How to Love Yourself When You Feel Your Worst

This is an image

Martin in front of a custom “Tree of Life” print by the artist Kirsten Synge, inspired by a vintage Balinese collage, in La DoubleJ’s “Swank Dress.”

Alberto Zanetti

My editor called me, sounding like most of my employees that week, speaking in a wobbly voice. She was scraping the bottom of an empty content barrel, she said, and our inventory of smiling, cavorting models and brightly patterned party-table settings were out of sync with the darkened, solemn veil that had blanketed the world. So, what I did next startled us both. With no makeup or good lighting, and without a shred of a script, I climbed up onto my couch, hung a colorful La DoubleJ print on the wall behind my head, stared into my empty phone, and hit “Live.”

It was late March 2020, and I’d been sitting in an empty apartment in Milan watching the world spin and burn around a giant fire pit of coronavirus fear. I felt oddly calm. Not that there was much to be serene about: I was the founder and creative leader of La DoubleJ, my five-year-old fashion and homeware business, whose sales were tanking and employees were panicking. The company’s future was a dark, globby mess. I was also recently divorced and living alone with one mattress, one vintage couch, four chairs, two lamps, and one dog, whose relaxed snore was the only sound that broke the silence.

Contrary to my life before as an epic doer and compulsive creator in charge of a team of 50, I’d found an eerie new peace sitting for hours on the hardwood floor of that unfinished dark space, doing deep meditation and breathwork, talking to no one (in Milan, you could only leave your house for groceries or a quick dog poop). But once I opened my mouth that day to thousands of faceless followers on Instagram Live, the words just flowed, the messages coming more like downloads from somewhere beyond my own thinking brain, pouring down through my elaborate Italian ceiling and into the crown of my head.

More From Oprah Daily
preview for Oprah Daily US - Your Best Life Playlist
This is an image

A portrait of Mother Mary by artist Aitch, commissioned for La DoubleJ’s Milan store

Filippo Bamberghi

Most of these neat info packets swirled around how I had been dealing with my own dark emotions. Could I, could we humans—I asked my own iPhone reflection—stop knee-jerking with fear and instead begin to embrace this terrifying global pause, allowing wisdom to emerge from chaos? It seemed there was something essential to learn from this enforced solitude, from our deep discomfort not just with uncertainty but also with death itself, which was screaming from every ambulance beneath my window and on every blaring TV and phone screen around the world.

Horrible events that happen to us, I continued, actually offer a golden chance to learn to shift our own energy. It is, in fact, right smack in the middle of darkness and density that you are most called on to relax, embracing distress as you would a squealing infant. Then you can search around for your own inner light, flip it on, and rocket-ship your frequency upward—in effect, raising your own vibration.

That first video got 17,000 views. In the aftermath, I received countless comments and hundreds of private messages from women I’d never met thanking me, sharing their stories, and asking for advice. And so, I kept going. Without any planning, the videos flew out of me each day—on topics like exploring your “shadow” (aspects of ourselves we deem unacceptable), loving yourself when you feel your worst, and one super-popular one on the distorted lens of our competitive fashion industry. I was invited onto more than two dozen IG Lives with journalists and influencers who wanted to know how to kick-start a spiritual practice. Soon, we were welcoming hundreds of participants onto free Zoom calls that introduced spiritual guides and teachers to women hungry for insight who’d previously been coming to La DoubleJ for a cocktail dress.

This is an image

Martin on the steps of the Great Pyramid of Giza.

Anastasia Ilina


These were the first spiritual seeds I tossed into the wild back garden of my fashion company. But spirituality was not a new thing for me. I’d met my first energy healer, Elisabeth Manning, in 2014, on the very day I decided to cut the cord to a miserable five-year IVF odyssey that included several medically advised abortions. The meditations and guided visualizations we did together were unlike anything in the mindfulness-based yoga meditations I’d practiced before. Working remotely with Elisabeth in Petaluma, while I sat on my bed in Milan feeling utterly torn down and shriveled up, introduced me, a card-carrying atheist, to the principles of energetic and spiritual consciousness. Elisabeth taught me that my heart was not just an organ but could be a portal for expanded states. Love—dismissed by so many cynics, myself included, as cheesy romanticism—was actually a potent balm and weapon that could heal, protect, and expand me. I began to see myself, the planet, all human beings, and our universe as an interconnected web of conscious, loving light. Nothing was happening by chance—including my misery or my deep pain. All of it was divinely ordered by my higher self for my own soul’s growth.

