Ask the Expert - Finding Joy in your beauty and body with Katherine Brooks

Katherine's newsletter WTF is Joy? is so thought-provoking that I asked her to join us.  We'll talk about how can you find joy in your own body and beauty.  You can download the journal prompts using this link.  Click on the down arrow button in the upper right hand corner to download it.

Elaine: Hi, everyone. Welcome. I'm really excited today to have my dear friend Katherine Brooks joining me for our self-love week here at Elaine Wellness. She is a life and mindset coach, and we are here to talk about cultivating self love when it comes to your own beauty and your body.

I'm so happy you are here today. This is part of our self love week here at Elaine Wellness. I personally have been a huge fan of your newsletter. What the F is joy?
More often than not. I have paused at my desk, paused at my email and thought, oh, okay. This is, this is really awesome. So sign up for her newsletter if you're not signed up. You’ve coached for a lot of different big companies. You were living in Europe before the pandemic hit and you now currently coach one to one and help high achievers promote a positive wellbeing.
I wanted to ask you on, because I think there's a conversation we need to have around cultivating self love around our own beauty and our own bodies. And we live in a culture as women where we are just bombarded daily, moment by moment, with these images of perfection that are just really not attainable. I love what you said. The biggest pearl of wisdom around loving and cherishing my physical form has been that my body takes me wherever I want to go has been the number one source of gratitude I tap into when I find I'm seeking some body love. So welcome, Katherine, tell us more.

Katherine: I think a lot about our connection to our bodies, whether we love our bodies or have some other type of relationship with them and how we think about ourselves and how, how we're in relationship with ourselves. And that's a lot of what I coach people on. And I like to think about it. And when I'm speaking to clients, I like to talk about that self relationship. Just like it's a relationship with another human being on planet earth. Because when we hear buzzwords like self love or self-acceptance, or these types of almost commercialized terms it's really easy to get caught up in the kind of commercial connection, whatever the correlated message is, or, or however we're supposed to love ourselves based on a standard that exists outside of us.
And when we think about friendship or partnership or professional connections, those relationships take lots of different forms. We might check in with a friend once every six months and we might check in with another friend once every six days. And so being in relationship with ourself can look just as dynamic from one person to the next, as it can with interpersonal relationships with other humans. And I always like, just start with that foundation because it just helps us a little bit to take an exhale and remember there's no right or wrong way to be connected to yourself and your body.

Elaine: And so things that I've been thinking a lot about lately is especially when you are here on Instagram, right. The filters and we now the photo shopping that goes on, and I'm now hearing 20 year olds talking about wanting to prevent aging through all kinds of stuff, Botox, fillers, peels, lasers. It's endless to a point where I'm concerned, are we chasing an ideal that actually isn't even real, it's an avatar so that there's no freckle, there's no wrinkle. There's no sun spot. It's perfection that is all manufactured. So how in a world like that, can we start to cultivate the self love and not being so harsh and critical of ourselves.

Katherine:You know, I, I think when we consider that beauty standard that exists in some magazine somewhere or on some celebrity's IG profile somewhere, we forget that those external images exist and what actually affects us is our own thoughts about them. And so I love to help people remember that it's not actually the image itself that does damage to you. It's not actually the fact that there is a cultural standard and we, the cultural standard might cause all of our stomachs to turn but what actually is doing the damage is the internalization.
What are we making it mean that the 20 year old is aspiring to look 15? And what are we making it mean about our bodies that our bodies don't look just like, we think they should. Right. And so I always like to remind people that our thoughts are what are actually causing the damage. And, and that's not a self shaming reminder, but really that's to say, and we are the only ones who are in charge of those and we get to change them if they, if we want to.

Elaine: Exactly. Exactly. And if anyone who's listening in, has any thoughts on this chime in or any questions? I want to hear what you're thinking about this topic as well. I think a lot of women are maybe even a little bit afraid to talk about it.

Katherine: Oh definitely. Yeah. I think that if you were to put a big group of wildly successful by whatever definition of women in a room, it's very likely that the bulk of women in there have some type of negative thinking about their physical form. And what just think about the possibilities for what we could do on planet earth. If our energy was not even, we gave 1% less energy, right. To negative thinking about our bodies, like even that would free up beautiful creative space.

Elaine: Right. That's exactly my thought is there's so much energy put into chasing an aesthetic that actually isn't even real.

Katherine: And I think at the end of the day I love to support people in taking full responsibility for their own lives. And that can feel totally scary, but it's empowering as hell. To say I'm gonna acknowledge all of the terrifying beauty standards that exist in my world right now. Right. And even though they exist, I'm willing to swim upstream and think differently. Right. And there's so much bravery to be acknowledged and even wanting to do that long before we even get there.

