WHAT THE FUNDRAISING
EPISODE 10: Art, Creativity, and Doing Work That Matters with Stephanie Chinn
“Gratitude always helps the bigger picture for me at the end of the day or focusing on something good.”
– STEPHANIE CHINN
In this episode of What the Fundraising Podcast…
I talk to the fabulous American illustrator, body-confidence advocate, and soon-to-be author, Stephanie Chinn. Her art revolves around women’s liberation and empowerment, including reminding ourselves that we are enough. (Check it out! Link in the resources.)
During this conversation, we talk about the limiting stories we tell ourselves, how to decatastrophize situations, and how to give ourselves permission to feel all of our feelings. Plus, we dive deep into money and body taboos and why we need to break the silence around these topics now (especially as women!). Remember, there is nothing that we can’t relate to in other person’s experience if we talk from a place of honesty and vulnerability.
Stephanie’s art and fundraising converge in one fundamental thing: unapologetically talking about taboo topics. Whilst she illustrates primarily around body positivity, I teach on another huge taboo: money.
But it’s time for disruption! Tune into this conversation where we talk about connecting through the human experience and why we need to forget patriarchal narratives to be free and confident, especially as women. The future is now!
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I teach nonprofit fundraisers to bring in more gifts from the RIGHT donors… so they can stop hounding people for money. Fundraising doesn’t have to be uncomfortable.
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A 501(c)3 Animal Rescue in Pasco County, FL, our mission is to protect and advocate for all companion animals in need. We do this through rescue, adoption, and spay and neuter services. Additionally, we hope to build a humane community that promotes compassion and kindness, by controlling the overpopulation of these animals through Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR), community outreach services, pet food bank, and education.
Mallory: Welcome everyone. I am so excited to be here today with Stephanie Chinn. She is an amazing artist and actually the designer and artist behind your favorite mug. I have loved her work and followed her for a really long time, so I’m just thrilled to have you with us today.
Stephanie: Thank you. I’m so excited to be here and to dive into some interesting topics with you.
Mallory: Yes. Thank you. Why don’t we start though with you just telling folks who you are and what you do so they get a little background on your experience?
Stephanie: Yes. I am a full-time illustrator and soon-to-be author, which I’m pretty excited about. I predominantly am in the world of digital arts and I’d say the category of work I’d put myself in changes all the time.
Usually, the kind of work I do is somehow centered around women empowerment, whether it be empowering themselves through liberating their bodies or their own professional careers or their work, or just simply wanting to live a life that they feel belongs to them. I try to curate work that harnesses and creates a safe space for that.
Mallory: Okay. I love that. When you say the word liberate, what does that mean to you?
Stephanie: Visually it is a woman standing in the woods, not wearing any clothing for some reason. And what I mean by that is that the visual comes with the feeling of just stepping into your full self and doing so unapologetically.
Owning who you are and not in the cliche way that we’re all told to do that. But doing it in a way that is just you living your life the way that you want to live your life, no matter how it is being perceived and trusting and living it. That’s like what liberation means for me.
Mallory: I love that. Do you want to tell us a little bit about your story around liberation?
Stephanie: There are different pockets of my life that I can think of where I felt liberated. For me, the ones that stand out the most are when I was 19 years old and I had a stillbirth, I was about seven months.
I wasn’t able to process what I was going through. I was very young. I had these complex feelings that we don’t discuss. I was in my opinion at the time too young to have a kid, but also this was going to happen so I was on this path. There was this push and pull of feelings of not knowing what to feel and not knowing what to do with the feelingsI didn’t know I was feeling.
So at that moment, I chose to… I don’t think the word chose, but addiction was the way that I started to self cope. I went down that path for a couple of years and I’d say the first moment of me really liberating myself was seeing that was the path that I was going down and choosing to pull myself out of that.
And pulling myself out of that can’t just be “I’m just going to stop taking this and I’m just gonna stop. I’m just gonna stop this behavior”. It had to be “What is underneath all of this that I need to uproot and understand that addiction is just, it’s just a symptom of what’s going on?”
So I’d say that was when I really started to integrate, liberating myself and also pulling up all the other narratives that came with that. The narrative that I wasn’t allowed to talk about those hard feelings, that I wasn’t allowed to feel them or be in them or have them be complex. So I really started to pull up all those weeds.
