People often think that being unapologetic and unpolished are negative things. They can be in some aspects, like when you hurt others or blame yourself because you can’t achieve something. It’s important to find the positive in being a messy human being. Accept your flaws and learn how to forgive yourself, because then can you find inner peace and enjoy life. Join hosts Jason Wrobel and Whitney Lauritsen in a lovely conversation with empowerment coach Michelle Perry. Michelle is the owner of Successful Diligence, LLC and the bestselling author of The Pebble in My Shoe. Find out why self-forgiveness is the first step in having a better life. Learn how Michelle accepted the fact that she is unapologetically unpolished and proud of it.
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Truth Is Messy: Why Self-Forgiveness Is The First Step To A Better Life With Michelle Perry
Unpacking What It Means To Be Unapologetically Unpolished
This episode’s guest I met through Clubhouse. Actually, I’m second guessing that, Michelle. Did we meet on Clubhouse or did we meet elsewhere and then did a Clubhouse together? We met through your podcast. That’s right. I’m getting it all confused. I have started to associate with Clubhouse. You and I met through your amazing podcast that I was a guest on, called Successful Diligence. We had a conversation when we first met through your prerecorded interview. You use this phrase called unapologetically unpolished. It was an a-ha moment for me, as I suggested that we do a Clubhouse room together. It was resonating with the people that were in the room. We did it a few times. You started your own club based on that idea. It turned out that a lot of people were drawn to this concept of being unapologetically unpolished. It’s because many of us feel like we have to apologize when we don’t feel that we’re polished.
Sometimes we might feel that pressure to be polished all the time, so we don’t have a choice and even an opportunity to not be unpolished, because we’re trying too hard to hold ourselves together frequently. This comes up a lot for a lot of people. This is a topic that we discuss a lot on this show. I’m curious to hear more about your view on this, Michelle, because it’s something that came naturally to you during the discussion. Since you started this club on Clubhouse around it, I’m sure that you’re reflecting on this a lot more and hearing from a lot of people. I would love to hear it and update on your findings around what it means to be unapologetically unpolished.
Thank you for having me on the show. By the way, I’m excited to be here. When we had our pre-chat for my podcast, it usually typically lasts about 15 to 20 minutes and ours went 1.5 hours. There was a definite connection. When I mentioned being unapologetically unpolished, that is something that I’ve been using more and more frequently, as I have embraced self-acceptance, self-compassion, and embracing myself, flaws and all, perfectly imperfect. I’m 47 years old this summer of 2021. I look like I’m twenty. I embrace that as well.
I’ve learned that the older I get, the more unapologetic I become about who I am, how I show up in the world, and achieving the purpose and impact that I was born to achieve and to give as a gift to the world. It’s been received well from people on Clubhouse as I begin to infuse the messaging into different projects. It’s been received and resonating well with my audience. It’s something that people have been waiting to see someone else demonstrate to give themselves permission to also show up in the world unapologetically.
You mentioned self-compassion, Michelle. This is something that I’m actually spending a lot of time working on because I realized that probably a lot of people, we have been taught to give love and give compassion to others, to give that to ourselves. We hear terms floating around like self-love, self-compassion. I find it’s much more difficult for me to give myself love and compassion versus extending that outward to others.
I’m curious about your process of cultivating compassion and acceptance for yourself. Was that difficult for you? Did you feel like it was something you had to learn because you weren’t taught it as a child or a young person? If so, what was that process of cultivating like that for you for especially for someone like me and probably a lot of our readers where it’s difficult, we’re not used to it, and we weren’t taught as children? What’s that like? How do you suggest we start to cultivate more love and compassion for ourselves?
I was not taught self-compassion. I was actually infused with, not self-hatred, but the opposite of self-acceptance. I was born in 1974 when it was not cool and not popular to be a biracial individual. My mother’s Jewish, my father’s African-American, although I say black because we have no African relatives that I know of. He was black from DC. My parents met, and they got married the night before I made my arrival on the earth on July 19th. I was born on July 20th.
Growing up was challenging. I was exclusively in the Jewish community, which is not conducive to interracial, biracial individuals at that time. It was not something that was common. It was atypical, I’ll say, and so for me, every negative slur, bullying, being different, I internalized as something’s wrong with me. My father left my life when I was three. That was a rejection of your parent. I internalized that as well.Embrace yourself, flaws and all. You are perfectly imperfect. Click To Tweet
I had a rough time growing up and made some poor choices in my adolescence that I had to deal with the consequences of. I had a strong dislike of myself because I saw that there was a truth inside of me of who I was and I was not living that out in the earth. I wasn’t demonstrating that. I wasn’t showing up in truth. I was angry at myself for that. I would beat myself up, and I developed my strong inner self-critic, and I was excelling in those negative maladaptive ways of being. It wasn’t until I found purpose and I started to understand the power of paying attention, and I’m a person of faith, that I began to say, “If God made all things, and everything He said that He made was good. Who am I to argue that me, who He also made, is not good?”
