Shame derives its power from being unspeakable. – Brené Brown
First of all, I’d like to say that I’m not writing this for pity or attention. I’m writing this because I’m reading Daring Greatly again and it says that when we speak shame, it begins to wither. I’m writing this because I want my power back.
I recently asked my therapist, in a moment of overwhelming loneliness, why people don’t like me. Am I too needy? Am I too much or am I not enough? She told me to ask a few people I trust those same questions and see if I see any pattern. I refused. It would require too much vulnerability and I didn’t want them to think “Those are questions a 12 year old asks. Not a middle aged woman.” I decided that my loneliness was my karmic debt and this life was how I pay back my debt. I had to accept my loneliness and leave to be okay with it.
However, the next day, it dawned on me that it’s not that people don’t like me. It’s that I hide myself away from people. But why do I do that when the loneliness I feel is so painful? The word that came swiftly and loudly into my mind was shame.
According to Brené Brown, shame is the fear of disconnection. “It’s the fear that something we’ve done or failed to do, an ideal that we’ve not lived up to, or a goal that we’ve not accomplished makes us unworthy of connection.”
“Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.”
She goes on to say that shame is highly correlated with addiction (hello) and depression (big hello!), among other things and that the pain of shame is enough to trigger the survival part of our brains – the fight or flight part – that runs or hides or comes out swinging. I hide.
I’ve lived with shame since I was a small child. It’s how my family did things. Teasing. Bullying. Negating. It’s nobody’s fault. I’m sure my parents did the best they could with what they were taught.
But early on, that shaming became an inside job and it has kept me from living my life. My shame hits me at the core of who I am. It’s more of what I didn’t do than anything I did. So, in the spirit of making my shame wither:
I am 55 years old. Yes. I know. It’s hard to believe that I’m not really 29. I quit telling people how old I was a long time ago.
I’ve never had a long term relationship and I’ve given up trying. Remember. I’m 55 years old.
I don’t have any close friends. I have friends (and I appreciate you all very much), but not the kind you tell your darkest secrets to or turn to when you’re sad. I keep those things to myself.
I don’t have any kids.
I don’t have any money.
I don’t even have a career to blame all the “don’t haves” on.
I have failed to meet any of society’s norms, which, I believe, makes me a failure.
And there you have it. I hide from people because I am ashamed of who I am and I don’t want people to know me.
I know these norms don’t make me who I am, but it’s how I feel people will judge me. I look at Facebook and all I see are people’s smiling faces as they have fun playing and people talking about their new and old relationships, their new business ventures, their new homes, their kids and grandkids. Their lives are moving along as they should be.
Meanwhile, the only things I have to talk about are that I’m so far in debt that I can barely buy food, that I’m depending on my sister to ease my financial burden and in turn, making life harder for her, or that I’m depressed 75 percent of the time and rarely leave my house anymore other than to go to work.
And to top it off, I work for a woman who treats me much as my shame treats me. She belittles me, negates my feelings, and shames me into disengaging, yet I keep trying to prove to her that I’m smart, capable, and worth the money she’s paying me. I’m looking to my shame for approval. How dumb is that?
Anyway, this is why I hide and this is why I don’t allow people to get to know me and this is why I am so lonely.
So there you have it. I’m speaking my shame in the hope of taking its power away. I appreciate you taking the time to read this. Again, I’m not asking for pity or fishing for attention. I’m just trying to face my fears and my shame, so maybe it’ll leave me the fuck alone for a while. Or preferably, forever.