”My path has not been a linear one”
My name is Kirsty Anne Richards, and I am the Founder & CEO of Redrosethorns. I am a writer, a feminist, and am passionate in the subjects of psychology/mental health, and sexuality/gender. After I had graduated with my undergrad in psychology, sexuality and LGBTQ studies, I struggled to find a position in my field. Not to be deterred, I decided to start my own business where I could combine my passions and create a space in which I could grow and build my own path. What started off as a small business selling my mothers jewellery and my own hand made candles, has now evolved into something more aligned with my feminist values. I spent the first year and half using the products I sold to learn about marketing and running a business online. I wanted a space where I could speak about the subjects that are very dear to me, which is mental health and sexuality. I believe that if we empower women (or everyone really) to be their truest self and give them tools to take care of and maintain their mental health, they will naturally move into a direction where they push for equality. As my bio states, “feminism is about more than equality, it’s about empowerment”, and redrosethorns is built off of this belief.
Through the connections I made through my business, I found that people, women in particular, are craving to take ownership in their lives and to be able to express themselves freely. Our stories are what connect us, but also what empower us to move into a direction that is more aligned with who we are, our values, and our passions. redrosethorns is now moving into offering people of any gender to share their stories through our membership platform, where they can submit writing pieces of any genre, though on the subjects of mental health, self-care, sexuality, and empowerment. We are also beginning an annual magazine where non-members can submit their work (in line with the yearly theme). This was created to give others the platform to be heard and to share a piece of themselves. We also offer workshops where we guide our clients in learning self care practices as well as how to connect with their inner selves that are so often silenced in our patriarchal society. Along with this, we will be offering coaching services, using the CBT model, to individuals for more one-on-one support
How did you first become interested in psychology?
In my mid-twenties, not long after the recession began, I had somewhat of a breakdown and fell deep into depression. Something inside me was calling for me to seek help, and so I began seeing a therapist. This turned out to be not only the best investment for myself, but opened up my world. I had struggled with finding my calling, if you will, before this time. I enjoyed having my own business, or at least the learning challenge that running one’s own business provides. But I did not like the work I did. My interests were in the arts, though I did not believe that I was good enough at any particular art and so I didn’t put much effort into pursuing that field. I think this feeling of not belonging and not knowing who I was, compounded my depression. I had felt lost for a long time and unsure of how to find myself again. I imagined therapy to be just like I saw on T.V. where one lies down while the therapist writes notes on a clipboard. It was not at all like that. We did a lot of artwork in my sessions and when I was too afraid to share my anxieties, my therapist and I would just talk about psychology in general. The more I learned about mental health, our human development, and incorporating different self-care practices in my life, the more my confidence and self-esteem blossomed. It was a radical change within myself and has expanded my life in more ways I can express. I couldn’t believe that people were not learning about this, let alone not seeing a therapist. Something had clicked inside of me and I felt a deep desire to share this insight with others. It was while I was studying where I discovered the desire to educate about mental health, and particularly how it is intertwined with our gender and/or sexuality. I had also discovered another interest while in school, one that was also an art, which was writing. Writing had become such a huge part of my own self-care practice, and by this time it had become an expression where I was free to articulate my thoughts, ideas, and the complexities in life. All of which influences and affects our mental health.
What was your thought process behind starting redrosethorns?
I think there were two thoughts that went behind starting redrosethorns. One was I wanted to make extra money during the pandemic. The second was I wanted to create something that could incorporate my interests and where I could teach the subjects I am passionate about. The ‘how’ was the hardest part to work out. I didn’t want to wait to have the perfect strategy or for an opportunity to be handed to me, and so I started my business by selling jewellery my mother makes, while figuring out all the logistics along the way. My vision was that I wanted redrosethorns to offer resources and general information around psychology, sexuality and how we can build our self-esteem. I accomplished this by creating content which I can post on social media, and I write informational articles and publish them on my website. While I was selling my products, I spent hours online reading and meeting other people who did something similar to what I was doing. I looked at other people’s businesses where I liked their work or could gain some insight on how I could capitalise on my idea. From this redrosethorns began to take shape and evolved into the business it is now, where I provide coaching services and workshops to help others through their healing or growth. I believe that empowerment begins with one’s self, and to build one’s self-worth is an ongoing practice. But empowerment is also an outward practice, where one can become more confident and build their self-worth by helping and sharing their knowledge with others. My dream is for redrosethorns to continue to be a space that offers the tools and support needed to help others through their journey. However that may look like. The more I have learned, the more I have grown and I hope redrosethorns will always reflect that.
How do you stay relevant and current and where do you get your inspiration from?
