Today’s culture is obsessed with the idea that you can change your future, no matter how old you are or what you’ve been doing up until this point. Which is an amazing and positive thought. I love it, and am currently trying to embrace it. I’m going back to school. I started trials when I was 30 (I mean, who starts riding motorcycles at 30?) I’m starting to get into photography. I’m working on my attitudes. Dealing with my anxiety and learning how to work with it. Not apologizing because I think or act differently. Not apologizing for being interested in ‘nerdy’ or ‘geeky’ things. Becoming more confident in myself.

For a long time I had it stuck in my head that whoever we were coming out of high school or college was who we had to be for all of our lives. Even when I started cracking my shell and letting new things in, I really struggled with the ‘new me’ vs ‘old me’ aspect, like two sides fighting a war inside of me. Then, within the last year or two, I realized that there really wasn’t a ‘new me’ or ‘old me’. It was the same me. I was just letting go of the shell and becoming more freeform. And feeling ashamed about it.

I know, it might seem weird. Why would I feel shame for trying to be a better person? But the fact is, I felt it. Some of it was the friends I had at the time. They had settled for working minimum wage jobs and sitting on the couch watching movies and being out of shape. Nothing wrong with that, if that’s what you choose. But it wasn’t what I chose. Fights ensued because I was working and trying to get better, and they had their own issues with that. Whether they realized it or not, they tried to shame me into feeling bad for wanting a different situation with my life. At first, it really hurt me because I was hanging on to the memories of the friendship and I didn’t want to lose it. But I finally realized that no one had the right to make me feel ashamed of myself for wanting to have more confidence. For wanting a life where I was happy. So I made one of the hardest decisions in my life and let them go.

I felt shame because by understanding myself and becoming more of who I felt comfortable with, I was letting people down. A friend got me into a MLM health business. The company was great. He was awesome at it. Me, the introvert? Not so much. I struggled for two years, always making promises and beating myself up because I couldn’t make it happen. Then I realized something. I’m not good at sales. Some people are and that’s great. I’m not. I’m an introvert. I have anxiety. I hate talking on the phone. I hate talking to strangers. That’s not my zone. My zone is writing. Art. Getting to know someone one-on-one. I felt a lot of shame for letting him down because he believed in me so much. But I realized that people have to accept that not everyone is like them. And I was tired of doing the same thing over and over again. Trying to jam my square into a circle because someone else believed that I could. I’d been doing it for my entire life, and it never worked. There was no shame in standing up for myself and not wanting to keep banging my head against a wall.

Finally, I felt ashamed because of how unlike me I had been for so many years. For a reason I still can’t identify, I feel the need to apologize to myself for doing things differently. I mean, I recently started working out in the mornings. Just little things, like shoulder rolls and arm circles and working on a balance board. Takes about 5 minutes. It feels amazing and I can already feel the difference in my core and my upper body. Yet it makes me feel ashamed that I spent so many years not doing this simple thing. Why didn’t I just do this before? Why was I always lazy? Why did I procrastinate? I’ve been doing this with so many things lately, as my boyfriend helps me recognize all of the really bad habits I have that don’t have to be there. Mainly my procrastinating. Why don’t I just do the dishes while I’m waiting for my toast? It’s right there. Walking by things when it would take 5 seconds to fix them. I felt shame realizing how much I procrastinate. I felt shame doing the right things because how could I have not been doing them for so long. Shame that threatens to undermine the new thing so I can just go back to the comfortable old thing that isn’t any good for me.

But that shame I feel is wrong, all the way around. I can’t change how I acted in the past. And how I act now is a really good thing that I can carry on for the rest of my life. Every day I try to push myself to find one little thing to change, one bad habit that I can start nibbling away at until it falls away and its not a habit anymore.

Standing up to your shame and going ‘NO! You don’t get to have a hold over me anymore” is a hard thing. Like I said, I’ve lost friends. I’ve lost jobs. I’ve lost a lot trying to get myself out of bad situations that weren’t any good for me. I’m not going to sugarcoat it. Getting yourself to a good place mentally, physically and environmentally takes work, sweat and a lot of hard decisions.

But in the end its been worth it. I’m going back to school to finish my degree in Technical Writing so I can finally get a good job in a field that I love. I live in a beautiful state where I can go hiking and ride my trials bike, and have made some great new friends that have become family. I met my boyfriend, and can’t imagine my life without him. And most importantly, I’m striving forward to make me better everyday. Exploring this world unapologetically. Having fun and finding all the excitement and wonder the world has to offer.

Shame probably has its place in our lives to tell us when something we’ve done is wrong, or has hurt somebody’s feelings. Yet it can grow and take over our lives, stunting our growth. It gets misplaced, and we feel it in places where it shouldn’t ever be.

We should never be ashamed for wanting to take care of ourselves. For wanting to get ourselves in a happy place, whatever your individual happy place turns out to be. Other people do not have the right to make you feel ashamed for anything. Shame steals so much of our happiness, and we let it. For no reason other than someone else told us that we should feel ashamed about that.

Identify your shame. What specific things make you feel ashamed. Why? If the answer is anything close to ‘someone else is making you feel ashamed because you aren’t acting like they want you too’, it’s time to dump it. It’s time to move on.