I had had a chaotic ten years. I had ended two marriages, both for different reasons. But the thread between them was me.
I was ashamed. I certainly didn’t trust my judgment. And I never thought I would tell anyone.
As I write this, I am waking up to my 25th wedding anniversary. My husband jokingly terms himself, “my current husband.”
I remember how hard it was to trust myself again. I didn’t want to hurt anyone else.
The secret enemy? Shame. Deep, penetrating regret that I was allowing to eat me alive.
Nobody could tell. I made jokes about my two trips down the aisle. I looked like I was taking it all in stride. I was doing well in graduate school. I took pride in the fact that a professor seemed surprised when one of my colleagues mentioned me getting divorced our first year. “You got divorced? I would never have known that.”
But at night, when I was alone, the shame was waiting for me.
I will never be proud or happy about the way in which I finally grew up. What I learned was that carrying the shame into each day would only cause me to make other mistakes.
I would never think I deserved anything better.
I see this all the time in people who feel that they are a part of something destructive. I hear it from those who are being abused. Emotionally. Physically. I hear it from those that are creating a problem all by themselves. Who are keeping secrets and feeling guilt.
“I don’t know why I can’t stop.”
“I don’t know who I am anymore.”
“I let this happen. Who in their right mind would allow this? I should have left long ago.”
“My mother always told me things were my fault. That’s my first thought now when something happens.”
I had a supervisor years ago. He was a lanky, opinionated, boots and jeans Texan, who I didn’t care for initially. However, he had written some very good books which I admired. So, I listened to what he had to say.
“Shame is helpful, if it lasts for ten seconds and leads to a change of behavior.”
I didn’t believe him.
At the time, I thought shame kept you in line. You needed to hang on to feeling bad. It was the same thing as having a good conscience.
Now? The ten seconds is a bit dramatic. But overall, I think he is right.
It’s not the same as a good conscience.
It’s punishing yourself, over and over and over, for what you regret. For a mistake that you made.
[tweetthis]Letting go of shame today helps you avoid more self-destructiveness tomorrow. #shame #abuse [/tweetthis]
You can call it forgiving yourself. You can use faith in a higher Being to help you let it go. You can acknowledge you are human. You can see yourself with compassion. Tell yourself what you would tell your best friend. Realize you were learning something vital. You can do things to try to atone, things that will help you move past it.
It takes work. But it can happen. It must happen for you to move on.
I just woke up my husband. Sweetly wished him a happy anniversary.
He told me I snored last night. And happy anniversary back.
Certainly, loving someone to the best of my ability for 25 years, and being loved, has helped me heal.
But I had to leave the shame back where it belonged. In the past. I connect with it every now and then. I feel the remorse.
Then, I step back into the present. Where I belong.
If you struggle with shame? Please join me. Here. In this day.
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