Image: Grace Dlabik.
The relationship we have with ourselves is so important, but it can also be one of the hardest to build and maintain. We’re constantly seeing pictures of perfect lives and perfect skin and perfect hair—we get lost in the comparisons and forget about what’s really important. Recognising that so many young people feel anxious, disconnected and insecure (and that society was doing little to help), Grace Dlabik founded BE. Collective Culture—a social enterprise that hosts talks, workshops, a magazine and a soon-to-be-launched fashion label.
BE. is a space to share ideas, expertise and experiences with some of the most revered and aspirational young people around the globe. Through BE., Grace’s empowers us to explore our relationship with culture, identity, belonging and passion, as well as build valuable life skills. Now BE. is going deep and talking about self-love. We caught up with Grace to find out why BE. is so important and how she practices self-love in her every day.
Why did you start BE.?
My whole thing is to manipulate people [laughs]. My goal is to make them be still, to make them come together, to make them open up. BE. is a space for us to share, start the healing process and to be prompted into different ways of thinking—where we have the opportunity to make up our own fucking mind about things. We’re hearing each other’s stories.
I wanted to use my 20 years’ experience in pop culture and fashion and fuse it with my passion for community, activism and personal development. I wanted to plant the seeds of how to live a better, fuller, happier and more authentic life. Because those seeds haven’t been planted. Our education system doesn’t plant them. Society doesn’t plant them. But they’re the most fundamental things in our lives if we want to operate as a human being. How to feel things. How to be emotionally intelligent. How to have empathy, compassion, awareness; how to evolve as a human being.
The only reason we have so much shit going on with ourselves—with society—is because we’ve never learnt how to do those things for ourselves. So, in essence, BE. is about giving hope and opportunity to grow.
The next talk is on self-love. When did you realise that self-love was so important to you?
It’s been a long process, but ultimately it was survival. My son was born with his cord around his neck six times with a true knot. That’s what happened. He had no oxygen and blood to his brain.
So it was survival. If I didn’t go into that world of caring for myself, I would have been swallowed up in that whole experience. There’s no way I would have survived, like no way. With how much responsibility there is? The isolation around it? Nobody else around me experienced that. Other people were having children, but they were talking about milestones like crawling, walking, talking, feeding, going to school. I couldn’t relate to that at all. I was really isolated in my experiences as a mother. I was trying really hard to do everything, but I was really worn out. I was forgetting about myself. I didn’t feel peace in my life.
I learned the importance of permitting myself to feel the things I feel but not dwell in those feelings. Instead I try not to judge them, but evaluate them from a higher perspective. What are these experiences and how can I see them differently—because ultimately everything we feel is our perception. So I make a very deliberate and conscious effort to choose the best way to perceive my situations, emotions and experiences. That became something I dedicated myself to.
I didn’t want to just become a victim of my circumstances. I wanted to be able to, like, [sighs] I wanted to be able to find peace. I wanted to find the value in my life and in my son’s life. The value and the purpose of our lives. So I had to go through those emotions. I had to honour them, I had to experience them.
How did you start practicing self-love?
For my generation it was very different. They didn’t talk about self-love. They didn’t talk about self-care. They didn’t talk about mental health issues, anxiety, depression. They don’t talk about that stuff.
I needed to learn how to listen to myself and trust my intuition. I also needed to learn how to say no. That was a big thing for me: learning to say no. I used to need everyone to like me. Like, everyone. Now if people don’t like me then fine—that’s their thing. I needed to learn to say no. I was really exhausted from taking on so much just to please other people.
Do you think BE. comes from you being able to take care of others now?
Absolutely. One hundred percent. It was also me getting asked all the time “can you mentor me?”. And I had no time! I am full-time carer of my son as well as an entrepreneur. When I’m mentoring I’m giving the things that I never got to somebody else. But there’s only so much I can do with my time. Luckily, I’m also very good at bringing people together. So BE. is that. It’s the holding of space for nurturing and growth and for everyone to contribute to each other’s lives. All the things that I felt were so important for me to rise to my highest self but I didn’t have as a young adult.
The core idea is that we’re in this life together. We have to be in it together. I was alone in my experience. I didn’t want to be, but I was. I felt isolated and I didn’t feel like I could be real, authentic. This is my version of realness. With the shit that I’ve been through, how can I give people mentorship on a bigger scale? I listened to people, what they need in their lives and what I feel will really help them find themselves and have tried to find a way to find a way that we can give that to them as a community. So BE. is like an ecosystem of learning and creating and coming together—so we can all be our own, authentic, unapologetic, beautiful selves and assist each other to be our highest potential.