Part 1 of 2 I feel ashamed.
I always feel ashamed. Of something or other. I have come to the realisation that not everybody feels this overwhelming and constant level of shame.
I am ashamed of the way I look. My body, my face, my fingernails, my skin, my height, my eyes. Name a body bit and I’m probably pretty ashamed of the way it looks.
I am ashamed of my body itself. Going to the toilet. When it used to menstruate. Farting. Crying. Sunburn. Orgasms. Shitty metabolism. Most of the things my body does just make me feel embarrassed.
I am ashamed of the person I’ve been – or not been. A failed musician. An inadequate mother. An inattentive wife. An absent friend. A half-arsed writer. A useless social media marketer.
I AM JUST ASHAMED OF EVERYTHING
It is at about this point in time that I need to mention brenebrown.com/about. The world-famous researcher who specialises in shame – and other things.
“Shame is that warm feeling that washes over us, making us feel small, flawed, and never good enough.” Brené Brown
I feel small, flawed and never good enough. And that feeling came when I was a child. I was small. I was flawed. And I was made to feel not good enough.
My caregivers didn’t set out to make me become intensely ashamed of myself at the very core of my being. On the contrary, their goal was to make me the best version of myself by helping me get better at all the things I wasn’t good at. And even the things I was good at could be just a little bit better, “Because you’re not perfect you know.”
OLD THOUGHTS DIE HARD
Shame and humiliation have been constant companions my entire life. Walking by my side and casting shadows over all the good bits of my life and highlighting the bad. It hasn’t been helpful.
We all make mistakes. We’re all flawed. But it is very hard to learn and improve in an environment of shame.
Guilt can be a useful emotion. If I do something wrong or hurt someone and I have guilt then I have an opportunity to repair the wrong or apologise. Guilt that hasn’t turned to shame is often proactive. It doesn’t hide in silence like shame.
“If you put shame in a petri dish, it needs three ingredients to grow exponentially: secrecy, silence, and judgment. If you put the same amount of shame in the petri dish and douse it with empathy, it can’t survive.” Brené Brown
Empathy can coexist with guilt – accepting situations while holding space for the inevitability of the human experience being wholly imperfect.
EMPATHY DOES NOT COEXIST WITH SHAME
Never feeling good enough is more than just an unpleasant way to lead your life. It leads to poor #Topic with #Topic and #Topic . It makes decision making extremely problematic. There is an incessant fear that is wrapped around every human interaction, causing a desire to avoid humans altogether. And everything is felt in silence. Alone.
As I navigate the recovery waters – trying to improve my #Topic after the long decline – I need to come to terms with shame. It is most singularly unhelpful. There is nothing to be gained from shame.
“We desperately don’t want to experience shame, and we’re not willing to talk about it. Yet the only way to resolve shame is to talk about it. Maybe we’re afraid of topics like love and shame. Most of us like safety, certainty, and clarity. Shame and love are grounded in vulnerability and tenderness.” Brené Brown
Speaking out about my feelings and fears is part of my way of combating shame. Becoming vulnerable to the possibility of change. Bringing light to the darkness within me. And acceptance is a concept I have long struggled hard with but it is essential to healing.
Acceptance of my body – the way it looks, the way it behaves. Size, shape, age, unique attributes. It is what it is and fighting reality is pointless and exhausting.
Acceptance of the things I have done because they cannot be changed. All I can do is look back and learn and hope to do better next time. Apologise where appropriate. Bring empathy to situations that require understanding and compassion. Even acknowledge the possibility that sometimes things have gone well – I do good sometimes.
THAT IS VERY DIFFICULT FOR ME TO WRI