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Episode 34: Humans In Progress (1/2)

In our latest interview for our new “Changemakers” edition of the podcast, we’re joined by health and wellness guru Jo Encarnacion, a.k.a. @GoFitJo. We talk about battling depression through health and fitness, intimacy vs. sex, the double-edged sword of social media, lessons from parenthood, and the wisdom of womanhood. We learn about how to embrace imperfection, the power of viewing rejection as “redirection,” and the reality that we are all a constantly-evolving “work in progress.”

Sasza
All right, with my hoarse voice and everything here we are live with Jo Encarnacion. Thanks so much for joining us. So for those of our listeners who might not be familiar with you also known as GoFitJo, I’d love it if we could just kind of start out giving them a bit of your backstory and kind of having you tell us a bit about how you ended up where you are doing what you’re doing today.

Joanne
Yeah, so you know it’s funny because I always like to tell people go for Jo just came up by accident truly. I didn’t have any intentions to become a blogger or an influencer or health coach. When I started GoFitJo, it all started off from hashtag and it was really a way for me to document my own wellness journey and just sharing tidbits of how I was working through getting healthier and working through some mental health issues. When I started GoFitJo back in, when I started my fitness journey was back in 2013. And it was kind of this opportunity for me to just regain my life back. I was going through depression, I was feeling super anxious. And on paper, I had it all I was working a full time job at a startup company, and have my two kids and married and all that jazz. And I was still really, really unhappy with the life that I was starting to lead. And it was mostly because I was becoming unhappy with the person I was becoming. I was becoming super overwhelmed with work and out of shape. I hadn’t worked out a day in my life in my adult life. The last time it worked out was like high school. And so I remember seeing on articles, one way to like heal from your mental health issues or to kind of cope with them was through healthy eating and exercise and I was like, You know what, screw it I’m gonna give this a shot. And it was a scariest thing because it was something that I never really embarked on at all. It was such a new adventure for me. And I started sharing tidbits of it on social media mainly because at that time, I had a large community of friends from photographers to start up and my hair selling career. So it was like a wide range of different people that have just been in part of my life. And I just kind of wanted to come out and be like, Here I am, I am doing this thing called fitness. I have no idea what I’m doing. I’m feeling super depressed. And here’s how I wanted, like, get control of it. And it was a shock to a lot of people because they didn’t know that I was depressed for 18 months. I hit it pretty well. And when I said that I was going through all this depression, it was it was a shock to them. They were like you have quote, unquote, you have it all. Why are you so unhappy? And I’m like, I’m unhappy because I don’t like myself right now. I don’t like the version I’m becoming and I want to fix that. So yeah, that’s how that started. And I launched a blog in 2014, I believe and that was just a way for me to get my writing out there and share more recipes and Go more long form writing because Instagram is super short anyways. And then from there, I left the startup company and became a health and life coach. 

Sasza
What was that hashtag? 

Joanne
It was just GoFitJo

Sasza
Oh you started your own hashtag

Joanne
Yeah, yeah. So I mean, I started the hashtag before I even had an Instagram account.

Sasza
Could you elaborate a bit on those mental health issues that you mentioned? Where do you think they stemmed from? You mentioned that concept of self and I don’t like myself, and maybe them coming from that. And that being such a key part of our happiness?

