It's time to forgive yourself
Do you find that it's so much easier to forgive other people than it is to forgive yourself?
Greg and I were chatting recently about university - we both had very different experiences. He is still in touch with many of his uni friends, I lost touch with mine pretty quickly after graduation, something that was a very conscious decision on my part.
It's not that I didn't want their friendships, it's more than I wanted a clean break. A chance to leave behind the shame I was feeling.
You see, I was (am) a girl from a North-East industrial town who never quite managed to fit in fully at school. Whilst most of my classmates were spending their weekends drinking Cider in the park, I was happier to be at church or listening to music in my bedroom with my best friend. Something which I was teased for constantly.
I never questioned whether I was going to go to university or not, it was my ticket to a wider world. I was going to leave at the earliest opportunity and there would be no looking back. So, off I went to study Archaeology.
Here's the very raw truth: University was not a good experience for me.
I was taken from my insular life 'up north' and catapulted into a melting pot of personalities, backgrounds, and attitudes. And at that tender age of 18, when I should have been discovering myself, I was instead trying to hide her.
I so desperately wanted to fit in, and I was convinced that I wasn't good enough. And here comes the real, vulnerable, truth that I'm actually a little afraid to put out there... the next 4 years of my life were a complete lie.
I was so sure that if anyone knew who I really was, I would be the outsider again. So I made up stories to try and impress. I became who I thought other people wanted me to be. I quickly dropped my northern accent when someone told me it sounded 'common'. I was continually looking for validation from others, and I lived with a constant fear of being 'found out' which made me paranoid. If I thought for one second that someone was figuring out the real me, I'd create a drama to make myself seem more interesting again.
It was exhausting. And it was inevitable that I couldn't keep up the pretense. Things began to unravel, friends began to drift away. The shame and guilt of who I had become were a heavy burden. So when I left uni I was grateful to have a fresh start, but that parcel of shame was carried with me wherever I went.
Over the years since graduation, I've slowly peeled back all the layers and returned home to who I am at my core. I've learned to be comfortable with who I am, and I care less about what other people think. But I realised recently that I've never fully forgiven myself for that period of my life.
I've still been living under a cloud of guilt and shame, and embarrassment - because I had refused to properly acknowledge it.
So how do we really forgive ourselves?
We sit with the emotion.
I spent a couple of hours alone with my journal and let it all out. I cried, I felt deep shame, but I sat with it. I didn't let myself brush it aside - I let myself feel it until it passed. And then I released it.
I can honestly say now that I am grateful for my time at university because it forced me to explore who I am at my core and deepen my relationship with myself.
And, I choose to forgive myself.
What do you need to forgive yourself for?