Category Archives for "Self-care & self-confidence"

How do you sustain love even when you’re at your worst?

How can you sustain love even when you're at your worst?  Relationship and sex expert Dawn Serra shares advice.

The other day I was confronted by the truth of who I am at my worst in relationship. It was an ugly mirror to gaze into. The shame was immediate and deep.

I was sitting in a relationship therapy training program, and we were talking about self-esteem and boundaries, examining the behaviors that are driven by being walled off or lacking boundaries, by living in shame or believing yourself superior to your partner. And then, on the diagram on the board, I spotted myself. Not just any self - the self I try to hide from, the one I pretend is justified and warranted when I'm hurting and scared in my marriage.

It was a humbling moment, seeing that darkness in the light of day.

Thankfully, I was able to catch myself just as my inner critic started up, and instead I got curious. Why was I so ashamed? Was it because I assumed I was the only one who got stuck in these behaviors? Why did I immediately tell myself that MY worst self was the worst of the bunch? And, why did I jump to the conclusion that my worst was my whole story?

In other words, I had a classic shame response - negative thoughts spiraling ever downward.

It's not often that we have a chance to have our worst reflected back to us in a way that makes us listen. Usually when that mirror is held up, we try to deny what we see because... well, there's always a reason for that snarky comment or icy silence, isn't there?

But, none of us are immune from bad days or bad behavior. None of us.

Everyone has a worst and nearly everyone moves into that space in relationship from time to time.

If it's a thriving relationship and our tanks are full, hopefully those moments are few and far between. If it's a struggling relationship or we're running on empty, then maybe we've gotten a little more comfortable showing that ugly underbelly with more frequency. Maybe, for a few of us, our worst has even become our normal.

Sitting there that day made me wonder... how can we get better at sustaining love, even when we're at our worst?

How can we create and maintain connection when everything in us is screaming to lash out or disappear?

Because the truth is we are surrounded by stories that say we should be focusing on ways to "fix" ourselves or the people in our lives if we want healthy relationship. As if there's a cure or an answer that can make a relationship with another human being perfect.

What if it's not about fixing your partner or fixing yourself and instead about finding space and kindness around the prickly stuff?

What if it's not about who is right and who is wrong, but about how you can connect when shit gets tough?

What if you're allowed to have bad days and make mistakes and you're not broken because of it?

What if, when you're at your worst, you know you'll come out the other side and the people you love know you will, too?

What if you're not alone?

Because that's the thing that struck me most as I was swimming in my shame... every other person (most of whom were therapists and mental health professionals) in that training went to the same place I did: that feeling of "oh god, what if someone finds out?" People started sharing what their worst looks like and the feelings that were coming up for them.

I realized how NOT alone I am.

We are all struggling in some way or another to stay vulnerable in the face of disconnection, to stay open when all you want to do is close off and run away, to hold firm boundaries when you're terrified that boundary might mean the other person no longer loves you, to trust that you're worthy even when you feel completely unlovable.

That's why love takes courage.

Being seen takes practice.

Feeling frustrated and disappointed and unsure of what comes next is normal.

What can we do when we find we're closing ourselves off or being critical and retaliatory or feeling terrified or alone? How do we sustain love from that place?

It begins by simply acknowledging it's not about you being broken, it's about a world that doesn't give us the skills or the tools to navigate these scary spaces (and that's hellbent on proving to each of us how unworthy we constantly are so we'll buy more shit).

We are still worthy of respect, love, and kindness even if we behave in a way that isn't reflective of how we'd like to be most days.

Resilience in the face of uncertainty (which is the definition of life and love) takes endless practice. Knowing that can give us space to forgive ourselves.

Being an adult in any kind of relationship is hard. It takes work and tough choices and accountability and choosing over and over and over again to show up and try.

So maybe, sustaining love is about having faith that each of us are doing our best and sometimes that won't be good enough. But we can always learn and heal and try again tomorrow.

If you want to practice in this space, my bi-weekly online group calls are now enrolling. We practice things like leveling up in love, talking about desires, setting boundaries, finding words for feelings, forgiving our bodies, and a whole lot more. Join our community.


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Every two weeks, I send love notes that feature my latest blog post, tidbits and fun things about what's inspiring me, what's new on the podcast, and access to secret things like special workbooks and events. I'd love to have you join me.

What is your relationship with pleasure?

Pleasure can be a tricky thing.

We are taught that pleasure is wonderful, something to aspire to, something to indulge in…

But not too much, too often, or in the “wrong” ways.

Oh, and pleasure is only for people who have earned it – either by being born rich/powerful or by working hard and achieving that right to claim it.

Pleasure for folks who are deemed undeserving is seen as laziness, as unfair, as addiction, as something worthy of punishment.

And yet, we were all born with an inherent understanding and desire for pleasure. We delighted in our bodies – in how it felt to touch them and move them. We sought out new experiences, new textures, new sensations eagerly and without apology.

As adults, pleasure can be complicated.

Some people are taught that their sexual pleasure is a given while others are taught that theirs is a nice-to-have or a bonus.

Some people are taught that food is pleasure without apology while others see pleasurable foods as the enemy in their quest to attain/maintain thinness.

Some people believe that pleasure is the work of evil entities while others believe pleasure is a god unto itself.

Pleasure is natural. Pleasure is available to us in almost every moment of every day if we open to it.

And, at the same time, pleasure isn’t always nice. It isn’t always easy or convenient. Sometimes pleasure is full of uncertainty, especially if we’re seeking the kind of pleasure that truly speaks to our soul.

Pleasure can be found in the relief you feel after having finally said that super scary thing. Sometimes pleasure is only ours after we move through the pain. Other times, pleasure is actually waiting for us inside of the pain, inside our discomfort.

And, as Conner wondered in his study of Charles Fourier, what if we allowed ourselves to be entirely driven by pleasure?

So, I’m curious…

What did the world teach you about pleasure growing up? Did you deserve it? Were you told it was even an option for you? And when has pleasure offered growth or discomfort or surprise?


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Every two weeks, I send love notes that feature my latest blog post, tidbits and fun things about what's inspiring me, what's new on the podcast, and access to secret things like special workbooks and events. I'd love to have you join me.

Talking about feelings is one thing. FEELING them is another.

