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It’s Love Yourself First! Friday: This Phoenix is Carolyn

 

How do you love yourself first? What does that mean to you?

I love myself first by checking in to see what I need to do in order to feel like me. I believe that life’s challenges and stresses can sometimes distract us from what we really enjoy about life and from what’s important to us.

Loving myself first means taking care of myself. Self-care in its many forms helps me get back to that true state where who I am and what I want are clear to me. Sometimes self-care is just maintenance and other days it’s recovery from life’s obstacles and distractions.

What actions demonstrate the self-care you provide to your mind, body and soul? (Exercise, healthy eating, spiritual practice, etc)

I find that yoga can really help me check in and monitor why I’m feeling the way I am and what I can do to remedy it.

Sometimes talking with a loved one can really help ease my mind and work things out in my head.

It can also mean going on a hike or a run with my dog, reading a book, or watching reruns of a favorite show. Other times I feel the need to be more productive and creative, and that to me is self-care, too. Cooking, doing chores around the house, or even taking care of some work that has been on the back burner can feel like self-care.

I think sometimes it’s the things I don’t do that can contribute to a distracting feeling of stress and lead to not being able to really connect with myself. It has also been extremely beneficial to me to figure out what I need physically on a daily basis to feel good. A good workout of some kind, vegetables, and at least seven hours of sleep are essential for me.

Is there an obstacle or challenge you’ve overcome that led to a deeper love for who you are?

There have been several challenges that have eventually led me to value qualities in myself that I either hadn’t recognized before or had seen as flaws.

One challenge was quitting smoking for good. It was a habit I tried to kick several times and finally something inside me just changed. I tend to retreat when I’m dealing with an internal struggle, and I do not like to ask for help. So, when I decided to quit that’s exactly what I did, and I’m so glad. I used to see my self-isolation as a negative trait, but through that situation I learned that it’s how I heal myself sometimes, and that’s okay. I love that I have that strength within me.

Another challenge was moving to a new city and new job, then realizing too late I made a bad decision. In our society, we really put a lot of value on persistence and not giving up on a challenge. This is especially true for women when it comes to relationships and for everyone when it comes to careers. I would characterize myself as a resilient and persistent person but only to a point. It’s something I saw as weakness for a long time, but I love that I recognized I wasn’t getting out of a situation what I was putting into it and did something to change it. It’s a quality I have tried to cultivate because I see it as a strength.

What have you learned from self-love?

I have learned from self-love that it is something we must consistently work on. Practicing self-love I’ve realized there are forces in our world that profit immensely from our lack of self-esteem, so they work hard to keep us disliking ourselves. I’m sure we can all think of an individual or two who has benefited from someone else’s lack of self-love.

Loving myself and loving things about myself that are easier to dislike right off the bat are a worthwhile endeavor.

With self-love I can be free to live in a way that feels right to me, in a way that allows me to listen to and honor my own needs.


Love Yourself First! Friday. Phenomenal women who fiercely and unapologetically demonstrate self-love in action share their stories – powerful, honest, heartfelt stories that shed light on diverse ways to make self care, healing and whole living daily priorities.

Join the tribe! Share your story. Send an email HERE.  Just put “My LYFF Story” in the subject line of your email, and you’ll be contacted by the Phoenix Team with details on how to participate.

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It’s Love Yourself First! Friday: This Phoenix is Michelle

How do you love yourself first? What does that mean to you?

Loving myself first means living a values-based life. When my Dad, Vietnam veteran and hardworking Appalachian man, was first diagnosed with lung cancer I had just started my PhD program in clinical psychology. I had also just lost my Godmother (my Dad’s sister) to lung cancer. I’ve been working toward the goal of becoming a clinical child psychologist since I have been 13 years old. I have had to overcome my fair share of adversity: a late-diagnosed hearing disability, growing up in Appalachia, and being a first-generation college student. This translates into me being a hard-working poor test taker with a purpose to help others from underserved communities.