That conviction said, “I’m not perfect, I’m flawed. I have to accept who I am and learn who that is.” As I began to learn myself and develop gratitude and disconnect from other people’s opinions, other people’s viewpoints, and dig into the truth of me, that was when I started to, number one, tell the truth. Number two, accept, and then I could begin the journey to self-love and self-compassion. It’s been a journey. I’m still on the journey. It’s not easy. It’s a dark and dirty one that you have to keep walking and have that perseverance and that tenacity, and that commitment to keep going even when it doesn’t feel good.
It’s beautiful, Michelle. We’re grateful that you speak up with much confidence because it’s inspiring. It makes me wonder why so many people struggle with this. Why is this such a, for lack of a better term, universal experience, regardless of how somebody is raised and what their background is, who they are, what they look like, where they come from? All these factors that seem like most people, I’ve actually never come across a person that does not struggle with this. Is it a rite of passage that we face or are we not set up to educate people on how to move through this faster?
Some people struggle with this their entire lives. Some people don’t even realize how much of a struggle it is, and it comes out in other ways that self-hatred leads them to act or behave or think in all these different ways because maybe they don’t even know that it’s an option to love themselves. Speaking out about this over and over again is important, but giving people some of the tools. What would you say that you found for yourself and also for all of the amazing guests that you have on your podcast? I’m sure that this comes up quite often. What do you think are some of the ways in which people can find that within themselves if they’re struggling with it and they haven’t found a way to love themselves, yet?
It comes down to, that people don’t always have the language for what they feel. You’re right, it’s a universal issue. Men, women, children, adults. My mother, who is 71, is still struggling. My grandfather, who is going to be 101 this summer of 2021, still struggles with it. It has to do with a couple of different variables. I have a twenty-year history of being a clinical social worker in the field of child welfare with the most neglected and abused population, poverty-stricken, sexual abuse, death, the dark side of humanity.
You’re right. It’s a universal issue that sometimes there’s not a language for the emotions that we feel and the feelings. We also, as a society, are busy, that we don’t allow ourselves to process slowdown. We then also don’t always accept the truth. I always go back to telling the truth, because a lot of people will say this and that, but they’re not being honest with themselves. They’re not honest with others. Confidence comes from acceptance.
I was in a room in Clubhouse about competence and speaking and a profound statement came through where this gentleman said, “If you are in the room, if you’re at the table, you are already accepted. You are already qualified. Therefore, you can have peace and security that you are already there. You don’t have to prove yourself.” That applies to more than speaking. It applies to the fact that you made it out of your mother’s womb and you were born. You are qualified, valuable, and worthy, period. A lot of people don’t accept that. Society also gives messages that, “Confront that truth.” We forget the truth that we’ve learned as children before we had language.
We then have to unlearn to re-learn to then finally live out the purpose and value that we have inside of us so that telling the truth is phenomenal for freedom of self. That allows you to then accept, work through the process, and do all the things. That’s the first step of what I work with my clients on. It’s the first step of my personal methodology is that you got to tell the truth. That’s foundational. Once you tell the truth, then you can move to acceptance, then you can move to all the other steps towards self-compassion, self-love, but you got to tell the truth, and telling the truth is scary. It’s not easy. It’s messy. We are equipped and able to handle the truth. That’s the first step.
My curiosity is, how do we get closer to being clear about what our truth is? I sometimes feel that from my experience, and also talking to many friends over the years is that we sometimes convince ourselves that we want certain things. We have specific dreams or aims or things we want to create or be of service to. I found that a lot of those things over the years have been programs or things that others told me.
Other people told me I ought to dream like, “This should be your career path. This should be your dream. Go for that, Jason, because you’re good at that.” As I got into a lot of things in my life, and I started to experience them, I realized that what I thought was my truth was actually someone else’s truth that I had adopted as my own because I wanted to be accepted. I wanted to be loved. I wanted to be acknowledged. I wanted to be significant.
It was almost like an aspect of people-pleasing or survival mechanisms of believing that what other people wanted for me was what I wanted for myself. I found over the years that those are often two very different things. You talk, Michelle, about the messiness of truth. How do we get closer to what that is for ourselves? It’s easy to confuse what other people want or their truth, and we co-opt it as our own. Oftentimes, only or later, we realize it wasn’t our truth in the first place. It was someone else’s that we adopted. How do we clear all that away and get to the heart and the core of our authentic, truthful self?
