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Investing in yourself is the best investment you will ever make. it will not only improve your life, it will improve the lives of all those around you.

Robin S. Sharma

I grew up in a trailer in rural North Carolina. My closet was skim, filled with a few things my mom had sewn for me and pieces purchased at our local K-Mart. I will be forever grateful for those items. Every week, even if bills were tight, I watched my mom and dad write a check for 10% of their income to our church. The faith and generosity of my parents have impacted me on such deep levels.

But, as you can imagine, the idea of investing in myself felt as foreign to me as the idea of visiting Paris.

As I became older, I stepped out of the world I had known.  And,  I noticed something fascinating:

The women I deeply admired massively invested in themselves.

Whether it was a beautiful handbag or signing up for a class that intrigued them, they didn’t hesitate to exchange money for something they desired.

In fact, I noticed that it was their investment in the seemingly “non-essentials” that made them so intriguing.  Yet, it seemed the least practical and socially unacceptable way to do so (and my mind told me that it was simply wasteful and irresponsible).

Yet, I was captivated and wanted to try it for myself.

The first time I bought a pair of $100 shoes, I had heart palpitations. I felt like I was being stabbed in the chest.

How dare you, my mind screamed. You’re going down!  

With shaking hands I grabbed the bag from the cashier and ran to my car before I changed my mind.

Deep down I knew that everything I wanted was not going to be found by doing the same things over and over — playing small, poor, not good enough, not ready.

Those excuses had to stop if I were to say yes to MORE LIFE!

When it comes to investing, I watch women invest thousands of dollars (and time!) in their children, their IRAs, their community…..but they shy away from putting cash on the table for themselves.

However, here’s what I’ve discovered:

When a woman is willing to invest in herself, life begins to invest in her. (tweet it)

Over the years, I’ve taken huge leaps of financial faith to step into a new way of being. These investments continue to pay off in huge ways, because they changed me as a woman.

Let me ask you this:

Do you expect your retirement plan to increase in value if you’re not contributing to it? The answer is no. Right? So, how do you increase your personal value if you’re not investing in you?

When it comes to investing in myself, I have this simple question that I ask myself:

Will this exchange lead to more life? – Tonya Leigh

I am constantly asked, “Tonya, how did you make the leap? Tell me what you did. What do you invest in? And how much?”

So, in this post I’d love to share my top all time investments in myself with you….and they are all on the non-essentials list, meaning:  they aren’t necessary to survive, but I do believe they are essential to thriving in life.   (And, it’s no surprise here — because that’s what I’ve discovered French Kissing Life is all about…the non-essentials).

And, the cost? Well, it doesn’t matter.  I’ve learned it’s not what you buy but the intention behind the purchase that matters.  It could be a luxurious candle or a car.  So, I’m not going to discuss the numbers.  What I am going to challenge you to think about is this one simple question: are you investing in you?

But this can be a controversial topic, so I feel the need to add in a disclaimer:

DISCLAIMER: What I’m about to share requires me to be vulnerable and transparent. I’m also very aware that some of you may read this and think: “How dare she?” Yeah, I know. I used to think the same thing too. And, as long as that’s how I walked through the world, I watched others enjoying the more luxurious things in life while I was like a starving child at the buffet. I lived in a constant state of fear and lack while others luxuriated in abundance and beauty. I also believe today that these things don’t define me. Those who know me understand that today, I can be in a trailer park eating fried chicken or at a penthouse in NYC sipping Champagne and feel at home in both worlds.  It’s not about the amount or even what you’re investing in.  It’s all about the intention.

So, before we dive in, let me be clear:

The point of this discussion is not to tell you how to invest your money. The investments that have changed me may yield very little return for you.

The bottom line is, your investment in yourself is not about the price…it is about the act.  And, what you choose to invest in should represent what you value and who you desire to be in the world.

My hope is that this conversation will cause YOU to ponder:

How can I invest in myself more to help me fulfill my desires?

….so, here we go!

My top Investments that changed me as a Woman

1. Investing in a Luxury Handbag

I had walked by the Louis Vuitton store in Aspen, Colorado for years.

But, would I never let myself go in.

Ever since seeing an ad in Vogue when I was around 10 years old, I wanted one of those handbags. But, the voice in my head constantly asked, “Who are you to have such a beautiful purse?” So, I admired from afar.

I watched women through the window checking out like they were at the grocery store. No big deal.

But, for me, it was such a huge deal that I couldn’t even walk in.

