373 Rosie Aiello: Love is Kind Day
What does it mean to love … and be loved? And how to manifest a love that is kind, a love that lifts you up … because the tragedy is … so many talented and empathetic women end up in abusive relationships with narcissistic men who gaslight them, destroy their confidence and worse.
I’m Melinda Wittstock and today on Wings of Inspired Business we meet an inspiring entrepreneur who had to stage an international escape with her daughter after 25 years of domestic abuse at the hands of her narcissist husband.
Rosie Aiello now helps women heal and regain their voice and confidence, so they rebuild their lives. She says true love is kind, never hurtful, and that’s why this
Saturday, on the 8th anniversary of her escape, she is asking all of us to share a photo of ourselves on social media with the hashtag #loveiskind.
Rosie created the National Love is Kind Day on July 27th every year and her mission is to empower 100 million women to attract kindness into their lives … by being kind to themselves.
Rosie Aiello will be here in a moment
And I can’t wait to hear Rosie’s new podcast – I’m helping her leverage her story and her learning towards her goal of helping 100 million women be loved … with kindness.
Now back to the inspiring Rosie Aiello.
Eight years ago Rosie was an emotional wreck. She had been demeaned, disrespected and physically abused by her former husband – and began on the road to recovery. Now she’s a best-selling author, entrepreneur and speaker, and she works with women who are stuck in fear, suffering and limitation so they can regain their confidence, purpose and voice.
Rosie’s story resonates so deeply with me because I too forgot my own value in a marriage to a narcissist who made it his business to keep me isolated, in shame, gas lit and demeaned. It was verbal abuse, and as strong and resilient as I was, building successful businesses at the time, it had a shattering impact on my self worth, my health and my happiness. It’s been a long road back – and now I can look back with gratitude in understanding that the circumstance I found myself in … was the catalyst that helped me heal old and buried wounds from childhood.
It came to understand that we attract into our lives what is familiar, and if we are unable to find ways to be kind to ourselves, it is unlikely we’ll attract kindness into our lives.
This is why I am so inspired to share this interview with you today with Rosie Aiello – and why I invite you this Saturday to participate in National Love is Kind Day.
Ready for Rosie Aiello? Let’s fly.
Melinda Wittstock: Rosie, welcome to Wings.
Rosie Aiello: Thank you so much. I just love being with you, Melinda.
Melinda Wittstock: Likewise. This, of course, is the second time we've done this because you were one of my earlier guests when I first launched Wings.
Rosie Aiello: I feel so honored. First I was there in the beginning and I'm here now. Being with you, it doesn't seem like you just started. This is obviously not your first rodeo. You're just so fantastic in everything you do.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh my goodness. Thank you. That makes me feel really good. I feel like you're being very kind to me.
Rosie Aiello: I'm glad you say that. This is not fake. Obviously, I'm not trying to be overly kind, but this is I think something that's lacking in our humanity these days. I think its also lacking being kind to ourselves.
Melinda Wittstock: Gosh, it's really true. I was going to start really by asking you what inspired you to create a special day around this, National Love is Kind Day. We surely need that. It's on the 27th of July. Tell us about Love is Kind Day.
Rosie Aiello: My daughter and I had talked about it and I created the day because when I was married, I didn't feel there was any kindness in the marriage. I was just really needing for somebody to be kind to me. I wanted kindness in the relationship, and it really became my highest value, really over love, which made me feel like, “How do you do that?” But to me, you can be love and cruel at the same time, like, “Oh, I just have to hit you because I love you, so you can just stop doing that.” But you cannot be kind and cruel at the moment. It's impossible.
I wanted people to focus on kindness. It's a day to celebrate… for me, as I was thinking, okay, this is a day to celebrate my independence from domestic violence. July 27th is the day that my daughter actually and I arrived in the United States and were successful in the escape. It was July 27th, and we celebrate that every year as our independence day. So I thought, well, let's celebrate that every year as our independence day. I thought, well, let's have that be the day everybody who's escaped or freed themselves from abuse to celebrate that day as their freedom and independence day. And of course just to support people who are still wanting to get their freedom, and to recognize that we all deserve to be treated with kindness, because love is kind. It's not belittling or controlling or dehumanizing or fearful or demeaning, and definitely not terrorizing.
