Dear Reader,

I am writing to you and yet, we may have never met in person.  The hope is that as you read on it may feel as though I know part of you. More importantly, as you read on you get in touch with a part of yourself. In the last twenty years I have sat with hundreds of men, women, and couples who have muzzled their voice. When I mean muzzle I mean they had thoughts, feelings, desires, dreams that as they rose to the tips of their tongues, they shut their lips so tight it felt as if their mouth just did a CrossFit workout!

Why am I writing this?  You could accept this letter as an early birthday gift. Or as a fortune you read after you break the cookies the waiter brings you after a yummy dinner at PF Chang’s, or a bit of pixie dust falling as you make a wish. Whatever image works for you, find, and hold onto it.

Take a moment and think back at the last time you choose not to say what you were feeling, needing, or wanting. Perhaps it was during a conflict with you partner. Maybe it was at work when a job was posted but you talked yourself out of applying. It may have been when your family member spoke to you in a way you felt the pull from inside to leave the room, but your feet felt as if they were nailed to the floor.

Now think what was in the space between what you wanted to do and the act of doing it. My experience has been emotions such as fear, concern, and high discomfort has been in the way for some. Others silence themselves as a way of protecting themselves. Have you ever had a self “muzzling” experience and it happened because you thought about what COULD happen if you spoke your truth? You may have done it out of the fear you “would” have made the other person mad. I have met women who held their tongue so not to be viewed as aggressive or men who swallowed their emotions in fear of looking weak.

I want to and applaud you right now. You got it, right now. The fact that you are recognizing life areas of self-muzzling is insight and an openness to change. You may be leaning into the idea of, “what if I learn to do this part of my life differently.” I am writing to you, nudging you to pretend. You see, I love the words pretend and practice. Both words are far away from the concept of perfection.

I want you to vision your life muzzle free. Did you just hold your breath or get uneasy in your stomach just reading this? Breathe. In and out. If you have lived years of silencing yourself it makes complete sense that picturing your future life without doing that would feel foreign. Would your relationships grow deeper? How would you feel more understood? Would you finally see yourself in the mirror exactly how you want to be seen?

When I work with individuals who express anxiety (whether it is applying for a job or uploading a profile on a dating website) I share with them, “ You’re resume is the first opportunity for an employer to learn you exist.” I then get the privilege of seeing them exhale. You see, the freeing from self-muzzling does not have to feel like ripping off a Band-Aid from your skin. It can be a process to decrease the overwhelm while also allowing you to exist.

I am writing this letter to you to challenge you in a way you may have been daydreaming about challenging yourself.  I want you to know those daydreams take courage.  I want you to know courage can lead to action when YOU are ready.  If you need support and safe accountability exploring the internal desire to free yourself from self-muzzling and introducing this part of yourself to the world phone my office at (239)848-2022 or visit and click “book it” to schedule a session.

I am cheering you on from where you are today to where you want to go.

Helene Shute, LCSW


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