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Have you ever felt like you're not good enough?
Today, we will talk about the meaning of life, the core values that guide you in your healing journey, and how to get unstuck. In this episode, I speak with Stephen Shaw, Globally Renowned Mystic, Life Coach, Intimacy Coach, Tantra Master, Shaman, and Author of 12 bestselling spiritual self-help books.
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Michael: Hey! What's up, Unbroken Nation. Hope that you're doing well wherever you are in the world today. I'm very excited to be back with you with another episode with my guest, author and life coach Stephen Shaw. Stephen, my friend, how are you? It's a pleasure to be here with you today.
Stephen: I'm really awesome, man. How are you doing?
Michael: Man, I'm so good. I've been looking forward to this conversation since you and I connected earlier in the year, and I know that it's going to be a very powerful conversation, that said before we dive in, tell us a little bit about how you got to where you are today?
Stephen: So, my kind of backstory is, my childhood was a strong influence on me, like most people and my mother had severe bipolar disorder and that created an atmosphere at home that was very unsettling and threatening, and that definitely shaped my emotions and then I lost her when I was five years old. So, I grew up with my dad from five years old and my dad was a man of his time. So, he was not very emotional or affectionate, I think it was just the way people were then men. And he was more about growth and achievement and, you know, making sure you get somewhere in life. So, I kind of landed up in the situation where from a very young age, I was looking for love and fulfillment because I just wasn't getting it from a lack of mother and a father, he was more sort of stoic. At the same time, I also was born with this insatiable curiosity, it just was inside of me from year dot and I wanted to know everything about everything and I wanted to know how to make life better, how to improve people's lives, it was always inside of me. So, my kind of drivers in life have been this need to know, and to learn everything about life, which is why inevitably I became a life coach.
And the second thing was understanding, love and fulfillment, including self-love and what it means and how to feel more loved and happier inside and fulfilled. So, these things drove me extremely hard in life and they kind of weaved the whole pattern of my life. And I mean, you kind of have these drivers, right? But life happens to you along the way. So, you know, I went through a normal school, like most people and I was bored out of my mind of school, I don't know why we had to learn bizarre subjects that had no relevance to life still don't get that at all. I was really happy to go to university though, I spent seven years studying psychology, a passion of mine, and it was a totally different thing, suddenly I was motivated. I was getting straight as I even got married bursaries and two years for free. It was a totally different thing, which shows you the power of doing what you love and studying what you love. And then unfortunately, along their way, you know, in my twenties, I got married and divorced very quickly because I was married to a woman when I was 21 and a year later, I came home to find her in bed with my best friend and that brought up all the old issues of childhood, like self-love worthiness. And that was a defining moment at 21, I hadn't yet started studying psychology, but that moment was when I said to myself, I need to really understand what I'm about emotional issues self-love and how to create profound, intimate relationships, so that, that was another driver that pushed me really hard to become not just a life coach, but an intimacy coach first for myself and then obviously to give what I learned to other people. I also had a few other experiences, like most of his life at 25, I was viciously attacked by three men, and told that it was the last hour of my life and I developed severe PTSD, which stuck with me for years that was a brutal thing. And PTSD obviously is fascinating, you can get it from being in a war situation, conflict, you can get it from a severe car accident from rape, all sorts of things. So, PTSD has many different precursors, but it's really hard to get rid of, it creates a state in your brain of fear and vigilance and hard to calm down and relax. And unfortunately, that affected some of my romantic relationships too. So, the whole time these things are shaping me and I'm driven and learning whether it's through books or doing seminars in courses, I was looking for the best of the best in life. And then I got to a point where I was very successful in life. I was earning lots of money, I had a learning and development consultancy life was really good. And I got to a point though, where I just felt I hadn't got the final thing I was looking for. I wanted the ultimate answers in spirituality, in metaphysics, in the meaning of life in fulfillment and true success. And then at 39 years old, I just said, I'm gonna give up everything, pack my life into a backpack. I sold everything, gave everything away. And I traveled the world for 10 straight years with one singular mission that's to find the ultimate answers in life that, you know, I'd gone through the books in the seminars and the education and by all means on earth, I looked like I was super successful, but I wasn't fulfilled deeply, deeply fulfilled and that was what I was searching for. And I realized that 39, that success minus fulfillment equals a life crisis. Now most of us are struggling for success. and health and wealth and so forth, but those things do not make you truly happy, what makes us happy is fulfillment? So, I spent these 10 years traveling to Tibet and Peru, whole different range of countries and looking for what I call the apex teachers. In other words, the people at the top of the pyramid, the people who really knew what they were talking about who had real power, real knowledge, and it took a long time to get to those teachers and a lot of costs involved and emotional costs and some financial costs. And the long, and the short of it is I came out of those 10 years writing 12 books, which became best sellers and becoming a really good life coach and an intimacy coach because I had now conquered everything, I had finally found the deeper self-love, profound performance, understood the meaning of life, everything was right in my life. I mean, a real fulfillment and the beautiful thing and then is I could go out and share that without people. I like to think of it as having a basket of jewels, you know, precious jewels and when your basket is overflowing with jewels natural, just give them away to other people because you've arrived, you found it. And bear in mind, this took me, you know, decades of multiple learning and life experiences. But when I arrived and I finally found this profound love and self-fulfillment, I was unable to profoundly affect other people's lives. So that's kind of where I'm today.
