If you’ve had the pleasure (or misfortune) of being my father, my friend, professor, friendly acquaintance or a straight up stranger I just met in the past four months, then you know how much I’ve been raving about Dax Shepard’s podcast “Armchair Expert.”
I have been tossing out (forcing) recommendations (down people’s throats) to listen to “Armchair Expert” incessantly, but it does come from a genuine place of affinity. “Armchair” is a refreshingly honest show that delves into exploring what it means to be human — to be vulnerable, wounded, elated, manic, anxious, jealous, proud, generous, joyful — and a host of other buzzwords that are genuinely expressed throughout each episode.
Dax, an actor married to actress Kristen Bell with two young daughters, openly talks about his struggles with addiction, acceptance, masculinity and obsession with success.
Listening to “Armchair Expert” feels real to me. Each episode is a conversation I’d love to be a part of, and they’re done without feeling too self-important.
Dax and his co-producer, Monica Padman, have interviewed over fifty relatively famous, wealthy and successful people from Ellen DeGeneres to Mila Kunis to Ted Danson.
And, Dax loves to ask each and every one of them, “So…do you actually like the face staring back at you in the mirror in the morning?”
With that question is the added assumption that most people he interviews have reached the pinnacle of success in their fields, along with the wealth and fame that follow.
Most of the time, success for these very famous, very rich people did not cure their addictions, anxieties, depression or general assholery.
And, yes, it’s becoming more and more socially acceptable to acknowledge that as humans we go through a lot of setbacks on the path to self-actualization. But it’s an entirely different thing to hear these so-called “successful” people we idealize admit that they, too, are no stranger to being a mess.
In fact, it’s pretty life-affirming, and it’s why I love listening to “Armchair” so much. Each episode is a therapeutic way for me to get out of my own head and ever-spiraling existential crises and anxieties.
Dax and Monica also talk to experts in their fields on the podcast, from David Sedaris to Jon Favreau, and in a recently released episode — originally recorded during a live show in Austin, Texas — they talk to Dr. Brené Brown.
Brené is a research professor at the University of Houston and has spent her entire academic career in social work, learning and attempting to piece together where shame, vulnerability, love and belonging come from, and why we, as humans, struggle to attain it.
Brené has one of the five most-viewed TED Talks ever, and one thing she discussed in that talk and what she recognized as a central theme to “Armchair Expert” was worthiness.
Her definition of worthiness is “believing that not if, and not when, no prerequisites…I am worthy of love and belonging and joy, right now.”
Now, Dax argues that her definition is what he considers to be more the meaning of self-esteem. But, semantics aside, having a sense of self-worth and promoting positive self-esteem are two of the most difficult things we can achieve.
If there’s one take away I’ve gotten from my short life so far, it’s that if we can’t learn to love and accept ourselves, we’ll never truly learn what it means to love and accept those around us.
And, while I have been blessed with knowing and loving some amazing people who have shared that sentiment with me before, “Armchair Expert” helps remind me of this essential truth every time I pop in my headphones.
I hope you’ll give it a listen.