SHAME: A LIST

I feel ashamed when

–I feel insecure and ask people to reassure me that I really am loved/loveable

–I write my own work (even this) instead of nurturing others

–I remember the big plans and assumption of success I had when I was a girl

–I curse in front of men

–I think about how I got my current job because the school where I teach wanted my husband, and I was a by-product of the transaction

–I promote my work

–a doctor tells me the weight chart shows me as “obese”

–I hope something good happens to me

–I explain to someone that I am not a first class academic citizen because I am not on the tenure track, so I teach more classes and make considerably less money than a “real professor”

–I see my double chin in a photograph of myself

–I tell my lover exactly what I want him to do

–women start talking about fashion and clothes and I look down and realize I’m wearing my Target jeans and comfortable shoes

–I cannot make other people happy

–writers and editors can’t remember my name, even when I’m met them several times

I could go on, as, I think, most of us could. It is an awful thing, shame, and even worse when I look at the items on the list in a specific way. My core values include body acceptance, the acknowledgment that all bodies are beautiful and each of us is beautiful right now, as we are. So where’s that acceptance for myself? I also am a feminist, which makes it especially difficult to admit that I worry about my language when I’m around men; I want to be my authentic self whomever I’m with. Money, a prestigious job, fancy clothes? I care far more about people, time, poetry, nature, animals—the way our hearts connect with other hearts and with whatever larger things are out there.

I don’t want to feel ashamed. I don’t want any of you to, either. I want to know I’m a smokin’ hot, voluptuous, sensual woman; a fucking beautiful and smart writer; a teacher whose presence makes her students’ lives better and thereby improves the world; a tender-hearted lover of animals who creates tail-wagging-happiness with every touch of a dog’s furry chin; a human being who triumphs every day by just getting out of bed; a sensitive and vulnerable person who is—goddamn it—ALLOWED to ask for others to reassure and adore her, because this life is a hell of a hard thing for us all.

I don’t know how to overcome these feelings. Saying what I did in the above paragraph helps—studies show that you can re-route your brain through affirmations, for real. But we all have to fight the constraints put on us by culture, family, and ourselves. I believe that just saying it—sharing our feelings and thoughts, naked like this—is a vital part of the battle.

5 thoughts on “SHAME: A LIST

  1. I find shame looses its power over me when I say the things I am ashamed of, or if I write them down and share them with others as you do. My number one: I drove drunk and injured an innocent person. DUI at 19. I learned– never again will I make that mistake. Thank you for being so transparent. The world is a better place because you are here.

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  2. Shame is taught, I think. Or more precisely, we are taught, usually by those we love, to be ashamed. I am envious of those who were taught to be proud instead.

    When I was a child, if I did something “naughty,” my sweet, loving grandmother who couldn’t say “bad” easily rebuked me with “Why, I’d be ‘shamed.” She said that about a lot of situations, as though shame were a good thing. I hope it was the first time my mother said that to one of my children when I told her, “Don’t say it.” I know that the layering on of shame is not usually this apparent. But telling a child on purpose to be ashamed?

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  3. Shame can be debilitating at times. Everyone feels it but for different reasons, to be honest I think we just need to stop being so hard on ourselves. We expect so much from ourselves sometimes that we forget we’re human. Great share 🙂

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