Following your true nature: discovering self-love with Anne-Marie Ménard

You might know Anne-Marie Ménard from her popular Instagram page Au lit avec Anne-Marie, or her podcast Entre Elle et Lui

Anne-Marie has a Bachelor’s degree in Sexology, is an entrepreneur, and is passionate about education. Her mission is to normalize discussions around sexual well-being in an inclusive and positive way. 

Holding on to your dreams

“My journey looked different from the start. I got my Bachelor’s of Sexology at 26, even though I’d known for a long time that I wanted to study in that field. In CEGEP, I quit competitive gymnastics and my parents got divorced. My entire world was crumbling around me and my grades reflected it. I was actually rejected from the Sexology program.”

Discouraged, Anne-Marie chose another path: a diploma in radio and television. It was an industry that interested her, but wasn’t completely fulfilling. “I felt like I didn’t have a message to get across. Something was missing. Hoping for a miracle, I reapplied to the Sexology program. I was rejected again. That was when I told myself: if this is what I want to do, I need to find a way to make it happen.”

A guidance counselor suggested starting with a Women’s Studies certificate, which was the only program she qualified for. “I thought I’d be stepping into a whole other universe. But I did it because I had no other choice. In the end, studying feminism woke me up. It put words to what I was going through. I worked hard, and the following year, I was accepted into Sexology.”

“During my studies, my friends encouraged me to combine my passions for communication and sexology. There was such a need for education surrounding sexuality. I couldn’t even go to the dentist without being asked about sexology! And the same questions kept coming up. That’s how Au lit avec Anne-Marie came into being. The simple act of telling someone that what they’re experiencing is normal can change their life. I wanted to have that impact on as many people as possible.”

“I wanted to help democratize pleasure. I was the first one to talk about sex toys on social media in Quebec. And that opened the door for other sexology professionals to join the conversation.”

 Taking care of yourself – not just other people

During the pandemic, Anne-Marie poured all of her energy into building her business. Since then, she’s started two podcasts, published a book, founded the platform Réponses Sexuelles (which offers dozens of virtual workshops), and created the Espace Intime, a clinic that’s home to 17 sexologists. That’s not to mention all of the projects that are currently in her pipeline!

But expending that much energy in such a short period of time has consequences. “It took me a long time to realize that I was experiencing burnout. And even longer before I could accept what I was going through. I had dreamed about this life for so long, so when opportunities came along, I wanted to say yes to everything. I was grateful and felt like an impostor. I was always afraid it would end.”

“I had always been in therapy. I don’t think you should wait until you have a fire to put out before seeking help. There’s ‘big T’ trauma, but there are also plenty of ‘little t’ traumas that are worth addressing as well.”

Despite her personal and professional experiences with therapy, Anne-Marie found it difficult to set boundaries and protect her well-being. “Even though I was living my passion, I couldn’t get out of bed in the morning. Receiving an email would give me a panic attack. I was overloaded.”

“I had to do a huge amount of self-work. Learning that people won’t hate me if I say no. That I have the right to set priorities. It took me longer than I wanted to recover and I’ll never be the same person again. But that’s okay.”

One way that Anne-Marie got back on track was pumping the brakes on entrepreneurship and getting a change of scenery. “I took a business trip to collaborate with another company. It gave me a reason to say no to new opportunities: I wasn’t in the same country! Seeing how someone else ran their business and taking a break from making all the decisions helped me a lot.”

Self-love and self-care: same-same?

Anne-Marie’s journey isn’t over. She’s still working on maintaining a healthy balance and protecting her well-being. “I had a breakthrough recently. I’m taking care of myself a lot. I’m playing sports, doing hot yoga, going on meditation and silent retreats. My therapist helped me realize that all of that is self-care. They’re actions. Which is great, but it can also become performative. It’s an industry. It’s not the same as self-love.”

According to Anne-Marie, self-love is internal. “It’s setting boundaries, honouring yourself, and listening to your feelings. Going to the gym is self-care. Choosing to skip a session when you don’t have the energy to go is self-love.”

“In my work, I often have to tear down walls – there isn’t even a door to walk through! It’s uncharted territory. I’ve learned to trust myself and not be afraid to be the first to do something. These days, I choose my projects based on what my inner voice is saying. If she’s shouting HELL YES! I go for it. If it’s a quiet little yes?, I say no. When I listen to my heart, I can set proper boundaries and protect my energy.”

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