That's how it all came about, these true beliefs that… it's love is kind, not terrorizing. That's really the whole term. That's really the whole belief, and let's focus on… I believe that when somebody is treated with kindness, like when you're treated with kindness, we will do more for the other person. I don't need to be put down to do something that somebody else wants. Be kind to me and you have me. I want to create a kinder family, kinder relationships, kinder community, and a kinder world. It's a win-win for everybody.
Melinda Wittstock: Rosie, this is so important. I see so many women being in love relationships or what they perceive to be love, and yet they are not being treated with kindness. In fact, they're not even treating themselves with kindness. What's the root of that, and why is it so difficult for women to be kind to be kind to themselves first off?
Rosie Aiello: I think society has just molded us into thinking that we just give and we give, and we put ourselves at the bottom of the list. I really firmly believe that being kind to yourself is the foundation for empowerment, because how I define it, when you're kind to yourself, you're setting healthy boundaries. You're asking constantly for what you want, meaning you're using your voice.
When you are in any kind of an abusive relationship, your voice has been stripped away. Your agency, who you are, just gets diminished and you become just a shell of who you need to be. Being kind to yourself also is doing really good self care. When I was married, if I went to the gym, I would be so guilted for leaving him. How could you abandon me? Yet if I didn't go to the gym, well, I have this expensive gym membership. So I was like, no matter what, I couldn't do the right thing.
If we don't really start paying attention of how to treat ourselves kindly, and taking care of ourselves so we can be stronger to take care of others, and that we have the right to receive kindness… when I work with my clients, it's like they have this deer in the headlights look on their face, like, “Really? I can be treated with kindness? That's something?” It was like it didn't even dawn on them because we're so busy doing and proving we are, that we can't even receive what we really deserve to receive, which is kindness and respect, and of course, love. True love.
Melinda Wittstock: As you know, I work with a lot of really high-performing entrepreneurs, female entrepreneurs, many with very successful businesses. Many of us have had these relationships with abusive, either verbally or physically, narcissistic often, men who… I don't know what it is. I mean, we're all very successful and yet have attracted into our lives, at one point or another, this kind of toxicity. I'm curious what that dynamic is. I mean, what I've come to understand is a lot of really successful women have a great degree of empathy, and as you say, we're doers and we're pleasers, right? So there's a certain type of energy that's attracted to exploiting that.
I've actually come to see it as a thing, a pattern that very successful women can actually fall into. Then it's a total thing that messes with your head, because you think, God, well, how could I be in this situation? How did I even get myself into this?
Rosie Aiello: Yeah. This is such a big thing with women, again successful, but all women. Abuse has no boundaries, whether you went to Harvard or you didn't even go to college, what your economic background is, whatever your success level is. I know it's harder, the more successful you are, it's like, “Oh, I should have known. I should have just…” But you don't realize that these people don't come across as your everyday person. They're very clever.
A narcissist by definition is so into himself that they can be very charming. Who wouldn't like somebody who's charming? Who wouldn't like somebody who puts some attention on you, who takes you to nice places and says you're all great? He builds you up and then crushes you. So you're not expecting to be crushed. So we blame ourselves, and then the blame goes into shame, and the shame keeps us quiet. That's what they want. They want us to keep quiet.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh gosh. I lived this. I lived this in my own marriage, and it happened so gradually. I talk about it being like the proverbial lobster that gets into the pan and the water's cold. Feels like the sea. Everything's fine and normal. A little constrained maybe in the pan, but not uncomfortable. Then water heats up so gradually, so slowly, that you literally don't realize you're in hot water until it's too late. By that time, your confidence has been so eroded. Do you think there's something inherently in us, though, that is, I don't know, that opens the door to that? Because I don't think we're victims. I think that often…
I mean, we can have bad stuff happen to us. We're victimized. But is it something somewhere, in our lives, maybe from childhood, maybe some sort of pattern somewhere, some sort of belief that opens to the door to this? I know this is kind of a controversial question, but needs to be asked.
