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Shalyn Isaacs

I have always been very sensitive to the pain felt by people, animals, and the environment as a result of local and global systemic injustices. Ever since I was a child, all I ever wanted to do was contribute pieces of my own ideas and efforts to lessening the suffering of others. This was my dream – to help people see their potential and to widen our view of what is possible for ourselves and our society.  Growing up, I wanted to be everything from a teacher, to a police officer, to a singer and actress, and finally a psychotherapist. 


However, as I grew older, I started doubting my ability to help anyone because I myself was suffering inside. Throughout childhood and adolescence, I experienced severe bullying, sexual violence and institutional injustice that deeply eroded my belief in myself to be someone who is capable of creating any positive impact in the lives of others in the ways I wanted to. I struggled for years with low self-esteem and anxiety.


 During my third year of studying Psychology in University, I decided to start a women’s mental health organization where I could find community among other women who’ve experienced mental health issues as a result of social, cultural, or systemic forces. My self-esteem was still low but there was a tiny voice inside me that remembered my childhood dream of wanting to open up spaces for healing among others – so I thought I would give it a shot. What I experienced among the 3 years of facilitating student support groups was phenomenal and life-changing. I realized that you do not need to be perfect or love yourself completely in order to receive the love of others. I allowed myself to be vulnerable, and often shared stories with other women about my personal struggles with self-worth, sexual violence, and an inner pain that never seemed to quite go away. 


During these groups – I gave nothing but compassion and non-judgement to others who were struggling, and I received the same in return. This is where my healing journey really took off – through experiencing community, support, and genuine care from women who participated in the support groups, but also from the friends and mentors I made along the way. 


I believed that achieving inner and outer perfection and “perfect” mental health would be the only path I could take to create a positive change in my community and in people’s lives; to salvage my childhood dream. In actuality – my wounds were my path. My life experiences of pain, healing, and joy led me to spaces and people that I connected with, and we encouraged healing and growth in each other. Authenticity, compassion and valuing our lived experiences can indeed help us make a positive difference in people’s lives and in our own.