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Dr. Sheila Newsom: Be Who You Are, Not Who You’re Supposed to Be

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Dr. Sheila Newsom is free in her own body, and you can be too.

By Sloane Wick, Photo by Jay Galvan

From an outside perspective, Dr. Sheila Newsom’s life looked perfect. She sat on the porch of her and her wife’s villa, a mug filled with coffee in her hand and watched the waves crash. At 63 years old, her life appeared to be ripped out of the happily ever after of a Hallmark movie or a serene travel destination commercial. She had served in the Army, become a successful physician and raised a beautiful family. By every external marker, she and the life she had built were nearly flawless.

That’s when the voice first spoke to her.

Before this moment, Sheila was Gary, but the voice’s message was clear. “Sheila, you’re a woman and always have been, and there’s work to do.”
So Sheila did the work. She worked to overcome body dysmorphia, criticisms from loved ones, suicidal thoughts, alcoholism and countless other obstacles to finally feel free in her own body, and in 2018 she came out as transgender. Now she offers advice to other women looking to find their own freedom.

Honor your inner voice and sense of integrity.

I don’t think you can do much of anything in the world without honoring your inner voice. Trying to do anything simply to please someone else always falls apart. I think that you are primarily responsible for your own integrity, and that includes the body and mind. We give so much of ourselves away in so many ways. It is hard to realize what is really going on in those exchanges. The central point is this: nurture a tenacity to develop your own sense of integrity.

Give yourself and other women freedom.

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To be fully comfortable in your own body is difficult. It is a really treacherous place to be for many of us these days. There are all sorts of issues and inertia within society that compel us to look and feel and think in a certain way based on images. Images have great power. I say again: Images have great power. That’s one thing that I would suggest; we’ve got to start giving women, young women especially, this freedom to be who and what they are, whatever that may look like from the outside. The interior image, that is the foundation of the outside and it is sacred.

Be who you are, not who you’re supposed to be.

Most of us aren’t going to be 5 foot 10 inches and weigh 130 pounds and have a perfect complexion and figure, and yet that’s what we were assigned. The main thing is just be who you are, that authentic self, and be good with it. That’s the best thing that you can do for your own soul and also for the soul of the world.

Find a (reasonable) image goal.

I would say that the images are the most important thing. Finding an image of what you want to be and look like, I think, is vital. The reason is because the images carry a valence. They carry a charge, and they go way deep. And they stay with [you]. So what we see on TV, what we watch at the movies, what we see and all sorts of publications is really important.

Make a vision board.

I’ve suggested to most everybody that I work with to have a vision board. So I think that is probably the best advice that I can give you. Find images of exactly what it is that you want to be. Put it on your vision board, do affirmations around it and spend time with that each day. And you grow into that.


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