And then that actually is what built my current career, because one of the stories I told myself as a kid or in that time is that I wanted to be an artist, but I can’t do it. I don’t know how, and then all these things. Excuses you believe. And then I started to unpack all of that at the same time.
Mallory: Wow. I just want to say I’m so sorry for your loss and also your vulnerability in sharing that story with us and in different ways, that you share, because I agree that it is the more we talk about topics that we feel like we’re not allowed to talk about, the more we help people see themselves see the opportunity I think, for them to be liberated.
There is so much of this sort of like inner trapping that gets created by these stories that we tell ourselves. Nobody has ever said to me before what you just said around the excuses, but they were things I believed, stories that I believed.
I feel like we speak so negatively about ourselves and we’re like “I’m just making excuses”. And where is that coming from? Is it because it’s rooted in a belief you really hold to be true about yourself? Then just beating yourself up for the excuses you’re making is actually probably just like perpetuating that belief.
Stephanie: Yeah. I think sometimes we forget that if beating ourselves up worked, we would all be totally cured. You have to understand that it doesn’t work. And there are times where you just need to do it, you just need to get up, you just need to move. Excuses, I’ve always viewed them as there’s something underneath them, it’s not just, “I don’t think I can do it”. It’s always deeper than that, it’s like a real belief.
Mallory: Yeah. It’s so interesting because actually, this is why I believe everything relates to fundraising, which I’m sure some people are like rolling their eyes around. But it’s interesting because one of the ways I fell into my work was that I started doing consulting work with fundraisers.
We would set a goal for the next week like “Okay. You’re going to do these things”. And they’d come back the next week and they wouldn’t have done those things. And they were like “I was really busy”, “I had way too many things on my plate”. But I’m coach trained so I’d be like “Tell me about that, what did you do last week?” And it’s “Oh my gosh, you made time for all these other things that actually weren’t on your priority list. So is it really about time?” And the more you unwind those stories, you find the belief that’s sitting underneath it. Sometimes the excuse is related and sometimes it’s not, but it helps protect you from having to explore the bigger story behind it.
Stephanie: Oh, definitely. I definitely relate to that.
Mallory: So tell me about the journey to body positivity because that’s one of the things I love about your art and your illustration is how much you can feel in your work that the women are, I’m not sure if this is the right word, but content or like secure.
I feel like there’s sometimes I see work around women embracing their bodies that I can’t totally relate to in the sense that maybe it feels too disconnected from the challenge of feeling secure in our bodies. And when I look at your illustration, I’m like “There they are”.
Stephanie: I love that. I love that because I know exactly what you mean about how some of the content is…. While I think all of it right now is wonderful, period, because it’s just something that we’ve tapped into, that we’re exploring as a culture now. So you’re going to have people who are so far this way, and so far that way, and people in the middle and everyone will have a different place that is more comfortable and everyone will be in different phases. A couple of years ago, one of the things that I told myself I always wanted to do was I wanted to do a triathlon. So when I was training, I was really pushing my body, not pushing in a harmful way, but like I was saying, “We can do this. We can do this!” “We’re just going to do the only way you can do it, which is practice and do the thing.”
So I practiced and did the thing. And after that, I started to get into a little bit of dysmorphia around it where I was obsessive about fitness and then my food intake, which I had already just as a woman in the 21st century, just obsessed over. Like “Should I eat that? Now I need to work out”
And all of those narratives, so that was already underneath there, and then I put this fitness culture lens through it and it ignited. I was always fixating on my body in some way. Like you have your baseline of thoughts and negative thoughts underneath that are obsessing over all the things.
And I was always somewhere obsessing about my body 24/ 7 in some way. Whether it be, “Oh remember you ate that earlier, so now you have to go to the gym. I know you’re tired, but you need to do it”. And blah, blah, blah, you think it is self-love but actually is self-sabotage, it’s super damaging.
So I started to see some content online exploring these narratives. And then it was the first time I actually questioned what I was taught about my body as a young girl. And once you start to pull the thread, you see “Oh my gosh, there’s this whole thing I’ve been taught”. I considered myself very feminist, even though you can totally still be a feminist and have all of these issues.
