“Unlike guilt, which is the feeling of doing something wrong, shame is the feeling of being something wrong.” –Marilyn Sorensen
Some days I look at the woman in the mirror staring back at me and I’m not sure who she is or how I feel about her. Some parts of her are wild, some parts lost, some parts wise, some parts strong and some parts are healing deep pain. The parts of her that are in pain are the ones that stay hidden. Those are the parts that feel embarrassing and fill me with shame.
Keeping our pain a secret.
“Lies and secrets, they are like a cancer in the soul. They eat away what is good and leave only destruction behind.” -Cassandra Clare
I have gone to great lengths to hide my pain. I’ve practiced some very unhealthy coping mechanisms along my journey and have become quite disgusted by myself at times. Smiling and pretending is what I practiced the most. I never asked for help when things were challenging or painful. It felt too embarrassing, so I just kept going, despite all of the torment and anguish I was causing myself.
Growing up, I was surrounded by some very strong willed, independent and determined women. When they hit a bump in the road, they jumped right over it and kept moving forward. When I was hurting inside, I acted like things were fine just so I could be seen as strong and tough too. What I really needed was help and guidance with the bumps in the road. I didn’t want to risk saying anything though, because I was too embarrassed and felt ashamed of myself for needing support. I kept my pain a secret.
Shame keeps us in silence.
“She wore a thousand faces only to hide her own.” -Atticus
The fear of getting real with myself was terrifying because I felt like a liar. How could I go on carrying all of this hurt inside and not tell a soul? It seemed like everyone else around me was so much better at dealing with challenge than I was. What was wrong with me? I expected myself to know it all, do it all, fix it all, give it all and deliver it all with a big smile as if I had it all figured out. I felt inadequate and incredibly worthless. Shame was consuming me. Letting anyone into my secret world would have been too humiliating. Beginning a conversation about how I was feeling seemed impossible, so I just kept pretending. I was a really good actress.
Shame keeps us in judgement of ourselves.
“Judgment and criticism always comes from a place of fear. Choose courage instead.” -Unknown
Shame makes us feel like something is wrong with us. Since I wasn’t living up to my expectations on how to handle my internal struggles, and I didn’t want to ask for help, I judged myself horribly. I wasn’t kind to myself – ever. Whenever I received love and affection I reacted with anger and discomfort. When someone gave me a compliment I doubted them. Whenever I made a mistake, I told myself I was a failure. I was filled with so much self judgment that it allowed my shame to grow.
Learning from Shame.
“Never stop learning; for when we stop learning, we stop growing.” -Loyal ‘Jack’ Lewman
The two things I craved the most were love and connection. And, they were the same two things that scared me the most. At the time, I didn’t think I was worthy of either one. I was surrounded by so much love and support in my life, but I couldn’t seem to hold up my hand and ask for help because I was frozen in shame. For years, I was exhausted, lonely and utterly self destructing. Something had to change if I wanted to find my way back to myself.
Asking for help is hard. Talking about the things that shame us is hard as hell! I’ve learned that we all hide, we all pretend and we all have secrets. The things we run from are the same things that will help us heal, if we let them. Strength comes from the inside. It comes from that place deep down in your soul that is hungry for love and acceptance. That place that wants to be heard and validated. That place that whispers to you, without apology, and tells you everything is going to be okay because you are perfect just the way you are. Trust that place. The more we can practice opening up our hearts to ourselves and embrace our mistakes, name what scares us, what helps us and what hurts us, the more courage we will find. And courage conquers shame every time.
You are not alone.
“There’s a big difference between being alone, feeling alone, and knowing you are never alone'” -Lisa Prosen
Jumping over the bumps and going full force doesn’t work for me. I have to slow down and take my time. I don’t move forward at the same pace. And just because my pace is different doesn’t make me a bad person. My strengths lie in self awareness.
No matter how stressful, lonely, busy, painful or challenging life feels in the moment, it is never something to feel shamed by. There are a lot of hearts out there that can help make a tragedy bearable. Hearts that know how to listen, empathize and show compassion toward whatever it is you are experiencing. And hearts that love and accept you just the way you are. You matter. Your strength does not lie in staying hidden. Your strength lies in showing up exactly as you are, showing compassion toward yourself, and sharing with another heart. Be brave. Be strong. We are all different, but we are never alone.