Jason, I love what you said. It resonated strongly because I am a recovering people-pleaser. I was trained from birth, I want to say to be a people-pleaser. I got so entangled with other people’s expectations, with other people’s ideas about who I am and who I’m supposed to be and what I’m supposed to do. That was me. The image that comes to my mind is of an intertwined vine that I had to untangle to find the truth of who I am.
The only way that I was able to do that, I’ll be honest, was difficult because I had to disconnect from my mother, who was a foundational relationship. I didn’t talk to her for three years. I had to disconnect from other friends and family members. I had to go into a season of life that it was me, my journal, and my mind, which was an interesting, fascinatingly dark place during that season. I had to sit with myself. I had a lot of tears and a lot of lonely nights, which is not easy when you are a people person.
I had to untangle others from myself. That truth-telling of this thought is not mine. This idea is not mine and I dismissed it. I then had to replace it with something else. When some of the things were good, like, I’m good at singing and my mother had me in musical theater and had a dream of me going to Broadway because I lived in New York City when I was growing up. I was on board for a while. I was then like, “I hate this.” I was getting lead roles. I would audition for the Fiddler on the Roof with a ghetto intonation, like street slang, urban talk intonation, because I didn’t want the part and they still gave me the lead part.
I was like, “This is not working.” I had to admit, I don’t want this dream. This is not my dream. It was my mother’s dream to go on Broadway and to sing. She cut a record when she was younger. I could sing also, but that wasn’t for me. I had to tell the truth that I don’t want this. It was scary then because it was like, “What do I want? I am good at this. I am good at that, but what do I want?” For a lot of people, it’s scary to admit what you want because then you go into “Can I get it? How do I do that? There’s are many other people doing the same thing. What if I’m not good enough?”
All of those sorts of thoughts, sitting with that, and not dismissing it, acknowledging it, telling the truth, but then also acknowledging the courage. “I’ve made it this far. I’ve been walking my whole life. I’ve made it through some dark times. I can make it through this, too.” Putting in practical strategies for myself like a gratitude practice. I was suicidal at one time in my life, so when I started my gratitude practice, my one thing that I could say I was grateful for, “I’m grateful that I’m on this side of the dirt.”People don't always have the language for what they feel. Click To Tweet
That was my gratitude practice for months until I could add another thing. I then added another thing and then I added another thing. It was building, but I built small because that was how I could digest it and allow myself to grow. Starting small with the truth and replacing the things that are not mine, that didn’t belong to me with things that do belong to me and sitting with the uncomfortableness. Being not necessarily comfortable being uncomfortable, but acknowledging I’ve got to feel uncomfortable to make progress. It’s part of the process. That was how I started my journey with that.
My curiosity is, how did your mom react or respond, Michelle, when you made it clear to her that you weren’t going to pursue the dream that she had for you? What was that like? First of all, congratulations on manifesting the courage of getting clear about your truth to know that wasn’t your dream. That was a dream that was installed in you by someone else. When you have that conversation or series of conversations with your mother, how did she take it? How did she treat you? What did that do to the dynamic between the two of you?
It’s funny, Jason, my mother and I have always had a combative relationship. My personality is a lot stronger than hers outwardly because of my father. He was an extrovert and the life of the party. My mother is more of an academic and repressed a lot of who she is and it wasn’t verbal. When I was going through this process, I was acting out. I wasn’t returning phone calls. I was choosing things that I wanted to do. I was doing my thing and not consulting her. Her feelings were hurt and she was sad.
She would also lash out verbally in some negative ways. That pissed me off, so I would run away and stay at my boyfriend’s house for a week. It was detrimental and negative because I didn’t have the language. I was young. My mother didn’t have the emotional skills that maybe would have helped her handle me and work through that because she had her own issues she was dealing with. I was rageful that she was trying to parentify me, which means that she was trying to get me to mother her when I needed her to mother me. There was a lot of dynamics going on that we probably could have unpacked in therapy if we had gone, but we didn’t. It was hard for a lot of years, and she was not happy. I didn’t understand. I was hurt.
We then didn’t talk for a couple of years. When we re-established contact, I was clear about my boundaries, my expectations, and what I would and would not tolerate. It took years for her to accept my new boundaries and consistency for me for her to understand it and me sitting with feeling horrible that I was hurting my mother because I knew I was hurting her feelings. I knew she didn’t get it but for my sanity and the priority of my emotional health, I had to stick with my boundaries. I had to stick with the consistency of it. I had to trust the process that eventually we would make it to the other side, which we did because we do have a much more loving relationship now because I was able to stick with that process. It was a rocky, dirty, hard, and messy road.
