“Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Mistakes—I’ve made a few.
Some in ignorance or haste. Others were a bit more complicated than that. Some of my questionable choices went on for so long, I don’t think it’s even fair to still call them “mistakes”—because at some point, they became choices. Choices I kept on making, consciously or not, even when I knew they were hurting me.
Five years ago, I had the exquisite opportunity to begin life again as a single woman. Unraveling my 13-year marriage was one of the most daunting things I’ve ever done. It forced me to take a good look at myself and finally admit that my whole life was a lie.
On the day I finally used my scared, broken little voice to tell my ex-husband I wanted a divorce, I was about as lost as a girl can get. I was a hundred pounds overweight—everyone could see that. What they couldn’t see was the eating disorder that kept me that way. I struggled with binge eating disorder for most of my adult years. Some days, the ritual of binging was the only thing I looked forward to. I was depressed. My physical health was failing. I spent most days sleeping on the couch in front of the television.
When I started taking inventory at age 33, I felt like I had very little to show for my life. The home and things we had built together didn’t really feel like me. I always considered them “his.” My relationships felt forced—like I was trying to fit into a secret soccer mom club, and no one taught me the hand shake.
I had been a housewife for the better part of 10 years. I managed to finish my degree, but never used it for anything notable in my field. I did some volunteer work, mostly at my kids’ school. I didn’t have any big accomplishments to celebrate. I didn’t have any recent work experience to build a resume. I didn’t have a clue how I was ever going to make it on my own.
The fear of what would happen to me if I left was more powerful than my desire to set myself free.
When I looked back on my life, I felt only regret. I felt like I’d f*cked everything up. I couldn’t think of one single thing I did right.
How would I ever make it in the world unsupervised?
As I started making little steps toward my new normal, I was plagued with indecision. I second-guessed every single thing I did.
An example of this that I may never forget was the first two months in the little condo I moved into when we sold our home. I had elected not to take our living room furniture with me. I knew I wanted something different that felt more like me. The problem was, I didn’t know what that looked like.
I shopped online. I went to every furniture store in my city. I looked at the junk-mail furniture store ads that appeared in my mailbox. I talked to friends about their couches. I posted on social media asking for advice. I agonized over this decision.
I was terrified to spend the money on a new couch. I was afraid that I would regret my choice later. I was afraid of getting ripped off by some shady furniture salesman. I was so afraid. I was a grown-ass woman, afraid of buying a damn couch.
After two months of sitting on the floor in the living room, the kids started complaining. I realized that our little condo was not going to feel like home to them until it was furnished like a home. It was time to make a decision and get on with our lives.
I also realized that it’s just a couch. It was hardly a life or death decision. There was no right or wrong choice. It was not a permanent choice. It was just a damn couch.
Naturally, when I finally made the decision I got a kick-ass couch. It was a lovely, soft, grey sectional. It fit the space perfectly. It gave us plenty of seating when we had company. I chose a big, squishy ottoman to go in the center instead of a coffee table. Everyone who walked in the front door complimented it. It was pretty, and comfortable, and practical, and fit in with the colors I chose for my new space.
It was just a couch, but it was my damn couch. I picked it out, I made the investment, arranged delivery, and I even got a good deal on it. None of the things I feared happened. I did it—it took me two months, but I bought the perfect couch with no drama.
Little things, like buying a couch, helped me build my confidence again. It didn’t take me long to see how capable I actually am. I realized that the biggest mistake I’d ever made was deciding that I needed someone else to make my decisions for me.
When I took an honest assessment of all my monumental mistakes and regrets—getting pregnant in high school, getting mixed up with drugs in my youth, marrying the wrong person, abusing my physical body the way I did, giving up on having any dreams for my own future—I found that each of those experiences helped me become the woman I am today.
Overcoming the adversity of my past showed me what I’m made of.
It was in the struggle that I found my own fortitude. There was no reason to keep punishing myself for past mistakes. Instead, I could choose to see them for the lessons they were—and trust that I had gained strength and wisdom from them that nothing else in life could have given to me.
Today I know that I can trust myself to make good choices. Though I still have bouts of indecision, I have learned to give myself time and space to make decisions when they feel good and right for me. I’ve learned not to take things so seriously. I’ve learned to look for the lessons and gifts in each experience instead of beating myself up when things don’t go as planned.
I believe that every good thing we do in life comes from our capacity to trust ourselves. We simply cannot move forward when we are looking back in regret.
When we choose to forgive ourselves and let go of the past, we can stay right here in this moment where our magic lives. Then we can build confidence in our abilities by practicing self-reliance. Each good choice we make reminds us that we are trustworthy and capable, and ready to take on any challenge.
No matter how badly we’ve f*cked things up before, we can learn to trust ourselves again, one good decision at a time.
Author: Renee Dubeau
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina