Recently someone called me brave after I published an essay on my hearing loss.

I lived many years in denial about my hearing loss.

I was ashamed. It made me feel like less than a person. Which, looking back is ridiculous, but it’s how I felt for a long time. Sometimes I still do. I get flack for not paying attention when the truth is that I just can’t hear. I can’t hear when I am in a group or a class setting or a movie. When I am the teacher, it’s a different story since I am “in control.”

I try and write as honestly as I can. I usually wake up the next day (if it’s been a published piece) and have some kind of panic attack. Like: What have I done? How can I take it back? 

I wrote this piece for Salon on struggling with depression, and I wanted to hide under a rock after it went up. But ultimately, I was glad because it created a dialogue about depression and mental health that often still has a stigma. I also realized that people decide things about us (we all do it- we make up stories, we create things in our mind about others) and that people looked at my life (especially on social media) and thought it was perfect and amazing. Looking at my Facebook it seems that I am always going somewhere new, I get to travel and get paid for it, I sell out workshops all over.

But they aren’t there when I am hemorrhaging on the floor, or so depressed I can’t get out of bed, or helping my sister deal with her son who has special needs, or helping to support my family or any of the other things that I don’t post. And that’s okay.

But I thought I would tell the truth. Here’s who I am. I think that’s important.

I am not suggesting that everyone walks around vomiting their secrets or over-sharing (which is sometimes mistaken as good writing) but rather, they tell the truth. In fact, I would weep if everyone went around over-sharing and telling every intimate detail of their life. Barf.

Most of us hide who we are for way too long. @JenPastiloff (Click to Tweet!)

If it’s done right, an essay or memoir, or whatever it may be, the person reading it will be pumping their fist to the sky going Yes Yes, because they recognize some truth, either about themselves or the world. Writing about ourselves, if it is done right, transcends the personal. That is my goal. Not sure I succeed, but I will be damned if I don’t try. I aim to be brave. (Which I think is a loaded word. I mean, it can mean so many things.) Sometimes brave is getting out of bed despite wanting to die. Sometimes brave is making eye contact with someone. Sometimes brave is publishing an essay on your history with anorexia. Sometimes being brave is walking sixteen miles with a bucket of water on your head so your kid doesn’t die. It’s all sorts of things. Who am I to say what brave is. I just know what it means to me, personally.

Sometimes I get scared and fall short but I want to have that be my legacy. I want to leave a mark that says Truth Teller and Listener.

Why is it so important to listen, to really hear what people are saying? 

Because I struggle with sound so much, because I alway s feel lost, because I never felt heard growing up. There are so many reasons. I think most of us just want to be heard. A huge part of my workshop/retreat is listening. People sharing out loud and rest of us just listening. And that is when we learn the most. I realized that even though I am mostly deaf that I hear better than most. In the workshop I scoot over on my butt and get up all in your face so I’m right there with you. We need that. As a writer, as a reader, as a teacher, as a human- we need to listen.

So, Positively Positive tribe, what will your legacy be? What mark do you want to leave in this world? I can’t wait to read what you write below. I am listening.

My summer Tuscany retreat is almost full but I will get a wait list going once it is. Please book here asap if you want to attend. It is life changing! Yoga is not the focus although there is some in all I do. I will be in Vancouver in Jan., followed by Atlanta, NYC, Dallas and more. I also am doing a writing retreat to Mexico in May. All retreats and workshops listed here including the New Years Retreat to Ojai. Hang with me on instagram at @jenpastiloff too! It’s where I am mostly now. 

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the sunflowers!

Jen will be leading a New Year’s Manifestation Retreat: On Being Human in Ojai, California. All retreats are a combo of yoga/writing and for ALL levels. Read this post to understand. Check out for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you (Dallas, Miami, South  Vancouver, NYC & London are next). Jen is the guest speaker 3 times a year at Canyon Ranch and leads an annual retreat to Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health every February, as well as an annual invite only retreat to Tuscany. She is the founder of the popular The Manifest-Station website. Jen is leading Other Voices Querétaro in Mexico with authors Gina Frangello, Emily Rapp, Stacy Berlein, and Rob Roberge in May . Follow her on Instagram and Twitter. You can also find her at 

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