Thank you for sharing that, Michelle. A lot of people can relate to that, but it’s not something that we hear verbalized often. There’s sometimes shame in talking about what our family history is like, what our relationships with our parents are. I feel like it’s often on one end of the spectrum. Either you have a phenomenal relationship with your parents or you had an awful relationship with them and you don’t talk and you don’t feel good about them.
A lot of people fall somewhere else on that spectrum or maybe they want to bring the spectrum to the other side, which sounds like you’ve done. Where you were not in that great place, but you were committed to working through it. That’s inspirational as well because a lot of people are either afraid to do that or they don’t have the tools to do that. It’s like a lot of relationships where your ego gets in the way.
It’s like, “Why should I do this? Why should I put in the work? I didn’t do anything wrong.” It’s all this person’s fault. This blame state. I see this, of course, in marriages. One of my friends is going through a tough time with her husband. Seeing the rage that she’s in with the situation, she wants to work through it, but sometimes the rage and the resentment and the frustration, all of those things get in the way. You don’t fully see the other person.
You might be consciously trying to work through it, but our egos can often block us from that. That comes down to a lot of fear. It’s scary to admit our responsibility. It’s scary to tell somebody how they’ve hurt us. It’s also scary then to be in that vulnerable place where we don’t know how the other person’s going to react because we don’t have control over whether or not they’re going to do the work, too. There’s a lot of bravery in your story, Michelle, and it’s inspiring.
Thank you for that. I never thought of it as being brave. You mentioned a couple of things that I want to unpack because for years, I lived in rage and I can definitely relate to that. I also lived in shame and shame is debilitating. I know you’ve done an episode on the show about shame. I won’t dig into it. The biggest thing that helped me move forward through shame and rage was forgiveness. It wasn’t forgiveness of my mother at first.
It was recognizing I was in a pit. I was in a life that I did not enjoy. I didn’t recognize myself when I looked in the mirror. I wasn’t happy. I knew I wanted something different. I had to be honest with myself about my own flaws and accept them but also forgive myself for how horrible I treated myself, and for what I allowed in my life. I began to pick up the pieces of that first and then recognize that we’re all human and no one is perfect.
My mother did the best she could with what she had. I had to accept that and I had to get my nurturing elsewhere. I had to get the mothering that she didn’t have to give me from other people like my grandmother and even my mother’s friends were mothering to me in different ways. I had to find what I needed elsewhere and forgive my mother for not being who I thought that she needed to be. She ended up being exactly the mother that I did need so that I could become the person that I am now.
I’m grateful for her. She’s still alive. I love that we can still make memories. She still is disrespectful when she comes to visit with my husband and me. He has a big issue with her. We deal with that because she is who she is, so we have to adapt, at the same time, establishing those boundaries. You mentioned marriage as well. My husband and I will be married fifteen years this April 2021. I would say for a good five years, we talked about divorce every other day.
We had a dark period in our marriage until we had a conversation where we told the truth. Going back to the day we got married, when I was offended by something he did and never talked about it. That seed had grown into bitterness and we had to deal with it. I had done some things that he had carried on from our early days of marriage. Until we dealt with the truth, we couldn’t get through the shame and the rage.
Forgiveness is what replaces the rage and the shame and forgiving ourselves first because you can’t give what you don’t have. You have to forgive yourself first. You then can extend that forgiveness to others. That’s where the peace and the joy, the freedom, the confidence, and the empowerment to live your life as you have wanting to be living it comes in. That’s when you can get excited to wake up in the morning and say, “Yes, I get to live another day of my life.” That’s where the joy comes in. It is through that door of forgiveness.
I love that you are talking about this, Michelle. Jason, I want to pass this over to you. You’re often willing to get raw with your experiences. We haven’t talked about rage that much on our show. I know that for you, perhaps the word rage does not suit you, so I’ll let you speak for yourself on this. I do know that you struggle with anger. You feel a lot of it. I’m curious. Do you resonate with the word rage? How do you handle that if you do? If you are not handling it, simply talking openly about it is welcome here. What is Michelle speaking on that is resonating with you?Confidence comes from acceptance. Click To Tweet
It does absolutely resonate because, with my therapist, we identified that a lot of the things that I’m struggling with psychologically and mentally, not everything but a significant portion of it, is repressed rage from my childhood. From things that had happened when I was younger that made me feel extremely unsafe and extremely not protected and taken care of, I have transmuted that rage into adulthood.
