I live an imperfectly perfect life. This means that even in the face of setbacks that happens at times, sadness, pain and disappointments, my life is completely blissful. This is because of where I choose to expend my energies throughout the day.
As a part of my series about “Learning to Finally Love Yourself” I had the pleasure to interview Dr. Gwen Smith. Dr. Gwen helps spiritually-centered entrepreneurs increase or double their profits, in one year, while working less and enjoying more. Her special project this year is empowering women who’ve experienced relationship traumas to release the pain and to discover and implement their business, life and relationship goals. As an Author, Inspirational Speaker and Business Success/Life Coach, Dr. Gwen’s vision is to empower everyone to remove hidden obstacles that keep them stuck, while providing resources to enhance self-confidence, self-love, productivity and breakthrough performance in whatever area of life they choose. The result is true Peace Power & ProfitsTM.
Thank you so much for joining us! I’d love to begin by asking you to give us the backstory as to what brought you to this specific career path.
Wow! It’s a long story with many twists and turns but I’ll do my best to summarize. I have had a very full career, enjoying what I did as an educator, executive leader, professor and department chair at the university level. Every career goal that I had set for myself was accomplished. I had hit all of the desired positions and was making the salary I envisioned. I thought that getting to this point would have left me feeling peaceful and satisfied. Instead, I felt a void inside as if something were missing.
It scared me, because I knew then that if I wasn’t feeling the satisfaction and fulfillment at that point, I wasn’t going to enjoy the next twenty years doing the same thing. So I jumped into a real estate investment business which, as with my career, I liked, but it too left me with a void feeling as though some part of my life was not being fulfilled. Something felt missing.
I wasn’t going to do this a third time. So I had to come to grips with who I really was. What excited me? What caused me to feel fulfilled? And above all, I had to lean in to the internal guidance that I had practiced ignoring in various circumstances throughout my past.
I re-discovered or more accurately came to acknowledge what I always knew I’d like to be doing — making a difference in people’s lives where it truly mattered for them. I wanted people to be optimistic about their lives, to have tools to create their own transformations in their lives, businesses and relationships. Once I came to that agreement, it felt really great. I felt that something had fallen in place. I was finally aligned with my internal being and coaching, speaking and empowering others simply added a level of joy to my life that gave me peace and satisfaction.
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 actually am. I’m working on finishing up the publication for my new book: Peace, Power, Profits: Why You Don’t Have It, How to Get It. I anticipate the book should be out by the first week of April. The manuscript is currently being edited. I’m also creating a mastermind/live event based for women who’ve experienced abuse on the same theme for late summer to early fall.
Both of these works help people intentionally and holistically develop a clearer view of who they are and help them align their lives, work and relationships accordingly. They are based on a framework for achieving results in a shorter time-frame than the life-time of trial and error filled with bumps and bruises that we typically go through to learn the lessons. They empower people to overcome barriers to their successes and implement transformation they desire.
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 do. I believe that self-understanding or self-love requires that you first become aware of not just who you really are — your likes, dislikes and all the interior stuff — but also of your understanding of self in relation to others and your environment. They help you form a comprehensive picture of who you really are. After the discovery, your actions, choices, dreams and desires must fall in alignment for you to feel complete. This is the essence of true self-love.
As a teenager, I had a fair but incomplete understanding of myself which consequently led to successes in some areas, particularly achievement, but disappointments in others, particularly relationships. I lacked a clear understanding of myself in relation to others and maybe even in relation to my environment. This led me to overlook patterns in my experiences that would have meaningfully informed some of my choices and alerted me to potential relationship pitfalls.
As a result, at the young age of 24, I married the first man I ever fully allowed into my heart. Our relationship became increasingly abusive, not just emotionally but physically, beginning during my pregnancy. Because I didn’t have a clear understanding of myself, I questioned my internal guidance that provided directions on steps I needed to take to get myself out of the situation.