Michael: That's very, very beautiful, man. I actually, I resonate with a lot of that because when I was 32, I sold everything I owned and I took a one-way trip to Asia and I spent all this time just deeply introspective writing my first book, you know, doing martial arts, meditating, sitting on the beach, you know, things that had escaped me that calm, that peace, the lack of chaos, which I think frequently we grow through the discomfort of our decisions and stillness for me was the ultimate discomfort. And I asked myself, what do I really need to get deeper into who I am? You know, I think one of the struggles that we all have innately is seeking that space of fulfillment and grace and hope and all of the things that make humanity really beautiful. And I think people are often seeking the meaning of life and I've come to find for me at least and obviously I'm gonna ask you, but for me, it's just being okay with the reflection in the mirror and giving and being of service to others. And so, I'm curious for you, Stephen, what is the meaning of life?
Stephen: Yeah, that's interesting what you've said, it correlates strongly with what I have experienced too. For me, I found that fulfillment comes down to three things. In essence, it's learning to what you love, which is basically expressing who you are and being that person. If you can't do it full time, at least as a hobby, right? Cause some people have to work in jobs that don't enjoy, but the first part of fulfillment is doing what you love in life. The second thing is having fulfilling intimate relationships and that's hard, you know, there's a lot of techniques in that and that's why I'm an intimacy coach. And then I feel like if you have an awesome intimate relationship, and you're doing what you love in life that covers about 80 to 90% of your fulfillment, that's about you. And then the final 10% is what I call service, that's giving to other people and for people, it can be different, it could be 80, 20, or 70 or 30, but you do have to try and get yourself in a good place in life in terms of your love life and doing what you love and then finding ways to serve. Now, I know when we say service, some people think, wow, I mean, how can I serve other people? I've got so many things on my plates, maybe on my parents, I got children and doing a full-time job, it taking many hours, but service is crucial to help me fulfillment and it could be just being a parent. I mean, having kids is a huge sacrifice and a lot of service I think I haven't got kids myself, but I've seen it that looks like a lot of work. Right. And also, service could be helping a charity or making donations, sometimes service that 10% or 20% is just leaving a legacy on this earth. You're saying, I don't understand fully why I'm here, what life's all about, but let me at least leave this place better than I found it, you know, leave a beautiful footprint on this earth. And I find that for anybody, whether you an atheist or a religious person leaving a footprint on this earth is something that makes you feel really fulfilled. Sometimes it's just reach out to people around you and just being kind and that's a rarity these days, right? No more trolling and babbling on a social media, but just finding a way to be kind with your words and your actions.
Michael: Yeah, I love that. And I love that you used the word kind, it's one of my personal values because kindness is everything like it really is. And, you know, I think that that is a journey we each must discover independently. I wanna dive into intimacy for a moment because I think it's an incredibly important conversation. And I think often, like people kind of misunderstand intimacy, right? And they think it's just sex and orgasms and that shit, and it's not. And so, what I would love is two things Stephen one's first and foremost talk about your journey to finding intimacy after having that experience at 25 years old and what that actually means to you now, looking at intimacy, being such a huge facet of what you believe leads to fulfillment.