Elaine: So I asked you to do our, our community a huge favor and write some of your brilliant journal prompts, because I'm such a fan of what you write. And so the first one is tell the truth. So do you wanna explain that?

Katherine: I've recently been doing a practice where first thing in the morning, whatever is going on with me, whether it's an emotion or a thought whatever's coming up, wherever it lands on the, on the emotional spectrum, I acknowledge it. And I actually learned this from Martha Beck in some of her books and coaching. And she believes that the foundation to any type of positive change in our whole lives is starting by telling ourselves the truth. And that could be telling yourself the truth about something that you don't like, that's going on. It could be saying I'm, I'm kind of embarrassed, but I love this one part of my life. That's seemingly insignificant. Maybe there's something there, but it's like, telling ourselves the truth about how we're feeling and what we're thinking is a mandate in order to make any type of positive transformation. And so I love to start with any type of writing exercise that will help you tap into what's actually going on for you right now. Not even in an hour from now. Right. But simply right now. It's a come clean check in.

Elaine: That’s a great way to put

Katherine: Yes. And it's like meeting yourself where you are right now is, has these side effects like then you're creating self trust. What if you were to meet up and have coffee with a friend who every single time you got together, she was always just laying it out straight. She was telling you exactly what was on her mind. Not sure you're putting anything really just saying exactly how she felt. It's easier to trust someone like that.  And it it's the same with ourselves. It's really, really hard to be in a trusting relationship with ourself when we are constantly denying, what's really going on.

Elaine: Right. I a thousand percent agree. Absolutely. And then the next thing is question everything, which I think yes is so important. Right?

Katherine: It’s so important. And it's one of those, I think there were like pins in the sixties during a big cultural movement. That was like question everything at the time when systems were changing. And I, I believe in it still wholeheartedly. Right. And what I really mean by question, everything is don't buy any of your own stories. And so after telling the truth, and let's say you're sitting down with a pen and a piece of paper and saying, I feel anxious right now. I feel delighted right now I'm having this thought that I'm not gonna have any time in my day today for downtime. And it's making me anxious, whatever's really going on.
And the next level deeper for a deeper self connection is to say, is that true than I'm not gonna have any time in my day.  I'm probably gonna have 30 minutes. It's like questioning our brain's default mechanisms. someone said this yesterday. I just, it really stood out to me that our brains are hardwired for survival. Right. So the thoughts that they're gonna offer us at first are always gonna be survival. They're not hardwired for self love or for expansion or for growth or upleveling. Right. And so we get to develop a relationship with them, a loving, gentle relationship, and a huge part of that is by questioning the default thoughts that they wanna throw out.

Elaine: I think it's a little bit taken from Byron Katie's work. Is it?

Katherine: Oh, I love her. She has this format for questioning everything and I think it's so powerful.

Elaine: Yeah, it definitely is and by the way, I did make a PDF of this and I'm not a graphic designer, so it's the most basic PDF people you will ever see. Don't judge me on my design skills, but I did create a PDF and it's on the website. If you wanna really be able to write this out. So then I love this future trip. If you looked exactly the way you want to look, what thoughts would you have about yourself? How would you feel on a day to day basis? How would that shift impact your life? Work and relationships love that of that.

Katherine: So one thing that I love to ask people as I'm coaching them is what will you be thinking when you have everything you want?  Since we're talking about our bodies here, right? And your body looks the exact way, you think you want it to what will you be thinking about yourself? Will you be thinking I'm so committed to my health? Will you be thinking I'm strong? Will you be thinking I'm beautiful, right? Like get really honest. Tell the truth about everything that you think you're gonna be thinking. And then I want you to ask yourself, why can't you believe that now?  And you don't have to force, feed those thoughts into your brain. But I just want you to consider that a new body doesn't change your thoughts.

Elaine: Right? Right. Less wrinkles, no freckles.

Katherine: Yes. Perfect skin, no sun spots. What changes when those things go away? And it's kind of coming to me now that I, in my telling the truth, I've dropped a lot of that. When my body looks like dot, dot, dot, I will feel good about myself. Instead I have little practices throughout my day where I'm consciously and lovingly, like I'm doing this to care for my body and collagen and the coffee, your collagen is the, the way I kick that off. And that's, and that's one, because I'm I say to myself, I'm gonna make my coffee with this collagen. And this is just a little moment of body care.