But I just couldn’t believe that I didn’t see all of that. So I started to think “There’s no way, there’s no way I’m alone and wanting to just stop doing this”. So I started to explore creating art around the narratives I was telling myself and at first, I was really throwing myself into the, “You have to love your body all the time and love your body and just love her”.
And then I was like, “I say these things, but this doesn’t feel like where I’m at. I don’t love my body all the time and maybe that’s not the goal. Maybe the goal is to just stop fixating on it, period, so that we can just live our lives beyond it. And understand that it’s just there to take care of us and nurture us and carry us into, enjoy the people we love and just to be in a physical realm, but it’s not there for us to obsess over it until we die”.
So that was really where I started to explore it. And then now, getting more into being neutral around how I feel about my body, and there are days I love her and there are days I hear old narratives and just let all those days come and go.
Mallory: Wow. Yeah. I feel like what you’re highlighting is a practice that yoga really taught me, which is around resistance. When we resist the pain or when we resist the posture, we actually create a lot more pain for ourselves. And I feel like it’s an emotional state that I try to remember too, “Okay, if I start to beat myself up about this thing that’s already painful, then that actually is just going to create a lot more pain.”
And I just need to sit here and be like “Yeah. Life is complex. Our beliefs are complex. Our feelings are complex here it is”. And like let it come and wash over me. I spend a lot less time there doing that, even though it feels counterintuitive, and it sounds like that is a kind of a practice you use too.
Stephanie: Definitely. I’m a firm believer in toxic positivity. So I find that when it comes to this from an emotional standpoint if I’m not feeling well telling myself “just feel better”. There is maybe one in a thousand times where I’ll go, “Okay. You know what, maybe I’ll focus on this”. Sometimes gratitude works. Sometimes those things really do help and they help the bigger picture.
Gratitude always helps the bigger picture for me at the end of the day or focusing on something good. Yes, I need to do that but if I’m caught in a moment of feeling an emotion, and I just layer it with the “just be happy” stuff and you just chill out.
I’m not only ignoring the feeling, but I’m also probably ignoring my intuition. I think we forget intuition sometimes shows up in that, “you know what this isn’t right”. And then we go “why don’t I feel good right now? I should feel good right now”. And then we just completely override our intuition. And then we’re like, “Why didn’t I predict that?”
I think our intuition is talking to us all the time and it doesn’t really have a good feeling or a bad feeling. It just is there and lets us know, and then we put some sort of judgment over it that kind of blurs our vision.
Mallory: Totally. Yes, exactly. I think we as humans want to make sense so badly of what we’re experiencing, and so it helps us feel in control to judge it right, to say: “This was a good thing, this was a bad thing. I should do this thing. I should not do that thing.” It makes us feel safer somehow to have that level of clarity.
I’m even processing some of what you said in relation to just a few days ago, I interviewed Dr.Lisa Feldman Barrett who wrote How Emotions Are Made. We talked about just how desperately we as people want predictability and control and that our nervous system… I’m sure I’m saying something incorrect here related to the science, I think she calls it metabolic energy.
It takes more metabolic energy when there’s a certain amount of uncertainty. So we try to avoid that as people because we’re constantly trying to conserve our metabolic energy. Cause we only have so much of it from a biological standpoint.
So what she and I were talking about is how can we, as people, maybe get more comfortable with uncertainty or that’s at least what I’ve been thinking about since that conversation. Not having anxiety, that the feeling in the body, the judgment is that we’re anxious. But the feeling in the body is just a feeling in the body.
So I think what you’re talking about is okay, that feeling can be there. What does it mean? What’s the next question to ask? How do we get curious about it instead of anxiously needing to make sense of it immediately, make a judgment about it and decide our action because of it?
Stephanie: Oh totally, especially with feelings and experiences that are so closely linked to another one like anxiety and nerves because I’m excited. They feel the exact same, there’s no difference. Like me getting ready to blackout cause I’m getting ready to do something totally terrifying, and me having a panic attack, they’re like the same thing.
So yeah. I think that’s totally true. We experience all these different feelings and we see them through the lens that we think we need to see them and feel them. And it just makes it really hard for us to also get past them. Like it almost stays in your body longer because you’re thinking about it and fixating so much.
