentysomething women are seeking the tools they need to figure out how to navigate their newfound adulthood. So we decided to feature women who were at the top of their game and could give our audience advice, as well as women who were still trying to figure everything out and would openly admit the mistakes they’ve made along the way.

I wrote about the things I have experience with occasionally, but I was more than happy to sit back and give other women a platform. I actually refused to consider myself a “writer” until You Goal, Girl and Common Cents were published. (I know, another self-deprecating writer, ew.) Then I realized that just maybe helping people through my writing is my true calling.

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 *so* wish I could spill all the beans, but check back with me in a few months for the official word. What I can say about my next project is that it will really be a continuation of the work we set up with the first two books. With You Goal, Girl, we walked our readers through the process of setting real, tangible goals, and gave them the tools they need to accomplish them. With Common Cents, we helped our readers to set up their first budget, create a plan to pay off their debts, and start saving money.

Falling in love with yourself is a journey, and what got me there personally was accomplishing the personal and professional goals I set for myself, knowing how to manage my money, and really just becoming confident in my abilities. So these first two books were written to help young people acquire the tools they need to find their version of success. My next project will take the journey to self-love a step further.

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?

About five years ago, when I was fresh out of college, I was asked the question “What would someone who hates you say about you?” in a job interview. I remember being absolutely stumped. I was silent for way too long, racking my brain, and I remember finally saying, “This is going to sound fake, but I can’t think of a single person who hates me.” There were girls who were mean to me growing up, of course and boys who didn’t like me back, but I had tried my darndest to steer clear of conflict my entire life. I didn’t think anyone could have any real reason to dislike me, let alone hate me.

Fast forward to this year, and I’ve faced more conflict in the past 6 months than I have my entire life. I’ve quickly come to the harsh realization that even if you work your butt off to make sure you get along with everyone and everyone likes you, there are still going to be people who just don’t. And at first, I let it wreck my life. But through therapy sessions and many, many late-night talks with my fiance, I discovered that I have spent too much of my life worrying about other people’s perceptions and opinions of me. I let other people dictate the way I live my life. I worried so much about whether or not people liked me, and as my fiance has pointed out — do I even like them? No? Then why does their opinion matter?

And I finally said, “enough is enough.”

When you’ve done everything you can and people are still determined to not like you, you slowly (but surely) start to realize that the problem lies with them. And then you are free to live your own life for YOU and no one else. It’s a whole attitude shift that has to happen. You’re inevitably going to face conflict; it’s how you handle it that matters. All you can do at the end of the day is face a situation head-on and learn from it. You can’t make everyone like you, but you can choose to love yourself enough to walk away from toxic people and situations with lessons learned.

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?

Even if you love everything else about yourself — your ambition, your personality, your humor, your wit, your passion — for some reason loving your body is just HARD. I’m confident in my skills and my abilities, but my relationship with my body is an ongoing journey.

But I think we have to do the same things for our body that we do for our careers and our loved ones; we have to prioritize ourselves, set goals, and work hard for what we want to achieve. We have to face what exactly it is that’s making us miserable and address it. This last year, I lost 15 pounds — but only after I tried to diet and had a huge meltdown because I wasn’t losing any weight. Instead, I decided to focus on creating a healthier lifestyle. I cooked at home more and I took walks around my favorite trail because it made me feel better mentally and emotionally as well as physically.

I also had a breast reduction after a literal decade of hating my boobs. It was a lot of money, and the recovery time was the most painful thing I’ve ever experienced (I haven’t experienced childbirth yet, so please, don’t come after me, moms of the internet). But now I look in the mirror and I feel more like myself than I ever have.

This isn’t to say that expensive surgery is a solution to your body issues, because sometimes it’s not. Sometimes the solution is therapy or practicing affirmations, or just simply surrounding yourself with people who build you up instead of tear you down — or all of the above. But if there is a solution to something that makes you miserable every damn day of your life, do it. Love yourself enough to ask for help. Because as the Cosmopolitan study clearly shows, you are not alone.

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 truly believe that you cannot love anyone else if you don’t first love yourself. That’s not to say you have to be completely, 100% confident about every aspect of your body or your personality, and you can definitely still struggle with your mental health and understand the good, the bad, and the ugly, and still love yourself as a whole. But if you don’t have a good, healthy relationship with yourself, then how can you expect to have good, healthy relationships with others? If you don’t understand your triggers, if you haven’t faced the skeletons in your closest, you’re going to project that shit onto others for the rest of your life. I read The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck by Mark Manson recently and it changed my life. One lesson that will stick with me forever is that whatever has happened to you, whatever cards you’ve been dealt, may not be your fault. But how you deal with it is your responsibility.

