Mindful Self-Care

Happy Tuesday! Today, I have some quick words on mindful self-care. The summer is approaching (or is already here, I might just be in denial), and that can mean opportunities for self-care and opportunities for burnout (I guess its like all the other seasons in that way!). There can be a lot of expectations, in addition to shifts in schedules or obligations, during the summer. Self-care is a huge trending topic right now; I want to encourage you to engage in self-care, however that looks, but I want to encourage you to do so mindfully! Here are three things to keep in mind (hah!) for mindful self-care.

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Grief is a topic that requires a whole series, and then another series. Grief cannot be summed up in a few shorts paragraphs, and cannot be “cured” with three simple steps. This is a topic that has long sat in my queue of blogs- I think I kept putting it off because it is so gigantic. Rather than let perfectionism or avoidance get the best of me, I am going to start! This will be a topic that I revisit in future posts; for today, I am going to do a round up of important things to keep in mind related to grief.

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Saying No

Do you struggle saying no? Find yourself with a lot of things piling up on your plate, none of which are things you are actually excited about? Are you feeling burned out?

Saying no can be a really challenging skill for a lot of people. Maybe you think of yourself as a people pleaser; maybe you underestimate the energy and time of your various commitments until it is too late; maybe the thought of missing out on something is enough to keep you saying yes to everything. You might find yourself feeling guilty after saying no, or ruminating over how others are perceiving your response.

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The problem with perfectionism is that [newsflash] perfection is unattainable. When you are bound to perfectionism as a means of coping with shame, you might find yourself avoiding enjoyable activities because of the fear that you will perform imperfectly and then be subject to the pain of shame. You may find yourself confined to the space of what is comfortable, familiar, or “easy”. Growth and change come from discomfort or trying something new. Feeling “stuck” can be a product of perfectionism keeping you from growth and change.

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Shame Series III: Empathic Connection

Building off of the last blog on the different types of shame shields, I want to share a bit about why these shields don’t serve us in the long run. Shame is painful; it is isolating; and it is universal. Shame is not something that is often talked about in even the closest of relationships; when I work with my clients on shame, it is after we have established a solid rapport and it is rarely brought to the table by clients- “Hey, I have an idea- let’s talk about my deep, dark shame!”. Yeah, that’s typically not happening. Because shame is rooted in this core experience that “I am flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging”, we are often driven to avoid connection in response to shame.

“I am bad” → “I do not want others to find out that I am bad” or “I will be rejected if I show that I am bad” → shields. Unfortunately, this cycle builds on itself. This cycle assumes that the experience of “I am bad and unworthy” is true! Shame begets shame. So what reduces shame? Empathic connection.

Unlike the shame shields, empathic connection goes head to head with shame and serves as an antidote. When you share your experience of shame with a trusted person (very, very important- not everyone is a safe person with whom you can share) and are met with empathy, that deep down belief that you are not lovable or worthy because of your flaws is shattered. The belief that you are unlovable and unworthy cannot persist in that moment when you, flaws and all, are being met with love and belonging from another person. Empathic connection teaches us that we are lovable, we are worthy, and we do belong.

Now, one instance of empathic connection does not forever drive the experience of shame from your life. But, the more you reach for empathic connections over shame shields, the more that experience of shame is eroded. You may begin to recognize the earliest signs of shame, and begin to reach for connection before those trusty shields. Those experiences of being unworthy of love and belonging will very likely show up again, but you have had practice in turning to another in these painful moments and being embraced, literally or figuratively; and that embrace reminds you that your flaws mean you are flawed, but do not mean you are unworthy.

Perhaps you have had this experience before; sharing your shame with a trusted confidant and feeling that person’s love and acceptance envelope you in a way that shouts “You belong! You are not perfect, and you belong and are loved just as you are!”. Perhaps you have not had this experience- maybe you have never been able to let down your shield; maybe your attempts at letting down your shield were met only by others putting up their own. But can you imagine? Can you imagine this felt experience of belonging and being loved when your shame is telling you that those very experiences are unattainable for you?

This. This is how we combat shame. The shields protect us from the sting of the shame in the moment, but ultimately reinforce the voice of shame. Empathic connection turns the voice of shame on its head, and declares “I am worthy. I am lovable, and I do belong.”