Stephen: Yeah, this is actually fantastic because my journey is a journey as a human being and as a man, I mean, we have to understand that there are aspects of who you are that create certain ways of thinking, feeling perceiving. So, for example, if you are born a man, you generally have a fair amount of testosterone, right? And that can also affect the way you are in relationships ‘cause sometimes testosterone can drive you to be an achieving orientation instead of focusing on intimacy connection. Right. Whereas, human beings that have more estrogen, are naturally more social connectors and into intimacy. So, there's various aspects of this. And I think my journey is beautiful because it's not just as a human being, it's also as a man and moving away from my father, who was my role model, of course, you know, when you are young, he's a role model. And he was a man who, I mean, intimacy was the furthest thing from who he was. So, I grew up without this idea of what intimacy was, what love was and what self-love was, both as a human being as a man. And then at 21 years old being betrayed, which was, we were both young and naïve, I get it, and 25 getting PTSD, so all these things, the whole time pushing me into be more isolated, more atomized, more focused on achieving goals. You know, it's getting straight A's and university and whatever else, like all achievement. And the reason why I hit a life crisis is because you get to a point where no matter what you achieve, no matter how your body looks, whatever these sorts of earthy parameters are, what your job title is, how much money you earn the house you have. These things ultimately mean nothing, al the counts are feeling fulfilled. In other words, do you wake up in the morning, excited about life. You wanna get out of bed and enjoy this day? Know what are your relationships like? Do you have deep connected relationships with your friends, maybe your family, that's a bit tricky and definitely an intimate connected husband or wife. Right? And that, again, the skill sets, no one teaches you about intimacy and this is what absolutely boggles my mind school, nothing. I mean, we had nothing about intimacy now, intimacy you're right. I studied tantra for many years and the first parts of tantra, classically of course, are sex, pleasure, tactile and so forth, all that is useful, but that is again, more of an earthy kind of thing and it's definitely helping a relationship. But true intimacy is not sexual or physical, it's emotional and even spiritual, depending of course, where you sit in terms of atheism or new age or religious and so forth, but your connection to other people, I believe without a doubt, just taking religion out for a minute, it’s gotta be deeply emotional and deeply spiritual. And I mean that you need to have ways to learn how to be authentic, how to express yourself, how to take the risks, how to connect with your heart and not your mind. And in terms of spirit, it's like energy, that's a nice, safe word to use and we have energy around us when we meet someone and we straightaway feel, this person feels a bit weird to me, I feel uncomfortable, that's the energy feeling. I know a psychologist would say it's their body language and their facial expressions and micro expressions. But I don't believe that at all because I'm a psychologist and I know I meet people and immediately I can feel what they're about, sad, happy, threatening, and how to approach 'em, how to be with them.
So, I believe that intimacy is pretty close to the meaning of life, a better word maybe is love, but love is so vague. I when people say, love yourself more, love others, what does this mean? So, I would like to break down love into different aspects and intimacy and love, and that we have the same thing, it's the deepest, emotional, spiritual intimacy. So, part of my journey was getting away from my childhood, my genetics, my brain wiring, my hormone levels which made me kind of like a man in a way of thinking like a man and getting away from my cultural conditioning, how society brought me on, my parents, my childhood, if there was any trauma, there was abuse loss, all these things are shaping you, right? The first three to five years of your life are so crucial. So, you're trying to overcome these things and rewrite your history, rewrite your life and make better choices. So truly, I mean, at 55, I can say I'm thankful for writing 12 based selling books. I'm thankful for my education and all these things are important to me, but right now I know at 55, the most important thing in life, the most fulfilling thing in life, by any standards, by any measurement is deep, emotional and spiritual intimacy with other people and in particular, of course, for me, my wife, and if you're married to someone.
Michael: Yeah, that's incredibly beautiful. One of the things that for me in my journey I've found, and this is kind of the direction I wanna step into is having to face the reality that intimacy only comes through ultimately letting your guard down, the willingness to let people win, the understanding that the truth, realistically, most people are not out to get you. And so, I'm really curious about not only in your journey, but in a practical sense, how can folks’ step into that place of being open to intimacy?
Stephen: All intimacy starts with self-love, and this is the stepping stone. And it sounds like a cliché, I get, you know, you gotta love yourself to love other people. And for years I thought that was total cliche, but the truth is you need to learn to love yourself and that means overcoming your childhood traumas, your personal history if you've been through abuse or loss, it could be being betrayed as an adult, you know, all these things in life are setting you up to make decisions. You come to a crossroad in life that no matter how many bad things happen to you, you have to make a fundamental choice if you're gonna go left or right. Are you gonna love yourself or you're not gonna love yourself? Now, part of that is a choice. Now, when I was Tibet, alarmer said to me, and I thought it was profound, he said to me, you are what you choose to become. And I was like, what about my past, my parents, the things I went through, the loss of my mother, you know, being betrayed and PTSD and he said, at some point you have to choose what you want to become. And that was profound to me. Right. So, self-love is partly a choice, it's partly, as you said earlier, which I thought was beautiful is looking at yourself in the mirror and accepting who you are. Now, I think that the foundation stone of self-love is self-acceptance, right? And that's a choice you have to make, because if you don't accept yourself, it doesn't matter who you are with and no matter what they say to you, how kind amateur love you, you'll still not accept yourself. You've got to start with yourself. So self-acceptance and I read this in the first book I am, which is still the best-selling book of all my 12 books, it's amazing. I said that if you imagine that you're a flower and there are thousands of different flowers, you accepted flower as it is. So, let's just say hypothetically, like, I don't know, I'm a Crescent and you a rose, now, a totally different flower. So, I don't want to compare myself to you and say, wow, look at the colors you have and look at the way you're growing and all these different things. I'm gonna say, I'm the Crescent, I'm gonna accept myself as I am and you accept who you are. So, I'm not gonna compare and contrast to other flowers, I'm just gonna accept myself completely. And accepting yourself means that there is full ownership of who you are. And this is something again that I was taught, by a Charman about total ownership. You see, when we have trauma in life, we often become a victim which is natural and expected, and it should be like that for a while you feel poor me, I need help, I need support, I need a therapist, I need friends, whatever, but at some point in life, you can't stay a victim, you have to practice ownership. And ownership to me is more than self-responsibility, it's owning every bit of who you are. In other words, you look in the mirror, not just owning your physical attributes, your race, your color, your gender, your sexual orientation, it's owning your mind, your thoughts, your emotions, owning the person, looking out through these eyes because you're not just your body, you're an inner person which is beautiful and special and has never been damaged. So, this acceptance is the absolute acceptance of who you are and no more compare, contrast, stay away from magazines on social media if you have to, you know, there's so much in this world, that's trying to tell us to be something else. You should be an action hero. You need to have ripping muscles. If you're a woman, you have to have sexy curves. It's always more and more and more and more, and those things don't help us.