I went on a camping trip last week. It was my first backpacking trip and it was… Listen, I’ve barely left the house, my body is not as strong as it used to be, which I knew going into that. I was like, “This is going to be hard”. But I didn’t realize how hard it was.
The mosquitoes were bad. I was complaining the whole time. The whole time my partner was trying so hard to, “Oh, look at that over there”. And I’m like, “I don’t care. I don’t care. I don’t care. I just want to get to where we’re going and be done. Pitch our tent, I wanna take a nap.”
The whole time I’m just in this mood and then the last couple of days, I noticed that I was actually giving myself permission to be upset. My grandmother had just passed, so I knew that there was also something deeper going on. I was irritated at the world. I felt very irritated with my life at the moment but also irritated with the physical world and the mosquitoes and the trees.
I’m just irritated by everything. And I gave myself permission to be really irritated and I didn’t have my phone to distract me because I didn’t have a connection. I didn’t have anything to distract me. So I just let myself be in the expression. I didn’t go, “Stephanie, this is the first trip you’ve taken during COVID you should feel happy. You should feel this. You should feel that.”
I just let myself be. And I noticed at the end, I almost had a release that I hadn’t felt in a very long time. I attribute that to me just letting myself feel those feelings. And then letting myself move on at the pace that I wanted to move on. My brain can’t wrap its head around grief, my brain can’t wrap my head around certain experiences that I’m having.
And if I’m just really fixating on naming them and shaming them and just telling myself that I need to be something all the time, something else than what I’m experiencing. It almost tab marks the experience for me to experience it later at a random time, like on a random Tuesday. It just resurfaces.
Yeah, I think there’s so much to learn in that and just like letting ourselves exist.
Mallory: Yes. Yes. A word I just want to click on is permission. Just giving ourselves permission for all of it. The podcast was launching recently and I was feeling really nervous.
And in episode zero, I talked about my life in a way I’ve never done so publicly. And my right-hand woman in my business was like, “Do you want to talk it through?” She was like, “How are you?” And I’m like, “I’m really nervous”. And she was like, “Do you wanna talk it through?” And we got on, and I was like, “I’m not worried about the fact that I’m nervous. I feel like this is a very appropriate emotion to feel right now,”
And I don’t interpret the nervousness like something’s wrong, there’s no judgment. I have given myself full permission to feel scared about this and nervous and all those things.
And so I was like, “I don’t know that there’s something to talk through, I am just sitting in it and I think I’m going to until this is out in the world”. And when I think about what it means to be internally liberated so much of it has to do with the permission I’ve learned to give myself over the years around my feelings, around my desires, around the things I don’t want to do, or be, or show up.
And so I just love the way that you talk about that.
Stephanie: Yeah. Permission is really key and how beautiful is it that you got through it, you’ve experienced it, and then now there’s this beautiful thing on the other side, right? Usually, what’s on the other side of that, are you going to move through it?
This has me nervous because I’m doing something I’ve never done before, and this is scary because it shouldn’t feel scary. It’s going to feel scary when we step into unknown territory and we don’t know what the outcome’s going to be, totally terrifying. Your body has a right to be terrified.
We don’t know, we can’t predict. We don’t know if we can keep you safe while it’s on the other side of this. But I always think about story sharing and art for me. In Big Magic with Elizabeth Gilbert. She talks about how that voice comes in. I forgot the name she has for it, but it comes in and then she just says to it, “You know what, I’m just trying to write a poem. I’m not doing anything, nothing’s happening. It’s okay. We’re just writing something. It’s not a big deal”. I’m just expressing myself.
I always remind myself of that.
Mallory: Yeah. Our bodies misfire in crazy ways, it’s like “Risk. You might die!” And you’re like, “Wait a second. The thing I’m doing… what is really the risk?” And I think this relates to fundraisers in so many ways too, even what you were saying around going into situations where you don’t know the outcome, that’s what they’re experiencing, every time they’re having a meeting with a funder to a certain extent is you don’t know exactly the outcome, and so much fear and anxiety come up.
