#024 Hanli Hoefer: on self-love, therapy hangovers, adjusting failure & periods
Why is self-love so important? Why should we do the internal work? And how can we better understand our hormones and emotions? Big questions we are deep diving into with Hanli Hoefer—actress, presenter, model, and co-host of the Just So We’re Clear podcast.
Hanli Hoefer launched her career at MTV Asia hosting The MTV Show in Asia. She then moved onto the radio waves, and then onto acting, landing main and supporting roles. She has hosted events of over 30,000 people around the region. Last year she launched a podcast Just So We’re Clear, which is all about real talk for modern women and stories of important, but not always discussed issues. With almost 50,000 followers on Instagram, Hanli uses her platform to talk about mental health, personal development, and sharing her fun outlook on life.
In this episode, we discuss how to cultivate inner strength and self-love, the power of therapy, surviving long-distance relationships, hormones and periods. You can listen to the whole conversation on the Live Wide Awake podcast here or read the highlights below.
On what Hanli learned along the way…
I think the confidence that I have now is just because I have life experience. It’s the challenges I faced along the way, because I wore so many hats across my entire career. A lot of times, I was the new person on the job. I was always a beginner in many different industries, and roles. And that’s always scary, being the beginner. It’s always scary to be up first day on the job, first day holding the mic, first time in front of a TV. The biggest lesson for me has been to adjust my idea of what failure means. So that I’m not so scared to fail. That’s the biggest fear, when we move forward with anything, is “what if I fail”?
When I look back, what drove me is how I never saw failure as a bad outcome. Even if you fail, you learn. There’s no failure if you had a lesson. Also, I think there needs to be a lot of self-compassion in this space. You’re only human, you know? If you have self-compassion, it softens a lot of the anxiety that comes with new roles. Just try your best and just go. And if you mess it up a little bit? It’s okay. You’ll learn, and you’ll be better next time—just be human about it. I think that’s the best lesson I’ve learnt so far.
On opening up about her mental health…
We live in a society where everything is filtered, perfect, polished. Humans aren’t supposed to be that. It’s our scars, emotions and ruins that create texture, and that texture is our personality. It’s what we should celebrate about being human. We’re going through a worldwide pandemic, and we’re reacting in the ways that we are because we’re humans! That should be normalised—having a bad day, that’s just part of the human experience. So for two and a half months I had to be without contact, and I’d never been alone to that extent before. And as a creative freelancer, it was even more limiting, to be working from home. The pace of my career slowed down, and it was a really confronting moment. To just sit there, by myself, with a lot of feelings and thoughts, that I couldn’t address because of my fast-paced life.
Suddenly, it was like a volcano erupted, and it was really painful. After that experience, I started therapy, and I’ve been very open about it. I’ve had very positive feedback, because people were going through that too. The slower pace is foreign to so many of us… And I always thought it was strange that people say it’s “brave” to be sharing about therapy, because that means that there’s an assumption that it should be hidden. When you say that it’s brave to open up, it also means that pain and weakness should be hidden. Especially within Asian culture, where we’re very much about showing face. But that habit within our culture needs to stop. So yeah, being open about it helped, I think, bring attention to things that we need to adjust post-pandemic, and I think it’s happening.
On Hanli’s takeaways from therapy…
Therapy is uncomfortable. There’s always therapy hangover that lasts for a few days. Because you go in there, and you unearth truths about yourself, and you’ll need a few days to integrate.
But anyway, working with a professional really clarified for me the relationship I had with myself. When you’re on your own, you do such a good job of being your own critic. We accept self-critique, and we listen to that inner voice. But when you have an external person, professional, telling you that the way you talk to yourself isn’t okay, that’s a wake-up call, that isn’t nice, but that helped strengthened my understanding of why doing the work is so important. Why self-love is important, to heal yourself, so you can heal the world. It all starts from within, right? Once we learn to be kind to ourselves, then we can really learn to be kind to others. We have to go inward, love ourselves the way we deserve, have compassion for ourselves.
Once I started going to therapy, my lens really shifted. Previously, I had so much judgement towards myself. Now it’s almost like I can recognise the moment I’m judging, critiquing myself, let that simmer down, and then realise that I was acting out of a place of lack. Realising that I’ve been listening to the voice in my head… I’m not at that point where I can catch myself yet, though. It’s hard. For me, it’s during my journalling sessions that it becomes clearer. So self-soothing and journalling are important for me to help me reflect on how I talk to myself.
On having friends around her that aren’t on that journey…
You said this the other day, and I’m going to apply it to this situation. You can’t force someone’s awakening, right? And you can’t tell someone to be accountable. Because sometimes, accountability, to those who aren’t ready for it, is an attack. So you can’t push the lessons you’re learning for yourself onto others. It’s about learning to hold your tongue, and learning to understand that everyone is going through their own journey. You can’t take it personally either, which is the hardest part. Especially for someone like me, who has codependency, and holds a lot of value in my relationships, it’s hard… I’ve just got to be like, “okay, we’re reading different chapters of the same book right now. And that’s okay.”
On her awakening to her cycles…
I’m having a hormone awakening. The moment I really took time to track, reflect on my moods and my cycle? I realised that my hormones basically run my life. This realisation has been a game-changer for me.
Like, I get such unpredictable mood swings, like five days before. I don’t know which version of myself I’m going to be. I get really irrational. I think a lot of women need to give more credit to understand the science that goes on in our bodies, as to why this happens. It messes with us on so many levels. Women are called “irrational” and “emotional”, and we take those labels and we internalise the judgements. We hold that along with the hundreds of other things women already do, because of society. Carrying that with us is tiring. And so we need to acknowledge that it’s not us. We are not our hormones.
And we’re not alone. I’ve talked to so many friends about it, and they don’t understand the emotional effects. We understand the science of it, and they say stuff like “the side effects may include…” But really, it should be the other way around. The focus should be on the “side effects” that are actually happening.
On Hanli’s podcast, Just So We’re Clear…
The things that my co-host Marissa and I cover is everything you talk to with your close girlfriend. You know, every time you have those conversations with your friends where you’re like, “why is no one talking about this?” We talk about that. We’re a bit too open on that. And we talk about female health, sexual health, men versus women.
We touched on important topics too, like we had you on as a guest about sustainability. And we learn about different things that are happening in the world. All of this is important for us: feminism, psychology, mindfulness. And it’s become this beautiful space where I get to hang out with my closest friends, talking and sharing. Really, it’s an excuse to hit up people we want to hang out with. Like, “oh, you’re really cool. I have a podcast. Do you want to come hang out?” If any of that hits home, then I urge your listeners to come check us out.
Three things I’m taking away from this conversation with Hanli:
1. Adjust your idea of failure. Everything can be a lesson that we can grow and improve on.
2. Self-compassion and self-love is a lifelong journey, and it is so important for our inner healing, so we can be kinder to others and the earth.
3. Hormonal health and understanding is game-changing, and something that will empower us, and it should be spoken about more.