I almost didn’t make it as a professional cuddler.
The work didn’t look the way I had imagined it at first, and I thought I would have to quit.
I didn’t know it then, but this is a common occurrence in this industry. Unprepared for what this job entails, many professional cuddlers churn out within 3-6 months.
I came close to being just another statistic.
I Had Some Unmet Expectations
Every pro-cuddler comes into this work for different reasons, each with a certain framework, or a set of expectations in mind.
Some of us come because we could use more touch in our lives; others are hoping for an easeful source of income. Most of us arrive wanting to make the world a better place in some way.
Me, I came into this industry intending to fulfill my lifelong dream of making an impact by doing emotionally therapeutic work. Above all, I longed to help people heal and grow, and to hold them through their deepest suffering.
As soon as I opened my door to seeing clients, however, I learned very quickly that there were so many forms professional cuddling could take. And while I was open to cuddling in a variety of ways, I was mostly interested in this work in a specific way. While I enjoyed many of the clients I did see, I also found myself disappointed, discouraged, and underutilized. I wanted to do more of the work I came here to do, and often felt what I was offering was misunderstood.
Because the industry was so new and unknown at the time, there was a lot I had to do to teach my clients about my specific take on the work, and showing them firsthand the value of it. In many ways, I had to learn for myself what my job actually entailed. More than that, however, I had tons to grow and learn myself in order to have a more successful and fulfilling experience doing professional cuddling.
I’m so glad I stuck around, because this work has changed my life, in ways I could never have anticipated.
1) More Access to Compassion
I’ve always been a compassionate person, but what professional cuddling exposed me to challenged me.
Opening up my door to those desiring my services also meant stepping into the places where people were unmet and hungry for intimacy in all of the ways. Their hunger sometimes meant that their needs weren’t fully owned, and subsequently were expressed in unideal ways. For me, especially in the beginning, it felt a lot like being in the frontlines of toxic masculinity.
I had to quickly get comfortable with navigating human sexuality even though my work has always been explicitly platonic. I learned that it was up to me to help deshamify and destigmatize *all* of a human’s needs, inducing sexual ones. That involved working through some of my own triggers and stories around being misunderstood.
It has been with this compassion that I’ve been able to humanize all of my clients (even the ones I turned away before ever seeing), take their hand gently and lovingly, and teach them how to humanize (instead of objectify) me too.
In doing so, I’ve been able to see the humanity in others, and in myself in more ways than I ever have. My belief in people’s inherent goodness has been validated over and over again.
And I love this world I get to live in – a world where people are all just doing the best they can.
2) Clearer Boundaries, Better Communication, and More Inner Security
I want to make it clear that I was only able to access this compassion once I learned to trust my inner authority and say “No”.
Doing this job well required me to learn to speak up when things get even a hint of comfortable. I’ve turned away my fair share of potential clients, said no to requests, and paused many a session to re-calibrate.
This was a 180 shift for the people-pleaser inside of me. Instead of always going along with what’s happening, and passively waiting for it to change or pass, I now am able to speak to what is happening in the moment. This has been one of the most empowering shifts in my life.
Now, I don’t do this perfectly always, but the practice of it has been reverberated into all of my relationships. My capacity for intimacy has grown, because I’ve been practicing how to face my fear of disconnection, and show up in my truth, always.
Learning to say no required me to value myself and fully accept my own worth. In return, it’s given me an abundance of personal power and inner security.
3) A Deeper Relationship with My Body
Inviting strangers to be physically close to me on a daily basis, and teaching them to pay attention to their bodies has required me to up-level my own relationship with mine.
It was cuddling that taught me the deep wisdom of my viscera, and the importance of living in my body. Cuddling is so meditative, it invites me to really feel what’s happening in an embodied way. Always working to stay attuned to the client, my quality of attention has increased too. I’m learning to use that to notice what is happening inside of me in a much clearer way.
Being better at listening to my body has meant that I’m more in tune when my boundaries are being pushed on or tugged at. It also means that I am more able to feel and notice bliss too.
Through strengthening this relationship with this part of myself I used to ignore, I’ve been able to discover things about myself I wasn’t able to know before.
4) Being Present with Difficult Things
I got what I wished for. These days, I’ve gotten good at attracting clients who desire emotionally therapeutic cuddling work with me. We still have lots of soothing, easeful, and playful moments, but I also spend a good chunk of time sitting with people in their pain and struggle.
I love this! But I certainly have gotten a panoramic and microscopic view into how devastatingly difficult life can be.
Being with people in this way has brought up my own helplessness again and again. I brush up against my desire to fix and change daily.
I’ve learned – and am still learning – how to trust and let go. When I do this, I am able to do the thing that actually helps the most, which is simply to be present, and create a safe space to feel it all.
This has been no easy feat. I’ve had to stretch my tolerance for imperfection and messiness, when it was my desire to reduce it that got me into this job in the first place.
But this is the biggest paradox. We can’t change anything we can’t first accept. And every day, I get to practice more and more acceptance.
This has been the biggest lesson for me. As I’ve gotten better at sitting and being others, and learning to really take their side amidst my biases, it in turn had taught me how to sit with my own pain and messiness. I now have more room inside of me to hold complex experiences.
Learning to be there for others, I’ve somehow also gained the skills of learning to also be there for myself.
5) Learning to Rely on Others
Finally, being a professional cuddler has been a humbling experience of learning how much I need others, and how that’s ok.
I wouldn’t be able to do this work in a healthy way without being surrounded by colleagues, teachers, mentors, and my own “support team”. In teaching my clients to let me in enough to support them, I’ve had walk the walk and to learn to do this for myself too.
Where I came in with some pride and something to prove around what I was already good at, I’ve since been humbled by how much there is yet left to learn.
Every day, I’m floored and inspired by the lives of my clients. Their insights and ahas are mine too. My clients have been my biggest teachers.
They have shown me how much my life can be enriched by others, and that I don’t have to go it alone.
My Career Growth Has Been Personal Growth
In my job as a professional cuddler, I get to practice being my highest self on a daily basis. Emotional intimacy is a thing I am learning to navigate with more and more ease, and my personal relationships have flourished as a result.
Ultimately, being good at my job as a professional cuddler has asked me to become a better human.
I can’t believe that I get paid to do this.