Featured in MindBodyGreen as one of the top 100 Women to Watch in Wellness, and named the happiness guru, inspirational speaker, bestselling author, and life coach Shannon Kaiser is making her mark. She also just launched her brand new, updated website PlayWithTheWorld.com.
- You talk about how you struggled and battled with your inner critic, constantly feeling unlovable and unworthy, for more than three decades by not just strongly disliking yourself, but actively self-sabotaging. What are common ways we self-sabotage our happiness and our health?
SK: I would overdo everything: overeat, overwork, over exercise, over analyze. Obsessing and worrying were my go-to form of living. My life changed when I asked myself, “What could I do with all my time and energy if I weren’t worrying or obsessing about the things I disliked about myself?” I realized my life was happening and I was missing it. So I made a conscious choice to stop listening to my inner critic and instead focus on the things I liked about myself. Eventually, this self-kindness removed the self-sabotage from my life because I was making choices from a place of love instead of fear.
- You state, “Learning how to love me has been the most difficult thing I have ever had to do. Not because loving yourself is particularly hard, but because I had to unlearn all of the things I was conditioned to believe about self-love.” What are those ingrained beliefs you and others have about what self-love or self-care means?
SK: Before my self-love experiment, I felt like I wasn’t good enough, pretty enough, smart enough, popular enough, making a big enough difference, doing enough, etc., The underlining core belief was that I felt unlovable and that no one would like me if I showed the real me. I always felt like an outsider looking in. I realized we all do this in some way, separate ourselves from love and the truth because our fears and insecurities are so strong. I had to condition myself to see that it is okay to celebrate me and say nice things about myself. It isn’t egotistical or selfish but indeed a mandatory entry point for true fulfillment. Self-love is the catalyst to everything we truly desire. Once I let go of the belief that I didn’t fit in, I recognized that I don’t need to fit in, I can be me and let the world and other people fit if they wish. It’s freeing to be you in world that’s constantly trying to tell you otherwise.
- Do you regret your earlier life of drug addition, eating disorders, and depression?
SK: My rock bottom—the depression, eating disorders, and drug addiction—was one of the most pivotal moments of my life, and I don’t regret it at all. Without that dark period, I wouldn’t be who I am today. Because of my troubled times, I now have clarity, an understanding, and more wisdom. Everything we go through is part of a bigger plan. I truly see now that the journey is the reward and every piece of it is connected to our shared growth. I needed to go through those situations in order to grow and be who I am today.
- What are some of your favorite tools that help with the healing, self-love process?
SK: One of the most powerful tools I used was writing letters to my future self, the version of me who had it figured out, who was healthy, secure, and in love with herself and life. Writing a letter to ourselves can help put things in perspective and help us trust ourselves more. Another great tool are the mantras. Using powerful, positive sayings or motivational mantras can help recondition our fearful thoughts to more loving ones. For instance, “The only thing I need to change is the thought that I need to change” or “When I love myself it’s easier to see imbalances in my life.”
- Can you explain what your “Me Matters” tool entails? How can we create a “Me Matters” list to help us make change stick?
SK: The Me Matters list is an amazing tool I use to align with my joy daily. Joy is the foundation for lasting self-love. When we are joyful and connected to our true self, we feel better and make better choices. Ask yourself, “When do I feel like my best self? What am I doing? Who am I with?” and create a list around those qualities. So, for example, I love nature walks or hikes with my dog, Tucker. So on my Me Matters list I have Go into nature daily and take time to cuddle with my dog. I move my body daily with exercises to feel joyful and good. Creating a list of things that make you happy and making an intention to do them daily will help you feel more self-acceptance and joy.
- “Self-care” has become almost as big a buzzword as our focus on the pursuit of “happiness”. You write, “Here’s a secret about being happy that no one talks about. You can be happy but not be in joy. It seems to me it is more important to strive for joy than to reach for happiness.” Why?
SK: So many of us seem to want to be happy, so we are chasing the happiness illusion there. We say things like “when I lose weight, then I will be happy”, “when I meet my soul mate, then I will be more satisfied.” But these experiences are outside of us, which will always keep us in the chase. The thing about the chase is, we never get there. The chase in itself is the reward. In my own self-love experiment, instead of focusing on needing to be happy, I reframed to focus on joy. Because happy is an emotion and fleeting, but joy is an experience.
- Many of our habits help us function, but sometimes they also hinder us. Can you explain the psychological concept of “secondary gains” and why they make us hold on to our damaging behaviors?
SK: To remove our self-sabotaging habits for good, we have to identify them and the secondary gains or rewards we get from them. For instance, when I left my job in the corporate world to pursue my passion for writing I began to be more public, both on stage and in the media, and I subconsciously overate and gained weight. There was a secondary gain—eating tasty food also releases dopamine, the feel-good chemical, in the brain—but the weight served as extra padding to protect me from the unknown public perception. This all happened on a subconscious level, but once I was honest with myself, I noticed that the habit of overeating was actually helping me by serving as a protective mechanism. Once I identified this, I could find better ways to meet the need of protection. Instead of overeating, I would call a good friend or go for a nature walk, etc. Secondary gains are the underlying reason why we can’t quit the habits we dislike, but by identifying them, we can free ourselves from them.
Learn more from Shannon and dive into The Self-Love Experiment here. Available from booksellers August 29th.
Don’t miss your chance to win a free stay at legendary Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise in Alberta Canada to join a retreat with Shannon for a first hand experience of the teachings of her book. Visit http://playwiththeworld.com/event/the-self-love-retreat/ for more information about the retreat and go to http://playwiththeworld.com/win-a-trip-to-my-self-love-retreat-in-canada/ to learn more about this awesome Giveaway.
With her love of health and writing, Melissa has written for such publications as Shape, Natural Solutions, Yoga Journal, Self and Pilates Style, and has created recipes and food-oriented stories for such publications as Delicious Living and Cooking Light.