Another one is like, I put moisturizer on my hands in the winter, you know, another one is like, I always have lip balm near me. And, and so I hear often that we are waiting, we're waiting for our bodies to look a certain way. We're waiting for bodies to feel a certain way. We're waiting for yes. This mark to leave or this mole, to leave. And when we wait like that, we're gonna be waiting. We're gonna be waiting out our lives. Well, and then I think it's also okay, if you do lose that weight or whatever, and then you get there, then what's the next benchmark. Just in a state of pursuit of complexion.

Elaine: Yes. In a state of pursuit. I love that phrase. That's exactly right. And often when we're waiting for one thing, we're waiting for another thing, like we're waiting for the partnership to look exactly how we want or we're waiting for the house or we're waiting for the piece of furniture that's gonna complete everything. And when we have that, we'll feel good.

Katherine: Right. Right. Yeah. Yeah. Um, and I think some of that is, again, just noticing we live in a culture that wants you always buying and consuming and needing the next thing and the next thing. And is that really going to solve anything?


Elaine: Your next prompt was beauty. What is beauty? Why is beauty valuable or not? And name five beautiful things about yourself. Love this one.

Katherine: Yes. Beauty is one of these terms like joy that I really don't know what it means.  It's a really broad term of the English language that different people have different definitions for it. And so what, similarly, the word success is another one of them. Yep. And I love to hear people's individual definitions of these things. And I think beauty is a word where people's like real authenticity could shine. Just taking a moment to define these things for ourselves can be a massive shift. Right. You know what sounds, it sounds trivial. Just five minutes to answer the question. What is beauty for me?  What does beauty beauty mean? And just sit with that and see what comes up and see if the rest of your day has a different energy to it and maybe has more levity.


Elaine: Well, and it leads me back to tell the truth about beauty.
Is it your standard or is it someone else's standard? Because I mean, culture, as you wrote in your notes to me, like, you know, beauty standards are constantly changing, right. There was Twiggy in the sixties who was very, very thin. And then Marilyn Monroe in the fifties who was very voluptuous. And I mean, it makes me go what my dad used to say, like fashion trends come and go, which I've lived long enough to see that fashion trends come and go. So I think what is your standard of beauty?

Katherine: And how could even the process of naming your standard for beauty, be an act of self love.

Elaine: Right. How could declaring what beauty means to you actually just be a real reflection of you, your heart and your essence?

Katherine: And am I doing this? I think another trap we can get into is, am I doing this to impress other people or to make other people like me? Um, I think that can be a real trap with a lot of different things, not just beauty.

Elaine: Your last one, which I, I love with Valentine's day around the corner, what are some ways that you've added love to the world? Feel that love, feel how you contributed that love. Can you let yourself experience the goodness that has come from your contributions?

Katherine: I wanna get snarky and just say, don't tell me that you haven't added beauty to this world. Don't tell me that you haven't contributed to this world and right. One and, and smiling down the street is a contribution. And hugging another person is a contribution. And when we think about creating our own definition for beauty, create it and then use that. Like, that's your reference point? That's the reference point.

You know, and, and I love to have people go through and think about how they've connected beauty to the world and how they've contributed because our brains aren't gonna automatically come up with ways that we are thriving. Because that might feel vulnerable. And so we've gotta mine our experiences for the real data. Right. And we get to curate that data. And so I love to help bring people back into this place of like, how are you already contributing in a beautiful way. And that can take so many different forms.
You know, of calling a friend, who's going through a difficult time, um, writing a note to somebody making a meal for somebody offering to help. I mean, there's a thousand ways that we can make the world a more beautiful place through action.

Elaine: Absolutely.

Katherine: Yeah, allowing someone to go in front of you when you have 20 things in your cart at the grocery store and they have two,
Things really matter. And I find that we can be quick to discount ways that we're really contributing beautifully. And so it's really worthwhile to just take stock of those types of moments in our lives.

Elaine: Oh, I hundred percent agree. I think we've lost that a bit lately. You know, even like the weather here in Los Angeles has been so beautiful and I'm constantly like walking outside, I'm like, oh my gosh, look at all these trees that are flowering and like, look at all these beautiful flowers everywhere. This is free. This is look at and enjoy.

Katherine: And, and to delight in it as you're doing. Yeah. Is that contributes to your beauty that contributes to your spirit.

Elaine: And it's something I talk a lot about, obviously more from a nutritional standpoint, but I do also think from a mindset standpoint where how you feel on the inside is going to be reflected in how you look on the outside. And I know this, just go through pictures in your life and you can see different times in your life when you're going through a relationship struggle or a work struggle or whatever. You look like a different person.


