To forgive, forgiveness….What thought’s come to mind when you think about forgiveness? For most of my life people have told me that I am too hard on myself, and perhaps they are right. What I have come to understand is that in some ways this has been a defense mechanism. If I am hard on myself, no one else will have to be. If I am hard on myself I am somehow controlling my environment so maybe things seem a little less out of control or “unknown.” During my program for binge eating disorder, I did a lot of work around forgiving myself for things. I wracked my brain, “why was it so hard for me to extend myself the self-compassionate gesture and say, “I forgive you self for not being perfect, for being human?” Why can I forgive almost anyone around me, but not myself? Again, perhaps the defense mechanism comes into play, but I also started to think about our society. We live in a very critical society. Even looking at the tabloids or the news, one comment someone says is taken out of context and bam they are soon the center of storm of hateful comments. People seem to want punishment. People seem to want to make people pay. I often wonder where the compassion is in these stories. Where is the human emotion of empathy? Sure, some things people do are horrendous and people shouldn’t just walk around without any consequences. But, that’s not what I am talking about here. When we judge people so harshly, especially without knowing the facts or a person’s true heart, it does something to us as human beings. I think it hardens us in a way.
So, enough blaming society…why else is self-forgiveness so freaking hard? Well, I can really only speak for myself. First of all, I had to take a look at myself and say, did I really do anything wrong? Sometimes I was blaming myself for things I had nothing to do with in reality, or I was feeling like I had to fly around with a cape on saving everyone. Sometimes, I did have to admit ok, yes maybe I could have done this differently etc. For example, I remember learning from someone, that comments I had made hurt their feelings and made them actually very upset. Learning this and admitting that I had caused someone sadness tore through me. I thought, “how could I have done something like this?” I beat myself up for that for a very long time. That is despite apologizing and learning new ways of communicating. Harboring those feelings towards myself in the long run really would not have helped my friend any, because most likely she had already moved on. Ahhh admitting life, and me, are not always perfect was hard for me. It meant admitting I was vulnerable and that people are vulnerable. This meant admitting that the world is not always a place of fairy tales and roses and days gone by. It meant admitting sometimes, things go wrong. Of course, I know all of this rationally. The imperfection of the world and myself are things that not only am I aware of, but are also realities that can be a bit scary, because again it means being vulnerable. I think my subconscious thought pattern went something like this: if I allow myself to be imperfect, it means being seen, being seen means being vulnerable, and being vulnerable means the possibility of getting hurt, getting hurt means experiencing painful emotions…and you get the picture.
Grief: When I began to take an honest look at myself and really accept the emotions I was experiencing, a strange wave of something passed over me. What was this feeling? I began to ponder it, and then I figured it out. I was sitting with my emotions and allowing myself to offer me some forgiveness, when I felt some sadness. It was not just any sadness, but I began to recognize that I was actually grieving something. I had stopped using food to numb my emotions and things were coming up. I was grieving the fairy tale world where everything was “perfect”. I was grieving my childhood ideals that life is always sunshine and daisies, that everyone is always happy, and that nothing bad ever happens. Again, I knew all of this rationally, but I guess maybe I just didn’t want to accept it. I guess, I was actually growing up a bit. Soon enough, this feeling of grief passed, and I was able to find a new feeling in its place: a sense of accomplishment, growth and resiliency. I knew I could face myself and accept my imperfections, and more importantly, I could grow and learn from them. As I write about this now, it is easier to look back on this and paint it as events happening sequentially. But, it wasn’t and still isn’t like that. Some days, I am more willing to accept imperfection than others. Some days, I am more willing to offer myself self-compassion. Some days, I still get mad at myself and set unrealistic expectations. These skills are still very new for me and I can honestly say this journey is a continually adapting process. But, I would not have it any other way. Allowing space for self-exploration and kindness has significantly changed my life. Although it has been painful at times, it has also been beautiful and rewarding. Maybe perfect isn’t wrapped up in pretty little bows or presents under the tree on christmas morning. Maybe perfect is about staring life in the face and saying, “I see you and I see me and we are in this thing together.” Perfect is all of the little beautiful imperfections dancing in harmony creating our authentically constructed reality. Perfect isn’t about avoiding “the difficult” or pretending the mud doesn’t exist. My perfect now is facing the difficult and taking the mud and building a mud fort and staking my claim in this world. There is nothing really that exciting about perfect anyways.
Yes, it is 3 am. Yes, I had double espresso at 6pm. This is something I never do, and will abstain from in the future as a rule, I require a lot of sleep. Thanks for reading.