There's so many things I'd like to say, one of the most profound things I was taught by a tantrum master is that you are not your body. And I know some of you might think, wow, that's esoteric for me and so on. But I'd like you to think about this when you see a car driving by there's somebody driving that car and what's more important, the car or the driver? So, if you imagine that your body is like a car that you have, and you have one car for this entire journey of life, and the car comes in different brands, sizes, model shapes, colors, and it's okay, these thousands of different kind of cars. When we meet someone, we shouldn't care what the car looks like, we care about who's driving the car, right? So, when I'm meeting somebody, I don't care about your race, your sexual orientation, your gender, ethnicity, all those things are nonsense and meaningless, I'm interested in who you are driving the car. Who are you as a person? What are your, as you said earlier, which I loved. What are your core values? Because your core values define who you are and then define how you interact with other people. And when you have what I call healthy core values, you are on the road to self-acceptance and self-love. And we can talk about this in more detail as we go along.
Michael: Yeah. I mean, that's incredibly profound. I actually love that analogy. I think that's one of the most beautiful things anyone's ever said on this show because it's so true. And the reality is when you look at your life and you look at your experience, if you only are ever relegated to this idea of this physical presence, as the thing that determines your value, you're in trouble, and I played that game for a long fucking time, man, it was like money, cars, like you hear this all the time. But one of the things that I wish we could change was the fact that until someone actually experiences this, it doesn't shift. And, you know, because I think for myself and obviously hearing it in your story, it really took that moment of reckoning where I was like, wait a second, this car doesn't fulfill me, these clothes don't fulfill me, this stuff doesn't make me feel like a good person. One of the things I'm curious about is when you are driven, when you do want to be successful in this idea about acknowledging self and having acceptance, is there a reconciliation of realizing that it doesn't matter about what you actually accomplish as long as you move forward and that being the acceptance? Because I think about for myself, I'll make this about me for a moment, because I literally don't have a better way to phrase this. I wanna have success but I don't want to be my success. So how do you navigate that when you're trying to build into what is the next phase of your life?
Stephen: I think you need to understand that likely our core values. Our core drivers and all of us have the same core drivers. So, if you think of success, not as success, but as growth, we all have this need for growth, it's just built into us. You reach a certain point in life and you feel like, okay, I've done that, what's next and that's okay, it's okay to keep growing, getting more challenges, achieving more life, finding out your full potential. I mean, it's part of the excitement of life and that's okay. So, I am now more interested in growing and expressing more of who I am and finding out more of who I am and who I can become and how can I affect other people's lives? How can I make a bigger impact on the world? How can I lead a more beautiful footprint? So, I think more of growth as opposed to success, so cuz success means nothing, what does it mean? You know, when you go on social media and you post some post on Facebook, you might get 10 people saying like, wow, it's amazing then 10 people like crap all over you and then 10 people insult you, it's all meaningless, everyone's got their own measuring sticks and their own parameters and it means nothing. All the counts is that you are doing what you're meant to do, your passion and your purpose, finding your deepest inner fulfillment. And part of that is stretching yourself continually and as much as you want to, and sometimes we just stop and say, right, I'm done for a while maybe I'll take two years and just stay where I am and trade water and that's fine too. So, there's this balance between growth and fulfillment and they're both important drivers, they're both spiritual drivers. So, if you think of spiritual motivation, instead of maybe earthly motivation, then you kind of get more on track in life, you know, and this is why I'm trying to bring things a whole time back to what are call spiritual core values, not getting into religion or new ageism, just what is life really about? So that's for me is the drivers and I hope it answered your question.
Michael: Yeah. That makes a lot of sense to me because and I think, again, this word success is so subjective to each individual person because for me, success is very simple, I want to end generational trauma in my lifetime through education and information, not money, not cars, not clothes, it's none of those things. It's me trying to move towards creating something that I feel called to every single day. And I hope that people will be willing to give themselves the space to even acknowledge big grandiose, scary ideas, because I think we get so ingrained with this idea that we're not capable, we're not good enough, we're not strong enough. And it's just like determined by who, right.? And my hope is that more people have the willingness to step into this. When you think about this journey for yourself, and you look at the impact that you've had on the lives of thousands of people and all these incredible experiences of shift and change that you've been able to be a Proctor for, is there a commonality that you see amongst people who have a shift from where they are into who it is that they become?
