"The antidote for shame is self-forgiveness and self-acceptance. Instead of beating yourself up with whatever is on today’s agenda you accept yourself “good enough, as is, just the way you are”. You have to forgive yourself for being a disappointment in your own mind. You have to quit striving to be good enough and let who you are be enough. Overcoming shame requires destroying the power of shame by continually exposing it to safe people. As you get beyond the shame you’ll find an amazing ability to have compassion for others." - The Antidote for Shame: Understanding the Unfaithful - Rick Reynolds
I read this recently in an article for affair recovery. Why was I reading about affair recovery? Because I'm recovering from an affair. That's right. I did that. And I've beat myself up for it ever since. Years have past. My husband forgives me. My family and friends forgive me. But I didn't forgive me.
I sat with a friend who had been through these muddy waters several years before me. She never seemed to be ashamed. Not brazen, by any means. Just free from shame. So I asked her with (what at the time seemed to be ever present) tears in my eyes "will the weight of shame ever go away?" Her reply "It does take time. But the more you become ok with talking about it, the more you forgive yourself, the more you own your dirt and tell your story, the more ok you will become."
The more you own your dirt and tell your story, the more ok you will become.
This process of self-forgiveness is my liminal space. A dark, self-created realm between who I was and who I could/should be. Not just because of an extramarital relationship. But because of ALL of my shortcomings. I've failed a million times at my ongoing attempts of self-improvement in hopes that my ego will finally be gratified by the acceptance of others. All the while verbally abusing myself to the point of self-hatred day after day. "My self-hatred is justified!" I argue incessantly. But believing this discounts other people's forgiveness and love for me. And it ultimately makes my acceptance and love for them superficial. My shame holds me back. I finally have to ask myself - is holding myself back worth it if I know it's keeping me from loving others? I felt I didn't deserve my own forgiveness because logically I knew that to forgive is to set free and (in my mind) I didn't deserve to be free. But what about my friend? Would I hold her back with shame? Would I say to her the same horrible things I say to myself? Never! I would never put her in the prison where I keep myself locked up.
I want to live a genuine and honest life and engage the world from a place of worthiness. I think that's something we all desire and I want to inspire others to do so as well. This can't happen if I'm not willing to talk about the things that get in the way. It can't happen if I'm not willing to be an example of vulnerability, stare fear dead in the face, and tell my story.
I gather all the courage I can muster and take the first step to cross the river of shame that flows through my soul. Keeping my eyes on the peace that waits for me on the other side. With each step I go against everything that I previously justified and tell myself things that I don't yet believe are true. I'm good. I'm faithful. I'm forgiven. I'm strong. I'm loving. I'm worthy. I'm free. I feel the dark cloud over my head break open and I allow the light to shine on me. I allow myself to be accepted by myself. This is a daily walk. A daily choice. Gradually, the things I don't believe become believable. Gradually, I become without shame.