I first came across Claire Fountain and her work through our event with adidas—during which she co-led a group of women with OKREAL ambassador Uli Beutter Cohen in an intention based yoga session. Claire—founder of Trill Yoga and passionate mental health advocate—is carving out a spot in the wellness world that is more about raw feelings than raw vegetables. Despite training as a clinical therapist, she’s big on vulnerability and being open about the fact that she too is a work in progress. I love Claire’s approach to her work, which is less ‘yoga as a fix’ and more, ‘yoga is a tool in addition to doing the work.’ ‘The work’ being dealing with the messy stuff beneath your warrior pose, and working on your warrior within (I also love seeing her call out commenters on the gram, it’s gold). Claire and I spoke about the balance of inner and outer confidence, the difference between resume and eulogy goals, and how a cumulative view of success leads to more perspective, and more peace.

“I have always thought for myself, which led for me always working for myself. I never thought that what I did for a living encompassed my whole identity. So when people ask what I do, it’s hard to answer—but it’s all within this realm of knowledge and exposing people to knowing more. I’ve accepted being nerdy.

‘I’m educated and I educate’ is a big part of it. Being active on social media, I think about providing something of substance in an otherwise pretty void and vapid space. I now have a platform and with that I think comes a social responsibility to use it positively. Plus there are things I think are really important to communicate, so I use the space that way. A lot of the work I do right now is around mental health. That’s what I’m the most passionate about. The more presence I developed on social media, the more I thought, ‘We don’t need another workout, we don’t need another 22 yoga poses to be relaxed—we need a self-worth revolution, we need to feel good about ourselves before everything else.’ The rest of it is just icing on the cake.

As someone who doesn’t have the stereotypical slim ‘yoga chick’ body, I got pushed into the body positivity space early on and it just wasn’t connecting for me. I started realizing that we can’t just think that our bodies look good, we have to believe that we ARE good. On social media, confidence seems to only be validated if it’s externally recognized. It’s not real unless other people see it and can comment on it—when I don’t think that’s what true empowerment is.

Empowerment is about: can I make decisions that are good for me?

Do I get out of toxic relationships? Do I go out for the jobs I want? Do I have the confidence to pursue the education that I want to pursue? Can I be the type of mom I want to be? Though bodies are dope, true empowerment is deeper than bikini pictures. I think social media makes it seem as if: if a woman doesn’t post about it, is she really confident? Which I think is a mixed up view.

I was in therapy when I was young, so I’ve always had a running narrative of analyzing things from a mental health standpoint. I also had a terrible eating disorder in high school which is how this whole career path started to some extent—the combination of those two things helped me learn that life is precious. Having that mindset helped me figure out what kind of jobs were going to work for me and which ones weren’t. I learned what triggered my anxiety early on—and decided that I don’t have the energy to do things that don’t make me feel good.

If you’re looking to overhaul that relationship with yourself, awareness is the first step. Which can be hard—because there are so many layers. Trauma is really hard to see when we’re in it. Abuse is really hard to see when we’re in it. But realizing that something is off or that there could be a better or different way, and from that awareness you have to say, ‘OK, what can I do? What’s in my little toolbox of things that can help me?’ Maybe that’s reading, maybe that’s journaling, maybe that’s getting a therapist—whatever is going to proactively move you into a space where you’re going to feel better. And often that doesn’t come without being uncomfortable.

Maybe you’ll have to do something you’ve never done before, but you also want to feel what you’ve never felt before.

For me, when it comes to dealing depression, it isn’t the fact that there is no light. You have to remind yourself that the lightness is always there. So when that balance has been thrown off, you can say—how can I use those tools to get that light back?

Even though there might be more darkness at certain times in life, the light never fully goes away. And it can always come back.

