I Grew Up Deeply Ashamed (And Other Reasons Why I Do This)

Whether you’ve been part of this amazing  community for years, or are just joining me, I wanted to share a deeply personal story with you today.

Everything we go through in our childhood affects who we become, and as I was thinking about “why I do this,” why do I help to uplift + empower actors to create major breakthroughs in their careers and their personal lives, well, it all begins with my story of how I grew up…

When I was growing up, I was deeply ashamed of my childhood home.

My mother, though she was amazing in so many ways + supportive of my creative endeavors, was also a compulsive hoarder.

Click the video below, as I reveal what I learned from growing up with shame, anxiety + around mental illness.

And if you prefer to read the story as I tell it, here is the rest of the transcript that begins above…

Counters and table tops were always covered with stacks of newspapers, coupons, piles of unopened mail, broken pieces of things she was going to fix +  lists of things she was “going to get to.” 

Some of the rooms were filled with piles of clothes, boxes lined some of the hallways, and anytime anyone would ring the doorbell, the anxiety level in our home skyrocketed.

Before opening the door, I would quickly run around the house opening and closing certain doors so the intruder (I mean, guest) would be blocked from seeing into certain rooms and noticing the mess.

My mother would then open the front door, as she and I would smile cheerfully, and then direct the guest down the hallway to the “safe” room, the one where you couldn’t see the rest of the mess in the house.  (Yes, I learned to be a master pretender and master enabler, even though I had no idea what any of that meant at the time).

But keeping all of the proverbial plates spinning, while simultaneously helping to manage my mother’s emotions, eventually taught me to put aside my own.

As I got older, I got even better at hiding the mess.  

Anytime one of my friends came to pick me up, I would promptly appear on our front porch, so no one had to come inside the house.  When they would drop me off, I’d create all sorts of new reasons as to why they couldn’t come in.

Now, growing up I never used the words “shame or anxiety,” (I actually thought I had a perfectly lovely childhood in the northern suburbs of Chicago, where all of the John Hughes movies were filmed) and no one in my family was labeling anything “mental illness,” but looking back, shame, anxiety + mental illness were the unacknowledged elephants that occupied every room of my childhood home.

It made me long for things to be different + for my mother to clean up the mess.  In fact, whenever I was asked what I wanted for my birthday, my reply was always, “A clean house.”

It’s taken me years to unravel, understand + unpack it all, and even how my brother and father played their own part in this dysfunctional dance, though they responded differently than I did.  I was the overly empathetic and sensitive one, who internalized it all. 

And over time, I learned to dim my light…there just wasn’t enough room for it. I now see why acting became such a wonderful escape for me.  

Even way back in the 7th grade (when I got cast as The Scarecrow in The Wiz), the allure of an empty stage, a blank canvas and the space to create and emote and shine through a character, saved my soul in so many ways.

For the last 3 decades, I’ve immersed myself in the study of human behavior, psychology, early childhood conditioning and how it all shapes who we become.

I became obsessed with studying + learning all of the ways in which fear holds us back, how we can overcome obstacles in our own life, what it really takes to create success + breakthroughs, and of course, how to find more happiness + fulfillment along the way.

I learned that clutter is just fear in manifested form.  And that we are each connected energetically to everything we own.

I’ve come to understand that it’s often easier to bury our own fears and instead spend our days “doing” and tending to our “piles of stuff” (under the guise of being “busy”) than it is to really pause, to look inward and to tend to the roots of our pain or addictions or mental illness.  For many, that’s just too much upheaval.

But I’ve also seen it happen (with my amazing students all over the world), that when we are brave enough + willing enough to dive deep, to uncover our limiting beliefs + uproot our biggest fears, that we can radically transform ourselves, and embrace our biggest dreams through the process.

Most people don’t want to look that deeply.  Some are scared of failure or change.  Others are scared of how successful they might become.

I get it.  I tried for so many years, in so many ways, to help my beloved mother.  (Sometimes those closest to us are the hardest to assist).

Her beautiful soul left the planet 10 years ago, and I have made peace with the fact that in this lifetime, perhaps she wasn’t meant to “clean up the mess.”

