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You don’t need to be “fully healed” before going after your dreams.

Dispelling The Myth That You Need To Be "Healed" Before Pursuing X, Y, Z ... | Annie Wright, LMFT | www.anniewright.com

“I’m still too broken. I can only date when I’ve done all my healing work.”

“I still don’t feel ready to apply – I can still hear my father’s voice in my head, that means it’s not time, right? Not if his voice is still there.”

“I really want to, but I don’t feel capable enough. I still see myself as that scared, helpless kid sometimes. How can I do that when I still feel so scared so much of the time?”

“I’ll think about doing it next year – I just worry that I haven’t been in therapy long enough yet.”

Each of these statements I’ve heard – in some iteration – nearly every month since I became a therapist.

Dispelling The Myth That You Need To Be "Healed" Before Pursuing X, Y, Z ... | Annie Wright, LMFT | www.anniewright.com

You don’t need to be “fully healed” before going after your dreams.

At the heart of each of these statements is fundamental belief: I’m not healed enough to do X, Y, Z…

And while this may feel like a fundamental belief, it’s not a reality: it’s a myth.

And it’s a common myth that, for those who believe in it, can ironically hold them back from the people, places, and pursuits that would otherwise be the most healing agents in their recovery journeys.

“Healed enough” is a myth; not a fact.

“Go out in the woods, go out. If you don’t go out in the woods nothing will ever happen and your life will never begin.” ― Clarissa Pinkola Estés, PhD

I’ve written about this extensively before but, to reiterate, those who come from relational trauma backgrounds may experience a host of complex biopsychosocial impacts that linger long into adulthood as a result of their adverse early childhoods.

One example of these impacts can include having maladaptive beliefs about one’s own “brokenness” (e.g.: impaired self-worth).

Often, for folks who come from relational trauma histories, this translates into people often thinking that they need to be “all healed” before moving towards the things they truly want (dating, kids, grad school, that dream career) because they feel “too broken” to have these good things in their lives now.

This belief is common, it’s normal and natural. 

But, just because it may be a normal and natural belief doesn’t mean that it’s an accurate belief.

What do I mean by it not being an accurate belief?

To me, this belief is a little analogous to thinking that you have to be perfectly fit before you can go to the gym and work out (something that would ironically help propel you more into a state of fitness). 

You may not feel ready to be looked at by others in your workout gear, you may worry you’re not as fit as others who may go to the gym and who will be running side-by-side on the treadmills with you, and therefore there’s no place for you there. 

But, empirically, it is not true that you aren’t fit enough to be at a gym.

Factually, there is no one fitness level mandated to frequent a gym (and if you ever encounter a gym that doesn’t have a Health at Every Size attitude – consider finding another establishment that values and embodies inclusivity more). 

Again, just because something feels true doesn’t mean it’s factually, empirically true.

So, while you may not feel “healed enough” (to sign up for that dating app, to ask that gorgeous woman out, to research and lay the groundwork for the fulfilling work your heart and soul craves), your feelings don’t necessarily mean fact.

“Healed enough” is a myth. 

It’s a story. It implies there’s one right way of being and all other ways are insufficient. 

It suggests that there is an endpoint to healing and – only then! – are good things, worthy things, fulfilling things possible. 

And you can’t have them until you arrive at that “fully healed” destination.

I don’t believe this. Not at all.

Starting before you feel “healed enough” can actually be the most healing thing.

“This life is mine alone. So I have stopped asking people for directions to places they’ve never been.” ― Glennon Doyle

“Fully healed” or “healed enough” is a myth. I don’t buy it.

Instead, what I believe personally and professionally, is that moving towards the things that you want – those people, places, and pursuits that would fill your life with meaning and fulfillment – and specifically, moving towards those things before you feel ready can actually accelerate your healing journey by boosting your sense of agency, competency, and support the reclamation and healing of your self-esteem and self-worth in the world.

I believe this because, in my own life, in my own relational trauma recovery journey, it was precisely my engagement with the very things I felt convinced I was still too “broken for” that led to some of my deepest and most profound healing experiences.

Some of these highlights included leaving Big Sur and the cozy healing cocoon of Esalen for the Bay Area (the real world!); dating, moving in with, and then marrying my husband; completing grad school and launching my career, concurrently putting myself out (eek!) online for the world to see.

Each time I moved towards these things that my heart wanted, I felt incapable and riddled with doubts and maladaptive beliefs (“I’ll never make it in the Bay – it’s too expensive!”; “He’s going to leave me – everyone always leaves me.”; “Who am I to think I can help other people? I can barely help myself.”). 

