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Chrissy Rutherford Is Building a Life on Her Own Terms    

Chrissy Rutherford Is Building a Life on Her Own Terms

Art by FISK

The adventure began two years ago when she booked a flight to Cape Town for a friend’s wedding. 

Having spent the eight and a half years prior as a digital editor and social media expert for Harper’s Bazaar, her one-time dream job, Chrissy Rutherford was grappling with the fact that it was starting to feel less and less like her dream.  In therapy since age thirteen, Rutherford is not one to look away from complicated feelings. She enjoys the process of “unwrapping an emotional pattern” and has had a mindfulness practice for years. So instead of running from what she was feeling, she let it guide her: by the time her flight took off for South Africa, she had quit the corporate job she knew so well and took the risk of going freelance.

That trust in herself paid off. Now a successful freelance writer, content creator, and co-founder of the anti-racism consulting business, 2BG Consulting, Rutherford’s joy is back on her own terms. We caught up with the stylish founder, who’s also an avid mental health advocate, over Zoom to talk about how she’s reconnected with her self-worth, the importance of setting work boundaries to protect your emotional energy, and how working in fashion can impact mental health. 

What does joy mean to you? 

To me, joy means peace of mind. It is not necessarily about having the best days. We put so much pressure on ourselves to be happy, but I think joy is really [about] being at peace and able to identify the things that make our soul feel good. 

It’s also about remaining present, which is definitely something I have been more intentional about this year after having a bad spiral of anxiety in December. Something I’ve been doing lately when I find myself worrying too much about the future is asking myself, "Who am I right now? Who am I at this moment? Who do I know myself to be?" That really is what is most important. We don't have any control over what happens to us in the future. 

Are you actively saying that to yourself during a mindfulness routine? How do you ground yourself back into the present?

I do really like traditional meditation, but some weeks I'm good about it, and [on others]I give myself breaks. I really admire people who can meditate every single day. You really do have to practice it every day before to really see and understand the impact that it can have. It is a training of the mind. I think because I did that training [already], it’s easier for me to not meditate every day. Instead, I can go for a walk in the morning, or listen to music, or be with my thoughts. For me, that is also a meditation. 

I also read so many books that are super helpful. Right now, I’m about to finish up “The Wisdom of Insecurity” by Alan Watts. I actually started reading it several years ago; my therapist gave it to me. I was going through another period of intense anxiety a couple of weeks ago, so I picked it back up, and it really is so helpful. I just love books that are more spiritually inclined because they give you great perspective and awareness to recognize where you need to step outside of yourself and acknowledge that life is hard. I think we’re all constantly searching for security, we don't want to feel pain, but those are just two [realities] of being human. We are all going to experience pain, and we are all going to experience uncertainty. That is the only thing that is guaranteed and those books have always really helped me make peace with that. 

Eckart Tolle's “A New Earth” also had a profound effect on me, especially since I read it when I was in the process of trying to leave my job. After working in the fashion industry, it is very easy to get caught up in the ego, validation, and clout [that comes with it] That book rearranged my brain; it really taught me how to detach from the stuff that doesn't matter.

Do you think the fashion industry has a responsibility to acknowledge that not-always-positive impact on our egos?

I think the fashion industry being more vocal about mental health is really important because so many people’s mental health suffers as a result of it. The fashion and beauty industries prey upon our ego. Even when you are entrenched in the industry, there are hierarchies and structures that exist that bring with them a lot of egos. You know, [the attitude that’s like] "I deserve to be front row, I can't sit second row at a runway show." You really get conditioned to live in your ego.

But, as the industry speaks up more about mental health, it needs to be done respectfully and tactfully. The commodification of self-care has really rubbed me the wrong way, and I think a lot of people have leaned on [this commodified version of] self-care as a way to manage anxiety. I had a [coping] routine before we even had a word for self-care. I was just like, these are the things that make me feel good to exist in this world and make it less stressful for me. Things like: journaling, going to therapy, meditating, listening to music. 

