It’s been a while since I’ve been here. Lots to do at the end of the school year. It’s a busy time. Still, I needed to come back to the blank page and put down some thoughts. From the title, you can probably guess what’s been on my mind.
Shame is something I carry a lot of, and it has hurt me a lot throughout my life and career. It clouds so much of my daily life and my relationships: with my husband, my parents, my kids, my colleagues, my friends… I don’t think that most people see me as someone who deals with shame, but — like so many others — I am. Some of it is just silly stuff. Some of it is big, scary, and heavy stuff. Still, the point is I carry it and it colors how I see the world.
Some of this shame comes from the constant feeling of having to be perfect. As a child, I felt that I had to be good all the time. Actually, I believed I had to be better than good — I had to be perfect in every way. If I was perfect, then my parents would love me and they wouldn’t fight or be angry with me or each other. I had to be the perfect student, the perfectly polite little girl, and the perfect representative of our family. I never felt I measured up to that expectation or that it fit me at all. I lost sight of myself and what I wanted, and I fell prey to unscrupulous people who saw my weaknesses and victimized me in a variety of ways. I was so busy trying to be what others wanted me to be, that I had NO CLUE who Lisa was.
These days, I still feel uncertain about me and who I am. I want to be a good wife and mom and I have a tendency to place very unrealistic expectations on myself and others. I am quick to anger, mostly at myself. Deep down, I still want to be somehow perfect. I am still the little girl, eager to please and dying inside because I feel inadequate to the task. What really hurts me is the idea that I may have unwittingly passed this legacy down to my own daughter. In my heart, I know that I have never wanted her to be perfect. I already thought she was awesome just the way she is — and my opinion is corroborated time and again by folks who know her and spend time with her. But I worry that she thinks she has to be “perfect” in order for me to love her.
No, baby girl, you are the perfect you, just as you are. You require no fixing to be acceptable in my eyes or anyone else’s. While you may need to learn to adjust your attitude and behavior to fit certain situations, you do not need to be someone you are not. I love you as you are, whatever your talents, whatever your faults. Be you, and rest assured you will always be loved.
Did I write that for my daughter, or did I write that for myself? I know she needs to hear those words and believe them, but are they the words I’ve needed to hear all my life too? I think so. I know so. I have needed to believe that I am okay just as I am for a long time. Every argument with my husband, every meeting with my employer, every disagreement with my kids has made me feel like I am at fault — and the feelings of shame wipe me out like a gigantic wave. One little problem at work can make me feel like I’ve committed some huge and horrible crime. I feel worthless and small, and like I’m the worst (fill in the blank) ever.
I can never fully regain the childhood that was taken from me. I must keep moving forward and seek to heal myself as well as I can. Somehow, in spite of all the pain and shame, I have forged ahead and created a pretty good life for myself and my family. I am the only one who can keep the hounds of shame at bay. While it may not be my fault, it is my responsibility. I have to stop it within myself in order to stop the cycle from going forward into my daughter and beyond. It is hard work with heavy lifting.
Another me thing I have to work on. It’s all a process. We are all works in progress, all God’s masterpieces. I’d like to think he’s just not done with me yet.