I’ve been sitting in some tough places and reflecting on what it means to actually experience the messiness of life.

It’s one thing to talk about feelings, to learn skills for managing and navigating feelings, and it’s another entirely to actually be in the thick of them – struggling not to capsize from the grief, the heartbreak, the sorrow, the anxiety, the rage, the BIG FEELS when they swallow you up and threaten never to spit you back out.

Of course, intellectually we may know that emotions pass. They move and swell and shrink and become something else. But, in the moment? When those emotions seem to be bigger than your entire being? It can feel as if nothing will ever be true except this pain, this fear, this all-consuming moment.

And it makes sense.

Most of us didn’t grow up in a world where we had it modeled for us how to safely sit in our scary places, to know we would be loved no matter how much it hurt or how big it got. Most of us didn’t have adults in our lives who knew how to have vulnerable, awkward conversations that we had a chance to witness, over and over again until it felt real and possible for us.

Which leaves us all, personally and culturally, treading water; hoping that we’re moving in the right direction. It can be even more difficult when you finally start finding words for your feelings and developing skills for resilience but the people in your life aren’t on that same path.

Life is messy, hard, and unpredictable for each and every one of us. We can hide from it and all the ways we feel about it, but that only works so much.

Instead, hopefully, maybe, on the good days, on the days when we have a little more patience or our tanks are a little more full, we can offer ourselves kindness and we can reach out towards those we love.

What powerful things: kindness and connection.

Powerful because they offer so much, but also because it takes such raw vulnerability to sit in them. I believe, with all of my being, that this is also where the beauty and transcendence of the human experience begins to emerge. This is where we find love.

That’s why self-reflection and naming where we are most stuck can be so transformative. Instead of ignoring and denying our truth, we can set tidal waves of change into motion by simply allowing our truth to be seen.

Today, like most days, I do not have answers.

But what I do have is dreams of you and I making it, of all of us finding new ways to experience our feelings, of the world shifting slowly and surely as it makes space for each of our stories, exactly as we are.

So, I will leave you with a simple question as you contemplate where you are today. Feel free to post your response in the Facebook group or comment below. I’m here for you.

What story are you telling yourself? And is it true?

Making space for big emotions

Sweet soul,

I’ve been staring at this blank space for the past 15 minutes, typing and deleting, typing and deleting.

The truth is I have so much to say. Yet I also know that whatever I say, it won’t be enough/right/true. So I am marching ahead and allowing that uncertainty to simply be what it is.

Today is the U.S. presidential inauguration, and so many people around the country (and world) are struggling. Whether you’re attending a march, a party, or self-caring away from all of the hubbub, there is no denying that today begins a new chapter for the entire world.

Like many of you, I’m having feelings. Big ones. Scary ones. Feelings that make me feel like I’m drowning.

I have feelings about the world at large, about this new president, about this new Congress, about all of the ways I’m scared for the people I care about – including you.

At the same time, I have all of the feelings that come with navigating my day-to-day life, my relationship with myself and with my partner…

It can be utterly overwhelming.

So, instead of a long post, I simply want to offer you this:

Take care of you today.

Reach out to your loved ones.

Curl up or speak out or march or make art or make love or (consensually) beat the snot out of someone until you’re both heaving messes of sensation and release.

As for me? I am sick as hell, so it will be bubble baths and soup and 80’s movies until I feel a little better.

Can you find a way to forgive yourself?

Can you find a way to forgive yourself for all the ways you've beat yourself up, for all the ways you've abandoned yourself?

Forgiveness has been on my mind a lot lately.

Certainly, forgiveness is something we have to revisit again and again with the people in our lives – for the ways they let us down, for the times they hurt us, for the little ways their words or inaction cut into our hearts and souls.

But, more importantly, I’ve been thinking about how to cultivate forgiveness for myself.

It’s something I struggle with constantly.

How can I forgive myself for the ways I’ve hurt someone I love or fallen short? For the times I’ve broken my own heart? For the failures and broken promises?

I’ve beaten myself up so many times for so many years, how do I begin to forgive that? But even more than that, I’ve silenced my own truth, put someone else’s needs before my own, and abandoned myself over and over again.

It’s a deep wound that I keep reopening each time I tell myself my feelings aren’t valid or worthy of attention. It’s difficult to forgive when everything feels so raw and tender, isn’t it?

Sometimes I don’t even realize I’ve hurt myself until long after the damage has been done – because it’s easier to focus on the people I love and what they need. It’s simpler sometimes to ignore the stuff that’s scary or uncomfortable like taking up space, putting my foot down, or using my voice.

But then, when I feel resentment or heartbreak, it’s so natural to turn on myself.

So, why is forgiveness so important?

Forgiveness is a cornerstone of trust. If I can’t forgive myself, how can I find a way to believe my own wisdom and trust my voice?

Brene Brown has a new course on trust over at CourageWorks.com. In it, she breaks trust down into seven smaller components like respecting boundaries, repeatedly showing up, integrity, non-judgment, and assuming generous intentions.

As I watched the videos, it struck me that forgiveness, trust, and empathy are ultimately about connection.

When we forgive…

…we can turn towards ourselves and towards the people we love.

…we can build bridges. We can connect across even the deepest chasms.

…we can find the grace to treat ourselves and our loved ones with kindness even after being wounded.

Forgiveness does not undo what has been done, but it does mean letting go to make space for something new.

What are you clinging to that you can begin to let go of?

Where are you holding on to something that just keeps hurting you over and over again, and if you invited some forgiveness you might find a little more ease and movement?

A better question may be, do you trust yourself? Do you trust your decisions, your ability to set boundaries, your inner worthiness?

If the answer is no, or not entirely, find the spots where you feel like you keep letting yourself down. That’s where forgiveness may be a beautiful way to heal and move forward.

But don’t be fooled by how simple it may seem to forgive someone, especially yourself.

Forgiveness is not a one-time magic pill. You don’t waive your forgiveness wand and suddenly find everything is behind you.

In my experience, forgiveness takes practice. It is an on-going choice, and sometimes you fumble it and lose that spaciousness. But it is always there, waiting for you to pick it back up and gently nurture.

Sometimes it hurts to move into forgiveness because it means examining and admitting the wounds you carry.

