Shame

Somewhere along the way I got the idea that to be myself I had to leave the room.  Whether I’m a natural introvert or was just saving myself the time and effort of having to ‘leave the room’ remains to be seen.  When I started writing to be read and heard, when I started performing honestly, it was a genuine surprise to me to be rewarded for it.  And even now, after seven years of public reception, I reveal myself again and again with the safety net that, should the penalties be big and coming, I’m still young enough to recover.  Still young enough and hippie enough to pack a bag and leave town should I need to start over.  Any time I share something revealing about myself in a public way I wait for the other shoe to drop, the sanction to come, the pink slip saying I’ve now reached the line and, “Though we thank you for your service, are now severing our relationship with you.”  (I expect this notice from the world at large, not any specific body or organization or person, I think).  Even now, I can still see the other self hovering near the door.

Having authentic relationships is still something I am learning to do.  And still, with the ride or dies I have accumulated over the years, still at times of revealing my ugly, my petty, my narcissistic, greedy, immature, selfish, mean, I am baffled that they will continue to receive all of me.  Continue to take my calls, like my posts, laugh at my jokes.  Sometimes I feel like reminding them, did you miss what just happened?  Did you miss the part where I showed you that true me?  Do you want me to go back and do it again so you don’t miss it this time and can stop loving me?

Recently I reached a new revelation: my entire house is built on shame.  How I think, act, emote, project–all of it.  Through all of the self work I’ve done in the past five years, I can now clearly identify that when I am angry or afraid there is a lesson to be learned.  There is a reaction happening in me that is an opportunity to know me better, sink deeper, become more grounded.  What I hadn’t identified was that shame is providing me with the exact same information: I had thought Shame was the Truth.  

I had identified anger and fear as the arrow pointing to the error, the lesson to be excavated, the wound I was protecting, but shame felt like The Truth.  

I had not identified shame as a giver of information, a false belief needing to be corrected, a wound that was never healed.  We’re three months into 2021 and the revelations have been large, indeed.  I thought wrong was my starting point, needing fixing my premise.  In 2020 I started meditating with my eyes open rather than closed, but even then, even at 33 with eyes that I believed to be wide open, even with that working in my favor, I couldn’t identify this belief (nevermind its flaws).

Praise be to shadow work, therapy, and the time and space to sit still and cry.

But first, before the celebration, Doubt.  Never before, in all my years of self work, have I ever nearly been thwarted before beginning.  But this time I thought, “I don’t think so.  It’s just too big.”  I said it not out of fear but just in recognition of the sheer size of the project — how do you deconstruct an entire home, life, identity?  How does one do that?  And for how long?  And at what cost?  But with immense humility I learned: most of the work will not be done by Me.  By showing up and not turning away from the shadows and memories I’d forgotten, facing the fear of discomfort and discomfort itself, sitting still where I’d only up until then avoided, by not running, not picking up my phone the moment I felt a twinge, the walls shifted, the foundation was enforced, and footprints expanded.  

For so long, self-protection was my baseline; shame my motivation; and anger, anxiety and defensiveness my personality.  I feel younger, smaller, and more sensitive than I did.  My armor has changed, and in some ways the world seems much bigger now.  Now that I’m seeing less of my own assumptions and projections — life has become less about seeing others as my enemy.  I also feel exhausted.  I was fighting an opponent in my own mind year after year.  

Shame was the reason I cried every time I got on stage and in nearly every honest conversation I had—in those moments the guard came down, all was exposed and the fear and foreignness was too much to withstand, too much to bear.  And looking back at it, my instinct is to regret, to shame myself further, instead of employing understanding and compassion.  I’ve said it before and I continue to say it, all that is buried and all that is coming up, we are not responsible for its origins, but we have an ownership over whether or not we can honestly look at the results of our lives and labours and say, “Yes.  I am satisfied with this,”  or “No, I need to do a bit more work here.”

When we are maintaining the shiny with our insides a mess, who are we serving?  Are they worth it?  If they are, would they ask this of us or want this for us?  If inside there is a churning, a must keep going, what’s beneath that?  I would happen a guess from my recent experience that it’s fear, and maybe beneath that a yearning for safety, for love, to be held.  The world may not be able to give you that, your security does not keep it/consumerism running.  But that doesn’t mean you don’t deserve it, haven’t earned it, shouldn’t prioritize it.  I am holding (y)our broken heart in my hands.  I am promising to keep it safe while it heals.  I am telling you you are everything that is good and beautiful and holy.  

You were always enough.

Published by Pam Stewart

I am a writer living in Victoria, BC, Canada. I got my start in spoken word and am now a frequent contributor to Elephant Journal. My writing is the result of a deep dive into the world of self-help. I don't profess to know how others should do it, but am interested in having the conversation. I think there is real value in revealing our blindspots, our vulnerabilities and our fears; which is what I am trying to do through my essays on mindfulness, self-exploration, and living honestly. I have found God through writing, which is to say, I have found myself through writing. My book, I Really Thought It Would Be Easier Than This, is available now.

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