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Today’s episode on the Cracking Open podcast is someone who I would consider a cherished guide in my professional journey over the last two decades.

Mary Pipher, Ph.D. is a truly extraordinary psychologist who specializes in women, trauma, and the effect of culture on our mental health.

I first came across Mary’s work twenty years ago when I was teaching at an all-girls school in San Francisco. I was feeling lost on how to best provide emotional support to my students when they felt left out with friends, insecure about their bodies, navigating challenges in their home lives, or struggling with feeling worthy. A fellow teacher recommended that I read a book called Reviving Ophelia by Mary Pipher.

When I read her words below, I knew I had found the right guidance:

“Girls struggle with mixed messages: Be beautiful, but beauty is only skin deep. Be sexy, but not sexual. Be honest, but don’t hurt anyone’s feelings. Be independent, but be nice. Be smart, but not so smart you threaten boys.”

Ever since, I have read anything and everything that Mary has written and it has always been a compassionate, wise, and safe place to land. And because of this, I am pinching myself that I got to have this conversation with her and share it with all of you.

Mary graduated in Cultural Anthropology from the University of California at Berkeley and received her Ph.D. from the University of Nebraska in Clinical Psychology. She was a Rockefeller Scholar in Residence at Bellagio and has received two American Psychological Association Presidential Citations, one of which she returned to protest psychologists’ involvement in enhanced interrogations at Guantánamo and other black sites.

She is a community organizer and activist for many causes and has authored 11 books including 4 New York Times bestsellers. Her latest book is A Life in Light, a luminous new memoir that taps into a cultural moment to offer wisdom, hope, and insight into loss and change.

In today’s episode, Mary reminds us that we don’t have to be perfect, solve every problem, or “fix” anyone. She also helps us remember that we live in a universe filled with love and light that surrounds us and is available to us, at all times.

I will leave you with her wise words:

“I think a wonderful life doesn’t mean that a person hasn’t had a lot of tragedy. It means they’ve had a big, rich life where they’ve been able to experience a really wide range of emotions and people and adventures and learnings of all different kinds.

And of course, in terms of loving fiercely, the price for loving fiercely is the pain of goodbye, but I would always choose to love fiercely.” 




Learn more about Mary Pipher here
Purchase Mary’s latest book 
A Life In Light here
Connect with Mary on 


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