Bonus Episode, Hope Warrior Project, Elaina interviews Stephanie Martino and Lydia Zuniga, the women behind the Hope Warrior Project. Elaina introduced the Hope Warrior Project in Episode 3, The Strong Black Woman Syndrome.
"A hope warrior is someone who is always working on themselves so that they can better encourage others, refrain from judgment, keep an open heart, and ultimately spread hope.” – Hope Warrior Project
Bonus Episode, Hope Warrior Project, Elaina interviews Stephanie Martino and Lydia Zuniga, the women behind the Hope Warrior Project. Elaina introduced the Hope Warrior Project in Episode 3, The Strong Black Woman Syndrome.
The Hope Warrior Project is a community that helps women identify their strengths, and they create togetherness. They have a fabulous Hope Warrior Academy, where they go through different books, mindfulness activities, and connect it to their lives and learn different strategies of coping with life and being vulnerable.
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[00:00:00] Elaina: Good morning, Stephanie and Lydia, thank you both so much for joining me today.
[00:00:04] Stephanie: Thank you.
[00:00:07] Elaina: Hope you are both doing well. Let’s just dive and tell us what the Hope Warrior Project is.
[00:00:17] Stephanie: I have a joke, we’re a really small gang of hope dealers. You’ll find, I like to be funny sometimes, but I think kind of in a nutshell, we try to really facilitate hope by providing people with tools and resources to encourage not only themselves but encourage others. That’s just kind of like the little short in a nutshell what it is. It’s really interesting I think how it got started, and so, Lydia has a great story about that.
[00:00:44] Elaina: Okay.
[00:00:46] Lydia: I believe that Hope Warrior was kind of given to us. It is something that comes out of my personal story, and I met Stephanie while I was figuring out what Hope Warrior exactly was. I was going through life checking off things on my list, things that I thought I was supposed to do what society was encouraging to me to do what my family was encouraging me to do, and I wasn’t really being truly honest with myself. College, job, baby, husband, house, whatever. I guess not in that order, but I had an order of very specific order and when I thought things were supposed to be done by and I was checking them off my list and from everybody’s perspective on the outside probably thought I had it all together and everything was going according to plan and that I was happy, but on the inside I was very, unhappy and unfulfilled and I didn’t know why. So, I just kind of kept chugging along and ignoring it, just kind of in denial until I couldn’t avoid it anymore because all those plans that I made kind of fell apart. And I was dealing with a situation where my husband wanted out of the marriage because he had met someone else and I was pregnant with my second child. We had to abandon our house and it was just really a dark, dark time in my life that I was completely blindsided. Of course, now hindsight 20-20, I was completely blindsided because I was in just a completely different mindset and head space that I was just not living true to myself, which is what I think caused a lot of the things that happened in my life. I found myself in my childhood room with my infant and my daughter in my brother’s old room, and I was just so confused, how did I get here? And I got really super curious about who I was because I just felt lost. I felt like I didn’t know who I was anymore cause everything was so different in such a short amount of time.
[00:02:54] I really just started tapping into podcasts, sermons, books, and I started to learn from people’s stories, people that were vulnerable enough to go out there and share their stories of overcoming or of trauma or whatever the case may be, and other people’s stories just really, really gave me hope. And that’s kind of where hope warrior started to make its way into my life because. The more I tapped into other people, the more hope I was able to, to find for myself. And then as my life started to reform and transform into what it is today and being able to work things out with my husband and save my family. We’re so incredibly happy now because we both have this mindset of working on ourselves to be better individuals so that we can be better together. So, that just really inspired me to do the same thing for other people. I started to look for these opportunities to share my story and encourage other people. And I was talking with a friend who was actually going through a divorce and she was just in a really difficult place. I know how difficult that places cause I was on the brink of it, signing papers and everything, and I told her if you ever just need encouragement or you need to vent or whatever the case may be, or if you want to hear more about my story, I’m here for you because I’m a hope warrior. And when I said those words, I honestly felt really silly because it’s just not something I would ever say, and it didn’t feel like it came from me. It just slipped out of my mouth. And even after I said it, we kind of looked at each other like that was awkward. I said it and then I couldn’t get it off my mind. It felt divine. It felt like something special. It felt powerful.