As I traversed the world of grad school my Dad fought for his life. He was cancer free when I matched for internship 13 hours away from my family. It was the final step before earning my doctorate. Unfortunately, his remission was short-lived. I completed my internship clinical work, working with the population I believe I have been called to work with – providing evidence-based trauma treatments to children and adolescents. As my internship was winding down, I needed to decide where to go for postdoc (the next step needed to get licensed and to solidify my research career). I was at a fork. Do I continue to weave myself tightly within the field of childhood trauma? Or do I move as close to home as possible to be near my family? It is with courage that I chose my family – landing in the stars with my post doctoral career. I value my career, and I value my family and friends just a bit more. Clinical work is emotionally and spiritually draining, but the reward reaped when I am able to help a child, eases the toll to my well-being.

Sadly, my Dad passed away just weeks after moving home. Knowing that I needed these two years to breathe and rest my tired heart, I happily engage my research postdoc. This is why I cannot in good, self-loving conscience be a full-time clinician. Instead, I choose to overcome the funding obstacles of research in a climate that is ever so hostile to science. I will do it with courage and a firm understanding that I am Appalachian, and no one can quiet my voice.

Michelle dancing with her dad at her wedding

What actions demonstrate the self-care you provide to your mind, body, and soul?

Self-care is a series of evolving lessons:

On nutrition: About 8 years ago I stopped eating fast food. I drink almost no soda and try to eat small portion sizes. About 3 years ago, I stopped eating all meats except fish. In the past six months, I started to eat minimal dairy and bread and mostly stick with vegetables, fruits, nuts, and beans.

On exercise: In grad school I started running – an identity I have never really embraced despite completing two half-marathons and several 5Ks and 10Ks. More recently, I have been practicing yoga three to four days a week.

On balance: I try to minimize how much work I am doing at home. I do not check my work e-mail on the weekends. When I am eating dinner, I do not have my cellphone out. I go see my Mom every Sunday when I’m in town. I spend time with friends at least weekly and have coffee in bed with my husband and our two cats on weekends.

On adventure: I travel to see friends, family, and for conferences. When I travel I like to get off the beaten path, go hiking, and learn about the local culture. I also craft, plan and throw elaborately themed parties.

Is there an obstacle or challenge you’ve overcome that led to a deeper love for who you are?

Most days I suffer from imposter syndrome. There’s been a challenge at every step of the way in my career path. First I had to catch up with my peers in elementary school to get out of the “slow learners” track and into college prep. Then I had to figure out what being Appalachian and first generation in college meant for me. I then had to score well on the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) and have enough research experience to demonstrate my commitment to scholarly activity for my PhD program. There’s always been a “next up.” I’ve encountered plenty of people – mentors, elders, peers – who have led me to question myself, my worth and ability. Thankfully, for every one of those folks, I’ve had two others to remind me that I am enough and can do anything I put my mind to.

I want to make the world a better place. It’s always been about “How can I help?” How can I transform the lives of underserved youth by planting seeds of courage, compassion, and inner strength? I am my strongest when I am helping others. It is what drives me to keep going. So, when my Dad was dying, and I spent all those years away from home doing the “next step” I realized that I had neglected my value for spending time with and helping family and friends.

The obstacle of believing that I am enough and can fulfill my life’s purpose without choosing just that over other values has been like taming a wild bear, except I’m the bear and the trainer at the same time.

What have you learned from self-love?

I am learning to have courage. I haven’t always been able to help others; sometimes my path seems like I’ve all but given up on doing that. And while my inner strength does not always shine, I know that I can take breaks to let my mind, body, and spirit heal. Most importantly, my light glows even when it’s an ember.

Michelle shares why she chose the photos in her self-love story:

Father/Daughter Dance – My Dad and I dancing to I Loved Her First. I believe he loved me enough to wait until I was home before passing away so that we could all be together.

My Life Partner – This guy and I are on this journey together. We’ll dance, walk, skip, crawl, and even carry each other on our path.

PhD Graduation Cap – Robert Frost has been narrating my life. I tend to take the road less traveled when I come to a fork. And, oh, has it made all the difference! I still got to where I was going, and I’ll get to where I am meant to be.

