Shame is a very tricky feeling. It can cripple you entirely or it can give you motivation to keep working and achieving your dreams. For me it has been both.
A while back I had an assignment to think what my ‘shame’ was. To think what it looks like. To think what it smells like. To think what kind of voice does it have. And also what it feels like to live with it, does anyone else know about it and what would I say to it if I could. So this is what I came up with.
My Shame as a strength
“It feels like someone is always watching. Someone observing, judging and condemning if you stray from the “right” path even for a second. But that someone is no one but myself. It is the manifestation of my own presence which I use to control myself.
As a kid, this self-control was the only thing that made me go to school even though I knew what waited there. Using that manifestation to distance myself from myself I was able to tell myself “Go to school even though you’ll be alone and bullied because you have no other choice”. And it was easy to believe that. When I never gave myself another choice.
As soon as I finished school, I moved away from home. To study in a new city. And I left my whole childhood behind. Right then I also used my own external manifestation to tell myself “You will manage alone. You will succeed. You will not give up.” Because if I couldn’t manage… if I didn’t succeed… if I would give up… then I’d have to face my own shame. And that I could not do.
And so I managed. And I succeeded. I even started working while I was still studying. I was able to skip some classes because at the same time I was already teaching them myself. I just took the tests and got the highest grades.
I triumphed and got far. Because I ran away from my shame with all I got. Because failing was never an option for me. So for many years I lived peacefully with my shame. I used it to gain strength and motivation when ever I needed it. And for the biggest part of my life I saw it as a good thing.”
My Shame as a weakness
“Until suddenly, out of the blue, I got depression. Until I went through years of psychotherapy. Until I finally learned what ‘shame’ actually even is and that it was ‘shame’ that I was running away from all those years.
To my own manifestation of shame, I want to say “Thank you.” Thank you for all those years when I got to live fast and achieve a lot. I don’t regret those years. Nowadays I can accept shame as a part of me and not keep it outside any more. At the same time I can acknowledge that it will slow me down. It will make life harder and I can’t get strength from it like I used to. But that is all ok, because it’s part of who I am.
My shame does not come for a visit. It lives inside of me. So deep inside of me that no one but me can see it because I hide from the rest of the world. Because paradoxically I am ashamed that anyone else could see my shame and how much power it has over me.
I’m not perfect. And I don’t try to be any more. It is hard for sure and that is why this kind of assignments are important so I can work with my emotions. To learn more about them and thus grow as a human.”