How to Choose Love of Self in the Face of Fear

Interview with Therapist and Coach Kathleen Stark 

It is time to stop hiding and spinning around in circles, feeling lost and distracted. You have a vision inside of you, and now is the time to reconnect to your vision. As an inner pathfinder coach, Kathleen Stark works with women to discover the steps to unlock their true path and connect to their identity. She uses many different holistic mind and body coaching approaches to guide her clients to create a successful and loving mindset that involve all areas of your life. Motivated by her own experiences, Kathleen gallantly takes on the task to guide women on how to choose love of self in the face of fear. 

What drives you? 
It’s my passion to help women create a healing path to move through in order to get to the other side of emotional wounds and self-doubt. I am driven to inspire women to find their voice, and by sharing their stories, we take a powerful step toward embracing a new empowered self. I believe with the right guidance many women can achieve a fulfilled life. When we have traumatic events in our lives either from childhood or adulthood, many of us struggle with guilt and shame. Guilt and shame will bring up fears that can lead to self-destructive behaviors. We begin to tell ourselves a story of being unlovable or not good enough, which leave many of us engaging in toxic and sometimes abusive relationships.

My mission is to help women learn the steps it takes to get unstuck from negative self-talk and how to find their true identity through building a loving relationship with yourself, first and foremost. I understand what it is like to be stuck in harmful self-talk patterns, and I have the insight on how to move through the emotional walls healthily due to my own experiences. I love teaching women how to see their true identity without all the layers of self-doubt, guilt, shame, and fear. What drives me, even more, is witnessing many of the women I work with finally breaking free and creating a life they can embrace. I believe when women are set free from limited beliefs that stem from emotional wounds, they embody more happiness in every area of their life—healthy relationships, wellness, work, finances, family, and more.

You were not always this sure of things, were you?
No, I wasn’t. In fact, I was very much the opposite of who I am today. There was a time when I struggled with an unhealthy view of self that included lots of negative self-talk. I can remember having no self-worth, drowning in guilt and shame, not to mention always feeling in fear of failing and feeling not good enough for anyone. Self-love was not present in my life. Just 20 years ago, I was in an abusive relationship – I am a domestic violence survivor. For 14 years, I was in love with a man who emotionally, verbally, mentally, and physically abused me. No identity of self was even present during this relationship. The relationship was complicated with both love and fear, making it impossible to understand who I was at the time. People often misunderstand abusive relationships and wonder why women don’t leave or why they didn’t say anything to anyone. Let me share my experience to help readers understand why I didn’t leave this abusive relationship.

In the beginning, my ex-husband was very loving, charismatic, and very attentive to me. However, after just a year, the first experience of abuse happened, and he made me believe it was my fault. After the first physical abuse incident, many more events soon followed. I began to believe it was my fault when he got mad. I became too embarrassed to tell anyone in my family or circle of friends what was happening. The fear of being harshly judged weighed heavy on my shoulders. My self-worth was damaged. He made me believe I was no good and if I ever thought of leaving, no one would love me. One time when I did finally gain the courage to leave and went to my parent’s house to stay, I woke up in the middle of the night with him sitting in the corner of my room. I can still see the image today. He said, “I told you we will never be separated.” I feared him. I knew right then it was hopeless there was no escape. The fear of memories of bodily harm stayed with me. I was in fear of my ex-husband.

The other side of this extremely complicated relationship which many people do not understand is that I had a deep desire to save him because he wasn’t always abusive. There would be months when he was loving. I struggled with the savior phenomenon. I thought if he received help, then there was hope. I believed if he got better, then everything else would get better. My children’s safety was another reason. I thought if he just abused me then he wouldn’t abuse my children. Unfortunately, this is never the case. The kids do suffer living in an abusive home. They do not walk away unscathed. I am grateful for the work that my kids and I have done afterward, but it took years and sometimes we still work on our healing journey together.

The day I gained the courage to leave was the day I found freedom for me and my kids. It took years of therapy to peel away the layers of emotional wounds. Building a loving relationship with myself is when hope came back into my life. Learning the right steps to let go of guilt and shame was liberating. Surrounding myself with loving and healthy people as part of my healing journey was key; the other part was acceptance. When I was finally able to accept the past, it gave me permission to heal. Receiving the right support opened so many doors and set me on my path towards helping other women to heal their emotional wounds, too. From this, my mission became to guide each beautiful woman to finally gain their freedom back and start living an unapologetic life filled with love, joy and compassion towards self and others. 

