Gaslighting Yourself?

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Dear soft hearted loves,

If you grew up in an environment where you couldn’t feel or express yourself in a way that didn’t leave you ignored, neglected, teased, or hurt then you may still feel confused at times. You may talk yourself out of what’s coming up for you. My goal with this blog entry is to start the conversation around the importance of validating our own experience.

First, it may be helpful to acknowledge that gaslighting yourself was a way that helped you survive a toxic situation or challenging upbringing. For example, if you were able to tell yourself that papa’s outburst was because you didn’t do what he asked then you gave yourself control in an otherwise out of control situation. Essentially, reframing what happened may have allowed us to remain close enough to care givers who could provide us what we needed. Now, self-doubt, questioning, and outright gaslighting of ourselves may no longer serve us.

It is so helpful to be around folx who can model this validation. These folx do not have to agree with what we are saying, more so just conveying validation for our expressed emotions can be healing. When the shame, doubt, and gaslighting spirals, we can ground ourselves in breath and in our body in the moment. Easier said than done, I get it.

We can also affirm that we are who we are and we don’t have to compare to so and so’s reaction, or oh so cool demeanor. You can softly, lovingly affirm that you are enough. If you need specific affirmations around what’s coming up, this is the time to shower in rays of affirmation and any soothing touch/movement if that’s comfortable for you (a self-hug, rocking, or humming).

If we feel something that’s okay. It’s more than okay. There’s so much power in knowing what’s up with ourselves and expressing it if needed or even just simply noting it for ourselves. Imagine what it feels like when someone really hears us out. I feel relaxation in my body and love radiating in my chest when I’m heard and connected. Now, imagine what it feels like to hear yourself out.

Listen, it’s totally understandable that the inner critic comes up and we believe those old stories from time to time. It’s hard to be totally aware of these passing inner critic thoughts. For some, this is the default mode. I send us patience around this journey. Wishing you kind outer and inner models for lovingly validating and affirming yourself.

With kindness,

Dr. J

Diet Mentality and Racism

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Dear Soft Hearted Loved Ones,

The incredible book by Sabrina Strings called “Fearing the Black Body: The Racial Origins of Fat Phobia”* discusses the history of what’s been fed to us as supposed beauty. This has hands down been one of the most eye opening books. As someone who drew lines on her body to indicate where she wanted the fat removed and someone who pined after the thin but also simultaneously magically curvy ideal, I am mind blown by the fact that all of this has been fed to me since before Renaissance Times in one format or another. This is intergenerational, racist programming that we can reprogram for ourselves.

Sabrina Strings explained how “two critical historical developments contributed to a fetish for svelteness and a phobia about fatness: the rise of the transatlantic slave trade and the spread of Protestantism.” Deciders of what is beautiful and healthy began centuries before we ever had racist BMIs, camera filters, and diets. People fear doctors appointments where they will be shoved propaganda that their bodies are to be shamed and the reason for their aches and pains. Really, based on what? Racist research rooted in racist body ideals created centuries ago?

I get it. I get that when I am active and eat intuitively I feel awake and vibrant. I feel me and okay to be! This is the space I now pine over. However, we obsess over dieting. We hear it in the break room, on medias, and it taunts us in conversations with friends. If we keep shaming people into eating and looking a certain way we will keep damaging bodies and spirits. The diet mentality of America has us looking at incredible figures losing weight as a morality marker. So eating more or being in a bigger body means we are less moral? How can we expect anyone to have clarity around these confusing messages?

I’m not promoting any type of body. I’m promoting awareness of the damage we’ve done to bodies and spirits. Sending you love and kindness to your sweet, hard working, curious body in this moment. May we all take a moment to question our understanding of diet mentality, beauty, and bodies today.

With kindness,

Dr. J

To buy this book: 


I Feel Fine!

Dear Soft Hearted Loves,

I have a friend who brought to my attention that people often walk by stating “how are you” and keep walking before hearing an answer. It may feel like a socially appropriate or common question; however, we rarely wait around to hear the answer. Is there room to reply with anything less than “fine” if people do ask and wait to hear the response?

It may also be helpful to consider who you are as the “asker” given different layers of privilege. Are there any cultural differences in expression regarding this question for the person responding? Or, if a person in power asks their employee how they are, does the person have freedom to reply honestly without any repercussions or judgment?

