The Phoenix Rising Collective

Inspiring Women. Empowering Change.


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

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

I think that ‘loving yourself first’ starts off with being real with yourself (and others) about who you are – and accepting it. Whether that be certain elements of your personality or some feature on your body, accepting that this is the way you were designed to be and you are beautiful for it (even on your worst days). But I am also a firm believer in challenging yourself, because this is where we stretch and we grow the most. I’m not just referring to the cliché version where you challenge yourself to “be strong, be bold, be you.” While these are great qualities that we should aspire to possess, let’s start with tangible things that can be achieved daily: challenge yourself to drink more water, to look up a new recipe, to learn to play a musical instrument, to read a book that disagrees with something you believe in. The possibilities are essentially endless in this area – which is one of the reasons I love it so much. There is always room for improvement, and I have found that the more I improve in the little things, the better I feel about myself. This is the primary way that I have ‘love(d) myself first’ this year.

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

I set aside 30 minutes every day to read and journal – this is my time to unwind from whatever activities I had going on that day and just focus on me and my thoughts. I try to dedicate my reading time to books that will challenge something I believe in, and then I journal my reasons behind disagreeing with the author.

Exercise is obviously a must! (I try at least 20 minutes/day, 5 days a week) It’s a great way to get all that negative stress out of my body, as well as boost my self-esteem.

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

Growing up I always struggled with the feeling that I wasn’t enough: I wasn’t smart enough to make my parents proud or to get into a certain class (or university). I wasn’t pretty enough to make a boy like me or to get invited into certain friend groups. I wasn’t talented enough for anyone to notice something I was doing. Right about the time I was a senior in high school was when I realized if being enough meant being perfect – I could never achieve anything I wanted to do or lead the life I wanted to live, so now I love that certain things don’t come easily to me; it means I will always have the opportunity to learn. I love that I can be confident in the way I look, because I know that I was created this way, and there is not a single woman on this planet who has the same eyes that I do, or the same nose, or the same smile.

What have you learned from self-love?

There is always room for grace while you grow.


Love Yourself First! Friday is an enlightening interview series featuring the stories of phenomenal, resilient, and inspiring women who share how they are unapologetically self-love in action. The powerful, honest and heartfelt stories shed light on diverse ways to make self-care, healing and whole living daily priorities. You’ll get advice and tips you can use for your own journey, and find comfort in knowing you’re not alone when it comes to figuring out how to love yourself.

Join the tribe. Over 50 women have shared their self-love stories with the Collective. Share YOUR story. Send us an email. 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 Tracy

How do you love yourself first?

I love myself first by understanding that I must take care of my mental, spiritual, and physical health to sustain in a world that attempts to drain me. I have learned over the years that I teach others how I value me. I know if I don’t take intentional time for me, then others will not respect me or my time.

I love myself first by remembering these three things:

  1. I APPRECIATE my journey. I cannot look at someone else’s blessings and long for what they have.
  2. I PRACTICE what I preach. As a solo parent of three (19, 14, 12), it is imperative that I show love for myself. If I am not demonstrating to them how to love, how to cherish, and how to use their voice, they will not learn.
  3. I look in the mirror each day and tell myself, “Today’s a NEW day. Let’s go get it!”

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

Ahhhhhhh, I love this question! I am an educator, a poet, and an avid reader. I have an endless supply of Post-it Notes I keep handy because my mind is ALWAYS spinning, thinking of new ideas or new quotes. I LOVE QUOTES, especially motivational ones. I have “stickies” everywhere reminding me of special prayer requests, thoughts, and reminders of who I am! My favorite is “I AM LIGHT.” This is penned from a song by India Arie that reminds me that I am light, and who I am is reflected in all that I do. I am who I say I am. No one can define me or label me.

If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive. -Audre Lorde

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

I didn’t realize until the past year that I suffer from depression and anxiety. I am a person who will work and work and not ask for help (because I believed no one wanted to). I would hold in emotions until I was ill. I have in the past year gone through probably one of the darkest years of my life. Years of holding emotions and thoughts in and not being who I needed to be for me, finally manifested into a complete breakdown. My health suffered. I gained 30-40 pounds. My professional life suffered. And worst of all, I didn’t think I was worthy of being blessed with life. I have learned through positive affirmations of family and friends, through taking time to be still (waiting for God’s voice), and through being intentional with my life and goals that I am light and love. My steps are divinely ordered. I just needed to step into the shoes I was born to walk in.

The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord; and he delights in his way. Ps. 37:23

What have you learned from self -love?

“Love…so many things I’ve got to tell you but I’m afraid I don’t know how…” I LOVE this song from Musiq Soulchild. I listen to it a lot because the lyrics tell of unconditional love, the kind of love that we need to have for ourselves. I have learned that self-love is needed to sustain, and sometimes I have to take time out to love on myself and to love on others.

