Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance and belonging.
–Dr. Brene Brown
I just spent two hours composing a post.
And I just deleted it all.
Because it was too safe. It wasn’t even MY story.
It was bits and pieces from other blogs and books and stories from other people.
When I started this blog several years ago, I wrote regularly. It was an outlet and I enjoyed it…and it was easy.
I wasn’t trying to “protect an image”…I think that I stayed underneath some safe layers at times. But I wrote freely…
Sometime within the last few years, I stopped writing regularly. It was sporadic postings at first, but then the time between posts became longer and longer.
Writing wasn’t easy anymore. It took work…and I had to carefully craft sentences so that they wouldn’t come across as “snarky” or “offensive”. I had to make my stories all reflect some positive Gospel laden message where I could throw in a nice scripture at the end and tie it up and present it neatly as my “offering”.
It was not until I had lunch with a new friend last week, that I realized what had happened.
It started with just a couple of criticisms.
You really shouldn’t be posting statements like that.
Please bear in mind that my writings are my honest words…so when I received the message that what I was posting was off-putting or “someone could take it the wrong way”, it cut deep.
I began to believe somewhere in my subconscious that I was making a fool of myself with the things that I was writing. Obviously, there were at least a handful of people who thought that…or else they wouldn’t have taken the time to let me know it.
It was shaming and it hurt.
I shut down. I stopped writing because I couldn’t pretend that everything ended neatly or that I could point to some God-ordained reason that everything happened.
I felt like I couldn’t really be who I was anymore because I was being judged by a standard that I was unclear as to what the rules were. I was so focused on how this post, this tweet, this Facebook status would come across that I felt like I had to qualify every statement I made so that no one could bring it under the microscope of scrutiny.
I received “helpful suggestions” on how I could be a better parent, a better wife…how I shouldn’t read “that” book or listen to “that” music.
Who I was as a person had to be veiled and shrouded in “happy Annette” who could always find a way to make the story end with a spiritual lesson.
Some of it was self-imposed, for sure. I was so focused on how others would see me, that somewhere I lost myself.
To be nobody-but-yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody but yourself—
means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight—-and never stop fighting.
Even now while I’m sitting here composing this post, I’m stuck. How do I get to the point I’m trying to make? How to move forward to what I want to say next?
How long will it take before I can move past that feeling of wanting to shut down and keep silent about things because it doesn’t sound beautiful enough or poetic enough or smart enough?
When you are stuck in a place that you don’t want to be, how do you move forward to the place that you know you NEED to be?
I guess, maybe, you just…move.
So I’ll say this… I thought that I would be bold. And take a picture of the slouchy, real, no-makeup me. (I had no idea at the time that I took the picture that the Today show was gearing up to do No Makeup Monday yesterday. I’m so ahead of my time.)
I enlisted my daughter’s help to take my picture. I was smiling from ear to ear…because I thought for sure that I was going to take an “after” picture that would trump the “before” into oblivion. I was going to make a point about how we are all hiding our real selves and that we can all make ourselves appear so much more perfect for others…when maybe all we really want is for someone to be freaking REAL around us.
(This is not a lecture against make-up or flat-irons and hair dryers. Lord knows I love ‘em. I was just going to be all object-lessony about “Look at how much work we do to hide behind the mess of who we are.”)
Well. It all backfired. So very badly.
When I finally did my hair and makeup and put on what I thought was a cute outfit, I had her retake the picture. Dang…I was so smug!
Until I actually SAW the picture.
I hated it. I hated how I looked. I hated how the lumps and bumps showed through my clothes… I knew I had gained weight. I knew I had gained more than I wanted to. But looking at that picture made me so ashamed.
Had people seen me out in public like this? Have I been walking around looking like a whale who’s nearing 40 that thinks she can still shop in the “teen” section?
I wanted to crawl in a hole (a large hole) and die.
What I did instead was I let the shame of how I felt about my body image turn me into an anger-filled monster. I was snappy with my kids for the rest of the day. I lost all motivation to do just about anything. I was just a shame-filled, ugly-feeling sour puss.
It was a nasty day.
And now, I’m sharing it with you. I don’t have a resolution to it either.
I’m not going to tell you that my son told me I was beautiful and that made everything turn to sunshine and roses.
I can’t say that (insert best southern church lady voice) “I just realized that it was what was on the inside that made me beautiful, y’all. Not the outward appearance.”
Because trust me, the inside was looking so hot that day either. I was a crabby lady ready to go for the throat on anyone who crossed me.
I’m simply sharing it for two very real reasons…
One…it’s my truth. It is my experience. If I can speak my shame out loud, perhaps the power is somehow diminished. I don’t know…I’m still learning.
And two, if I can speak it out loud (or type it…whatever), then I’m willing to bet that someone out there can identify with the feelings that I felt. And you will know you’re not alone in thinking things like I did….
I CAN’T BELIEVE I’VE GONE OUT LOOKING LIKE THIS.
I’M THE FATTEST ONE OF ALL MY FRIENDS.
I BET THAT WHEN PEOPLE SEE ME EATING DESSERT THEY THINK, “Wow. Get a clue, lady.”
I NEVER THOUGHT I’D WEAR THIS SIZE.
I NEVER WANT TO LOOK IN A MIRROR AGAIN.
That’s all real crap, right there people. And it kind of sucks to put it out there like that, but maybe…oh, this may be a shot in the dark…but MAYBE…through being vulnerable, I can be authentic, and that authenticity can lead to empathy. And perhaps the courage to share brings about the compassion to show the empathy which is the antidote to shame. And maybe you can feel free to say, you know what…me too.
Or maybe it’s not your weight, maybe it’s your hair or your wrinkles or your scars. And maybe somewhere in that process of sharing and connecting and saying, “Oh my gah! Me too!” we can create those relationships that are real and honest and more than surface stuff but become the “heart” stuff that deals with the “hard” stuff…
And we can laugh and/or cry about it over a big ole hot fudge sundae.
And P.S. I’m posting this without proofreading because I don’t want to second guess any of the honesty and truth that I have spilled. However, I can’t stand misspelled words, improper grammar, or misuse of commas… so if I read it later and I find that kind of stuff…well, I’m gonna have to edit it. Note: use of ellipses (…) will never, ever be corrected in anything I write ever because it is my favorite use of punctuation…