Updated: Dec 15, 2019
We all have secrets or parts of our history we would rather not reveal. Some of us block the memories out so as not to feel them, others of us suffer silently in shame. Either way, what we resist persists and usually attracts opportunity after opportunity to make peace with the circumstance we are still uncomfortable with.
I will never forget this one interaction in my life well over a decade ago. It revealed so much to me about one of the spots I was still judging myself for amongst the unique turns of my life journey. . I was at Esalen Institute, an incredible retreat center for transformation in Big Sur, California. I was single and feeling very ready to “date” at that particular moment in my life . A radiantly handsome, intelligent and soulfully akin man was showing interest in getting to know me.
As we started talking and dropping deeper into the conversation topics that often come up for single adults emerged. He soon revealed to me that he had been married two times already and had children from both of these marriages. I internally watched myself wince. First, I witnessed myself having a subtle projection placed on him but, he cleared it immediately. He boldly like a confident straight shooter said,
“I have absolutely no shame about my divorces or my children. I was someone who was truly looking for love and family and jumped in hard and fast. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that intent. I learned lots in both relationships and I love my children.”
His eyes stared firmly and penetrated deep into my own. He then boldly asked ,” Does that bother you?” I soon admitted to myself I was standing in the midst of the center of my own wound. I had my own relationship shame billow upward like flames melting the contours of my face, I still carried tremendous pain and grief that my recent marriage had ended and I was now single and had lost my dream. Not to mention, in that opening moment I absolutely didn’t want him to know so quickly that I too, had sought relationship through the form of marriage more than once to that same outcome. Those things still had power over me as I had not fully embraced the true innocence and love behind all of my experiences and the necessary teachings I was receiving.
Meanwhile, I watched this man becoming both sexier to me and more empowered immediately after he shared this “fatal flaw” with a positive attitude of self acceptance and self love. I detected nothing but truth in him. At that moment I realized not for the first time, that the most attractive thing we can do for ourselves is to heal from our self inflicted shame from the paths each of us have had to walk to get to where we are today.
It doesn’t always feel sexy or empowering when this reflection is revealed.
I’ll never forget one brave young 19 year old woman in the beginning of my sophomore year in college speech class. She stood up in front of at least 35 people she didn’t know and told everybody about her intensive struggle in high school with Anorexia and Bulimia. No one could hear a pin drop as she told her story in the kind of graphic detail and heartful connectivity that very few young people felt safe enough to emulate.
At that time I was pummeled into shock as I heard her searing honesty. It became the trigger to force me to really dive deeply into my own trauma growing up in a family which struggled with compulsive eating and dieting as a way to maintain self worth at the cost of understanding the underpinnings of the emotional struggle within.
I must say however, I did not see her as sexy or empowered at that time in the least. How we perceive someone’s beauty and liberation is often a direct reflection of how close or far off we are from it within ourselves. At 19, I felt absolutely mortified. My stomach dropped like an elevator falling down a chute. I wanted to run to her and cover her mouth and scream out;
”Oh no, don’t share that with these people. You can be very hurt.”
I wanted to protect her in the same way I had learned to protect myself as a child. It wasn’t safe to share these feelings growing up; as any time I tried share how I really felt growing up I experienced the sense that my feelings were too much, too intense, crazy, silly or weird. I was still very young in my journey; yet without any doubt, it was that excact moment and that exact stranger of a girl that changed my life forever.
Her willingness to speak to the unspeakable was brand new to me. I was rendered unable to go back into denial of my inner life and began the journey forward into my inner landscapes to move towards healing the shame and facing the stories that bind us within.
The secret to embracing the things you don’t want anyone to know about is that you then become free to love yourself exactly as you are. In the depths of our shadow is our salvation, once revealed by the love within our own hearts we find our freedom.
Sure, It’s not a relished task to share our shameful hidden places but it’s much more crippling to hide them away where they devour the energy and prevent the life force within us from unfurling into the brilliant creative life force we were meant to meet and experience.