Sunday, March 25, 2012
Shame Encouragement: Images of Perfection VS Realized Perception
When I make these reflective posts they're often filled with nostalgia and warm fuzzies. Today, I'd like to turn the topics a little more serious (but not depressing, hopefully empowering); and briefly touch on something that hasn't truly been addressed at Momma Told Me. Why? Because we are predominantly raised in a society that focuses on shame to guide people to what it feels is 'right'. No matter your religious affiliation, or political stance, it's almost assured that you've been victim of what I like to call 'shame encouragement'.
I am not a 'perfect individual', because there is no such thing. With all of the civilizations, beliefs, and lifestyles in existence today, perfecting one's self is a never ending chore, with a constantly morphing goal. We change our idea of who we want to be based on magazines, teachers, relatives, and (possibly the biggest) loved ones. But, as cliche as it sounds, the most important guidepost for who we are, and who we want to be, should be ourselves. In recent years I've come to understand, more than ever before, that those who cannot love who they are, cannot love others.
If you are unhappy with your weight, because it concerns you for your health, or because you've always wanted to wear a specific size, tackle goals and kick butt. However, if you feel you are overweight because your family is all much thinner, and department stores don't regularly carry your size- STOP! It's natural to feel insecure. Even the most famous of celebrities, and public icons, are constantly tempted to improve here, to tuck there, to tone there. And, while these feelings of insecurity are natural, it's the ability to walk away from them, as just that, which truly creates a healthy individual. You will never be 'perfect'- because 'perfect' is a perception. And, while it may feel like the need to be 'perfect' in the eyes of a loved one is the most important aspiration, only someone who truly loves you will find you most 'perfect' when you're truly happiest with yourself.
Encouragement is a powerful tool. We raise children on systems of rewards, hugs, and stickers- what is there to state that we stop needing encouragement when we're older? Life certainly doesn't get any easier! And it doesn't make you needy to require praise here and there, it makes you human. And, if those around you don't provide it at first, start with yourself. Begin with statements like "I'm proud of myself for ___achieving X goal__" or, "I've been working really hard to ___quit X____. It's a lot of work, but I feel better already!" The more the people around you see your determination and confidence, the more they will be inclined to take notice and support you. And you never know, they just may be motivated themselves; confidence spreads like wildfire! Most importantly of all, you should never feel guilty for feeling confident, so long as your confidence is measured by personal goals, not comparisons to others.
What does all this have to do with my marriage? It's no secret I was married young. It may be lesser known that there was no 'shotgun' wedding, no child on the way, no Green card to be had. I got married at 22 simply because I wanted to feel like I was worth something. It sounds quite terrible, and there certainly were emotions of blind love, but I enabled these 'blind' emotions to win over reason because I simply wanted to feel like I'd done something right. While I'd never been made to feel inconsequential by my parents, I felt a strong need to 'do something' with myself. After graduating early, and dropping out of college, only to work 3-4 part time jobs at a time, I was burnt out, and felt like a failure. I measured myself based on my peers, and the expectations I'd always assumed my family had for me.
This, combined with my parents divorce, which (in my opinion) had been 10 years coming, speared me towards a determination to 'do things right'. So I plunged into a marriage with someone I hardly knew, and in true 'Momma Told Me' fashion my life turned in the biggest cliche of them all. Just 2 months after my courthouse wedding ceremony I learned not only of my husband's addiction, but that he had created an assumed identity for me, and all of his lifelong friends! This truly was a case of marrying a stranger! Embarrassed, and humiliated, that I had so foolishly followed reckless hormones and blind love into what I felt should be a lifelong commitment, I refused to get an annulment. The select few who knew of the true circumstances urged me to divorce immediately and put this part of my life 'behind' me.
I knew that was wrong. I also knew that many people would likely be angry and spiteful; blaming their partner for the deception and lies, and feel entitled to hold their head high. But I could do no such thing. I was not drugged, there was no mind control, and at 22 (with years ahead of me to get married), I willingly entered into a legal contract with this person. I was just as responsible for whatever was to come. And, for the better part of 3 years I stuck it out, until the two of us became more of roommates than husband and wife.
Without going into details- as I do not believe in airing dirty laundry in public forums; I tie this into my opener with a logical explanation. I have no ill feelings towards the man I call my ex-husband. But, I firmly believe, in this case, any deception (which began long before I'd ever even met him) was a direct case of 'shame encouragement'. It's with great sadness, halfway through my marriage, I realized that the person I'd fallen in love with, did not love himself. He'd become so confused with all of the whispers of what he should be, that he never learned who he was, or how wonderful the real him, really was. And so, I write today, in hopes of reminding my readers to keep their head out of all the fog, and to give themselves encouragement each and every day. No matter who you are, or where you've been, you're worth loving- and the first person who needs to realize that, is you!