When they look at me, what are they thinking? Do they wonder if I am harnessing anything inside my mind when I look at them? When I am not next to a person what am I thinking of them? When people are not in my space what are they thinking of me?
We all do it. We all have it. It’s as common as needing air to breathe and water to drink, SHAME.
It’s a force to be reckoned with. You cannot always see it, but you can most certainly feel it. It doesn’t always take a tangible form such as placing your hand on the roughness of a tree’s bark and feeling it’s notable difference and the sensations that come from the touching. Often it comes from the comments, the conversations, and the wondering of our everyday interactions with others. The stares we think we have burning into us, the whispers we are certain that are happening, the sinkable feelings we carry from conversations when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable even when its the last thing we want to be brave enough to do. We carry it so heavily and so deeply we often hide the unshiny pieces of who we are, the pieces that we are certain will immediately cause others to see us differently. And that’s the last thing we want, to be categorized with labels that often come with a barrage of judgement(s). Sometimes we hide the shame so deeply that we then start to look at the world of others as something we are not. Pegs and square holes that we certainly don’t fit into because we are above that. Right?!
I see it all the time. I have experienced it myself. I have dripped so massively in my own shame that I have lived from the definition of what it was instead of who I truly am. I let it define me, I let it own me, and then I started viewing others through the lens of that shame. I would allow myself to look at others and say to myself, “Well, at least I am not_______________.” And, that blank space could be filled with a plethora of things; drug addict/alcoholic/homeless/suicidal. For a little while in my younger years it felt so much easier to compare myself to the “others” and realize even with all of my own shit and all of my shame triggers I was still better off than most.
As I started getting older (but not necessarily growing and moving forward) I began to wonder. Are there others like me? Are there others who have been through things that I have been through? At the very least, are there others who can relate to the emotions even if the experiences did not align with mine? If there were; who were they, where were they, and how could I find them? Not that I was in a place where I thought I would even speak to them, but at the time I just wanted to know that they existed.
The older I have gotten I have come to the understanding (even if I am not always the best at putting it into practice) that yes, not everyone is deserving of our story. Not everyone has earned the privilege of hearing the chapters of our lives up to where we currently are. But, what would happen if we chose to never share those pages that have been written on? What would happen if we never talked about what is currently in the process of being placed into that book?
I think we would never know, we would never know that we are not alone. And, instead of being able to relate to the human energy that surrounds us we would continue to pretend that we are not one of “them”. It’s okay to protect your story, but it’s equally okay to let others read over and turn its pages. One of the lessons I have learned is that you may feel someone is deserving of what you have to share, but they may not be in a place to hear/receive the page(s). I have come to the understanding that this is okay, too. There is no shame in not being able to be what you would like to be to someone with support/listening/holding space for them, and there is no shame in letting them know that. It’s hard to be vulnerable with our shame, and knowing when it’s okay for others to hear it can be a great comfort in understanding when to read the chapter out loud.
I have shared different parts of my story here and there. And, yes – I have been shamed for things that I have talked about. It feels like being cut off at the knee caps. I immediately feel stupid when it happens. As if I have done something wrong. When I lost my four legged pup Lakota 2 years ago I had left the house for 15 minutes to go out for an ice cream. During that brief time her congestive heart failure diagnoses got the best of her. I haven’t eaten ice cream since. I actually had a grown adult (a licensed therapist) say to me in front of others when I explained why I was passing on dessert, “You understand the ice cream didn’t cause your dog to die? Right?”. I felt instant shame. Of course I understood that. It’s not about that. It’s about the emotional attachment that happens to me when something traumatic happens. It’s about the feelings that surface with such things. I have many pieces of me that are like this. It can make life challenging at times. I can own that. I don’t feel ashamed about it. But, my strength can be cut down to size when someone attacks that with shaming. Telling me that I either do something now or stop talking about the things I have experienced.
When I look at others I have come to understand that they are not the other. In fact, I firmly believe that we are all in a place where the other factor is a part of us as well. One choice, one thought, one action away; we are all of these when it comes to what could happen next.
We can choose to be who we are all of the time or only when it is convenient. We all have our shit. We all have pieces that we think would appeal more easily to others, and we all have rusty gears that we feel are less worthy.
I myself am like a robot; built from a variety of gears, sprockets, nuts, and bolts. Some of them run and turn smoothly with no effort at all, and some are laden down with years of dust and spider webs. But, they are all mine. They have all played a part in the human I have become and continue to grow into. And, it’s impossible for the shiny parts to work effectively on their own if the rust isn’t sanded off and blown into the wind from the other pieces. The shimmering effect can only hold its own for so long.
I am many pieces; I am a survivor of trauma, I live and process through diagnoses'(which provided a beacon of light with knowing that I am not alone), the on again off again battle of anorexia, I am darkness, I am light, and I wade through the waters of appreciating/respecting/understanding all of who I am and being a source of mutual appreciation/respect/understanding for others. I am not defined by any one thing, I am many parts. And, although my shame finds reasons to show itself time and time again, it will not own me. I am many things, and I will constantly work to find ways to not harbor my shame and protect it from the light. I will do my best to let the cracks of my humanness allow for unclouded entry into the places I have often hidden away. And, if you find yourself in my presence know this….your rusty parts will not be judged or shamed by me. For I am the other. And, I know this about you, too.