Your closet is filled with skeletons, some of which are much more terrifying to face than others. You know it’s time to rid the hiding place of its decaying bones, but how? Here are four gentle ways to begin cleaning out the closet for good.
It’s the only thing you see when you look in the mirror. You no longer notice the color of your eyes or the way you smile — just the secret hiding behind the stranger staring back at you. You’re desperate to be free from the past that continues to haunt your present, but at this point you’re not even sure if freedom is an option. There’s very little left of your original identity, and while you know talking to someone will help, you just can’t bring yourself to actually go through with it. The pain is too real and too much.
You know how to survive each day wearing the mask that hides your secret and to take it off would leave you exposed and vulnerable. Here, however, are four gentle steps to help you peel away the layers of shame and guilt and replace them with confidence and empowerment.
1. Journal. One of the best places to begin the healing process and start to gain the confidence to free yourself from your pain is in your journal. It’s there you can tell every deep, dark secret without the fear of anyone ever finding out. Moving the pain from your mind to your paper helps clear away all of the lies the secret has been telling you. It also frees you from living in the past and opens up the present moment where you were created to live.
2. Feel. Another phase of healing and gaining confidence is giving yourself permission to feel every emotion that shows up as you go through the process. Removing the words “should” and “shouldn’t” from your vocabulary allows you to experience what you’re feeling to the fullest. You’ll be honoring your essence, extracting the truth of your identity, overwriting an outdated operating system and creating a space for a reignited passion for life.
“What if” will more than likely wedge its way into your thoughts, but the negativity these words conjure up also needs to be eliminated from vocabulary. Instead of following the path of these words back into the darkness of secrecy, use them to your advantage. “What if” by telling your secret you learn to live again? “What if” people already know you’ve been silently dying and they love you anyway? “What if” when you finally free yourself from your past and love the real you your family will be able to love you unconditionally as well? “What if” your life actually will be better than you could ever imagine once you let the proverbial cat out of the bag?
Remember, too, as you continue the process, to keep journaling in order to keep your mind from getting clouded with negativity.
3. Forgive. Regardless of whether your secret is an addiction, an affair or a little white lie you told in the third grade, you’re not the same person now as you were then, and it’s time to forgive yourself. You were simply doing the best you knew how to do at the time. Take the lesson you’ve learned from whatever happened and use it as a strength and a life skill to help others.
If it’s a pain which wasn’t yours to carry in the first place — a wrong committed by someone else and the pain is still too much to bear — spend some time journaling about life from that person’s perspective. While I would never advocate forgiving the action, forgiving the person (including yourself) is the only way to move into the present and find the confidence to heal your life.
4. Reveal. Once you’re at the place where your past has been reconciled with your present and you feel strong enough to finally speak to someone other than the person in the mirror, choose someone you know who will have only your best interests at heart. This person needs to be someone who sees you through the eyes of God, who won’t try to “one-up” you by saying, “Oh, please. You think that’s bad. What till I tell you what I did!” Choose someone who can be in the pain with you until it no longer hurts.
Surround yourself only with people who support and love you and will walk through the fire with you until you no longer have any association with your secret. Replace the parts of your mind that were convoluted with thoughts of your secret with scriptures and reminders that because of grace you are loved unconditionally, forgiven forever and cherished beyond imagination.