Joanne
Yeah. I mean, when I think about where that all began, you know, I’ve always had, I guess, self esteem issues or body image issues from when I was younger. I had my first daughter at 21 and having her at 21. All you do as a young mom is focused on surviving, and you focus on raising your family really, and I was working a lot. I was also commuting. I wasn’t taking care of myself, I wasn’t eating well, I wasn’t exercising because I had no time to do it. And, you know, I began to like realize I’m just not doing the simple things of just self care. And self care wasn’t even a part of my language growing up. I mean, I am Filipino American, first generation born here. And my family never really had any values on healthy eating or exercise. And so it wasn’t something that I embodied at a young age. It was actually the last thing to do. A lot of times in the Filipino culture. We’re taught that taking care of yourself or putting yourself first is a selfish act. And so it was just something that I was like, well, that’s not what I’m gonna do. I’ve got my family, I’ve got my marriage, I’ve got my job. I’m gonna put all those things before me. And when I started hitting this point of depression, in 2000, what was that 2011 probably because it lasted for about 18 months before I decided to get married. like shit together ultimately, I remember having the same feelings of depression that I had when I was 15. And I just was so scared of having to go back on antidepressants and anxiety meds because I just did not want that life anymore for myself, especially as a mom, I just didn’t want to be numb to the feelings of my own emotions. I mean, it was sad. There’s moments where I was crying in the closet, or there were moments where I was sitting on the couch, and I was so much more focused on why, like, I was so focused on trying to figure out why I was unhappy. I remember seeing my kids playing in the living room, and I couldn’t even connect to their joy or happiness and like, something is wrong with me. I am feeling like, shit, ultimately, and I don’t know why. And it wasn’t until my daughter My oldest daughter at the time was nine years old. She’s 15 now, her and I were getting ready for a Sunday like family day. And she looks at me in the mirror and she’s like, Oh my god, Mom, you’re so beautiful. And I said, No, I’m not. I’m ugly and fat. And the look on her face was one I’ll never forget because it was as if I’ve ripped out that piece of truth. Here’s the most like strong, beautiful woman I’m looking up to. And she’s telling me she’s ugly and fat. And so when she walked out of her room, that’s when I realized, Oh, crap, I’m becoming a version of myself that I never imagined myself to become. It wasn’t because I was like, physically out of shape. It was like I was mentally and emotionally out of shape. I was disconnected with myself. And it was just a feeling that was starting to seep into my family life, my career, life and everything else.

Sasza
I refer to exercise as endorphin therapy. I’m a strong believer in being kind of for me, and I love to encourage other people. Kind of the number one, my most important medicine, I love that you touch on that in that importance, and I think that since you also mentioned kind of health and diet nutrition, how only now where we kind of getting to the point where doctors are considering what used to be the oldest form of medicine, right. And for certain conditions can be extremely effective, more effective than these other medicines that help you a bit but debilitate you in other ways. And so I’m so happy that we’re finally getting back to that point where we can use these natural remedies that oftentimes can outperform the other one, right. And I definitely heard you on the medication part. I remember when I was going through something and a friend of mine who’s a psychiatrist described to me how for depression and these other anxiety medications, a lot of times what they enabled you to do is they lift your floor, right, the floor is higher, you can’t go as low but what happens is that you can’t go as high either. And I remember that the way that she described that, to me was really enlightening. And I think that that’s a really important thing to consider in that they can can be an incredible tool for for short term or as a crutch or obviously, in individual circumstances, but that we also need to consider these other types of medicine. lines of treatment. 

Joanne
Yeah, for sure. I mean, I remember. Like, I remember the feelings of being 15 through 20. That was my longest stint of being on antidepressants. And I just did not want to go back. I just felt numb to the world. I mean, everything was like I had just had the most copacetic answered. Everything was like, Yep, sure, huh, that’s great. You know, and I just was like, how I think I’m happy, but I’m not really sure if I’m happy.

Sasza
like, not sad. But that doesn’t mean that your happiness is right.

Joanne
Right. I just was like, I remember I just felt like I was productive. It was a productive teenager, but it just didn’t have the joy that I knew could have been on the other side of not being on antidepressants. And I just did not want to go back to that, especially as a mom 

Sasza
You kind of mentioning that teenager going back to your daughter who’s now a teenager. That conversation that moment that you mentioned, is huge. And so I’m just kind of curious what your personal experience was being raised and how since that moment you’ve taken on that responsibility to your daughters to make that shift.

Joanne
Yeah. You know, I remember growing up, like watching my mom, and it’s funny now, because I think about sometimes the things that I even say is like, Oh, my God, I’m so stressed out, oh, my God, life is so hard. And I’m like, this is the narrative my mom would say about life. You know. 

Sasza
growing up is just slowly becoming more and more of your parents. 