Rosie Aiello: It kind of depends. But I think there always is that element. If I look back, hindsight's great, what could I have done differently? We said a word that was really important before, and that's empathy. I think the common pattern is we have a high level of empathy and compassion, compassion of others, not so much for ourselves. We're high achievers so we aim to please to the degree that we can achieve it, right, we achieve.
My former husband, we would set a goal, we'll do this. Then as soon as you get to the goal, they move the goal. And it's like, “Damn.” I can do [inaudible [spp-timestamp time="00:11:45"] really well. I want to get to this goal. I can do this. That's the mindset I had. So they kind of feed into that and they just keep moving the goal. Of course, they putting you down. That's not what I asked. It's like, “Well, I'm pretty sure you did because that's-
Melinda Wittstock: It's gas-lighting.
Rosie Aiello: Gas-lighting. Exactly.
Melinda Wittstock: It's gas-lighting.
Rosie Aiello: They're playing with your mind. Now, I want to tell women here, and everybody who's listening, this is really important to understand is that your mind literally is being rewired, because now your prefrontal cortex is what controls your executive thinking, your planning, everything else. Well, that gets so burnt out because you're now firing off on a regular basis on the back of your head, the amygdala, is constantly going off because now you're always on defense. You're always on alert. You're always wondering when's he going to blow? When's he going to attack? When is he going to scream? Whatever it is. So you get in the hyper alert status, so that's all those chemicals. I'm not going to go into detail. But I want people to know, they're not crazy.
So many women say, “Am I crazy?” No, you're not crazy. But things have actually happened to you that you can't make the decisions, and that's why it's hard for women to get out as well. Again, I could go on and on about this, but this is so important. I don't want women to think it's your fault, you're going crazy, or you should have known. You cannot know these things because they often turn right after, like the day after marriage, for example, is often a very common time. It's like now they've got you, then everything starts to shift.
Melinda Wittstock: Rosie, when I hear you speak and you share your story and there are so many patterns that are exactly like what I went through. I had an epiphany a while back through my healing process where I realized that I'd actually married the worst aspects of my own parents, that there was this, at least subconscious pattern. It wasn't that it was good for me, but it was familiar.
Rosie Aiello: Yeah. Okay. Couple things coming up to here. How do women get into it? Again, I've gone through lots of healing and awareness, and this is now of course what I work with women on, one of the things I work with women on, is really knowing who you are and what you stand for.
My father was a very kind man. Very kind. I learned kindness from him. But I also noticed, and I loved him dearly, just such a wonderful man. I loved him dearly. But I noticed that I didn't ever really hear him speak up for himself, and I think that, for me, was like I could be kind, then so I just take it and take it. But I didn't learn to speak up for myself.
Speaking up for yourself is really setting your boundaries. Setting boundaries is not creating a wall. Setting boundaries is teaching others how you like to be treated. If someone says something insulting to you the first time, you say, “I don't like what you've said to me. That was not kind.” If they keep doing it, then they've developed a pattern, and that's the time to leave. These are all kinds of red flags.
Women have learned, I think, not to speak up. They don't have calmness, oh, I want to be liked. Okay. Our society keeps feeding us… You talked about being a people pleaser. Oh, we have to be nice. We have to be kind. We have to do what they want, all this lose you, and all this little stuff. Where did we go? Where did we go? We're living for other people and not ourselves. We forgot who we are. In fact, sometimes we don't even know who we are, and the pattern just keeps getting fed by family, by religion, by society, by the media. All these message go in on a subliminal level, and so we don't even know, half the time, that we are taking on these beliefs that are destroying us and allowing us to get into these situations.
Melinda Wittstock: Yes. It's true. I think some of us as women, and this just shows up in business all the time, where we just don't value ourselves. We put ourselves last. We end up being human doings, running around pleasing everybody else, whether it's clients and customers or vendors or partners, friends, family, our kids, everybody else, and not taking time for ourselves, not taking time for our own self care, not being kind to ourselves. What are some of the ways on National Love Is Kind Day that we can be kind to ourselves?
