Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Interview with Amy Leigh Mercree: Take a Day Just For You

Please tell us about yourself and what you do?

I’m a writer: full of ideas and willing to tap away on a keyboard to bring them to life. I write books, articles, novels, short films, screenplays, and more. I’m also a host and speaker and my focus is to promote living from the heart. That’s part of why I love the mission of Mental Fitness, because it’s all about loving yourself – a key to living from the heart and having a joyful life.

Can you tell us a bit about any upcoming projects or events that you are working on?

I’m working on a new book about living blissfully that is coming out in a little over a year. It’s a fun, fast read to uplift and inspire. Also, a short film I wrote called The Birthday Gift is now in production. It’s about kindness and magic and focuses on a young woman reconnecting with her absentee father while awakening to her supernatural heritage. And, I’m excited to be bringing back one of my favorite experiences, a wild dolphin swimming retreat. That is in the works and should be available soon. 

Do you find the pressures of working in your industry significant with regard to feeling the need to have a “perfect” body?  If so, how do you navigate through that terrain?  

Sometimes I feel that pressure a bit, especially, when I am doing work on camera. As I get older, I feel it about aging, too. Our culture tends to prize a youthful appearance. I think, for me, I try my best to stay focused on being happy, healthy, and counting my blessings. I’m fortunate to have an amazing husband who is my biggest fan and who is really supportive, so that helps too. Though ultimately, for me, it comes back to empowering myself to feel worthy. 

How do you “not” judge yourself when others (critics, audience members, producers, etc.) “judge” you based on outward measures?

On the internet we find absolutely everything. It’s really an exact representation of our culture: mostly beautiful and inspiring and a occasionally snarky and dark. So, sometimes when there is discord on there, or people expressing opinions about me personally, I make a joke out of it to my husband or friends I am talking to about it. I say, “Haters gonna hate.” Or something like that to just lighten the mood for myself but I also talk it out with someone I trust. Then you have to just let it go. I realize I can never know what motivated someone to say or type what they did. It could be absolutely anything and have nothing to do with me. And, it’s actually none of my business. All I can do is choose to keep strengthening myself. 

To follow up with that question, how do you deal with bullying or people talking negative about you? 

The same way. Just deal with it and move forward knowing it has less to do with me than with them and whatever they are dealing with in their own lives. An author I admire, Gabrielle Bernstein says, “Forgive and delete.” That echoes my philosophy.

Can you give any examples of bullying in your personal life and how you handled it?

I’ve experienced it as an adult online a very little bit and I think in my case it may just come with being a public figure to a certain extent. I just don’t respond to it and try not to take it personally. As a kid and preteen I did experience bullying and I really wish I had the resources at the time to learn how to deal with it. The internet wasn’t really commonly used then so I just took it and felt badly about myself at the time. And I know firsthand how much it hurts. I remember feeling really sad and wishing that the bully, who was a friend of my neighbor, liked me. And wondering, why doesn’t she like me? What’s wrong with me? She’s popular and I’m not so that’s why she’s thinks she’s better than me. I wish I was different. I didn’t have the information to help me say, “Wait, no, I don’t need to be different. I’m great as I am. She’s just being unkind.”

As an adult I learned she grew up in a pretty tough household and it’s likely she was bullied by one or more parents or siblings. I realized she was trying to feel like she had some control in her life and she was acting out what she experienced at home. Which is actually really sad. I was a teacher for eight years and a common phrase in the schools where I worked was, “Children learn what they live.” And it really is the truth. 

I think that is where most bullying comes from. It still hurts but the best thing to do is know that one day in the future it’s likely that you will be happy and healthy and unfortunately that person may still be dealing with the inner demons that made them a bully in the first place. Learn skills to build your self esteem and know that you are strong and wonderful. Talk to your family about it if they are receptive. I never did that and it may have really helped me through it at the time.

What made you want to get involved with Mental Fitness, Inc.?

