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Chapter 3 - The Shame Game




In one of my Facebook groups, a member posted a question about shame. She confessed her personal experiences of shame and then asked the group to share their stories. Below her post was a multitude of comments from individuals confessing their beautiful, bare, and raw experiences with shame.


I’ll admit, shame can be a robust and monstrous entity in my life. It is an ever-present fixture in the background of my existence, crippling me in bed each morning as it tells me to doubt my competency, my capability, my ability to move forward.


My secret fear?  I’m afraid I cannot be a productive member of society. I spent two decades of my life as a stay-at-home mother. I worked in bits and pieces and wrote books but I never had to work to put food on the table. Now divorced as I look for jobs I feel I sense of absolute overwhelm. In many ways I'm overqualified, too skilled…and maybe too proud to take jobs that I fear will shove me into uncomfortable boxes, boxes that I believe will squelch everything that I've come to be.  


In my bare ugliness, I will tell you, that I'm deeply ashamed for being pampered my whole life, I'm ashamed for expecting more out of life than the baseline offerings at hand. I'm ashamed for wanting more, for thinking I deserve more. 


The truth is, oftentimes I'm ashamed for being me.


And so I return to the one familiar spot that I was trained to embody from a very early age. I'm ashamed of being “too much”, too passionate, too willful, too moody, too big for my britches, too demanding.


For my whole life the internal message was to stay small, and yet…and yet….lately these days a new voice is emerging. When I get real quiet I can feel a strange undercurrent rising in me like a tide.


In my depths a secret river hums, singing with the sweetness of a lullaby “Be big, be beautiful be you…we've got your back”. I don't even know what that means but I feel it beneath the clutter of stories I've been told. The whisperings of this secret river are incredibly scary and yet exceedingly exciting as well!


I have a hunch that at one point in human history shame served a purpose. It helped us as human-animals establish roles, rules, and dominance. Not a bad thing in a healthy, balanced society. But somewhere along the lines of our human journey, shame was twisted and contorted and mined to take advantage of others. It became a way of exerting power and violence over others. 


Unhealthy, power-hungry people who wanted more from others played a game. Their strategy?  “If I cripple you with shame you will do my bidding, you will stay on path, and you won't rock the boat.”  And it worked!  Look at this human species. So many of us are walking around with lead on our feet, burdened by that dark, hand-me-down shadow of shame, denying who we truly are.


And so here we are, unconsciously tossing around these feelings of inadaquacy. We've been taught by unhealthy parents (who undoubtedly felt shame themselves), by the media, by teachers, bosses, political leaders that we need to stay small. 


It’s been pounded in us from every angle of existence for so long that many of us no longer need outside sources to be reminded of our inadequacies. Our very bodies are programmed to submit. Like a small implanted worm inside us, we, without hesitation keep ourselves small.


But!  Within us is a secret river!  It whispers to us, in our magic moments, “You are enough!” Each of us has potent powers, purpose on this earth. We’re all needed in our own special ways.


Life is hard.  Being human is hard, but I wonder what life would be like if we didn’t carry the heavy weight of shame. What would happen if we really truly knew we were enough?


Writing prompt:  Tell me about the things you feel ashamed of …and then maybe, if you'd like tell us what that secret river of hope tells you as well. In what ways are you absolutely worthy of being all you’re meant to be?


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