This is a blog post I’ve been meaning to write for a while. Actually, being able to write this post might have been one of the deciding factors in starting this blog. It’s something I’ve been writing in my head for the longest time before I’d even considered blogging. Even though this blog is relatively new, I hope that gives a bit of an idea as to how long I’ve been thinking about all this.
I give myself the hardest time about things. (Every time I try to start talking about this with someone, they tell me that everyone does. To these people, I know you have good intentions, but I know. I know that already. But the fact that everyone else goes through the “same thing” (really? you think each person gives themselves a hard time in the exact same way?) does not make my experiences with it any less valid. Today, I don’t want to talk about everyone else and how I’m “not alone” and therefore I “really shouldn’t worry about it.” No, I need to actually process these things for myself and not be dismissed just because it’s something everyone else feels too.)
All right. I didn’t intend for this post to start off with a rant about the semantics behind being told I’m not alone, but that all just spilled out. I’m just so tired of feeling dismissed or invalidated when I hear the words “You’re okay, everyone does it” in response to me trying to sort out these things.
And I’m trying to sort out all of these things because, at least on my end, I’m not okay. Not when it comes to giving myself a hard time. There is a part of me that hangs onto the tiniest of things I’ve done or mistakes I’ve made with such anger and guilt that you could almost call it self-hatred. It’s so toxic and unhealthy and honestly, sometimes gets to the point where it scares me. Sometimes it’s not completely salient, simply just existing on the periphery of my consciousness. Sometimes I’m consumed with it–this toxic, unhealthy guilt whisks me away from whatever moment I’m in and rips me apart. In these moments, I’ve wondered if I look as distressed as I feel.
I’ve done a lot of growing up this past year. It’s no secret that earlier in the school year, I broke up with the person I’d been with for over two years. It’s no secret that, at one point, I had thought he was the one. And it’s no secret that I was hurting over the break-up a lot longer after I’d tried to convince myself and everyone around me that I was over it. That’s one thing I’ve been giving myself a hard time for: lying to myself and everyone else about this break-up. It started out with just trying to convince myself, and then trying to convince everyone else, that I was fine and that I was over it. I wouldn’t be surprised if people could see right through me, even if I couldn’t myself. It was like recovering from the concussion I suffered back in February of this year–I often described it to people like, “I didn’t realize how badly it affected me until I recovered from it.” That’s exactly how I could describe recovering from this break-up. I didn’t realize how much it screwed me up until I’d healed.
But it’s that period of time between the break-up and actual recovery that I feel so much shame and anger over. In that interim, I acted out of so much confusion. I grasped at anything and everything and everyone around me in an effort to prove that I could bounce back right away. Honestly, I hate myself for this. I feel so much regret that I didn’t let myself feel things out, that despite trying to quash the heartbreak, it spilled over and out of me and affected the people around me in my conversations with them about the break-up or in my twisted attempts at moving on, that in doing this I embarrassed myself to everyone around me. That’s how I see it, at least. Maybe it didn’t look as bad as it felt. But there are a certain set of standards I hold myself to, and in this period of time, I continuously failed to meet them. This is where the idea of integrity comes in. I wasn’t honest with myself about myself, and I wasn’t honest with the people around me about myself either. (To those literate in the field of psychology, I suppose you could also call it cognitive dissonance.)
This leads me to another thing I need to process. I had broken up with this boy because of how toxic it was for me to be in the relationship. The person I wanted to be and the person I actually was were not the same. Staying in the relationship enabled me to remain in this primitive and ugly version of myself, but I stayed anyway for who even knows why anymore (love? fear? some twisted combination of the two?). In doing so, I would fail again and again throughout the relationship to meet the standards I set for myself. And it was out of this cognitive dissonance that I descended even further into abandoning what integrity I had. I was moody, demanding, possessive, jealous, angry… I strongly believe all of these things came from that place of dissonance and not knowing what to do with it. But my goodness, if I’ve hated myself for who I was while recovering from the break-up, I’ve absolutely loathed myself for who I was while actually in the relationship itself. I’m embarrassed that for so long, I didn’t act by the standards to which I hold myself. I’m so deeply regretful at all the hurt I must have caused from this. And so, this is where Justin Bieber comes in. Over the last few months I’ve heard “Love Yourself” and wondered how often I was that girl Bieber sings about, both while in the relationship and in the weeks following the break-up. That girl is not who I’ve ever wanted to be, not then and certainly not now, but I don’t deny that I must have been that girl at one point. There’s nothing I can do to change that or anything else that happened over the last two or three years in that relationship, and I know that. Yet that has not stopped me from tearing myself apart time and time again in frustration and anger and self-hatred.
There are a lot of other things that have happened over the last two or three years that I’m not proud of either, a lot of times where I didn’t meet the standards I set for myself, and past actions which add to this cognitive dissonance and self-loathing. It’s so frustrating to look at my past through the lens of my present self, knowing that while I am now the person I’ve wanted to be, I wasn’t always, even though I certainly had the choice to be. That’s the kicker. I’ve actively chosen not to be the person I wanted to be. I’ve consciously let my body and mind be poisoned by people and things; I’ve gotten drunk, I’ve been spiteful and hateful about others, I’ve hurt other people and also myself. I’ve been so frustrated with myself for all these things, especially now more than ever as I fall deeper and deeper in love with God. No, past Manilyn certainly does not meet the standards that present Manilyn sets for herself.
So this is where Psalm 51 comes in. Oh my goodness, this psalm has put to words all the regret and guilt I’ve felt over so many of the things outlined in this post. Be merciful to me, O God, because of your constant love. Because of your great mercy wipe away my sins! . . . I recognize my faults; I am always conscious of my sins. . . Create a pure heart in me, O God, and put a new and loyal spirit in me. Oh, I pray this constantly. Every time I begin to rip myself apart out of this unhealthy guilt, I all but beg God to replace this guilty heart with a clean one and to wash all of this shame and regret away. I know that doesn’t happen at the snap of a finger, though–God’s not just going to scoop out the heart I have now and give me a brand new one. I don’t think that’s how He works. So instead, I pray not just to have a pure heart, but for the opportunities to clean the one I have. Hopefully, in doing so, I can stop haunting myself with my own past and look ahead into a bright future instead.
I sometimes wonder what the people who have known me only during the low points in my life must think of me now. I wonder if those low points are the only impression they have of me. Maybe that’s why I give myself a hard time about these things, knowing that I did not display the best version of myself to everyone, knowing that there are people out there walking around carrying only the ugly versions of me in their memories. But I’m now on a journey of coming to terms with that. Instead of using all of my past transgressions to tear myself down, I really, really hope I can use them solely to propel me forward in discovering, becoming, and maintaining a better version of myself. Writing this post, confessing and exposing all of this vulnerability for the world to see, I think, was an incredible and much-needed step forward in that direction.
(Featured image by Mikey Jakubowski, August 2015)