I’m interested to know what you’re feeling right now. Is it Anger? Embarrassment? Would you want to spit back? Respond with something witty? Tell your friends and laugh about it? Would you cry? Tell a teacher? Go wash your hair and get on with your life?
This week’s lesson: How you do anything is how you do everything.
Here’s what I did: I kept walking. I hoped no one noticed. I kept it in. I told no one (not even my mom when I got home.)
Here’s what I felt: Small. Worthless. Like a loser. I wanted to disappear.
That is my version of Shame.
How I do anything is how I do everything.
Earlier this week I was feeling uncomfortable about something. As I was trying to sort through my feelings, all I could acknowledge was this: I felt like I’d been spat on.
It was far from the truth of the situation, but so very telling.
I realized my WHOLE LIFE (OK maybe only the past 22 years) I’ve been walking around this earth with the fear that I might be spat on again. As an adult, I’ve done everything in my power to avoid getting proverbially spat on. Which means I don’t always say what I’m thinking, I avoid conflict, and my initial reaction to taking risks after initially thinking it’s a good idea, is to keep playing small… because I’m afraid I might be spat on.
That is what shame will do to you. It will keep you afraid to be seen, so afraid of judgement and ridicule, that you will say nothing, keep on walking, and pretend you’re not capable of making anything happen.
Until only a few days ago, I’m pretty sure I’ve never told anyone the story of when I got spat on. Only two people in this world knew. Me and the other guy (and I doubt if the incident even still exists in his memory bank.)
Meanwhile, not only has that moment defined how I do everything, but I’ve been carrying it around with me as if it’s the worst possible thing that could ever happen. So horrific, that I didn’t want anyone to know. I’ve now shared with two other people, my husband and the man who told me ‘how you do anything is how you do everything’.
If you’re reading this, you’re now the 3 person to know. 🙂
Here’s the kicker. I don’t care anymore! I can actually see the comedy in it. A few days ago I was balling my eyes out letting the memory pass through me and today it makes me smile. 🙂
That is the beauty of shame. Once you share it, it goes away.
I first learned about shame from Brene Brown about 7 months ago. In her Ted talk, she said something about eating disorders being correlated with the existence of shame in someone’s life, and the ball dropped for me. That’s what happened to me! I just wasn’t aware of where my shame came from.
I’m not saying that the dude who spat on me when I was 12 caused me to be bulimic, and it’s all his fault. I will say this though.
By the time I graduated 8th grade and was going into highschool, I had a burning desire for acceptance. (Here’s another secret I’ve never told anyone: I told myself that I would to be the prettiest girl in my grade, whatever it takes…) Clearly, I based my own likelihood for acceptance, on my appearance. Mix that with participating in a sport that requires you to run around half-naked in spanks, and a natural drive for achievement, and you’ve got a recipe for an eating disorder.
Here’s how it works:
Shame: I’m not enough as I am. I know that because I’ve been spat on. I’m clearly worthless. (At least the 12 yr old punk with braces and jeans hanging off his ass thinks so.)
Dilemma: I really want to be accepted though.
Aha moment: Since I’m not enough as I am, maybe if I CHANGE who I am, or at least what I look like, THEN I’ll be accepted!
Problem to solve: How can I change myself?
Answer: Ooh, I know, I can be thinner (and that will also make me faster. 2 for 1!)
How can I make myself thinner? Easy peasy… eat less, run more.
And that’s where it began.
Fast forward 20 years, and I can tell you, it doesn’t have to be like that forever. It is possible for all those thoughts and feelings of shame that you might have been carrying around for years, to disappear.
If you’re looking for a magic pill to get rid of them, here’s my formula: Stop judging yourself and others. Sit with your feelings and allow them to speak to you. Tell someone else about your judgements and experiences of shame. Release them.
I didn’t say it was an easy pill to swallow, but it does work magic 🙂