Some of us feel pressured to show the sunny side of how we are feeling. This toxic positivity cannot be mistaken for gratitude or authentic joy. When we are not sure how we feel or when we automatically reply with a socially appropriate “doing well” I’m concerned we are not honoring what’s going on. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve definitely glossed over a “how are you” with an “I’m fine” when I was not or was unsure.

There’s so much wrapped up in expression of emotions. For many of us we may not even know how we actually feel. Physical and or emotional feelings are charging through our bodies. Rarely do we answer the passerby with an answer to their quick and mindless “how are you” with a genuine and attuned response such as “I’m feeling sad, grateful and my chest feels heavy.” While this response may be true we rarely hear the thorough and deep response from folks that can possibly aide connection and reduce isolation.

I honor you taking pause or a mindful moment to see how your body and emotions are and where they are experienced. If you are unsure, I invite you to tell me, “I’m not sure how I am or what I’m feeling.” If you know how you are or what you’re feeling I also make space for you to tell me I know and I don’t feel like sharing right now. It’s all okay.

In addition to taking pause to notice and attune we can note what arises. For example, we can practice noting general feelings including irritability, sadness, silliness, joy, disappointment, fear, and so on. We must recover from isolation with feelings. Noting what we are feeling is not so easy for people who grew up where feelings other than anger were rarely expressed. If you didn’t grow up with healthy models for emotional expression, is there something you can give yourself now that you did not get when you were younger such as taking moments to identify or attune with what’s coming up or finding a trusted person to talk with about these feelings?

There’s so much corrective repair and transformation that can come from attuning to and noting what comes up for us. If you’d like, you can share in the comments section what or how you feel in this moment. Please do so only if you would like to. I’m listening.

With kindness,

Dr. J

Attachment, Love, and Gratitude

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Dear soft hearted people,

Some people say “you have to love yourself before you can love someone else.” I like to think of love, including self love as a practice. This love practice is not linear or stagnant. We can continue to work on tapping into the love that resides within us and find new ways to give ourselves what we need over time.

You may have heard of secure and insecure attachment styles. Many people who grew up in inconsistent, abandoning, or neglectful homes have insecure attachment styles. These people do not necessarily need to wait until they declare love toward themselves. Hey. It’s not the worst idea to take time to ourselves, date ourselves, and heal wounds before dating others. About half of people in general land in the insecure attachment style group and do not always have a stagnant, linear path toward self love. Literature states that there is not strictly and only the “you have to love yourself before you can love someone else” approach (“Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and how it can Help you Find and Keep Love”, by Levine and Heller, 2012). This book indicated that people can actually love before their attachment stye is healed.

Additionally, in a study conducted in Germany, they found that people with anxious attachment style (one of the insecure attachment styles) had correlations between a decrease in their anxious attachment* with a partner who expressed and showed gratitude (Perceiving gratitude from a romantic partner predicts decreases in attachment anxiety”, by Park, Johnson, MacDonald, and Impett, 2019). When the people in this study had partners who expressed and showed gratitude they reported less anxious attachment and even less a year later.

So while it’s great to take time to love on yourself before inviting in romance, it’s also helpful to start practicing more deep, genuine gratitude with a partner you have now. We can all start with implementing this research into our self love practice and in our love of others by expressing a word of gratitude or showing gratitude daily.

With kindness,

Dr. J

*Folks with anxious attachment style may feel unworthy, unsure of their attachment person loving or caring for them, and need reassurance.

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Shame Sheets

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Dear soft hearted dear ones,

What happens when shame arises while you’re making love or when you’re masturbating? You may have acceptance or even pride over who you are and what you need sexually, and still have shame in the sheets (or wherever you do you).

It’s understandable that old narratives arise from time to time. It doesn’t necessarily mean we haven’t done enough healing work. It may be an intrusive thought. It may be a nudge from the inner critic or a wounded part of us. Or the shame may be deep and intergenerational, racist programming.

Programming can be from society’s racism and oppression (“Fearing the Black Body: The Racial Origins of Fat Phobia” by Sabrina Strings). These old stories might be from homophobia. Perhaps the shame is rooted in transphobia. Or the shame may be from hurtful things people said or scary or hurtful things people did. Shame in your sexual experience is not a life sentence and at the same time it makes sense that it can arise from time to time given all this programming.