Rosie Aiello: I call it honoring yourself, because when you start to honor yourself, then it doesn't… because again we have this… start to feel guilty for being kind to ourselves, or doing nice things for ourselves, or self care. I mean, I was so filled with guilt, and I want women first of all to say, “Hey, I deserve to be treated with kindness, and that starts with being kind to myself.” That can look like, in so many ways… the first one is know your values. Maybe this sounds like, oh, that doesn't seem very [inaudible [spp-timestamp time="00:17:39"]. But this is the cornerstone, and a lot of people don't even know that, and setting those healthy boundaries, knowing what a healthy relationship looks like.
You talked about that before. What are the healthy characteristics? Learn about that, and taking time for yourself like doing mini little retreat with a detox bath, something that you can do. Taking 10 minutes a day or taking 10 minutes a week for heaven's sakes if you're so busy, that says, “This is all about me.” Maybe journaling, connecting with another human being, another girlfriend face to face and saying, “You know what? I want to just be more present. Can you help me?” And that leads to another thing, is asking for what you want.
This seems to be so difficult for women. We chatted about it before. It's just women have difficulty asking, and that is like the… if you can do that, you've got self kindness, being kind to yourself down, just asking for what you want. That's been a journey for me. I'm in a really loving, kind, caring, respectful relationship now, and we were just talking because we're used to what is comfortable. Being comfortable doesn't mean it's necessarily good. Even if something is good, it doesn't mean that you're comfortable with it.
Being treated with kindness was not something I really knew, right? I gave kindness, but not being treated with kindness after 25 years, so I had to really relearn how to receive kindness. When my guy was kind to me in the beginning, I was like, “What are you doing?” My brain didn't recognize it as something it knew. So with each time I ask something and he didn't yell at me, and he didn't have a fit, and he didn't stomp off, and he didn't threaten, I go, “Oh, well, this is working.” So with every little ask, every time, I felt safe, I would ask more and ask more.
Focus on a small ask. Ask them to give you a back rub, or ask them to take you to your favorite place for dinner. It's like, “Well, I can't do that? How can I dare ask?” Well, would you like to go to that restaurant? Well, yeah. Well, then ask for it, and you'd be so surprised.
I had a client. She was so cute. It was a young, married woman. She had a baby, and she just wanted to go out with her husband on a date. But she says, “Oh, he's so busy and I don't want to bother him.” See, that's what we think, right? We don't want to bother. I gave her the strategy of how to ask him, and she comes here, she goes, “Oh my God. He loved it. He said yes, of course he'd have time, and it was just the best date ever. And now we're going to do it all the time.” We make judgments about the other person's response, based on our own past bad experiences.
Melinda Wittstock: Right. And I see women doing this in business all the time too, like not even sending an invoice, not asking to be paid, not asking for the sale, not asking, not asking, not asking.
Rosie Aiello: Yes, and that's why, start with this small ask, because if you can't ask your significant other or somebody or even for your self care… I want to ask 10 minutes of my own time for me, if you can't even deliver that, how can you ask for the bigger things for the sale? How can you ask for somebody to pay you $2,000 when you can't even ask the waiter at the restaurant to take back your food and get it prepared correctly, because you feel too guilty because you don't want to hurt their feelings, right?
Melinda Wittstock: Well, this is the impasse to number two because we're so tuned in to everybody else that we can neglect ourselves, and so much to the point of not even knowing that there are feelings. I've met so many women who don't actually know what they want, don't know what they can ask for. I mean, it's like you say. It's the way that we've been brought up. What are some of the ways, Rosie, to really move on from this? Say, for instance, for someone listening who has been or is in a relationship like this right now or has been in one… I know from my experience, it's quite a journey of healing after. You have to put yourself back together in a new way, and there's a lot of layers and layers and layers of the healing, and there are different phases of that healing as well, what were some of the things that you did that were the most transformational in really getting yourself back?