Elisabeth also was the first to teach me the principles of energy work and how my thoughts, beliefs, and actions were betraying my heart and soul. Energy is everywhere and in all things, she said. This energy vibrates at different frequencies, from low levels that are dark and dense to high levels that are light and bright. Vibrational frequencies can be manipulated and changed—either by you internally or by your external environment. So, when spiritual people talk about “raising your vibration,” they are referring to moving your energetic scale from the heavy, sluggish, bottom rung of the ladder—which is where we often reside in our day-to-day stressful lives—to the light, joyful, luminous top of the ladder, which is governed by the energy of love, the highest frequency you can create. This shift brings you into a creator state—dreaming of new possibilities, new bridges, and new ideas.

martin in her meditation room at home with two la doublej colleagues

Martin in her meditation room at home with two La DoubleJ colleagues.


After nine months of Elisabeth’s spiritual teachings, my creator spark ignited and I delivered not a human baby but a kicking-and-screaming fashion company, which I have coddled for eight years now into a vibrant energy being. She morphed from an online fashion magazine selling vintage clothing with just two employees to a toe-tapping, heart-first global brand producing new print-tastic dresses, swimwear, knits, porcelain plates, and Murano glasses made entirely in Italy. We have wrapped our joyful patterns around hotels in Lake Como, cafés in New York, and churches in Milan, all thanks to a roster of midwives and sisters—employees, collaborators, and clients—who’ve raised this creation with me.

Horrible events that happen to us actually offer a golden chance to learn to shift our own energy.

But cracking open one spiritual window back in 2014 gave me a deep itch to discover the whole glorious mansion within. In addition to the infertility, I had struggled with the early death of my father, bouts of clinical depression, and years of sugar and wine addiction, all while chopping through my successful but stressful career as an American fashion journalist in Milan, and later, an entrepreneur. Over the years, I have dipped into many rooms of this mansion—from Buddhist, Hindu, and Vedic wisdom traditions to shamanic, ancient Egyptian, and even multidimensional galactic practices that connect to the consciousness of the stars. I found myself in basements in Italy’s crusty corners taking three-day ThetaHealing trainings, and weeklong Bhakti yoga retreats where hours of mantra singing left my body and soul buzzing in ecstasy.

Admittedly, it was a bizarre route for someone who had grown up in a non-religious household of volleyball players and surfers in Pacific Palisades, California. We—and above all, my mother—were epic athletes and doers fueled on a constant, potent dose of masculine energy that is active, logical, and linear. I was a competitive gymnast, a star student at an all-girls prep school, and learned at an early age to never take a single break or accept the word no. Relax? I might not win! I might not get in! I might not thrive or even survive! No way, I’m sprinting!

This is an image

Inside a church in Milan where LaDoubleJ presented its Egyptian–themed collection for Fashion Week in February.

Mariela Medina

This relentless drive helped me build my company—I worked seven days a week for the first three years, shouted and shoved my way forward when I hit my head against closed doors, and almost never took no for an answer, from anyone. But it took many years of these out-there spiritual practices for me to finally understand that there was a better approach to creating, leading, and simply existing: the principle of the divine feminine—an energy that is not action-based but, rather, centered on feeling and intuition. I learned that not only does the energy in you vary from sketchy-basement low-grade to constellation-high-level frequencies, but these energies are divided between masculine and feminine poles, just as ancient Chinese Taoists have understood for thousands of years with their principles of yin and yang. In their most distilled forms, the masculine represents the energy of the sun—bright, buzzing, heat-generating, active, and outwardly expansive—while the feminine is represented by the energy of the moon: darker, mysterious, quiet, drawn inward, ruled by cycles and yet still powerfully magnetic. Both have positive and negative aspects: If your masculine is out of whack, you’re all in your logical head and often not in the heart—or maybe you’re overly aggressive, loud, or way too active. If your feminine is distorted, you’re hiding under the covers or passed out on the couch, retreating, silenced, not protecting yourself, or unable to actually ground your creations into reality.

What you want is a healthy balance of both. Gradually, through my spiritual disciplines, I learned that I was overstuffed with the masculine and had to learn to fill up my healthy feminine energy tank. It required that I stop the constant running, learn to relax and to receive; to open up my full feeling centers and get into contact with the wild ocean of mysterious, quiet activity that was happening under the surface of my hyper-alert mind. When I finally started doing this, my body awakened and began talking, my heart chamber expanded, and my spirit and higher self were finally showing up to the party.


This is an image

Inside the new La DoubleJ store in Taormina.