How has moving from that world into freelance changed your experience with joy?

It has changed everything. I think the biggest piece is being able to connect more with my self-worth. I have always had a lot of belief in myself., you kind of have to when you want to work in such a competitive industry, but it definitely got worn down by the end of my time at my corporate job. Going freelance has allowed me to really connect with that self-worth again and remind myself that I have a purpose, I bring a lot of value to the table, and I create content that is of value to my audience. 

What was it like to be so open about your mental health experiences right off the bat in your newsletter Fwd Joy

It was liberating. I’m a lot more personal in this newsletter than I am on Instagram because you have more space to tell a whole story, so it has given me a lot more freedom than before. I don't know what the newsletter is or where it’s going but it’s rooted in my passion for mental health, self-care, and self-discovery because I have spent so many years now delving into who I am. I’ve been in and out of therapy since I was 13, so I was always doing a lot of emotional work on myself, and I like doing that work. It makes me feel good when I can unwrap an emotional pattern, or understand why I was triggered by something, or how I can communicate better with people in my life. 

I think we often think that we are the only ones experiencing what we are going through and that’s just not the case. It is so incredible to see how the things that I say resonate with my readers. I know how important that is because when I was a kid and I first started having anxiety, I didn't know anyone else who was talking about anxiety. To be able to be that example for other people, where they can say, "oh, that person works in fashion, they travel a lot, they do all these things, but they still struggle, they still fight with their mom," I want people to be able to see that we all have our own shit. 

Do you think that work has to be something you're passionate about or something that sparks joy?

In the general sense for all people, no, I don't believe that. I think that my work is very much rooted in my purpose here in life but I don’t think that’s the case for everyone. When you're a creative person, you are more likely to feel the need to follow that passion in order to be happy, but some people create on the side, too. I think a lot of us want to express who we are through the things we create. My last job was my dream job but I still got burnt out and wanted to leave. It served its purpose and I am really proud of that time, I wouldn't be where I am if I wasn't there. But just because it's your dream job today, doesn't mean it’s always going to be. 

How do you maintain your motivation in an industry where many attempts at anti-racism are short-lived or hollow?

Honestly, it’s really hard. There are moments where I am very tuned in and see brands that are having events or trips with all white influencers, even though they have proclaimed their support for Black people. It is really, really frustrating. These brands constantly make it seem like it’s so hard to find a Black person to go on a trip when it’s not. So that really can stress me out. Sometimes you just have to take a step back from things and remember that you cannot change everything and everyone. You can't change them overnight. I am thankful for the work I’m doing with my consulting agency in trying to move the needle a little bit. We still have clients that slide backwards or mess up, but that’s part of the learning process. I am very invested in the work that I do, but when I need to, I’m also able to detach from it.

Do you have any specific work boundaries you set to maintain your peace?

I don't take meetings before noon unless absolutely necessary. I just like to have the whole morning to do whatever I need to do. I operate so intuitively, so it changes, but I am not willing to suffer for work. I know that, in a sense, that’s a privileged thing to say, but I have suffered for work before which is how I know [I can’t do it any longer]. We are taught that we should suffer for work and that we should do whatever it takes. I am not playing those games. How can I produce good work if I’m exhausted and anxious? There are days where I wake up, and I am like, "I don't want to create content today." It requires a lot of energy. Sure, there are days I don't feel like doing it and I still have to do it because there is a deadline, but I am also of the mind that these deadlines are not going to save anybody's life, so if I can't get something until tomorrow morning first thing, you're going to deal. 

What’s a lesson you’ve learned about yourself this year? 

I learned that I would rather be happy than be right. When I say that I mean it specifically in relation to arguing with my parents. It’s been very helpful to learn when to recognize that you are better off just saying "okay" and walking away.

Keep the conversation going by commenting on this story below. You can also connect with us about whatever’s on your mind by texting The Local Optimist Hotline at 310.299.9414.