You are not your mistakes
I once did something truly awful to a friend of mine. I was so ashamed for so long and it really affected the way I felt about myself. It even affected the way I treated myself.
I was in my early 20's and I hung out with a couple a majority of the time. It had been the three of us for about a year or so and sometimes I would just hang out with one of the other. One time we were up late and drinking to this day I'm still not sure how or why it happened. But my friend (or friends boyfriend) leaned in to kiss me while she was in the other room. I am proud to say that I initially pulled back in shock. But then I left the house to go for a walk. He followed me. And then by the end of the night we had kissed, several times. Nothing more than that but that was bad enough. And the worst part was my friend was back at her house not expecting a thing.
My friend and I never spoke of the incident again. Until I one day I blew the lid on the whole thing. Months later, the two of them were fighting and he was making accusations against her. I thought to myself that even if she did do what he accused then he was no better. I knew he had done the same...with me. I guess it made me mad. I guess I had a guilty conscious. I did know that I wanted to give her the power back in the situation. I wanted her to know all the information I knew about him while defending herself. So I told her. As you can imagine she freaked out. She went into the other room to confront him. I could hear him saying; "What? Like I would kiss Wendy." As if the thought was revolting to him. By the way, this is one of the many reasons women are hesitant to come forward with allegations of sexual abuse. For fear of being ridiculed. Anyway, the crap hit the fan and I was asked to leave.
A couple of months later I heard they got back together. Then a few months after that she reached out to me. She was willing to forgive. She told me that if she could forgive him then she could forgive me. We picked up our friendship again and it was rough at times but we all got close again. To this day I hate when I see a couple hanging out with a single person. I know every situation doesn't end up like mine but it can happen so quickly. Because honestly, I had never had a thought like that about him until that moment. Don't get me wrong, I was attracted to him, obviously, but never thought about him other than a friend. I realized later that up until that point he was someone I had a lot of respect for. I was forever single and the attention from someone I liked and respected so much made me feel good about myself. Of course I did the wrong thing and I'm forever grateful that my friend forgave me. Forgiving myself though was another story.
For a very long time I couldn't get that betrayal out of my head. Good people didn't do that to their friends so obviously I wasn't a good person. I already didn't like myself and this made it so much harder to overcome that problem. Years and years later I was still holding myself accountable for that incident. Long after they had gotten married, starting having babies and are still married to this day. I felt I didn't deserve happiness because of what I had done. I didn't think about it consciously at all times but it was always there in the back of my mind. I was judging myself. And I felt I deserved to be treated harshly. But if a friend of mine would have done the same thing I would have had a lot more compassion for them. Especially after hearing the thoughts and feelings tied up in it. I would have said, it was the wrong thing to do but you got wrapped up in yourself for a moment. You even came clean. Now that you know better, you will do better.
One horrible mistake doesn't make you a horrible person. We are all human. Some mistakes are no big deal and others are a big freaking deal. But it doesn't mean you are a monster and never deserve happiness. When you make a mistake you try to make amends and then learn from it. We all have moments where we aren't pleased with ourselves. Sometimes more than others but we ALL make mistakes. I still have a hard time talking about this because I'm so ashamed. Even thirty years later. But that shame isn't serving me. In fact, it's hurting me. It's holding me back. Not so much anymore but it did for a very long time. What turned out to be a blip in their relationship is something that I punished myself for year after year. Even if she never wanted to be my friend again I doubt she would have wished for a lifetime of misery on me. After the initial anger wore off anyway.
My point is hopefully that we are all possible of making a terrible mistake. Something that may fill you with shame. But do what you feel is right after that. Let the chips fall where they may. But learn from the experience. You know not to do that again but punishing yourself and taking on the monster persona is not going to help anyone. Least of all you.
Is there something that still gnaws at you? Is there someone you can tell? There is so much freedom in getting things off your chest. It's truly healing. I'm here to tell you...you are not a monster. You are not a horrible person. And in spite of your mistakes you deserve to be happy. I finally found my happiness and I want you to as well. But you have to learn to like yourself first...and then, love yourself. I know it can sound like something that is impossible for you. I've been there. But that truly is the key. So look at yourself. What is there that you do like? There is always something. Maybe it has something to do with your appearance. Or are you the best mother/aunt/spouse you can possibly be? Do you kick ass at work? Do you have a cool car? Whatever it is, focus on it. Focus on what you love about those things and find more ways to bring those things you like to you.
As the days go by, discover more things you like about yourself. Or do more things that you can include on that list. Start a hobby, craft, join a group. Do something that you are good at so you can feel good about yourself. But let's start with you. The you sitting there listening to this right now. Are you on your way to work? Yay for you. You have a job and are bringing in money! Are you taking a walk. Look at you taking care of your health! What are some of the physical attributes you like about yourself? Pick three things right now. Start focusing on them. Give them a little extra attention. Fawn over them and luxuriate in them. I'll start...I like my hair. It often doesn't do what I want it to but every once in awhile all the curly locks fall into place perfectly. I have pretty nice nails so I make sure to take care of them and make them pretty. And I used to have this really nice curve to my stomach. I'm still working hard to uncover that again and reward it and myself with a two piece this summer! Now, you go. I know you can find three little things. This is how you start to like yourself. Obviously there is so much more to it but this is how you begin. It gets easier and more fun from here!
If you liked today's podcast please leave me a review or screenshot the episode and share on social media with your friends. Use the hashtag-hopefulist! Now I hope you found something to feel good about yourself. Hold your head up high and show off that feature. And of course, be badass. I'm still here, cheering you on!