And to me it’s both, one, you’re allowed to feel these feelings because it feels like something’s at stake here, so you don’t want to shame yourself around feeling those feelings. And how can you focus on doing some of that decatastrophizing thinking that Elizabeth Gilbert talks about, which is: what’s really at stake here? What’s the worst-case scenario? And then sometimes you have to go farther, which is what’s the belief there?
Because sometimes I think the worst-case scenario is that it affirms a belief that we really don’t want to affirm ourselves or we think it does.
Stephanie: Definitely. I think we all have some form of fear or belief that’s rooted in some form of rejection. And I think that when it comes to asking for your needs being met, whether it be on a professional level or whether it be, a personal level, there’s always that fear of will they see me? Will they hear it? How will they respond to it? If they respond this way, are you going to start to think this way about yourself even more?
I think fear of rejection, I know for myself, that’s always the one I have to work through the most. And I think it’s not just telling yourself something as simple as what other people think doesn’t matter because we are human beings and we are going to care what people think.
And that’s just not a realistic way to always think sometimes it is. And the times. Yeah. What do you think about yourself? Because you can care about what other people think and you can care about their opinions and if they are giving you feedback that is constructive, but what do you think?
And if your belief in yourself is low, then all those things are going to impact it so much more. I know for myself at times where my self-belief was low someone’s criticism of my work would spiral me into, “I just shouldn’t make anything, you know what I have to say doesn’t matter”. But when I’m in a state of believing in myself, if someone gives it to me, then it usually doesn’t affect me at all. I’m like, “Okay, that’s fine. That’s okay. You feel that way, but I don’t feel that way”, and move on.
Mallory: This goes back to what you were saying before. The times I get the most triggered when I get hard feedback is when I didn’t listen to my instinct around something. It was when I had that hit and I kinda knew maybe that wasn’t the thing to do, or I thought maybe that wasn’t the email to send, but I should’d myself around it.
And then I get that feedback and it’s what I’m mad about or upset about or triggered around is you didn’t listen to yourself like you knew this and they’re calling you out on something that you knew better. And so it’s interesting the relationship to all these different pieces and just knowing that stuff is going to happen.
I think seeing someone as brave and visible as you talking about, “Yeah. Sometimes things still hurt my feelings”. And yes, we are women who biologically have been responsible for building community to keep societies alive. So of course we care about other people liking us, it’s been a part of our survival mechanism for so long.
So it’s okay. We are going to have those natural inclinations, but how do we build that inner safety and self-belief so that maybe we’re not quite as tender to other people’s feedback?
Stephanie: Yeah. It’s where we’re not like sponges to it. Cause yeah, there’s definitely times. My platform has grown more recently, which is totally beautiful on one hand, and then on the other hand it’s welcoming more weirdness or just the weirdest stuff online. And there are times where I tell myself, I’m grateful I have this platform now because if I had it five years ago, I would not have been able to take these opinions the way I’m taking them now.
So I believe that life gives you things at the right time. Cause again, they would have taken me down because I would have taken them in. I would have internalized them. I would have made them so much more personal. And now after being on the internet for a couple of years, I don’t really totally take anything personally.
There are some times where some people give me feedback where I can tell something that maybe did hurt their feelings and they’re not telling me you shame me, but they’re just like letting me know. And I typically do respond to those. And again, I don’t take it as something to shame myself, but I go, “Okay let’s talk this through. Let’s talk this out. Let me see. I can meet you where you are and talk about it”.
And that’s a very rare occasion when someone who’s been following me for a while disagrees. So there’s a time and place, I think you know who’s maybe just projecting, which the Internet’s just a minefield of projections. Or someone actually coming to you because they want to engage you in a conversation and kind of teach you something.
So that just comes with practice and I think it applies in all fields. I used to work in the music industry and when I first started, I took everyone… I was a woman in the music industry, which is already rare enough, so I already had this feeling of “Okay, there’s only so many seats at the table and I have to act a certain way and conduct myself a certain way”.
So I was more susceptible to taking in feedback that I didn’t feel belonged to me, but I still took it in and internalized it. And then towards the end of my career, I was no longer in that place because I was able to see, these opinions really have nothing to do with me. And they are someone fearing either my success or fearing their own failure, and then I was able to switch it.