Joanne
I know. It’s like crazy, but you know, that’s the thing. I think I remember thinking to myself, my mom had specific narratives of how she chose to live her life or specific narratives about her life. And when I experienced that moment with my daughter, I was like, I don’t want to be my mom. I don’t want to have these narratives about my body or myself that my kids are going to take on because kids mirror you, as parents, they really watch you, they observe you, they, they soak everything in. And I remember thinking to myself, if my daughter was to say something negative about her body, how am I going to be the parent that guides or encourages her out of that if I’m saying negative things about my body, or if I have a negative perception of myself, and from that moment on, I was like, Alright, Joe, you’ve got to check what you say. You’ve got to be a model, be an example. And I’m not gonna get everything perfect. I mean, I’m a mom. I’m also human. So you know, like, there isn’t any kind of perfection here. But for the most part, I’m going to be mindful, I’m going to be mindful of the conversations I’m having about myself around this house. And one of the things that I think I love so much that has come from my own inner work and really kind of being a lot more intentional About how I speak about myself, or, you know, the love that I give to myself is the ways in which my kids view themselves. My little one, she runs around in her underwear, and she wears a silk robe. And I love it because she’s just like, this is just my body, whatever. Or sometimes, you know, I get ready naked and my daughter’s a walk in and I’m like, completely butt naked, and we’re just having a conversation. And I think it’s so beautiful because there’s no body shame. There isn’t like a, oh my God, I’ve got to cover myself up because what are my kids gonna think part of me is like, well, they’re gonna have these body parts too. So I might as well just embrace it as I am. So that they can know that they can embrace themselves as they are. My daughter now she’s 15. And, you know, since then, I haven’t actually really heard her say a lick of something negative about her body, which I think is amazing. And I’m pretty sure she has some things that she doesn’t like about herself, which I remember we were sitting on the kitchen table and I asked her just out of curiosity. What are kids saying your school especially girls about what they don’t like about their bodies? And she would tell me, you know, obviously the weight and their hair, the freckles on their face. And I asked her, I said, What is it that you don’t like about your body? Do you have something you don’t like? She was like, Well, I don’t like my wrists. And I was like Oh, okay. That’s an interesting thing. I go, why don’t you like your wrists? Because they’re just too skinny. But I was like, they’re your wrist. It’s only bone and skin there. So that’s probably gonna be skinny regardless. And you know, in that moment, I was like, I love that so that I turned to my nine year old and I asked her the same thing. She was like, I love myself. I was like, go for it, sister.

Sasza
That is amazing, it’s really special leading up to this conversation about body positivity and body image, especially kind of in in youth. And I thought back to I feel very lucky that I’ve surrounded myself by people who have very healthy Body images and very healthy relationship with food, probably partially due to the fact that I was an athlete for most of my life and through college. But I do think back to people that I knew in middle school, and I remember very clearly a couple friends who had very much not healthy relationship with food and that, what 12 to 14 years old and I just trying to imagine now if somebody who was 12 to 14 years old told me that they really get out, get away from it, don’t talk to me, give me their number, I’m gonna call them we’re gonna have a little sit down chat. But that’s the reality is that this can kind of seep into our culture in our subconscious, in design and define the way that we use language in the way that we talk about other people and therefore the way that we talk about ourselves and so is kind of something that is never too early to start dealing with it. A lot of it actually is shaped early on and just becomes harder to make changes later on. 

Joanne
yeah. I mean, I remember that one of the things that I do with my life coaching clients, especially when it relates like body images, I always ask them, when is the first time that somebody had told you that your body was either different, or there is something that was unlikable about your body? When it’s somebody point that out the first time that you had something negative about your body. And you know, the funny thing is, probably about 75% of them will tell me it happens in the home by you know, another, another female figure in their life, or just some kind of parent, you know, I have to say, like, that was the same experience for me. And I remember thinking, Well, my parents don’t know any better. They grew up in a world and a culture and a generation where the body ideals were only maybe like a handful of what was beautiful and what was the ideal body type. And we’re so lucky now to be in a culture and a society where we’re actually seeing a lot more body diversity. different skin color, different shapes. And it gives everybody an opportunity to kind of walk through the door of learning how to love themselves. They have more access to seeing more people who look like them, which I think is beautiful. But yeah, I mean, I remember, a lot of my clients, they’ve dealt with those narratives from when they were a child. For the parents listening out there, just be mindful about what you say, because they will affect people.

