This is a story about the day I looked in the mirror and caught myself cheating, on myself.
Almost 10 years ago, my then-boyfriend and I were in the midst of a long and painful breakup. He had fallen in love with a woman nearly half my age. Until we could figure out our finances to separate and how we could each afford to live on our own again, I had moved into the guest bedroom of our house…
…and his new girlfriend moved in to our master bedroom.
Yeah, don’t ask. It’s complicated.
I told myself many things during that time, including:
- I’m being a good spiritual person for accepting them with love and grace vs anger and spite
- If you love something, set it free.
- You have to forgive and forget and be the bigger person
- I’m so open minded, look at what an enlightened, loving soul I am!
But what I didn’t tell myself during that time was the one thing that mattered most.
The guest bedroom shared a wall with the master bedroom and even though I deliberately put the bed furthest away from the shared wall, I could still hear their muffled moaning through the wall. One night at 2am, I’d had enough and despite all the things I told myself to justify my circumstances, I ran to the bathroom and broke down. Sobbing quietly, I held my hands over my mouth trying to stifle the sounds of a shattered heart because I didn’t want them to know they’d beaten me, that they’d finally broken me.
And more importantly, I didn’t want ME to know that I was broken. I couldn’t admit it. After all, I’m a strong, spiritual person and I can transcend any life situation with love and light.
But in a moment of grace, I caught a flash of my reflection in the mirror and saw someone staring back with red, tired and swollen eyes, and I realized that I had been broken for a long time.
My boyfriend hadn’t cheated on me. I was cheating on myself.
My boyfriend hadn’t abandoned me. I had abandoned myself.
My boyfriend hadn’t broken his promise to me, I had broken my promise to myself.
My life wasn’t in pieces because of what they did to me, it was in pieces because of what I did to myself.
I had been lying about how I REALLY felt – which was a jumble of anger, bitterness, resentment, jealousy, unworthiness, disappointment and hurt – because spiritually enlightened people don’t feel those things, I thought, they only feel love, light and peace.
I had been cheating on myself in the name of spirituality, hiding my true feelings behind a facade of enlightenment.
I realized that I was the liar, the cheater, the one being unfaithful – to myself.
Once I faced that, once I stopped denying how I REALLY felt and started to OWN my anger, pain and darkness – THAT was when the real growth began.
OWN YOUR PAIN AND DARKNESS
I had been so busy trying not to look at the dark parts of me that I couldn’t see how much darkness I was creating on my own.
This realization allowed me to stop being dismissive and dishonest with myself – which gave room for all these feelings, thoughts and emotions to surface. And what happened next is quite beautiful…
On the surface though, it looked quite ugly.
I went out to dinner with my best friend and we spent the entire night talking bad about my ex and his new lover. It felt good, really good. In fact, if you were sitting at the table next to us, you would’ve heard the most gleefully vindictive, shallow, angry and bitter words come out of my mouth and you may have judged me for being unspiritual and unevolved. You might’ve even thought, “that woman is a hateful person.”
But my friend knew what I was doing. And she was happy to finally see me be real and stop hiding behind the veil of enlightenment and spirituality. It felt good to be real, even if that realness meant I was not being loving to them.
The truth is I was being loving to myself. I was finally allowing myself to FEEL exactly as I felt in the moment. The words coming out of my mouth were mean and hateful toward my ex and his partner, but the act itself – of allowing myself to express mean and hateful – was a loving act toward myself.
THE BEGINNING OF HEALING
This is where healing begins… and this process can be very painful but it ultimately put me back in touch with my authenticity, with who I truly am, beneath the pretense of a good spiritual being.
I started to see that all of those “ugly” parts of myself were just as much a part of me as my love and light. I began to see that I was denying a part of myself in the name of spirituality.
Denying our feelings, pain, anger and darkness is not spiritual – it’s actually quite the opposite. It’s when we start to face our truth, even if it’s uncomfortable, that we begin to grow spiritually.
So how do we do this? How can we learn to embrace all aspects of ourselves, including the “ugly” ones?
Here are a few tips:
Start by acknowledging that all parts of you are valid and deserve your love and acceptance. This includes the dark and light sides, as well as everything in between.
Make room for all aspects of yourself by creating a safe space for them. In my case, I knew my friend wouldn’t judge me and I felt safe knowing that as ugly as I got, she knew the real beauty of me and would hold a loving space for any feelings to pass.
Know that what you feel in any given moment isn’t the absolute truth about who you are. Emotions are fleeting, and just because you feel spiteful and angry in this moment doesn’t mean that you’re a spiteful and angry person. It simply means that you’re feeling spite and anger flow through you. Remember that emotions = energy in motion. You are not your emotions. What you feel does not make you who you are.
Don’t forget that self care and self love are key when we move into our shadow selves. You can’t explore all the darkness within if you aren’t taking good care of yourself on an emotional level. As I asked of my partner, I now ask only of myself. I have to be with me, through thick and thin, through the shadow and light, and never abandon myself or be unfaithful to myself.
It’s normal to feel scared (and even ashamed) when we venture into our shadow selves. We have been taught by society that those feelings are bad and we need to hide them from public view. For those of us into spiritual development, we’re further taught that we should be loving, forgiving and accepting while those other feelings are for those who are “less evolved” and “unenlightened”.
We may not be used to exploring the shadow side of ourselves, but it’s an important part of our spiritual growth. In fact, the shadow side of us is as valid as any other aspect of us. This is true spirituality.
Instead of cheating on ourselves with a facade of spirituality, let’s be faithful to our true selves and live a genuinely spiritual life by embracing all parts of ourselves.