how to forgive yourself and find peace

You know those times when you can clearly see you’re about to do something stupid, but you just can’t make yourself not do it?

It’s like those times when there’s an accident on the side of road and you know you’re supposed to drive by at normal speed, but you just can’t help slowing down and having a peek. Then that image sticks with you and gives you nightmares for the rest of the month. All of a sudden you feel like the worst human ever for what you’ve done and now you’re stuck in a feeback loop from hell. Well, that was me a couple of weeks ago (minus all the gore, though).

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you know I’m in the middle of a yearlong shopping ban (you can read all about it here and here) and what I’m sharing here is about coping with failure.

I was doing well and finding out a lot about myself and why I have the urge to fill my life with things. But, most importantly I was feeling better. I was dealing with my anxiety better, (which BTW I didn’t even know I had before I started on this journey), and feeling all the feelings I had previously silenced with things. I liked how the annoying chatter in my mind got quieter and I could finally be at ease. Well, for the most part at least. Then came the challenge.

My husband went on a three-week business trip to Canada and New York and my monkey brain went on overdrive thinking about all the things I could ask him to bring me. Yes, I’m that annoying friend who always asks you to bring her something from your latest trip. I thought I used to be that friend, I thought I could do better, I thought I could be better, but instead my levels of anxiety went up the roof. At first, I did what I had already been doing since I started the shopping ban, but then 2 days before he came back, it all hit the fan. I panicked and asked him to bring me a brand new iPhone.

I could rationalize all day long here and list all the very plausible reasons why I needed that phone, but the truth is I broke a promise I had made to myself and I felt awful. So much so that I could not bring myself to open that damn box and use my new phone for a whole week. I was in a spiral of shame and guilt and I was beating myself up really badly for it.

I can be my own worst enemy, make no mistake about it, but the worst part was that all that chatter was back in mind full throttle. Because I knew what peace felt like (I had experienced it for a whole month after all) I knew the state I was in now was not what I wanted. It wasn’t only about having bought the phone, but all the crazy talk going on in my head. I was oscillating between beating myself up and thinking about all the things I would have to buy now to go with my new phone.

Had I learned nothing? Apparently not at that point, because I spent a whole day researching phone cases alone. It messed with my sleep and my ability to be present. I was day-tripping like a mad woman and I did not like that one bit. And then it hit me: I used to feel like that all the time.

No wonder I didn’t have enough time to do all the things I wanted to do, no wonder I was constantly tired and pissy. This thing was all consuming and I had no idea it was this bad because that was how it had always been. That was me all the time. But, now that I had experienced what not feeling that way was like I couldn’t just go back to zombie mode. Not without a fight.

So I did the only thing I could do: forgive myself. I had to accept what was, take responsibility for my actions and forgive myself for not being perfect.

It hasn’t been easy and there are days when I still feel like a failure, but I always try to have some compassion for myself and let go of all the expectations of perfection. I’m still very much in the messy middle, but shifting my attitude made things a little lighter.

I am now back to my initial plan and taking all the necessary steps to avoid falling into that vortex again, and I added another month to my shopping ban. I am far from being perfect, but I’m willing to look at myself with kinder eyes. And most of all, I’m hopeful. I know what peace feels like, and I look forward to feeling that again.