Self-Love, Storytelling, and Fighting for Change

Stories hold power. 

You have a story, I have a story—we all have something meaningful to share with other people. 

But are we brave enough to share those stories? Do we see how important it is to do so? 

Julie Lythcott-Haims is a best-selling author, so you can say she understands the importance of storytelling! 

Her captivating non-fiction work includes How to Raise an Adult, Real American: A Memoir, and Your Turn: How to Be an Adult

But it wasn’t always easy. Julie became an author after decades of rejection. She also had to do the deep inner work of learning to love herself so she could write from a place of vulnerability and authenticity.

Julie joined us on episode 5 of Unlocking the Club podcast. Here are her insights on how to develop deep self-love to drive you forward with change and impact. 

Identity and Belonging

Two hands with wedding bands; one black person and one white person

Julie’s father is black and her mother is white. 

And until the late 1980s when “biracial” entered common vernacular, Julie struggled with her identity and sense of self. Today, she identifies as black and biracial, connecting it with her family history and culture. 

Growing up, though, Julie felt like she didn’t belong anywhere—she was “too white” for the black community and “too black” for the white community. 

She learned that, because of her skin color, she wasn’t given opportunities that others were. And so she pushed aside her blackness, trying only to do what was acceptable to white folks. 

It wasn’t until she was challenged to adopt a mindfulness practice and sit with her emotions did things start to change. Julie worked to name how she felt—that she was ashamed of being black—so that she could address it and embrace her identity. 

And that’s what flipped the switch for self-love. Julie worked to recognize every part of herself, name what she’d been hiding, and learn to embrace it. 

Today, Julie is proud of her identity and embraces her blackness. She’s gone deep into family history and learned about her ancestors and her legacy. And in doing so, she doesn’t hide back from it anymore, but sees her full self as worthy of love. 

Breaking Free from Internalized Messages

Three black woman smiling and laughing

Julie reflected on her experiences growing up, the messages she heard and internalized. 

For her, it was “death by a thousand paper cuts”—countless small (or seemingly small) incidents that told her what people thought of her and her family. 

Just some of her memories include parents pulling their kids out of the pool when she got in, being denied access to the gifted program despite her high grades, or someone writing the n-word on her locker. 

Julie recognizes her privilege as a light-skinned woman raised with many opportunities in a middle-class family.

But here’s the thing—racism follows you. Even though Julie was outwardly successful in so many ways, there were always people trying to tear her down for her skin color. 

And that feeling, those memories, have driven Julie to greater empathy for everyone. She know’s what it’s like to be excluded and cut down and doesn’t want anyone else to experience the same thing.

Because she was told she didn’t belong, she fights for others to belong. And in her fight for inclusion, she is breaking free from the internalized messages of racism. 

Fighting for Change

A stack of 6 books

As Julie puts it, there’s a lot that’s broken now in our society and how people interact with each other. And a lot of us are confronting the question, what can I do? 

For Julie, there are two things: subverting the norms of American publishing and running for city council. 

As a nonfiction writer, Julie is committed to her personal integrity in writing. Her work is built purposefully around principles of inclusion and belonging. 

So, she pushes back on two norms in American publishing: 

  • Refusing to only mention race or ethnicity when the person is non-white—she talks about it for everyone, challenging the idea that being white is the norm. 
  • Calling out authors who write self-help books for “everyone,” but cater only to a small segment of the population. 

Outside of her writing work, Julie is fighting for inclusion by running for city council in her hometown of Palo Alto, California. 

Julie described the decision to do so as a way to fight the urge to run and flee from this messy American moment. But as someone with privilege and resources, she wants to stay and fight. 

Her big campaign issue is affordable housing, resting on the premise that there is room for everyone. Everyone belongs in her community. And she’s fighting for it by bringing around a team of advisors and others who are passionate about change in the community. 

Whether she is elected and has a long-term career in politics or not, one thing is clear—Julie will keep fighting for inclusion and justice, fueled by her past experiences, and rooted in her own self-love and identity. 

If you want to learn more about Julie’s story, listen to her full interview on episode 5 of Unlocking the Club podcast. You can also keep up with Julie on her website, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Instagram. Support her city council campaign here.