write healing story, heal,

You Do Not Have to Be Good

Dear One,

“You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.”

—Mary Oliver, The Wild Geese

Who among us hasn’t worried about being good enough? Guilty of being ourselves? Shameful for having our own minds, hearts, and ideas about what’s true?

I’ve spent a good deal of my life feeling unworthy. About success, beauty, intelligence, relationships… those were for everyone else, right?

So, I lived my life defensively, and worked hard to prove my worth to just about everyone (a good friend once said I had to prove my worth to God herself!).

And it didn’t matter how much success I had—how much I accomplished, how many degrees I collected, how much praise I received for my work, how much my family and friends loved me.



Regardless of where those stories came from (we all know this—we’re all aware of the messages we receive about ourselves, consciously and unconsciously, from our families of origin, our communities, and our culture), my young brain was laser-focused on survival. Automatically. Completely appropriate for how a young brain understands what’s going on around her. A notion of survival that keeps one safe by fitting in and conforming to the rules about being good and acceptable.

As I developed a mature mind, I learned to see those stories and understand how they worked against me. They may be much like yours:

I must constantly work hard to prove myself.

Oh my God, I spoke my truth and the wrath is coming!

If I speak my truth, I will be thought of as uppity.

Everyone else is in the know—I’m an outsider (how did all those other moms know what to do when I was clueless?)

My anxiety about that person or situation is all about me (I’m a freak).

What do we do with these stories of unworthiness that no longer apply, are not true, and are roadblocks to our growth, healing, and the real truth?

Can you love yourself, trust yourself, be yourself?


First, know absolutely there’s a story there. If you can’t love, trust, or be yourself, what you believe instead (your story) is never the truth.

Second, learn how our smart brains are wired for stories. Everything we think we know for sure, believe without question, or perseverate on is a story—a disempowering story.

Third, write your new story.

One upon a time, there was a gorgeous heroine named Karyn who kicked ass and told the truth her whole life, inspiring others and making the world a much better and more interesting place…

Now there’s a story!

Yah, now you go out there and kick ass! Re-write your stories. And remember, you don’t have to be good. In fact, it would be much better for all of us if you weren’t.

Have a Beautiful day!


p.s. What will you do today to not “be good?” (AKA to be your whole, true, authentic self? I’d love to hear from you!

Is there a story that keeps you sick and tired and stuck?

My free ebook, Your Healing Story, will show you how to write a new one.

Learn More


Mary Oliver. New and Selected Poems, Volume One. 1992.

Karyn Shanks MD. How to Empower Your Healing Story (What are Stories?). 2019.

Karyn Shanks MD. How to Empower Your Healing Story (By Reimagining These Five Stories). 2019.

Karyn Shanks MD. Your Healing Story. 2019.

Karyn Shanks MD


Karyn Shanks, MD, is a physician who lives and practices in Iowa City. Her work is inspired by the revolutionary science of Functional Medicine, body-mind wisdom, and the transformational journeys of thousands of clients over her twenty-eight year career. She believes that the bones of healing are in what we do for ourselves.

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