When I think of all the ways I’ve held back or silenced myself, it can feel devastating. All those times I decided someone else’s happiness was more valuable than my own…toes hanging over the ledge of that deep, dark abyss that is all of the ways I didn’t listen to my own heart.

But I can only start building the bridge of that forgiveness by understanding where I am and where I’d like to go.

Forgiveness takes practice. Trust takes time. And you can only find your way to love and joy by doing the work and showing up, over and over again, even on the tough days.

Forgiveness isn’t linear. Neither are healing, love, or growth. There is beauty in the chaos that is our stumbles, fumbles, and falls.

As we move towards a new year, I invite you to find ways to begin forgiving yourself.

When you forgive yourself, you can begin to trust yourself. By trusting yourself, you can start to set boundaries, ask for what you need, grow into deeper love with yourself and the people around you, and then that’s when the really juicy stuff starts to unfold.

No matter how many times you’ve been vulnerable and courageous, no matter how many ways you’ve failed, you must find a way to forgive.

Stop clinging to old beliefs and wounds that weigh you down and keep you trapped in the dark. Open to the possibility that at any given moment you are doing the very damn best that you can with what was available to you in that moment, and that makes you pretty damn amazing.

Open to the truth that you deserve to forgive yourself, and let yourself see all of the space that creates in your thoughts and feelings.

Breathe into your healing. You deserve this.

And so do I. Even if it’s hard to believe sometimes.

———

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Master these two words for better sex and healthier relationships

When it comes to having the best sex of your life and healthier relationships, you need to master these two words. Because it's all about healthy boundaries and honoring your own needs and desires.

The past several years have been an incredible journey for me. Transformation is inevitable when you start to dig around in all your softest spots and darkest places.

One of the most difficult realizations I've had about myself is just how hard it is for me to use my voice. I silence myself a lot.

Looking back, it's no wonder past relationships left me feeling exhausted and resentful. I rarely spoke up, always rushing to fix things for others, never prioritizing my own needs. In fact, even now I struggle to find the words for my needs sometimes.

It's different for each of us. For me, setting boundaries feels like I'm taking up too much space. And as a fat person, I've been conditioned to take up as little space as possible to offset my physical size. It's a mind fuck, to be sure.

But many of us have these mechanisms of taking up less space because we feel unworthy of love or are afraid of being alone or worry that if we actually draw a line in the sand and say "this is me" that people won't be able to handle us.

The paradox is that the clearer we are with our needs and boundaries, the more we set ourselves and our partners up for success. If you aren't sure where the edges of the sandbox are, it's difficult to surrender and trust that you're on the same page.

Though our language is full of beautiful words that sound like poems and terrifying words that evoke powerful feelings, the two most powerful words that we have at our disposal are yes and no.

Sadly, most of us don’t use those words in a way that serves our soul. There are countless ways that we silence ourselves or water down our experiences: social obligations, guilt, insecurity, a mindset full of lack and fear, shame, family dynamics, community expectations, peer pressure, our own internalized judgment.

Why is this important and how can we begin to find and strengthen our voice? 

When you give yourself permission to get crystal clear about your yes and your no, especially in the context of your sexual self, things begin to shift.

Too often we consider a maybe a yes.

Too often we default to yes when we’re on the fence, when we’re ambivalent, when we’re kind of interested but not entirely sure. And each time we do this, we send the message that our boundaries aren’t important, and we end up losing ourselves in the process.

Too often we want to say no, but we make excuses, we over apologize, we try to soften it with lots of flowery language that leaves people confused or thinking you really mean yes. We anticipate the other person’s feelings and try to control for it by changing our own answers.

But here’s the thing.

You are not responsible for someone else’s experience or feelings (and this can be SO hard to embrace if you're a people pleaser). You can be kind and say a simple, “No.”

It’s on them how they deal with it.

Because “No.” is a complete sentence. No doesn’t require an explanation. No doesn’t need to be defended.

When you say no to something, you are really saying yes to yourself.

Imagine you are feeling really sexy and turned on. You want a night of raw, hot, sweaty sex. When you ask your partner if they want to join in the fun, they kind of shrug and say “I guess.”

Once you’re in the bedroom, they only half show up. There’s no energy. No fire. You start to feel resentment because it feels lonely each time they check out, and the night ends in either a fight or silence.

Put another way, has an experience ever been improved by someone showing up who really doesn’t want to be there and then complains or drags their feet the whole time?

Wouldn’t you prefer that person stay home so all of the rest of you can enjoy the fireworks or the parade or the day at the park?

Start saying no when you’re anything other than an enthusiastic yes. A fuck yes, in fact.

And guess what?

You can be an enthusiastic yes about stuff that sucks. You can say, “Hell yes, I want us to talk about that last fight because as uncomfortable and awkward as it will be, I know we can work through this.”

Don’t second guess your yes, either. If you want to put on lingerie and dance around the house, do it. If you want a threesome, ask for it. If you want to re-enact a scene from that movie Secretary, make it happen.

No one ever owes you sex or physical affection, but that shouldn't stop you from asking for it and getting creative in ways to meet your own needs in a way that respects everyone involved.

Your yes and your no are literally what define you.

When you don’t honor your boundaries - in life and in the bedroom - it leads to confusion, mixed messages, hurt feelings, resentment, and you compromise the potential for your own pleasure and joy.

What have you not been saying yes to out of fear? What you have not been saying no to because you’re worried of hurting someone’s feelings?

Pick one thing this week where you can say “no” without explaining yourself and “yes” to something that feels juicy.

The amazing thing is even if it’s a dinner date or an appointment with your business, each time you honor your voice, you strengthen your sexual self, too.

The stronger your boundaries are, the more space you have to play. So, get clear on what you do and don’t want and then ask for those things.

Pleasure and joy are your birthright, but only if you’re willing to totally own your own experience.

Work with me

Wondering how to find your voice and use it in bed? That's what I do.

From one-on-one coaching to my Sex is a Social Skill group calls and DIY workbooks, there are a number of ways we can work together to help you find what you're looking for.

7 When shame swallows you whole

Brene Brown calls shame the master emotion. Knowing how shame works won't save you from the crushing darkness. How can you break free once you're trapped?