I had migrated tens of thousands of miles away from my nearest relative and had made a choice to stay at home to raise the children. This choice left me feeling insecure and without a stable foundation on which to build if I had chosen to leave at the time. So I sought the counsel of the elders and leaders in my religious community. Against my wishes, I heeded their advice to stay and forgive, partly due to the fear of the unknown of leaving, and partly due to wanting to do my best to make the relationship really work.
I was sacrificing my well-being for something that I really thought at the time would turn around.
At this point I want to be clear by saying that our relationship wasn’t always horrible every day. There were enough great months splashed in between to give me a glimpse of hope of what the relationship could be if we got on the same page. So I kept hoping, adjusting to make peace and hoping some more. Nothing helped. The cycle just kept repeating.
Finally, I bought a book, Men Who Hate Women and the Women Who Love Them. I was shocked to see that a book could so accurately detail my personal experiences. It opened my eyes to realizing that this was a ‘thing’ a sort of condition that likely wouldn’t go away. It was the turning point for me to wake up and to finally begin to make the choices aligning with my desires that would extricate me from that relationship in the end.
I’m now living my very best life because of all the work that I’ve been able to do. I can also truly say that my second marriage is a fulfilling relationship. Yes, there are occasional challenges, however, it’s really great due to the boundaries I have set, the lessons I have learned, and the transformation I am continuously implementing.
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?
This really saddens me when I look around and see this epidemic of people defining themselves and their experiences based on others’ standards. We are living in a culture supporting mayhem of standardizations where individuality is sacrificed and images of success are flaunted to look a certain way.
I see black people bleaching their skin white and white people getting implants so they can feel better about themselves. All this is fine if this is something you truly desire from a place of wholeness. We all have a little something on our bodies that we hope would look different. However, if the underlying reason is dissatisfaction with self to the point of obsession and reduced self-worth and self-esteem, then it really has to be addressed.
I feel that people who continue to be obsessively dissatisfied with their appearances don’t truly know who they are. This isn’t meant to be critical of anyone, but it is a reality. There is an Internal Guidance System that everyone one of us has, that if we learn to listen and tune in, will guide us and help us create a feeling of well-being inside that nothing outside can shatter.
I find that more and more people are disconnecting from this source in an effort to fit in with others’ images of success. The inevitable result is increasing self-dissatisfaction, low self-esteem and low self-worth. People are trying hard but not measuring up to these artificial standards. So of course they’ll never feel satisfied. They have to practice setting their own standards.
Another cause relating to the first that is worth exploring is that people haven’t truly learned how to love themselves. Loving yourself means that you make the choices and take the actions that allow you to feel complete and happy. When people don’t love themselves, they often act out of alignment with those things that make them happy and whole.
This leaves them with a feeling of constant daily internal battles, while they lack resources to act in rapport with self. The result is a silent guilt and self-hate and inevitably, dissatisfaction with self.
. 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’d be glad to! Let’s start off by adding a context to our conversation just so we are on the same page. What does it mean to love yourself?
I think there will likely be as many definitions of self-love as there are cultures. And many are likely actions people take which may or may not be related to loving oneself. Nevertheless I believe that all of those actions boil down to a single principle. Loving yourself requires that you do the inner work to know who you are, what you like, how you relate and interact with others and your environment. Once you discover this, it requires further actions. You must put into your life these things so that you fall in complete alignment with self.
When you truly love yourself, you are completely happy and satisfied with who you are. And you choose to act in accordance with who you are and with what you desire. I call this being in rapport with self. The result is complete peace, power and profits. You are truly free.
I have developed a model to help people achieve self-love. It’s called the Peace Power Profits ACT Breakthrough SuccessTM Model. It’s too lengthy to explain here but people will be able to access it in my upcoming book.
Why do you think people stay in mediocre relationships? What advice would you give to our readers regarding this?
I know this road all too well because I’ve walked it. I’ve also coached others who’ve walked it as well. There are a few reasons. I’ll share four reasons why this happens.
