I’ve had a revelation, just this morning actually, that most of my life has been spent trying to avoid shame. I’m not alone in that pursuit either. It seems that most of the world is running from it too in one form or another.
I have also been angry most of my life. The seed that created all of that anger is absolutely, unequivocally, shame, and every time someone attempts to shame me still, an anger rises up that I can’t resolve easily. The two emotions are intrinsically linked.
Someone told me the other day that what I do is not actually real work. I was rooted to my chair, unexpectedly. Usually I’m not afraid of an argument. Usually I’d have defended myself and my work, but the person calmly walked away from me after saying what they said. It was clear that the comment was meant to put me down, make me feel inferior and shame me for my chosen career path. I don’t understand their thinking, but despite that, it still rendered me paralyzed.
I immediately became aware of that familiar raw feeling in my chest. Devastation. But why such an intense reaction? The anger rose in me later that day the and was released in an hour long crying session. During that hour, I remembered the other occasions of shaming throughout my life and how it left me too afraid to move forward, or try new things.
Four years old, learning to read and write; my teacher would thump me in the back and call me a dunce for not understanding where to put my full stops. I’d write my little story, and then place dots randomly throughout the words. Feeling very pleased with myself, I’d take it to the teacher and instead of teaching me, she thumped me. As a result, I struggled my entire life with learning and it took me thirty-five years to let anyone else see my writing.
“You have a fat arse.” “You’d be so much prettier if you lost weight”…….I heard it over and over again. I then spent my whole life hating my body and being ashamed of every inch of it. It’s funny, because when I look back at old photos I don’t see fat. I just see beauty. I wasted my entire youth hanging onto a perception of myself that wasn’t mine.
Shame is in me deep. Right in my bone marrow. There have been endless instances that I don’t care to recall. It made me want to give up on myself, and I felt the same way the other day. What’s the fucking point, I thought. I even feel it’s presence right now, feeling shame because I’m voicing past experiences, which I should have forgotten about and gotten over by now. Right?
I know many of you will relate to these instances or some like them. You will recognise the shame associated that created the bars of your cage and held you hostage. You will also understand the daily struggle to release yourself and convince your tired mind that being you is absolutely worth it. Sometimes you can’t convince yourself though.
It has sent some of us quite mad. We have lost our minds from the exhaustive pursuit to be good enough, worthy, acceptable. We become depressed, bio-polar, psychotic. We have sought out alternative reality through drugs, alcohol, food, sex, to find some relief and to convince ourselves that we are all that they say we should be. It has even killed some of us.
But who are these, they?
Well, they are you and I. We do it to each other. We judge and condemn because of skin colour, religion, politics, age, tattoos and fat arses. We judge and condemn inside of our tiny boxes, from inside our tiny minds until we make each other crazy and so afraid of other people, places and things that we become enslaved…….by shame. We make up rules about appropriate behaviour, right and wrong and forget about basic kindness and respect. We live half lives because our notions about societal appropriateness and acceptability cannot under any circumstances be trespassed upon. Until we stop living altogether.
So for fuck sake, write the story and put the full stops wherever you want, get the tattoo, embrace your big fat arse, wear your burka, or don’t wear it, wear a miniskirt at 60…..even if you’re a guy, speak your mind, stand up for yourself, dye your hair Octarine, travel the world, do whatever the hell you want and don’t let others fear induced shame infect you.
You may be hated and looked down upon and declared mad for living your life free, but one thing I know for sure is, you will not hate yourself! You will wake up every day very fucking pleased with yourself, knowing that you are conquering the most insidious and lethal weapon on this planet. Shame. Shame cannot breathe if you like yourself.
So keep cheering for yourself. Know contentment. Be happy. Be free. Be SHAMELESS.