This week we're proud to share Melody Godfred, founder of Fred and Far, and author of Self Love Poetry: for Thinkers & Feelers.
What does union mean to you?
Union evokes so much for me. Togetherness. Fullness. Wholeness. Balance. Alignment. Peace. It’s something that I used to think only applied externally – meaning, it can only be achieved with another person or thing (i.e. the coming together of two halves to form a whole). But the more I’ve learned about and experienced self love, the more union has become a concept that for me is closely tied to self-integration. To be in union with myself means to stop being at war with myself, and to instead be at peace – with all parts of who I am and all moments in my history.
Why do you think so many people have trouble embracing all parts of themselves (achieving union with themselves as you’ve described)?
I believe that culturally we’ve been taught to seek perfection instead of authenticity, which leads us to compartmentalize ourselves into good and bad parts in an effort to fit in with an ideal. Perfection requires conformity, and conformity doesn’t allow any room for outliers. Rather than being taught to embrace our authentic selves, perfection culture has taught us to abandon the parts of ourselves that don’t fit.
I’ll give you an example. Ever since my daughter Stella was born, she gravitated towards the color green. Before she could even speak, she wanted to play with the green toys, to wear the green clothes. And so as her mother, I did the only reasonable thing: I bought her all the green toys, and shopped in the boys section to get her green shoes and clothes. But something happened as soon as she went to preschool: she started asking for pink. Because even at the tender age of two and a half, she was cognizant of the pressure to conform: girls were supposed to like pink, so she would like pink. It was heart-wrenching to see her have to give up on green, something her true self so naturally craved. Thankfully by the time she was five or six, she had the strength to return home to her true self: she went back to green, even though it meant not being a perfectly pink girl. In choosing green, she chose union with herself, instead of conformity with everyone else. Whenever I feel myself trying to conform, or seek perfection, I remember Stella and how she was strong enough to choose green over pink.
How has achieving union within yourself through self love change your relationships with others?
I kept myself hidden for a long time, especially from the people closest to me. I had so much shame – about my desires, about my body, about my feelings, about my thoughts. And so rather than forming deep, open relationships with others, I cultivated a robust inner world that only had room for one person: me.
I saw a meme recently about the “pleasure to have in class” student being the one with the most anxiety. That was me. I only let people see what I thought was safe: the straight-A overachiever, the musical prodigy who was writing original music at 7. But inside, there was so much more going on – there was so much sadness and worry and loneliness. I see it now in my childhood pictures, especially in my eyes. There was so much that happened, and so much to who I was, between 7 and 30 (when I discovered self love) that I didn’t know how to claim. I was jealous. I was petty. I was mean to my body. I gaslit people I loved because it made me feel more safe than being honest about how I was actually feeling. I craved sex but felt so shameful about it that I had secret relationships. I diminished myself to an extreme degree just to feel an ounce of human connection or desire. I hid all of this behind a façade of accomplishment. Student body president. All-star singer. I broke into two people: the public person, and the private person. The good, and the bad.
Discovering self love has allowed me to stop hiding. I’ve started to share the thoughts, feelings and experiences that I used to keep entirely to myself. And in making peace with who I am, I’ve grown closer to the people around me. My outer world is now as robust and authentic as my inner world – perhaps even more robust. Union within myself opened the door to union with others.
How has self love changed your marriage?
When I got married at 27, I didn’t know up from down when it comes to self-awareness. I had yet to do any of the inner work that I discovered in my thirties. And as a result, when my husband and I experienced conflict, I would shut down. Fights could last for hours or even days because I simply wasn’t comfortable diving into the discomfort and talking about it. Conflict was off limits – within myself, and with my spouse. Self love taught me how to embrace even the conflicts and work through them. In better understanding and embracing even the “undesirable” parts of myself or my patterns, I learned how to connect with my partner and work through things. In our nearly fifteen years together, we’ve each gotten to know ourselves better, and each over better. And this I think the hallmark of our continued growth as a couple: our willingness to know and embrace ourselves, and each other.
What advice would you give someone who constantly puts others before themselves?