*Trigger warning: Shame. In Brené Brown’s book, “Rising Strong“, she talks about how we live in a culture that tends to hide the ugly middle parts of our stories. Everyone likes a hero, but we’ve become a culture that doesn’t really honor the pain and mistakes and the struggles that happen when someone is in the middle of their story. For me, a big part of being a sex coach is modeling vulnerability and sharing my journey as a way to demonstrate that all of us are always in process and learning.

I had a few trusted colleagues and friends read this post, and while their feedback was overwhelmingly beautiful, a few also found their own shame triggered by reading about my shame. I invite you to take care of yourself as you read this and process. Be gentle. Allow space for your feelings. And reach out if you’d like to share anything.


 

Want to know something bizarre about me?

Vulnerability is a space that I’ve come to crave.

I know this makes me an outlier.

Most people cringe at the thought of being vulnerable, at opening themselves up to hurt, ridicule, failure, and pain.

It’s not that I’m emotionally masochistic (maybe I am a little bit), but that every single great thing that’s ever happened to me occurred after I allowed myself to be vulnerable and then found the courage to do the thing anyway.

Being vulnerable has allowed me to experience the most profound depths of intimacy, love, connection, gratitude, and transformation.

Studying Brené Brown’s work on vulnerability and wholehearted living, along with other amazing thought leaders like Tara Brach and Seth Godin, has not only inspired and influenced the work I do with my clients, but it also afforded me a sense of security against experiencing my own shame.

After all, if I understood shame, if I knew how it looked and how it felt, if I studied the way it impacts us and how to overcome it, then shame would be easier to avoid, to identify, and to elude, right?

The truth is shame will find you, no matter how much you know.

Shame will grab you and do everything it can to crush you.

Shame will find a way to hold you under the water and no one will ever know you’re drowning because the amazing thing about shame is it tricks you into silencing yourself when you most need to scream for help.

In “Rising Strong“, Brené Brown’s newest book, she says, “…shame crashes over you with such force that you go into do-or-die survival mode.”

She goes on to say, “Ironically, I always warn people not to be seduced into believing that they can manage these moments simply because they’ve learned how they work. We call shame the master emotion for a reason.”

I was genuinely surprised when I recently realized that I’ve been drowning in shame for well over a year in my relationship with my partner.

What’s worse, is in the tiny moments when I spotted glimpses of my shame, I felt deeply ashamed of feeling that shame because as a professional, I should (there’s that word) know better.

And so I hid.

I silenced myself.

I shrank, wished for a different reality, and through all of that resistance, suffered tremendous pain which, of course, fed my shame even more.

Each of us have different shame triggers, and many of us have one or two primary triggers that we carry for most of our lives.

One of my shame triggers is a nasty little voice that likes to whisper how unloveable I am.

Most of the time, that voice is a distant, nagging irritant that I can acknowledge without feeding it. We have found a way to live fairly harmoniously.

It’s an on-going process for me to remind myself I am worthy, I am enough, I am lovable, and it has gotten easier with practice to hold this knowledge inside of me as a truth.

I started to see cracks in my lovability as I fell more deeply in love with my partner. I began to internalize a dialog that told me I wasn’t living up to his expectations.

We have an open relationship. My partner identifies as poly, and I identify as non-monogamous.

When we first started co-creating this relationship, I had a few other lovers and non-monogamy felt pretty easy. As my feelings for my partner, who is simply extraordinary, became more important to me, something started shifting.

What once was easy was becoming crushingly difficult.

I started talking to myself about snapping out of it. I began a daily routine of speaking to myself like a drill sergeant.

Figure this out. Find out what’s holding you back. Name all the ways you’re insecure and start fixing them. Do more self-care, dammit! That’s not good enough. You’re going to ruin this amazing relationship. Get with the program.

That’s still not good enough.

You’re not good enough.

If you know the difference between guilt and shame, you can see how that last one is when things took a turn for the worse.

What made it more complicated is that I also live with PTSD from sexual trauma as well as anxiety.

But as a sex positive professional who is surrounded by folks who easily and naturally practice polyamory and non-monogamy, I felt utterly and completely alone.

I started wincing every time the word “poly” got mentioned.

I pulled inside myself and scrolled as quickly as I could past articles extolling the virtues of non-monogamy.

When my partner went on dates, I felt like something inside of me was dying, but knowing just how important our relationship structure was to him, I would only disclose smaller versions of my truth.

I would buckle down. Work harder. Dig deeper. Find a way. I could do this on my own.

Because I was convinced I was a failure, and who wants to show the world what a total and complete failure they are?

That’s when shame won.

Shame wants nothing more than your total and complete isolation. Shame salivates over your panic. And the thing shame loves more than anything is when you feel shame about having shame.

Oh yes. In the world of shame, nothing is more elegant and perfect than a shame spiral.

This deepening sense of worthlessness and dread nurtured itself inside of me for nearly a full year.

I started feeling like I was reaching my breaking point – which honestly sounded like: I will just end things. I can’t make him happy. I feel miserable about what a fraud I am. I’ll just pull the plug and save us both.

All of this despite the fact that my partner and I have one of the most accepting, trusting, passionate, communicative relationships on the planet. Because it wasn’t about him, or about us.

It was about me, being trapped under the weight of my own shame, and trying to disown my story without facing it.

I was resisting my truth.

Shame can drive us to do horrible things. Shame can traumatize us, harm us, and lead to depression, anxiety, and even violence.

Then, I had the fortune of having a perfect storm of circumstances force my shame out into the light.

First, my partner and I had pretty significant miscommunication that threw us into the deep end.

Second, I attended a workshop on shame by the glorious Charlie Glickman at the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Summit. Being confronted by so much information about shame, and also hearing so many people in the room express feelings and thoughts that echoed my own, I began to realize what was happening to me.

Third, I did what I do best, and I leapt towards what felt most vulnerable. I moved into my discomfort and had a series of scary conversations, ending with a raw, brutal tell-all one night with my partner.

I was inconsolable in my grief and pain, but as I started to drag my shame out into the light of day, it began to shrink.

We worked through that conversation together. My partner holding space for my truth, inviting time for me to share my feelings – even the really ugly ones. He offered me such grace and patience, which in turn allowed me to start to treat myself with the same amount of kindness.