Vinyasart – I chose this because it captures my creative outlet – exercise and mindfulness – which all nourish my soul.

 

Inspired by Michelle’s courageously honest and heartfelt story? Share your thoughts in the comments. We’d love to hear from you.


Love Yourself First! Friday shares the unique stories of diverse women to inspire and empower others to also fiercely demonstrate self-love in action.  The questions are meant to shed light on various ways our featured Phoenixes are making self-care and intentional living a priority.

Do you want to share your self-love story? Send an email HERE.  Just put “My LYFF Story” in the subject line of your email, and you’ll be contacted by the Phoenix Team with details on how to participate. Be sure to read some of our other inspiring stories.

Join the Collective on Facebook and Instagram


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It’s Love Yourself First! Friday: These Phoenixes are Trina & Valerie

 

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Love Yourself First! Friday invites women to tell their LYFF stories to inspire and empower others to also fiercely demonstrate self-love in action.  The questions are meant to shed light on various ways our featured Phoenixes are making self-care and intentional living a priority.

This is a first for the series (and hopefully not the last). We’re featuring two women at the same time. Best friends. Authentic, loving and honest friendships are to be treasured, and these Phoenixes definitely understand that.  Trina and Valerie share how being friends has healed and transformed their lives:

How do you love yourself first? What does that mean to you?

In 2015 Valerie and I decided to radically transform our lives. We have been best friends for over 41 years and have always felt there was a greater purpose for our friendship. Both of us were at a crossroad in our lives. Around late February, we met at Barnes & Noble and developed a plan that would give us the power to take back our lives. We were burnt out and had to shift our mindset from seeing ourselves as just moms, caretakers and breadwinners going through life with no real joy or sense of fulfillment.

We began to utilize our friendship as a means for keeping ourselves accountable for the changes we were implementing to live lives of self-love. Self-love meant learning to establish firm boundaries with our families and friends, and in our careers:

  • We learned how to say no. If we can’t do it we no longer beat ourselves up about it.
  • Our children are now young adults so we have had to learn how to be of assistance to them but no longer plan our lives around their schedules as much.
  • We don’t bring work home in the evenings or on weekends from our 9 to 5 jobs.
  • We don’t spend time with toxic and negative friends any longer.
  • We freed ourselves of the duty to cater to everyone else’s needs before our own.

Our lives now exemplify the peace and joy we could not find because we had given our power away to other people and things.

What actions demonstrate the self-care you provide to your mind, body and soul?

Through our friendship we have demonstrated self-care, spiritually, by attending weekly Bible study together at our church. We also attend Sunday services at Word of Faith Worship Cathedral, volunteer with P.U.S.H. (Pray Until Something Happens) Ministry, and have participated in their youth conference as facilitators. Every Tuesday is our fast and pray day; during this time we are praying, reading the Bible and seeking direction from God on being better women and awesome friends to others, growing our business, parenting our young adult children and any other matters that come before us.

We love to travel and had never been to the west coast, so in April we visited San Diego and Los Angeles, California for eight days. It was a wonderful adventure and so much fun to decompress and leave everything and everyone behind. We are great travel buddies because we don’t always have an agenda, and we also don’t require a lot from one another. For example, there are times when we just sit in silence and take in all the beauty of our surroundings, and there are other times we have gut-busting laughs about something that has happened.

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Photo: Trina and Valerie at Manhattan Beach during their vacation to Los Angeles

We also demonstrate self-care through reading, something we have always had in common. We go to the bookstore, get coffee, find all the books we want to take a look at during the visit, and talk about our findings. We’ve actually purchased the same books for one another! It’s like our own book club.

Through our friendship we have demonstrated self-care by creating our business, Power of the Pair. Our mission is to educate, empower, and encourage women to become accountable and committed to meaningful friendships. We take time every day to work on our business, putting a message out to the world that we are better together. We believe in the power of friendship because it has helped us to find our way back to loving ourselves first.

Is there an obstacle or challenge that you’ve overcome that led to a deeper love for who you are?