I had been wanting to reach out to young women and get involved in something like this and I asked my friend, Women’s Studies Professor Dr. Patricia Leavy, who I respect immensely for advice on how to do it and she pointed me to Mental Fitness. Later, I met Jacob Burman on Twitter and got to get even more involved. 

The mission of Mental Fitness really resonates for me because it is all about providing healthy education using arts based programs. Firstly, I believe education in general is the key to a better world macrocosmically. It’s also a key to a better life for every individual microcosmically. Second, the arts are critical in our lives: for solace and personal expression and also for critical thinking, brain development and well rounded cognition. So, combining positive self esteem promoting education with arts is right up my alley.

Who were the role models in your life?

Definitely my parents. My dad is a generous, huge hearted guy who’s also a skilled businessman. My mom is a therapist and she can be really wise. She is one of my greatest supports. Also, my many aunts who are all super loving people. My Aunt Missy is really eclectic and fun and I always wanted to be like her. And my Aunt Tammy is the sweetest person and she is part of why I was inspired to go into teaching.

I really admired Albert Einstein as a child. I was really into astronomy and physics and so his theories ignited my imagination.

What do you define as beautiful?

Nature and people caring about each other and sharing moments of the heart.

How do you define inner beauty?

Every person’s soul is as unique as a snowflake. There are no two alike. To me, that is beautiful. Inner beauty comes from the heart and the more we share our hearts with strength and vulnerability the more our beauty shines through.

What is happiness?

For me, it’s being with family and friends and swimming with dolphins! Happiness is contentment peppered liberally with fun and excitement and infused with bliss.

Would you be willing to take the Real Deal pledge?  Thoughts about that? (http://wearetherealdeal.com/about/the-real-deal-pledge/)

Definitely! I already have and I recommend it to everyone!

How do you manage your stress levels in daily life?  Do you use music / art / dance, etc. as a coping tool?  

Great question! I’m working on that. I try to meditate daily but I don’t always follow through. I want to get better at committing to daily meditation. I always make sure to have a weekend, even if it just one day and it’s a Tuesday. I try not to work everyday. Music is a great coping tool for sure. And I love art. I use dance as a regular coping tool by going to Zumba class as many times a week as I can. And working out in ways that feel good helps me too. So does being outside in nature, leaving the phone at home and listening to the plants and animals, the breeze, the sounds of the outdoors. 

Are there other things that you do to live mindfully?

I make an effort to stay as present as possible. Whether in conversations, quiet moments thinking, or working. I catch myself straying from that and try to bring my mind back to what is happening now. I was an ADHD kid so it’s a challenge sometimes but it’s critical for me.

How do you find a work-life balance — as a woman, relationships, a professional — what are keys to balance?

I need a few things for balance: time to myself, time with my honey, time with my family, and time with my friends. If I have those things I can stay productive in my professional life. I use my schedule to the fullest. We all have a lot of demands on our time so if I stay very organized about it I am better able to manage things. I schedule rest time for myself. I schedule social time, everything. Like I said earlier I always try to have a weekend day. So, sometimes I have to schedule that. I like to have unfocused time so I schedule that, too. Some major keys for me are being outside and having fun so I always make time for that.

Other thoughts / reflections?

It helps to prioritize your life. What is important now? Number one has to be your health and happiness. Then what comes next? Laying that out for yourself can be helpful. I think the more aware we are of how we feel and think the better we function. When challenges arise we can go within and solve the core causes more easily when we are on a continual quest of growing self awareness. 

I'd rather be interesting, original, &-2

BIO

Amy Leigh Mercree is an author, media personality, and expert dating, relationship, & wellness coach. Mercree speaks internationally and brings groups on adventure vacations around the world focusing on kindness, joy, and wellness.  She teaches workshops around the country. Mrs. Mercree’s book The Spiritual Girl’s Guide to Dating: Your Enlightened Path to Love, Sex, and Soul Mates is THE empowered dater’s toolkit.

AmyLeighMercree.com

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