On Wednesday, we talked about how seeking self-improvement can actually become self-destructive, a powerful insight that comes from Danielle LaPorte’s powerful book White Hot Truth: Clarity for Keeping It Real on Your Spiritual Path—from One Seeker to Another.

Today, I’m honored to share my interview with Danielle, who took the time out of her very busy schedule to answer my questions. Below, she reveals everything from why we strive for self-improvement to how we start loving ourselves (even if it’s the last thing we think we can do).

Q: In White Hot Truth, you write about going to a slew of people to improve yourself, from hypnotherapists to astrologers to various coaches. So many of us do the same. What do you think we are searching for, deep down, when we’re striving for self-improvement, over and over?   

A: I think at the root of all of our searching, we are looking for two things. One is that we really, in a primal and divine way, long for connection. We want to feel connected to a higher source, to resources for Love and for clarity and for nourishment. We want meaning in our lives.

Secondly, I think a lot of the times a lot of us are just looking for approval and for permission—approval that we’re good, that we’re valuable and worthy of what we desire and permission to be our full selves and to want what we want.

All of those things, you know looking for meaning and looking for approval, are natural. But we need to keep them in check because seeking approval specifically can turn into a really exhausting path that has no destination—just burnout.

Q: Today, you’re no longer “trying to improve on your self-improvement.” What’s changed about how your life looks now that you’ve let this go (as compared to the days you were striving and striving to improve)? 

A: Now that I’ve retired from being a chronic and habitual self-helper, I feel so much more spaciousness in my life. My day planner has more room in it because I’m doing less therapy and fewer astrology readings, and I’ve got more room in my cupboards because fewer supplements and I’m just saving a lot of money.

But mostly there’s more confidence in how I make my decisions. There’s more flow about where I give my energy, and the beautiful irony in all of this is that my devotion to living more meaningfully, to being more loving and compassionate human, is deeper and juicier than ever. I am more focused on what works for me in terms of my spiritual commitment and how I’m being of service to the world. Focus is power even in terms of your spiritual path.

Q: You devote an entire chapter to loving ourselves like it’s our jobs (because it is). Many of us have a hard time with this. A very hard time. How do you suggest readers start loving themselves—especially if that’s the last thing they feel like they can do?   

A: If you’re struggling with your self-esteem and the idea of loving yourself more makes you scared in some way, then you just need to start with the small stuff—really gentle noticings about why are amazing: You love the color of your eyes; you love the sound of your voice; you love that you keep a really clean home; you love that you were great at getting presents; you love how kind you are to your dog—easy, everyday things.

And then you start turning that positive feedback with yourself into a regular practice, and then you go deeper: You love that you’re a great friend; you love how strong you can be in times of crisis; and you go on from.

Then you’ll notice the tone you take with yourself: If you are barking at yourself like an angry motivational speaker; or if you are encouraging and actually supporting yourself like you are your own best friend. Really the root of self-love is about having a deep friendship with yourself.

Q: You stress the importance of prioritizing pleasure, writing, “pleasure makes all of the (seemingly) unavoidable hardships of just being here so much easier.” In our culture, sadly, pleasure tends to get a bad rap. What does prioritizing pleasure look like for you?  

A: My girlfriends really are a religion for me, so making time to be with them—constantly being on emergency text support and cheerleading with them. Arranging my life to have quality time with my friends is one of the most pleasurable, soul-affirming things I can do.

I also have this creative rhythm in my life where I really am the cliché “work hard, play hard kind” of personality, so I make sure that my “play time” has a lot of space to it. So I do full days with no meetings, no commitments, no interviews. I need blocks of time for solitude to just be creative and meander, so there’s that.

And then there’s a lot of sensuality that is part of my life: essential oils, and bathing; and time in the sun; and wearing perfume, even if I’m not going out; making sure I feel as beautiful as I can on a really normal day.

And the amazing thing about pleasure is it creates this kind of comfort in your nervous system and you can think more clearly. Pleasure really is power.

Q: Anything else you’d like readers to know about your beautiful book, or a takeaway message you’d like to leave us with? 

A: Compassion is a superpower. Compassion leads to connection and meaning and creativity and prosperity. And that compassion has to begin with yourself. When you can offer yourself love and allowances and respect, when you are feeling like you are at your worst, that’s when compassion really turns into medicine.

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Danielle LaPorte is an invited member of Oprah’s inaugural Super Soul 100, a group who, in Oprah Winfrey’s words, “is uniquely connecting the world together with a spiritual energy that matters.”

She is author of The Fire Starters Sessions, and The Desire Map: A Guide To Creating Goals With Soul. She is also a speaker, poet, painter, and former business strategist and Washington-DC think tank exec.

Her charities of choice are VDay: a global movement to end violence against women and girls, and charity: water, setting out to bring safe drinking water to everyone in the world.

She lives in Vancouver with her favorite person—her 12 -year-old son. Learn more at http://www.daniellelaporte.com.