About two and half years ago I escaped a horrific marriage, and I had to start over from scratch.
I was, at first, in the debilitating grips of PTSD. I felt as if I had nothing, and as if everything I had once loved about myself had slipped away. As buoyed as I was by the joy of a promising new beginning, I was drowning in shame and self-doubt.
Gradually, I learned to embrace the notion that, in fact, I had everything. I had my life, I had my son, I had my determination, my dreams, my family. I sought counselling to begin the process of healing.
After a bit of time, and a lot of inner work, I started to feel a renewed sense of connection with my friends and family. I felt as if I was leaving my past behind me. I found my voice again, and even began to stand up for my beliefs once again. Then, within seconds, all of my security seemed to vanish.
I had become more active on social media as a way to affirm my beliefs and gain more confidence, when I received a message from someone I hardly knew. It was simple, and terrifying. “Be careful,” it read.
It also contained reminders of my past—a time in my life when I had felt the most vulnerable and powerless, pressed hard against a moment when I was rediscovering my strength.
When I look at myself today, I can hardly recognise the person I once was. I have since walked the path of reconciliation with my shadow self in order to attain peace. The path has been messy, and gloriously and agonisingly fraught with pain, doubt, crippling anxiety, disappointment, self-hatred, and loss.
As I read the warning and the words in that message, I felt the slick sheet of shame billow across my consciousness.
Here’s what shame does to a soul:
Shame is the most poisonous prison within which we shackle our authentic selves.
Shame tricks us into believing that we must be nothing short of perfect, so we must be meticulous, calculating, cautious.
Shame seeks to weaponize the mistakes we have made, and causes us to believe that those mistakes are the sum of who we are.
Shame leaves us clinging desperately to keeping our mistakes hidden in the shadows of pain and regret rather than embracing them as a part our life experience from which we can learn and grow.
Shame lashes out at those who see the beauty in us, and makes us afraid to honour the unique magic of who we are. Shame rejects that beauty, that magic. It causes us to focus on unhealthy comparisons with other people in our lives and to shy away from the emotional exploration of where our unique inner journeys might lead us.
Shame tricks us into being satisfied with living a half-life. It tells us that we need to tiptoe around the edges of our existence, we need to be spectators in our own lives, we need to be afraid to take a stand and have a voice in support of what truly matters to us.
Shame rules by fear, seeking to berate us and convince us that our inner lives are somehow meaningless and insignificant—that we must submit to another’s agenda. Again, shame whispers, we must be careful.
But I will not be careful. I will not flinch away from my shame. I will sit with her, reflect upon her, and embrace the atonement that she brings.
I will take my shame by her hand, and gently lead her to that part of me who can show her who I truly am, shining in all of my glorious imperfections. And I will thank her.
I will thank her, because in that trembling moment of revelation when I chose to divest her of her power, I saw the light of self-love, and took flight on the wings of the blessings of friends near and far who reached out to support me, and guide my soul home.
We have made our peace, shame and I. I will continue to sing the song of my truth for all the world to hear. And I’m sure that shame will try to come and steal the spotlight. But she will also come to understand that I am not alone, and that she can never, ever, hurt me again.
This inner journey can only be experienced by walking the path between our best and our worst times. It is in the reconciliation of the tensions between these extremes that we can truly revel in the magical, wondrous nuances of our being, and the gift that is this life.