Today we’d like to introduce you to Sharon Uy.
Sharon, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
It’s all been a mix of: letting the path unfold before me, needing to know what the path was, and trying to force it to unfold in some direction I hoped would pay off eventually. I was born and raised here in The Valley (Woodland Hills, to be exact). I loved reading, making things, and imagining, above all. I thought I’d end up living in some far-off place and that Manhattan Beach would be the absolute closest I’d settle for. Fast-forward a couple of decades and many, many travels later, and the Valley is still home. I graduated with an English major at UCLA and thought I’d maybe become an editor for a fashion magazine, or a war correspondent, or a travel journalist working for National Geographic. I had interned for the travel editor for CBS and NBC, writing articles and researching stories. But when I realized that the journalistic path was more cutthroat and required more motivation than I had energy for, I let that dream go. Some called that laziness. I now recognize it as “meant to be” and “it was what it was.” Without that idea of what I “should” do or be, I fell into that black hole many of us fall into and try to claw our way out of post-college – the one of confusion and fear over, ultimately, living a life unfulfilled. It asks, “How do we survive, dare to thrive, and still remain happy?” I began working at UCLA as an editor in the Space Physics department, happy for the consistent paycheck, the benefits, and the freedom to enjoy time with my friends unencumbered.
I also began volunteering at a non-profit in Venice Beach called A Window Between Worlds, which, at that time, provided art workshops for survivors of domestic violence (they now provide healing arts curriculum for all survivors of trauma and violence). By that time, I was unstressed by work but feeling a growing ache at knowing there was a purpose (or purposes) that I wasn’t feeding or even acknowledging. When I became aware of the healing power of art, something clicked. I learned about the Art Therapy program at LMU and very swiftly applied to the program. My time in grad school at LMU felt like what college (or art school) was supposed to feel like – camaraderie, true learning, total expansion of the mind and crumbling of many constructs that had, up to that point, never necessitated being challenged. I don’t think I ever imagined I’d become a therapist, but I think we’re all (my friends, my family, my clients, myself) better for it. There are surely still other purposes to be fulfilled, but making a soul-home out of a profession in which I’m able to merge creativity with spirituality in guiding others to connect more deeply with themselves, was a big one checked off the list. My clients inspire me endlessly and unknowingly encourage me to dive deeper into my own art and healing.
Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
I’m aware of the privilege I’m blessed with when I say that the only struggles I’ve ever really had were within myself. My fear of judgment and failure are my main (if not only) obstacles. I know the judgment of others that I’m capable of, and if it’s in me, it feels like it’s a very real possibility that I may be on the receiving end of that from others. It’s a constant work in progress to release that programming of judgment and failure and smallness and invisibility that’s perhaps inherent in being a woman of color in this country during this period of time. At the very least, I am always working on letting the knowledge of that programming be what it is and where it is without letting it run the show.
Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
“Psychotherapist” is the title on any given drop-down menu, but the more comprehensive way to describe it is that I’m a writer, an artist, and an art therapist. I merge the use of art-making with present-moment awareness of the body’s sensations and movements to process, heal, and learn. I use this with my therapy clients, but I also use this for myself. Essentially, every tool I share with my clients and use in session is one I’ve found to have created deep change within myself. Those who are drawn to my practice and seek me out as a therapist are those who are curious and ready to explore the depths of their personal and intergenerational histories, their hearts, their souls, their cultures, their weaknesses and their strengths.
As Ram Dass said, it’s all grist for the mill. Everything – every trauma, every heartache, every joy, and every win – serves a specific purpose. I collaborate with my clients on figuring out what that purpose is as we laugh and cry together (but mostly laugh because cosmic humor is where it’s at). I had the realization when my practice began to grow that what I’m doing has everything to do with love. When I’m in session with a client, I’m my highest self, serving my highest purpose. I come from a place of pure presence, awareness, non-judgment, non-attachment. I think this is what my clients know about me and it’s what I’m most proud of. As an artist and a writer, my work is to continue shedding old stories; practice non-attachment to the plan, the outcome and the process; and to connect ever-deeper to myself and to all beings everywhere.
We’d love to hear about how you think about risk taking?
Simply being alive – staying alive in this world today – is a major risk, isn’t it? What was it that Anais Nin said? That the risk to blossom becomes eventually less painful than the risk of remaining a bud? Is there not beauty in the bud, too? Maybe I just don’t believe in the idea of taking risks. Or maybe I take incredible risks often. Maybe it’s the semantics talking. If risking something means to be willing to lose something with the best-case scenario of gaining something else, then I think the only risk that’s ever worth taking is that which is in service of one’s highest and very best and most loving and true self. So there’s got to be an intentionality behind any ‘risk’. Even then, a huge part of me believes in meeting life where it is and where we are. I’m also not a gambler. I prefer certainty. I also prefer leisure. But ask me again tomorrow or next year, and my answer may be completely different. All that being said, sure, taking risks means that we are called to do more and to rise to challenges, but the other side of that is the pressure to push ourselves past where we happen to be in this moment, here and now. And that pressure can fuel a lack of presence which, from what I’ve seen and experienced in myself and others, can create incredible dissatisfaction. Like I said, there’s nothing wrong with being a bud if that’s what feels good and peaceful and right.