Sasza
As you mentioned, that you can’t be what you can’t see. And today, we’re fortunate enough to have more representation and a very different movement in the body space than we’ve had in the past. And decades. I don’t even know there were some pretty great ones back and you know, you always see the paintings and statues from before and you’re like, whatever, let it happen. where did it go wrong. But going off of that, I’d love to know if you would consider media in general but more focused towards social media. As more beneficial or more damaging? 

Joanne
that’s a tough question. I think it can be both depending on what you digest and consume as a person. There are still a lot of real people out there sharing their real lives and the intricacies of their lives and the intimate details which, to me, I’m like, you know, what, if there are those people out there modeling real life, then subscribe to that. If there are people who are making you feel like crap about yourself, because maybe their lives look a little bit more curated and superficial, those are people that you don’t want to follow. So I think it’s twofold. I think the reason why maybe my approach or perspective on social media is a little bit more unique is because I don’t have so much emotional ties to it. Even though I’m on social media. I always just kind of remind myself that I know I’m posting about my day to day highlight reel or so if I’m highlighting the real, then I’m hoping that people will also be highlighting the real And that’s what I’m getting back. And I also think, too, I don’t know, I still think of social media as what it’s traditionally used for its media where we get social with, and we’re having conversations. And we should be setting up conversations that can create change, if that’s what we want. So they’re really quite ads for that. But I think it’s I think it could be good or bad, really, depending on how we see it. And I think one of the challenges is, as a person consuming on social media, you really just have to be mindful of what you’re consuming. That’s it. That’s all that we can do.

Sasza
Yeah, I would wonder if you might have any advice for people as to what a healthy versus unhealthy relationship might be with media and how to navigate that and check yourself.

Joanne
I mean, one of the biggest things that I would say is, if it’s not making you feel good, if you’re scrolling through your social media, and all of a sudden it’s triggering some sort of negative reaction to you, then get off of it or unfollow those people or don’t follow those people at all. Because clearly, that is creating Some sort of reaction within yourself in your body that isn’t beneficial to you. So those are things that I’m always telling people go through your feed, unfollow a bunch of people, if it’s creating a negative reaction to you, you shouldn’t be doing it. Just like anything you put in your life, there is going to be toxic relationships that you might develop in your life. And you can have a toxic relationship with social media too. That’s the one thing to kind of keep in mind. And then you know, if there are things that were making you feel good, or if they’re media that you’re loving to digest, and those are definitely things that you want to keep in your feed, because it’s something positive for you. I think the other part of knowing when you don’t have a healthy relationship is checking your screen time. As silly as that is, it’s so beneficial. And there are times where, as a mom of like a teenager, I have definitely looked at her screentime and I’m like, girl, you’re on your social media networking apps for like 20 hours, 30 hours a week. I work on social media, and I’m only on there for 16 hours a week. If you find that You’re spending way too much time on it, and that maybe you’re like, Oh my god, I want to get into writing or I have this hobby I’ve always wanted to start, you might want to just check your screen time, just to see.

Sasza
Yeah, I always find it too interesting is on the other side of things. I don’t like social media. So I have gotten more into kind of the BBXX when and managing that. But that’s mostly from the computer. And then, literally, I keep setting goals to go on my personal social media, and I can’t. So it’s Yeah, very much kind of the opposite. But I think it’s also important for people to remember that sometimes we don’t realize when we’re in a toxic relationship with another person or with these apps or whatever. There’s so many things that we could have a dependency on or an unhealthy relationship with. And so, trying to think about it from outside of your own perspective or perhaps even asking for somebody else’s opinion but Really trying to examine it in a kind but realistic and unfiltered? So going off of kind of that body image and the messaging we’re sending to other people and to ourselves, I will ask you a question that I actually found from you. And that is, what is the relationship that you desire with your body? And what advice would you give to other people to help them find their own answer?