Katherine: Completely. They say that I'll get these numbers wrong, but the ratio is close to, right. Our bodies can process something like a million bits of information per second. And our brains can process something like 40 bits of information per second. And so our bodies are designed to be sort of our ultimate survival mechanisms, which is why, if you've ever walked into a bar and you notice something weird about a guy standing over there, he's not doing anything, but you're just getting a weird vibe. Like your body is, is reading something that the conscious mind hasn't come to yet.  And it's the same way. If you walk into a room after two people have been fighting, you can just feel that you can feel that.
And our bodies are these like massive knowledge bases. They, they contain knowledge and they can read knowledge so much faster than our minds. And so when we, when there's wear and tear from our lifestyle, whether it's stress or a big breakup or partying a lot, what, whatever it looks like, right. Our bodies really take the hit but they're so amazingly resilient. Like if, if in a moment of darkness, when we can't think anything nice about our thoughts or about our bodies, one thought to bring in is my body is resilient.

Elaine: Oh, that's for sure.

Katherine: Right. And so they'll, they'll change even after a really stressful period, they'll change, you know, and it's incredible.

Elaine: Well, your body is highly intelligent, highly intelligent. And I mean, we could, we could go into intuition, right. Especially for women, right. Your intuition does not lie. Right. That's another reason as a woman to be grateful for your body and your intuition. So smart. So intuitive. Now we're often talked out of that intuition but you could maybe give us some pointers on how to tap into intuition and listen to that in her voice.


Katherine: Yeah. There's, there's an exercise. I like to think of like a bicep curl but for intuition connection. And it's when we derail the inner voice, it's because a cultural we’re prioritizing a voice from outside of us, right. From the culture, whether that's a person in our life or the way we think something's supposed to go or how we think someone's gonna perceive us.  And the way that I know to strengthen, like going to the gym for our intuition is to give ourselves ways to show that we're trustworthy to ourselves. So that could be saying tomorrow, I'm going to do X and following through, right. It could be a small thing or it could be, I am going to commit to in the next week only spending one hour a day on my phone and then following through and every single time that we follow through on any type of promise to ourselves, it is like doing a bicep curl with a weight in the gym for our intuition, because every single one of those strengthens our self trust. Right. And we don't often need help with the inner voice it's speaking. But it's exactly what you're saying. Like, are we listening? Right? And are we, are we acting on it? And we have to believe that we're, we can trust it first.

Elaine: I a hundred percent agree. And I think that sometimes that gets refined over time with age. Right. You disregard your intuition enough times, and then you're finally like, wait, I knew, I like to say that's, that's the wisdom of age. Right.

Katherine: I love that. I read something, actually, Martha Beck had said, which is, what are you yearning for? And I think that circles back to when we're thinking about your body and beauty and being so judgmental of yourself is what are you yearning for? If you do this, or if you do that to change your appearance. And I think that's a very good question to ask.
That's a great question to get really honest with yourself. Right? Go back to question number one, tell the truth. What are you yearning for? And why?

Elaine: Let’s all answer that after this. You're gonna go to my website, it's under ask the expert. You can download the, the PDF and you can have some journal prompts so that you can answer all these phenomenal questions that you have asked.

Katherine: And I would love to hear people's answers.

Elaine: I know, get that's another thing, Kathrine and I are super, super curious to hear. What do people have to say? Any final words of wisdom you have for us?

Katherine: You know, one other fun exercise that I like to offer people in, in the realm of intuition is to spend one whole day asking yourself throughout the day, what do I want? And that starts with when you reach for a glass of water in the morning, which glass do I want? And just listening to the answer and starting there. I really want for lunch. And instead of just moving through the day really quickly, just take a minute to ask yourself what you want. You don't always have to act on the answer. But just get curious.

Elaine: Right? Right. And I think we could couple that with what I was talking about yesterday with, I had a pelvic floor physical therapist on which if you weren't here, you gotta go watch it. It was phenomenal. But a lot of our conversation revolved around breathing and how we all breathe in a very shallow way. So I think if you're just moving really fast through the day, you're just reacting. You're not really dropping in getting into that breath and stopping and saying, Hey, what do I want today? Or in this moment? I think those, those tools could really change the outcome for you in a lot of avenues of your life.
Are you still doing your newsletter? I know you, you were doing it every day, which I don't know. You churn that out every single day. So are you still doing it? And can people sign up for it?

