Girl Boss Moorea Seal On How To Live a More Vibrant Life
The writer of the '52 Lists Project' shares how she stays mindful and cultivates beauty from the inside out –– all while at the helm of a massive media empire.
Who: Moorea Seal, creator of 52 Lists for Happiness
Where: Seattle, WA
By Day: Artist, illustrator, jewelry maker, designer, writer, and all-around entrepreneur
By Night: Extroverted introvert, advocate for women's mental health awareness, fan of Rupaul's Drag Race
What inspired you to create the 52 Lists Project?
With the 52 Lists Project, I thought about how I am such an obsessive list-maker, crazy crazy list-maker. Notebooks upon notebooks. Do they always get completed? No, but I love doing it! [laughing]
I wanted to take something that is really easy and natural for so many people to do, and use it in a way that would help them get to know themselves better.
I wanted to create almost a resource book for myself and for other people, that would help them if they’re like me and they get kind of overwhelmed by their own constant emotions. To create this really simple resource for them to put themselves down on paper in a really concise and clean and clear way. And they can then at the end of their list take away something really purposeful and specific from it, that would help them continue to improve their thought process.
What was one of the proudest moments you’ve had so far in your career?
52 Lists has definitely been my proudest moment. Within any career path that you go down, even if it’s one that you’ve completely created yourself, you’re always having to make some sort of sacrifice. You’re always having to cut [or change] something. It’s really rare that any creative person gets to produce something that isn’t constrained or controlled or influenced by somebody else. It’s very, very, very hard to find that.
I think that’s what all people –– all the women who want to be a Girl Boss –– are seeking. They want to have creative control over whatever they’re doing. Creating the 52 Lists Project was honestly the first time that I really felt like, not only was I getting to do fully what I want, I was also fully supported in it, and I was getting recognition for it on a massive scale!
I got Oprah’s stamp of approval. And just beyond that satisfaction of what makes me feel good, I got to see that literally 100,000 people have my book, and they are improving their lives because of it.
So incredible and so encouraging. I was expecting a lot more criticism, and I’m sure that there is probably plenty in the deep dark webs of Internet, as I’ve seen . . .
Which is a place we don’t wanna go.
Yup, I’ve been there before, and I’m never going back!
[But] there’s really no better feeling in the world –– no money can buy the feeling of knowing you’ve done something good for someone else. 52 Lists is absolutely my proudest moment in knowing I’ve done something that is beneficial and beautiful and helpful for the world.
When you graduated in 2009, we were in the midst of one of the worst recessions ever. What’s your advice for young women striving to start their own businesses in the way that you did?
Number one, for practicality’s sake, save as much money as you can. I did not. I just kind of started with nothing, which meant that . . . I had to think of time as my investment. If you can’t invest a lot of money into your project, you’re going to have to invest a lot of time. [This] means you’re going to have to make a lot of sacrifices at the same time.
I experimented, I tried a million different things . . . graphic design, illustration, photography, writing, portraiture, so many different things. I just tried to find and use time to my advantage in exploring as much as I possibly can. That way, later down the road, I could refine more, I could focus more on what actually speaks to me the most. I could later spend more time with friends. I was willing to sacrifice a lot of my time at the beginning.
That’s kind of a hard thing to hear, especially in the last year or two, especially with Sophia Amoruso, we all wanna be Girl Bosses. For sure. Duh. That’s been my goal for the last 7 years, practically my lifetime! But it’s not all sparkles and glitter and fun. You have to really put in the hard work to get to the fun parts. And even when you’re at a place like me, doing a lot of crazy and exciting things, I’m still making sacrifices with my time, I’m still making sacrifices with my finances. So [when] you can become comfortable in sacrificing things in that way, you can keep going, and you can be really proud of what you’re doing.
How do you stay mindful when juggling such a successful career –– including your online and retail stores, massive social media following(s), and your book and journal projects?
It’s definitely hard! I am an introvert on top of all of that, and I feel like if I were extroverted, I would get even more stuff done –– or my life would be even more crazy and wild and busy. I’m a very outgoing introvert.
An extroverted introvert.
At the end of the day what I’m drawn to is storytelling. That’s another element of my brand as a whole; if there’s no storytelling behind it, what’s the point? It’s just a bunch of stuff. I want my Instagram [and Pinterest] to tell a story, I want my brand to tell a story. And that’s just what I care about as a person is storytelling, and getting to know people.
I don’t think there’s ever been a point where I’m like, “Ah! My life is balanced.” I don’t know anybody who feels like their life is balanced. It’s more just thinking about when is the right time to make a sacrifice? When is it gonna feel like it really benefited you? Only make a sacrifice if it’s gonna benefit you.
I think that’s a really important thing for women to realize; and I think it’s great that you’re so self-aware about it. It’s so easy to fall into this people-pleasing trap –– especially for someone who has so much going on. I think that’s really good advice to anyone who’s like, Okay yeah, I do wanna be this successful businesswoman, I do wanna be this successful writer, but you need to realize that sometimes you’re not going to be saying yes to everything, and that’s okay.
There are two mottos that I try to live by. One, I’m not religious, but one of the ten commandments is love your neighbor as you love yourself. The way that sentence is set up, it says –– if you don’t love yourself well, you can’t love other people well. You need to invest in yourself to love others.
On the flip side, I watch Rupaul’s Drag Race. At the end of each episode, he says, “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell are you gonna love somebody else? Can I get an amen?” and I’m like, that’s it! You can’t love yourself well if you can’t choose to put yourself first –– it makes it really hard to help other people.
Sometimes choosing to put myself first in spending time alone, my gut tells me I should feel guilty and I should feel shame and I should feel sad about it . . . I have to keep reminding myself, other people are going to get to benefit from me taking time to myself. I’m gonna get to be fully myself when I see them.
Sometimes saying no to other people is just saying yes to yourself.
At Livingly, we strive to “live life beautifully.” What does living beautifully mean to you?
I think living beautifully to me is a balance of two things: First, it’s constantly practicing and investing in myself well. It’s something that is a challenge for me, and has always been my whole life, but it’s something that I’m always pursuing. . . . Living beautifully is investing in my inner self really well before anything.
The people that I am attracted to . . . are the people whose inner selves really radiate. It doesn’t matter how beautiful you are on the outside when it comes to aesthetic if you have kind of a rotten spirit; if you have a really terrible attitude, and if you’re not good to yourself and good to others, I don’t wanna be a part of that! I wanna feel like someone whose inner self . . . is reflecting on the outside and doing good things for others. Those are the people I want to be surrounded by.
Beyond that, I’m all about trying to cultivate a beautiful space and a beautiful life around myself, so that I can be reminded to keep investing in myself.
Want to shop for a good cause and flawless aesthetic? 7% of the proceeds from Moorea's online store are donated to nonprofit. Check it out here.
All images copyright Moorea Seal.