So I think when it comes to fundraising, I think it would be the same where it’s at first, you’re probably a total sponge when you’re new to anything. You’re new, you’re excited, you’re scared. You don’t know the outcomes, you can’t really predict what the outcomes of certain conversations will be like you can later on when you’re more into a field.
And you just have to navigate listening to yourself and seeing, does this feedback feel genuine? Does it feel like someone who actually cares about my success? Do I think this person who’s providing this cares about where my success is going to go? That is a really important question that I find myself asking a lot, because sometimes we think, “Well this person seems like they care”. Okay. Seeming like they care is not usually someone who really cares.
Mallory: One of the words that I think I thought maybe before this conversation that described you was bravery, but as we’re talking and actually getting this different feeling. Because you post things and I’m like that’s really brave to talk about or put out there or have that level of vulnerability around. And so I’m curious, is that a word that you feel is a part of your identity or are you like “Actually, I’m just not thinking about that anymore”.
Stephanie: I don’t really think about it anymore. I’d say courage is more of a word to have a relationship with, but at this point, I think what might be perceived as me being brave, isn’t really that brave.
Right now being brave for me means diving more into my business and expanding it. I am a very creative, not organized human being. So right now me being brave it’s me trusting myself to be organized and to tame down some of the chaos in my creative process. So that’s actually been something lately I’ve been doing that is asking a lot of bravery in me.
But as far as sharing my own stories, my own experiences, which I think is what people perceive as brave. I don’t really care how other people perceive my life at this stage because I know in certainty how I perceive my life. So I can’t take in someone else shaming me.
Renee Brown talks about this and I don’t know the specific conversation or how she words exactly, but she always says don’t share something that you haven’t fully processed yourself. And I live by that. I don’t share things if I haven’t fully processed them, because then I am susceptible to taking a zone’s opinions or someone’s feedback that might change my perception in my healing process, which might make my healing process take longer.
So I always think about that. There are certain things you’ll never be fully healed from but have I processed this enough to where I can share it with another human being that I don’t know, cause we don’t know who’s online, and maybe not take it in or then maybe say something really crappy?
Am I going to internalize that? And if the answer is yes, then don’t share it. I am not a believer in pushing yourself to be vulnerable if you are in that space or you’re not ready to share it.
Mallory: I think this is such good advice. And the translation I want to make to fundraisers here, like the application is I think when people have a fundraising meeting where they leave it feeling uncomfortable, like something didn’t feel right, or they’re feeling ashamed for some reason around what the funder said or what the funder asked or something. Sometimes fundraisers swallow it, they never talk about it and they hold onto it for years like me until or sometimes I am more introverted emotionally, and so that tends to be more like I’m an extrovert when it comes to cognitive processing, but emotionally I’m much more introverted.
And then I think there are some people, some fundraisers who would have that experience and immediately go to talk to someone about it before processing it themselves. And so I think your advice is actually really important for those folks who are listening to this right now around giving yourself the space and time to process your own experience until you have been able to formulate the perceptions or beliefs or sort of safety to then go process with other people in a way that feels safe.
Stephanie: Yeah, definitely. And if you’re lucky enough to have someone where you can process those feelings, for me, I will immediately process feelings usually with my partner or my best friend or my mom.
And those are people that I can trust to process things with me. They don’t usually give a lot of feedback especially at this stage, because I share so much and I’m always having a million feelings. So they’re like, “Okay why do you think you feel that way?” I trust that they’ll be like a wall to bounce it for me to just talk to myself and bounce things back and forth or give insight from knowing me.
You have those people and then if you feel safe and it feels right, share it with them and get what they may be able to help you process with it. When it comes to other people or even other people within your same industry, I have found this from the industry I’m in. Sometimes you think that processing this experience with someone who’s in the exact same field you are, will be helpful, but it’s important to remember that they might have a lot of their own perceptions themselves that may jade their opinions or their advice to you. And it’s never ill-intended, but you don’t want to take it with you.
So I firmly believe in just tapping in, listening to yourself, what do you feel after that? What do you actually feel? What ‘s coming up?