Joanne
The relationship that I desire with my own body is one that feels liberated from the inside out. It’s funny I say that and like my entire skin is like tingling right now. But when I think about the idea of liberation, and I think about what that embodiment means, in my own body, to me, that means the freedom to be able to speak my truth, no matter what it is, whether it’s Good, better ugly, the ability to know my truth, despite whatever standards society culture, whomever might be giving me and there’s a sense of just freedom where you feel alive. And so the kind of relationship that I desire with my body is one that feels sexually liberated, but also intellectually and emotionally liberated as well. And one that embodies this sense of relentlessness and fire and beauty from within. You know, I just I want to be my I want to be my best friend. Ultimately, I want to have the relationship with my body, where I sit with her, I can love her. I can maybe sometimes hater because sometimes you hate your best friends. But at the end of the day, you’re still each other’s best friend cheering each other on. And so that, to me is the kind of relationship that I want to build with myself and my body. Now in terms of giving people advice. on how to build that relationship or how they can stem that relationship, I think it’s ultimately about understanding what your values are. And one of my biggest values is transparency, and open and honest communication. Considering that that is one of my biggest values. It’s one of the things that I believe is the biggest value I can have within myself. And I guess how that translates is, can I have a beautiful intimate relationship with my body and myself, so for other people, understand what your values are? And then ask yourself, what does that actually look like in the map that out?

Sasza
I like that part of getting back to what it is you value. And I think that the idea and the goal of being able to tell ourselves the things that we would tell other people. Why can’t we give ourselves the same advice and kindness that we would give to other people. I think many of us tend to look at other people in a more flattering and admiring way when we look at ourselves and I remember I was at a studio in Berlin. And I saw this girl who had very profound stretch marks. And I remember thinking like, wow, how cool does that look? She looks so beautiful. And then just being like what?, as if I would ever, you know, like, think about that on my own or about myself. And so I just from that moment on have really tried to hone in on that and that kind of why behind it and how I can reshape that narrative and outward versus inward communication. 

Joanne
Yeah, I remember you know, it’s funny when I think about as I was describing, the like, liberated being, and remember being in Hawaii several years ago and seeing these beautiful Hawaiian women on the beach with their kids, and they had loose skin and stretch marks and you know, they didn’t have the perfect quote unquote, bikini body that society, romanticizes. And I remember thinking like, I want that I want that feeling that they have or they just don’t care. They’re so free there. Here’s the ocean. Here’s a sand. Here’s a sun, like everything is just kissing their bodies right now. And they’re happy and joyful. And here I am getting so angry about mine for no reason and why because society told me I shouldn’t have stretch marks. society tells you you have to put all these creams to get rid of them. And here are these women who didn’t care because they’re enjoying themselves, their bodies, the Sun, Life, I was like, that is what I want.

Sasza
In Chile they say like an “onda”. It’s the energy, it’s the energy that people put out. And that’s what we care so much. It’s not even as much about their body or whatever, it’s the confidence. It’s the energy and that’s also what we find most attractive, of course, via you know about somebody else or somebody that we’re sexually attracted to. It’s that confidence, and I think that’s harder than Then anything but by far the most beautiful. I meant to say this earlier, but when we were talking about who do you follow in how are you using social media, I thought back to somebody who told me that he had unfollowed every model that he had followed on social media and how, how much I don’t know if happier would be the right word, but how much better he felt after that, and how he actually felt healthier about whether it was his own feelings about himself and, you know, insecurities or about women or any of that, but I thought that was really cool, especially coming from a man to kind of hear that and I have no doubt that many women have had the same experience.

