From Shame to Freedom
I can't remember how old I was when it began. When this voice inside my head became more and more dominant. It was the voice who liked to begin her sentences with "Don't".
"Don't be lazy!" "Don't be selfish!" "Don't be untidy!"
"Don't be so needy!"
"Don't let them down!"
It was the voice who sounded strict and anxious. Every time she spoke, I would snap to attention and pause whatever it was I was in the midst of doing to check if I was doing something wrong. Or about to do something wrong. It always felt like something big was at stake. Because it seemed that all those exhortations were different ways of telling me "Don't screw up or you won't be loved!"
This voice also liked to begin her sentences with "Remember".
"Remember to check everything twice!" "Remember to make the house presentable before they come!" "Remember to plan ahead!" "Remember to get everything done ahead of time!" "Remember to be grateful and stay humble!"
There are harsher words the inner critic uses, but I don't wish to re-live them here. I have lived with this voice being the dominant voice in my head for so long that it never occurred to me that there were other parts or voices to my inner self. I forgot that there ever was a vulnerable and playful child within me too - a child that had been hurried and corrected and shushed and criticised and pushed to do everything that is "right", and stared down for doing anything that hints of "wrong".
When I finally met my inner child again, she had questions for this Big Voice who had governed me for so long.
"Will you still love me if I'm naughty?" "Will you still love me if I fail?"
"Will you still love me if I'm messy and needy?" "Will you still love me if I boast of what I did well?" "Will you still love me if I don't want to help and just do my own thing?" "Will you still love me if I don't share?"
"Will you still love me if I doubt?"
"Will you still love me if I don't want to work? If I watch TV all day?"
"Will you still love me if I'm not the person you want me to be?"
My inner child was both fearful and hopeful, for she had held these questions in for so very long. Questions she needed to ask. Questions she was afraid to get answers for.
My inner critic was flabbergasted. Such behaviours would surely get me in trouble! How can they be permitted? Yet the appeal of the child was undeniable. The inner critic would need help to love this precious little one. It was something she did not know how to do.
They both turned to Me, and I realised I did not know how to hold them together in harmony either. So I asked for grace - I asked God to show me how to receive love and how to love myself. Then God sent me people who were able to welcome the various parts of me without judgment; people who sometimes even knew me better than I knew myself and still loved me.
Slowly I learned that the human love I yearned for most was from myself. That in some deep part of me, I could not really receive anyone else's love until I had learned to love myself. And that it was only when I was secure in God's love for me AND my own love for myself that I could offer a love without hidden demands to another.
I am still a work in progress, but I finally feel at home with myself. And although there will always be times when I experience inner turmoil - when my inner critic is shouting and my inner child is wailing (or hiding in fright) - I now know how to let them run the course they need to run until they remember they are ALL welcome. I love them all, oh yes, more than they know.
I have finally become a safe space for myself.
Tune in to my conversation with founder of Anam Cara Ministries (anam cara means 'soul friend' in gaelic) Edwina Yeow about safe spaces in podcast episodes 21 and 22 to discover more about this essential component to your own interior journey.
Listen to Episode 22 Being A Safe Space for Myself (with Edwina Yeow) on the Becoming Me Podcast from Wednesday 19 May, 2021.
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