But it got me thinking about why I do what I do, and how at the deepest core of it all, it’s because it truly makes my heart sing to help another creative warrior to let go of whatever “stuff” is holding them back + then live out their truest potential in this lifetime.

And maybe that’s because I couldn’t help my own mother do just that.

So after helping thousands of actors all over the world, for the last decade, here’s what I know to be true.

All transformation begins deeply within.
If you can’t look at it, you can’t change it.
When you acknowledge and accept you can transform.

Fear is what holds everyone back.
The breakdown happens before the breakthrough.
You can only help someone who is open + willing to change.

I also know that what we hide, what we are most afraid others will see, is actually what will connect us + unite us.

And yet, I debated about sharing this with you, even now.

But I hope this helps you today, to know that whatever shame or anxiety or fear or trauma you may have grown up with (or are still dealing with), that you are not alone.

In many ways, each actor I have helped, whether it is through my written words, my blog, my videos, my guided meditations or my Success Breakthrough Workshop online course or my Spotlight Club Monthly Membership, each of you is helping me to heal and piece together my own life’s puzzle.

And I want you to know, not only has it been an honor, but serving you at the highest level, has become part of my life’s mission.

We all have messes that we want to clean up.  Some of us might be more willing to look at them than others.  

But I will promise you this, that when you peel back the layers of anything you’ve been going through, (as scary as it might feel in the moment) at the root of it all, at the core of who you are, there is only pure love + light.

I wish I could have led my own mother back to that knowing all those years ago, but instead, I will continue to charge forward, and be the light warrior that I have come here to be.

Remember that no matter what has happened before, no matter how this year has or hasn’t been going for you and no matter what obstacles you may face, you have infinite potential + shining light within you, right in this very moment.

Even when you feel your light has been dimmed (by yourself or another…or even a pandemic).

So I share this today to simply say thank you. I have grown and learned and evolved so much from doing this work.

Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your glorious life.
Thank you for allowing me to inspire, uplift + empower you to be the best version of yourself.
Thank you for inviting me into your sacred home week after week, as each of us tend to our own personal “mess.”

I am with you. And I am rooting for you + your ongoing transformation.

Leave a comment below, and let me know what you related to the most.  I truly love hearing from you.

Love + Gratitude,


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29 thoughts on “I Grew Up Deeply Ashamed (And Other Reasons Why I Do This)”

  1. Thank you.

    For having the insight, and courage to reveal,,

    human secrets, that most actors prefer to remain hidden.

    You light the path, others will follow.

    As always….


  2. Wendy, you are so courageous to share your story!!! I’m so touched by your journey, but also your bravery to go forward and learn about yourself and help yourself and then HELP OTHERS!!

    This reminds me of my very first share ‘in program.’ I was terrified, drowning in shame and fear. But, exactly as you say here ‘our vulnerabilities are our connection.’

    You are fierce! You are a TRUE warrior to be able to move through all this and then find a way to be of service to others. So amazing!!

    Thank you thank you thank you!!! SHINE ON!!!!

    xoxo Sending love:)

  3. Patricia Lou Robideau

    Wendy; I’m deeply moved by your family and your childhood environment you grew up with. I hope to be back sooner than later as a member of your Spotlight Club.
    I’m keeping my head and mind held high and positive for myself and others going through these difficult, crazy times of 2020.
    Your a true inspiration, and an amazing human being.

    Thank you
    Respectfully, Patricia Lou Robideau

  4. Wow I can relate on so many levels with family dysfunction and childhood trauma – this touched me deeply – thank you for sharing! Much love, Jaki

  5. That was incredibly moving, thank you Wendy for sharing such a personal story and bringing attention to the necessity of looking inward. Xx

  6. Thank you so much for sharing so honestly . Your light and love and your beauty just shines through every word. I was deeply moved by the tremendous love there was and is for your mother and how it shaped your work in this life. As Brene Brown says “we all connect in the broken places” from our vulnerability not our perfection.(our what we perceive to be perfect0 Your words and this message will be with me when I consciously go through my work as a human during these crazy times. I really feel like your moms love and spirit is working through you to all of us and how lucky we are.