So how do we reprogram? There’s a lot to this answer that I’m going to briefly summarize. When shame arises we can try to be compassionate with ourselves (I’m always saying easier said than done, but hang in there with me on this one). We can even be compassionate with difficulty finding self compassion in the first place. It may also help to talk with a trusted person. For example, if you have a lower sexual interest or drive than one of your partners, is there someone safe you can share this with so you’re not holding it alone? If you feel so insecure about a part of your body can you tell someone safe? Is there something you need so you can feel more freedom or presence while experiencing sex?

It’s also so important to get ourselves the healing we’d want for a loved one experiencing the same shame or trauma in the bedroom. It can be helpful to imagine talking with ourselves when we were an adolescent. If you imagine teen you coming to safe parent you with the same issue (for example, “I feel ashamed when I think of the same gender when I masturbate”), what would we tell them? Hopefully we wouldn’t shame our teen self for these shame feelings. Hopefully we would tell them we totally understand their suffering and that you aren’t going to abandon them in this shame. You may even introduce them to a healer or therapist who they can talk with more about this suffering.

What’s the difference from how you’d talk to your teen self from your present self today? Wishing you compassion and healing in sex and otherwise.

With kindness,

Dr. J

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Too Sensitive?

How to Embrace Your Sensitive Superpower and Stop Feeling Overwhelmed -  Tiny Buddha

Dear soft hearted loved ones,

You may have been called too sensitive or someone may have made fun of your sensitivity. You may have old stories around being “too sensitive” or wishing things didn’t impact you the way they do. If you’re deeply impacted by things or people, it’s okay.

It can also be helpful to look at the context. If someone is saying you’re too sensitive, too emotional, or judging your big feelings, perhaps it is their projection or wish to be so in tune with their emotions, or perhaps that’s simply their evaluation. If your inner critic is who is calling you too sensitive, let’s talk about that or check out one of the previous blogs on the seven inner critic types.

At one point in time being “too sensitive” or aligned with what was occurring was a survival or admired skill. For example, people who bleed monthly were so in tune with the Earth and moon that our calendars were 13 months long with 28 days each (28 days to reflect the blood cycle and 28 days to reflect the moon). We actually are sensitive to things like mercury being in retrograde right now or that coworker’s slights. That’s okay. In fact, I believe being sensitive can be our strength. Sensitivity to what is said and done can be productive and may simply mean the person is attuned to what is going on around them.

There’s even something called the Highly Sensitive Person (HSP). You can learn more about HSP’s by taking an online quiz and checking out literature. Those of us who are HSPs are attuned to and impacted by stimulation. Being aware of our reactions to stimulation or knowing what our sensitivities are is how we can recharge our strength. Ignoring that we need rest, improved boundaries, or time to recharge is often the kryptonite to this superpower. So how can someone who has big feelings and who needs breaks to recharge get what they need?

It’s easier said than done, and we can start with tiny promises to ourselves. We can make commitments such as one hour of doing something we want to do, drinking water throughout the day, or giving away clothes that no longer fit us. Doing something small to love on ourselves gives those inner parts that feel unheard, exhausted, or tender some tender loving care. Let’s treat ourselves like we’d treat our best friend freezing on the doorstep. I’d hope we’d invite her in, care for her with warmth, and be compassionate. The next time you’re feeling tender or sensitive, it’s okay to invite yourself in like you would a dear friend.

If you feel particularly unhinged, less aligned than usual or even irritable, it’s okay to talk with a trusted professional/healer about that too. If you’re like many of us who have been accused of being overly emotional or having big feelings please know you’re not alone and that we can rock this strength rather than hide it away.

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With a soft heart,

Dr. J

Self-Love for Burnout

Dear soft hearted loves,

These are particularly tense times. Some are reaching the point of burnout more than once during this pandemic. If your home, school or work duties have never hit the point of burnout you may confuse it with depression or general stress that wouldn’t be there if you didn’t have these duties. I believe burnout during pandemic is different than burnout during other times because it has that trauma flavor a lot of suffering during the pandemic has.

There are several assessments accessible online to determine if you are at risk of burnout. One of the main ways we can spot burnout is when we start to talk with less compassion or more irritability toward people or situations we would have more understanding for typically. Burnout can be an indicator of how we can be gentler and easier with ourselves. It can also be a time of reflection to see if internal or external resources can be gathered or if decisions or boundaries can be adjusted. All this is easier said than done so let’s look at it piece by piece.

Self-Love #1: Boundaries

This is a time when we can reflect on what is in our control and what’s not. Taking a brief inventory of what we can and cannot control around work or home boundaries can remind us of our choices and limits. Addressing the areas we can adjust can highlight more autonomy and efficacy. If we try to change our work schedule a bit and management won’t budge than that’s something to reflect on too. You can even work with a trusted person, coach, therapist, or psychologist to support your boundaries.

