What happens when you stay in a situation that isn’t working, denying your own needs long enough?
Your needs, your health, and your well-being begin to demand to be heard. Even if you don’t heed that call, the truth will come out. Unfortunately, it will come out sideways. Perhaps you’ll become ill. Or depressed. Or if you’re like me, you’ll find yourself expressing those needs in destructive ways.
What my ex-husband discovered when he read my journals years ago was how my true self had expressed herself sideways. What he read was that eight years earlier, I had an affair.
Looking back, I see that I’d been able to be myself with this other man. I’d been able to be who I really am.
I didn’t need to play the role of the perfect wife. I didn’t have to manage my actions and reactions around him. That man loved the real me.
When we are ruled by our unmet needs we do things we regret. Years later, it is still hard for me to disclose that I had an affair. I wish I’d never been that person, and my lifelong preference for perfection lingers. But in learning to tell the truth to yourself and others so that you can live your authentic life, I knew I had to tell those who read my blog, my books, listen to my radio show… all of you – the truth.
So, I have laid myself bare, mistakes and all. I’m not proud of what I did. But at the same time, on some level, I understand my own actions as an attempt to connect with my authenticity. A misguided effort, yes, but it was an attempt at finding and becoming my real, essential self.
The woman I am today would have walked away from that marriage rather than have an affair. But as they say, hindsight is 20/20.
Instead, I betrayed my husband. But prior to that, I had betrayed myself. It was self-abandonment that led to my infidelity. I betrayed myself by pretending to be someone I was not. I betrayed myself in my marriage for eighteen years. And that marriage was a long time to be away from me.
Together, my husband and I had managed to build a strong façade for the outside world. I thought everyone must look at our marriage and assume it was picture-perfect, which was just how I wanted it. If I’d walked away, I would’ve had to admit that the image was false.
Because of my deep fear of being imperfect—of being dispensable, like my brother had been—I could not even admit to myself that our marriage wasn’t working, let alone admit it to my husband or anyone else.
There was shame for me in admitting that I couldn’t live up to my own idea of who I thought I “should” be. And my idea, of course, was impossible: the perfect Superwoman who could fix anything and juggle everything, without ever letting a ball drop. None of us are capable of that, no matter how hard we try.
As author and teacher Brené Brown says, “Perfectionism is a shield that we carry with a thought process that says, ‘If I look perfect, live perfect, work perfect, and do it all perfectly, I can avoid or minimize feeling shame, blame, and judgment.’” She’s so right.
What drives you to seek approval, step over your own boundaries, and engage in other disempowering behaviors and thoughts? Will you share yours with me on Facebook… click here to join the conversation!