Barbara Erochina is the Founder of Be With, offering coaching, retreats and resources to help you banish anxiety, embrace change and learn to trust yourself. She is an Emotional Wellness Coach and the Creator of Cards for Self-Care. Barbara is deeply aligned with who she is and what she loves. She is also strongly connected to her values, honouring what she likes, and what she doesn’t. Barbara is fearless, to the point and a bundle of knowledge – confident in herself and the world around her.
Barbara’s goal is to help others feel this way, too, conquering fears by recognizing them, understanding the whys buried deep within us and putting self-kindness at the forefront.
When I first met Barbara, we were at a screening of Embrace, a film about positive body image, at Toronto’s Shecoystem Coworking + Wellness, a coworking space and community for women. Barbara was passing out Cards for Self-Care from her deck before the film began. I picked up a yellow card, on it written: “MOVE: Practice self-massage. Rub your feet, hands or neck using slow, gentle pressure.” Then, Barbara and I chatted about what this card meant to me: I am at a point in my life where things are going very quickly and my brain is never quite relaxed. This card was a mental reminder to slow down, take a breather and focus only on things as they come. All of these strategies are hard for me to practice, because I thrive on being busy and I thrive on consistent stress. The consistency keeps me calm, oddly enough and anything other than organized chaos makes me anxious. The card now sits above my bed, a permanent reminder to inhale and exhale, to turn off sometimes and to stay up too late every once in awhile watching bad (but so good) TV.
Since that moment in Toronto’s Koreatown, I’ve been intrigued about Barbara’s story and her teachings. How did she get to be this strong? Why the cards? Why the passion for wellness?
On Skype one Wednesday evening, on the later end of magic hour, Barbara shared her story with me. Read below to find out how our conversation went:
1. You are an emotional wellness coach, multi-passionate entrepreneur and, to quote your site, “badass self-care rep.” What inspired you to become an entrepreneur and emotional wellness coach?
Early in my 20s, I ended a long-term significant relationship and moved home with my parents for a few months to find my feet. I wrote this journal entry about what I wanted to do with my life. I wrote down, “Start a business,” and this was in the middle of my Master’s degree to become a pastor. I knew I wanted to do have a business, but not how or what. I left my previous career path and got a job working in communications. I saw a therapist and life coach at the same time, while back in school for psychotherapy. I thought, “Why is no one combining these things? This allows me to combine my past, and supercharge my way forward in a way that seems true, and sustainable in the long term.” That got me to create my practice, which is a fusion of psychotherapy and coaching.
2. When did you start to realize the importance of wellness and self-care?
The real moment that I realized wellness was at the centre of living a meaningful life was when I was going through a depression. I was preparing to become a Minister, finally landed a sweet associate ministry gig in Toronto and rocking a Master’s degree. Everything looked great on the outside, but on the inside, I was a mess. I was getting ready to work in a church that wouldn’t marry me, but I’d be marrying other people?! I then realized that the real breakdown for me was around the fact that I was so far removed from my real needs, and actually respecting those needs and understanding how to meet them. I had this, “Oh shit,” moment where I asked myself, “Why don’t I ever ask my body what it wants to eat? Why do I never ask my mind what it wants? It’s time to get back in touch with myself and what I actually need and want.”
3. We recently completed a campaign called #SelfLoveSymphony, as we realize that so many of us learn how to self-hate before we learn how to self-love. What are your thoughts on this?
Because of my identity as a feminist, my first thought lies with the patriarchy. Women are taught to apologize, not take up a lot of space and to be caregivers. That leads us to feel that our job is to somehow fit into a box of what a woman is. And then, you pair that with capitalism, which tells us that we’re never enough, and to fix that we have to buy a new car and a bottle of Coca-Cola. It’s either buying something or becoming a better, skinnier, sexier version of ourselves. We are brought up in this capitalist structure and we’re taught to find value through production and consumption. As women, we are taught that our self-worth is all about taking care of other people, and that’s bullshit. A lot of people I know and love and respect have certain disabilities that don’t allow them to make a living within capitalism and yet they have so much else to offer. We wouldn’t say they don’t have worth, right? Why do we equate production and worth? That trains us to not respect ourselves and to feel like we’re never enough.
4. When do you think we should start to teach young people about the importance of self-care, self-love and ultimately self-confidence?
Out of the womb. I’ve seen some of my friends who are already parents do this really well. It’s important to teach our kids that they have choice over their own bodies, that they have the right to feel what they feel and that they are enough as they are. It’s teaching autonomy and responsibility at the same time, and it has to happen sooner than we’re currently doing it. Some people never learn it. I work with a lot of adults who are learning this in their forties and fifties.
5. A huge part of learning to self-care is also learning to acknowledge and accept imperfections – in all sense of the word. How do you do this in your daily life?
Dr. Brené Brown has a great book about this. I love the way she teaches that accepting our imperfections is only possible through vulnerability. I work a lot with vulnerability and self-compassion – extending the same kindness towards ourselves that we send to other people. We lovingly tell our friends they are doing the best they can and we ask them how we can help, but with ourselves, we never speak kindly to ourselves, or ask what we need. Most of us criticize ourselves non-stop, and what we need to do instead is extend self-kindness. Vulnerability is our first step because it allows us to see and actually name what is happening and what is not working. That takes a lot of courage and strength.