Stephen: I guess you could call these kind of macro thoughts. You know, we have all these stepping stone thoughts in life, and that's part of our journey and human beings struggle to make a revolution, they're more about slowly, slowly changing, it's what I call evolution. And it's kind of natural in the way most people change. But at some point, you could make a revolution by changing master thoughts in your mind. So, one of the master thoughts I mentioned earlier is what a Tibetan Bla-ma said to me, he said, you choose what you want to become. And that kind of blew my mind cuz I thought, but I've got all is background issues and personal history issues and this is who I am, right? Physical, conditioning, genetics, hormones, emotional things, childhood, society, culture, media, all the things I mentioned, kind of shaped who I am in the first three to five years and longer. And he said, no, choose who you want to become.
So, here's a beautiful lesson and I'll try to answer the whole question as much as I can. He said to me, I want you to think about your core values now, your core values or your principles, your beliefs, your internal motivators, these are the things that describe how you feel about yourself and how you interact with other people and the world. So, these things are absolutely fundamental, in other words, your body is like, whatever your mind is, whatever, it's your core values that dictate kind of who you are and dictate how your life will manifest. And he said, and if anyone's listening, do this exercise at home, get a piece of paper or a journal or a diary and write down your core values. For example, my core values now are obviously very positive like I'm loyal, I'm honest and respectful, those are my core values and also driven and I also enjoy growth. So, you write down your core values and then you write down how these values are serving you? How do they make you feel inside? Do they make you more connected to other people? Do they promote intimacy or do they make you isolated alone, standoffish and not trusting other people? And also, how these values affecting your career and your romantic relationships? After you've done that and this is the best part, he says, lay down on a bed and imagine that you are in the last hours of your life, it's called the death bed exercise and then look back over your life. Now, imagine you're really dying, right? You've got just hours to live. Look back over your life and ask yourself what were the sweetest memories? What made my life worthwhile? You know, what things jumped out? What were the highlights? Those things will teach you about core values and things that really matter in life and write those down. And then the third step, which is really profound. Okay? He said, choose an inspirational hero, whatever it may be, it could be Martin Luther King, it could be Maya Angelo, it could be the Buddha, Jesus, Dai Lama, whatever you want could be, even be a business figure if you want. Like, I don't know, Tony Robbins and look at those people and analyze what their core values are, what drove them, what are their internal motivators and write things down. Then you take all these positive values that you picked up from the deathbed exercise and from your inspirational hero exercise, and write them down and then you choose values that you want to become part of your life. Now that is mind boing instead of saying, oh my past this and my mom, this and my dad and I was betrayed and blah, blah, you now stop and just forget about the past and choose the values that you want to live. And you appropriate those values, you write them down, stick them up in your vision board or your diary, whatever, and read those values every single day and act on those values. Even if you feel like you don't trust people and I went through that for many years. If I say now my new values, I am trusting, it doesn't mean you're naive and stupid about things, but I'm trusting people now, I'm gonna start practicing that, I'm kind gonna go against who I am. And the amazing thing is when you go to the essence of who you are, which is these core values, and you transform those, you transform your life, you transform your relationships, you transform the way you feel about yourself and your self-love.
So, I'm not sure if I've answered the whole question. I kind of forgotten the original question, but this exercise for me was so powerful and so transformative in terms of how I felt about myself and how I created deep intimacy with other people.
Michael: Yeah. That's a really incredible. And I think I recall in the beginning of my journey, when I really started stepping into this world, I had an early mentor called Brendon Burchard and he has this concept called live, love, matter. And every single day he asks himself, did I live? Did I love? Did I matter? And that, to me feels like that death bed of exercise, because I think about that every single day that this human experience is so fleeting and it can be over in a heartbeat. But one of the things I know is like, people are so stuck, man, they're so stuck. How do we get unstuck? I know that's a very vague question, but I know you're gonna understand what I'm asking.
Stephen: Sure. I mean, there's so many aspects of this. I'm a very pragmatic person, very strategic and I'm not interested in just telling people vague concepts. So, I've written a webinar called the intimacy blueprints, which is exactly this how did it take you into radical self-love and profound intimate relationships? And that's obviously my website.
There's a number of exercises you can do. The first one I've mentioned is this these core values, and that is profound I can transform your life. Another exercise and I'm just gonna mention a few things that I've found to be incredible for clients and for myself and transform your life. And most of these come from tantric, masters and Tibet, and the apex teachers on the planets that are sought out for 10 years.
