I Refuse To Become "Professional" When it Costs Me Authenticity

Recently, on ye ol’ Instagram, I shared a Story with a picture of me with tears in my eyes. I talked about my confusion about the contradictions of being a person. About the very real emotion that is simply present inside my human body and mind.

I got some messages in my inbox questioning the ethics of me sharing in that way considering that I am in the process of becoming a licensed therapist.

Let me first speak to the obvious elephant in the room, which is that this is something about which I have historically felt insecure, and therefore defensive. I have told myself countless stories about how this is just another part of me being too much, too big, too emotional. I’ve told myself I’m a fraud for wanting to become a psychotherapist; only people who have figured it all out can do this work and have it count, right?

NO. NOPE. No. Not right.

I need you to listen to me for a second: the field of psychotherapy is one that was developed by white men. The same white men that constructed systems of patriarchal and colonial oppression. The same white men that continue to tell us to sit down and keep quiet or they’ll rape us or grab our pussies. The same white men who raise other white men to be toxically  unemotional and self-serving.

Me experiencing being a full, emotional, confused, confident, unsure, completely sure, ragged, docile, volatile, apologetic, righteous womxn — TERRIFIES these men, and therefore also terrifies those who worship them.

If a board of so-called emotional health professionals decides someday that I don’t deserve a license because I share too much of my human experience with other humans?

That’s just fine.

I refuse to become palatable and “professional” when it costs me true authenticity.

I simply cannot live inside of the insidious illusion that some of us get what’s acceptable and some of us don’t and that the ones who question the validity of these made up rules created for the comfort of some are strange or untrustworthy or unprofessional or not okay in some other falsely constructed way.

That is all.

Being Asked To Do Better Is Not The Same As Being Attacked (Even Though I Know It Feels That Way)

I started writing about nine years ago. I had two small children and a treasure trove of as-yet-undiscovered emotional pain that needed an outlet besides late-night tequila shots and the passing-down of unhealthy parenting patterns.

I made a blog. People read it. Eventually, a lot of people read it.

I wrote about struggling to have a purpose outside of motherhood, about how from the ages of 2.6-4 I felt like my son had absolutely picked the wrong mother to be born to (all he was really doing was uncovering all that pain — the angel — but I didn’t know that yet.)

Once I realized the tequila shots were actually a problem, I wrote about that. And then once I discovered it was not only possible, but paramount that I step into the role of cyclebreaker, that.

My public unfurling, the self-discovery and healing that was beginning to take place, was inspiring people — they told me so daily. And it was happening right when vulnerability was a new public idea, when life coaching was an up-and-coming-curiosity. I bought some courses. I thought, “I can do this.”

And so I made a page on my site that offered women everything they needed to be healed and happy. I used clever names for my packages. I was on-trend-soulful and irreverent. I promised something hollow, but enticing.

I got clients. I had arrived.

And then at the height of all of it — tens of thousands of site visitors, pieces translated into languages I can’t speak, regular publication in the then-coveted HuffPost, a sold out weekend-long coaching event in Boston — I gave it all up.

I was a fraud and I knew it.

I hadn’t done enough personal work to be able to really help people. I was chasing the image of the self-made entrepreneurial woman — which had already become the modern marker of success it continues to be. I wanted to be in the club and yet, my gut said, “Stop this.”

I don’t know how I had the will to listen; ignoring that voice and building a successful coaching business would have been sexier than the years of office and restaurant work that have happened instead,

But I knew I was going to ruin myself in irrevocable ways if I continued. I knew, deep in my belly, in a place where only real feelings live, that living out of alignment was that dangerous. And even though it was grief-inducing and ego-bruising and uncertain to step away from something with which I so closely identified, even though I didn’t know what would happen — I knew finding out was a more real way to live.

I was being asked to do better.

At first, I felt attacked by my knowing. I tried to reject it. I tried to defend what I was doing, to cling to it.

But eventually, I could see: nothing was going to save me from this truth. And so I surrendered into what was going to come next.

I didn’t die.

If we’re interested in growth and healing, being asked to do better forces us to look all the way down into the bottom of our shit pit. And it’s (obviously) gross down there. But scrubbing it down is a chance to experience cleaner, ordered living.

Which isn’t an attack at all — but an invitation.

Dear Fellow White Women

Dear Fellow White Women,

We need to call our leaders out. Our self-help and spiritual and branding coaches, our thought leaders, our relatable moms-next-door who like to keep things light and “focus on the good” and not mess things up with reality.

Putting people on pedestals — including ourselves — makes us unwilling to think critically and makes us resistant to change.

Having a common female enemy — like Susan Collins or Tomi Lahren — makes us think we care about fighting for what’s right and against what’s broken, but instead allows to think we’re not “that bad” and so must be good or at least good enough.

We need to have higher expectations for our white female influence-y leaders than being quirky and just real enough. We need to ask for more than pictures of crystals and sinks full of dishes partnered with sarcastic captions about "#RealLife and requests to stop “being so divisive”.

If we start relentlessly insisting we each do better, we will do better. It starts with doing uncomfortable things like asking those we’ve previously idolized to put some skin in the game and step it up.

And remember: we can only do this after first asking ourselves to do better.


Social Media Is Real

Don’t shame people for valuing the work they do on social media. It’s real and impactful work.

Some people didn’t grow up being heard, and value having a space to express their whole selves. And some people are saying things more traditional spaces don’t care about. Social media allows these people to be fully authentic in a way they can’t be in the 3-D world.

Social media is real.

Don’t laugh off the work people do there.

Because radical healing is happening and revolutions are quietly being born while we’re busy thinking we’re better and “more real” and focused on the “right” things.

Try thinking differently.