Jennette McCurdy hasn’t always made space for her more difficult feelings.
“I realized I had so much judgment around my emotions, which just made it more difficult to actually accept them and process them,” she tells POPSUGAR. “I had so much self-loathing around difficult emotions because of thinking that there were only a few acceptable ones. I thought, ‘You’re supposed to be happy and grateful all the time. That means you’re a good person.’ So I would just pretend to be that, and if I felt anything else, I’d punish myself.”
Over the years, the author, whose raw and powerful memoir, “I’m Glad My Mom Died,” has spent more than 60 weeks as a New York Times bestseller since its publication in August 2022, has realized that berating herself for having strong feelings didn’t exactly work for her. Now, she’s making space for her emotions in a whole new way with “Hard Feelings,” a podcast from Lemonada Media. Each episode of the show, which premiered on Oct. 24, features her reflections on a different challenging emotion or theme, from shame and pressure to loyalty beyond. The podcast is particularly unique because McCurdy records each episode in real time, when she’s actually in the midst of tangling with a difficult feeling.
The podcast’s off-the-cuff format was inspired by McCurdy’s long-term practice of making voice notes, journaling, and essentially recording “every thought or feeling I have.” She’d usually abandon those reflections after creating them without looking back, but eventually she noticed how cathartic the process was. “At some point I thought, you know what?” she says. “I think this would be a good podcast.”
“Socially, there’s such a narrow lane of emotions that we’re allowed or supposed to feel. I hope that it’s encouraging to hear somebody being very vulnerable with their ugly and insecure parts, not just the shiny polished parts.”
Apparently listeners feel the same, because the podcast hit No. 1 on Apple Podcasts the week it first aired. The episodes are implicitly raw and deeply relatable, largely thanks to McCurdy’s unscripted, real-time approach, and it’s important to her to record them while she’s actually feeling the emotion she’s reflecting on. “For example, I recorded an episode a couple of days ago that I could not have predicted the day beforehand,” she says. “I was like, ‘I’m feeling something strongly,’ and I grabbed my phone.”
Meanwhile, in the episode “bad mood,” McCurdy reveals that she recorded an earlier episode where she found herself giving advice on how to get out of a slump — but when her bad mood didn’t actually go away later in the day, she decided to rerecord a more genuine take.
“I was trying to be somebody I wasn’t,” she says of that episode. “I don’t know who I became, but I was spewing tips and tricks for getting out of a bad mood. It was just not true to me. I had to do another one where it was.”
With “Hard Feelings,” McCurdy is definitely creating relatable content, but she’s challenging a theme that’s incredibly prominent in self-help and confessional media. So often, reflections on difficult times are shared after the fact, rather than when they’re actually occurring — which is usually when help is actually needed. This kind of content often inadvertently implies that all emotions and struggles are issues to be fixed, rather than natural facts of life to accept and allow.
Getting to a place where she’s able to honor her emotions in all their forms has been a long journey for McCurdy. “Understanding my emotions is probably the most difficult thing I’ve ever done,” she says, adding that she’s lived much of her life in a state of chronic disconnection from her feelings. “I had such a bad relationship with my emotions for so long. Tears would be coming down my face, and I wouldn’t be able to tell you what emotion was at the heart of them. Could it be sadness, anger, jealousy, rage? I did not have a language or the tools to really understand my emotional experience.”
Image Source: Brian Kimsky
Most people don’t; we’re not exactly taught how to handle our emotions in school and often resort to imitating patterns demonstrated to us by our parents. But learning to accept her emotions has been critical for McCurdy’s healing journey. Anyone who’s read her memoir will be familiar with what McCurdy had to deal with from a young age, living with a mother who controlled her body and career and who constantly invalidated her true emotions and desires. On her podcast, McCurdy also trawls her family history for lessons and insights. In the episode “loyalty,” for example, she explains why she chose to cut off her father and reflects on the harmful idea that you have to stay by someone’s side no matter what they do. Through it all, she doesn’t try to edit or censor her feelings or minimize what she’s gone through.
“Socially, there’s such a narrow lane of emotions that we’re allowed or supposed to feel,” she says. “I hope that it’s encouraging to hear somebody being very vulnerable with their ugly and insecure parts, not just the shiny polished parts.”
Learning how to deal with and honor tidal or stormy emotions in a healthy way — without shutting them down or letting them explode — can be incredibly challenging work. After all, it means actually sitting through pain without tuning it out. But ultimately, McCurdy wants people to know that this practice is an important part of any healing journey. Suppressed emotions are at the heart of so many diseases, from addiction to eating disorders. McCurdy struggled with the latter for a long time, as she details in her memoir and discusses on the podcast. But learning to handle her feelings, as overwhelming as the process may be, “has been incredibly healing and productive for me,” she says.
Nowadays, in addition to chronicling her emotions, she’s in the midst of writing her first novel, which she’s “so excited” about. She’s also recently launched a book club, and slowly, she seems to be building a life based on writing, vulnerability, and connection.
She’s also slowly but surely learning to accept that she’s a person who “gives a lot of f*cks,” as the description of her podcast proclaims. “I really do wear my heart on my sleeve, for better or worse I can’t hide it. I can’t fake it. I can’t smile at a person I don’t like or frown at a person that I do. It’s very inevitable. I feel,” she continues. “I guess that’s the guiding force for me.”
The latest episode of “Hard Feelings” premiered on Nov. 7.