So, there's a thing called compassionate curiosity, which I also found to be absolutely incredible. So, the way it works is this, if you imagine right now, if you're holding hands in front of you and you imagine it in your hands right now, there's a tiny kitten or a tiny puppy, right? It takes a bit of imagination and obviously if anyone's listening, they can close the eyes if you like, so, if you look down at your, your hands and you see this kitten or puppy, you, feel that softness, you know, and maybe it's pouring and as tiny, cute faces looking up at you, and when you connect them to this animal, you feel such compassion and love, it just does something inside you, it's so beautiful. If you put the animal down on the ground and you watch it playing, you kind of look at it with fascinated curiosity, it's so amazing and cute, right? Now, that's an example of anyone can feel compassionate, curiosity ‘cause if you can do that with a cat or a little dog in your hands or something similar, you can evoke compassionate curiosity. Now the trick is you're gonna sit or stand in front of a mirror, you can close on and close off makes a difference. Right? And what you do is you look at yourself and the more like you did with that little puppy, your kitten, you look at it with deep compassion, look at yourself, especially the person looking out of your eyes. You look at yourself with this deep compassion, which you can do because you did it with a puppy, your kitten, right? And you look at yourself with fascinated curiosity as if it's the first time you're seeing yourself, it is profound, how they can transform your feelings about yourself in terms of self-acceptance and self-love.
And as I say, it's self-love is the core foundation for deep fulfillment and for radical intimate relationships. So, this is an excise that I get people to do all the time. And if you cast your mind back to probably not you and me, but other people who have got little children, if you look at a child that's brought up in a happy childhood with good parents, a three-year-old, four-year-old, five-year-old look at them, staring at themselves in a mirror, they're loving themselves, it's so natural because we are built to love ourselves, we built to love other people. Now you and I have a difficult background in childhood, so we probably don't know what that feels like. But if you look at a child like that, who's had a good childhood, they look in the mirror and they love themselves, they don't have these negative thoughts and judgments or feelings like I'm broken, I'm unlovable, I'm unworthy of being loved, I'm not enough cuz those things are not natural, that it's all because of a lack of love, that we didn't get and therefore a lack of self-love.
So, when we practice exercise in front of the mirror and again, accepting and looking at with compassionate, curiosity, our bodies cause it's important we have bodies, but most importantly, our minds, our emotions and the person looking out from these eyes, we can start to create that radical, profound self-love. Some people who've had difficult childhoods have what I call a critical internal voice. And again, that's totally unnatural, a young child looking in a mirror would never have a critical internal voice. And some of us have this horrible voice it breaks us down and berates us and criticizes us. And so, one of the exercises I do for clients, I say to them, right, get a piece of paper and listen to this critical internal voice, not about what it's saying, but who is saying it’ cause it's not you, that's not natural. A critical internal voice is not you; it came from someone else and you take time introspective, maybe meditate and think about who this voice is from. Is it from your mom, your dad, where did this come from? I promise you it's not your own voice because a child with a good childhood, like I said, looking in the mirror has no critical internal voice, it's totally unnatural. And then again, these are important strategic things. One of its going backwards and looking at where it came from and who it is. And the second thing is then creating these affirmations, once you've done that board up to the surface, you start to think of these kinds of affirmations. And I love writing affirmations down, they're so important. If anyone's listening to this right now, get a vision board, they are so important. Stick a vision board up in your office, your bedroom, I don't care where it is, and that's where you're gonna put up all your visions of who you want to be, who you choose to become your affirmations.
So, one of the most beautiful affirmations for me is this. Be your own best friend. Now, if you've got a critical internal voice, you're like a bully to yourself and we hate bullies, right? So, an affirmation to put up there after you've analyzed who the critical voice is, cuz it's not, you stick the affirmation up there, be my own best friend.
And the second affirmation, which I love is this. Be my number one fan and cheer leader because if I don't do it, who's gonna do it. So, these all-solid exercises that you can do, always going back to the past a bit, looking where things come from and then changing things through different exercises and affirmations, and that is changing, changing, changing. Now I want to make something really clear and I struggle with this for a long time. We have this idea that self-love is either completely absent, which you and I probably felt like in our childhoods or it's totally present. But self-love doesn't go from nor to a hundred and this is where people go wrong, they always struggle me to feel like, well, do I have all the self-love? Am I self-loving? Do I love other people? I prefer people to think of it as a gradual process, it goes from maybe nor to a hundred, but it's very slow and steady and you can't really measure it, it's more intuitive. Right? So, what I like to do is tell people, take their hands, put them on their chest or their heart and feel what the self-love feels like. And if you're doing intuitively, you might say, well, I feel like I've got about quarter or half self-love or maybe a percentage 30%. And my goal is every week and every month to increase the level of self-love inside of me, not to get to the point where I've arrived, cuz how will you know, when you've arrived and if you make this one of your primary goals in life, do you just gradually every week, every month increase the level of self-love inside of you for various exercises and affirmations and through choosing who you want to become, then gradually you start to affect every part of your life, your career, your relationships, the level of fulfillment you have in life and you start to feel unbroken.