First of all, it’s an awareness thing. For me, it’s been a process of identifying, “Why am I angry?” With my therapist, it’s not about the situation that’s in front of me. It’s triggering something from a repression that I didn’t express this rage when I was younger in a healthy way that was allowed to resolve it within myself. Much like the example you gave, Michelle, of all these things from your marriage where you might have felt triggered or hurt and we stuff it down.
As a child, I stuffed down a lot of rage and I didn’t even realize it. As an adult, I will sometimes have explosive emotional outbursts. Not in the sense of being disrespectful to another person or talking down to them. It’s just sometimes, seemingly minute or meaningless incidents. My reaction to those things is way over the top. I’ve had to sit and look and like, “Why am I angry about this seemingly insignificant? Why am I deeply triggered?”
It’s because of years and years of bottling and repressing as a child. As an adult, it’s like a volcano. I’m doing my best to understand it and clean it up and work with it. I do see progress. I want to give myself a little bit of self-love right now. I had a painful incident happen with my neighbors. I’m not ready to talk about the specifics of it yet. They’ve come to me and they’ve said, “We want to talk about it. We want to create a resolution with this thing that happened.”
I’ve said to them, “I’m not ready yet.” The reason I’m not ready yet is because I need to get to a place inside of my heart where I can speak to them with a level of compassion, respect, and clarity because I don’t want to come at them with rage or anger. Some people don’t understand that sometimes I’ve had to say in different relationships, not with the current situation with neighbors, but ay more intimate relationships like, “I want to talk about this. We need to.”
I need time to process and get to a place where I can speak with clarity, compassion and respect toward you. I sometimes feel when people try and rush me to resolve a situation, if I’m in an emotional state where I’m feeling that rage, sometimes that will come out in a way that I know is not respectful, compassionate, and loving. For me, I emotionally process things sometimes where I not only need to calm down, but I need to make sure that I am anchored in a place of love, clarity, and understanding with a person. I don’t want to scream at someone and I don’t want to put that negative emotion out into the world.
The long answer is, I do deal with rage. I feel like I’m managing it and understanding it and working to heal it in new ways that I’ve never done in the past. It was a little bit shocking to work with my therapist. He’s like, “You have a ton of repressed rage from your childhood.” I’d never had that sent to me before. When he said it, I was like, “You’re absolutely right.” To your point, Michelle, it’s been a dark, painful, at times excruciating exploration of myself, but in a way, I don’t feel like I can turn back from it.
One thing when I’ve been in it is the phrase, and I’m probably paraphrasing it horribly, but like, “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.” If I’m being put in the dark night of the soul, and I am dealing with rage, anger, sadness, and self-hatred, which I am, there’s a reason I’m dealing with it. I can’t turn a blind eye to it. I can’t ignore it. I can’t act like it doesn’t exist because it does exist, and it wants to be healed. It wants to be accepted and it wants to be looked at. It’s been hard, painful, and challenging. On some level, I’m waking up every day saying yes to it.
I have to jump in here. I have to because number one, I want to say kudos to you for the courage to even embark on the journey. There’s many of us who are in the process of what you described that don’t even acknowledge that they’re in the process and don’t have the courage to actually sit with it and say yes, so I would want to acknowledge the courage that you have to say yes to it and to sit with it. I was enraged for years. I witnessed a suicide at age seventeen in our English class. I was rageful at the response of all of us for not paying attention to this boy.
Often, we don’t pay attention to ourselves, so why would we pay attention to someone else? We don’t tell the truth. What I learned through my twenty years of processing the rage of that was, like you, I had repressed rage from other things my father leaving certain things before I even had language. I was rageful about people shoving food in my mouth when I was a toddler. It comes up for a reason and a purpose, not just that we can get to the peace. We forget that we have access to peace, and we have to get through the mess in the forest to get there, but it is accessible.
You mentioned, “God never gives us more than we can handle.” He actually does give us more than we can handle. What He does is He equips us in the process of being overwhelmed and overburdened so that we’re not walking the journey alone. We walk life alone, but with each other. We’re never alone. The equipment, the support is that when you are ready, when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. When you are enabled with enough courage to accept the truth to go through the process, everything you need will be given to you exactly when you need it.
You have this therapist that will sit with you in that space. You’ve got beautiful friends in your life that will help you. You’ve got a podcast that helps you process externally and verbally. You’ve got other strategies and tools and tips that you can use. It’s a beautiful process when we take a deep breath, accept, express gratitude that we’re even on the journey. We wake up and say, “What if I’m waking up and breathing, I have another chance to do this. I can.” Our superpower of choice says that every day we can choose. I can.
