It was almost two years ago that I came smack up against my shame gremlins.
I was on a similar “break from the rainy wet coast for some sun on a tropical island” vacation and I had brought Brene Brown’s book on shame with me. I didn’t really think I had an issue with shame but Brene’s other book on letting go of other’s expectations of me helped me so much and so I thought I’d give the shame book a read.
One of the exercises said to outline things that you don’t want to be seen as. The first three on my list – fat/ugly, financially irresponsible and stupid seemed pretty self-explanatory as reflections of perfectionism. All are subjective in that they change from situation to situation largely dependent on how I feel about myself. On how secure I feel.
And then there was the fourth – single. Not subjective but a cold, hard fact that I had been banging my head on over and over without realizing it.
It was both a moment of sheer horror and sheer revelation. A naked, exposed moment of vulnerability. A wave of hot, flushing cheeks, of an acknowledgement of deep pain, the breaking of a dam of long held-back emotions and an overwhelming urge to run and hide forever.
But, also a moment of great hope. Of the beginning of a journey to ask why something which is not shameful should make me feel that way. And, the beginning of accepting that expecting myself to be brilliant, thin, financially padded and married might just be the source of unhappiness and anxiety, rather than the fact that I am not any of those things.
I am reminded of that pivotal moment here on this tropical island. This place that celebrates couples. Of honeymoons and 50th wedding anniversaries. Of couples discounts and romantic sunsets.
To be honest, the first few days were a bit of a jolt of “I don’t belong here” and “this isn’t my world”. And so, as I have done again and again over these past two years, I have had to set aside what I think my world is supposed to be and ask myself what do I want my world to actually be?
So far, my rain break world has included overcoming anxiety about wearing a wetsuit so I can snorkel with a manta ray, lazing on the beach, exploring some sacred places on this island, good talks with one of my best friends, and last night, standing near the top of one of the highest places on earth with the sun setting on one side of me and the full moon rising on the other.
A moment of perfect balance and beauty. A moment where I was filled with gratitude that I am smart enough, thin enough, financially responsible enough and singularly me enough to stand in that moment in perfect contentment.
You swam with a manta ray? You rock in so many ways, my friend.
Thanks, sweetie! Right back atcha! Hugs.
well said. it is how do we want to define ourselves instead
of suffering because of how we think we need to be. Love the
picture and have so much fun on your rain break.
What’s the name of that Brene Brown book?
The first one I read was The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are. The second one, the one on shame, is called I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t): Making the Journey from “What Will People Think?” to “I Am Enough”
If you want a sense of her work, check out her TED talk at http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability.html
Hi I enjoyed your post but one phrase jarred me: what has
“thin enough” to do with enjoying that beautiful moment?
For me it means that I am fine at exactly the weight I am. I don’t need to be thinner in order to be happy. Or, to be worthy of being happy.
I am enough exactly as I am.
Lovely post! I am glad you are working on the suppose
Well written. I often feel like the world is designed for families of 4! It’s strange how simply observing the world as we grow up can induce feelings of shame we didn’t think we had when we don’t fit the mold.
Thanks, Kelly! Does anyone fit the mold? Seems to me there is a lot of money to be made from trying to convince us we aren’t what we are supposed to be!
Such a heartfelt post — thank you for showing your vulnerability. It is a gift and beautifully written.
Wow — This is such a heartfelt post — Thank you for sharing your vulnerability. Even though I am now married, I could so relate to your words as I was single for a long time. And the elaboration on Brene Brown was a bonus. Thank you!
Wendy again you amaze me by articulating with keen insight and a selfless willingness to peer into your own soul what makes your world go round. I think about these things too and to my own shame run and hide from these naked truths. If this is an example of what wholeness of self is then I want that too!
Hugs and thanks. PK ps what did you mean about the missing teeth?
Thanks, Paul! Someone once told me that fear can be an acronym for either “f**k everything and run” or ” face everything and recover”. As crazy, scary it is to tackle the hard stuff, it brings the amazing good stuff with it.
As for the teeth, you said on FB that you’d give your eye teeth to be in Hawaii. I’m saying no teeth is not a good look!
Brene Brown rocks. I have read those books and I’m working on her third! Good post too. I think you did a wonderful job sharing!
Thanks, Anita! I’m about 2/3 through the third book. What she’s found about men’s shame being different from women’s is fascinating!
beautiful! you really got me with the description of the physical feeling of shame …
I agree with the above comment “a wave of hot, flushing cheeks…….and an overwhelming urge to run and hide forever” Brilliant description of the feeling of shame and wonderful post!
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