The Best of You Today was given the unique opportunity to speak with Lauren Mackler about love, life, and the imporatnce of uncovering your true, authentic self. The conversation reminded us that true happiness and contentment lies no further than our own hearts.
Lauren Mackler is a world-renowned coach, keynote speaker, bestselling author, and host of the weekly Life Keys radio show on Contact Talk Radio. She has risen to international prominence by developing Illumineering™, a groundbreaking coaching method that integrates family systems work, psychodynamic psychology, and coaching to help people free themselves from the shackles of their life conditioning, and create the personal and professional lives to which they aspire.
BOYT: What was your inspiration to write Solemate?
LM: I married at 23 and built my life, career, financial security and emotional well-being on my husband and his life. I moved to his country, worked as a therapist in his business, and let him handle all of our finances. As a result, when my marriage deteriorated 13 years later, my life, career, security and self-esteem collapsed right along with the marriage. After hitting bottom, I sold everything I owned to pay for flight tickets and returned with my children to the U.S. in 1995. I was emotionally devastated, penniless and terrified, with no means to provide for myself or my children.
Stuck in a small town with limited resources, I realized I had to find a way to climb out of my emotional and financial abyss. I created a “self-renewal program” for myself, comprised of specific daily activities, goals and action steps that, over time, not only changed my life, but changed me. When I realized that my program could help others, I turned it into a workshop called Mastering the Art of Aloneness, which I’ve been teaching at Kripalu, Omega, and other centers since 1998. A couple of years ago someone suggested that I turn the workshop into a book. Solemate: Master the Art of Aloneness & Transform Your Life was released in 2009 and the new paperback edition was just released on April 15 of this year.
BOYT: You offer a suggestion in your book to “become the partner you seek.” Can you explain this philosophy?
LM: Many people spend years waiting for an ideal partner – a “soul mate” to make them feel complete. The problem with waiting for Prince or Princess Charming is, all too often, people sabotage their own lives by living in a kind of limbo. I’ve had coaching clients who put their lives on hold, waiting for a man or woman to complete their life picture. They might hold off on buying a house, delay plans for an advanced degree, or turn down job promotions. They spend their leisure time watching television, hiding out at home, and staying in their comfort zone instead of actively developing their interests, pursuing their passions, and fully engaging in life.
Instead of pursuing an ideal partner, "Solemate" provides a pathway for readers to become the ideal partner they seek. My premise is that instead of looking to someone else to transform your life – that special person who will make you whole – it makes more sense to focus on making yourself whole. The question isn’t, “How do I find my soul mate so I can have the life I want?” The better question is: “What do I need to do to create the life I want for myself?”
BOYT: A struggle for many women is maintaining a strong sense of “self” while in a relationship or marriage. Why do women lose themselves while in a relationship and often end up feeling unfulfilled at the end of the day?
LM: When we’re born, we are whole, integrated human beings with tremendous potential. Growing up, we respond to our life conditioning by adopting habitual thought and behavior patterns, many of which erode our innate wholeness. One part of our innate wholeness that’s often diminished growing up is our self esteem. In an attempt to feel a sense of worthiness, people with low self esteem often become habitual “people-pleasers.” They make others’ needs more important than their own and say or do what they think others want or expect. When you always make others’ needs more important than your own, you’re not free to pursue your own interests or meet your own needs. Not only does this leave women unfulfilled, but it often leads to feelings of anger, resentment or depression. It also causes a lot of stress, which, over time, can compromise your immune system and make you more susceptible to life-threatening illnesses.
BOYT: What are steps that women can take to identify their true passions and purpose?
LM: Pay attention to what you pay attention to. Notice what captures your interests, the books you like to read, the activities you enjoy, and the tasks or projects that truly engage you. One of the types of coaching I do is career coaching to help people find the work that’s best aligned with who they are and the contribution they want to make in the world. An assignment I have clients do is something I call the “Soap Box Exercise.” I have them write a narrative about three topics or issues about which they have very strong opinions or feelings. This is a powerful exercise to help you uncover your greatest passions. More often than not, by the end of the program the new career, position or business we’ve identified as their new objective relates in some way to the issues they wrote about in their Soap Box narrative.