I have learned that I am called to be a “servant lover” of others in order to be content. I immerse myself in my non-profit Young PEARLS (a mentoring group for young women ages 14-17). I continue to perfect my writing and speaking skills with my company TraSpeaks, LLC, and I pour into the students I work with on a daily basis. I enjoy building up my community and partnering with others who love to do the same.

I have learned that self-love is self-confidence. I have always been bold, fearless, and opinionated. These attributes are what make me, ME, and I love it.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear I rise… Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear I rise…Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave, I am the dream and the hope of the slave. I rise. I rise. I rise. -Maya Angelou


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.

Join the Collective on Facebook and Instagram.


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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: This Phoenix is Yewande

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

It was difficult for me to really love myself. I tried convincing myself that I did, but inside I always felt very insecure and not always comfortable in my skin. Now that I love everything about me, I never want to lose that feeling. I tell myself something I love about me at least once a day. Every day is not perfect. I still have rough days, but knowing what it’s like to truly love myself (imperfections and all) is a spiritual and healing experience.

I make an effort to connect with others, because in the past I struggled to do it. I missed out on many experiences because I was uncertain about myself, and as a result, I lived mostly inside my head. People thought I was mean or stand-offish but in reality I was uncomfortable with ME. Loving myself first means that I take care of my mind, my body, my soul, my heart, and my family and friends. I want to radiate positivity everywhere I go so that if there is anyone out there feeling the way I once did, she/he can find hope and inspiration in my story and in our interaction.

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

I changed many of my negative habits. I make it a priority to remain active weekly – working out frequently and using FitBit to track my steps because it keeps me motivated (I love work-week challenges with my coworkers).  I’ve cut out a lot of foods that weighed me down internally (fried foods, bread and dairy), and I replaced them with healthier alternatives (baked foods, non-processed foods, coconut milk).

I love to read books of all genres to keep my mind fresh and alert. Lastly, but most importantly, I talk to God through prayer and daily affirmations.

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

I used to be overweight and suffered some complications with my health. Becoming healthier has truly transformed me. I feel good inside and out, and I think healthy eating and activeness have contributed. I am more open to people and have been able to build stronger relationships.

What have you learned from self-love?

Self-love has to be defined by the individual and takes on many different forms.  You can show yourself love in your daily actions and interactions with others. For example, I know if I stop practicing my healthy habits I may need to re-evaluate self-love; there may be something deeper going on with me, because being healthy is how I show myself love.

I’ve learned that it is difficult to build relationships with others when there is no self-love.  I want to make sure I am always loving me so that I can fully love others.

I have also learned that people really love me! When I struggled with self-love, I felt that others did not truly love me. I mean, why would they if I could not love myself?  What I have come to find is that (1) people really do want to get to know me, and (2) I do have something to offer the world. I have been able to experience things I NEVER would have experienced, and I finally feel like I am living life. It feels good.

 

Inspired by Yewande’s self-love story? Share in the comments. We want to hear from you.


Love Yourself First! Friday share 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: This Phoenix is Tracie

Photo Credit: Erika Kapin Photography

Love Yourself First! Friday is back with all new Phoenix features.  This week we’re sharing Tracie’s self-love story.

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

This is, admittedly, a difficult question for me to answer, as I don’t always do a good job with self-love, let alone loving myself FIRST. That said, I’ve come to understand it as centering myself and my needs as first and foremost in the planning and execution of my life.

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

Meal planning is something I’ve recently began practicing as a self-love/self-care habit, which may seem light work to some, but is HUGE for me. Making sure to drink adequate amounts of fresh water daily, allowing space for heightened “inappropriate” emotional moments (esp. sadness & anger) to flow unedited, and telling the truth (at least to myself) about how I feel in the moment are a few other things I do to let the inner me know that she is safe and valued.

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

The meal planning challenge is a HUGE one, because it really opened my eyes to the ways I leap to prioritize others before myself. From start to finish, meal-planning three meals for five days straight takes me about 3 hours – hours I balked at setting aside for myself, but wouldn’t blink an eye to devote to someone else if asked. The first time I realized this it was HUGE for me; it was my opportunity to take a different approach towards myself in the future. If I can show myself even HALF of the love I show others on a consistent basis, I know, overall, my life can only get better and better.

What have you learned from self-love?

I’ve learned that self-love is not habitual for many (if not most of us) and is something that must be learned. Even the idea of practicing acts of self-love takes work, just to sit and figure out what it should LOOK like some days, before you can even get into the work of it. That said, the joy of getting and staying in love with you FAR outweighs the effort. The beauty and peace of mind that have come from this journey are immeasurable, quite honestly. I’m grateful that the older I get, the clearer I get about how best to support myself, and that feels lovely.


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.

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.