Shame & Gold Stickers: Finding peace in the process


Work in progress: Orange Hills 8"x10" oil on canvas, $175.00 © Sarah Marie Lacy, 2012.

Work in progress: Orange Hills 8"x10" oil on canvas, $175.00 © Sarah Marie Lacy, 2012.


This morning, I am sitting and breathing into the anxiety.

My calendar tells me that it’s April. I’m not sure how that happened. At the end of this month, I’m moving what remains of my belongings to my parents’ house in Ontario, and then on May 21st, I’m flying to France with a couple of suitcases of clothing and art supplies to study and live for several months.

I have something close to $11,000 in payments to make by that date in May.

I also have a confession to make: I’m failing.

Or at least, that’s what my shame tells me. My shame tells me that every month I didn’t make $6000 (5x what I usually make), I have failed.

Every month that I struggle to shine big and be a bad ass and thrive and quadruple my income because I’m still trying to figure that stuff out, I’ve failed.

Every month that the wounds I haven’t healed yet are still there, and still hold me back, I’ve failed.

Every moment that I’m not filled with joy, sparkles and unicorn poop, I’ve failed.

Anyone else ever feel that way?

Dreams are hard for me. Thriving is hard for me. Scraping by is what I know really well. I can make that dollar stretch. I can make what little I have make-do for ages.

And yet, I know that I have so much. Independence and freedom. A career that I love. Wonderful friends. My other half who is so amazing and supportive. Hell, just the country that I live in. (Canada, heck yeah!)

But asking for more? Oh boy. That is hard.

Asking to make a-what-feels-insane $30,000 this year so that I can go to the school of my dreams, live in France and do a bit of traveling.

That seems like so much more, so decadent. So much, when others have so little.

Learning to live with the envy of others has been one of the hardest things about doing this. Some friends are envious of me – happy for me, but envious. Strangers envy me. I never know how to respond. In real life, I tend to hide my dream, my plans, so that I don’t have to deal with it. Telling someone you’re moving to France to study classical art is kind of a conversation stopper.

Black and white thinking is a killer.

It’s so easy to forget that deciding to go to France is about a journey towards thriving, not insta-thriving.

I want to fill my dream with beautiful, loving energy, and blow it gently forward, like a boat on a calm sea.

But I often can’t. Sometimes, all I can take are tiny baby steps that I have to fight for. Sometimes, the bigger I dream, the more I shut down.

And then the shame kicks in and I start to think, “Well, I’m either thriving or I’m not and if I’m not, then I’m failing and if I’m failing, I should just give up.”

­See? Black and white thinking. Not so helpful. Very easy to do. Especially when shame clutches at you.

So I’m writing here to remind myself of a few things.

And maybe to remind you too, as you move towards dreams of your own.

1.       It’s the trying that’s most important.

I could have given up. I could have decided that my life would be much easier, simpler and calmer if I just played it safe and didn’t go for what I really, fiercely desire.

But as hard as it is for me to let myself thrive, I’m trying. No matter how badly I think that I’m doing that, I am all-out-trying to change the way that I live my life and to heal the exquisitely painful things that hold me back.

2.       It’s not about the gold star stickers or the yardstick.

I have an internal yardstick, except there are no gradated values on it –  there’s only success and the end I hit myself with.

Success. Failure. Either, or. Black, white.

I’m either making $10,000 a month or I’m not and everyone will see and know that I suck and that I’m a failure and that I’m contributing absolutely nothing worthwhile to the world.

That’s a space I really have to breathe into. Engrained messages of perfection fuel that yardstick. That voice tells me that if I can just get the gold sticker for meeting all of my goals, then I’m safe, I’m loved, and it’ll all be okay. No one will be able to see what a fraud I am.

Goals are useful. Goals are not a measure of your worth as a human being. It can be easy to lose sight of that.

I’m on a journey – a journey where I’m growing, learning useful things, teaching myself about life, picking up bits of wisdom and figuring out who I am.

That stuff is a goldmine, but an intangible one. I don’t get gold stars for that. (Or maybe I should! Gold stars forever!)

There’s really no end destination here. Just one journey, one quest, melding into another. Failure doesn’t exist here

3.       I’m okay. Really. So are you.

I’m where I’m supposed to be. I’m learning what I need to learn. I’m growing and healing and doing my best to love myself in this hard place.

I’m learning to be on my own team, to defend myself against the shame, to ask only the best I can give in that moment and not perfection every second of the day.

I’m learning to rest when I need to rest and to push when I need to push.

I’m growing into my dream. It’s not pretty, and there’s a lot of fear and panic and crying. Sometimes I just do not know how to move forward. Sometimes, I just don’t know how to let myself be happy.

And I’m learning to not feel ashamed of those things anymore. I am human. I’m a human with a complicated past, who did her best to survive difficult events and developed some coping mechanisms that have become…problematic.

I’m in the process of untangling those mechanisms and building new ones. The self-help books & gurus make it sound so easy and then when, omg it hurts like hell, you feel stupid.

Nope. It actually just hurts like hell. It’s messy. It’s hard. It’s deep, and rich and worthy, but it’s not actually easy. Sometimes it’s simple, but it’s not usually easy. I’m tired of buying that lie.

So I’ll end with an invitation.

An invitation to join me, drop the lie and the shame that goes with it, and give yourself a bucket load of permission and as much love as you’re able.

I want to invite you to appreciate how far you’ve come, because if you’re anything like me, you forget all the time.

And even if you can’t give yourself a gold star, I’ll give you one. Because I believe in your greatness, even if you can’t see it.

We can remind each other.