Shame plays a huge roll in our day to day lives. There are so many ways shame can affect us and there is no limit to how shame can creep into all of the various aspects of our lives. There can be shame around being a mom, around being a woman, around our bodies and our intelligence, and even around our careers. Sonya Renee Taylor’s awe-inspiring book The Body Is Not an Apology has been in my hands for the last few weeks. Her book reads like a workbook, and despite the fact that I am not currently able to attend one of her workshops, I am treating the book as such. So today’s journal entry is going to center on the following question: “How has shame held you back in life?”
Today is a quiet day. We are on day five of virtual learning because we needed to close down our hybrid classrooms because there are so many cases of COVID. It is a day of silence, some teaching and a lot of quiet reflection. As I question how shame has held me back, I am flooded with images of how I have always tried to remain invisible. I grew up in a very abusive household with a father who said multiple times, “You don’t know what’s best for you. I know what’s best for you.” And an overbearing stepmother who would say, “I know you better than you know yourself.”
I remember feeling the clutching sensation in my stomach and knowing that it couldn’t possibly be true, but fearing that it was in fact the case.
As an adult and as a parent, I could not and would never tell Cole and Jonah either of those things. I would never rip the rug out from their self-confidence in that way. I am extremely careful to always tell them I trust what they feel even when I need to correct what they are doing. We don’t always see eye to eye, but I try and explain my perspective is an adult perspective of hindsight, and I am clear that I don’t always have the right answers. I give them a chance to explain their viewpoint and their feelings, and I explain to them how and why I made the choice I make for them. Sometimes it’s easy.
“No, you are not going to spend more than half of your birthday money on your virtual game where you collect virtual cars. I don’t care how cool the Porche 911 is.”
Sometimes it is not easy.
“I know you don’t feel as if you need an IEP for writing, but you struggle with it. You need to use the graphic organizers and checklists they are required by law to give you.”
My shame cannot be singularly applied to my parents. They taught me to not trust my thoughts and feelings because someone taught them to not trust their thoughts and feelings. It’s a much larger problem within our system and our society.
Regardless of its cause, my shame has held me back considerably. I have tried to be invisible and play small for much of my life. The times I have been placed under the spotlight were uncomfortable and fraught with doubt.
The greatest effect has been on my dream to write and be published. The shame keeps me from being able to handle the rejection that comes with trying to publish my work. The shame is the gremlin voices in my mind that tell me my writing will never be good enough. It is the shame that causes me to feel like a little girl hiding under the bed, praying not to be found.
I don’t know what to do with this knowledge. The question has been asked. I have reflected, but the block of stone in my stomach feels immovable.
Step One: Identify the rock.
Step Two: ?
Love and Light, all.