In reading Brene Brown's 'Daring Greatly', I've done two things: I've opened a can of worms and had a bit of a revelation. I feel liberated.
I'm by no means an expert in shame, in the way Brene is an expert. My expertise in shame comes from years of lugging it around with me.
Shame, for many of us, is a cruel companion through life. It serves no purpose. It influences everything - our behaviours, our self-esteem and our relationships with others. Most importantly, it influences the relationship we have with ourselves. But here's the clever bit - it makes you feel as though it's keeping you safe. When really, all it's done is helped us to build prisons for ourselves.
I'm sure I'm not alone when I say I've been carrying a lot of it around. It's weakened me. I've been weighed down by it. It's defined my actions, made me apologetic for being me. Made me feel like an imposter.
It's human nature to want to 'belong'. Somewhere. To find our 'tribe'. At times we compromise who we are to fit in. We allow ourselves to be squished into a pigeon hole that someone else has created. We only have to scan newspaper headlines to know that society loves a good 'ol pigeon hole. Shaming others, particularly judging others without knowing the full story, is part and parcel of the world we live in (as the recent Wentworth Miller meme illustrates).
Once you start dancing to the tune of others, it's bloody hard to stop. To own who you actually are, warts an' all. To stop looking outside of yourself for approval. Self-acceptance.
The more shame I've felt, the more I've sunk into myself. It's almost as if my 'true' self has diminished as the sense of shame has grown. It's magnified the not-so-great stuff. Prevented me from reaching out for help and stopped me owning any sort of personal success. It's overshadowed the good.
I've decided that it's about time I shed the shame. To own it. To relinquish its control over me.
*Takes a deep breath*
I'm a working mum. I love being a mum and I love my work. Yes, it's a constant battle to get the right balance. Yes, I do sometimes feel guilty about that decision but only because other people assert their opinions of it onto me. Vocally. Very vocally. But, no, I don't think I will ever regret the fact I choose to do both.
This next one is only a source of shame because I overhead a lady explain away someone's bad behaviour with 'they grew up on a council estate'. It's funny how one innocent encounter can breed shame. Add to that the reported surprise when someone achieves success even though 'they grew up on a council estate', it's no wonder, I've been confused. I wasn't even aware that 'council house stigma' was even a 'thing' until I was an adult. I grew up on a council estate. It's just bricks and mortar. Surely, what matters is that I had a phenomenal childhood?!
Since 2004, I have been battling depression. The shame that came with this was intolerable. Relationships broke down because I was too embarrassed to admit what was really going on for me. Talking openly about depression is scary. There's still a great deal of stigma around.
I'm notoriously bad at self-care. In fact, a massive source of shame, until now of course, is that I lost a molar when I was really poorly with depression due to not brushing my teeth. I've always been ashamed of this. More so, when talking to other people who look at your mouth when they talk to you. I have a toothy hole in my mouth which reminds me that I dropped the self-care ball. Badly.
Regrets? Yup, I've had a few. I've made, and continue to make, so many mistakes. In the past, I've carried them around like lead balloons. Looking back and tormenting myself with all the 'coulda, woulda, shoulda' thoughts. Replaying the situation in my mind and beating myself up. But I have learned from them all. I know what I'd do and say differently should the situation arise again. I've apologised and understand that forgiveness from others, isn't always forthcoming. And that's okay. As long as I forgive me. And I do.
""I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better." - Maya Angelou
So, shame. I've been piggybacking you through my adult life. You've been a cruel companion. And now it's time to say goodbye. I'm choosing to walk through life without you.
I'm going to be unashamedly me.
Jayne Hardy is the Founder of The Blurt Foundation, which is dedicated to supporting those affected by depression.
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