One day, I heard a voice in my head whisper, “Darling, it’s just a handbag. And, a beautiful one. Go in there and buy it, enjoy it and treasure it.”

I walked in that day and checked out just like the ladies I had seen in there before. It really was no big deal.

HOW IT CHANGED ME: Let’s face it: a handbag doesn’t change a woman. As that voice said, “It’s just a handbag.” But, what did change for me that day was not creating so much drama in my head about what I was worthy or not worthy for, to stop judging other women for how they invest their money and to honor what I want. And, I have been taking exquisite care of my bag for years. It will be with me for a long time as a reminder of that young woman who finally rallied the courage to buy the bag.

2. Investing in Sommelier School

Since my early twenties, I desired to know more about the world of wine. And, reading The Wine Spectator just wasn’t cutting it. And, let me assure you, I didn’t grow up with wine speak. Alcohol of any kind was not allowed in my home.

So, one day, I got a wild hair and thought, “I’m going to become a sommelier” (even though I couldn’t pronounce the word at the time). Yet, the idea of paying for a program that I had no plan to turn into a profession or make money from was a big no-no.

I signed up anyway.

During my very first class, I was the eager student in the front row. When asked what our favorite wine was, I raise my hand and professed, “I love Rose wine” (pronounced as the flower, instead of with the accent on the end). The entire class, including the French instructor looked at me in horror.

But, I’m happy to report, I passed the final exam and blind tasting with flying colors. And, I never called it “rose” wine again.

HOW IT CHANGED ME: I became more at ease when wine was being served. Before long, the list was automatically passed to me. I positioned myself as a wine expert and opportunities began to come my way from creating wine programs to being invited as a guest for wine events. That girl who could barely pronounce Bordeaux had come a long way. By investing in a curiosity that had no guarantees, the return on investment was the deep satisfaction of cultivating my mind and my palate.

3. Investing in International & Domestic Travel

There are those who read about travel. And, then there are those who book the ticket and actually go. I spent most of my life being the spectator. I thought I couldn’t afford it, that I would do it someday in the future, that maybe I’d win some kind of vacation package (like the “come let us tell you about how timeshare and we’ll give you 3 free nights).

Booking my first trip to Paris was a bold statement that I was no longer going to sit on the sidelines of life and travel through the eyes of Anthony Bourdain. I needed to see it through my own. Since then, I’ve traveled throughout Europe, Central America, the Caribbean and all over my own beautiful country. I created what I wanted, one trip at a time.

As Saint Augustine said, “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.”

HOW IT CHANGED ME: Excuses are just that — excuses. And, we need to call them out for what they are. Booking my first trip was a testament that I was no longer going to be the Excuse Princess. Travel opened my eyes and heart to my truest self. Waking up in a small village with a foreign language being spoken makes you vulnerable, it strengthens your relationship with yourself, if shifts something deep inside of you, breaks up old patterns and creates new perspectives. Pitching a tent on Lake Powell taught me how resourceful I am. You learn to be at home with yourself. (And, this is just a small sampling of the powerful impact of travel).

4. Investing in the freshest and most decadent food ingredients

My Roman friend, Francisco, drizzled a bit over some pasta and I experienced my first culinary orgasm like a scene straight out of Eat, Pray, Love. We sat at his little villa in Italy moaning over every bite, having deep discussions about each ingredient that went into our meal and celebrating food (instead of fearing it).

Truffle oil is now a staple in my pantry.  And truffle honey on chevre?  I have no words.

HOW IT CHANGED ME: My old relationship with food had been to resist, deny and then binge on anything. The way I approached food was thoughtless and cheap. When I completely rewired my brain (and fridge) with beautiful and delectable foods, filled my shelf with gorgeous cookbooks and learned to savor my meals, my body found it’s natural weight…with ease. Europe taught me so much about how to nourish my body with pleasure, not restriction. It inspired me to invest in my own food culture.  Fresh heirloom tomatoes from a local farmer, a vintage Bordeaux, seared apricots with fresh cream…yes please! 

5. Investing in a Beautiful Wardrobe that I absolutely adore.

I’ve had people argue with me on this one.

“Clothes don’t matter,” they’ll say to me.

I respectfully disagree. Everything we do, including what we wear, is an expression of who we are, it’s an extension of us. While I don’t believe a woman must spend thousands of dollars to dress beautifully, I am a big advocate of quality clothes.

“Buy less but buy better” is my wardrobe mantra.

I’d rather have four beautiful, high quality dresses hanging in my closet than twenty sub-par pieces that don’t fit and fall apart within a year.

