I was tagged on Twitter yesterday as someone who “owns her ugly.”
It made me smile.
And then it made me reflect.
You see, I didn’t always own my ugly.
In fact, I engaged in all types of mental gymnastics to wall myself off from it and to distract others from looking at it (Hey! Look over here!).
I was afraid that by allowing others to see my ugly, I would give them a reason to leave me.
And abandonment has always been my greatest fear.
But that’s silly, isn’t it? Not the fear of being abandoned. That’s a very real monster. But the thought that I could somehow fool people (and I’m including my ex-husband in this category) that I didn’t have any ugly.
Because we ALL do.
We all experience motivations at time that are ego-driven. We all fail to fully listen to others at times and instead assume what we want to believe. We all can overreact to something in the present when it twinges on a nerve laid down in the past. We all can allow our insecurities to dictate our actions.
We all try. And we all fall short sometimes.
This particular group on Twitter has been brought together through the experience of infidelity. Some were the unfaithful partners and some are the betrayed. It’s easy when you’ve been cheated on to spend your energy pointing fingers at the unfaithful partner. It’s a lot harder to look at yourself, especially when your own ugly seems so minimal when placed next to something so horrific as an affair.
But that doesn’t mean it’s not important.
In fact, it’s critical. At least if you want things to change.
I can identify three different iterations of ugly in myself that surrounded my husband’s infidelity:
In a purely hypothetical, if my ex-husband had come to me and revealed that a friendship with a woman had started to cross some boundaries, I would have screamed at him, cried until my face was purple and swollen and made him feel “less than” for even having an attraction to someone else.
My reaction would have been fear-driven (What if he decides he likes her more than me?), but it would act to intensify my husband’s shame as well as encourage him to hide things from me instead of bringing them out into the open.
This was at its ugliest right after my husband left. I felt like I had some sort of moral superiority over my ex, yet under that guise of virtue was really a desire to punish and a need to be loved.
When he left, my ex was generous with his criticism of me, painting me as materialistic, negative and unaffectionate (none of which are my brand of ugly). And so I became defensive, needing to prove that he was bad and weak whereas I was good and blameless.
And yes, unlike him, I was faithful in my marriage. I never lied to him or withheld important information. But that doesn’t make me better than him. It just makes me different. For a time, I thought that admitting to my own weaknesses would justify what my ex to me. But that’s not the case. No matter my uglies, he’s still responsible for his choices. That part is all his to own.
“Look what he did to me!” I would cry out to anyone who would listen. “Look at these unjust wounds!” I would exclaim, detailing the exact nature of his betrayals. It felt good in the moment as others would rush to comfort me and condemn his actions.
But it also felt disempowering. As a victim, I was faultless, but I was also impotent, unable to change my situation. It was scary to let go of this guise because it meant taking responsibility for my own healing (It was WAY easier to insist that I needed something from my ex to make it happen).
Once you own your ugly, three powerful shifts occur –
1 – Nobody can use your ugly against you. Think of it like blackmail. Once it’s in the open, the blackmailer has no power over you.
2 – You are no longer threatened by the ugly in others. You understand that we all have our faults and you respect those that are willing to face and address their own.
3 – Before we own our ugly, we often try to change others. Once you own your ugly, you recognize the power you have in changing yourself.