Visual representations of times, places, people. Images can be real, imagined or manufactured. Images capture a single moment in time but not the context. While we spend time looking sometimes enviously at others photos of holiday and other family celebrations, we know not the daily struggles behind those smiles. Every picture tells a story. Sometimes the story is one we tell ourselves and sometimes it is a fairy tale others want us to believe.
This years holiday gifts in my family were those of photos. My children were gifted photos of childhoods long gone and gifted me with photos of who they are now. Each photo carried a story that was told as we turned the pages of the books and our lives. Memories were shared and new ones created together.
As I sat alone at the end of the night in the glow of the Christmas tree, I scrolled social media. I looked at the images that family and friends had posted. I saw more than the surface in many of those photos. In some I could see strained smiles and sad eyes. In some I could see body language that most would not recognize unless they had lived similar lives. I looked at the often highly curated settings of many photos and saw what many would miss. Most people would just hit the ‘like’ button and keep scrolling but not me. Perhaps it is because in the past I had been the one posting those “impression management” photos to cover for the inadequacies, deep pain and heartache I felt. Perhaps it is because some of those posting the photos had privately shared their struggles with me or because I just knew the reality of their lives.
We all want others to believe that our lives are perfect and without strife or struggle. We see the ‘picture’ that others present and think “why not me?’ or “what is wrong with me?” We step into that place of lack…that feeling that we are somehow inadequate….that feeling that somehow we are not and do not have enough.
STOP THAT! STOP right now!
Life is real and messy and imperfect…and so are we. Which is why I shared the stories behind the photos my kids had in front of them. I shared joyful, happy memories as well as pain-filled moments as we looked at the photos. I owned moments of grief and anger as well as moments when my heart overflowed with love and pride for each/all of them.
The more that we are authentic and real with one another, the more grace we offer each other, the kinder we are……the more love is created. Accept yourself for who you are and love the person looking back at you in the mirror. Accept one another, and yourself, for who they are and love the person…not the image. Every picture tells a story…own your truth and tell your story.


I met a woman through a mutual friend. She said she was divorced as well and while we talked, I realized she was holding back. As her kids ran towards the water, I said “Tell me more.”
She said a few things and then looked at me sideways…..
“You get it! You understand…..I can just tell….. “
And then the real conversation began….
We as women need to own our truth and our story. When we do, we allow other women to do the same especially the women that surround us. Our story may not always be pretty but impression management has gotten a better of us. I know because I did it for years. We use social media to manage other people’s vision of us which has made it worse. While we are looking for the carefully curated photo and post, we have lost ourselves. We want others to believe our life is perfect, but that is not reality. That further widens the divide.  Other women feel they can not relate to our lives….when, in-fact, if we were more real, we would realize we have far more in common. 
The women that I love and relate most to are those that are imperfect. They own their story making them the bravest, most badass warriors in my eyes.  I may not know all the details of the story or those imperfections but I know that they struggle with all sorts of different issues. I know that their life is not all sunshine and rainbows, Again they may not share all the gritty details but I know they’ve been through some shit. I can relate to and admire that authenticity.  
We women need to own our story. Good, the bad and the ugly. We all have chapters that are short, some are shorter than others. We all have those long chapters we thought would never end. We have chapters that we only write in draft form and never share. We have some chapters, the details of which, have only been shared with those that are closest with us. All those chapters make up who we are as a human. 
There will always be those that want to tell our story for us.  Some that tell stories that are not theirs to tell and stories they do not understand. We can not stop them.  What we can do is fearlessly own our story and live our truth allowing our strength, truth, honesty and transparency to inspire others. 
Let’s stop worrying about what other people think. Those closest to us know the truth, appreciate our honesty and will love us unconditionally.  


Shame lives in the shadows. Shame thrives on secrets. Shame is that still small voice that whispers to us we are not worthy, we don’t belong and we don’t deserve love.
Shame and guilt go hand in hand. Guilt keeps us stuck in the past. Shame tells us, “I am bad.” Guilt tells us, ” I did something bad.” When we give voice to shame we reduce its power over us. When we give voice to guilt, we can accept responsibility, apologize, and move forward.
Over the past year, my kids have been sharing memories with me. These are not fun filled, sunshine and roses memories. These are uncomfortable, vulnerable memories that are shared with caution. At first, my kids tread lightly, testing the waters, careful to protect my feelings. More recently, the stories are more painful. They are vivid, detailed stories filled with emotion. Some are stories of events I don’t remember or have blocked out.
A few weeks ago, one of my kids started sharing a memory of a trip to a restaurant years ago, and like on cue, her sister began to insert details she remembered. Together, like a tennis match, words going back and forth, they shared pain of a day I did not remember. However, the minute they started talking, it was as if a TV had turned on in my brain and it all came flooding back to me. I could see it all happening in “real” time. I sat there with the color draining from my face. The guilt and shame I felt was visible and palpable. I had trouble catching my breath. I inhaled and said, “tell me more….” Yes, I wanted to know more. I wanted them to give voice to the pain. I wanted it to spill out all over the table.
What I have found it that when we give voice to these painful memories, we can let them go. It is not about placing blame but about accepting responsibility. Listening to my children share their pain of the past, allows them to release it. It also allows me to apologize and accept responsibility for for not being the mom they needed or deserved as youngsters. Together, we can release the guilt and shame of the past in order to move forward.
I know that my kids, now young adults, are more comfortable sharing these memories with me because I am stronger and more at peace. Is it fun to hear these stories my kids share? No, but it is vital to our healing. Together, we are becoming closer, developing deeper, more meaningful adult relationships because they are willing to be vulnerable and I am willing to listen without judgement.
Shame and guilt can not survive in the light. So open the curtains and let the light in. Live in the sunlight of belonging and acceptance. Live in the light of unconditional love and peace.