Dealing with the shame of falling short

It’s easier to have confidence in the future when you have a plan.

A month ago I had paid the deposit and the first month’s rent for a room I had only seen over FB chat, a job that was only an offer letter away, a bed I had purchased with a bonus check I was still waiting on, a friend who committed to driving across the country for a week with me with the only request we visit the Grand Canyon, another friend who volunteered to pack for me, and several versions of how I dreamed my new life was going to play out. Fast forward to now: embarrassingly 5 seasons into 30 Rock, 2 seasons into Parks & Rec, a claimed spot in front of the large window in my new living room, and thankful for the donation to my bank account my parents made before I left while I wait to hear back about my start date for training as a barista at Starbucks.

Life took an unexpected sharp turn, but only after I became comfortable with the promises and fantasies I surrounded myself with. I had settled into a dream life – a full-time job I could brag about, a great story of how I took a risk and moved across the country, and the claim I hadn’t worked that hard for all of it to magically fall into place. So when I lost the job promised to me… I cried. I held back the tears while on the phone, and tried my best to sound like I wasn’t crying. Somewhere between the offer and the offer letter I had lost my job. I felt betrayed, rejected, and confused.

I reached out to my mentor and a few close friends, trying to understand what just happened. Then I gave myself a few days to cry, mope, be angry, and any other emotion I needed to get out. My plan was to then pick myself up and move forward, determined to show them all. Instead, I took a week feeling sorry for myself, then applied and interviewed with Starbucks. After 3 weeks of Target runs, daily Netflix binges, and watching the rain fall from my new favorite place, I needed a reason to get out of the house and hopefully make at least one friend.

While I felt relieved to have a job, I immediately felt terrible. I had spent years secretly judging friends and strangers alike for working there. You couldn’t find a real job so you’re working THERE? I worked at Victoria’s Secret for over two years while I looked for a “real job,” and now when my “real job” changed their mind about me, I have returned to that I-honestly-don’t-know-what-my-schedule-is-for-next-week-so-maybe-I-can-hang-out-with-you-and-maybe-you-should-have-a-plan-b lifestyle. I recognize this judgment comes from my own bias, but I wanted to be transparent with you. By taking this job I have also judged myself harshly and now I am struggling with feeling like a failure.

A friend of mine shared this gem with me: You can’t deal with the emotion until you’ve dealt with the shame you’ve attached to it. Shame is a very powerful force; It binds our hands, covers our mouths, and sometimes strangles the life out of us. It distracts us from what we’re feeling and why we’re feeling that way. The worst part is shame only has as much power we give it. Until I deal with the shame of working a part-time hourly job at 29 years old, I can’t address the underlying emotions that are accusing me of being a failure.

I’m in the midst of this process, clearly. It requires telling myself, “It’s ok to not be ok right now,” until I believe it. It means every morning, while I drink coffee and talk to Jesus, I allow my brain and heart to fight over truth. I seek guidance from God and people I trust, and I stop beating myself up with negative thoughts. I cry or scream when I need to, instead of bottling those things up and telling myself it’s not appropriate. I ask myself, “How would I talk to/treat my friend going through this?” and then tell/treat myself those things. I remind myself life isn’t over and I don’t need to everything today. I take things one day at a time, and right now I’m reminding myself free coffee is in my future.

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7 thoughts on “Dealing with the shame of falling short

  1. I love you. Period. That’s all. I love you. and you are worth more than any job you have or don’t have, any struggles you work on overcoming, and any lessons you must learn. You, my dear, are a treasure. ❤ Mama Laurie

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  2. I am so beyond words proud of you & everything you’ve accomplished up to this point. Life throws all kinds of interesting & sometimes ridiculous curve balls but you are rolling with this one beautifully. I cannot WAIT to see all the dreams & missions God is going to bring your way in this new season! You are worthy & loved!!! ❤

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  3. Amy, Thank you! Thank you for sharing your heart and life. The power of vulnerability can lead others to places they might never have gone. I thought that after I turned 29 years old, it would be the best year of my life. I said, “Well if everyone always wants to be 29 again, then this year is going to rock.” It didn’t! It was the hardest year of my life. It was filled with many humble pies and panic attacks. Looking back, I’m grateful for that time, but it was the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through. Know you are loved and I’m praying for you this morning.

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