    1. Thank you for your beautiful perspective. I do have tremendous love for my mother, so I’m glad you feel her spirit working through me. She is indeed.

  7. Thank you Wendy! You are super courageous for sharing your truth with authenticity and vulnerability.

    Peace and Blessings :0)

  8. Thank you so much for this vulnerable post Wendy. I can identify very clearly, actually have a very similar story. It moved me greatly and gave me a bit of an AH HA moment too! Big remote hug to you full of life and light x?

  9. Wendy, You have inspired and helped me so many times during the last few years. Thank you for sharing your story. I identify. My mother was mentally ill and that is exactly the way I grew up and was also the painful,shame-filled part I played as a child. I know how I dream of living and this talk has given me the courage to dig into my own personal mess. You are a gift to all of us. Sending love and blessings.

  10. Thank you Wendy. I too grew up in a very ugly home and still run and hide from it. You are so right. Thank you for sharing! YOU are definitely a light, and your messages connect with me! Thank you!

  11. Hi Wendy,
    So glad I still get your Monday emails. On Wednesday I go in for my next breast cancer treatment – a double mastectomy with reconstruction. Though this is the most risk reducing thing I can do for myself, I am so grieved at the loss. I find within myself I sometimes still don’t want to face it or feel what I’m going through because it is so much and so painful. But I want to heal so I gingerly walk myself into feeling and knowing, both the good and the hard. Thank you for this encouragement today.

  12. I commend you on the bravery and the truthfulness of your video blog. I’m a fellow actor and author Joanie Marx and I share in my writings many of your conclusions and insight. My book is entitled in spite of how to refocus and renew your life in spite of the obstacles on the path to love and happiness.

  13. Hey Wendy,
    This was Beautiful and true. Thank you and I totally relate. I’m remembering similar stories in my life and reminding myself to shine my light today. Got myself an ongoing role in a tv show here in Australia and I’m gonna keep listening to your beautiful guided meditations while I’m away on the shoot. Gotta stay centred for the job and they will be an enormous part of that.
    Thank you for al your meditations over the past couple of years —they keep me real and grounded.
    Love and Light, Amy

  14. You are not alone. My Mum was also a hoarder. She grew up at a time of austerity. There were newspapers and dust everywhere. She also would hang on to broken artefacts with no hope of doing anything with them due to a lack of tooling. They both seemed to had a mental block when it came to buying tools. We did not even have a vise. Making things difficult for yourself is a form of self-sabotage. What was worse of all was my upbringing as it was for my three sisters completely wrong. Laziness and procrastination were considered virtues. Not having a work ethic in the workplace puts you at a disadvantage.
    Ever heard of Homer and Langley Collyer?

  15. Oh Wendy, you continue to amaze me & inspire me. Your messages go so far beyond acting. I’ve shared them with non-actors many times.
    The truths you hit spot on – in such a practical, honest way – for me, go deeper than many spiritual, yogic or meditation practices and teachers have.

    And the fact that you have a full successful life as a working actor with a family and still take time to do this work and put out these messages is a true testament to the type of person you are.

    Thank you for being grounded, generous, wise and giving.

    I look forward to your next words of wisdom.

    Namaste! Echo

  16. Thank you Wendy for your desire to help us all. You have helped me immensely. I went to an audition a few weeks ago and I used your suggested techniques and I felt so good/empowered. . I felt strong and confident knowing I AM ENOUGH just as I am NOW! and I walked away proud of myself for not backing out of that audition experience . PLEASE continue to do what you are doing! Thank you from my heart!

  17. Wendy. You. Are. Gorgeous. Someone very close to me is a hoarder and it just breaks my heart every time I go into their house. It’s like it’s a house, not a home anymore. Thank you for being so open and vulnerable and generous. You are a gem. This kid’s song always makes me bawl…”This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine, I’m gonna let it shine, let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.” Huge hugs and love to you today and always.

  18. I can relate to what you said about a messy house so much. My mom holds onto everything even though most of it is junk. She is always bringing books home even though we have more than enough. She is aware she had a problem, but she feels too exhausted after work to go through it all.

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