How much does your own experience impact your ability to help other women work through their past?
My life experiences allow me to guide women through their past stories with acceptance, love, and compassion. First, I provide a safe environment to help them share their story without judgment – to allow their voice to be heard. I understand the importance of feeling safe to open up without judgment. Secondly, my healing journey allows for a deep connection with women I work with on a spiritual level. I see them differently than the way they see themselves. However, once we walk through this journey together, they can finally connect to their true identity. It’s a beautiful experience. Two women walking together to heal, one story at a time. 

What and who inspired you to become a therapist?
I love this question. There is a wonderful woman name Gini, a licensed therapist, spiritual lightworker, and a healer of trauma. Gini guided me through many self-defeating moments. She guided through the ups and downs of the healing process. Gini would remind me that this was a journey, not a race. She used many different and alternative methods throughout our time together. She walked the path with me and guided me in the steps to align my mind, body, and soul together. Gini saw the real me – not the broken and damage me that I believed – but the beautiful, empowered woman that beneath all the junk was shining brightly. With Gini’s help, I learned how to fully connect with my inner self with love and compassion. She inspired me to go forward in becoming a therapist and life coach. A lot of the methods I use today with my clients come from the work Gini and I did together.

Photo by Beth Graeme

What do you think is the greatest commonality that you have seen among your clients?
The greatest commonality amongst women is wanting to heal and get unstuck. Many of my clients recognize the need for guidance but lack the confidence to take the next step. Many women I have had the opportunity to work with understand self-sabotage behaviors, but rarely see the connection with how their belief system plays a role. The one weakness I often see in our thinking is limiting beliefs such as not feeling good enough, guilt and shame, people-pleasing, need for validation, perfectionism, the fear of failure or success, and rejection. Many of the women I see struggle with past stories that keep them stuck in old behavior patterns caused by limited belief systems. Once my client can name her limited belief system, this is when the healing journey starts to take form. She can name it, see it, and lovingly forgive it. She can create a new belief system that matches who she is and become brighter, healthier, and most of all, happier. 

We understand you offer a variety of services; can you tell us about the ways you personalize coaching to your clients?
I have different levels of services to ensure access for all women who are looking for guidance.

My first service is to provide a one-hour free discovery call to help the potential client clarify what they want out of life coaching. The next level of service includes three different one-on-one coaching packages. Clients can choose to work with me for one month, three months, or six months, depending on the need. The prices are reasonable, with payment plan options to increase affordability. Once services are decided, the client will have access to unlimited emails during the coaching contract, 15 minutes support calls, and online 60-minute Zoom calls for scheduled appointments.

My next level of service is an online program called the Inner Pathfinder 5-Week Coaching Program. This learning experience includes five modules, worksheets, two one-on-ones, and weekly online group coaching to share successes and challenges with other women. You can get all of this now for only $47 (normally a $149 value – I reduced the price during COVID-19 so all women will have access to this program). I also have a free Facebook group called the Inner Pathfinders, where members have access to a supportive community of women, free weekly trainings, and guidance on personal growth. 

From your perspective as a therapist, how has the current pandemic impacted women in general and can you share any advice or words of wisdom?
The novel Coronavirus pandemic has increased fear of the unknown. Many women are experiencing anxiety and do not feel in control. At this moment, it’s important to remember the only control we have is ourselves. It is also important to take some time for yourself and learn to meditate. There are many free apps to help you learn. The one I recommend to clients is a free app called Insight Timer. Another great way to help ease anxiety is to write out your thoughts and emotions about the pandemic. This will help you to release negative feelings and alleviate the heaviness. And lastly, stay connected to friends and family during this time through phone calls, video calls or Zoom calls, or meet at an outside park. Being connected with your loved ones will help you and them to get through this time together. Overall, meet yourself where you are at in this moment. 

To connect with Kathleen or learn more about her services, visit KathleenStark.com.

Kathleen Stark
Kathleen Stark is a licensed social worker in the state of Maryland. She has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from University of Maryland, University College, and is a Master of Social Work from Salisbury University, Maryland. Kathleen combines her years as a Social Worker and a psychotherapist with her experience as a cognitive behavioral therapist. She teaches concrete skills to assist women to own their value and create a positive outcome in their personal and professional lives. Kathleen is the founder and owner of Kathleen Stark, LLC and creator of the Transformation Life and Business online coaching program. Kathleen has 10 years of experience working with women in many capacities: trauma healing specialist, empowerment coaching and cognitive behavioral therapist. As a therapist and life coach, she is passionate about connecting with women and guiding them through their challenges. Kathleen integrates her knowledge of women’s issues and her life experiences to guide them in increasing their overall view of self, to decrease struggles with imposter syndrome and gain a full loving relationship with self.