High Beams, Heckling & No Tidy Takeaway

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All my life I’ve been goofy, loud, and throwing myself into risky creative endeavors without a whole lot of planning. I’m like, “Let’s put on a show!

This has led to me writing a bunch of books and creating a ton of stuff – and it has led to a ton of embarrassing failures. Like the 6th grade talent show. I did an Edith Ann (a Lily Tomlin character from the 1970’s) impression. I worshiped Lily Tomlin when I was little.

There I was, my underweight plucky self, dressed like Edith Ann, sitting in a slightly over-sized rocking chair, doing a passable job of Lily Tomlin’s high-pitched pseudo kid voice.

Only one problem. You could see my erect nipples through my white shirt. I was terrified. Clearly.

About halfway through the routine, someone yelled, “Girl’s got high beams.” Someone else called out, “I see high beams! I see high beams!” I’ve blocked out the rest  – did I finish or run off the stage? Did my teacher comfort me? Did I tell my parents? (I bet not; I knew even then to hide my discomfort.) All I remember, clearly enough to make me feel sick to my stomach right now, is hot shame.

Heckled for high beams in front of the whole school. And I barely had breasts!


I have lots of stories like this – stories of me trying something creatively stretchy and things Not. Going. So. Well. A lot of the time. Wrong more than right.

So? That’s what it means to be creative, right?

Of course, face plants are a fact of life unless you never risk anything. But lingering malignant creative shame is not.

Turns out, I didn’t know that. Not until the last year or so. I thought that a sense of impending doom was part of every creative person’s daily experience. I thought every artist, writer, business person – okay, everybody! – was certain they were about to be humiliated. Big time.

I also increased my creative shame with my own stories that, because creating is hard for me, I really shouldn’t be doing it. I secretly wondered if my college friend was right when she said, “You shouldn’t be a writer; it’s too hard for you.” I was usually overcome with envy when a friend told me how easy it was for her to write or paint or teach.

Here is where I bring in a pithy lesson, maybe 7 ways to overcome creative shame. Only I’m not because, when getting to this part when I started trying to come up pithy take-aways, I realized that’s another way I collude with my creative shame.

I believe(d) I have (had) to earn the right to express myself by delivering market value. That self-expression, story, and connection is not valuable enough in its own right. That if I don’t give you value, I shouldn’t be allowed to create.

That makes me weep warm salty tears because far more than those kids back in the Port Salerno Elementary School heckling my tiny high beams, my story that I have to give value, serve!, do good, make it worth your while, too often kept me away from what I most deeply desire: to create deeply, truly, wildly, and share it freely with you.

But hey, I just did.

May creative freedom reign. For us all.



Originally published at

About the Author

Jen Louden is a writer and personal growth pioneer who helped launch the self-care movement with her first book The Woman’s Comfort Book. She's the author of 5 additional books on well-being and whole living, including The Woman's Retreat Book, which landed her on Oprah, and her newest The Life Organizer.

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