The Truth Will Set You Free

About a month ago I plopped down next to my husband wearing a very serious expression-my way of non-verbally communicating that he better get prepared for some big news which might radically alter the way he views me-and declared, "I have something to tell you. Something I haven't ever told you. Something I have only told 2 other people in my life." I imagined that if I made it seem really bad from the start it wouldn't seem so unfavorable when I actually told him.

And the truth is my secret isn't that bad. However, I'd developed a story around it, which said something like this: "If you know this about me you won't love me." And not only did I believe on some level that this would tarnish my husbands opinion of me, I also believed you would think less of me. Everyone would. This has been a burden for years because the secret I am about to tell my husband happened when I was 14. I am now 41.

For a long time my therapist would talk to me about shame. I remember thinking,"Yes, that's it, I feel ashamed". But here is what I have come to really understand about shame, especially through the work of Brene Brown, Tal Ben-Shahar and Maria Sirois, and others. The thoroughly damaging part of shame is that rather than interpreting the situation or behavior as flawed, I actually see myself as flawed, unworthy, undeserving or undesirable.

This subtle difference holds tremendous consequences. Because if I believe there is something fundamentally wrong with me I will make every attempt to hide this from you: I will try to be perfect, seek your approval, lie outright or omit information, put up walls, live in fear, avoid places, avoid conversations, avoid, avoid, avoid. From the outside you may or may not see this happening. This is an internal disturbance that causes immense dis-ease to the mind and body. And the sticky part is that even when I receive the love I am seeking, I need more. Because this belief has so much power over me and it is hungry for constant reassurance.

Why did I decide to tell my husband now after all of these years? Because first of all, growing is a process, and more than ever I want to live fully. I want to step into my own story. Its mine. It's the only one I have. I want to love and be loved completely. I want to be creative and find deeper meaning and fulfillment in my relationships, work and life. When I am hiding pieces of myself this is impossible. My life becomes about hiding those pieces.

So, I told my husband. He looked at me and said, "Oh, okay". He was sorry that happened in my life but he didn't see me any different. Well, actually, he did! He saw me as courageous and strong. He said it is even more amazing to see how far I have come in my life. He is proud of how much I have accomplished in spite of the things that have happened to me.

I think many of us, maybe most of us, have something we keep locked away, hidden, and hope it never sees light. However that also keeps us tethered to it. Consciously or unconsciously it alters our experience of life.

Telling our story is incredibly important because we also discover we are not alone. The truth is we've all done something undesirable, missed the mark, had something harmful done to us, and/or taken a step in the wrong direction. And this doesn't make us any less worthy of love and acceptance. I am not advising we tell everyone our whole story, but I do think it is important to tell someone our story, someone we trust.

There is even research in the growing scientific field of Positive Psychology that uncovers the fact that the happiest among us believe they are worthy of love, no matter what, warts and all.  And if we look at the 12-step model of recovery there is an entire step around sharing our life story. By allowing someone else to really see us, admitting our faults, shortcomings and fears, we begin to remove that wall-of-shame that keeps us tethered. Additionally, in the contemplative eastern traditions we learn about the power of misperception (avidya) as a veil over our mind, which clouds our perceptions and colors the way we see ourselves and the world. We actually see our projections rather than things as they really are, and we take actions based on those false beliefs, very often leading to further suffering.

If you relate to my story I encourage you to take a baby step or a big leap and begin to set yourself free! Share yourself with someone, but only someone you absolutely trust. It can be a teacher, therapist, coach, partner, friend, sister, brother, sponsor, Etc. Only someone that cares about you and your well being. If you are unsure pray, write and/or meditate about it. Journaling is a wonderful way to release what we keep locked up inside and find clarity.

Te learn more about Joy please visit her website