For weeks after, I felt lighter than I had in months. Certainly, I still felt tender and raw, unsure of what this new world meant for me, but I felt seen and heard. I felt proud that I’d faced my deepest fears.

I felt my self-worth returning, but this time it was stronger and more rooted in my sense of self than ever before.

Because we’d been to hell and back and learned something powerful in the process.

As fate will do, shortly after all of this unfolded, an article landed in my lap that beautifully captured so much of what I’d been struggling to find words for. Even better were some of the comments.

My favorite comment spoke directly to the fear I’d been carrying for so long. The story I’d been telling myself was that if I couldn’t make myself look like everyone else who does non-monogamy, then I was a failure.

The comment, in part, said, “Every poly relationship is entirely unique to the individuals involved. In every relationship, poly or mono, we make allowances for the strengths and weaknesses of our partners…If I choose to be in relationship with you, I accept you as you are, and then will negotiate a relationship that works for us rather than one that works for someone else.”

Message received, world. Message received.

Shame only thrives in darkness. So, by sharing our stories and discussing our pain, we can begin the process of healing. Together.

Shame can show up in many different ways for each of us, and when it does, you feel like you are entirely alone in your struggle.

My shame shows up around my body, my talent, and my lovability. You may not have any shame in these spaces at all.

We can feel shame around parenting, or success, or money, or our education.

But where so many of us experience a great deal of shame is around sex and intimacy – the way our body looks naked, especially if it’s changed over the years; the way we experience orgasm (or not); the fantasies in our head; the things that turn us on; the fact that our bodies or our desire may not align with what all of the mainstream magazines and movies tell us it should be.

Every mention of the thing that we feel ashamed of can trigger more hiding, more yucky feelings, and more fear.

What makes shame even worse is when a partner shames us for something we are already struggling with – like watching porn or masturbating.

Though shame in very tiny doses can help us make changes, the kind of shame most of us experience is far beyond what’s healthy.

When we feel ashamed, we pull within and try to bury our truth. The deeper we push it, the more controlling and powerful it becomes.

No relationship can thrive when shame is sitting at the head of the table. No person can achieve wholeness when they’re weighed down by shame.

So, I do not take it lightly when I suggest that you find a way to come to terms with any areas where you are experiencing shame and share your fears with someone, because I know how profoundly difficult it can be to admit these things to yourself, much less utter those words to someone else.

Start with a therapist or a coach. Call into a sex positive podcast. Write a letter to someone you trust. Write a letter to yourself, even.

The bottom line is that you are valuable, powerful, beautiful, and normal just as you are. Shame will hide that truth from you and tell you horrible stories about yourself and your worth.

So, I’m inviting you to share your shame with me. Just as I’ve shared mine with you.

Let’s start a movement of dragging our shame out into the light and aligning with our truths, even if they’re terrifying.

If the people in your life cannot accept you when you’re standing in your truth, then the sooner you figure that out, the sooner you can build a new life, find new loved ones who do. And then that’s when the really good stuff unfolds for you.

It gets easier.

Just do it.

Dare greatly.

Whatever motto or movement inspires you, I implore you to shine just the tiniest of light into the darkest corners of your shame to see what happens.

You may just find that eventually you can fill those once-haunted spaces with love, gratitude, joy, and acceptance.

And whatever happened with me?

Well, by speaking my shame and giving my fears a voice, I started experiencing immediate relief. I’ve connected with other non-monogamous folks, shared my story, listened to theirs, and I’m finding new growth and acceptance where there was pain and suffering. My partner and I are co-creating our relationship, each and every day, and we have a vision for something uniquely our own. And yes, that vision includes non-monogamy.

If you’d like to share your experience with shame, I invite you to comment below or shoot me a message. You can even do it anonymously if you aren’t quite ready to make yourself known.

You deserve to let go of the stories that are not lifting you up.

If you decide to voice your shame with a partner, make sure you set both of you up for success by choosing a time when you’re both present and relaxed, when you can ask your partner to hold safe space for you, because you’ll probably fumble it a bit.

And that is OK. It’s part of the process. You’ve got this.

[callout title=”Work with me” link=”https://www.dawnserra.com/work-with-me/” class=”hb-aligncenter”]Your desire, your fantasies, your voice deserve to be explored and heard. I’m here to help. [/callout]

 

16 When you’re overwhelmed with self-doubt

When you're overwhelmed with self-doubt, anxiety, fear, sadness, and darkness, it can feel hard to find your way back to strength and love. It's normal. You're OK. And here's a simple process for getting back to yourself.

I wrote another post that was scheduled for today on gratitude. It's a good post. But it will need to wait for next week.

This morning, I woke up and knew this needed to be written. Why, you ask?

Because last night I could feel the darkness trying to suffocate me. My thoughts turned to hopelessness and worry, shame and discouragement, and most of all doubt.

Doubting my gifts, doubting my talent, doubting my dreams, doubting whether I deserved...well, anything.

It happens sometimes, doesn't it? Those doubts creeping in - about whether you're good enough, whether you'll ever be ready to pursue your dreams, whether you're lovable or desirable.

The doubt turns into anxiety, and then you're off to the races. There's no stopping it now. The inevitable anxiety spiral taking you down the rabbit hole.

I have an intimate relationship with my dark side, my shadow self. She is powerful, but she can be terribly cruel if I'm not careful.

What really gets me is that inside of all that pain is also the source of so much creativity and complex beauty. So I can't (and don't want to) completely wall myself off from these deeper, scarier experiences because they're part of what makes the light so very bright when I step back into the sunshine.

No one can be happy all of the time. The happiness police who insist you need to keep your vibrations high, your spirits up, your joyful smile plastered on your face are lying.

Not only has science shown that making yourself be happy all of the time can be damaging, but when you deny yourself those tastes of darkness you forget just how brilliant the light can be.

The only reason I know I'm a warrior is because I've danced in the deepest, darkest shadows within myself and come out stronger and wiser than before.

A warrior is not made by standing in the light all of the time. Armor is forged in the flames of shadow and pain.

But if it's not about being happy all of the time, then what it is all about?

It's about living a life ripe with meaning and love. Not the kind of love we see on TV that is all empty, wordless desire and silly romantic tropes. No.

