I’ve made so many mistakes. And I used to be paralyzed by the feelings of shame and guilt I had about those mistakes.
This is a story for any of you who live with a bleak inner monster who whispers to you about why you’ll never be worthy or lovable. Many of us get pretty good at shutting out the monster’s voice, but the monster is there keeping us from being at home in our deepest heart of hearts. The monster whispers – you are unlovable at your core, making us uncertain when we need confidence, shaking us when we want to be steady.
But I know a secret about getting past the monster.
Once upon a time, in the couple years before I met my husband, I was in a relationship with a pathological liar. When I found out the truth – or enough of it to realize the vastness of the lies, I was mortified. If you’ve ever been in a terrible, unhealthy relationship, you may be familiar with the feelings of shame and embarrassment I faced. It is not that I should have felt this way, but I did. The bad parts of the relationship weren’t my fault, but I couldn’t see that part yet.
Instead I just saw my own part in it and could hardly look back on the person I’d been without shuddering; I would be filled with disgust for myself, and when those emotions welled up, my self-confidence and ability to make decisions would plummet.
When I looked back at the person I had been, I saw an idiot. That person was stupid. out of control. shockingly naive. I saw someone shameful to be.
She was undeserving and unworthy.
It was painful to look back on her, and soul shaking to think she was a part of me. How could I be a good person if I was also a person who could make such shameful mistakes?
I wanted to forget the wretched Before part of myself, pretend it hadn’t happened, pretend she hadn’t happened. But she stayed with me – placing a monster in the darkest part of my mind. In those dark shadows I saw only recrimination, guilt and shame and I turned away.
This unwillingness to confront the monster made me a person who was strong until I hit that wall of uncertainty where I couldn’t accept myself, and thus worried the outside world couldn’t accept me either – and then I was weak, wanting, needing approval from others, because I couldn’t give it to myself.
But one day, as I realized how far I’d come, I realized I wanted to find a way to feel whole, and in order to do that, I had to stop hating the me who came before. I finally realized what that ashamed girl needed.
In order to accept her as part of my whole, instead of shying away from my most horrible self, I had to tell her thank you.
Thank you for surviving.
Thank you for making it through that time.
Thank you for being the you who stumbled through so awkwardly, so I could be here walking strongly with your knowledge.
You see, that horrible self, she wasn’t horrible after all. She was the girl who made it through. She was the me who was younger and less experienced and I couldn’t have grown into the woman I am now without all of the learning I did through her.
As I began saying thank you and feeling gratitude to the me who came before, that monster of guilt and shame moved aside and I found something beautiful.
Instead of finding I was unlovable at the core, I found I was safe, at home because I could accept the parts of myself I had deemed unworthy, and see the growth that came from them.
Parenting has been filled with its own mix of mistakes, confusion and inability to handle things the way I’d like, and with those parenting mistakes the monster of guilt and shame sometimes tries to take over.
I’ve thought, ‘If I could go back now I’d have handled it so much better! I have so many more tools now!‘ I think back to the panicky feelings I used to have while handling my kids’ toddler years emotional storms, and the guilt and shame crashes in – UGhhhh! I wish I’d had the skills I do now!
But how did I get those tools?
How did I get those skills?
That me who stumbled through and made a ton of mistakes, that’s how. We have to make mistakes to learn. Making mistakes and missteps helped me find the path I’m on now. I don’t expect to stop making mistakes at any point in my life, but I hope to continue to find compassion for myself when I make them. I will keep saying thank you to my past and asking What have I gained from this?
Gratitude for the past empowers me to learn and let go so I can be present now.
I am a work in progress. I am home.
So today I offer you thanks to your most horrible self.
Thank you for making it through the hard stuff, the muck and the terrible places.
Thank you for your courage, and your tenacity.
Thank you for being a fool.
I like this you who is here, learning and growing.
Thank you for making it through so that you may bring your own unique gifts to this world.
You are a work in progress. You are home
Friends, do you have a monster who tells you lies about making mistakes? Do you have a past self you’ve been wishing never existed? Come chat with me in the comments. Sometimes I find I put off living and being present because all I’m thinking about is how much better it will be later, when everything is right. I want to remember that we can live here in the now, mistakes and all because we are works in progress, and we are home.
- Building Yourself Up – 10 phrases to get rid of negative self talk
- I know what will ruin my kids – banishing the Should Mama
- 20 Journal Prompts on Nurturing Yourself
About the Author
Alissa is a resilience coach, cartoonist, and advocate for ‘connection, not perfection’. She’s dedicated to helping others find a sense of safety and belonging inside themselves so they can heal, connect, and build authentic, joyful lives.