In terms of characteristics that have helped me get to where I am, it has taken a lot of resilience, self-assuredness and a lack of fear. And also being able to say, I’m human, I’m at a certain point in my path, and I still struggle. My mother has been a big influence—she is not afraid of anything. She believes she can do everything. I didn’t realize she felt this way until I got older and thought, ‘Why have I never questioned my decisions?’ Even the not so great ones! I never questioned them. Granted there should be a kickback on certain things because it keeps us out of unstable positions, but my mom passed down that attitude. And it has enabled me to be and do things that may not have been defined prior—and create a definition of success that is my own. Which I think we all should do. When you’re trying to meet somebody else’s goals and somebody else’s expectations, it’s a recipe for resentment. Or, if you start living with this mindset of: ‘I’ll be OK when…’ Then you’re never living, there’s no present. For me, success can be as simple as surviving. The fact I made it. There have been a lot of things that I should not have made it through, and every one of those is a small victory to continue to overcome things. The culmination of those victories feels like a successful life.

You ask about fulfillment as well. Fulfillment is deeper because it has nothing to do with societal accolades.

Fulfillment often gets mixed up with pleasure and happiness, but fulfillment is wholeness… and wholeness is the essence of being.

As a people, I think we associate fulfillment with careers and families and especially as a woman, that’s tied up with whether or not you want children. In a lot of ways I think we have been made to feel that if we want kids, we can’t be a businessperson as well. That we’re allowed to want either or neither. Right now I’m finishing grad school to get my license for clinical therapy, but I also am totally gonna have babies some day. Though it sounds confusing, I think we can be as much as we would like, we just have to accept that life is all choices and choices come with responsibilities. Responsibilities can be beautiful, but they still exist. We can have as much as we want, but we can also be fulfilled if we want a simple experience. Like I said earlier, define success for yourself, find fulfillment for yourself.

Whatever our goals are as women, I think we can reach those goals in self-compassionate ways; while taking time to rest, or taking time to care about our relationships. I get really frustrated when people glorify busy-ness. They glorify pulling all-nighters, how little sleep they got, how long their to-do list is. I don’t think that’s something you should be proud of, because we can destroy ourselves that way. It’s not about achieving material or societal title-type goals at the expense of our personal lives. I don’t agree with putting our own mental and physical health on the back-burner for things that are just externally validated. It’s that same idea behind resume vs eulogy goals. Would you rather be remembered solely for your external accomplishments? Or do you care about the contents of your character and your integrity, and what people are going to say about you when you’re gone? I think they can certainly co-exist, but our internal selves will long make a bigger impact. Part of that is learning acceptance throughout the process.

Being able to say, ‘I did as much as I could’ or ‘I can’t today,’ and honoring a pace that is your own.

For example—people from the outside looking in might say, ‘Why did it take you three months to do that ebook?’ And when you look at that one thing in isolation, three months might feel like a long time. But if you combine that one thing cumulatively with the rest of your life and everything else that you are doing—that gives you such a better perspective. I like to think in terms of sacred cows: what are those for you? Maybe your sacred cow is sleeping late on the weekends or never working past 7pm. You have to factor in what it best for you, and take time to try to be and present. I’ve journaled since I was 10 years old. Journaling allows me to really stay present and allows me to see everything from a big picture perspective, and puts the focus on how much has been done since last year or last month—not what hasn’t been done.

As I’ve gotten older, being honest has become really big. Not just with myself, but honest with those closest to me. Letting myself be seen. As human beings, we’re all just big messes of emotions and chaos and feelings. So being real about my own flaws and letting the people closest to me see them. Saying, ‘I have a really big heart, I care too much.’ That has been very freeing and it helps me to better serve and lead people around me. There are two ways to lead. You can lead by saying: ‘I’m up here, I just speak to all the people like they should know these things.’ And then there’s leading from behind, where you share and empower others to go above and beyond through collaboration. It’s still deliberate, but it’s more impactful for how I like to share.”

Claire’s #OKREALTALK Tips

  • Fulfillment is more about wholeness than happiness. What are the things that make you whole?
  • To feel what you've never felt before, you have to take steps you've never taken before.
  • How can you lead from behind?
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Claire Fountain
Founder, Trill Yoga

i. @cbquality