[00:04:46] I told my husband about it and he was like, that’s something, you need to Google it and see what, what is it like? It must be something already. And it really wasn’t. So just being from a fashion background, I went to school for fashion design. I just thought, I’m just going to slap it on a tee shirt, make a logo, and see what happens. Like, one step at a time. I have an entrepreneurial like mindset, so I tend to go, zero to a hundred real quick. And I was like, no, I’m going to take a step back and keep it simple. Because I don’t know what this is or can be. And so that’s what I did. And I was running a 5k at the time, I sold the shirts for a fundraiser and I was just really blown away by the way people were responding just to the brand, just to what it said on the shirt Hope Warrior. People connected with it, and they wanted that for themselves, I think. And so it really opened a lot of conversations with people on what does it mean, what is it and that’s when me and Stephanie really started talking about it because, of course she wanted a shirt, but then also she wanted to know she wanted to know more, and I could tell that she was really interested in it, and she started messaging me and giving me ideas like, well, what if you did this? Or what if you did this? And I said, well, what if we did this? I knew it wasn’t a project that was given to me just for me, and I saw something really special in Stephanie, we teamed up and it’s been evolving from just being a brand on a tee shirt to really coming back to what got me to this hope warrior moment was really that personal development that reaching out and looking for other people’s stories to encourage me.
[00:06:25] Elaina: Thank you so much for sharing that. You all do more than this, tee shirts and postcards. So, what are some of the other things that you all do?
[00:06:32] Stephanie: I think that one of the big things that we really focus on right now is putting the message out. In the world. So, we are based in Chicagoland area, but we really try to reach people wherever they are, wherever in the world. So, what’s the best way to do that? Social media, and we also know that there’s a lot of negativity on social media, so we’re trying to put some positivity out there. So, we have a, right now on Facebook and an Instagram page. Where we put, inspirational quotes and we call them, like a little mini blog. So we’ll take a topic, maybe something that we have dealt with in our own lives or maybe from a book that we’re reading a podcast that we’ve listened to and we’ll find like a really good message that aligns with what we’re all about. And we’ll create, cute little posts and a little mini blog to really help people start thinking, deeper about what is it that they can do to focus on giving themselves hope. I think sometimes we just get really wrapped up in life, life kind of just gets dumped on us sometimes, and if we’re not intentional about thinking about how we want to live life, then we can just go along and just life just happens to us. So we really try to bring that message of thinking deeper about what you’re doing what’s your mindset, how are you thinking about struggles and failures in your life.
[00:07:49] So that’s one thing we do. We also run a virtual Hope Warrior Academy, we do this multiple times a year and so we’ll choose a book that focuses on an aspect of personal development. And so, Lydia I read the book, we will pull out some of the key messages, some of the key insights, and then we’ll also supplement that with other materials that we research. So, what we feel is that anybody can read a book and say, oh yeah, that was a great book, but if it’s really gonna make a difference. What are you going to do to apply it? So, we really are trying to bring that aspect of helping people apply the concepts in these books to their lives. So, we may have little assignments or exercises, that people go through. We also, are very vulnerable about sharing our own stories of things that we’ve been through as Lydia already shared part of her story. And so, that’s one way that we really want to connect with people to let them know, what, you’re not the only one. cause once we know that we’re not the only one going through something, I think just that in itself provides a huge measure of hope.
[00:08:59] We also created it a journal, an intention setting journal, that takes people through kind of thinking about their day more intentionally. So, what did they want to be that day? how do they want to show up in the world? if they know they’re going to be dealing with something difficult, maybe they know they’re going to have a difficult conversation or they’re going to be, in a meeting with someone that they maybe struggle with maybe thinking more intentionally how do I really want to show up? do I want to be calm? Do I want to be competent? I want to be excited. Do I want to keep my mouth shut? Do you know, just thinking more intentionally about how do I want to live life that day and then what do I want to do? Not the normal to do list of running errands and cleaning the house, cause we all have that but what do we want to do as far as taking care of my body? Maybe it’s just getting some movement for a half an hour, maybe it’s our nutrition, I want to drink X number of glasses of water a day, so just different things like that, things that are good for our mind and body.
[00:09:59] And then there’s areas in the journal to talk about what kind of hope do I need for myself? You know, what do I really need to focus on about encouraging myself? And then what can I do to provide hope and encouragement to someone else? And then there’s an area for gratitude. Gratitude is the source of joy. And so that is an important aspect of that as well. And then there’s a spot in there too where we, we have, an insight of the day and then a mindfulness question. As part of the posts, those little mini blogs that we post on our, our social media, we will give, a little insight, something to think deeper, and then a mindfulness question, that people can then write in their journal. it’s just really providing that physical book for them to focus in on, in their day. to be intentional. So, this is one of the things that we, we are doing right now, and we have big plans. We have other things that we want to do in the, but like Lydia said it’s one step at a time. And, and seeing how are we impacting people? What is really making the biggest difference in people’s lives? And then seeing where we can continue to grow and help people even more in different ways.
