If you’ve ever explored Ivy Watt’s blog or Instagram, you could tell this public speaker exudes self-confidence and positivity. With an infectious smile and inspiring pep-talks (not to mention some impressive dance moves), it’s no wonder why Ivy is the best person to speak on the topic of self-love and mental wellness.
This mental health advocate hasn’t always practiced what she preaches, though. In my interview with Ivy, she explains that she struggled with low self-esteem, an abusive relationship, and suicidal thoughts for years before she began her self-love journey.
Nowadays, the 26-year-old has made it her mission to spread self-love and end the stigma around mental health. Keep reading to learn more about Ivy’s experience, career, and her advice to those struggling with low self-esteem.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Strong, caring, persistent (persistent in the way that I don’t give up on my dreams)
What has been the most rewarding part of being a motivational speaker?
The most rewarding part of being a motivational speaker is after spending hours preparing for the speech, doing the speech and seeing students that are engaged and who come up to me after to shake my hand or let me know what a difference my speech has made. My main goal is to help to reduce stigma around mental illness and encourage others to tell their own story and get the help that they deserve. When I can do that for even just one student, I know what I am doing and the vulnerability of telling my story, is worth it. My college track coach told me that because of my speech, students come to her more now with their mental health struggles. With every speech, I hope to encourage even more students to feel comfortable having those conversations and to know they are never alone. I hope to continue to change lives.
What has been the most memorable speech you’ve given or event you’ve spoke at?
The most memorable speech I have given was at University of New Haven. It was the largest crowd I had spoken to and the students were incredibly engaged. At the end of the speech, I tried something new and had them say positive “I am” statements out loud with me. I was not expecting the cheering and clapping that came after saying those statements when I asked the students how powerful it felt to say those statements. I left there with a huge smile on my face because they reminded me that what I am doing is worth it and is making a difference. I hope they can continue to practice self-love statements and always remember the power within those statements.
Have you always practiced self-love?
My self-love journey only started about a year and a half ago. For most of my life, I told myself that I wasn’t worthy, capable or good enough. The anxiety within me told me that I wasn’t worthy of happiness, love, or achieving my goals, and I believed it. I was in an emotionally abusive relationship that reminded me of the worthlessness that I felt. When we feel worthless, we attract people to us that validate those feelings for us. I was comfortable being surrounded by negativity, so I attracted negative people to me.
It wasn’t until I began struggling for months with suicidal thoughts that I decided I wanted more for my life and I wanted to learn to love myself, or at the very least not hate who I was and no longer be filled with regret for all that I didn’t do. I decided to start on a self-love journey, not even really sure what it would look or feel like.
The first thing I had to do in order to learn to love myself was to walk away from two emotionally abusive relationships, one with an external person, and one with myself (the me I used to be), both of which were hurting me and making me feel like I had no purpose. One morning, I woke up and told myself “Ivy, I love you, and you are beautiful”. I definitely did not believe that statement at all, I did not even like myself, and I definitely did not feel beautiful! But it was the beginning of my self-love journey where I have been intentional about identifying aspects about myself that I love and embracing all of my flaws. This self-love journey has been the most beautiful journey yet! Being able to finally saw that I feel beautiful and that I love myself, has been the most freeing and peaceful feeling I have ever experienced.
What inspired you to speak on the topics of self-love and mental health?
I was a track athlete my entire life and in athletics, the culture is to “suck it up”. I always thought mental health was someone else’s problem and that it wouldn’t affect me. I didn’t realize for years that anxiety was brewing within me and I was too afraid to speak up about the internal struggles I was having because I didn’t want to be labeled or judged. The anxiety I experienced told me that I wasn’t good enough so I didn’t accomplish the one goal I set out to athletically. However, if I went through a list of my athletic/academic accolades, you would think that I had it all together, but on the inside, I was crumbling under the pressure and I felt like a failure, but was too terrified to talk about it or get help. Once I began to struggle with suicidal thoughts and was hit by stigma by the person I was dating who told me that suicide was selfish/stupid and therapy was useless, I knew I had hit rock bottom and I struggled for months with suicidal thoughts.