Mallory: I love that. One thing I want to make sure we talk about a little bit is the idea of taboo topics and how we as individuals who come at taboo topics from multiple different angles, like our professions, couldn’t be more different. But I think what’s interesting is that, and the reason why I gravitated to you so much, and I wanted you to play a role in What the Fundraising, both as a guest, but also in the design processes is because I felt like I could see my work in your work, even though they’re so different, but there’s this element of disruption.
And I’m curious, on even your beliefs around how we can, or I don’t like the word should, but what are the ways we can approach taboo topics together. And you talked about this a little when we were talking about body positivity, that there are so many different angles to approach the same thing from, and we need all of them. I’m just curious, talk to me a little about your opinion of taboo topics.
Stephanie: I get asked this a lot and it’s always a little bit surprising to me because I was like a little punk rock kid, so I’ve always been like whatever the weirder it is, the more interested I am.
So when it came to my art with taboo topics, I learned that the more specific it is, the more people actually relate to it. When it comes to taboo topics I start talking about masturbation and just like female pleasure. And at first, I was actually very nervous about talking about it. Cause, although it’s all something we think about that pleasure, isn’t really something that we should really always focus on, or really we have a hard time claiming it.
So I knew I was like, I know this is something people are going to relate to. I just knew it, but I was very scared. I had a partnership with Adam and Eve and they were like, “Oh, create art”. And I was like, “Okay”. When I went to post it, I was so nervous. “Am I going to lose all these followers? Are people gonna think I’m a sexual deviant?” Like all these wild narratives going through my mind I was like, “This is taboo”, cause I was talking about self-pleasure. And then I did what I do when I feel nervous. I just do the thing and move on.
And I did, and I got so much feedback and personal messages from people like “I’m so happy you’re talking about this. I want to talk to you more about this.” and people who really relate to it because they don’t see as many people talking about it. So when they do see someone talking about it and this experience that they have, then they’re more inclined to gravitate towards you.
So I learned that okay, these things that we’re all nervous to talk about, we all still can relate to. There’s not a human experience, or a human feeling that someone else is not experiencing or feeling we are not that unique as human beings, not even close.
I really believe if there’s something that you about yourself that you want to share….The other day I did a poll on my Instagram about people who struggle with personal hygiene when they are in states of anxiety or depression, or if they have ADHD. And I had 80% of people said that they experienced that, but they didn’t really talk about it because they felt shame about having a hard time talking themselves into taking a shower when they were depressed. They felt shame around being gross.
And I got just a flood of messages from people who were like, “I relate, I experienced that”. Especially during COVID when we all experienced that I think a little bit of “Should I just wear this outfit for a week or what?”
I was like, here’s another thing that people carry unnecessary shame about. So I think taboo topics…usually there’s some shame that makes the taboo topic hard to discuss. So if you can assist people in naming and understanding that shame and then understand why it doesn’t need to be there, then they’re safe to talk about.
Mallory: Yeah. I love that because it’s interesting. So many of these things are so deeply connected. It’s like women were taught for so long that it was inappropriate for them to talk about money. That it was rude.
Stephanie: Money is such a big one, and that one bothers me the most because of course we should make money! What the heck?!
Especially for me, I really had to work on that at first. So many designers who gave me feedback or even my agent was like, “You need to raise your rates, you need to raise rates!”. And I’m like, “Ooh…” and it was so hard. This is hard because you have some sort of shame out of letting yourself. Cause I did feel like that’s what I deserved, but I didn’t feel like other people would want me for that. So it was another form of fear of rejection.
Money has to be unpacked and it’s so personal because we all also have parents who had different experiences around money. And then we just take both of those and that’s usually our perception of money. So I don’t think there’s one experience of “Oh, just, think happy thoughts or I think good things about money”.
It’s so beneficial, at least for me, to look at things like: Okay, what did my mother think about money? What was her relationship with her? What did my dad think about money? What was his relationship with money? What were narratives I heard about money as a kid growing up? I wrote all of them down and slowly started to look at and unpack them. And then that is when you, for what I believe in a woo woo standpoint you invite money to just come in which in my experience once I was like, “You know what? I don’t want to have shame around finances, around making money so I want to unpack these”.
Money shouldn’t be taboo at all! We should all be talking about money.
Mallory: Exactly, and what’s so interesting about fundraising, is that 75% of the nonprofit sector are women and fundraising is all about money.
