As the child of two college professors, Dr. Cortney Warren was raised in an academic environment. In addition to attaining a formal education in the classroom, she traveled extensively, getting a “real-world” education. Before the age of twenty, Cortney had lived in Australia and Argentina and traveled throughout Central America, South America, Russia, Scandinavia, and Western Europe. Exposed to a diversity of cultures and lifestyles from an early age, she was intrigued by the ways cultural and environmental conditions affected the psychological well-being of individuals, groups, and even entire societies. Her interest in psychology and issues of cultural diversity took academic shape as an undergraduate at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. Under the exceptional mentorship of Drs. Jaine Strauss (Macalester College) and Nancy C. Raymond (University of Minnesota), Cortney developed a strong interest in the cultural components of eating disorders, and undertook supporting research and clinical activities.
After graduating magna cum laude from Macalester, Cortney entered the doctoral program in clinical psychology at Texas A&M University. Funded by the American Psychological Association's Minority Fellowship Program, Cortney sought out the mentorship of Drs. David H. Gleaves and Antonio Cepeda-Benito, who specialize in cross-cultural and linguistic issues in the assessment and treatment of eating disorders and substance abuse. From there, she completed her pre-doctoral clinical internship at McLean Hospital/Harvard Medical School and joined the faculty at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) in 2006. Although Cortney received tenure at UNLV in 2012, she formally retired from academia in 2014 to pursue a career that would allow her more time with her family and more interaction with the general public. As Cortney moves into a new phase of her career, she plans to use psychological research and clinical observations to help the public live more fulfilling lives by confronting their self-deception. In addition to doing this generally, Cortney plans to address how self-deception contributes to unhealthy eating behavior and negative body image. For more information, see her new book, Lies We Tell Ourselves: The Psychology of Self-Deception.
What do I do best?
I am excellent at understanding and analyzing people. This is partly because I am a clinical psychologist and trained to understand human nature. To see core characteristics and personality dispositions of people—especially the aspects of people that they cannot see in themselves. But it is also something that came naturally to me from an early age. I am very observant.
What makes me the best version of myself?
Never being satisfied with status quo and a desire to change makes me the best version of myself. I strive to grow because the journey to understand yourself never ends. You are continually exposed to new situations and information that can help you see new aspects of yourself. My willingness and desire to evolve and learn is what helps me be my best self.
What are my aspirations?
Personally, my aspiration is to live the most fulfilling life possible. I use the word fulfilling—and not happiest—because I think there is far too much focus on happiness in recent psychological work. People misunderstand the word happy and tend to think that being happy all of the time is possible and desirable. I would argue that being happy all of the time is not realistic nor is it healthy. For change is uncomfortable. And honesty requires seeing aspects of yourself, others, and the world that are highly unpleasant and upsetting. But it is that discomfort that propels us to evolve and to grow. And I do believe that life fulfillment—being authentically yourself and creating the life that you need to live to have a meaningful existence—is possible.
Professionally and in business, my goal is to make a solid income while helping as many people as possible to live the most fulfilling life possible. As a clinical psychologist, I love that I can do this in many ways with many kinds of people. Clinically, I work with people who are emotionally in a very traumatized and dysfunctional state. I also do a lot of public speaking, which involves speaking to groups of people who are generally satisfied with life but striving to understand themselves on a deeper level or to elevate themselves (their career, relationships, health) in a meaningful way. I also work with smaller groups of people who want to be more multiculturally sensitive or develop better relationships within a given organization or culture (e.g., business). I also enjoy speaking on television, radio, or other media outlets about a given topic or recent events.
My Biggest Success?
I just celebrated my 40th birthday. If I described my life at 40 to my 20-year-old self, she would jump for joy.
My biggest success is getting to today. Being the Cortney of today because of the amount of time and energy I put into my own personal development.
It was not an easy ride. There were many ups and many downs, personally and professionally. Looking back, all of the hard work was completely worth it. I earned many accolades along the way that meant a lot to me—culminating in earning tenure in the Department of Psychology at UNLV at age 34. That was one of my proudest professional moments. And years of therapy. Years of self-reflection. Years of trying to understand who I really was and why I reacted the way I did to the world around me.
It was all worth it.
My Most Challenging Moment?
There have been so many in my life. Which is incredible because I think I have and have had a wonderful life. And it has still be tremendously hard!