Katherine: Yes, I'm doing it twice a month. If you send me a DM, I'll send you the link directly. It's called WTF is joy and it is on sub stack.
Okay. I people, you have to go sign up for it. It, it will literally make you stop. Pause. Think it's so thoughtful. Katherine. It's so well done.
You're the best fan, Elaine. Thank you so much.

Elaine: Well, and look, Caroline. She said she just followed you. This is this helpful and relatable in this moment. Wonderful, Caroline. Really glad to hear.

Tell us more, part of why I started my brand is to really have conversations around beauty and aging and she says need to bake this into my work as a PhD advisor at Harvard. Well tell us more. What do you do?
I just, I think so many women are so afraid of aging, as I said, I'm seeing it in 20 somethings, which I, when I was 20, I don't remember fearing aging so much. Um, it's a whole new world out there, so I wanna have conversations around, you know, let's go deeper than just trying to use all these external things to try to not age.
Right. Aging's a privilege. So I'd love to have a new conversation. Let's see. What did she say? Um, she's a career coach, but so much of what my female students bleeds into life and confidence and personal things. Ooh. We'd love to know.
I, I see this interesting mix, um, having done. So, you know, I'm an entrepreneur who is 52 years old and I hang out with women who are half my age because I love them and they're cool and they're doing phenomenal things. So I hang around a lot of 20 and 30 something women cuz they love their energy and their passion. And they're so smart, but I do see this side of some of them that is so afraid of aging it just concerns me.
Yeah. And who, I mean, there's always been this emphasis on the external, but it seems like it's even more so now, so
Yeah. I'm curious what they're really afraid of.
Yeah. Yeah. So, well, Caroline, we'd love to know more about, uh, what you do and the work that you do. So send us, send us a DM or we're glad you found us.
Tremendous stress, hard to dedicate time to wellness when they're deep in dissertation, dissertation research. Lots of fear around unknown futures. Aging. Yeah. I, I do. I think there is a lot of, there's a, it feels like there's a lot of pressure to like be a multimillionaire by the time you're, I don't know, 25 or something.
What do you think, Katherine? What are your pearls of wisdom here?
Yeah, I was, I was recently listening to Dr. Lori Santos who teaches that really famous happiness class at Yale. And she is incredible and does some amazing work. And she was saying that the students in, in her classes have the highest levels of mental health disorders that she has ever seen. And she talked a lot about why, but I think the thing that stood out to me is there surely is a mental health crisis amongst gen Z. I mean, we might say the world, but we know gen Z and there is simultaneously a hunger to understand what's going on and to figure out ways to move forward. And there's much less taboo about talking about anxiety and depression and a host of other very common things that we all have going on. And so I think that this is a really interesting opportunity in time to be in this general world of wellness, physical wellness, emotional wellness,
Because there's this real hunger. And I actually see this as an opportunity when the taboo is dissolving to say, okay, maybe we can collectively create the right resources and distribute the right resources that will really help people.
And that's really how I see coaching, but there are lots of different methods and so I think that this is opening up a real creative opportunity to say, okay, basic talk therapy, one to one in a room might not be for everybody that might be for someone, but maybe it's for everyone. So could we use this, this opportunity of seeing how necessary it is for people to have support right now to say, let's meet people where they are.You know, and if your students, Caroline are really time crunched, you know, who's, who's to say that their mental, emotional, physical wellness still can't be a part of their lives. It's just, we can't take our old systems of requiring X amount of time in this format to meet them. It's like, could we get more creative?
I agree. I absolutely agree. I also teach Pilates. I have for the last 16 years. And I often find when people move their body, you can start to move some of that energy, those emotions get stuck in literally in the body, in the muscles. Maybe that's a place where you meet them.
Yoga is, is great because you're, I think sometimes as we've been talking throughout this whole, um, Instagram live is again, coming back into your body and we're in such this external world and we forget to come back home.
Right. Who, who am I tell the truth? What do I really want? What really matters? Maybe I need to take 10 deep breaths. Maybe I need to drink a glass of water and come back to me and not be so focused out on the external.
Right. It can be scary to do that. Yeah. That's why I salute anyone who decides to even begin to explore themselves. Like it's the bravest bravest move.
I a hundred percent agree. And, but it pays dividends when you do when you, so wow. Well, Caroline, I would love to continue the conversation of how to help younger women because I do see some suffering there for sure. For sure. So, wow, Katherine, thank you so much.

Yes. Good work. So all ladies out there happy Valentine's day. Take some time in your day to take care of you. You can't pour from an empty cup and uh, we'll be back tomorrow. I have a naturopath coming on, talking about health and vitality for women. How to age. Well, you don't have to suffer symptoms. So