BOYT: As mothers, what advice can we offer our daughters?
LM: Find out who you really are and honor who you are in every moment and in every choice or decision that you make. This is the path of least resistance and makes life a lot smoother and fulfilling. Living a life that’s not aligned with your innate personality traits, strengths, passions and values is painful and creates a lot of inner and outer conflict.
It’s also very important to achieve self-sufficiency before entering into a committed partnership or marriage. Being emotionally or financially dependent on someone else is a risky proposition, because if that person dies or you end up divorced, you lose your emotional or financial wellbeing right along with your partner.
BOYT: Our feeling is that a woman’s girlfriends are her lifeline. “Solemate” highlights the importance of building a strong inner and outer support system. In your opinion, how important is it that women nourish their female friendships?
LM: Women and men are inherently different and both genders have their own unique strengths and gifts. Although there are many exceptions to this, women tend to be more feeling-oriented by their nature and are thus more comfortable expressing their emotions than men. In general, women have a greater need to connect emotionally than men, so having good women friends with whom you can share this connection is an important part of developing a strong outer support system. Many women try to get their emotional needs met by their mates, which is often a source of frustration when those needs aren’t met.
BOYT: What part do you feel society plays in the “fairytale” notion that women need to be married and have a family to be considered complete?
LM: Most people still believe that marriage is the ideal lifestyle, and we’re barraged by media messages reinforcing this notion. In television commercials, most adults wear wedding rings. In TV ads for nighttime cold medicines, couples are typically shown in a double bed, while in ads for sleep aids, singles are shown struggling alone to find their way to sleep. And in the Sex and the City TV series, a show devoted to the subject of four strong, independent females living on their own in New York, the final season ends with four romantic couplings.
Romance sells. It’s fun. And sharing a loving relationship is wonderful. What’s troubling, though, is the pervasive message that a romantic relationship is a cure for whatever ails you. Of course, many people don’t have to look beyond their immediate families to get that message. Many of my clients complain that they’re pressured by their parents to find a mate, marry and have children. Once they hit their 30s, people who remain single often experience feelings of abandonment, sadness, low self-worth and shame as their single friends dwindle in number. They feel increasingly surrounded by married couples – many of whom, they find, no longer extend invitations to them simply because they don’t have partners. It’s not surprising that many people who are alone feel bad about it.
BOYT: We often hear that women give so much of themselves to others and don’t feel they deserve to give the same time, love and energy to themselves. How can women begin to nourish their own spirit?
LM: By consciously developing what I call your Inner Nurturing Parent. This technique is one of the cornerstones of mastering the art of aloneness and transforms people’s lives. With it comes the ability to love yourself, to nurture yourself, and to create joyful relationships – starting with your relationship with yourself.
Many people don’t treat themselves very well. They break promises to themselves, eat poorly, are self-critical or engage in unsupportive relationships. In fact, if most people treated others the way they treat themselves, they wouldn’t have many friends! To begin treating yourself better, instead of judging yourself, send loving messages to yourself like, “I love and appreciate who you are.” When you do something well, pat yourself on the back and say out loud, “Great job! I’m so proud of you.” Get in the habit of doing nice things for yourself. Make a cup of tea with the nurturing energy you’d have when preparing tea for someone you love. Make your bed everyday. Buy yourself flowers or treat yourself to a massage or candlelit dinner. Your relationship with yourself is like any other; the more you feed and nourish it, the better it will be.
BOYT: What was your “aha” moment when you recognized the importance of finding the love you seek within yourself?
LM: When I realized that I was the one person I can never get away from – the only person who has been with me since birth and will be with me 24/7 until the day I die!
BOYT: Can you tell us something about you that would surprise our readers?
LM: I was very rebellious in my youth and ran away from home and hitchhiked to Florida from Boston when I was fourteen years old. Another thing that many people don’t know is that I’m an avid music lover. In my first career I was a professional singer in the female trio Tuxedo Junction.