And, if I’m being honest, my skills to be able to successfully do all these things were nascent and hugely imperfect, too.

But between the combination of time plus reparative experiences (reparative experiences such as my husband not leaving me and proving year after year he could be a constant source of love, loyalty, and support; or figuring out a way to pay my bills while I earned the thousands and thousands of unpaid trainee and internship hours required of my career; or reading emails and blog comments from people like you telling me what I wrote and shared was actually helping them), this combination of time plus reparative experiences because the greatest accelerant of my healing on my relational trauma recovery journey.

I’ve now come to believe that reparative experiences – lived experiences and actions taken across an arc of time that challenge our cognitive and somatic distortions – can help rewire our maladaptive beliefs and behaviors about ourselves, others, and the world in a way that theory, imagination, or positive wishful thinking simply can’t compete with in terms of effectiveness.

It’s one thing to challenge your critical self-talk with kinder, more supportive self-talk. 

It’s another thing entirely to prove to yourself through your lived experiences that those kinder, more supportive self-statements are, in fact, true.

Prompts to help you think through whether this myth is playing out in your own life:

“What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” – Mary Oliver

If, after reading today’s essay, you can see that some part of you is deferring moving towards and taking action on the future you want because you don’t believe you’re “healed enough” yet, I invite you to consider this reframe I offered today: that perhaps the most healing thing you could do for yourself is to start before you feel “healed enough.”

Of course, though, I want you to balance what I’m saying – that there is no such thing as “healed enough” and that perhaps the most healing thing you could do would be to start now – with your own, innate wisdom.

Only you are the expert of your experience – not me, not your partner, your best friend, or some guru on Instagram. 

What may be true for you is that, at this point in time, it is not the right time for you to move towards something even if you want it (for example: I knew early on and deep in my bones that I wasn’t ready to be a mother until I was later-in-life and boy am glad I listened to that innate wisdom!).

Only you know what is best and right and true for you so, please, sit with what I shared today but always filter it through your own experience and wisdom.

And, if you’re curious to explore this topic further ask yourself:

  • What am I craving and dreaming about that I’m not currently moving towards right now?
  • What beliefs do I have about my capacity to do that?
  • Are these beliefs helpful or harmful? 
  • Do these beliefs feel like voices and ideas from my past (like a familiar voice from someone close to me) or are they coming from my body, from some bone-deep wisdom and inner knowing inside of me?
  • What do I imagine might happen if I begin to take action towards what I want?
  • What’s the worst-case scenario and what’s the best-case scenario?
  • Do I know anyone else who “started before they were ready” and who has happy outcomes I’d like for myself? 
  • What would it take for me to emulate them? Would I like to do this?

If, after completing these prompts, you feel like you would like professional and expert support to help you begin to move towards the people, places, and pursuits your heart is longing for and if you live in California, please consider reaching out for relational trauma-informed therapy support.

The reality is, to quote the inimitable late Mary Oliver, we have (as far as we know) one wild and precious life, and if you’re struggling to craft a life that feels good to you despite your adverse early beginnings, I’d love to be of support to you.

And if you live outside of California, please explore enrolling in Hard Families, Good Boundaries – my signature group coaching program designed to help those who come from relational trauma backgrounds finally get the trauma-informed, comprehensive support they need and want to live a beautiful adulthood, despite adverse early beginnings.

And now, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below:  

What’s one example from your own life where you didn’t wait until you were fully healed to begin? And how did beginning that – starting before you maybe felt ready – actually support your healing process?

Please, if you feel so inclined, leave a message in the comments below so our monthly blog readership of 20,000 plus people can benefit from your wisdom and experience.

And until next time, please take very good care of yourself. You’re so worth it.

Warmly, Annie

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  1. Kiana on  

    I would have to say leaving San Francisco and going through a breakup (6+ years), all at the same time! While the relationship was on and off for months after our initial breakup, I normally would never have put myself through a move away from the city that had become my comfort zone while also going through a breakup. However, I knew that this was the push I needed to finally follow my dreams (acting) so now I’m relocating to a new city on the East Coast (Atlanta) even though I’m not fully healed. It’s helped in this case because the prospect of a new adventure, meeting new people and friends, etc gives me hope for my future and that I will come out on the other side of this so much stronger!!

    • Annie on  

      Hi Kiana,

      Thanks for sharing your story with us! I’m glad this post resonated with you and I know that many will be inspired by the bravery you’ve shown in following your dreams while healing. Sending you my very best.

      Warmly, Annie

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