And if you don’t put in the work that loving yourself requires (reminder: all relationships require work), you’ll lack the tools (empathy, emotional intelligence, patience, respect) required to form quality relationships with others. This is important because people are important. At the end of the day, human connection is everything. We are on this earth to help each other learn and grow. And if you push everyone away, if you don’t know how to really be there for others, then what’s the point? How are you making this world a better place?

The way you treat people directly mirrors the way you treat yourself. Root for your friends’ successes. Comfort them in their failures. Find joy in lifting others up — even when it’s not easy for you. And do the same for yourself. But also remember to set healthy boundaries. Loving yourself may mean forgiving those who have wronged you, but it can also mean respecting yourself enough to stay away from toxic people and situations. It’s your life; make sure YOU love it.

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

Oh, man. I was in one for seven years so I could write a whole book on this topic. But I won’t, and I won’t say anything negative about my ex (thank u, next). What I will say is that people get comfortable. Even if something isn’t “great,” even if there’s uncertainty, we are creatures of habit. And sometimes we forget that we have options.

But, this is where loving yourself comes in to play. When you really, truly, fall deeply, madly in love with yourself, you stop accepting anything less than what you believe you deserve. You stop accepting mediocrity and demand better. You realize what you bring to the table and you want something equally as great. You become uncomfortable with what was once comfortable.

Start treating yourself like you would your best friend. You wouldn’t want your BFF to accept less than she deserves, so why the hell would you let yourself put up with it?

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?

I started going to therapy several months ago. I decided to go because I think therapy is healthy and essential, but also because I felt angry all the time even though I had a million good things going for me. After my very first session, my therapist told me I had some pretty deep-rooted self-esteem issues. The next session we discovered I was a bit of a control freak. And the next session we came to the conclusion that all of this stems from my perfectionism that’s been ruling my life for as long as I can remember. (Seriously; my mom told me a friend gave her a book about dealing with a “perfectionist child” when I was young.)

The point is, I had already started putting in the work on myself. In 2018, I started living on my own for the first time in my life, I wrote two books, I improved my relationship with food and lost 15 pounds, I got a promotion I worked my ass off for, and I had a breast reduction surgery that I had wanted since I was 16. I went into therapy thinking I just needed someone to vent to occasionally and found out that even though I truly do love myself, I still have some serious issues to work through. And after a few sessions, I realized that that’s perfectly ok. I am a work in progress, but that’s just it: I have to put in the work on myself if I want anything in my life to change.

Everyone wants a quick fix when it comes to “being happy,” but the only person who can truly fulfill you and make you truly happy is yourself. So the uncomfortable truth you have to face is: “What am I doing wrong? What change can I make?” We talk a lot about this in You Goal, Girl, because a goal is something within your control. And you can’t control other people’s emotions. You can’t control their decisions. You can only control Y.O.U. So right now, ask yourself:

-Am I having the same (or similar) conflicts with people over and over? Could the problem, then, be me and the way I handle conflict? (Because again, you can’t control the way other people treat you; you can only control the way you react.)

-Am I happy? If not, what would make me happy? Am I willing to do what it takes to make that happen?

-What parts of myself do I not love? How do I come to love them?

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)?

Learning how to enjoy being alone was a major step for me in learning how to love myself. It’s such a crucial part of the process.

I’m an introvert, so I’ve always craved my “me time.” But it wasn’t until I became single at 25 (for the first time since I was 16) that I truly fell in love with being 100% by myself — and doing things on my own. And the little things add up. The first time I carried a 32-pack of water up two flights upstairs by myself, I felt like Wonder Woman. The first time I mastered a new recipe by myself, I ate all of it and relished the fact that there was no one there I had to share with. And by the time I met my now-fiance, I was so in love with being alone that choosing to be together meant so much more. To purely just want someone in your life as opposed to needing them is such a healthy, beautiful thing.

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?

Answered above.

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

As a society, we need to change the way we think about mental health. We need to prioritize it like we do our physical health because it’s of equal importance. We need to support people who are struggling and encourage them to get the help they need, regardless of the size of their problems. We need to listen more. Be kinder. Practice empathy.

As individuals, we owe ourselves some alone time. Turn off the TV, get off of social media, stay in instead of going out occasionally, and just get to know yourself. Journal. Meditate. Go to therapy. Really get in touch with what makes you tick. Work through things, really feel your pain and deal with it, instead of ignoring problems and hoping they go away. (Because spoiler alert: they don’t.)