Michael: Yeah, that is so true. And I think about so much of how this process really truly does begin with like self-talk with the words in your mind. And I preach this from the pulpit all the time. If you don't believe in yourself, who's going to? And it really, really, truly starts with you. And one of the things I think Stephen I felt very true in this conversation is a word that I'm gonna use called vulnerability. And I think it's a word that people desperately fear. And I have come to find that, in fact, it's probably the most empowering word in the English dictionary. And I would love for you to talk about the role that has played in your life and how we can help people step into being more vulnerable? Because I know they're gonna hear a lot of what we said and sure, the practicality here has always felt to me, like without vulnerability, there's a huge gap there. And so, I'd love for you to talk about that.
Stephen: Okay. The absolute majority of fulfillment comes from intimate relationships, and I want people to think about this. Human beings are primed for belonging, connection and intimacy. So, if you have a bad childhood or you are driven by goals and success the whole time, you're not understanding these fundamental core needs that all people have, all people have these. If you do not get your belonging connection or intimacy needs met, you naturally start to feel more anxious and depressed. And the absolute majority of anxiety and depression on this planet, which affects at least 20% of people all the time comes from not having good relationship skills of self-love. So, this all goes round and round the whole time. I've completely gotten what your question was now.
Michael: Yeah, I was asking about vulnerability.
Stephen: Oh yeah. Thank you, vulnerability. So, when we bear in mind that. The one of the core things that we need no matter who we are, no matter what our culture is, nothing is this need for belonging, connection and intimacy, we cannot have that unless we do two things. One is learning how to be authentic. In other words, expressing who we truly are. And secondly, being vulnerable and vulnerability is nothing more than letting go the barriers and letting people have a look at who you are now. Bear in mind, in order you to feel like life is meaningful and purposeful and beautiful and spectacular, you have to belonging connection and intimacy, but you cannot have those unless you are willing to be authentic and vulnerable and you cannot have those unless you worked on your self-love. So, really the stepping stone always self-love because for years I couldn't open myself up to other people, whether it was cause of PTSD, I didn't trust other people, I'd been betrayed in a, in my first marriage, everything I'd been through in life. And I actually ended up being so empty and unfolded alone, it was driving me absolutely crazy. And it's great to earn money and have, you know, a house on the beach and all these beautiful things. But what is life about if you don't have this deep inner fulfillment? Right? So, you've gotta start with a self-love and there's obviously a multitude of different practical exercises that I've mentioned already and in the intimacy blueprints on my website, but you start off with self-love. And as I said, it's a gradual process that you're working on.
And some of it's a conscious intention, a risk, you know, the real question that I ask myself, which helped me a lot is if I'm vulnerable and open with someone else, what's the worst that can happen to me. Normally it's nothing, I mean, it's hilarious really the things we put in our mind because of low self-esteem or low self-worth or lack of self-love. The truth is everyone on the planet has the same core values and drivers in terms of wanting to connect, being intimate, they might be lost and confused like probably we were in our childhood, but underneath it all, we all want the same things. We want intimacy, and intimacy to me is probably, it seems to, I think be the core word of this whole conversation because spiritual and emotional intimacy, which obviously leads to sexual intimacy, which is spectacular, is the most important thing in life. And I'm saying this as someone who has achieved, great goals are written the best in books, you know, if I had achieved nothing and I was just going on about love, that wouldn't really be a good selling point, but I have achieved a lot of things in life. And I can tell you know that of everything I've achieved is nothing greater than intimacy. And as you said, spiritual, emotional intimacy, but it always starts with this thing of take the risks. Now I wanna put a caveat in here, this is really important, especially when you learning to be more authentic and vulnerable as a practice, and you're taking risks. Just because you want to be authentic and vulnerable doesn't mean you must be authentic and vulnerable with every single person, right? And this is important. So, I always tell people, choose the right environment. In other words, make sure that the people that surround you are not wounded, toxic people in dysfunctional relationships. Now, two things, if you are broken, unlovable have a bad childhood. Unfortunately, you tend to choose dysfunctional people that reinforce that negative emotion inside of you, it's a habit we do because the brain looks for familiarity and safety. So, we try to choose things who know, which unfortunately is toxic wounded people. Right? And the second thing is view someone like yourself and me who's got a great compassion and a drive to help other people. We often think to ourselves, okay, I'm gonna get involved with this person to really love them and help them. But the truth is we do wanna help other people, but you need to take care of yourself first, especially if you are still growing in your self-love, growing in your authenticity, growing in your vulnerability. So, my recommendation is as compassionate, loving, and sensitive as a person may be is get rid of toxic wounded people around you, because they will only bring you down, reinforce your own damage and your own wounds and not help your life in any way, shape or form. It's not your job to love other people or save other people, right? First is get yourself, right. Get yourself strong, healed, full of self-love and then if you want to, you can go and help people. Sure. That's fine. And again, then you just have to have the right kind of