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On Owning Your Experience — All Of It

Brooklyn 2012

A few days ago I was watching Jen Louden’s talk with writer Dani Shapiro (as part of Jen’s Shero’s School for Revolutionaries). One of the topics they talked about was the importance of owning your experience. All of it.

Dani mentioned owning her experiences as a 20-something rebelling, partying in NYC and dating a married man (which she writes about in her first memoir Slow Motion).

And here’s the sentence she said that struck me: “That girl became this woman.”

OK, read that, again: That girl became this woman.

I think many of us tend to have shame surrounding our past.

(I say “have” instead of “feel,” because shame can become something we hold or carry wherever we go. Maybe it’s a basket of shame or a file cabinet or a house.)

Shame about the people we dated. The choices we made. The people we were.

Maybe you have shame about letting others walk all over you because you believed your size or shape or weight warranted bad treatment.

Maybe you have shame about being too quiet or being too loud.

Maybe you have shame about your own partying or betrayals. About not accomplishing certain goals. About being stagnant when you could’ve been moving and making things.

About letting dieting dictate your life. About not liking yourself. About giving away your power to others.

And maybe your perfectionistic side takes over, and you want to undo all the mistakes, missteps and messes and make a neat, pretty path out of a windy, rocky road.

And that’s when some more shame seeps in. You want to make it all go away. You want to rip it up. Trash it on the other side of the planet. Erase it. Eliminate it. For good.

But that girl became this woman. Whatever that girl’s mistakes, missteps or messes, they’ve built the you of today.

As Dani also said, let yourself fully inhabit the complexity and contradictions that make up who you are, and let it empower you.

Let the mistakes, missteps and messes empower you — whatever that empowerment looks like in your life.

Put another way, here’s a similar sentiment from Dani: “Our lives can contain all of it.”

In other words, our lives can contain the windy path, the wrong turns, the accidents, the confusion, the highs, the lows, the mistakes, the lessons.

That’s because that girl has become this woman.

By the way I just discovered Dani’s work, and already love her writing. I wrote a piece for Psych Central on creativity featuring her latest book, Still Writing. You can learn more about Dani’s work at her website.

Jen’s work has resonated with me ever since I went to the Creative Joy Retreat in 2012. Check out her site, too.

Also, I was honored to contribute a piece for Weight Stigma Awareness Week. Here’s a list of all the posts.

On Owning Your Experience — All Of It

Margarita Tartakovsky, MS

Margarita is an associate editor at She writes about everything from taking compassionate care of yourself at any weight, shape, and size, to coping healthfully with difficult emotions. Her goal is to give readers practical, empowering tips to better their lives, and to remind you that whatever you're struggling with, you're never, ever alone.

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APA Reference
Tartakovsky, M. (2013). On Owning Your Experience — All Of It. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 26, 2020, from


Last updated: 27 Sep 2013
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