Trina’s Ephiphany – My unhappiness from a former marriage caused my blood pressure to spiral out of control, and I also had chronic insomnia. I was afraid to face the truth and did not want to hurt my ex-husband, but in the end I was hurting myself. I internalized my pain and became quite ill in the process. My blood pressure was so high the doctor asked me if I wanted to live. This was not due to diet or lack of exercise. This was due to STRESS. I knew I had to make some changes in my life and realized I had to love myself, mentally and physically, in order to live a quality life. I had the conversation, moved on with my life and never looked back. I started exercising at least three times a week, watched my sodium intake, and I am no longer on blood pressure medication. Yes! Yes!

Valerie’s Epiphany – I was so unhappy with my job that I resigned with no job offer to fall back on. I did have some cushion, because I was living with my mom at the time. So financially my basic needs were met, but there were no resources for anything else. By the new year of 2015, I had a heaviness and pressure on me to complete my dream of becoming an author and speaker. The pressure was so heavy I could not sleep at night. I felt if I did not do something to accomplish it, I would suffer in some way. In addition to becoming an author, I also wanted to be a professor, so I enrolled in school and began to work on my doctorate. I felt that if I went to school I could at least teach on the collegiate level. This would also satisfy my need to write.

Shortly thereafter, Trina and I met for dinner one evening and I mentioned to her that we needed to collaborate on something together. After dinner I suggested we go to Bible study. When leaving church we talked so much about starting business together that Trina stated, “Val, if we don’t do something this time then shame on us.” Her statement really resonated with me. She also shared a dream she had; God had given her our business name. We were to be called POWER OF THE PAIR. She saw us as spiritual twins, a pair in spirit. Something immediately went through me, and I knew it was divine. I knew in that moment we were meant to embark on our purpose together and join forces as one in business.

What have you learned from self-love?

As friends we have learned that if we don’t put ourselves first, we will not be able to fulfill our purpose for being here. We have to do what is right for us. We may be judged for it but stress, financial struggles, health issues and worry are not the answers to living quality lives. Coming together and working towards living spectacular lives are the best things we could ever do in our friendship.

 

Are you inspired by Trina and Valerie’s LYFF story? Share in the comments. We’d love to know how healthy, supportive friendships have helped to transform your life.

 


Do you want to share your self-love story? Send an email HERE.  Just put “My LYFF Story” in the subject line of your email, and you’ll be contacted by the Phoenix Team with details on how to participate. Be sure to read some of our other inspiring stories.

Join the Collective on Facebook and Instagram.


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Acceptance is Healing and Absolutely Necessary for Personal Change

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What experiences and/or circumstances do you need to accept so real, transformative change can occur in your life?

Your affirmation:

I accept______________________in my life and trust that all will be well. I give myself permission to let go.

Conscious acknowledgement of whatever it is, says that you’re ready to move forward; in fact, the affirmation is the start of your shift. If you need an example, let the shift in one season to another be your guide. It’s the end of summer; you can definitely feel a little bit of fall in the air and the pull to prepare for it. It’s all a part of the process of renewal.

Like nature, you cannot be stagnant, and this is where acceptance is crucial and absolutely necessary. Yes, it is difficult sometimes (I’ll be the first to admit I have a hard time in this area) but when you do, it brings healing, peace of mind and an opportunity to receive something new, something better, something you didn’t even know you needed. However, you cannot receive that “something” if you’re not willing to trust the process.

There’s a beautiful quote by Kris Carr that I refer to when I’m having difficulty accepting an experience or circumstance in my life: “When we truly embrace acceptance, that’s when our body exhales and can begin healing.” I’ll add that the mind and soul take a big sigh of relief, too. They, in unison, say, “Thank you.” So, take some time during this transition in seasons to really meditate on the question above and be intentional about the actions you’ll take to get there.

Accept, let go and make room for change. Remember, exhale. Be self-love in action.