Courtesy of LaDoubleJ/ Mariela Medina

Back at work, these energetic principles were taking root. Disappointment, frustration, and fear are inevitably part of any entrepreneurial pursuit. But I found I was able to alchemize this negativity by pulling out a vibration-raising tool kit. This meant every time an employee quit for a higher salary somewhere else, or a project fell apart, or I got royally pissed off, I allowed myself to witness and feel the feels completely, let them sparkle up, then fizzle out, and then jumped back onto the “joy autostrada.”

“Raise your vibration” became our company mantra, emblazoned on our store walls, across sweaters and T-shirts. La DoubleJ became known for our joy rockets: We sent them out during Milan’s self-serious Fashion Week with marching bands in the public galleria, street parades of friends laughing and wearing the clothes, and even a weeklong rainbow takeover of the Four Seasons’ very sober courtyard. Turns out all those years of surrounding myself with pulsating prints and vibrating colors was not accidental—I had been attracted to the high frequency of these uplifting hues and patterns. The office became a gym for energy elevation. Every time an employee disappointed me, I had to practice forgiveness, mercy, and, above all, gratitude for what was going right. I had to assert my own belief in the power of joy over bigger profits or cooler status. It also felt fundamental to banish the patriarchal, all-masculine approach to running a business, which was also emerging as a culprit in the toxic work environments exposed during #MeToo. Yes, we had to use our heads to create a business plan, make our numbers, and become profitable; yes, employees needed rules, discipline, and deliverables; but no—we did not need to be severe, serious, or uptight. We could lead with our hearts, listen deeply to our guts, go with the flow, be nimble, slow at times and very fast at others. This is the divine feminine rising in the workplace. We did not need to whip people or shame them into performing. The feminine coaxes and romances; she magnetizes what she wants; she doesn’t bark orders.

This is an image

Martin leading a meditation and stone circle at Passalacqua hotel in Lake Como with healer Jobi Manson

Courtesy of LaDoubleJ/ Mariela Medina

Okay, wait, in total transparency…sometimes I did bark a few orders. But I got back on track every time I messed up. I was so dedicated to this path that I began speaking about this vision in meetings in my cozy desk-less office, sitting on the couch with my employees. I set ground rules of how we needed to treat each other, as well as our suppliers: like family, with firmness and honesty but also deep compassion and gratitude. Not all of it was perfect, but with this intention, my team has coalesced into a small but potent force of magic and wonder.

Meanwhile, in my own life, previously impossible relationships improved, even with my mother, who had been a lifelong source of pain and confusion. I did this through a reversal of perspective and radical acceptance of who and what she was. Rather than seeing her as someone who wasn’t giving me what I needed, I started showing up for her in ways she needed even more. I was able to untie a marriage that wasn’t functioning by coming to my husband with kindness and gratitude for our time spent together and then continuing to work harmoniously (most days!) alongside him as a business partner.

Nothing was happening by chance—including my misery or my deep pain. All of it was divinely ordered by my higher self for my own soul’s growth.

As I expanded, La DoubleJ did, too. Even during Covid, when our orders were canceled across the globe, we wound up growing 20 percent. My empathic and clairsentient skills have helped me understand that I know pain as deeply as I know joy, and both can be of service to people. I could use my company as a vehicle to spread positivity but also to connect our community to teachers and techniques that they might not know about. And so, right smack in the middle of Covid, we opened our shop in Milan and turned the cave in the basement into a studio where we host channelers, yoga, and energy healings. I co-led a spiritual retreat in Egypt with the high priestess Dee Kennedy, where nearly all our fellow travelers were La DoubleJ customers. When we threw a two-day launch party with Net-a-Porter in Lake Como, I turned it into a mini-retreat with meditation circles and water-healing sessions with guide Jobi Manson.

So, a lot has cracked open from these energy eggs I fertilized. This past May, I invited my Australia-based spiritual teacher, Lelama Sjamar, to lead a sound healing in La DoubleJ’s Milan grotto. I’d been working one-on-one with Lelama for seven grueling months, diving alone with her into deep, three-hour shamanic healings that were pretty out-there on the woo-woo spiritual scale. I had gathered 30 very regular people in Milan and here we all were in our fashion and homeware shop, next door to Chanel and across the street from Bottega Veneta, sitting downstairs in a cave dripping in goddesses and paper bats, with Lelama’s voice channeling galactic sounds and indecipherable languages holding special energetic frequencies. No one was running off screaming that we are all loonies. Who would have thought that you could serve silk dresses and salad plates alongside a slice of the soulful Divine? I definitely did not. But as the great creator beings we all are, I’ve come to realize that when it comes to birthing, the galaxy’s the limit.

This is an image

At the Sphinx in Giza, immediately following a spiritual initiation in April 2022.

Anastasia Ilina

This post was originally published on this site