I like this photo. I don’t own horses nor do I ride them well but I’ve discovered that I really enjoy doing fun graphics like this using Canva and this image seems to say it all – “I’m here, I’m physically safe but I’m afraid to let you know me. I’ve always chosen to look perfect from afar, never revealing my vulnerabilities or risking failure – never letting you get too close. Maybe it’s time for me to step out into the sun and learn how to just be me. Will you help me by opening the barn door?”
This is what shame and codependency did to me. I looked really good from afar and tried my best to be perfect at everything I did. I tried to be the perfect daughter and sister – never getting in trouble, keeping family secrets, doing my sister’s piano composition assignments or covering up for her so she wouldn’t get in trouble – just the ordinary things that shame-based codependents do.
It wasn’t until I was facing a personal and family crisis in the form of alcoholism that I began to learn about my shame and codependency. Someone cracked open that metaphorical barn door for me by convincing me to go into treatment. That’s all it took for me to begin to discover how I had been stuck and what I needed to learn. I learned that I didn’t value myself enough to establish boundaries, let alone expect them to be respected. I began to realize that one of the results of these mindsets was the amassment of resentments – resentments toward others and especially toward myself for not saying “no” when I needed to, by enduring emotionally abusive treatment and gaslighting from family members and being quiet about it. I found myself questioning my sanity and convincing myself that something was wrong with me.
While in treatment and beyond, I began the process of letting go of my fears, learning how to cope with life in healthy ways and learning how to love myself. I began to learn how to sit with the discomfort of self-respect that I had never believed I deserved and that I had the right to insist on it. I began to learn the meaning of authenticity, the beauty of vulnerability and the power of imperfection. Metaphorically speaking, I fully pushed that door wide open and walked out into the sunlight, maybe looking back a few times but once I discovered the freedom offered by sobriety I kept going.
One discovery led to another, often in the form of very hard and emotional work, but it has all been worth it to uncover the person I was meant to be!
“It takes courage…to endure the sharp pains of self discovery rather than choose to take the dull pain of unconsciousness that would last the rest of our lives.”
― Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles”