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DIALOGUE: Body talk with Betija

Betija Ulme (@betija.ulme), founder of online platform Women Have It All and mental health activist, motivates women to be the best version of themselves. We spoke with the Latvian power woman about body image and mental health.

Hi Betija, thank you for being part of our body talk series. We would like to start by asking: What does your body mean to you? My body is the home of my soul, I believe that this statement on its own speaks volume. My body is the reason why I can function on a daily basis, why I can walk my 10 thousand steps every day, it moves and helps me live a fulfilled life, it’s the force that guides me on my path of achievement, without asking anything in return.

What does self love mean to you? For me self-love means many things, first of all, self-love requires self-awareness. Knowing who I really am, what I am capable of, what are my strengths and how can I develop them even further, understanding the flaws I have to work on to achieve the desired outcome of my highest self.

Secondly, self-love is self-respect.

I acknowledge my boundaries, which is not always an easy task. At least where I come from there are loads of people pleasers and generations from Soviet Union times who believe standing out is not the best choice and boundaries do not really exist. So I really had to learn with self-respect that I live for myself and my own purpose. I came into this world to make a change, which requires setting boundaries and my own terms & conditions.

Last but not least, self-love is all about taking care of my inside and outside world. Taking care of my mental state is super important. The mindset that I am building is all about support, coming from within. Being my own best friend and cheerleader at times when no one else is around. Giving myself advice from the future self, not from the past.

Equally important is also the physical state. Taking care of my body, treating it with the right remedies, being physically active, acknowledging what kind of help is required from the outside world. This can really make a big difference in the long run. As I believe that what we do on daily basis is the core of our future.

Do you have any self love remedies that you would like to share? I have a few.

I really take the time to listen to myself, my body and mind, and listen to what it wants and needs. I can just do that really simply, by giving answers on these questions: How am I feeling today? Is everything all right? How can I help myself?". I would usually write them down in my journal, that way a can really analyse and give myself the advice I need.

Besides this, I focus on breaking old patterns and old believes. Believes that I got that were put in my head by society or actually by fear. Creating new patterns that make life and existence fun and meaningful. I now simply acknowledge them and see what I can do on daily basis. Step by step to shift them.

Also, I treat myself with warm food that is full of vitamins and tastes well. I exercise every day, at least do some stretching and have a fresh air walk. I treat myself by giving my body extra attention. I do this by talking to it, saying lovable and caring words to it, making sure that it feels my gratitude everyday.

Do you have any New Year’s Resolutions regarding body positivity? To be honest I am done with making New Years Resolutions, I don’t believe they will work if I call them that way. No matter the time of the year I tend to improve what I have already achieved. Regarding body positivity, day by day, I tend to speak up about it. Tell my side of the story and be open, with anyone who has an opinion in this case. I believe when we talk about and discuss a topic it makes a big difference.

How would you like to celebrate your body? I try my best to celebrate it every day, by giving it nutritional food and well deserved rest, new experiences and emotions, home spa days and physical activities. I am a big believer that we should all celebrates ourselves every day, because we live in times when nothing is predictable.

On your social media we see that you are advocating for mental health. Did you make a transition within this yourself over the past years? Between where I was two years ago and where I am now is huge difference. I’d never thought that I could come this close to my real self in this short period of time. Two years ago I graduated from high-school, I was deeply unhappy and depressed. I disliked school a lot, I was bullied since the first day I arrived there and never was my true self. Only when I was talking to the teachers, some of them really have become great friends of mine, I really felt like myself. This was probably because their mindset was more outside the box. After I graduated, I left everything behind to move to the Netherlands. I thought that if I moved to Amsterdam and away from a problem it would disappear. *laughs* Well, that of course didn't happen.

In November that same year I was diagnosed with suicidal depression and eating disorder.

At that point all I saw myself doing is waking up at 5 am, putting on a mask, going to university I was not fond of and pretending like everything is just fine. eating up my emotions which junk food. Don’t get me wrong, I believe I really needed to get through this to be where I am now, so in this way I am not complaining at all. Then came the pandemic and I needed to decide where I wanted to go. I moved to my family home in Germany, which turned out to be for 4 full months, that grew into a really big mental health roller coaster. Luckily I found people that helped me to grow out of this stage and kept me as sane as possible. I found a couch and my long time therapist to help me get out of the depression. I have to say, I am also really gifted with a wise mom and soulful friends that “held” my hand during this all. It was a long and hard road but it lead me to find my purpose and get closer to my real self. After 4 months of quarantine in Germany, I decided to move back to my home country Latvia and develop myself further there. I have to say I do not regret any of my decisions because they have brought me here and I wouldn’t be a half of a person if I would experience it all. Moving back to Latvia was the right decision, in a really short time I met amazing people here and regained relationships that are here for lifetime. Back here in Latvia, I started to develop my own company and persuade my purpose.

Do you feel mental health is connected with personal body image? If so, in what way? I believe it is all connected. If I do not feel my best on the inside, it’s clearly visible on the outside, at least I think so. If I haven’t given myself enough rest or all of the other self-love remedies I mentioned before I literally look different, tired and not engaged with the world.

I believe this goes two ways, I have to take care of my mental health to act rightly for myself, and I have to take care of my body physically to feel great on the inside.

Do you have any learnings on this matter you want to share? Sure, not that long ago I learned something which I really would love to share with you all. My friend read a book about how not to take anything personally, not bad criticism or great compliments, which led me to few thoughts. Mostly when we hear compliments we start shining like the spring sun, but why is that? Its because deep down we require acceptance from others, we haven’t really fully accepted ourselves and have just a slight understanding of our self-awareness. Because once you are aware of who you are, who you want to be, your strengths and weaknesses, what is your super power, what is your purpose, you no longer require acceptance from others. You truly have to put faith in your own hands and have to be the biggest believer in your own superpowers. Do not get me wrong, having a great support system around you is wonderful but there will be times when you are the only support system you can rely on.

Also it is good to remind yourself, that when someone is mean to you, you just have to understand that this is not because of what you have done or said. It’s mostly about the other person. It’s about their fears, weaknesses and personal traumas. They look at you from their point of view which 99% of the time is just based false assumptions.

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