· First is fear of the unknown. Not knowing how things will turn out if you leave without first having a foundation to stand on.
· Second, a false belief that things will get better one day. Many relationships are likely not a hundred percent bad all of the times. The good times can be really great. This creates hope that perhaps everyday can be like this.
· Third, a sense of familiarity with the bad experiences can create a sense of normalcy. For example, one of my clients had grown up having an experience with her dad that resembled the experience she was having with her husband. She wasn’t happy with it, but it felt normal to her
· Fourth, low self-worth and self-esteem and an inability to feel that you deserve better.
My advice is simple. First connect with how the experience is causing you to feel. Don’t ignore your feelings dismissing them as being subjective and useless. They are amazing tools that help you make choices that are right for you.
So, how are you feeling about it?
Once you identify that feeling take the next step to do something about it. If you don’t have all the answers reach out for a support network, a coach, the crisis center, whatever the situation you feel is necessary for your experiences.
If the situation is one that you feel is tenable, start setting boundaries. Those boundaries should completely align with your self-discovery needs. Reinforce those boundaries consistently to see quicker results.
Examine what patterns you have that are attracting these types of personalities, especially if you find it to be a cycle from one relationship to the next. Seek help to empower you to overcome whatever patterns there are contributing to the repeating cycle.
When we talk about self-love and understanding we 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?
Oh yes, I agree. Life is about personal growth and daily transformations. It’s about enhancing our relationships, our skillsets, our experiences and ourselves in ways that align with who we are. This requires awareness as I mentioned before, to help us see patterns in ourselves and our environment that we want to transform.
The Peace Power Profits ACT Breakthrough SuccessTM Model I developed is based upon a framework involving three steps to self-understanding and transformation: Awareness, Creation and Transformation (ACT). In short, awareness is tuning in, creation is building yourself based on the discoveries and transformation is on-going; it’s action-based.
Before I answer about the tough questions your readers can ask, I’d like to address your last question first.
I’ve shared about my first marriage and how I had started to move away from following my internal guidance. I started to not trust my own voice in other areas of my life too. I walked around with a deep troublesome feeling of uneasiness everywhere I went, and particularly when I was meeting new people. This continued for a while as I would be uncertain of whether or not my actions were going to be acceptable in a group situation. I felt bogus trying to be accepted and to fit in.
I can’t say with certainty when that transition actually occurred, but what I can say is that one day I suddenly realized that the uncomfortable feeling was no longer there. It was gone and I was back to the way I remembered feeling before I had fallen out of sync with myself!
I had done some work on myself however. I had to go deep inside myself to really explore and reflect on what I wanted or who I was. My relationships could never be right if I didn’t know the answers there.
I affirmed myself that I was good enough and also took the time to identify what the top five most important things to me were. Then I found a way to incorporate those things every day or as often as I could. I did ask myself some questions, and I’ll share three of those same questions with your readers. And I do that I want to point out how questions are best asked to leave you feeling empowered.
Framing your questions in a positive way allows your subconscious mind to bring you answers that are empowering. For example, instead of asking “What is wrong with me, why no one can love me?” Ask instead, “How can I become the person to attract my soul mate?”
The first question has your subconscious mind searching for answers to justify low self-worth and feels terrible. While the second question generates a more positive feeling and provides solutions that may be more favorable to what you’re looking for.
So, here are three tough questions that will point you in the right direction. Find a quiet place where you can reflect before you start:
1. What are the things that really excite me and make me happy? Identify these and start working on placing them in your life now
2. What baggage am I holding on to that’s not serving me or my relationship, and how can I let it go?
3. Who do I have to become to attract the type of relationship that I seek?
Sometimes the answers come immediately. At other times, by simply leaving the question and allowing your subconscious mind to start working on it you’ll find an inspired response when you least expect it. I find answers springing into my consciousness especially during my meditation time.