That resonates deeply, Michelle. It’s interesting you bring up this idea of overwhelm and that what we need appears when we need it. This is going to be a slight tangent, but I feel like there’s a strange amnesia sometimes that I experience. I’ve talked to others about this. We find ourselves in a challenging, painful, confusing, difficult moment in life. Sometimes, it’s almost as if we have forgotten everything we’ve survived prior to that. The moments before that moment that felt as equally daunting, equally painful, or even more so that we survived and thrived and found ourselves touched by some level of grace.
Truly, there have been moments in my life that I look back and I go, “I don’t know how I survived that.” The only word is grace, in some of those very dire moments, truly in the moment going, I don’t know, either physically survive it or emotionally survive it. There are levels to that, of course. It’s interesting when we find ourselves in the present moment, that it’s easy to forget what we’ve survived and we’ve how resilient we are.
To your point, in those moments, there is support and unseen forces that somehow come in, in moments, to save the day. It’s almost cinematic in a way. It’s almost like it’s imprinted in our consciousness. If you look at movies, and you look at storytelling, and you look at the hero’s journey, and you look at religion, and you look at parables, there seems to be this theme of at the darkest moment, when all hope seems lost when the heroes have been defeated, and evil is going to win, that something will happen.
It’s in our cosmology. It’s in our consciousness, in a way. I lose faith sometimes. I’ll then have my faith restored, and I’ll lose faith and I’ll have my faith restored, and I lose faith. This seems to be like something I go through a lot where I am loved and protected and taken care of and I forget that I am loved. I forget. It’s almost like this process of remembering and trust and faith and then the amnesia, and then remembering, and amnesia. Do I sound crazy?God doesn't give you more than you can handle. Click To Tweet
That’s the journey of life. The forgetting and the knowing come from birth. We know everything when we’re born and then we forget everything. We learn. We unlearn. We re-learn. It’s all to go back to the same place. Part of that we haven’t talked about is grief. The grief that comes along with letting go of the rage because it’s comfortable. It’s a place that we’ve known and we’ve befriended it. It’s hard to let go of a friend, of rage and anger, even maladaptive thoughts and life behaviors because they’re comfortable, we know them. You have to be uncomfortable to grow, but here’s grief in that. There is a process of loss and sadness that we also have to tell the truth about.
I used to be a mean, hateful person. I’m good with words. I use it as a weapon against people. In my college years, I would make men cry in the club. I had to acknowledge I was a horrible person. Forget the reasons why, I was horrible. I had to let go of that aspect of who I was as I began to heal. There was a loss because I felt strengthened by that. I felt empowered. I’m strong like, “Go, woman. I can bring you down.” There was an aspect that I had to tell the truth about. Even though it was ugly, it was still a friend. It was comfortable. There was a loss when I had to say goodbye to that. Going through the grief process is part of the journey as well.
The way that you articulate that, Michelle, I don’t think anyone has said it quite that way. It resonates with me because that is probably going back to when I was talking about the spectrum of our relationships and our challenges and how we view life. That’s probably one of the biggest hindrances and, ultimately, one of the inspirations for our show. We, as human beings, crave a lot of comfort. Over time, it goes beyond the actual comfort needs that are required to survive. Of course, the comfort of a place to live, knowing that your life is not going to be threatened because of nature, and you’re protected from outside forces. We don’t have the dangers that human beings did in the past of animals. We’re not fending for our lives quite the same way. We have much more access in general to food and water.
We have created other issues for our mental health. Now that our physical health is secured, we have all these mental health issues. We are drawn to comfort that we get in our way because these emotions feel safe because we know them like you’re saying. They’re friends to us. They’re familiar. I’m curious, Jason, going back to what you were exploring with your therapist if that came up, and almost like the fact that you were surprised at the history of it. We were also talking about this amnesia that we have. Do you feel that you forgot the roots?
I feel like that’s common as well. Most of us perhaps, as a coping mechanism as a way to get comfortable, is we have this amnesia of the traumatic events in our lives unless we are rooted in them. For you, Michelle, acknowledging some of the trauma that you’ve been through, you’re aware of it. As a way of staying comfortable, our brains create this amnesia and we completely forget where that rage even came from, where that grief came from or that people-pleasing manifested itself from. Jason, in your exploration, are you now clear on the roots of it? Are you still reflecting and trying to get to the bottom of it? Where are you in that process with your rage?
