Shame to Self-Love: Finding Joy and Making Hope 1 Year Since I Came Out
Originally published 3/8/2018 on my former blog, Max Goes Godless.
TODAY MARKS ONE WHOLE YEAR since I accidentally Kool Aid Man’d my way out of the closet… and into life on the other side!
In the year since, I have watched myself go from the tyranny of shame to the peace of self-love. From fear to truth. From loss to family and love.
I wanna say FUCKING. THANK. YOU! To every single person who has been here this last year. You've become a family where I could not find one. You’ve made me laugh til I couldn’t breathe. Given me grace (and hugs, air mattresses, and job tips). Made me remember what it feels like to be loved. Filled my life to the brim with meaning.
I guess that's why I'm writing today. I want to share the journey with you. What I've learned. How I've grown. To say to the people in similar spots who I know are following along, here's a little light along your way.
Shame estranges us from ourselves
For so much of my life, shame ruled me. It dictated how little I deserved, what was not allowed, who I could not be. My church planted its voice in my head: you are not your own, die to yourself, decrease so God can increase.
Shame said, don't dance. Don't listen to non-Christian music. Don't make plans for your life beyond God's. Don't try clothes on. Don't even be around people who drink. Don't ask for what you need. Don't take medicine. Don't speak your mind. Don't even speak.
So from an early age, I became estranged... from myself.
I buried the truest parts of who I was. The voice that told me what I wanted and what I liked and most of all, what I needed. I wanted to be a passionate Christian, a "good woman," a respectful daughter. So I sold my truth to expectations and banished my original self... without even realizing that's what I was doing.
Shame is the child of fear. Fear that you will not be or are not being enough. Fear of judgment, retribution, rejection. Fear of being seen as you are.
Shame makes us think we can't say yes to the things we want or no to the things that hurt us, until we can't even hear our own voices anymore.
Shame is so powerful because it replaces what you really deserve with what it demands. It sets rules based on how others see you, robbing you of the reality of who you actually are and can be.
A million every day miracles
When I lost my faith and realized I was pansexual, the weight of knowing I could not be who I was without facing the manifestations of my family's shame -- pain, fear, and ultimatums -- threatened to suffocate me. Unable to be open, my relationships disintegrated and I felt like no one in the world knew me.
Until the day came when the only thing that would save my life was the truth. And dear God, I had to save my own life. So I did. One year ago.
After that, I had to learn that truth was also the only way to live it.
I had to come to terms with how much the shame of my religion, gender, and family culture heartbreakingly took from me -- then make amends. Learn to hear what I want -- once a crime, now my joy-bringing salvation. And love myself so much that I value the happiness I deserve over what other people might think of me.
I follow myself past programmed fear, through the awkward clumsiness of a million first times, and to the joy and peace that put a knowing smile on my face every time I say yes to who I really am. Trying on a shirt. Going to a club. Saying hi. Walking down the street. Healing my relationship with myself and evolving into who I am takes place in the form of a million every day miracles.
I have followed the pull of my heart to fun. Curiosity. Joy. Newness. Love. Trust. Healing. Growth. Firsts. (Also, not gonna lie, lots of times to Marshall's. THE DEALS THOUGH.)
Today, I pole dance for fun, do tai chi, dabble in yoga, read tarot, drink vodka, study abroad in New Zealand, love shopping, create family, hope to legally change my name to Maxwell Aravis-Grace Tang in July, and generally break shame's rules one "yes!" at a time.
I have so much further to go, but I am so far from where I used to be.
Max Goes Godless is no longer about leaving, but living
Last week I got to hang out with Lilia Tarawa, who's made a thriving life for herself years after she left the Gloriavale Christian Cult with her family. Not only is she warm, confident, and entrepreneuring, she uses her story to bring people hope through her Ted Talk, her memoir, and her social media.
That’s what I wanna do with this crazy story of mine now. Be a hopebringer.
I get more messages, emails, and comments from people every week about my story: "me too." "I wish I could do that myself." "You make me think it could all turn out okay."
I started this blog 3 years ago because I had nowhere to speak my mind. I vented, I grieved, and I worked out old teachings in my posts, unraveling lies about who I was and the world I lived in one by one.
But I've been out for 1 year, and my life is no longer about leaving. It's about living.
So, this anniversary marks a shift for Max Goes Godless. I'll be talking much more about new experiences. Lessons for freedom. And celebration of the liberation that comes with authenticity. Even when it means leaving. Risking. And building a new life. And yes, I'll still write about the important work of healing from doctrine. Not enough of us talk about it.
I once was lost, but now am found.
So this is what I'll leave you with...
You are you.
Yes, even the parts you were told you should not have. Yes, the parts you were judged or punished for showing. Yes, the parts you tried to hide away.
There is so much in this world that tries to define who we are. For our parents', our culture's, our community's, our faith's reputations. To keep tradition without rocking the boat. To follow the carefully prescribed lines of gender, life path, and even hobbies.
I know how hard it is. I know there are prices to pay. I paid them.
There is profit, too. More than you might ever believe. More than you can imagine.
What would it feel like to allow yourself to pursue what you want? To decide that the joy and attempt is worth fear and risk? To come face to face with the person you always were and recommit to giving them all they deserve?
It's March 19, 2018, and I'm here telling you: you wouldn't be the only one. 💓