Kristin Cavallari has spent the last few years 'really working on myself': 'I had this void and I was looking to men to fulfill that'

Kristin Cavallari opens up about therapy, relationships and living without regrets. (Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Getty Images)
Kristin Cavallari opens up about therapy, relationships and living without regrets. (Photo illustration by Yahoo News; photos by Getty Images)

The Unwind is Yahoo Life's well-being series in which experts, influencers and celebrities share their approaches to wellness and mental health, from self-care rituals to setting healthy boundaries to the mantras that keep them afloat.

After revisiting her Laguna Beach roots on Back to the Beach, Kristin Cavallari is ready to expand her podcasting reach and branch out to other topics. Earlier this month the former reality star launched her new Dear Media podcast, Let's Be Honest with Kristin Cavallari, which will see her diving into the topics she cares about most. As Cavallari tells Yahoo Life's the Unwind, having the freedom to set the conversation is something of a novelty for her.

"Since I was 17, my voice has been controlled to some degree," she says, "so to be able to have a podcast and have it be 100% me and be able to talk about whatever I want talk about ... has been a lot of fun."

The single star — who shares three kids with ex-husband Jay Cutler — has a particular interest in digging deep into dating and relationships. "I just think it's so relatable," she says. "We've all gone through it or are going through it — I'm currently going through it." (The best dating advice, in her view, is to "go on lots of dates"; the worst is thinking that chemistry will grow if you aren't initially attracted to someone, something she's often told but has yet to experience.)

One conversation she's especially eager to have: What it's like being in a relationship with a narcissist, and what red flags to watch out for. It's something she has dealt with firsthand, says Cavallari, who calls it "one of the hardest things for me to work through my entire life."

"I really feel like that's what I've been doing for the last, like, three and a half years — really working on myself," says the Uncommon James founder and CEO, who announced her marital split in 2020. "My dad is a narcissist and so I never felt like I was good enough. It made me question a lot of things and have, like, a real lack of self-love. I had this void and I was looking to men to fulfill that. And so that's what I've had to work through. And I feel like I've really done a good job of it, and I feel like I've gotten to the other side."

Cavallari adds that she's curious to see how she'll be able to apply that work in her next relationship. While the star has dated since her split, she says she considers herself to have been single over the past few years. Being a mom, she notes, means having "high standards" about progressing to a more serious commitment.

"Because even on a first date — and I know I shouldn't do this — but I am sitting there going, could you be the stepfather to my children?" she shares. "And a lot of times it's like, No, you couldn't be. So if I can't see you as a stepfather of my kids, then why am I even entertaining this, because that means you're not good enough for me.

"My kids really haven't met anyone I've dated," she continues. "They met one person because they were a fan of his and they were excited to meet him, but they haven't, like, actually met someone because I've been serious enough with [that person]. I tell my kids that they're the most special people in my life, so it's going to take someone amazing to be around them. I mean, not anyone gets to meet my kids, and my kids are the most important people in my life. It's definitely made me have high standards, which is a very good thing, I think."

Being single and sharing custody of her kids means Cavallari has had more time to "make myself a priority again" and focus on her mental well-being. She's learning to be better about saying "no" and is a fan of therapeutic practices like journaling, meditating and exercising. Lately, however, she's been exploring more experimental therapies.

"I've had a lot of cool experiences in the last few years," she shares. "I tried Bufo [a psychedelic toad venom HGTV star Christina Hall says 'reset' her brain] — which was similar to ayahuasca, but it only lasts for like 20 minutes — which was crazy."

She plans to talk about that and other treatments she's tried, like shadow work, on her podcast. "It's definitely not for everybody," Cavallari concedes, but being open to new things has given her clarity on her relationships and unhealthy patterns she'd been subconsciously holding on to since childhood.

"I've been in therapy my whole life, basically in and out since my parents got a divorce in third grade, and it's been incredibly beneficial for me," Cavallari says. "But now it's about digging in further and it's more about the relationship with self and developing this real sense of self-love, which I've had to do in the last few years, because I didn't have that and that was why I was attracting all the wrong guys."

Hypnotherapy, she says, "has actually been the most insightful form of therapy that I've done." She explains, "It's really someone talking to your subconscious, and that's how I've unblocked a lot of these things — this trauma that I didn't even know I had stored in my body."

Over the past decade Cavallari has navigated not just divorce but bereavement, too. In 2015 her older brother Michael was found dead about two weeks after going missing.

"My brother died almost eight years ago and that, for me, really started my spiritual journey," Cavallari says. "It made me a very spiritual person and that was how I worked through that, [by] really believing that it's not the end when we die. And I got a lot of signs from my brother, which I found so much peace in. I really think that, for me, the faith that there's just so much more than what meets the eye has really been helpful for me when it comes to loss specifically."

Believing that there's a "bigger end game" has helped her "put things in perspective" in other areas of her life. "It's taken the drama out of a lot of things that I used to get really worked up over," she says.

Ultimately, Cavallari is settling into this new chapter of her life, one in which she's able to find her voice and call the shots, on the air and off. That freedom is rewarding for someone who spent her youth under a microscope, but Cavallari doesn't take her early fame for granted.

"I don't regret anything in my life because as cliché as it is, I really feel like everything I've been through has gotten me where I am today," she says, reflecting on her Laguna Beach days. "And I'm actually really thankful for my journey. I think as a mom, maybe it's changed the way I look at things more than anything else, just because the stuff I was doing when I was like 17, 18, I can't imagine letting my kids do some of that stuff. But I also just think, you know, it was a different time. I don't regret anything. When I look back at my life, I think I've lived a very cool life. And that doesn't mean it hasn't been really challenging at times, but ultimately I've had a very fun, awesome life."