Self-Love #2: Gut health

Gut health is known to be correlated to other types of health including mental health and the immune system (says folks at Harvard*). Mental health and immune system benefits sounds like double good news for us during the pandemic! That may mean you increase your water or greens if that’s accessible to you. Western medicine is just starting to learn what people all over the world have intuitively known about the mind-tummy connection for many years. For example, we know that in Iran they refer to areas in the tummy to indicate love (rather than in the heart like they often do in the US).

Self-Love #3: Water

When I worked at Johns Hopkins Hospital we would ask patients about dehydration and water intake. We’d share information with patients about how important water is for our mental health I’ll share the same with you now. Water helps with mental health including depression. We can balance some of these intentions such as drinking more water with gentleness with ourselves when we miss the mark sometimes too.

Self-Love #4: Sleep

Protect your sleep if possible. Folks are reporting more and more difficulty with sleep these days. What do you need to help with your sleep? Establishing a bed time routine and getting within a frame for general sleep and wake time can be helpful. We know that light from our phones or other screens tells our brain we should be awake so no phones in bed is ideal too. Let’s be realistic though, these times are hard and coronavirus has our routines and technology all mixed up. We want to give ourselves boundaries around bed time routine, sleep/wake schedules, and technology much like we would to a child. We might not fully restrict a little one from technology before bed by giving them Friday and Saturday nights to use technology and school nights to stop using phones about 30 minutes before bedtime. We too can compromise with ourselves. Check out this article by UC Davis** for an extra dose of compassion towards our sleep issues during this time.

One of the most helpful tips around sleep is to get out of bed if you can’t sleep. Using bed only for sleep and sex is really helpful. When we do something less stimulating like read a book or meditate when we can’t sleep it’s more helpful than laying in bed tossing and turning or more like shaming and spiraling. Please be gentle with yourself around sleep issues, especially during these times.

Self-Love #5: Support

Talk with your supports and docs. Please do share with safe loved ones about your burn out. Talk with a doctor/therapist/healer about it too. You are not alone and you can get the support you are so worthy of tapping into.

With a soft heart,

Dr. J

*Articles for gut health: and

**Sleep article:–tips-to-fight-back-/2020/09

Noting the Inner Critic

Dear soft hearted people,

I find myself sharing about the types of inner critics (often using the book Freedom From Your Inner Critic*) to share with patients about their inner loving parents and inner critics.  I sought Maryam Fallahi’s expertise and knowledge to explain more for us in this post.  Maryam Fallahi is an amazing and compassionate Life Coach who graduated from William Glesser Institute of Coaching and Positive Psychology from Claremont Graduate University.  

While it can be scary to learn about the inner parts, especially the inner critic, there’s a lot of hope in identifying what’s coming up, what trauma it is rooted in, and nurturing all those parts with as much tenderness and kindness as we’d give our closest loved one.  

From Maryam: Hi folks! Happy new year! Today I want to introduce you to our internal family of critics by inviting you to do a little thought experiment with me. Imagine you are going to have some company over to stay with you for the holidays; not one, not two, but a family of seven! They are  going to come all at once and they are not going to tell you when they are leaving; in fact you are not even sure they have booked a ticket back!

The first family member I want to introduce is the youngest sibling, the perfectionist. This inner critic loves to get everything done perfectly. They have insanely high standards. When you don’t meet this critic’s standards, they attack. For instance, just this morning the perfectionist found out that you wanted to make some turkey and stuffing for tonight’s dinner and the perfectionist has been giving you demanding orders since. In fact the perfectionist can make you feel drained and like you have limited motivation to cook altogether.

The next inner critic thinks everyone should be in control of their behavior 24/7 and this sibling is called the inner controller. He humiliates and has rigid control when you overeat, spend more than you meant to, or do other things you may not have meant to do. He whispers insults and humiliation.

Next, is the taskmaster uncle. He is allergic to the idle world. He is going to call you lazy, stupid and incompetent if he doesn’t see you work your behind off non-stop.

Your next guest is the eldest sister of the family, the underminer. She is the one who will undermine everything nice you do for her. She will tell you that what you did is not enough, that you have to be  smarter and more attentive to your surroundings, and that you should essentially stay small and not try new things or take risks. 