It's the kind of love that requires vulnerability, courage, and a deep understanding of self. Love that allows you to be seen for your most profound truths and to see that same truth in others.

And meaning? Well, meaningfulness requires risk. It requires being seen. It requires failure and big dreams, which of course breed fear and doubt and more darkness.

Living a life of meaning often demands the courage to carve out your own path towards something only you can see when everyone around you trudges down the worn path of safety.

Living your way into greatness means falling down and finding the strength within yourself to get back up.

When you're overwhelmed with self-doubt, it usually means you're either following your dreams or you're contemplating a big change - something scary - and so, your doubt and anxiety is attempting to silence your truth, to keep you safe. This is especially true if the thing you're resisting means taking a leap of faith with an unknown ending.

Our inner thoughts like predictability. Our inner dialog enjoys the safety of ruts and repetition. It knows our weakest spots and pokes at them mercilessly.

It's OK to roll around in the darkness from time to time. Sometimes you need to dig deep in order to find what's really behind those fears.

But you are not the darkness.

You are not weak. 

You have a choice. You always have a choice. You may not feel that way, you may hate the choices in front of you, but the choice is always there. (Except when it's not because oppression and capitalism...)

The scariest choice to make is often the one we most want. The one that will lift us up higher, or set us free, or rip us wide open.

Living unleashed from expectation isn't easy. But you do have the strength inside of you. You do deserve to be heard, feel seen, know the warmth of the sun on your face.

You just have to know how to move ahead even when you're at your most vulnerable, most terrified, most pained.

How can you create space to breathe when everything feels like it's against you?

I learned this powerful process from some mindfulness experts. So, here is how I saved myself last night from all that suffering.

First, name your feelings. Give them space to exist. Give them a chance to take up a little room. Stop resisting them by simply naming them. Anxiety. Doubt. Fear. Shame. Guilt. Anger. Sorrow.

Whatever it is that's screaming to come out, name it.

Awareness is a powerful tool of transformation. But awareness takes honesty of self, and that's where so many of us stumble.

We don't want to be sad. We don't want to be an anxious mess.

And then suffering settles in, because suffering is nothing more than a resistance of what is.

So name what is. Let it be seen and it will stop screaming for attention.

Last night, I was letting sorrow, doubt, and anxiety fall from my lips. Welcoming them into the space. Inviting them to sit with me for a moment (not too long, though).

Once you've named your feelings, the next step is to breathe.

You've made it this far. You've survived this long. You have power and wisdom within you that's deeper than you could possibly know.

So, breathe. Get present in the moment. Settle into your body.

Breathe and start to notice what is true about where you are in this moment (not the "truth" that your thoughts are screaming about). Speak in the present tense to yourself as you breathe and name everything you notice about the here and now.

"I'm lying in my bed. It is soft and warm. I hear sirens passing by outside. I am physically safe inside my home. My back is aching from all this stress. It is 9:41pm. I feel the fan above me. I am loved by my family. I am loved by my friends."

Centering yourself in the present moment and consciously breathing helps to give you some perspective - you aren't trapped in the past or living out a thousand worst-case-scenario futures that are twisting you into knots.

You are here. Now.

Third, begin to visualize something powerful that draws on your strength. I visualize myself standing in the darkness and strapping on battle-worn armor. It is thick and heavy, but it fits perfectly. A reminder that I have fought these battles before and won, so I can certainly do it again.

I imagine myself standing tall, brave, and ready to triumph. Whatever it is I need to do, even if it will hurt, even if it's scary, I know I can do it. I will do it.

I picture what I want in the distance - maybe it's success in my business, maybe it's a new home in a new city, maybe it's me loving myself - and I fill myself with the knowledge that I am the only person standing in my way of those things.

I picture my warrior self doing great things, overcoming doubts, moving in the direction of what I know I'm capable of - these aren't wild dreams of fortunes, but dreams that I know are within my grasp if I just let it be true.

And then I close the visualization with a serene, soft scene. It's a place where someone who has tremendous wisdom and trust in themselves would sit - a grassy mountain (like the Sound of Music's opening scene) or a stone temple like something the Dalai Lama might frequent.

The final step is the most important. Once your mind has gotten present and you've created a powerful story of your inner strength, then it's time to start inviting love, peace, and strength in for yourself, for your loved ones, and then for the world.

This is called a loving kindness meditation, and there are many versions of it.

Science has shown that loving-kindness meditation not only curbs self-criticism, but it strengths you physically, emotionally, and cognitively. By making yourself part of a larger whole, you start to gain new perspective that is tremendously calming and up-lifting.

Because it's not about happiness. It's about meaning.

And what is more meaningful than a life where you and everyone around you are being lifted up and healed?

Last night, I was swallowed whole by self-doubt, anxiety, and fear. I danced there for awhile, and then I found my strength and came out feeling more empowered and more ready to be the best version of myself that I could be.

I still feel tender, raw, uneasy, but grounded and ready to show up.

It is not easy. The good stuff never is.

But it is simple.

You are powerful and beautiful and valued. See it, embrace it, and own it.

What does your strongest self look like? Are you a warrior? A survivor? A god or goddess? Share down below and let's inspire each other in our moments of darkness.

I'm here for you.

Whether you need support or you're ready to find new ways to thrive in love & pleasure, check out the ways we can work together.

13 This is a story about healing

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This is a story about healing.

Like many of you, I carry wounds and scars inside of me that can be scary and painful. It’s one of the main reasons I do this work. By healing you, by lifting you up, I do the same to myself.

Healing has become a major theme in my life over the past year and a half since my last rape.

And so this is the story of how I found myself naked in a stranger’s home for two hours of hands-on sexual healing.

About a year ago, a friend of mine declared that her life had just been changed following a session with a Sacred Intimate. Having never heard the term, I immediately wanted to know more. My friend informed me that Sacred Intimates (SI) are people who help you explore your sexuality and pleasure using things like breath work, movement, and hands-on exploration.

My friend slid the Sacred Intimate’s information across the table to me and said, “Dawn, you have to do this. Trust me.”

Excited and nervous, I read up on this particular SI, made an appointment to chat with her on the phone, and then immediately tucked it all neatly away in a little box in the corner of my mind.

As amazing as hours of embodied pleasure sounded, I just wasn’t ready.