Rosie Aiello: I am a doer, so I think I got into action right away. After I arrived in the United States, there was no plan B. There was only plan A, the escape was going to be successful. So when I land, it's like, “Okay, now what am I going to do with my life?” Through different trainings and workshops and things like that, I decided I would become an entrepreneur. I went into it 100%, and walked and fell, and did 20 million mistakes and continue to do those today. But they're just new mistakes, not old ones. But I really got into action of moving my life forward.
I'm very much of a person who wants to move forward and not focus… dealing with the trauma, which I'll talk about in a minute. But it's like I have my life to live. I want women to understand, this is your one life to live. You want to make it great, and you can make it great, and to keep moving forward and not to keep rehashing the past.
Now, I did a lot of trauma work. I had severe PTSD and depression that I had to deal with. I did see a therapist and I've done many modalities for me personally from a therapeutic point of view. EMDR, was the most successful. It's one of the highly rated evidence-based therapies to rid trauma, deep trauma, because I lived in it for 25 years. Talk about a brain rewire, the beliefs that I didn't realize that I was just accepting. I was accepting and I didn't have that reality.
Getting into action, getting connected with people. The worst thing, I was isolated and my thing with my group, it's like I don't want any woman to be alone, because we make the stories up even worse. So don't be alone. Get into a community. Get support, even if it's just a couple of friends. But don't be alone. There's always a way out. Even the dark days, keep moving forward. Keep getting engaged.
I told my daughter. I go, sometimes I was crawling figuratively on the ground just trying to take the next move forward, and it was very difficult. I'm not going to paint a rosy picture, no pun intended with my name here, when it wasn't. I worked hard, really hard. I suffered a lot. But let me tell you, there is nothing like the freedom of your own soul. Looking out, I can look out that window and know I'm free, free to spend my time the way I want, to have this conversation with you, to share with others.
I would have never guessed in a million years, I'd be having this conversation. 10 years ago, I was still back there. 10 years ago. How could I conceive of my life now, with a business and communicating with millions of people around the world? I'm making my effort to make a difference in the world, helping other clients, now in fantastic relationship. You don't know that people focus on the past to decide their future, and that's a big mistake.
Melinda Wittstock: Right. You know what is amazing to me? I was giving a speech not so long ago, and only but one minute of an hour long speech mentioned my own experience with this, and transformation. My God, I had almost every woman in the audience come up to me. They had all had a similar experience. I began to realize, and recently as I have been brave enough or braver to actually talk about my own journey, how many women have had something like this in their lives. I didn't realize. I had no idea how prevalent actually it is. It's almost on the level of a Me Too Movement in fact.
Rosie Aiello: Yes. Yes. It definitely is. I was doing some research the other day, and I Googled I think California domestic violence organizations, and 60 million sites came up. No, 40 million sites came up.
Melinda Wittstock: 40 million?
Rosie Aiello: Then I Googled national domestic violence organizations, 60 million came up. Then I Googled international, and it was like 92 million, and I thought, all the energy, all these organizations helping women. Now, of course, there are probably some duplications there, but all this energy to help women who are in these abusive, harmful situations.
The other point I want to make that's so important is that this is a cycle that keeps continuing and we need to break the cycle because our children are observing and seeing this. And unless we break the cycle, and woman breaks the cycle of abuse, which is not easy to do, but when she breaks that cycle, she's now creating the path for kindness, to say, “No, I won't accept this any more. I deserve to be treated with kindness, and you threatening me, you hitting me, you belittling me, you treating me like a child in front of my child, that is not okay.” That's when a woman needs to stand up and speak up. She needs to feel safe. I'm not saying it's easy, but those are the voices that we need to hear. You and me, who have our voices now, we need to speak for those who don't have it.
Melinda Wittstock: I absolutely agree. For a long time, I realized that I was sticking in this situation, and it wasn't physical for me. It was emotional and devastating, just with that.
Rosie Aiello: Absolutely.
Melinda Wittstock: I remember consciously staying and thinking I had to tolerate it for my kids. But the moment when I thought, wait a minute, no, I'm actually teaching them all the wrong lessons, because kids learn from what you do, not what you say. And I wanted a daughter who didn't have this pattern, who didn't repeat the pattern. I wanted my son not to have that kind of a role model. I decided that, oh, I have to be the change that I want to see, so I have to leave.