The next person is the father of your inner critic family. He finds faults in you, tells you he thinks you are disgusting, and tells you innately don’t fit in anywhere. This inner critic is the destroyer.

The guilt tripper is also a wounded inner critic who tells you negative things about yourself. If for instance, your love needs 2% milk on your way home, and you say there is 1% in the fridge and that you are so tired from a week’s work, the guilt tripper will show up and  tell you what a horrible partner you are and how you and your boundaries should feel ashamed.  

The molder is the mother of this inner critic family. She is the inner critic who points out how you don’t fit the mold. If you try to cook for your guests for instance, she will tell you that your food was not good enough: it could use more salt, less cheese. It is overcooked, undercooked,… If you try to make a conversation at the dinner table you are too chatty, and if you sit back and  let them talk you are too boring. 

The inner critics seem scary, and I want you to know we have inner wisdom we can access to love ourselves and see why these inner critics are coming up in this way.  It can be powerful to note thoughts or inner critic commentary rather than attach to and believe it.  Powerful yes, and sometimes easier said than done.  You are not alone on this journey of noting what comes up and healing some of these wounds.

Please reach out to Maryam Fallahi to get started with coaching services.   

With a soft heart,

Dr. J

*No affiliation with this book.

Gentleness with Decisions During the Pandemic

Dear soft hearted people,

I know there’s a lot to consider with where to go, when, and with which people.  There are so many layers of privilege highlighted with the injustices of the pandemic including discrepancies in health care, individual transportation versus public transportation, having employment, having a home, and unequal access to education to name a few.  When it comes to choices outside of paying the bills we can choose what to attend for community/spiritual unity, family gatherings, and when and how to support friends.  It is crucial to have discernment with the understanding that our needs may change at any point.  

Decisions of when and who to see can be complex.  It may even be scary and you wish it wasn’t.  You may look at other peoples’ outsides and compare to how you think you should feel on the inside.  You may even be perceiving or experiencing pressure from a loved one to do something you are not quite ready for yet.  It is a pandemic and it is evolutionarily appropriate to fear illness or the spread of illness to communities/loved ones.  It is per our evolution that we freeze, fight, or flight when we encounter and try to survive a dangerous situation.  It is scientifically understandable if you have freeze, fight, or flight reactions to getting sick from this virus.  It is psychologically understandable if people have various responses to fear of death.  I want to share with you ways we can further soften the heart and gain connectedness to self and others during these times.  

It is crucial to be gentle with ourselves as we consider invitations, traditions, and time off or holidays.  That may be an easy sentence to bypass so I’ll say it again.  It is important to be gentle with ourselves.  Easier said than done! It’s okay to take a moment to assess your level of comfortability with an invitation/plan/commitment.  The cool part is, it’s okay to change your mind too!  As new information rolls in, financial stability/instability changes, new guidelines are released, or testing becomes more available, we can even be gentle with change and flexibility being a challenge.

If we plow through a commitment because we feel obligated or like we may be perceived as being too uptight we may be separating from our inner wisdom or authentic self.  For example, if you have a gut feeling you aren’t ready for dinner indoors with loved ones, but don’t follow that intuition you may feel internal conflict or inner criticism afterward.  It can be helpful to honor that gut feeling rather than to spiral from not aligning with your intuition.  If you’re thinking, “well how do I even get in touch with this authentic me in the first place” then please keep reading.

It can be so helpful to take quiet time (some may call this meditation or journaling) to reflect on needs/wants.  You may reflect on the setting, people, your definition of social distancing and theirs, and compromises.  If you do want to spend time with someone during the holidays you can discuss your needs.  We can even be gentle with ourselves if boundary setting around COVID-19 is awkward.  This can be easier said than done. If you decide to connect with someone and you want to experience the joyful moments fully you can meditate for a moment before you see them or envision the most loving person you know holding your hand as you arrive.  A quick deep belly breath, grounded moment, or imagery can go a long way to help the joy sink in.  It can also help your nervous system take a beat (ahh how wonderful).

These unprecedented times emphasize the importance of boundaries now more than many times before.  You can start or continue practicing boundaries that are more authentically you today.  And if you do something outside your COVID-19 comfort zone you can stop, leave, or not do it again for a while.  You can even forgive yourself without blame to yourself or others while assessing what you’d like to do differently next time.  It’s okay.  These times are weird.  Let’s be soft hearted with each other and ourselves as we all try to find or maintain connection in whatever that looks like for you today.

With a soft heart, 

Dr. J

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