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)?
I find the answer lies in asking myself a simple yet blunt question: If I can’t be alone with myself, who can I expect to truly want to be alone with me?
Being alone and really appreciating the solitude requires personal grounding and self-confidence in knowing who you are. People can sniff out in any situation those people who have this kind of personal strength and confidence. It also helps you attract a healthy partner too I believe, because some personalities like to prey on people who feel needy.
Stable relationships are built and sustained on people who are happy with themselves; who know themselves and who can spend a healthy dose of alone time with self without attachment anxieties.
I want to bring a bit of sensitivity to the conversation however and to acknowledge those who’ve had situations in their early lives where they’ve felt abandoned or neglected. For these people, it’s something more than turning on or off the alone time. They’ve held a belief that they will likely be abandoned again in the future. That belief is accompanied by an associated emotion which if left unattended, creates relationship anxieties causing them to feel like they must be with someone, anyone, to feel fulfilled.
Those emotions however can be cleared by first dealing with the stories accompanying them (That I’m going to be abandoned again), and then being with the feelings those emotions create inside your bodies. I use a technique I call Surrender for FreedomTM to help people clear these emotions.
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?
When you know who you are and what your likes and dislikes are, you have a frame of reference for choosing the best partner for your relationships. You really know the personality types you want to share your life with.
It also helps you become a more purposeful creator of what your desired experiences are in your relationships. It creates consistency in your attitudes and actions, which is a great fuel for building trust. And as previously said, you know what you want and therefore know which boundaries to enforce.
In your experience, what should a) individuals and b) society, do to help people better understand themselves and accept themselves?
a) This isn’t the complete solution but it’s a place to start. Individuals and especially those in leadership can help people better understand and accept themselves by modeling acceptance of people’s differences as strengths rather than as weaknesses. Point out the strengths of people before highlighting anything else. Those of us who’ve had the privilege of leading have seen real proof that diversity, when treated with respect, presents the greatest opportunities for creative impactful solutions.
Also, parents, teachers, leaders ought to stop comparing people based on their differences. Help people understand the value they bring to any situation.
b) Society can help by refusing to standardize people. Our systems have created mayhem of standardizations that cripple individuality. We all have different experiences, backgrounds, likes and dislikes. Let’s drop the artificial standards and recognize that humans, by virtue of their individuality cannot and should not be standardized.
This means creating schools and systems that honor the natural gifts so that more children can attend. When people are operating in their gifts and strengths they feel valued and successful. Let’s stop standardizing roles in relationships too and have each relationship define its own without stereotyping. There is strength in differences. Society should acknowledge the differences and build on the strengths they create.
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?
Certainly! I don’t want to call these strategies, though they likely are. These are five activities that I do on a regular basis to keep me connected, happy, laughing hilariously and appreciating myself. They keep me vibrating positively every day.
1. First I have a waking up and going to bed ritual:
a. Meditation. Before I retire at nights, I make sure that the last thing I’m doing is something very positive. I reflect on the highlights of my day and say a prayer of gratitude
b. When I wake up in the mornings, I now intercept thoughts of work or any activity of the day. I breathe, relax and set a positive intention for the day.
2. Next I go to my spiritual room and sit before my altar to honor God, my spirits and my ancestors. I end this session with a prayer and a text.
3. I do my yoga activities from 10–30 minutes which helps me practice my breathing and maintain my physical stamina
4. I play music to set my mood. Sometimes mild relaxing music, other times reggaeton on Pandora. I dance around sometimes laughing out loud hilariously as I admire my physique, flaws and all, and tell myself how gorgeous I am. I really do believe it too!
5. I practice releasing, forgiving and loving others who’ve contributed to my pain, anger or other negative emotions. Forgiving them is an act of loving me.
I find that it’s really important to not allow circumstances that don’t suit us to ruin our day. We are masters of our lives when we learn to transform our negative feelings to positive ones, and execute the actions that give us the results we want.
