At first I was going to write more about eating (specifically overeating) and weight loss, but I figured that that would lead to no end of self sabotaging thoughts, so I decided to write about something both harder and easier to write about – forgiving myself. Does this include forgiving myself for overeating? Yes. It’s hard, but it’s going to be worth it.
I say “going to be” because I am still a beginner in this journey. I still beat myself up for things I did 6 months – no, six years ago, and possibly longer ago than that. My dad always said that holding a resentment against someone else was like holding onto a hot coal and blowing on it continuously as it burns through the holder’s hand. But what about holding a resentment against oneself?
I’d say it’s like taking that same hot coal and swallowing it, expecting it to cool off as it burns through you. It’s equally as harmful, if not more so. I’m learning this so much as I discover how badly holding grudges against myself harms me as much as the grudges I hold against others do. I have spent so much time afraid to fail because my inner critic has yelled at me for things I had done wrong in the past. An example of this would be when I tell myself I’m a terrible person because I upset my husband one day or two days in a row. This way of thinking discounts all of the good things I do both for him and for the world at large. Couple that with calling myself a failure and it’s as damaging as it would be had someone else called me that.
Consider the cumulative effect of calling yourself a failure.
If you say or hear something enough, you start to accept it as truth. I started to fall into that “coming up short” mindset when I was about 15. I felt I didn’t meet my church’s standards of a good girl because I experienced “impure thoughts”. Somehow that made me less of a good person! I internalized that fear and it became a part of my being until I left the Church when I was 20. I was also told I was selfish a lot growing up, and I internalized that, too. To this day, my inner critic takes on the voice and tone of people who have criticized me in the past. There are times when I can’t remember the voices of the people themselves until my inner critic is coming at me. I viewed myself as a failure for many years, even believing that God saw me as such. After all, what all-knowing God could love a human who thought such impure thoughts and was so selfish? In other words, I took what I had heard and told myself and didn’t believe it even if I was presented with evidence to counter these thoughts.
I must have glossed over the sermons where God loves me despite my flaws and the fact that I do come up short all the time. That is the Great Constant, and I didn’t realize it was there until I was 21. It was then that I started to learn that failure wasn’t defeat because that love is constant and unwavering. Backed with that new knowledge, I began to see myself in a different light, and I began to learn that forgiving myself isn’t just an aspect of self care. It is essential for me to progress.
Remember that description of swallowing that hot coal? Imagine what that would do! You would be severely injured and it is likely you would die. But what if you buried that hot coal?
This is the hard part, at least for me, and there are plenty of days where I can’t do what I’m about to describe. A person’s experiences are valid, and ours are no exception. Sometimes this takes time.
On an ideal day, the first step is recognizing that what I did was a mistake. I may have done something really bad, but the first thing I try to do is realize that nine times out of ten I haven’t done something so wrong that I can’t come back from it. Second, I make amends if it is a person I have harmed or wronged. If I find myself beating myself up over my mistake a few hours afterward after having done this, it usually means I haven’t done step three, planning how I can do better the next time I come across an opportunity to do the same thing. Step three may be the most comforting in many situations because it helps me realize that this isn’t the end and I shouldn’t beat the shit out of myself if I have a plan for the future. Odds are, this is a small mistake that the other person won’t remember the next day unless they are reminded of it.
It’s normal to have crap days. It’s normal to be clumsy. It’s normal to mess up. It’s how you choose to handle it that determines how you’ll progress in my experience.
It can be very hard for some to forgive themselves, and I don’t want you to take this as another opportunity to kick the shit out of yourself if this is something you experience. This takes time and will not happen overnight. With small moves it will get better, though. It takes work and I’m still working on it.
Before I leave you, I have promised myself that I will write down ten things I am thankful for today.
Here they are:
- My husband and his patience
- This laptop where I can write
- This blog and the outlet it provides
- Alex, Berri, Stephen, Athena, and Esme, my instruments
- This quiet basement
- “Take On Me” by A-ha, which I am writing to
- That I am awake right now
- That we actually have bagels with cream cheese at this moment in time
- That I know how to write and have had this gift fostered my whole life
- My hair, which is growing
- Chadwick, my lizard baby