The thing that was the most powerful for me, and I think EMDR, by the way, is a great way to go, was a gratitude practice, where every day for like an hour a day, I would just go deep into finding things that I was grateful for, whole series of different things. But I've arrived at a point now where I realize that, wow, this wasn't done to me; It was done for me, because as you say, it was the catalyst that allowed, in my case, the ability to heal all the old stuff that even led me into that situation to begin with.
Rosie Aiello: Yeah. For somebody who's in it now, this might be difficult words to hear, just like, “What is she talking about?” You have to go through the healing process, and I would not wish this upon anybody. I would not want to redo my life, but because I have lived it, instead of keep looking at the past and what was done to me and woe is me and everything I lost, that gets me nowhere. I'm here. I get to create my life. Oh my God. I get to freaking create my life, and meeting great people like you and sharing this. That's the difference, is not… now you can be the leader in your own life. Even if you're the leader of your children, being an example of your children, God bless you. That's beautiful.
I know some of you may be listening and you don't have your children. Your children may have been turned away from you. I hear these stories all the time, and my heart goes out to you. What I want to say is, still be that person moving forward. Live your life. Your children will see that you are a strong woman, and you follow your beliefs, your values, and just keep going.
Melinda Wittstock: How beautiful. So, Rosie, on National Love is Kind Day, how can we all make our voices heard?
Rosie Aiello: This is great because we really want to create this movement that love is kind and not cruel, to give voices to others, and to really spread that we deserve and can be kind to others and to ourselves. Just simply take a selfie and post it. I invite you to go to the closed Facebook group, the Love is Kind Movement, but just put a photo of yourself, and on your page even, and just hashtag Love is Kind and maybe even add a little note of how you're going to be kind to yourself that day or the next day. Maybe it's like, okay, I'm going to start thinking about healthy boundaries. That would be pretty cool.
Melinda Wittstock: That's awesome. Okay. Again, to repeat, everyone's got this. A selfie of yourself, the hashtag Love is Kind. You can join Rosie's Facebook group as well, but also just post this everywhere, right? All over Instagram, Twitter, wherever.
Rosie Aiello: And share it with your friends. Say, “Hey, I'm a part of this. Let's share the kindness. Let's make this a kinder world,” and it starts by being kind to yourself.
Melinda Wittstock: I love it. I think there's so many things we can do between this National Love is Kind Day and in the year ahead, Rosie. I think you're building a movement. What is your wildest dreams for what transpires as a result of this great work you're doing?
Rosie Aiello: Okay. Here are my dreams, and I've had this vision. I want to reach 100 million women. I want to help 100 million women so they can be freed of the shackles of abuse. I want to have Love is Kind matches all over the world. On the 27th of July, this is going to be the day of independence and freedom from power and domination, and for kindness, an international day recognized, and that there are Love is Kind institutes worldwide. Okay.
Melinda Wittstock: I love it. Okay, so 100 million. I think that's absolutely doable and possible, and I want everybody listening to this podcast to just take a minute. It's only going to take you a couple seconds. Take a photo. Everybody takes selfies of themselves all the time. Use an old one, whatever. Just post it with the Love is Kind hashtag. I think it's really, really important that we're all heard and we help women at whatever stage they're in, and we help them avoid it, we help them if they're in it, we help them recover from it and go on and really be the valuable, wonderful woman inside, where love really begins with how we treat ourselves.
Rosie, I just want to thank you so much for taking the time to put on your wings and fly with us today.
Rosie Aiello: I love flying with you, Melinda.
Melinda Wittstock: One more time, how can people find you? What's the Facebook URL again?
Rosie Aiello: It's Facebook.com/groups/theloveiskindmovement. So just search under Facebook, The Love is Kind Movement and it will pop up.
Melinda Wittstock: Fantastic. Well, we'll have all of that in the show notes, and thank you so much, again, for all your great work, Rosie.
Rosie Aiello: Thank you for having me.