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 have read so many books over decades of my life. I can’t possibly list them all. I will, however list 10 that made a huge difference in my early personal growth days. A few have stuck out as being significant by creating a turning point in my choices and actions throughout the years:
1. Men Who Hate Women and the Women Who Love Them, Dr. Susan Forward — This book helped me to identify the patterns in my marriage and led me to confront the reality that my experiences would not change.
2. Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, Dr. John Gray — It helped me gain insight about the differences between the sexes even in their thinking. It helped somewhat, however my issues were different.
3. The Five Love Languages, Gary Chapman — this sent me on a journey of self-exploration as well as exploration of my spouse’s desires. Highly effective in normal relationships.
4. Boundaries, Dr. Henry Cloud — though this book came after years of the negative occurrences in my first marriage, it nevertheless, helped me in moving forward and has really resonated with me in all relationships up to this point.
5. How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie — I’ve been the recipient of the Dale Carnegie Highest Achievement Award. Many of these principles have helped me in leadership business and relationships. How to speak to people in different situations is the focus of this book.
6. Ask and It Is Given, Jerry and Esther Hicks — Wow! In the face of all of the discussions about Law of Attraction, this is the book that brings a lot of practicality to the subject, giving it flesh and bones
7. The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz — A true self-reflection and self-understanding is developed here and knowing how to operate from a place of strength and power
8. The Power of Positive Thinking, Dr. Norman Vincent Peale — this brings to life, with practical examples, the power of beliefs in affecting your results.
9. The Greatest Salesman in the World, Og Mandino — this is not a book about sales per se. It’s a more a book about life and all of your experiences and living it at its best.
10. You Can Heal Your Life, Louise Hay — this was one of the first books I read after my divorce. It helped me heal and set a path forward for what I wanted to create in my life.
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 live an imperfectly perfect life. This means that even in the face of setbacks that happens at times, sadness, pain and disappointments, my life is completely blissful. This is because of where I choose to expend my energies throughout the day.
My dream is to eradicate hopelessness, negative self-beliefs and emotional pain. Instead, I’d like to infuse a good measure of self-confidence, power and belief that with the proper tools people can be catalytic change agents of the circumstances confronting them on a daily basis.
I’d like people to know that they truly have the power to create the quality of their day. They can start this process by doing some simple techniques daily until it becomes habitual.
Here’s what I’ll say:
Start by doing a simple meditation exercise each night before bed and immediately as you wake up in the mornings. It makes a huge difference on how you wake up feeling and on your results throughout the day. Be consistent until you start seeing results:
· Before falling asleep totally relax your body, taking three sets of four deep breaths in and four out.
· Bring your mind to focus, in gratitude, on the positive experiences throughout that day. Keep that positive thought in mind as you fall asleep.
· In the morning as you awake, intercept the thoughts of your tasks or workload and do your deep breathing again.
· Set a positive intention for how your day will go. Visualize yourself having positive interactions.
· Throughout the day, think more about the positive experiences you want to have. Deal with the negative situations but don’t make them the central focus of your day.
In no time this will help to transform your outlook on your life and the circumstances that show up. There is real power in being able to shift your mindset to a more positive frame in the face of potentially negative occurrences.
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?
“Make your decisions from the point of commitment to your relationship rather than from the point of fracture”.
This helps me in every relationship I have with family members, friends and others.
Whenever a challenge arises I bring to mind the commitment I have to the relationship. All my conversations, actions and words eventually come down to this.
The point of fracture is the point of dissidence or disagreement. Avoid the temptation to lash out in anger. Making your decision from this point will inevitably lead to separation, pain or hurt in the relationship.
When a disagreement comes up it helps to reinforce your commitment to the relationship not only with yourself but with the person in question.
Thank you so much for your time and for your inspiring insights!
“Why I live an imperfectly perfect life” with Dr. Gwen Smith and Fotis Georgiadis was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.