All that stands between the person you are and the person you are capable of becoming is the manner in which you choose to behave – not your fears, not your desires, not your excuses.
Without any of those things changing, you could, at any time, choose to behave differently.
Still wanting to feel in control, you could acknowledge that the only place where you have control is your actions, and change them.
Still feeling afraid of so many things, you could choose to act not merely in deference to your fear, but in defiance of it. It is not impossible; it is courage, the very definition of.
Still wishing that the truth were not what it was, and is, you could choose to speak the truth anyway, even where it is ugly, even where it might be inconvenient to you, even where it might be costly to you. Even where it might reveal the imperfection everyone already knows is there, whether or not they know all the details, because we are all of us imperfect.
Still wanting to avoid “punishment” by pursuing perfection, you could choose instead to own up to where you have done or are doing wrong, and start doing right. Acknowledge fault where it exists, correct the record, reach out, apologize, make amends, get help with making the deeper changes that tend to require time and effort to unfold.
Often, those who love you and have been hurt by you are longing to know that you regret the harm you did, that their pain matters to you. You might help heal the harm. You might even find they are willing to let you back into their lives. That they have only been waiting for you to leave behind the behaviors that caused pain, and to acknowledge that you did, and be in their lives as the better self they knew, and knew you were capable of being in full. Even if the latter is not in the cards, isn’t knowing that you helped to heal a human being you injured a worthy endeavor? Isn’t being a decent human being who acts from more than selfish motives the person you want to be, the person you will be proud to be, and find peace and self-respect and self-love in knowing you are?
You might also find yourself feeling closer to people, truly close, maybe for the first time – because allowing yourself to be imperfect, you are more likely to be able to forgive others their imperfections, instead of treating unpleasant emotions and bad moments as reasons for fear, as reasons to lash out, as reasons to demonize, dehumanize, or to sever all ties. Having demonstrated that you are willing and able to own faults, and in doing so, that you see such things as able to be overcome, as forgivable, you might also find others opening up to you in the same way. You might get to hear some things you, too, have been longing for. And suddenly, you have true intimacy – mutual honesty and empathy and trust and comfort.
Honesty is not merely the only means to get meaningful help (how can someone help when they don’t even know all – or any – of what is wrong?), and the foundation of trust and of intimacy, it is also the minimum prerequisite for truly loving and truly being loved, and feeling loved. If you are always trying to hide parts (or all) of who you are (whether those parts are actions denied or thoughts and emotions never expressed in action), even in the unlikely event that no one sees through or suspects your dissembling, you will always be aware of it, and aware that if anyone feels love for you, what is loved is a facade, not the whole of yourself.
There is no guarantee that if you choose to behave differently, your choices will always have the results you want – or even that they ever will. But if you continue to behave as you do, it is almost certain that you will always feel at least some degree of loneliness and at least to some extent unloved – and likely, wholly so. You will almost certainly feel increasingly fearful, worrying “what if” about the lies you tell, and the truths you hide, being revealed. And you will, sooner or later, have to face something much more painful than fear or loss or failure: regret. The things that go wrong when we try, we can grieve and, having grieved, move on. The things we never allowed ourselves even a chance at having – those are the things that tend to haunt us.
Besides, changing our behaviors is the way we change who we are to everyone else in the world (no one else experiences what we keep inside – to everyone else, our actions are who we are), and eventually, who we are in our own thoughts and feelings – who we are within ourselves. There are some things we cannot purely think our way out of. Anxiety. Loneliness. Dysfunction. Deception. We have to go beyond thought to action, whether it is drawing calming breaths, or trembling out words we are afraid to speak while our hearts race.
This is a statement of the truth that lovable and unlovable don’t exist – no one possesses qualities that cause or repel love. Love is something that arises, generally unbidden, in another person, of its own volition. Let go of worrying about whether you are something that is only imaginary. Instead, be your honest, best self, take responsibility for your actions and the truth of the words you speak, and believe in forgiveness – including in forgiving yourself when you do, as will inevitably happen, make mistakes or behave badly (just make sure you also hold yourself accountable, and act to change, to do better in the future – otherwise, you are not so much forgiving as indulging yourself). Do so, and when someone loves you, you will have the security of the knowledge that their love is true, and not directed at a fictitious person you wear like a mask.
This is a statement of the truth that it is possible to see someone’s worst self and still love the whole person, even if you do not love those particular harmful qualities, even if it may be that person cannot be in your life as they are. And that, all things being possible, remorse is possible, apology, forgiveness, even reconciliation are possible. And should they never come to be, it is alright to live in the space of acknowledging that you love where there is necessary separation, or no reciprocation. Feelings are not all logical, love maybe least of all. You feel what you feel; where it is not healthy, where it brings you harm, where it is the source of an unfulfilled desire, you can accept that the love is true as well as the unpleasant truth. Reality is sometimes unpleasantly complicated. Lying to yourself only adds to the unpleasantness, as it sends you on the downward slide into isolation and emptiness, and you deserve better than that. We all do.
This is a statement of the truth that there is no such thing as “too late” as long as the person or persons in question are still alive. Life is change and possibility. And death comes for us all, sooner or later. Take chances while you have chances to take. Live your life with the acceptance of the inevitability of some pain and failure and disappointment, for the worthy cause of making joy and success and fulfillment possible. Spare yourself regret, and a life of scarcity of the things that make it worth living but tend only to be available to those who accept the risks.
Whatever you believe, I believe, still, in you, in your ability to change, in your ability to do right, in your ability to be strong, and brave, and honest, and to heal. Whether that means anything to you, I can’t know, but maybe there is a chance that it does. Maybe not that it comes from me – maybe just that someone believes in you will make a difference, now, or in the future.
I certainly hope so.
I hope you find whatever it is that will help you cross the distance between where you have been and where you can be, where you are safe and happy and healthy, where you love yourself by treating yourself with love, and love the people you love by treating them with love. Where you do your best to do right by others, and do right by you, too. Where you live a life without regrets, and so enable yourself to build the relationships with meaningful intimacy that will get your through the disappointments and griefs.
I hope you give yourself every chance of living a life full of real happiness. How ever many chances it takes, I hope you never give up on that. I wish that for both of us, actually.
I hope my wish comes true.