I’m not perfect. And though that would seem obvious, I’ve spent a lifetime trying to do everything right.
From my hair to my grades in school, everything always had to be in place. I tried to make sure I never had to be corrected because I simply couldn’t handle it. I have wasted time pursuing the impossible and in the moments when I have failed, I realize that I still carry the shame that comes with not living up to your own hype.
It’s funny, when there is a lesson that you are supposed to get, you will get it from various different avenues in your life. It started with a discussion with friends about how my husband and I met and got smitten for each other. It was literally the episode of Martin when they’re all recounting how Martin and Gina met. We are Martin and Gina by the way in many aspects. Nonetheless, we always seem to butt heads on how we met and who started liking who first and that night was the first night I realized my response is always rooted in shame.
My husband and I were friends before we met. He had just come out of a bad break up, but was single and I was still in a relationship. We met through work when I was still pursuing a career in songwriting and it started it off simple enough. We worked. And that was it. But with my long-term relationship floundering in the wind and spending a lot of time together, it didn’t take long to realize that we kind of liked each other.
But I was ashamed of that. Ashamed that perfect Ashley was having feelings for someone other than the only love that she had known for so long. Ashamed that she was pretty much repeating the pattern of how she even got into the relationship she was in. Building a friendship that turned into something more exciting than where she was.
At the end of the day, I think my last relationship would have ended regardless. We were simply growing in very different directions. I was longing to build a relationship with Christ and in so many ways, part of my connection with my ex was our lack of belief. I was changing, things were changing, but I felt so selfish in that time. By wanting to pursue God. By liking this new kid who I had only known a short while. By wanting to end it with this person who had their flaws but was ultimately an amazing guy. I had no idea who I was becoming and perfect Ashley was unraveling.
This piece. This part that I wasn’t supposed to like my husband when I did, manifests to this day when trying to explain to people the story of how we got together. I downplay it and he looks bewildered and confused. “Duh, I wasn’t supposed to like you while I was in another relationship and perfect Ashley has to look good for the camera at all times.” Right?
I have literally found myself afraid. Afraid to be happy. Projecting my lack of trust for myself onto my partner. What if he loses interest? When that question is really for me. What if I repeat my pattern? What if I am unable to identify that I am unhappy and it shows itself in my behaviors? In my rebellion? We project. So often we don’t even realize we can’t trust others because we can’t trust ourselves.
But the reality is, I am not my mistakes. But as a recovering perfectionist, this takes a lot of time to actually believe. It’s a lot easier to type than to truly grasp in my heart. I found myself adding to my affirmation that “I am deserving of love.” Because in this time, in many ways, I have felt, what did I do to deserve someone as awesome as my husband? I hurt someone by telling them I no longer wanted to be with them. I put myself and what I wanted before someone else. I am a bad person. But I’m so glad that I am learning this many years later, that is a lie.
Which leads to me to the reinforcement of the message I needed about shame that came by way of Brene Brown’s book, “Daring Greatly.” She has a whole Chapter on combating shame! Ha! God will reinforce the message man.
The thing about shame is, we often don’t realize that it’s manifesting, one. Two, shame loves the darkness. It’s all the things that we like to sweep under the rug or push into a closet. But we are truly rescued from shame when we are able to shine some light on it. That moment talking with friends, it hit me, oh I was ashamed. That’s a vulnerable place to be in, but also the key to our ability to actually be truly vulnerable.
The shame that we carry, as people, as women, as women of color, runs deep and it is affecting us in our everyday lives. I also thought recently about the shame that manifests because of our bodies as women. So many of us were covered up and put in baggy clothes as young women in order to protect us, but it also created shame in so many of us. Curvy girls should be covered. But for the most part many of us as black women are curvy, so are we just a race of women that need to be covered? At 30, I am just starting to venture out and understand what I want my sexy to be and realizing that I don’t have to hide.
All this recent revelation and understanding made me want to encourage you to evaluate your own shame. In many cases, it is suffocating us in ways that we don’t even realize. Regardless of your mistakes, you are not inherently bad and you my friend, are deserving of all the good things that God aligns for your life.
I realize that setback in my life was preparing me for the setup, to take a line from Joel Osteen. I saw myself as a mess, when God saw who he was preparing me to be in this exact moment of my life. I am deserving. I am becoming resilient to shame. It will not keep me in darkness. I will be light. I know that now and I am thankful.