6. Through A Quarter Young, we’ve made it our mission to celebrate unique definitions of “success,” as we believe there are many meanings to this word! How would you define success?
Success is a feeling, first of all. Danielle LaPorte, one of my heroes, reframes goals as desired feelings rather then arbitrary metrics. She says, instead of focusing on the goal, focus on the feeling behind the goal. For me success is feeling grounded, supported, connected and aligned. In my life I like to feel alive, I like to feel spacious and I like to feel well taken care of. I say grounded because that’s what helps me feel taken care of. I say supported for that reason, too. I want to ensure that I have what I need, even if that includes a $10 bottle of Kombucha. I also know I don’t love working a traditional 9-5 job. My schedule is 10-7 for now. I don’t work well early in the mornings and I don’t like going to an office. So support means working however I want. Connected is being able to present for my partner, my family and my friends. Aligned means living my values every day, as an intersectional feminist, and a queer woman.
7. How do you think your practices and techniques improve the lives of the people for whom you work?
One of the things that’s at the heart of my practice is teaching people how to trust themselves which is a radical departure from what we’re taught to do. This allows people to live lives that are on purpose, and lives that are awake, letting them feel the experience of their emotions. My work allows people to have more joy.
8. You created Cards For Self-Care as an expansion of your vision for creating a more compassionate way of relating to ourselves and others. For just under $40 CAD, purchasers can get access to the cards. What type of success have you seen since Be With launched?
I’ve had around $16,000 worth of sales. Having said that, I only hit black in May 2017. It’s very exciting. Six months in, I hit black. This is one place where I’ve had to use my coaching on myself. I have very high ethical standards and the deck was created, written, produced, printed and designed all locally in Toronto. That means, my costs were through the roof. So many people asked me, “Why aren’t you printing this in China or the US? Your per-unit price is insane.” I wasn’t having any of it and now, I feel really good about that decision. But, the first three months of sales, were really hard. It was so hard to see every penny of sale money go to cost. I’ve had to remind myself that success is going to look different for me because my company is aligned with my ethics, so I’m building something sturdy and sustainable rather than focused on quick growth of capital.
9. Where is the farthest geographical location from Toronto that someone has purchased the cards?
Australia is the furthest place they have been shipped. Ireland is the farthest place they have been purchased from. We have hit nine countries and four continents.
10. If you could describe your overall brand as a person, who would she be? What would she be like?
Fierce, full of real-talk, beautiful and messy, committed and compassionate.
11. What have you learned about yourself throughout your journey as an emotional wellness coach?
My entire life has changed!! But, to say simply, I am turning 30 in July 2017 and I’m getting my first tattoo to showcase the change I’ve experienced over the last two years in business. I’ve learned that I’m capable of far more than I’ve realized.
12. What have you found to be the most effective ways of spreading key messages about your brand and increasing customer retention?
For key messages, the Instagram community is super faithful and engaged. They care about what I have to say and my message. That has grown slowly, but the people who are in it are really in it. For clients, I connect with some on Instagram, but most are through word of mouth, one on one interactions and referrals.
13. You have an educational background in creative writing – how did this help you when creating the content on the cards?
It allowed me to take concepts in psychology and research and translate it into colloquial and poetic language. The deck is based on Dr. Kristin Neff’s research on self-compassion. I definitely had to translate it into everyday speak.
14. How long did the entire journey take from the moment the idea for Cards for Self-Care was conceived to the moment you sold your first deck of cards?
We launched through Indiegogo and we did around $3,000 worth of sales the very first day, but there was a lot of lead up towards the start of the campaign. I started working on the deck in May 2016, we launched in November 2016 and we shipped in December 2016.
15. What has been the toughest part of this journey as a creator and entrepreneur?
Melding my anti-capitalist values and building a business in capitalism. I’m still learning how to do it, to be honest. I would always say to anyone in my position: challenge yourself on what you believe is possible in terms of pricing and at the same time, honour what you actually believe and where you stand. Only in the last few months have I figured that out. Our values are not things we can shift very easily, if we fight them, we will not succeed. It’s much better to trust your gut, and build a business you can feel really proud of.
16. Who do you turn to or what do you do when you’re in need of creative inspiration?
I get away from my work. I shut the computer down. Turn off Instagram, turn off my emails and just go do something else, like something else. Go to yoga, to for a walk, go swimming, go for cocktails with a friend and talk. Then, that’s when a creative idea comes to mind, and doesn’t feel like an obligation.
Soon, Barbara will launch the Be With Masterclass for prospective and current clients. “It’s going to be a way to revolutionize emotional wellness and the coaching industry. The Be With Masterclass will be an affordable monthly subscription offering online coaching, workshops and community. I believe it’s possible, and even necessary to build businesses that we love and that fuel us, while also offering services in a way that’s accessible to many.”
Barbara was six days out from her wedding at the time of our chat and despite the slew of spreadsheets on her computer, waiting to be filled with plans, she answered each of my questions with such energy. Thank you, Barbara. Your selflessness is admirable.