I take courses or workshops that can help develop my skills, and my expertise. In fact, I am starting grad school later this year in Gender, Sexuality and Culture. I read a lot, mostly non-fiction, a lot of feminist literature, history, politics, and of course psychology. I especially love to read from communities that I do not identify with, not only to learn, but it makes the world a more colourful place, and brings out the humanity in us. I think it’s interesting to hear about or see what another person’s experiences are, and how they see the world. To stay relevant is not only learning about what others are doing, nor is it only learning about the latest trends. It is about figuring out how to improve oneself, and our community. This is why it’s important to seek knowledge from those who are different from ourselves. It is natural for humans to change and grow, and we get to decide who we want to be and how we show up in the world. The world around us is guaranteed to change, just as we have experienced in recent times, I think that it’s important to move with that change. I believe this is what staying current is, a forward progression to make ourselves and our society better. I get my inspiration from a variety of people and businesses I follow on social media. It is from the individuals I follow where I learn what they like, how to target my client, and to find new ways to challenge myself.
What are your current areas of focus?
My business has three main areas of focus right now. The first is the coaching services where I help my clients build their self-esteem, connect with their inner voice, and empower them to express their truest and best selves. The second is our community memberships, where members can connect with each other and publish their work on our website, as a way to tell and share their stories and experiences. They can submit work in any genre and any style, all centred around the subjects of mental health, gender/sexuality, and self-care. While I was writing different articles and content for my social media, I realised that my community is only hearing one voice and I didn’t like that. It was important to have a variety of voices sharing their experiences, perceptions and knowledge, as it adds to a deeper sense of understanding the complexities and diversities in society. The more people who share their stories the more relevant these issues become and we can learn how to solve the problems we face today. The third is a new offering I am challenging myself with, which is to publish an annual magazine. Here, anyone can submit their writing, or artwork in any genre and any style, all based around our yearly theme. This year’s theme is ‘Connection/Community.’
Tell us something about your services with a research focus on the healing and transformative powers. What is this about and who is it for?
Our brains are filled with billions of neurons that connect with each other and create neural pathways. These connections are largely influenced through what we learn in our environment, and then form thought patterns, behaviours and habits. Once a pathway is formed it impacts how we process information, particularly the internalised perceptions of ourselves. That is, we develop perceptions of who we think we believe we are based on how others respond to, and treat us. It happens on a subconscious level and most of our perceptions, whether of ourselves or the world around us, are formed in our childhood. Because our self-image relies so heavily on external stimulation, what we think of ourselves may not necessarily be true. This is why it is very important to spend time with oneself and learn who we are from the inside out. Our neural pathways can be changed and we have the ability to make a conscious decision to who we are, and how we want to show up in the world. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) does just that and is extremely effective in changing the way one thinks and behaves, as well as finding healthier ways to manage and solve problems. Anyone can benefit from this, whether they simply want to make improvements in their life or with themselves, or if they are dealing with some kind of trauma. CBT works by finding where our beliefs stem from, and finding ways to change that thought process, which in turn changes our behaviours or habits. This is what I offer in my coaching services. I guide my clients by teaching them a variety of methods they can use to develop more self-awareness, form new perceptions and from there create new habits that will serve them best.
What is your next big goal? How do you think you can achieve this one?
I have two main goals this year. The biggest project is starting the annual magazine as mentioned above. I have met so many writers, artists and creatives through my business, so starting a magazine felt aligned with my work and made sense to offer something that supported my community. I have no doubts that I can achieve it, though I’m not sure I will succeed the first time around. I am at a stage in my life that it is better to try than worry about failing. The second goal I am working on is starting grad school in the autumn. It has been a dream of mine for years and I am very excited to pursue that now. When I first began redrosethorns I chose for it to be an online business so that I could have the flexibility to do other things in my life. I am able to go to school and work without getting burnt out by living to others demands and expectations.
What are you working on currently and why?
Intermixed with redrosethorns, I am working on a few writing projects. Some of my work is published on Medium and some on my website. Writing is a method I use to find my voice and build my confidence. The biggest project I am working on, and the work that takes up most of my writing time, is I am writing a memoir which mainly focuses on sexism. I discuss the complexities and subtleties of sexism we face in society and how damaging this is to our self-worth and our psyche, or the perceptions we have of ourselves. I tell my story through my journey as I moved to the US (from South Africa), where I share my experiences, observations, and all the insight I have gained through travelling and living as an outsider in a foreign country. As mentioned before, I believe it is important to share our stories to learn, to grow, and to solve societal issues. This book is important because I believe that it illuminates a different perspective, where I not only talk about the problems of sexism but also the importance of being, or feeling empowered in society. Of course we need to have a society that is equal for all, but for all to be empowered in society is what will drive us toward regression. And you don’t necessarily have to have equality to feel empowered. We can achieve self-empowerment through self-care practices, through learning and changing the ways we think that are holding us back, and through building our self-worth.
What are the best and worst things about your job?