There was nothing that surprised me. There hasn’t been anything necessarily in terms of memory or emotional recollection because I do remember as a child, for example, my father being physically violent and emotionally violent with my mother and me. In situations where I had to run out of the house and go to my aunt’s house to call the police and the squad car coming and seeing my father taken away in a squad car. There are many examples of this.
It’s not about the repression of memory, as much as it is creating the link between in a moment as a grown adult man when I have something that triggers me, and I’m rageful. If I can identify the reason that I’m responding with rage is because I feel unsafe. I can’t necessarily protect myself. There’s something in the moment where I’m angry and I’m rageful because I feel unsafe, and this thing feels out of control. If I look back at the seed of where that acute rage response comes from, it may be that as a young boy, I didn’t feel safe.
I didn’t feel like I had the power to protect myself and my mother against my father, who was violent and addicted and rageful himself. This five-year-old boy who wanted to beat my father’s ass and protect my mother and protect me, I could not do it. You talk about the self-hatred, Michelle, it’s the rage toward him. It’s also the rage toward myself, which is misplaced. What five-year-old boy can physically take down a 40-year-old man?
It’s not about logic as much as it is that the lack of safety or control or protection in a present moment, I will go back to the rage I had not processed from that old thing. My brain interprets as the same. Here’s a present moment situation where I don’t feel protected. I don’t feel safe. It reminds me of what I hadn’t dealt with, with the rage I felt toward him and also the rage toward myself. There are layers to this because I could identify the forgiveness that I’ve done around my father. I feel like the deeper forgiveness, to be honest, is with me. “How could you have done anything else as a little boy?”
It’s okay to be angry at your father for what he did, even though he was doing the best with what he had truly, but it’s almost like the deeper rage is a self-directed rage. When those present moments come up, it’s almost like, “Why can’t you overpower the situation? You should be able to take control. You should be able to feel safe. Why don’t you feel safe? You’re a grown-ass man.” It is on the deepest level, forgiving myself and processing the rage I’ve directed toward me. That is the most challenging stuff I’ve had to do. It’s been way easier to forgive my father and forgive other people than to forgive myself and reconcile the rage that I’ve directed toward me. That’s where I’m at. It is hard and painful and difficult for me to do.
Jason, you expressed that beautifully. I honor you for the journey that you’re on. Whitney, you mentioned Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. We start with our basic shelter needs. We ultimately are looking for meaning in our lives. Jason, what you were mentioning about your process and journey towards forgiveness of self. What you’re doing is you are literally biologically retraining your brain because you have had a pattern of biochemistry that has responded when you feel unsafe and when you have those moments of rage directed inward. You have to be intentional with your responses once you have that self-awareness.
You’re literally retraining your brain and paying attention to those neurotransmitters and those neural pathways that you’re creating and strengthening while you ignore the old patterns, the old neural pathways that then can dry up and be deactivated. It is a process that takes time. Forgiveness of self is not a one-time deal. Sometimes for me, it’s years. It was a daily, an hourly thing. I would remember to forgive myself in the morning and forget by the afternoon and have to redo it in the evening and allowing yourself to go through that process.
Grace is giving yourself permission to not be perfect. Giving yourself permission to embark on the journey, allowing yourself to be in whatever state that is whether you are in a moment of rage and misdirecting it. Being then aware of it and saying, “That was not useful. Let me find something else to replace it with. Forgive myself for the maladaptive response.” I was able to find a new response or even celebrating that you’re aware of it. That’s the first step too. As we reinforce the positive steps that we take, it becomes a little bit easier with the next step. I applaud you for the courage and the immense progress that you’ve already made.
This also ties back into that idea of being unapologetically unpolished because when you were touching on people-pleasing, for example, a lot of this is a trauma that we’re reflecting on, that comes down to survival as well. As kids, many of us are raised to believe that we have to please our parents to survive or somebody else teaches us that. You have to please your teachers to get a good grade. If you get a good grade, then you get to go to the school that you want.
If you go to school that you want, then you get the job that you want. If you get the job that you want, you have to please your boss so that you’ll stay employed. All of this pleasing to survive. That can be frustrating. I know, for you, Jason, as being a rebel, you’re conflicted sometimes where you may have found, and others too, not only you, of course, like, “I don’t want to please anyone. I want to please myself. When do I get to please myself?”