Quitting my job as a tenured professor was life-altering in many ways. Not only was I giving up a safe, secure income and esteem position forever, but I was changing my entire identity as a human being. I had worked my entire life to get to this point—to earn tenure and reach the pinnacle of my young career. And a year after getting tenure, I resigned.
Being a professor wasn't my passion anymore.
I had my first child the year after I got tenure. I went back to work after taking a sabbatical leave and I would leave her at home just after she woke up and come back home just before she went to bed. As I looked at my life, I asked myself what I really wanted to do with my time. And the answer was that I wanted to spend more time with my daughter. And I didn't really want to write grants, write empirical research papers only read by other professionals, and grade papers anymore. It wasn't challenging in the same way it used to be. So, I needed to change.
Easier said than done. But I knew that I would regret staying in my job. So I quit. And it changed my professional life completely. I am still very much active in psychology. I still teach. And I am still an adjunct faculty member. But, now, I only take on projects that I really want to do because I want to—I am compelled or interested in a meaningful way. I write and speak for the public—which I never did as a professor. And that is quite awesome.
There are many things you will hear me say on a regular basis. One of the most common is, “Wherever you go, there you are.” What does it mean? It means that you are first and foremost you. You can try to run from your problems. You can try to deny who you are. You can try to escape from your life. But at the end of the day, you bring yourself with you in every situation you encounter in life. So, wherever you go, there you are. If you want to change your life, look in the mirror. It always starts with you.
My Favorite People/Role Models?
Professionally, I absolutely respect Freud. He is very misunderstood in mainstream American culture. But he single-handedly revolutionized the way we understand people and treat mental illness. And he was a brilliant observer of human behavior. He developed his theories and treatment at a time in history (WWII) when he could easily have been killed (by the Nazi’s—he fled Vienna just before being captured) or stopped because of criticism from those around him. And respect and admire him and his work. He persevered and stayed true to himself in the face of chaos around him.
Personally, my grandmother was one of my biggest role models. She was brilliant, beautiful and strong-willed. From the outside, it looked like she had the perfect life. She graduated from Butler University in the 1930’s—one of the first female graduates. She married a successful airline pilot and had 4 children. But she had a very challenging life in many ways. Like many women of her day (and today), her husband was gone a lot and had many extramarital affairs (which she knew about). When she was in her 40’s, my grandfather committed suicide, which was incredibly painful and a cultural sign of illness. She was left as a single mom of 4 in an affluent area and time when mental illness was very misunderstood and highly stigmatized. Although she had plenty of her own struggles, she was a survivor and had a tremendous amount of courage. She didn't let painful experiences break her spirit or her life. And she found a way to recreate herself and her life. I have a tremendous amount of gratitude and admiration for her resiliency.
My Favorite Places/Destinations?
I love to travel. In fact, I would probably go almost anywhere in the world because I find people and cultures fascinating. I love exploring the venues, trying the food, going to markets and experiencing the local customs.
Coming up with a favorite place is very tough for me because every place has something unique and special to offer. I love Central and South America, and have a particular fondness for Argentina and Chile. My ancestry is mostly Scandinavian, so Norway and Sweden also hold a special place in my heart. But I think there is nothing like being near the ocean for me. Whether it is in the United States along the coast or abroad, walking on the ocean and hearing the waves lap along the coast gives me a peace and centeredness unlike any other place.
In terms of coast, Fiji is probably the most beautiful beach I have ever experienced. Warm cream-colored sand. Brightly colored fish visible whether you are in or out of the water. And incredible volcanic mountains springing up out of the water. It is simply breathtaking.
My Favorite Products/Objects?
I absolutely love wine. Mostly big reds, but a big buttery chardonnay you will find in my house also. A glass of the Prisoner blend or Rombauer Chardonnay makes me smile at the end of a long day.
One of my very favorite things to do is open a bottle of wine, get some good cheese and fruit, light some candles, and hang out with my girlfriends in workout clothes. We can chat for hours.
My Current Passions?
I am a die-hard football fan. I play fantasy football. I bet on football. And the Minnesota Vikings are my team.
I also love looking for sea glass. Walking on the beach and finding a little piece of green or white glass is wonderfully entertaining. With my kids and husband makes it even more fun. We have jars of seaglass in my house.