I messed up.
I did something really thoughtless last week, and ended up hurting several people who are very important to me. Have you done that before? It sucks.
I spent the better part of the week swinging between hating myself and feeling sorry for myself. This is what happens when we get stuck in the victim/villain/hero triangle. (I didn’t create it - Stephen Karpman did, but I think it’s a great model to explain drama in human relationships.) When I thought about what I did, I felt like a villain, so I hated myself. When I thought about their response, I felt like a victim, so I hated them. And the whole time I was looking for a hero to save me from the whole damn mess.
But the thing about each place on the triangle is that they’re all the same role, just in different clothing. Whether I feel like a victim, villain, or hero, it’s still all about me. It basically takes the same amount of disempowering self-loathing to pity myself, hate myself, or rescue myself.
Here’s what I know about this drama triangle: The only way out is to stop looking at yourself and start looking at the problem itself.
So I stared at the problem like it was an exhibit in a museum. I got curious. How did we get here? How did this happen? This led to the part where I take responsibility, which led to the part when I realized I needed to apologize. (Shit.)
Apologizing is not an unapologetic wild woman’s favorite thing to do.
As I prepared my apology, those voices of self-pity and self-loathing kept trying to worm their way in - back and forth, one after the other. They told me I shouldn’t have to do this, that it would just make me weak, that I shouldn’t worry about other people’s feelings so much.
Sometimes, wild women, that’s true. Sometimes we get to speak our truth and not give a damn who doesn’t like it. This was not one of those times, and I knew it.
So then the voice told me that I shouldn’t even bother apologizing because it would never make up for the horrible, horrible person I am and the terrible, terrible thing I’d done. They said that I’m not fit for human consumption, and that all I do is cause others pain and suffering so I should just hide away and stop trying to have friendships and relationships at all.
Nothing I told myself seemed to make that particular self-loathing voice quiet down. I was starting to believe it might really be true. I needed some more powerful medicine before I could apologize, or else it would just come from that place of self-denigration and wallowing. I needed to remember that even though I messed up royally, I’m not messed up. I’m still human and worthy of love. So I did something really scary - I asked for love.
First I called my parents and asked them to confirm that I am not, in fact, a completely crazy and worthless human being. They happily obliged.
Then I posted this on Facebook (after deleting it seven times): “If I've meant something to you or made a difference even in a small way in your life, this would be a great time to share that. It's been a really rough week. Feeling defeated. :( ”
I got 52 comments (and counting) from people from all phases of my life. A friend from 4th grade reminded me of a poem I had written back then that she still remembers to this day. A girl I used to babysit when I was 14 (well, she’s a woman now) posted about her sweet memories of me singing her and her sister to sleep every Thursday night for six years. And so many people wrote of the inspiration I gave them to realize that they don’t have to conform to society’s standards of success, but can live whatever life they choose.
I felt buoyed by all of this love, and so glad I pushed through the fear of being “too needy” to ask for what I needed. It helped me to see myself and my life from a wider angle. I remembered that I’ve done lots of really stupid, hurtful stuff, but that I’ve also done lots of really great, helpful stuff. And that’s true for the people I hurt last week, too. It’s true for all of us.
Finally, all voices of self-pity and self-loathing aside, I made my apology. No, it doesn’t make up for my actions and no, things will never be the same between us. I still very much regret my actions and wish to god that I could take them back.
All I can do is hope that admitting my mistake and apologizing for it will make some, small difference for the recipients of my hurtful actions last week. And I can learn from this so I don’t hurt someone like this again in the future. And, I can continue to love myself no matter what.
Update: I've received several messages asking things like, "What did you do?" and "This post only makes sense if we knew what you did wrong!" My intention is not to be a tease, readers, but to refrain from causing any further harm. Because the short answer is that I processed something publicly that should have been kept private - at least for now. And I didn't think about who else was involved and who might be hurt by it. To say more than that now would be to make the same mistake twice. My hope is that there is still a lesson within this post that can be learned without the gory details. Thank you for reading!
Get something from this post? Share it! Want to make sure you receive new blog posts from Professional Wild Woman? Sign up for the email list and join our tribe!
What type of wild woman are you?
Hello! I'm Melanie Munir, founder of Professional Wild Woman - a women's empowerment business dedicated to helping women who are tired of feeling either "too much" or "not enough" to connect to their inner wildness so they can create work that allows them the fullest expression of their unique voice. Welcome!