That’s why a lot of people are drawn to that, coming back around to that idea, Michelle. It’s like a lot of people are fed up with trying to please others or a lot of people are fed up with trying to pretend to be something that they’re not or to always feel like they have to be polished, which is part of it as well. Polished, to me, is the idea of presenting yourself differently than what you are at your core. At the same time, if we call ourselves unpolished, then that’s a bit of a judgment too.Forgiving yourself is not a one-time deal. Click To Tweet
That’s an important thing to address. What if it’s more neutral? It’s more about society’s perception of what it means to look polished. What if we’re polished as we are? What if, as you were saying, Michelle, as kids how we already know information, then we unlearn it, and we have to re-learn it and we keep going back and back to it. As kids, we’re often loved as we are. Somehow throughout life, we start feeling like, “I have to be more than that. I have to present myself in a certain way.” As kids, we don’t wear makeup, most of us. We usually are not doing our hair. Our parents comb our hair. Our caretakers comb our hair, maybe put on some clothes. Some caretakers want us to wear certain clothes to look cute and all of that. It’s pretty basic. Yet, as adults, it starts to become complicated. We’re layering on all of these things that we perceive as being polished.
I would imagine that this phrase of being unapologetic about who you are at your core resonates with people who are exhausted. That’s how I feel, at least. It’s exhausting to try to be what society wants me to be and recognizing that I don’t need to be what other people want me to be to survive. Not anymore, at least. As kids, perhaps, when we talk about parents, some of us feel like if we don’t please our parents. If we don’t do what our parents say, if we don’t act how our parents want us to act, then we will be rejected by them.
Either we won’t survive or we won’t get our needs or our desires met. A lot of us start to morph ourselves and become chameleons to get by. That shows up in our relationships. It shows up in our work environments. At the core, it’s like a lot of my burnout comes back to that. Jason, I know that sometimes you feel the rage from that as well. It’s been amazing, exploring this from many angles with you, Michelle, and dive in chipping away at what it means to truly be unapologetic about who you are and why that’s important.
You hit it on the head with being exhausted. Many of us are tired of showing up in a place that is not the truth. I go back to the truth because when I think of unpolished, for me, that means unfinished. I’m not finished yet. I will always be unpolished because I’ll never be finished. I am unapologetic about being an unfinished human being. It was liberating. That’s where a lot of my energy comes from too, because I’m not exhausted anymore. I’m not trying to explain or apologize for who I am. I am me. You can take it or leave it, and I’m okay with that. I’m not for everybody and that is okay because I know that there are people that are assigned to my life and people that I’m assigned to their life.
As you continue to walk, and as I continue to walk, I find these amazing humans that ten years ago, I would never have been able to engage with or interact with because I wasn’t who I needed to be. I was still apologizing for who I was. I was still people-pleasing, I was still hiding under layers, the truth of who I am. As I’ve begun taking off those layers, and those clothes and those sweaters, it’s summertime. I need to be on a short-sleeved shirt. I used to wear sweatshirts in the summer because I was ashamed of who I was. Now that I am unapologetic, that I’m unfinished, that’s who I am exactly in the process of where I am. Life is a joy and life is beautiful.
I’ve been able to meet amazing humans such as yourself and Jason and contribute to an amazing show such as this and have conversations that helped me grow and become who I am eventually going to be before I leave the earth. It’s been incredible. I’ve loved my time on this show. I don’t know how much longer we have. I’m so honored to know both of you. This conversation filled me with joy. I am grateful for my time with you. I know the connection is not over. I’m in such gratitude right now for the conversation and for everything that was said and unsaid as well.
Michelle, I want to thank you also for being an example of someone who has survived and been through a lot and continues to do the deep, necessary work on herself, but to do it with joyfulness. You radiate an energy of joyfulness and love. That’s such a wonderful example for me and the readers where we can be in the gauntlet of life, so to speak. We can be in the tests that life has given us. We can also carry a semblance of love and joyfulness while we do it.
I want to thank you for carrying that energy and being real and being truthful, being yourself because it’s made an impact on me over the course of this episode. I know that it’s resonated with a lot of our readers, too. I want to acknowledge you and thank you for being a source of authenticity and truth, joy and love and being that because it’s palpable, and we can feel it. With that, thanks for getting uncomfortable with us, Michelle. It’s been an absolute joy to have you here and my heart feels a little bit lighter after having this conversation with you. Thank you so much for being here and thanks for sharing this with both of us and our readers.
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About Michelle Perry
Michelle L. Perry established herself as a subject matter expert over the course of her career as a clinical social worker in the field of child welfare that spanned over 20 years. She then transitioned into the corporate world where her leadership and coaching skills were refined, producing results in all that she works with. As an Empowerment Coach, Podcast Host, Speaker, #1 international best-selling author, and Online Course Creator, Michelle contributes to the journey of others by supporting them to see results and experience an increase in confidence and momentum in their lives.