Courtney Carver: “Feeling Guilty for Taking Care of Yourself Is Not Taking Care of Yourself.”

Portrait of Courtney Carver

Courtney Carver founded the popular blog Be More with Less as well as the minimalist fashion challenge Project 333.  As she explains, “In 2006, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. While it doesn’t define me or this blog, it has had a huge impact on my life. Sometimes I share the lessons a life changing diagnosis delivers. I created Be More with Less and minimalist fashion challenge Project 333 in 2010. The past few years have been an incredible journey of love, health, and simplicity.”

Because people were so intrigued by Project 333, she decided to write an entire book about it, and it just hit the shelves: Project 333: The Minimalist Fashion Challenge That Proves Less Really is So Much More.

I couldn’t wait to talk to Courtney about habits, happiness, and outer order.

Gretchen: What’s a simple activity or habit that consistently makes you happier, healthier, more productive, or more creative?

Courtney: I started practicing Transcendental Meditation a year ago and that has helped immensely. I used to practice other types of meditation, but TM works in a way that I’ve never experienced before. It’s a really simple practice that is taught 1:1. Once you’ve learned how to do it, you practice twice a day for 20 minutes. I used to think 10 minutes was a long time to sit still but each 20 minute TM practice feels effortless. I don’t think there is one right way to meditate for everyone but creating some time for stillness every day is something we can all benefit from.

What’s something you know now about happiness that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?

I didn’t know that happiness comes from the inside, not the outside! I thought other people had to make me happy or that buying something new would make me happy. And I thought if I achieved certain milestones I’d be happy. I’m glad to know now that happiness isn’t waiting for me, it’s within me.

What has surprised or intrigued you—or your readers—most?

Minimalist fashion challenge Project 333! When I started the challenge, I think we all assumed it was about decluttering clothes and closets. Once I finished the challenge, I realized it was about so much more. Then I started hearing from others who had tried it. Everyone was telling me about how their mornings had improved, that they felt more creative, productive and confident. Some people even reported feeling less anxiety or depression as a result of the challenge. It’s been almost ten years since the challenge started and it’s still the thing people are most curious about.

Would you describe yourself as an Upholder, a Questioner, a Rebel, or an Obliger?

I assumed I was an Upholder, but after deeper questioning, it turns out I’m a Questioner.

Does anything tend to interfere with your ability to keep your healthy habits or your happiness? (e.g. travel, parties, email)

Sugar! It really bothers me AND I love sweet treats. I stopped drinking alcohol a little over a year ago and am working on quitting sugar (again) now.

Is there a particular motto or saying that you’ve found very helpful?

Prioritizing our wellbeing and taking care of ourselves should feel natural but for many of us, it’s usually laced with guilt. It’s almost as if feeling guilt for feeling good is built in to us. I used to feel that way especially when I started taking more time for myself after being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2006. Now, when guilty feelings pop up, I remind myself, Feeling guilty for taking care of yourself is not taking care of yourself.

Has a book ever changed your life—if so, which one and why?

Reading Byron Katie’s Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life has changed my approach to life. Instead of believing everything I think, I take time to question whether my thoughts are true at all. As it turns out I have quite an imagination. Pausing to realize that I don’t have to hold on to every thought has helped me under react to situations, and to be happier.

More on Courtney Carver



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