Sometimes the most important parts of a journey are those when you know it’s not the time to move forward, but instead the time to experience where you are right now, without apology.

Because letting myself be naked that way – not just in body (which is a scary thing on its own if you know anything about my relationship with myself) – but naked in mind, heart, and soul? It felt so vulnerable. So…powerful and transformative.

The fear was deafening, and so I waited.

For 10 months, I would occasionally return to thoughts of this SI and the way my friend was so enthusiastic about the radical shifts she’d experienced. I knew that it would likely involve internal massage, and while I certainly had sexy fantasies about that when I pleasured myself, the reality of doing actual healing in this way felt terribly overwhelming.

And then, a few weeks ago, I had this deep knowing bubble up inside of me.

I was ready.

For what, I had absolutely no idea. But, I knew I really wanted to take this leap of faith and see what happened.

The SI and I reconnected over the phone. She re-explained how she does her work, talking at length about consent and boundaries, and then I explained that I wanted to work on letting go of some of my rape trauma and get help finding my voice and manifesting ways to connect with more people in my business.

A tremble of fear at having to actually confront myself and my boundaries in a really vulnerable and public way coursed through me.

We scheduled a two hour session for when I’d be traveling in her neck of the woods. She encouraged me to do deep self-care the night before our appointment and to take a really slow morning leading up to our time together.

Sunday night I settled in for a luxurious bubble bath with a glass of wine. I let my hands explore my skin, and I gave myself permission to feel hopeful for the work ahead. I wanted to get really clear on what inside of me needing healing and what kind of shifts I wanted to experience as a result of this session.

Emotions bubbled up, one right after the other. Fears, too. What if she wasn’t who she claimed to be? What if I didn’t like being there? What if… what if… what if…

The next morning, I found myself stumbling through a comedy of errors that left me frazzled, stressed, and anything but relaxed by the time I knocked on her door.

Honestly, everything in me wanted to run away. I couldn’t do this. I wasn’t ready. I…

And then, there she was, beckoning me into her home.

The room smelled of incense, Nag Champa to be exact. Everything was draped in flowing fabrics in deep purple and pink. The shades were drawn and every surface had burning tea lights. Even though it was 11am on a summer morning, I stepped into a dark, sensual womb that felt nurturing and safe.

We spent about 30 minutes talking about my fear, my expectations, my blocks and traumas, and the things I was ready to let go of: doubt, pain, the armor I held in certain parts of my body, the feeling that my gifts weren’t good enough to share with you (yes, you, dear reader).

We also talked about what I wanted to manifest and invite in – strength, prosperity, healing, inner wisdom, and a readiness to share my voice with the world.

She spoke about my chakras and energy work. I’ve done enough of that in the past that I knew right away my main blocks were in my 1st and 2nd chakras – rape will do that to you.

It’s hard to feel safe when your body doesn’t feel like it’s your own sometimes.

She also explained to me that women, especially, have this spectrum of touch where their vulvas are either touched in a clinical way by doctors or in a sexual way by lovers (who often expect something in return). As a Sacred Intimate, her job was to offer another type of touch that was sensual and pleasure-based, but had zero expectation behind it.

A place to be entirely and utterly me.

Her only goal for my session was to help me rediscover my yes.

What did I want to say yes to in each and every moment? What felt divine? What would feel even better? What if we stayed in that yummy place as long as possible instead of feeling like we had to move on because of some expected series of events?

She said that orgasm may or may not happen, but that was not the goal.

The goal was ultimate pleasure, ultimate receiving, the ultimate yes to myself.

Honestly, the thought of speaking up and asking for what I wanted over and over again was really scary. My voice and I have a troubled relationship, and though I have done a great deal of work in allowing my voice space to speak up, it is still relatively uncomfortable for me most of the time.

And here I was, with a stranger, about to get naked, and the only goal was for me to use my voice and ask for what I wanted over and over again.

She invited me to stand and taught me a tantra breath that would help keep me in the present moment as well has help move sensation and pleasure throughout my body. The breath felt awkward at first, but soon became an anchor that allowed me to drift beautiful places.

I slowly removed my clothes, trying to ignore the chatter in my head that was nervously chiding me over being naked with this woman I’d never met before.

Per her instructions, I laid face down on the massage table, and waited.

She stepped into the space and laid her hand on my back. In that moment, I knew I was safe and I knew this was going to be some deep work. She told me to invite all of my emotions up, regardless of what they were.

And then we started.

Her hands traveled down my back and over my ass and legs. She massaged my feet and calves, slowly working up to my thighs. She reminded me to speak up when something felt really yummy, and also to speak up if anything was just tolerable or OK. We were going for ultimate bliss.

Despite all of the work I’ve done, this was my first time really deciding that the only thing that mattered was my pleasure – no apology, no holding back.

Because we’d decided that I was holding a pretty deep block in my 1st chakra, also known as my root chakra, she began deeply massaging my butt cheeks, inviting me to relax and receive as I did my breath work.

Then, she was massaging my anus. I felt myself tense up and suddenly, I was flooded with a crystal clear vision of why I’d been holding on to so much pain in that area.

My rapist had had anal sex with me that night. It had been consensual, but he did it too fast and without any warm up and it had hurt. A lot. The trauma occurred shortly after. I’d felt so ashamed and alone, like my pleasure and my body had no place in this world. Like my voice didn’t matter.

And now here we were, my SI and I, allowing this pleasure spot to take center stage.

I felt myself speaking up, advocating for myself.

I told her that this felt important. I wanted us to stay here a bit longer, and she thanked me for asking for what I wanted.

Pleasure coursed through my body as I invited myself to create a new story – a story where I was strong and in charge of my body, a story where my pleasure and my voice were important and valued and heard.

Waves rocked through me from head to toe as I felt this door I’d been desperately holding shut out of fear burst open, and in its place was a sense of ease spreading through every inch of my body.

She never rushed me. She held space for me and my experience regardless of what that looked like for me.

As my root chakra opened, I felt myself shifting towards my 2nd chakra. My legs parted, my hips rolled, and she asked if my yoni (vulva) was ready for some attention.

At my yes, she invited me to turn over.

After a delicious breast massage, she moved to my belly and then between my legs.