 


Ayanna_Jordan[The Phoenix Rising Collective]1Ayanna Jordan is founder of The Phoenix Rising Collective. She develops and facilitates women-centered workshops on how putting self-love into action can transform your life. Ayanna also creates coaching and training that supports women’s professional growth in leadership, entrepreneurship, and passion-filled work. As editor-in-chief of Phoenix Shine, she is happy to be working with contributing writers to provide resources and awareness on topics that cultivate self-love and acceptance. Right now, she is most inspired by the LYFF series and She Makes It Beautiful. You can learn more about Ayanna HERE.

Let’s stay connected. Join our social community on Facebook and Instagram.

 


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It’s Love Yourself First! Friday: This Phoenix is Sheree

 

Sheree_LYFF[The Phoenix Rising Collective]

Love Yourself First! Friday (LYFF) is part of The PRC’s Shed Light series collection. We invite women to tell their LYFF stories to inspire and empower others to also fiercely demonstrate self-love in action.  The questions are meant to  “shed light” on various ways our featured Phoenixes are making self-care and intentional living a priority.

This week’s Phoenix is Sheree:

How do you love yourself first? What does that mean to you?

Loving myself is a practice, a daily practice, a moment by moment practice mixed with a lot of patience and self-compassion.

Loving myself is becoming more aware of my thoughts, my feelings, my behaviors and actions. Through this I am aware of the woman I am becoming. There is not an end product, no finished version of me to love. I am on a constant journey. Now, I’m on the right path of self-love and there’s no way I can get off. I am aware of the difference between self-hate and self-sabotage in comparison to self-love, and I don’t want to go back.

It’s telling myself that I am loved. It’s about getting out of my own way to allow the love that I hold within to flow through me, to flow through my heart, body, mind and soul for myself, for others, and for the world at large. It is about being open and vulnerable, and growing in strength by giving and receiving. It means not taking on anyone else’s hang-ups while at the same time dealing with my own.

Loving myself first does mean changing my narrative, changing the stories I have been telling myself and living by. I accept that within life, as I move forward attempting to become the best version of me, there will be difficulties and struggles. It will be messy and I won’t do things perfectly. Acknowledging my fears, mistakes, doubts and struggles, and sitting with them (not denying them) means loving myself enough as I am: the ‘good’, the ‘bad’ and the ‘ugly’. It means cutting myself some slack if I’m having a bad day. It’s about praising myself, as well as chastising myself, but still being able to believe in myself, always.

What actions demonstrate the self-care you provide to your mind, body and soul?

The mind is a powerful tool if we use it as such. It controls all that we do and don’t do. It affects our thinking, feelings, actions and behaviors. It doesn’t matter how much I want to do something: go for a run, eat healthily, go to a yoga class; if my mind isn’t into it, it ain’t happening.

It’s a constant practice and battle to keep my mind in the zone – focused and motivated. It gets tired, disheartened, distressed, and frustrated. My practice to ward against this happening too often is to meditate on the page. I call it my Morning Pages (thanks to Julia Cameron) or simply journaling. Every day I have to work out on the page. Each day I show up by writing out how I’m feeling, what I’m thinking, dreaming, stressing. I’m connecting with myself on the deepest of levels or even shallowest of levels when I provide the time and space to have this daily inner conversation.

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Journal Collage created by Sheree Angela Matthews

This writing practice is deepened by walking, running, wild swimming and eating consciously. But these other self-care practices go out the window when I’m disconnected from myself, when I haven’t been checking in with myself on a regular basis. The person I am becoming and how I present my being within the world is constantly changing. I’m inconsistent, so having the means to check in with myself keeps me sane.

Self-care for my soul comes through my creativity. Creativity is my jam. Whatever medium is calling me – pen on paper, keyboard, painting, collaging, knitting, dancing, singing, cooking – I need to make things, bring things into existence that were not here before I started the process. There’s a feeling as if something, some kind of energy is flowing through me when I create. I’m in the zone. I’m working intuitively. I’m creating and am at peace. I’m joyful.

This doesn’t happen every time I take the time to create, but I keep showing up in the hope that these feelings, this experience will happen again and again. It’s not about the end product; it’s the process. It’s the practice with patience, of course.

