How I Let Go of Shame Around Starting Over | By Bailey Smith

Last Updated: November 16, 2020By

There’s a process in moving homes where you disassemble and reassemble your belongings. You sort through the things that are important to you, versus those that are not. This is a metaphor to life — what do you want to keep with you and what do you want to leave behind? What do you need to burn down, in order to start anew? Fire is a natural process, required by our ecosystem to allow other things to grow. Fire is said to symbolize rebirth, hope and purification. This is a personal essay of how I let go of a shameful relationship with moving and allowed it to grow into a celebratory relationship.

I was in elementary school when children’s services came to my home. A woman came over to ask me about a variety of things, but mostly about my relationship with my dad, who divorced my mother when I was around three. At the time, I was confused because I never saw anything wrong with my dad, but I cooperated.

My father was being charged for counts of sexual abuse by someone else in my family. This is a moment in time that I pin as the beginning of my relationship with shame.

Why shame? My father was on the local news since he was in the police force, my friends’ parents were aware of what was going on, my family was forced to break apart again, but I wasn’t able to talk about anything. We didn’t talk about anything.

I was angry, I was confused, I was heartbroken and I was a different person. My dad, stepmom, step-sister and half-brother were just taken away from me. My dad, who I looked up to so much, was now being charged with a felony.

From that point on, I didn’t know where I belonged. I felt ashamed of what was happening with my family and didn’t have the slightest understanding of how to talk about my feelings. I tried to fit in with the other kids in my school, but constantly felt like this big dark cloud was lurking overhead. I tried to force normalcy out of a situation that was anything but.

My dad moved in with my grandmother after things settled. My grandma was the light in this situation – she had the biggest smile and always played NPR in the cassette player that lived on top of her fridge. Her love for nature and the outdoors pours through my veins these days, and in this moment, she made sure this situation felt somewhat easeful.

In the summer of sixth grade, my mom, her then fiancé and his two kids moved us to a new school district 30 minutes away. We were starting over. A chance to burn the past and to start over with kids who knew nothing about my past. I felt confident in who I was becoming at this new school. I made new relationships and took it upon myself to really discover things that I enjoyed.

The following summer, my grandma was battling with a few different types of cancers and at the young age of 62, she left this earth. I don’t remember crying when I found out. Another person was taken away, but this time I armored up and subconsciously vowed to never let anyone else in. Why? Because they will only get taken away and I will only get hurt. Brené Brown refers to this talk as the gremlin talk. I kept all my feelings, the hurt, the shame and the heartbreak buried deep inside. This was a response that allowed me to be in control, so I thought.

Fast forward to a house party when I was 16. At this point in my life, my mom’s home carried a lot of yelling, arguing and stealing, so I used alcohol to numb everything that was buried beneath the surface. A cocktail of teenage hormones and years of hidden shame and hurt makes for a complicated inner dialogue. It was something I turned to when things felt too hurtful or scary. At this party, though, the alcohol was in control and I was taken advantage of by an older boy at my school.

Enter more layers of shame. The next week at school I wanted to bury myself in my locker. My light dimmed again. I felt like everyone at school knew what had happened, I felt ashamed and I didn’t know who to turn to. I lacked the self-confidence and strong foundation to know any better.

After graduating high school, I started over again. This time, two hours away to college with the comfort of a few close friends. The only trouble here was that the past came with me and my self-confidence and strong foundation was still lacking. I was in a very toxic, verbally abusive, long distance relationship and this move was not adding up to be the fresh start that I now know I needed. Instead, I was so ashamed of what I was holding onto, that I didn’t share how I was feeling with anyone. Remember, armor up and don’t let anyone else in, right?

This experience in college took me through more bad relationships, another death of a dear friend and two more arrests for my father.

The light of it all? I discovered what I didn’t want in my life.

By what I believe to be the work of my spirit guides, I met my person in 2008. My person who treated me as a woman, who admired my qualities and even more my faults. A person who, from day one, has been a partner. In 2009, we moved to a new state after only knowing each other for eight months. Our families thought we were crazy. We knew, though, this was our opportunity to start something of our own.

“Leap and the net will appear.” 

~ Zen Saying

This was an opportunity to begin again, but it was less out of necessity and more out of curiosity. Since that first move together, we have moved nine additional times, from the east coast to the west. While I used to associate shame with moving, because it was always out of desperation, only recently did my relationship with shame begin to dissipate and I became resilient to those gremlins.

I started to get really curious about what I wanted and stopped caring about other people’s opinions of what I wanted. Where I once felt ashamed for wanting to move, I felt freedom. Where I once needed to burn the past, I felt celebration in what I had just learned about myself, my relationships and where I come from.

This world is a beautiful place. If you feel drawn to begin again, then by all means follow that pull. But do it, because you choose to say yes. If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that change is the only constant. So, enjoy the moments that you have, go all in and if you need to move, move. If you need to get rooted, get rooted. If you need to disassemble everything in order to rebuild it, then disassemble. Trust that you can always begin again.

Photo by Caleb Frith.

Bailey Smith is a mama to two young boys, a yoga teacher (e-RYT) and a Health & Wellness Advocate. She discovered yoga in 2009 and was immediately drawn into the practice while in her early 20s and looking for something new and fulfilling. It lights her up when people see their potential, feel empowered and know the beauty that lies within them. When she’s not teaching, Bailey can be found with her family, a toddler on her hip and barefoot. Follow her on Instagram at @bailey_y_smith or visit her website to learn more about her offerings.


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