Joanne
probably Yeah, for sure. I know I’ve had my own

Sasza
cleanse. Yeah. purge purge. This is just kind of a question I’ve been asking myself lately. It came up in a conversation with A good friend of mine in Denver, and we were half joking but honestly curious as well. We have the word guy that is overarching term to refer to somebody who could be younger, towards boyish, but also man, but doesn’t really have this age range or connotation. But then when we want to refer to women, we were trying to think I often wonder, where do you draw the line between girl and woman and wise? Why is there no in between? I’m 29. And I don’t really refer to my friends who might range you know, as young as 25-26 to 35 Plus, but I don’t really say Oh, I know this woman. Referring to you know, my college roommate. It just doesn’t feel right. Lady also sounds a bit weird. And I remember when I was 23 And working in LA and I walked into a production house and there was, I guess maybe by now she’s a woman. But there was this girl lady who was probably about my same age and she made a call back and she goes, Oh, there’s a lady here to see you. And I just think like, Lady? What? Yeah, what is this? And so me and my friend jokingly were like, well, there’s guy so there’s gal, nobody uses Gal. What happened to gal? Gal’s honestly a bit weird, but maybe better. Maybe we should bring back gal. So I’m just curious to hear kind of where you would draw the line or kind of how you see that? And what you refer to other people in would like to be referred to as yourself. 

Joanne
I personally love being referred to as a woman. There’s something strong about that. Like even when I say it’s like woman, you know.

Sasza
it is powerful. It is power. not casual.

Joanne
Not, it’s not casual at all whatsoever. I don’t know if there is an actual line or like a where you draw the line from like, Girl to Lady to woman. I remember though, I guess the moment that I felt the most quote unquote woman like and stepped into my womanhood actually was when I was nursing my second daughter. And I remember this feeling that I just was like, Oh my god, I bet curves posts like baby’s not that like, you know, womanhood has to be defined by like a physical appearance, per se. But there was this feeling that I had a deeper purpose than myself in my life. And somehow, that moment, I remember like, Damn, I’m a woman. And it’s funny, cuz, you know, I had my first daughter at 21. And so I was definitely a girl with a baby. Like, that’s how I saw myself. I was a girl with a baby. And somehow my second one, I just crossed that threshold of being a woman. And it was just this feeling that I had like this. This like wisdom that I was starting to embody or like, carry within myself because I knew that life wasn’t just about me anymore, and it wasn’t necessary. Just about my kids, but I just remember feeling like, I’ve got a greater purpose than whatever I’m doing at the moment. And that to me was when I like remember feeling like I stepped into that sense of womanhood. That’s when I started really kind of defining what is it that I want to do in my life as a woman now that could make a stamp in this world? I’ve got a girl, like, what do I want to do? But I think for other ladies out there, really, I think the word woman is similar, like anything, and we were talking about energy earlier. It’s truly an embodiment. For me at least my definition of it. There’s something about embodying a sense of life wisdom, where you know that you’re giving it back to somebody else. And that, to me is like that moment you cross that threshold of womanhood because now people are looking up to you. And you’re like, Whoa, I’ve gotten wise.

Sasza
I love that kind of way you put it as having that purpose beyond yourself. And one of the questions I was actually going to ask you is, What is your definition of being a woman? And how would it be any different if it would from being human?

Joanne
I think I think they’re pretty similar. But, you know, I think being a woman, obviously, that there’s this divine feminine that you have within you. And, you know, I also believe in the divine masculine and the Divine Feminine in both male and female energies. But there’s something about, you know, if you feel like a woman, the Divine Feminine is strong in you. And as far as like being a human, I actually think they’re pretty much identical. You know, and I think human woman, man, those are all labels. It’s ultimately how you want to embody that sense of who you are. And ultimately, we’re just you know, spiritual beings living a human body experience right?

In this week’s episode, we chat with Joanne Encarnacion — better known as @gofitjo — a holistic health and life coach based in San Francisco who is dedicated to helping womxn “redefine wellness of the heart, mind, and soul on their own terms.” We discuss her personal journey of battling depression and the watershed moment when she decided to take back her life through health and fitness. We also chat about the double-edged sword of social media, the importance of sharing your “highlight real” instead of the “highlight reel,” and lessons from parenthood. The conversation is full of self-love, body positivity, and the power of womanhood — we hope you enjoy the wisdom shared!

