Earlier this week, I was talking with a friend and we were discussing the topic of making someone feel uncomfortable for referring to them as a role they take on because this friend didn’t want the person to feel “on display” for announcing this person’s role/title. The reality is, they ARE those roles though. We don’t have to be defined by those roles solely, but they ARE part of our story. They are part of our identity.
I have ugly chapters of my life that aren’t exactly things I’m proud of but they ARE part of my story regardless. I have felt rejected. I have past failed relationships. I have made mistakes. I have felt the sting of not being accepted growing up and in general. I know what it’s like to go through cancer. I am a wheelchair user. I am an abuse survivor. I have anxiety. I have had bad relationships in the past, etc. None of those chapters were 100% pretty… but I definitely grew from each of those things that have been a chapter in my life. No matter who you are or what you’ve been through, everyone has an ugly chapter that they learned a valuable lesson from.
Why do we feel like we have to present a different version from what we authentically are or what we have been through? Why do we feel so much shame for going through those chapters? I know I personally spent so many years hiding parts of myself and my story because they weren’t pretty… Meanwhile, those less-than-ideal chapters are what people have connected with the most. Why do we shame ourselves (or others) into hiding who they are or what they have been through just because it’s uncomfortable? The older I get, the more I am learning to own and recognize my journey and the value behind the really, really hard struggles and chapters in my life. I was bullied in school. I didn’t talk about it a lot growing up, but it was a chapter in my life… and a very vivid one at that. I was bullied because I was different… and people were uncomfortable. What I’ve come to realize though is that people are uncomfortable with what they don’t understand. At the end of the day, that isn’t about me though. That is about them. My part is that I have a choice… I can let them live in that ignorance or I can choose to educate them and normalize things for them a little bit. I also have the choice to allow their ignorance to change their perception of me or not. In the end, I know in my heart that helping normalize my situation for them is better for everyone. They learn something and then I feel more accepted at the end of the day. Sure… it might be uncomfortable for people in the beginning… but then again, I might end up making a deeper connection with someone that I wouldn’t have had if I hadn’t allowed myself to be vulnerable with them.
My battle with cancer has been another example of a really tough struggle that had a beautiful journey in the process. I cried a lot. It sucked. It was hard… but I wouldn’t change it for the world. It’s the reason you’re sitting here reading this right now.
If you ever feel ashamed of your past, know that you are a better version of yourself BECAUSE of those really hard chapters. Own them. Share them. Give them a voice… and then use that voice to do something good and positive with it to help someone else. You were MEANT to have those things happen in your life. Do something meaningful with it.