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Last week, I had an interview regarding my memoir, Free Fall, where the interviewer asked me if I felt I could have done anything to prevent Sean's suicide. (Obviously, she hadn't read my book or she would have known better than to ask me that!) I said, "No, I won't go there. I reject that idea. I've spent 9 years working through my survivor's guilt and processing all the what-if scenarios, and I won't entertain the idea of blame or shame."
But I didn't always feel that way...and still struggle with shame in other areas of my life. As a single mom and only parent with a daughter about to go off to college, I struggle with the idea that I wasn't "enough" for her. We've lived on a tight budget. I've had to say no to things other kids get to do. I haven't been able to give them as much I'd wanted when they were born. I've had my brother yell at me that I don't care enough about money and am letting the kids down--which adds to the whole I'm-not-enough struggle. Shame--she's a bitch.
I can rebound, tell myself I'm working hard, remind myself how much I've done; but there's always some measuring stick out there reminding me I'm falling short. So I'm breaking that damn stick in two and telling anyone who wants to judge me where I'd like to stick those pieces.
No matter how positive we are or how much faith we have, shame whispers its lies when we're at our most vulnerable. We all carry shame over something that limits us in the here and now. Perhaps we don't articulate it because that would mean being vulnerable, which is scary. It doesn't need to be as traumatic as surviving the suicide of a loved one or any other type of trauma. It can be shame over our appearance, our financial status, our marital status, our employment history, our parenting abilities...it can stem from just about anything, but it's limiting us from achieving our highest potential.
I've worked hard as a parent never to say the phrase, "you should be ashamed of yourself" to my kids. Instilling this notion of shame or guilt is wrong and we need to stop doing it to ourselves and to others.
How did I shake the shame over Sean's suicide, people ask, because that's a biggie. It wasn't easy. It took a lot of soul searching, some ranting, and forgiveness. Not only did I forgive him for his last act in life, but I forgave myself for taking him for granted among other things. You see, we both did the best we could given our ages and our life experience at the time.
I'm forgiving myself now, too, for not living up to those big dreams I had when the kids were born. I've done my best in a situation I neither expected nor deserved. Hey, she graduated and is a good kid--in today's world with all the temptations out there--I've done a pretty damn good job as a mom, even with all my screw ups.
I have someone close to me whose daughter is a heroin addict and she's playing the blame game about all the things she could have done differently as a parent. The truth is--she and her husband are great parents, put their child through college, and have been staunch advocates for their daughter. Shame whispers to them that they didn't do "enough".
What exactly is enough and who decides the criteria? I will no longer be a slave to feelings of inadequacy or the "I'm not enough" cycle. This is my life--the good, the bad, the ugly, and the beautiful--it's all mine. I'm the only one who knows the reality of my situation; therefore, I'm the only one entitled to have an opinion on it.
Forgiveness always defeats shame, that's the secret. Whatever it is you may be ashamed of deep down--whether it's your appearance, an addiction, dreams you never pursued, promises broken or whatever it is for you--forgive yourself.
All the traumas in my life have given me insight...and writing material. They were painful. People can be mean. Life can beat a person up. It can also be full of wonder, compassionate human beings, and happiness. Yeah, life is complicated...so why make it more so by adding shame into the mix?
Forgiveness and gratitude are powerful forces that defeat the shame and "not good enough" mentality. As Maya Angelo wrote, "you alone are enough." You are. I am. Break free of that shame cage, spread your wings, and soar above all the lies that have held you back.
Be good to yourself!
Amazon (Universal link): getBook.at/FreeFall
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