Once I began therapy and my self-love journey and began to heal, I was invited to speak at my college to the track team because they had recently lost one of their coaches to suicide. At the time, I didn’t feel like I was the best fit to come talk and wasn’t quite sure why they chose me. I had always been terrified of public speaking, but when I spoke with the students, I found a new comfort zone in public speaking and I realized I had been invited for a reason, to make a difference in this world, and to continue to do it every day. I have always wanted to make a difference in people’s lives directly and it felt like I could finally do that. I started to think about how I could spread my message and my story more widespread, and that is when I decided to launch my blog, one year to the date of when I left my toxic relationship and began my self-love journey and that is when I started speaking to more students!! It has been an amazing and fulfilling process!
What advice would you give to someone struggling with low self-esteem or mental illness?
My advice is to remember that you are never alone. For a while, I felt alone and I felt like I couldn’t speak up and get help, but remember that there is always, always someone out there who cares for you and wants to be there and fight for you with you.
Always remember that your story is valid, that we all have mental health, and that your story is worthy of being told, and you are worthy of getting help. For too long, I thought that speaking up showed weakness, but in reality, speaking up is one of the strongest and most brave things you can do for yourself, because when you speak up, you recognize that you want more for yourself, and you recognize you can’t do it on your own – that is pure strength.
I truly can’t promise you that every day will be easy, but the journey will be worth it, and things will get better, with time and compassion for yourself. You will get stronger, and you will be so proud of yourself that you kept fighting for you. Although it will take a lot of work, and you may have to walk away from some toxic people in your life, recovery is absolutely worth it, and you are absolutely worthy of recovery. Keep fighting for you, be patient with yourself when you mess up, and keep putting one foot in front of the other, you got this, warrior!
What is a quote or motto you live by?
“True strength is saying ‘I will try again tomorrow’”. I always say this to myself, because it is inevitable that some days will be hard, but we show our strength when tomorrow, we try again, rather than feeling frustrated with ourselves for having a bad day and not continuing to try to do better. Tomorrow, we can try to be more kind to ourselves, even if we were not kind to ourselves today. That is the beauty in this life, is that if we are granted another day to live, we can try again, we do not have to stay negative, we can choose kindness, love and positivity. Even when we feel we have taken steps back, there is always an opportunity to try again. If we seize that opportunity, we show how strong we truly are. I encourage everyone to keep going, keep fighting, the journey is difficult, but it is so very worth it.
Do you have any habits you’ve implemented to improve your self-esteem?
Journaling and affirmations are huge for me! When I wake up in the morning, I like to write down seven things I love about myself. It is always an amazing experience because there was a time I couldn’t even think of one thing I loved about myself. Doing this activity always puts me in a great, positive mindset and makes me feel good about myself and my abilities.
Why is self-love the primary topic you discuss in your speaking events and workshops?
Self-love is truly one of the best gifts I could have given to myself. When I recognized how beautiful I was inside and out and recognized that the validation I craved for so long had to come from myself and not from others, I finally found peace in my life. I had been searching for love, acceptance and peace in all of the wrong places. When I finally sought it within myself, and stopped expecting myself to be perfect, my whole life changed. My self-love journey took a lot of work, a lot of tears, frustrations and set-backs, but it also involved a lot of happiness, excitement and triumph. I want others in this world to also experience the joys of self-love, and I want them to know that learning to love yourself is a process that takes work in order to re-wire our brains, but that self-love IS possible, even when it feels like it isn’t. I want to show others techniques they can use in their every day lives that shows them how amazing they are, exactly as they are. Simply put, self-love changed my life, I want others to experience the freeing power of self-love as well. I feel this workshop can be the first step for someone who has been seeking for something externally, to finally seek it within.
What are your goals for 2019?
My goals for 2019 include speaking at 20 speaking engagements (I already have done one and have seven more scheduled!!), host self-love workshops and continue on my self-love journey, because it is an every day process!
One of my big goals is to work on letting go easier, when I get mad, I have a tendency to stay mad for hours. Part of self-love for me is letting myself know that it is okay that I am struggling with it, but that I am going to challenge myself to do better!
I also want to start writing a book on my journey struggling with anxiety as an athlete!! Oh, I also plan to buy a home with my boyfriend! Lots of exciting things to come in 2019, and I am ready for all of them!!
You can find Ivy on Instagram @beautifullysimplyyou
Check out Ivy’s website BeautifullySimplyYou.com
Massachusetts residents: Ivy will be hosting a Self-Love Workshop and Brunch in Somerville on February 9th. Click Here for more information.