Here’s this topic that’s wildly uncomfortable to talk about that they’re being tasked with talking about, and not allowed to talk about how uncomfortable it is cause they should just be good fundraisers and this should be easy. And of course this isn’t going to be easy. It is really complicated.
And one of the things that have been really helpful for me in my money journey and something I do with my clients a lot is looking at how you’re spending money because if you are having a lot of anxiety around spending money…. I like to tell this to fundraisers and I don’t think they like to hear it, but I’m like, “You need to look at how you feel about spending money because that is actually directly linked to how you’re feeling about fundraising”.They are the same set of beliefs.
Like when you talk about inviting money for me, it was actually all about spending. I didn’t do that same work, which now I really want to do around my family, but when I started to really look at how I spend money, how do I justify spending money? What comes up for me? Do I deserve to spend this money on myself? Particularly looking at the things for me, it was so eye-opening.
And once I could change those perceptions and beliefs and behaviors, it was the other side of it, inviting money in.
Stephanie: Yeah, it is wild how it works. Like “Oh! All I needed to do was clean up my own stuff”. Isn’t that life?
Mallory: I know. I know. Yeah. And I love it, but I feel like there are so many industries built on “The answer isn’t inside. It’s over here. It’s with this pale, it’s with this service, it’s with this product”, instead of just saying actually the answer to that is in you, and yes, maybe you need help uncovering that, but it doesn’t live somewhere else. It lives in you.
Stephanie: Yeah. Yeah, there are certain things you just can’t teach. Like even a self-help book. You can read them into the ground, but if you’re not practicing it and if the baseline of all of it, period, isn’t listening to yourself….Every self-help book, that’s in all of them right there: Listen to yourself!
Are you focused on harnessing and really creating that relationship? So the voice gets louder and you trust it more because the voice will get louder. It’s almost like it hears you. “Okay. She’s fine, she’s listening to me and participating in this life”. So then it starts to get louder and it starts to get easier to identify as well.
Mallory: I love that. And I think what is so clear about when you’re listening to yourself is that you’re speaking from that place also. And I also think that’s why I’ve really gravitated to you and to your work, because you can sense that.
There’s someone else who’s coming on, Jamar Diggs and he’s a YouTube expert, and the thing I said to him at the beginning of the interview is like “Listening to you, talk about what you do I’m just like he is in his element”. This is his truth, he has found himself and he’s speaking directly from that place. So I think that’s the thing, as that voice gets louder inside you harness that for that external visibility that you need or want maybe.
And everyone’s hearing the same thing and you’re able to express yourself from that place and whatever form that takes. Maybe it’s through your voice, maybe it’s through your art, and I love that.
Okay. So two things just to help us wrap up, cause I know we could talk about this forever, but one is how can people find you? I don’t know if you want to drop any teasers around the book, but where should people go and how can they engage with your work?
Stephanie: You can find me on Instagram @stephaniechinnart. I live on Instagram, so that’s where I am. I had my first book coming out on September 21st through St. Martin’s Press, I’m pretty excited. Pretty nervous.
Mallory: Congratulations. Yeah. Awesome. And we’ll put links to everything down below as well. And then in the interest of supporting the non-profit sector, I invite all the guests to share a nonprofit that’s personally meaningful for them. So I’d love to give you that opportunity, and then for folks who are listening, go check it out, give if they can and feel inspired.
But what nonprofit means a lot to you?
Stephanie: Right now I have a friend in Florida who has a nonprofit called The Runaway Animals and she just built her own shelter. I am so proud of her, I did the logo for it.
She’s someone that I am so proud of all the work that she’s doing. And I posted about it a couple of times in my stories. So if you might follow me, you might be able to see the actual non-profit, but yeah, that’s when I definitely want to give a shout out to.
Mallory: Cool and I will make sure that link is below.We’ll do a highlight on the page with this podcast and share their work with everyone as well.
So thank you, everyone. Go check them out, The Runaway Shelter. Awesome! And thank you so much, Stephanie, for your time today, for having this conversation. I feel like everything we talked about is such a huge part of the daily lived experience of everyone, but I’m excited for fundraisers to hear this with their fundraising hat on.Stephanie: Thank you for having me. It was awesome!
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