It was a fascinating experience to know I was about to journey into my most sacred place, to embrace everything pleasurable and sexual about myself, without this being a sexually charged moment.

We’d created a container of absolute trust, warmth, and nurturing. I felt safe in a way I still don’t have words for.

As we started exploring what my pleasure looked like in that space, at that time, I found myself opening to my yes. I started asking for different strokes, different pressure, for her to linger in places that felt especially powerful and important.

As her fingers slipped inside of me, I felt this beautiful opening in my spirit. It was as if I was inviting her in because I knew this was work that needed to be done. For both of us.

We rode the wave of my yeses, over and over again, until I found my back arched off the table as a glorious orgasm poured from me.

Later, as I dressed and emerged from the room, she gasped and said, “You look like a glowing goddess.”

I was high as a kite on the energy we’d brought into that room. As I lay on the table, I’d had these visions of letting go of some of the pain and sorrow I carried inside of me, I felt myself releasing my grasp on some of my fear and doubt, and at the same time I felt myself fill with this deep knowing that I was doing the work I was meant to do with this lifetime.

I knew in my heart of hearts that I was powerful, creative, talented, and ready to heal the people who were ready to work with me.

We chatted softly for another half hour or so as I drifted back to myself and the present moment.

She talked about how her work with women was always a beautiful experience of profound healing and it is the reason she does what she does with her life. I told her that I admired her for her courage because doing this kind of work can be isolating and lonely. It is sex work, after all.

We hugged for a long time and I stepped back into the sunshine a new woman.

What amazed me about my time with that Sacred Intimate was that despite the deeply sexual nature of what we did together, it wasn’t actually a sexual experience. Not in the ways I’ve experienced with lovers, at least.

My arousal was not about her. It was about me.

My pleasure was not about her. It was about me.

I wasn’t worried about pleasing or performing or giving or being a certain way.

Instead, I was invited (and given permission) to fully embody my story, my journey, and myself.

I tapped into my body wisdom. I explored my traumas. I asked for what I wanted and received it in the most selfless way possible.

So, why am I sharing this with you?

As a sex coach, it’s important to me that I’m constantly transparent and vulnerable about my own struggles and adventures.

After all, sex isn’t a static thing. As our bodies change, our lives ebb and flow, and our experiences pile up, the way we experience pleasure and sex continues to morph and bend in new, often surprising ways.

What so many people don’t realize is that our sexual energy is directly tied to our power. It’s where we find our voice, our desires, our needs, our creativity, and it’s where we can truly settle into ourselves and find our inner wisdom. The way we explore our sexuality is different for each of us, but to ignore that part of ourselves is to shut out a vital piece of our life story.

The next time I’m traveling in her neck of the woods, I plan on having another session with her. She told me that each session results in a very unique journey where new depths are explored and new stories unfold.

Whether I’m ready for that work remains to be seen, but as I write this now, I am a woman who has undergone a radical transformation at the hands of a gifted and skilled witness.

And though my work is not hands-on, I know in my heart of hearts that my healing will help facilitate your healing. That my journey is what leads me to helping you on yours.

This is a story about healing. My healing and yours.

[callout title=”Let’s chat” link=”https://www.dawnserra.com/lets-chat/” class=”hb-aligncenter”]If you’re ready to stop ignoring the places where you’re stuck and find new ways to tap into your sexual potential, I’m here for you. [/callout]

*If you’re interested in learning more about Sacred Intimates, please don’t hesitate to contact me. Not all Sacred Intimates are qualified for the kind of work I just described, so referrals are important.

13 A love note from me to you

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Hi you,

This week, I wanted to sit down and write a little love note – from me to you.

Maybe it’s because we’re coming out of Mercury in retrograde or because everything seems to be moving so damn fast all the time, but I’m feeling tender this morning, a little raw, a little unsure, and in need of something gentle.

I thought you might need something similar.

Perhaps we can share a virtual cup of tea (or hot chocolate!) and chat.

Because I want to tell you something important.

You are enough.

You are exquisite and powerful.

You do so damn much – so much more than most people ever realize that you do.

You work so hard, you dream so big, you take care of so many people, and you’re always imagining what’s next. You’re always looking for ways to be better, stronger, smarter, more successful…for ways to be MORE.

And yes, you are capable of amazing things. You will go amazing places.

But don’t you know that you are already amazing?

Your spirit shines so brightly that I can see it from here. Your power is limitless.

For all the places you want to go and all the things you want to achieve, I invite you to pause for a moment.

Right now.

Breathe.

Soften.

Soften some more.

Open to the beauty that is you right now, exactly as you are. No pushing, no doing. Let’s just be. You and me. Right here. And allow ourselves to FEEL it all.

What are you running from? What are you scared of?

Failure? Being wrong? Being seen? Losing it all?

I have those feelings, too.

That maybe, just maybe, I dreamt too big, wished for too much, and it will come crashing down around me.

Can you feel your own vulnerability?

Can you feel those tender spots that you dare not poke or prod for fear you’ll crack open?

What if we loved those spots fiercely today?

What if we, together, let our fears move through us, shake us and scare us, until there was nothing left of them but a glorious emptiness waiting to be filled.

Filled with a knowing that you will be alright, no matter what happens, because you are strong and powerful and talented and unbelievably important to this world.

I don’t want to be driven by fear, I want to be catapulted by hope.

So let’s sigh into the places that we don’t love nearly enough.

Let’s caress the spots that we neglect.

Shall we sit for a spell, you and me, as we bask in the warmth that is our own glory?

No place to be. Nothing to do. (For just a few moments, at least.)

Except to fill ourselves with the knowledge that we deserve love.

We deserve to be seen.

We deserve to know our dreams and to see them come to life.

But more than anything, for each of us to know deeply and profoundly, that we are whole and complete and glorious right now.

As is. Just right. Perfectly imperfect.

No caveats. No asterisks. No footnotes.

And isn’t that a magnificent thought?

I think so, too.

Let’s sit with that just a little longer.

You and me and our enough-ness.

With love,

Dawn

[callout title=”Let’s chat” link=”https://www.dawnserra.com/lets-chat/” class=”hb-aligncenter”]I’m here to help you live your most beautiful, sensual, spectacular life. How can I help? [/callout]