The best part of my job is that I get to create and build anything I like and all at my own pace. I have the freedom to fail, and the liberty to take on any challenge I wish to explore. This business is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life because it demands the best parts of myself to shine through. I can see my own growth, I can feel myself becoming stronger and more confident in the process, which keeps me more motivated to propel forward. I am in awe of all I have accomplished and the person I am growing into, all of which is achieved by doing what feels right for me no matter what that may look like to others. The worst part of my job is feeling alone or lonely in my plight, or the feeling of all the pressure being on my shoulders. There is no one on the side lines to cheer me on, at least no one I work with, nor is there someone to call me out. It’s just me figuring it all out and this can be daunting at times. I decided early on to join other communities and it is why I wanted to start my own community space. By having a camaraderie, it takes pressure off a little bit, and I have gained so much inspiration along the way. Having a supportive community, and a social support system, is everything when building something, especially something new. No one can do everything alone and our strength comes from the empowerment of others. Even with community, it can still feel overwhelming and I sometimes wish I had a fairy godmother to lead me along the way. But I know that it also challenges me to reach out to others and let go of the fear of expressing my vulnerability.
Share us some tips on how to become a happier and healthier person.
Self-care. Self-care. Self-care. I cannot stress this enough. Take time to spend with yourself. It is not only baths and meditation. It is doing things that interest you, even if you don’t know how to do it. It is finding different ways of expressing yourself. It will be frustrating. It will be hard. You will get distracted and you will not show up for yourself on a lot of occasions. Don’t let this deter you. Just try again tomorrow. No matter how small or seemingly tedious, show up for yourself. Celebrate every tiny and significant moment. Be in awe of the world around you. The more you do this, the happier you will be. And your mental health will love you for it. Your physical health will improve too; it all starts with taking care of yourself.
Share us some advice from experience.
That moment when things get hard, (and there will be a lot of them) that moment when you want to give up: don’t. That is the exact moment when you will, and need to propel forward. It doesn’t mean that you’ll suddenly get rich, but if you move through that difficulty you will see growth, change, or something will suddenly click. Our egos want us to fail, and so when this inner ego notices something is about to happen, it will do everything in its power to make us retreat and stay in a place that is comfortable and convenient. Most of us think that this sudden rush of insecurity is telling us that we should give up, and a lot do. When in actuality this feeling is a trigger alerting you of what you are avoiding in yourself. It is your inner voice preparing you for better things to come. It feels like an insecurity because the feeling is new and goes against what society is telling you who you are, or what you should be doing. For the patriarchy to maintain its power, it has to make us feel that we are unworthy. I promise you that this is a lie and you are worthy, and way more deserving than you could ever imagine. Growth is uncomfortable and can be painful. Accept this, allow yourself to move through it and I guarantee you will progress, even if it’s slowly, but you will notice this shift. Better yet, you will find an inner happiness and self-empowerment that even the patriarchy is not strong enough to break down.
How do you think modern women can be more fulfilled in their lives?
Do not listen to the patriarchy. It is not designed to benefit women. It barely benefits men. Find your own voice and express your true self especially if the world is telling you not to. You will not only feel better and happier with who you are, you will simultaneously be empowering those around you. Don’t seek out the validation of others. This will hold a person back from the best parts of themselves. Women are powerful beings in their own right and I wish more women would see their worth. Our voices are our power. This is why the patriarchy is determined to silence us. Our authenticity is our magic. Hence we are socialised to be the same as everyone else, hyper feminine, or encouraged to compete with other women. To lead a fulfilling life, particularly for women, we must take ownership of our lives, our voices, and our stories. It breaks my heart seeing women, or anyone really, not living to their fullest potential. Women are so much more than society keeps telling us we are, I hope that more women see that. Because the more women who can see their worth, the more they express who they truly are, the more they stand in their own right, the harder it is for the patriarchy to oppress us. Listen to that inner voice that is telling you that you are amazing, because you are. And then embrace that. Live YOUR truth.
Did you plan your career and your business path?
Not exactly. I had a vague idea years ago while I was studying for my psychology degree, but didn’t know the steps to make my dreams a reality. I felt a lot of uncertainty as well, particularly with myself or my skills. I think it was better this way, to not have an exact path in mind, as it made me more flexible to change and grow. Through all the failures and disappointments I was able to focus on my core being more, and discover the things that I liked and things that I didn’t. I learned to trust myself in this process and I just followed what my inner voice told me, to pay attention to the things that felt right and that was good for my self-esteem. Everything is figureoutable, the key is to show up and practice doing the work. This work starts with one’s self. After that, finding a career path and finding what suits us best, soon becomes clear. I have many interests and I enjoy the challenge of learning new things and growing. Wherever this path may lead, or whichever path I choose, I hope that it is one that compliments who I am and invites growth to the person I aspire to become. I have a desire to create my own path and hope to keep building on the work I am passionate about.
What is a skill you think all women should learn and why?
I don’t have a particular skill that women should learn, though I strongly encourage women to always do something, whether work, an activity or hobby that is entirely their own. Find something that no one will be able to take away from you. It will give you the empowerment you need on those dark days, when there may not be a person to turn to. Something that entirely belongs to a person, a space where one is free to be 100% themselves, gives them more strength and more courage to move through the hardships. To hone in on at least one particular skill, builds one’s self-worth and it becomes increasingly difficult for another to tear a person down who knows their value. This is why working on one’s mental health is so vital.