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. Talk to someone. Whether it’s a therapist or your BFF, venting is healthy. Just make sure it’s someone who will listen and empathize but also call you out on your BS; otherwise, you’ll find yourself venting about the same things over and over with no change or growth in sight. My therapist and my fiance make a point to see things from perspectives other than my own. It’s not always comfortable at the moment, but I come out of it a much wiser and empathetic person.
  2. Keep a journal. I try to document all the good things that happen in my life. When I’m having a rough day, looking back at all the things I have to be grateful for helps me get back into a positive headspace. It’s also a really great way to work through negative emotions as well.
  3. Make time for your hobbies. Your hobbies are things that make you happy. Whether it’s reading, cooking, or just having a wine night with your friends, prioritizing what makes you happy is a great way to maintain a connection with yourself. Your hobbies also help you to destress; when I come home and cook with my fiance, I’m so focused on measuring ingredients and chopping vegetables that the stresses of the day melt away. (Especially if I do it while sipping on a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon!)
  4. Set goals and crush them. One of the biggest ways I found confidence was through achieving the goals I set for myself. When you set your mind to something and then do it, you feel like you can do anything.
  5. Forgive yourself. We are truly our harshest critics. People are constantly telling me to stop being so hard on myself, and the scary thing is that I don’t even realize I am most of the time. So I always try to stop, think about if one of my friends did what I did, and think about how I would feel. If a friend canceled on me because they were having a bad day and just wanted alone time, I would 100% understand. So I should allow myself to do the same without feeling guilty or thinking that friend will never invite me anywhere again.

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?

As I said previously, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck was life-changing for me. It’s a great read for a lot of different reasons, but the biggest thing it did was help improve my relationships with myself and others. Once you accept that you can’t change or control the way other people behave or the way they treat you, you learn to accept people for what they are and what they aren’t. And you learn that it doesn’t change who you are or what you believe. It’s freeing.

I’m also currently reading Nonviolent Communication by Marshall B. Rosenberg, which teaches you how to communicate with people in a way that speaks directly to them individually. People are emotional beings, so approaching situations with logic, unfortunately, gets you absolutely nowhere sometimes. You have to come down to their level and communicate in a way that makes sense to them. Which also relates to another book I’m about to start reading — Talking to Crazy by Mark Goulston. My fiance got me that one for Christmas and I can’t wait to really dive into it.

As for podcasts, I listen to things that interest me. I can only do so much self-reflecting and self-improvement in a day; sometimes I just want to listen to a podcast host drink wine and recap The Bachelor — so I listen to Off the Vine with Kaitlin Bristowe. When I want my feminist fix, I listen to Stuff Mom Never Told You. When I want to be inspired by powerful women and their stories, I listen to Skimm’d From the Couch. I enjoy listening to women who keep it 100% real 24/7.

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 just want people to start being completely transparent with what they share with others — both IRL and on social media. And not in an Instagram celeb “look how authentic I am with my makeup-free selfie” or “I may be thin but look, I still have rolls when I bend over!” kind of way. I’m talking about being transparent with your financial journey, with your wins at work, with mental health struggles, with having children and maintaining a relationship with your partner, with loving yourself.

Because the more we talk about things we think we’re alone in feeling, the less alone we feel. The more we talk about our struggles as well as our successes, the more we help others who are just starting where we once were. We are on this earth to help one another, and it doesn’t help anyone to pretend that your life is perfect and that if anyone just “hustles” hard enough, they too can afford monthly excursions and all-marble-everything.

I was listening to the Off the Vine podcast recently, and the guest, Raven Gates, said something unexpectedly profound that has stuck with me. She said to make your life infinitely more interesting than what you show the world on social media. Part of this, in my opinion, is shifting your attitude when it comes to what you find “interesting” about your life. It’s perfectly fine to want to share the big moments — I just announced my engagement with a sickeningly sweet photo and dramatic caption — but it’s also perfectly fine to keep the more intimate, “interesting” moments to yourself. The moments I find truly “interesting” include (but are def not limited to) cuddling up with my fiance and my cat at the end of a long day, getting a giant bear hug from my nephews, my parents telling me how proud they are of me, wine nights with my BFFs, and answering these questions while wearing a face mask and my cat sitting on my left arm (he weighs 12 pounds so it’s slowing me down quite a bit, but I wouldn’t want him anywhere else).

I’m so over hearing social media referred to as a “highlight reel.” Let’s change that. Let’s stop feeling like we owe it to people to tell them and show them everything. Pick and choose what you post. And make sure your life is so much more than what Facebook says it is.

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 can do anything, but not everything.”

I think especially in this day and age, there’s so much pressure to care about everything, to have an opinion on everything, to do something (or tweet) about everything. And you just can’t. You will spread yourself way too thin and then you’re of no use to anyone. We talk about this in reference to goals in You Goal, Girl, but it applies to everything in life; focus on one or two passions/hobbies/goals/problems/whatever at a time and go from there. Do those things really well. Then rest. Recharge. And then tackle whatever life throws at you next.

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