Combating Depression With Health & Fitness 

We don’t need to read the countless studies extolling the physical and mental benefits of exercise — by now we know that breaking a sweat is a tried and true remedy for managing depression, anxiety, and down days in general. But just in case you needed a factual reminder, here’s a quote from Dr. Michael Craig Miller, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School: “In people who are depressed, neuroscientists have noticed that the hippocampus in the brain—the region that helps regulate mood—is smaller. Exercise supports nerve cell growth in the hippocampus, improving nerve cell connections, which helps relieve depression.” 

With that said, putting to practice what we already know is difficult, even more so if any level of depression is involved. This is why it’s important to be mindful of suggesting exercise as any easy fix to those who are dealing with depression (or feeling guilty yourself). Start slow, nix any shame, and learn to relish the process of being active.

I refer to exercise as “endorphin therapy.” I’m a strong believer in it being my number one, most important medicine. 

Sasza

Anti-Depressants Are Palliative, Not Curative

Jo mentions how she chose to eschew anti-depressants (which she had previously taken as a teen) and instead turned to health and fitness to cope with her depression as an adult. While anti-depressants may help treat depression, it’s important to note that they are a palliative treatment, not curative. What’s more, only one third of people with depression benefit from antidepressants at all, making it clear that there is no one-size-fits-all treatment.

Social Media: Damaging or Beneficial?

Half a million tweets and Snapchat photos are shared every minute. It’s clear social media has become the latest addiction, but how is it affecting our mental health? A study from 2016 found that people who regularly used social media were three times more likely to be depressed and anxious, while another study found that viewing people’s selfies lowered self-esteem. Jo points that social media can be overwhelmingly toxic and incredibly beneficial — depending on how (and how much) you use it. She suggests doing a “social media cleanse” by unfollowing any accounts that elicit a negative reaction and being mindful of time wasted by using the screen time app.

What Relationship Do You Desire With Your Own Body?

The relationship that I desire with my own body is one that feels liberated from the inside out. When I think about the idea of liberation and what that embodiment means, to me that means the freedom to speak my truth, no matter what it is . . . I want to be my best friend, ultimately.

The Wisdom of Womanhood

Jo recounts the moment she truly stepped into her womanhood: while breastfeeding her second daughter, she realized that she had a purpose that was deeper than and beyond herself. “I knew that life wasn’t just about me anymore. And it wasn’t necessarily just about my kids, but I just remember feeling that I’ve got a greater purpose.”

The word “woman” is truly an embodiment. There’s something about embodying a sense of life wisdom, where you know that you’re giving it back to somebody else. That to me is the moment you cross that threshold of womanhood. 

Define Intimacy

“Truth. Being able to emotionally and intellectually connect with somebody on a truth-based level…it’s an uncensored version of who you are in that moment.” Jo explains how she and her partner had to work through their own disparate ideas of what intimacy really meant. Whereas her partner initially viewed intimacy as solely physical, Jo describes the importance of emotional and intellectual intimacy.

“Rejection is Redirection”

Rejection is so often seen as a failure, but Jo urges us to view it as a necessary stepping stone to finding things that are more in alignment with our true selves. 

For every success point, there’s a thousand failures before you actually reach one success point. You have to make mistakes.  

What is success?

Jo defines success as living each day with purpose, whatever that might mean to an individual. “It’s an opportunity to learn every day, that’s what success is.” She emphasizes that although your purpose may change and fluctuate, the power lies in working your way towards that purpose and reveling in your own constant evolution. 

Lessons Learned From Parenthood

“You’re gonna fuck up,” Jo laughs candidly. The truth is, there’s no all-encompassing guidebook on how to be a parent. Instead of trying to be perfect, Jo urges parents to embrace (and own up to) mistakes. By showing your children that you are a flawed, evolving human, you give them the space to make mistakes gracefully.

About the Expert

Joanne Encarnacion

Joanne Encarnacion

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