tools. So, it's, so importantness, you know, we speak about doing things by yourself and doing these exercises and so on, but we are not living in a vacuum, I think it's crucial that the five or six people that hang around you the most. Cause we always have a small group of people that are, we hang around the most. You'll become like these people. So, do you wanna hang around people who are super judgmental, you're always criticizing other people's clothes or hairstyles or bringing you down or telling you can't do things or being toxic people or being in dysfunctional relationships or cheating on their partners that is gonna harm you and bring you down in the long run. Absolutely get rid of those people. And I know maybe if some people listening and think, wow, that's not very loving. Let me tell you sometimes being selfish is the most loving thing you can do. So, I believe firmly that you need to surround yourself by five or six core people who are supportive, who are kind and who are inspirational and that way your whole group, your little tribe can gradually bring themselves up higher and higher and higher. And that goes back to what you said earlier about success and growth. When you have people around you who are supportive and kind, they won't just help you, your emotions and your self-love, that will help you in life. When you say I've got a dream outside, go for it. You can do it because the truth is there are no limits. We may have a couple of genetic limits. Sure. I can't run a hundred meters in five seconds. I don't think anyone can actually, but genetics is a certain limitation, but apart from a little bit of genetics, you can pretty much do anything you set your mind to. And the worst thing is for someone around you to say, no, you can't, no, you can't write their book, you can't have a podcast, you can't do this, you can't help people. So, I believe in a power of self-choice, you can become anything you want to become, but it's equally important that you surround yourself by what I call a “Tribe”; could be five people could be 50. I don't care. Make sure that tribe is not toxic is not wounded, they don't have to be perfect. No, one's perfect. Right. But find people who they've got the drive to be more loving, more kind, more caring, more supportive, more inspirational, and that emotional ambiance will drive you into the next level of your life.
Michael: Brilliantly said, and I couldn't agree more. And even though it's difficult, and even though we have these moments in which we feel like we're not being a good person when we choose ourselves, which is an embedded and indoctrinated idea you have to be able to work through. Ultimately it is one of the greatest things that you ever, ever, ever do for yourself. Stephen, my friend, this conversation's been absolutely incredible. Before I ask you my last question, can you please tell everyone where they can find you?
Stephen: My website is i-am-stephen-shaw.com. And I'm sure you'll have the link somewhere. You can see on the screen anyway. So just go and type i-am-stephen-shaw.com and you should find all 12 books, some of them are focused on spirituality, someone self-love, someone intimate relationships, they kind of cover their whole spectrum of making your life better. And then I've got the intimacy blueprint webinar which people they join and they can learn everything that I've learned through all these decades about profound self-love and profound, intimate relationships and feeding this deep performance inside. So that's it.
Michael: Brilliant. And of course, we will put the link in the notes for the audience. My last question for you, my friend, what does it mean to you to be unbroken?
Stephen: Wow. That's been decades in the making and as I said, it's a gradual process and I want people to know that you don't just switch a night overnight and change. This is a mixture of surrounding yourself with people who are not toxic, not wounded to people who support and inspire you, making better choices in life, better relationships, increasing your self-love and so forth and various exercises. Where I'm sitting today to answer your question succinctly is I feel I wake up every day in this feeling of a cocoon of warmth and joy and peace. And that is so far from my twenties and thirties, my childhood. And you can achieve more coming from this place of wholeness and self-love than you can from a place of brokenness, which is quite surprising because I thought I justified my life thinking, well, the brokenness made me driven to achieve the truth is I'm achieving more now and more beautiful things now. And I've also attracted into my life the most important thing in my life personally, I got married a year ago to an incredible woman, a woman who is worthy of me and I'm worthy of her. And that is because we both have worked on this profound self-love and by the time we met each other, we were in this beautiful place. And two people have profound self-love and kindness, greater marriage that is off the charts. So, I'm encouraging anyone out there. If you think you can't have a relationship with your dreams, you can. I got mine at 50, I'm amazing, right? 54 years old. And you think, oh, it's kind of over, but it's not. And we have the most profound, beautiful, drama free, stress-free life, a relationship that is beyond anything I imagined so, it can happen, but it comes down to this culmination of different things of self-love, self-acceptance, and so forth. So, if you're out there listening, just know that anybody can make these changes, anybody can increase their self-love, anyone can attract the most beautiful relationships in life, and anyone can reach a state of deep peace, love and fulfillment, anyone can do this.
Michael: Agreed. Thank you so much for being here, my friend.
Unbroken Nation. Thank you so much for listening.
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Stephen Shaw is a Globally Renowned Mystic, Spiritual Life Coach, Shaman, Tantra Master, and Author of 12 bestselling, spiritual self-help books. As seen on KTNV Las Vegas, NBC Palm Springs, multiple radio shows, podcasts, blogs and magazines. Stephen teaches secrets and keys to help people profoundly transform their lives. Stephen is the creator of Chakra Shamanism, a powerful combination of life coaching, clairvoyance and energy healing. He works with A-listers and celebrity clients, mostly in his home county Los Angeles and worldwide via Zoom.