You can’t sacrifice your wholeness in order to make others feel full. I learned this after becoming a mother of twins. I tried desperately at first to do it all myself, and to be the perfect mother. To exclusively breastfeed, to take them to all the classes, to research the baby food, to stay up with them all night. I wouldn’t even let my husband warm a bottle because I didn’t believe he did it fast enough. And here’s what I learned: in putting others before myself, I was actually destroying my relationship with them, while destroying myself, too. Without boundaries, all relationships eventually fall apart. Lasting relationships of all forms are predicated on each person being well. I tried self-sacrificing myself into the perfect marriage and family, and also into a perfect career and friendships. None of it worked. Instead of perfection, what I got was burnout, disappointment, resentment, anger, guilt and shame.
If you’re constantly putting others first, try this simple practice: add a pause before you react. If someone asks you for something, before you say yes, pause. When you see an opportunity to do something for someone, pause. In that moment ask yourself: am I in union with my authentic self and needs if I do this? If the answer is yes, proceed. If the answer is no, set a boundary. It gets easier with time – I promise.
When you start thinking of yourself as someone worthy of your love, time and attention, you start to receive from the world. And from that wholeness, you’ll actually have something meaningful to give.
How can people maintain a healthy balance between self love and loving others?
I was born into generations of women whose worth was predicated on their level of self-sacrifice. It was okay to be proud of yourself – but that pride was always predicated on accomplishment, rather than simply being. Self love takes a completely different approach, and it’s one that I’m actively teaching my children. I don’t want them to only feel proud when they check a box. I want them to love themselves regardless of the boxes. When you realize that self love isn’t about pride, but rather acceptance, it’s clear that self love isn’t in conflict with or a threat to loving others. Because it isn’t a competition, and love isn’t scarce or finite: there’s enough space in all of us to love ourselves and others.
What inspired you to do the work you’re doing?
I created the Self Love Pinky Ring for all the reasons I talk about in this interview: I had lost my connection to my authentic self and had become an expert at taking care of everyone’s needs – other than my own. Having a sparkling daily reminder of my self-commitment helped me change my life, and I wanted to share that magic with others. That’s why I started Fred and Far. What has inspired me to continue five years later is every woman who has trusted me to be part of her story by joining this self love movement. Every time someone shares their story, I’m reminded just how important this work is and how privileged I am to do it.
Can you give us a story that exemplifies why you get fulfillment out of the work you do?
Nearly every day, I receive a DM or email expressing how the Self Love Pinky Ring, the Fred and Far self love movement, or my book Self Love Poetry have empowered someone to change their life. And that’s the magic: it’s not that anything I’m doing is transformative in itself – it’s that my work unlocks the inherent magic in each of us. To know my work has this kind of impact is humbling and moving to a degree I simply can’t put into words. I will say this though: these messages are what remind me that this work is my calling, and it is my job on this earth to honor my purpose. My hope is to awaken this sense of purpose in others by giving them the tools to look within and embrace all that they are.
Is there a roadblock you had to overcome to get where you are today? How did you do it?
My biggest roadblock is my inner critic, a leftover from a lifetime spent being a perfectionist. For the majority of my life I felt like wasted potential – like nothing I ever did was good enough to honor what I was actually capable of. This meant an A- was a failure in high school, and now as an adult running a business, it means that every day my instinct is to focus on the failures instead of the wins. How do I overcome this obstacle? By remembering that my thoughts are not who I am, and I can choose to change them. I’m disciplined about recognizing negative thought patterns and behaviors and not falling victim to them. Every day I have to remind myself that I am not wasted potential, I am actually enough, as is – regardless of the sales I’m generating or even the emotional impact I’m making. I also try to see myself through the eyes of someone who loves me and is proud of me, like my parents or friends. They would never think I’m an imposter who is a failure. So I shouldn’t either.
Is there something you consider yourself an expert in? What has it taught you?
I’m an expert at bringing big ideas to life, like the Self Love Pinky Ring or my book Self Love Poetry. What I’ve learned is that once you have an idea you believe in, you need to just start working on it. Start small, and continually evolve and grow. Don’t wait for perfection to make it real – you’ll be waiting forever if you do! And once you do it, send me a DM on Instagram so I can share it. That’s what the Fred and Far community is all about – self love and sisterhood, always.