For this week’s Monday Motivation, we chatted to clinical psychologist, dating and relationships expert, Dr Tony Ortega. We discussed his new self-help book #AreYouHereYet: How to STFU and Show Up For Yourself, the self-help industry and the most important lessons he’s learned about dating and relationships:

How do you like to start your day?

I believe that what we put into our minds and bodies first thing in the morning will set the tone for the rest of the day. Therefore, instead of coffee, I like to start with a cup of room temperature water and freshly squeezed lemon. They say it has amazing health benefits but I do it more as a substitute for a caffeinated beverage. I then go to a corner of my bedroom I have set up for meditation.

My morning meditations consist of something as simple as three minutes of mindful breathing. Other times, I take myself through a series of affirmations and/or visualisations. I connect these with how I want to feel for the day. I then pick a tarot or oracle card and think about how the meaning of the card can apply to a theme for the day. I close off my morning time by reading a thought for the day. This year, I have been using Melodie Beattie’s Journey to the Heart book. Definitely some exercise for at least 45 minutes and that is my complete morning ritual.

What inspired you to write #AreYouHereYet: How to STFU and Show Up For Yourself?

Are you here yet

In my own quest for personal development, I aligned myself with teachers, groups and the such that ended up being utter and complete frauds. They never promoted self-efficacy and sufficiency. It was also about the next product, book, and course being peddled for the next stage of your “transformation.” It was never-ending the barrage of stuff they would shame you to purchase. I had this image of myself whining and complaining about it all and realising I was doing nothing about changing it.

I needed to STFU and show up for myself. This book is all about not needing anything outside of you to make you that amazing person. It affirms this person is already there and we just need to reach in and access them. It has been called “the last self-help book you will ever need” and “a self-help book that actually helps.” There are no tricks after you finish reading it. Nothing else to buy. You are given the tools you need to navigate day-to-day life successfully without having to invest your life savings.

Also, a lot of self-help books are so inaccessible as they are too heady or out there or woo-woo. My book has street-level logic that anyone can access anywhere and anytime. Its tone provides a sense of levity to a subject matter folks take way more seriously than they need to.

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learnt about being a clinical psychologist, dating and relationships expert?

The most important thing I have learned as a clinical psychologist is there is nothing wrong with any of us. The only things we ever have to change are the choices we make. Clients constantly come into my office thinking that they need to be fixed or cured. This is such a poor place to begin therapy. I feel my greatest task is to empower my clients and the first step is in getting to recognise the difference between their behaviours and their essential self.

Behaviours always need some changing. Our essential self is beautiful and does not need any changing. As a dating and relationships expert, the greatest lesson I have learned is being single is not only great but just as valid a relationship status as being in a couple/married. We are bombarded with microaggressions on a daily basis, telling us that a coupled status is the norm and the preferred status. This subtly shames single folks. Yet, divorce rates are almost (if not at or over) 50%. Not great odds if you ask me. Own your beautiful single self AND take the appropriate steps to change that if you wish.

What’s the most common way relationships go wrong and what can people do to prevent this?

Dr Tony Ortega

I feel most people walk (and sometimes run) into relationships completely unaware of their own motivation for doing so. One’s motivation for getting into a relationship is usually a good indicator of success or failure. In my personal and professional experience, most individuals enter into relationships from the perspective of “they complete me.” Well, this means you are walking into a relationship thinking you are half a person. While I am not suggesting one enter a relationship only after having been fully healed of any psychological issues (which is near impossible), I am suggesting knowing yourself well enough to know you are whole and complete without a relationship. Enter into a relationship knowing the relationship adds to your life and rather than completes it.

The other enemy I have seen in relationships (once you are in one) is a lack of communication and check-ins. We hold certain expectations of what our partners should be doing for us, yet, they have no clue as we have not told them about these expectations. Part of being in a relationship is being accountable for one another. We ask something of our partners, they start off strong, then because life happens, they fall off the wagon and we sit in resentment because they are back to their old ways, yet we have not held them accountable. Talk to your partners and check-in with them. We are all humans and because we lead such busy lives, we may not notice when we have fallen off our mindful ways.

Do you have any tips for anyone struggling to get what they want in life?

Stop making everything a struggle. Buddhists have a great way of thinking that adversity is just an aspect of human life. Once we accept this, we may not be so blindsided by it when it does happen (and it will). With the acceptance of adversity beings as much a part of life as the opposite, half the battle is won. We need to remember that we can handle anything that comes our way. Don’t give up just because you are not seeing the outcomes you want.

Sometimes, the results are in the work you are doing not in the outcome you want. Do to be super attached to how an outcome needs to look like, yet have a sense of how you want to feel once you have the desired outcome. This allows for a more aligned behaviour to occur in your day to day life. Lastly, asking for help is not a sign of weakness but strength. We can’t know everything.

Have you read any books or listened to any podcasts that inspired you recently?

Dr Tony Ortega

Three things leapt to mind immediately. “Queer Cosmos” by Colin Bedell made me actually like astrology for the first time in my life. Instead of hearing about astrology by white women or flashy gay adjacent men, Colin delivered the material in a simple manner that was relevant to me as a gay man. Over breakfast, I will listen to something by Gary Vee (Vaynerchuk). This man speaks my language. He gives his audience no-frills, straight to the gut and simple ways to be a success in all avenues of life while emphasising the need to work hard. So different from current life coaches who want to celebrate things like a 2-hour workday.

Lastly, the only podcast I listen to is “Lets Be Omnist” by The Diviner Life. Michael Anthony, the creator of the podcast, provides the listener with such a wealth and depth of interviews related to all aspects of metaphysical/spiritual/higher consciousness themes that you don’t really see/hear anywhere else. Also, the episode “Finding God through Anal sex with Amy Jindra” gave me so much life. Not because of the topic of anal sex but because of how it really spoke to connecting with your body in meaningful ways.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

My first love will always be psychotherapy. This has only grown exponentially since I started my practice catering to the LGBT population. I plan on providing psychotherapeutic services to the LGBT population for as long as I can muster. I hope that my writing career does go to the next level and I am able to do speaking engagements and write more books. I don’t know if I want to write more self-help books but I certainly want to create materials that call out the inauthenticities of the current self-help world and anything having to do with empowering the community at large. Less self-help and maybe more guides to life.

Do you have any advice for anyone wanting to write their own self-help book?

WRITE THE DAMN BOOK. Write a book you want to read. Don’t worry about publishing the book. Don’t worry about anything but writing the book. Do not compare your writing to that of your favourite self-help author. We already have their voice, now we need yours. Set manageable goals on a weekly basis for writing the book, such as 500 words a week. Get one of your friends to be an accountability partner and do regular check-ins. The most powerful advice I can give any writer is to have a good editor. Editors are the backbone of any writing endeavour.