I believe in dressing for myself, with intention and to support the woman I choose to be.

HOW IT CHANGED ME: People often assume that I’ve always had a sense of style. That couldn’t be further from the truth. I think I’ve always wanted to have one, but a sense of style was not how I came into this world. Being made fun of in eighth grade after a failed fashion attempt set me out on a mission to cultivate my own personal style. Something happened within me — a sense of confidence, creativity and beauty — when my wardrobe supported how I desired to feel and express myself in the world.

6. Finding and Investing in My Signature Scent

The extent of my perfume knowledge was the counters of department stores. And there are some fabulous scents that are mass produced….. but that’s just it…… nothing that could be uniquely mine.

And I am unique. I desired to express my uniqueness. (And, let me assure you:  you are unique too, and there’s a fragrance out there that will express you in ways that eveb Chanel No. 5 never will.)

When I visited Grasse, in the South of France (and the perfume capital of the world), I walked through the fields of flowers that are harvested to create some of the most luxurious scents for a woman. I began to ponder if I had been missing out on a secret that many women didn’t know.

My world suddenly opened up when François, the owner of a rare perfume collection in Paris, told me:

“Tonya, every woman must have her signature scent. With one whiff, the world will know who she is.”

He then began to question me:

What flowers do you like?
Do you want seduction or sensuality?
Do you like warm or cool?
Do you want men to follow you or just stare?

Out of a thousand different scents and several hours, I narrowed it down to my very own scent. Clearly, the price tag nor the time I spent pondering these questions and smelling scents was not what you’d find at a department store. However, I chose to invest in quality, rarity…… and a scent that was absolutely perfect for me.

HOW IT CHANGED ME: Other than feeling like I had discovered the underground of the perfume world, there’s something exquisite about taking the time and putting much thought into choosing a scent to represent you as a woman. Not to mention a point made by François: the association between a scent and a woman is powerful. “I still remember the scent of my grandmother,” he said.

7. Investing in Personal Coaching, Mentorship, and Societies

When I pressed the payment button on a very expensive mentorship program, I felt like throwing up.

The same thing happened when I had an opportunity to join an “Invitation Only” Society (….note: that I invited myself into!) that has participants in it like Richard Branson & Martha Stewart.

My heart was saying, “Jump, Tonya!”

But my brain was spewing out all kinds of fear tactics:

“It’s a scam.”
“It’s a waste of money.”
“You’re making someone else rich.”
“You don’t belong there.”
“You’re not good enough.”
“Who in the world do you think you are.”

I knew deep down that everything I desired was not going to be found in fear and lack. With more money than I had spent on my nursing degree, I was on a mission: to cultivate my most beautiful mind and network.

I have realized that my mentors and other people I admire (including entrepreneurs, designers and fashion icons) have spent a lot of time, money and resources in cultivating themselves by connecting with likeminded folks, people that inspire them and education to cultivate their minds.  They see themselves as their own greatest commodity.

HOW IT CHANGED ME: Investing in myself in this way (mentorship, coaching, societies) has paid off more than any money I’ve ever put into my retirement account, and the payoff continues to offer great returns. I cannot bring the same mind that created the problem to the table to fix it. When I’m so stuck in my story or when my vision is so limited, it’s hard to change despite my greatest efforts. My mind had convinced me for years that I was not good enough/smart enough/whatever enough. It’s why massive action won’t necessarily cut it and why change can feel so hard. Turns out, investing in my own personal development has given me the greatest rewards of all, because it helped me to cultivate the mindset to allow me to accomplish my dreams and desires.  Never underestimate the value of cultivating yourself as a woman, whether it’s an art class, mentorship, or a networking event. 

8. Investing in Causes in which I believe

One of the many gifts my parents gave me was the principle that one should share their blessings. And, they also believed that regardless of what’s in your bank account, you’re blessed.

I remember when all I could afford to give was $5, and what I know is that whether it’s $5 or $5000, the feeling is the same. It’s knowing that you have given what you can.

HOW IT CHANGED ME: I used to be too afraid to give, afraid I’d run out. My life was operated out of fear and lack. By investing in others, I was indirectly investing in myself. There’s so much goodness that comes from giving, but the biggest gift it has given me is an acknowledgment of my own abundance, acting out of a place of love, not fear, out of faith not doubt.


Now it’s your turn:

What are the biggest investments that you have made in yourself?

How have they changed you?

I’d love to know. Please share down below in the comments.



The Self-Image Manifesto

You’re Invited To Live An Extraordinary Life!