[00:11:08] Elaina: I’m really enjoying this discussion and you all have said so many things that just shows how we’re all connected in a way and that we aren’t alone. when Lydia was sharing her story, I completely related to when you were talking about you living life through the lens of what you thought was expected of you. It was probably not until my mid-thirties when I started to even feel comfortable and confident in who I was, and I wasn’t going to apologize any longer for who I was and what I wanted it wasn’t until I stopped being concerned about others expectations and started thinking about what I really wanted to me, that’s when things started to change for me. I just embraced who I was and stop living based off of perceived expectations the three of us had a conversation prior to this what inspired, you all to create the journal and doing something intentional and being intentional.
[00:12:07] Lydia: I saw the biggest shift in my life as you were speaking of wins, things started actually happening for you. It really happens when you start being intentional. It happens when you start connecting with who you truly are and stop just kind of living other people’s stories for you another big part of my story is that my mom struggled with mental health and it actually ended up taking her away from us. it’s a huge thing that I think that when we’re trying to live as somebody that we’re not meant to be, or that we aren’t truly on the inside. And when we were just kind of going through the motions and guessing, we’re just guessing like, is this what I was supposed to do here? You know, I should probably be married by this point, so maybe I need to do that. And when, when you’re just reacting to life and just guessing what you’re supposed to do, then I feel like we just lose ourselves. And that’s when, you know, depression starts to seep in and anxiety because you don’t feel genuine. that’s like a huge driving factor for me too, is that this world is, I almost feel like designed to set us up for that. So that we’re just spending money on things, trying to fill these holes that we create by not being authentic to ourselves. it’s an everyday decision. the second that we forget about it, something creeps in. it’s almost like you’re a magnet. as soon as you’re not paying attention it finds its way back. So I really do believe that it takes every day, almost every moment of knowing that you’re on this quest to like fully know who you are and what’s the best version of you, and it just takes a lot of just thought and being mindful and, and setting those intentions.
[00:13:46] Me and Stephanie have this ongoing joke that. every time we say that word, we were like, Oh, we can’t even say that anymore. Because we’ve said it like 3 million times in the past few years that we’ve been doing this. Like, but it just keeps coming up. It keeps coming up because it’s, it’s so important. life is so busy and distracting that we saw that there was this huge need for simple intention setting because for somebody that just wants more, you know, there’s so much out there, like the internet is just, obviously there’s unlimited information. There’s all these speakers trying to give you their point of view and it can really get overwhelming when you just hop on the internet in say like, I want to be inspired. What are the right videos to watch, or the right blogs to read? And you can get discouraged because you might come across things that don’t resonate with you or whatever. So, we really thought that there was a need for like, just simple. Simple things to think about every day. And that’s kind of also like why we came up with the journal, because that way, like you can be writing these things down and really like giving them more life and, keeping up with like your progress. So, you know, if you’ve only written in your journal one time this week, then maybe next week you’re like, okay, well I need to do it at least two days or whatever. So, you’re not just kind of reacting and going through like all if I feel like it, but it’s more of building a new habit. To do what every morning or every night or whatever.
[00:15:09] Stephanie: Yeah. I think, you know, adding to that, it’s having that physical activity of doing something, you know? I think that Elaina, you know, and being in the learning field, the more ways that we can incorporate something in our life, the more it becomes part of us. So, we may hear something and maybe we’ll learn a little bit from that. Maybe we’ll see something and maybe you learn from that, but if we can hear it, we can see it. We can do it then it becomes more a part of us and something we actually can take into us and then start applying. So, I think that’s one aspect of the journal. You’re physically doing something writing down and seeing what you’re writing, that it just kinda sticks in your head a little bit more. The other thing too, we can sit here and say all this, and people are like, yeah, whatever, sure, what did they know? Well, I can say for myself, since I have been trying to be much more intentional about how I think about things, the perspective that I have on situations that happen, I mean, that’s another huge word for me is perspective because that can make all the difference in how we respond to something. if anybody uses Facebook, you know, that it’ll show you from last year. It’ll bring up your memories from a year ago. You know, each day it’ll be like, here are your memories from last year, the years past. And what was a big like, aha moment for me is when my memories from years past started showing up and I could see the negativity.
