Friday, June 28, 2013

What I Know About Shame

Shame has been on my mind a lot lately.

(Don't run away. Don't hide. "Shame" is not a dirty word. It's the word that describes what most of us are feeling day-to-day and what virtually no one wants to talk about.)

According to Brene Brown, the twelve shame categories are:
-appearance and body image
-money and work
-mental and physical health
-surviving trauma
-being stereotyped or labeled

These are the areas that make us feel flawed and unworthy. These are the vehicles that carry shame into our stories. The script is "not good enough" and we hear it every day.

As I've been reading and thinking about shame, I couldn't pinpoint one specific area that I personally felt a large amount of shame and I was feeling pretty good about it. That is, until I realized the one area I most often try to ignore: appearance and body image.

Oh, you again. 

I kept brushing it aside as if it didn't apply, but it does. I feel ashamed of my body in one way or another every single day. And according to the research, I am not alone. "The primary shame trigger for women," says Brown, "in terms of its power and universality, is how we look."

I won't get into the ten billion and one ways in which patriarchy, misogyny, media consumption, and a culture of perfection have created a profound sense of insecurity around women and our bodies. But I will say this: It is true shame. It hurts. And I don't know what to do with it.

I haven't felt good in my body for several weeks. My counselor would say wise things, like, "Heather, this makes sense. You've been through some incredible changes in the last month. Give yourself a break. You've packed up your home, left a supportive community, put your stuff in storage, moved to another state, started another job, you don't get a lot of time with Jeremy, AND you spend all day in a swimsuit."

You see, it's rarely just about the swimsuit. Or the cellulite. Or the extra skin. Or the acne. It's about fear of disconnectedness and a feeling of unworthiness, and most often for me, needing to slow down and speak kindly to myself.

I'm tired of feeling unworthy.
I'm tired to picking myself apart.
I'm tired of comparing myself to other women.
I'm tired of assuming my husband is not attracted to me.
I'm tired of this shame.

So, I'm slowing down.
I'm taking deep breaths.
I'm talking to good friends.
I'm writing.
I'm speaking kindly to myself.

Dear Child,

It's been a bumpy few weeks. You've encountered lots of changes. It's okay that this has been hard. It's okay that you feel unsettled. Please don't take this out on your body. Please don't let shame move in. Take care of yourself. Take some time. Listen to Grace. 



KendraKay at said...

Now that you say, "Don't take it out on your body," I realize I've been out of love with my body in much the same way I used to hate my inner child. I didn't like her because she was out of control and weak. My body seems the same. It's the enemy that doesn't let the weight go when I work out and eat better. I think I should write a letter to my body and practice sympathizing with it/appreciating it. It may sound weird, but the exercise helped me stop being disgusted by my inner child.

Heather said...

Writing is therapeutic for nearly all of us. Writing letters directs the focus away from our-no-good-bodies to the soul inside. I'm with ya!