Is there an obstacle or challenge that you’ve overcome that led to a deeper love for who you are?

“What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would spin open.” -Muriel Rukeyer

There comes a time in everybody’s life when the unspeakable happens. To say it hasn’t happened or won’t happen to you is a lie. You’re kidding yourself. Believe me.

In May 2015, the unspeakable happened to me. There was a public shaming. My whole world fell apart the day I was accused of being a plagiarist on Facebook by a ‘so-called’ friend and fellow poet. He wrote that he’d found whole scale “borrowings” from other writers’ words, phrases, and structures within my latest collection of poetry. He said that he was just doing his duty for the poetry community by bringing it to everyone’s attention. What followed was what I chose to call a public lynching of me as a writer, poet and person. This was the unspeakable that happened to me. But funny enough, I am speaking about it here, as well as writing a creative non-fiction book about this whole experience. Everything I knew, all I was, how I thought myself to be was taken from me in that public posting. I issued an apology regarding my unintentional mistakes and withdrew from the public realm. At one point, death looked a very promising course of action, but I had my family and some supportive friends who helped me.

Within the Chakra system there is a heart center called Anahata Chakra. In Sanskrit, Anahata means “Unstruck.” For me this speaks to the resilient nature of the human heart. I believe, wholeheartedly, that there is a place within my heart that is absolutely unbreakable.

This experience did break my heart, stopped me from loving, and shut me down and out. However, there was a minute part that kept pulsing, kept the light on for me. Maybe it was my belief in self, my self-love that got me through each day.

Each day has not been wasted. I have taken this experience as a wake-up call, a wake-up to explore and claim my authenticity. Afterwards, I had nothing. I couldn’t even look myself in the face at one point. But writing my book and starting to take photographs of myself have supported me in my climb up. I can’t say climb ‘back’, because who or what I am becoming, I do not know. I have never met this woman. I do know that love and self-love, first and foremost, are at the center of this journey.

What have you learned from self-love?

Self-love has to come from me. Obviously, right? But it is probably the hardest thing we try to do, have to do. It is difficult, because maybe we are not given the tools to love ourselves, so we struggle to practice it. I’ve spent the majority of my life trying to please others, trying to make them like and love me. I thought this was the route to travel in order to develop self-love.

I’ve spent multiple lifetimes making others comfortable at the expense of making myself uncomfortable. I just wanted to be loved. I wanted to be accepted and validated. I wanted to be enough, good enough. In the process of pleasing others I’ve silenced myself. I put versions of me into storage, buried them away. I’ve censored myself because I haven’t loved or believed in myself enough to show up in the world as me. I’ve thought,”If I’m truly myself people won’t like or love me.” They’d see my ugliness and disown me. As things have transpired, I have been disowned when I least expected it. When I thought I was accepted. Now, I’ve got nothing to lose except myself. Out of fear I disowned myself, but not anymore.

This past year of reaching rock bottom meant I had nothing but myself to count on. It meant I had to go within, search within the shadows, within my darkness to find my light, to find me. And it’s source is love.

I’m not here to write ‘the happy ever after’, as that just happens in fairy tales. In real life, self-love doesn’t show up every day. It isn’t a constant. Some days I feel worthless, useless and such a failure.

Henry David Thoreau said, “There is no beginning too small.” This I do know.

Each new day is a beginning, so if I fail this day. I can begin again the next day. Simple.

I keep making small beginnings over and over again. In the process, I am learning to love myself more and more.

Self-love is a practice with massive heaps of patience and compassion, but it’s worth it. No. I’m worth it.

___

Share your thoughts about Sheree’s powerfully honest self-love story in the comments. And, to learn more about Sheree and Wild Soul Woman, follow her: IGwildsoulwoman; FBfacebook.com/wildsoulwoman; Twitterawildsoulwoman

 


Do you want to share your self-love story? Send an email HERE.  Just put “My LYFF Story” in the subject line of your email, and you’ll be contacted by the Phoenix Team with details on how to participate. Be sure to read some of our other inspiring stories.

Join the Collective on Facebook and Instagram.