[00:16:34] In my posts and I was like, “Oh my God”, I didn’t think that was that negative of a person, but I mean, I would be complaining about this or that or whatever and it’s like, you know what? It really just made me realize this is having an impact on me. It is changing how I think how I approach my day and another thing with social media, we have to be intentional about what we do with that. One of the things that I did is] I went through and I unfollowed people or sites that were negative. if that’s something you’re seeing every day, that gets in your head. So, I started, I’m following intentionally unfollowing those people are those sites and intentionally adding more positive People and sites to my newsfeed. And I think that makes a big difference as well. Because a lot of times we can all struggle with comparison and that sets the mis expectation I should be like that, you know? And the problem is a lot of what we see is not even real. Lydia and I try to share things that we’ve been through for myself I’ve struggled with infertility and that was really, really hard for me because all my friends were getting pregnant and having babies. And I always thought, well, you know, like, is it going to happen for me? And then you would hear the success stories of people who went through fertility treatments and then it works. So, everybody’s like, Oh, just, you know, go, go have this done. Go, you know, have this procedure done. You’ll have a baby. Well, that didn’t that wasn’t my story. I did go through fertility treatments. I did go through all of that. Taking all the hormones and making me crazy and all the other things of that nature. But I wasn’t, we were never successful. and being able to have a child. And so, my story, I can still have hope that even though that dream of mine didn’t come true, that I can, I still enjoy my life. It took me, it was a process for me to go through to accept that my life is still good. Even though this dream that I had didn’t come true. And so, I think that’s another thing a lot of times we’ll see the positive results of certain things of that nature. And then if that doesn’t happen to us, then we can lose hope but there is other ways to have hope. You know, even when things that we really, really wanted in life don’t happen. there’s hope there too. that’s one of the things that I feel like I really want to help people in those situations because I’ve been through it myself.
[00:18:58] Elaina: Absolutely. Thank you both so much. When you think about coping what is one positive or adaptive coping skill, strategy, that brings you joy and helps you get through that moment.
[00:19:15] Stephanie: Oh, just one. We can only share wine one.
[00:19:18] Elaina: Just one.
[00:19:20] Stephanie I think for me, and I don’t even know if I would call it a strategy, but it is reminding myself that everything I go through, every struggle, every failure, that it is an opportunity for me to learn and grow. because without struggles, without failure, we won’t grow. I mean, we just don’t, that’s what we learn from. And so, for me, it’s just reminding myself, you know what? It’s okay. You had a bad day. This conversation didn’t go well. maybe I didn’t do that as well as I was wanting, but it’s teaching me something if I will let it. So, for me, it’s just that thought process is how I go through it.
[00:19:59] Lydia: I would say mine is pretty similar. It’s my main mantra is life is happening for me. People always think it’s happening to you and you have to kind of like dodge bullets and whatever, and you have no control. But I 100% believe that every challenge that’s placed in front of me is setting me up for being exactly who I was created to be. And, I also want to write a book one day, so when the real crappy stuff happens when the real tough stuff happens, I just get excited that I’m getting some really good content for my book. This is going to be a good part. That’s gonna, you know, people are going to be on the edge of their seat, like, what’s she gonna do here? So, you know, it’s looking at those challenges as just like you said, the ways to make us stronger and, challenges for us to overcome and just knowing that as they come, they’re not gonna necessarily get easier but just knowing that I am going to get through it and then I’m gonna get through it, a stronger person like excites me. So I just anxiously await to see how it’s going to turn out cause I know it’s gonna turn out good.
[00:21:03] Elaina: That’s awesome. Well, thank you both so much for joining me this morning and I’m super excited to learn more about the Hope Warriors and see where you all go. And, I am really interested in this journal now cause I feel like I’m a journal connoisseur. So if you ever want to know, if you’ve got a good journal, I’ve been through thousands of them and I can tell you if we want to learn more about the Hope Warrior Project, or if we want tee shirts or, this journal or learn about the Academy, where can we find you?
[00:21:34] Stephanie: Well, definitely Facebook and Instagram. we’re very active on there and so that would be a great place. But we know some people aren’t on social media. So, we do have a website hopewarriorproject.com and, you can also subscribe to our email. we do send out a little recap each week of the. Posts that we put on social media. So, you can still get the benefit of that. even if you’re not on social media, and that’s where we’ll have our advertisements, we’re upcoming before your academies and tee shirts, other events that we’re going to be having.
[00:22:05] Elaina: Stephanie and Lydia, thank you both we will definitely keep an eye on the Hope Warrior Project thank you both for being open today and we will check in with you later.
[00:22:17] Stephanie: Thank you so much, Elaina.