Merriam-Webster defines shame as follows:
: A feeling of guilt, regret or sadness that you have done something wrong or improper.
: Ability to feel guilt, regret or embarrassment.
It just dawned on me that I have been living a life of shame.
I have lived this life of shame since I was a child. I was sitting here reflecting as I unwind for the evening and realized a huge part of my issues with self confidence and success lie rooted in the fact that I was raised and grew in to a full grown woman full of shame and guilt.
For example, it began as a child, first of all I lived in a trailer, when everyone else I knew had a house. I was also a weakling; skinny, with weak ankles that constantly sprained, and all arms and legs with big ears and poor hand/eye coordination. I hated gym class with a passion. It was constant humiliation. I couldn’t run like the other kids, rather I tend to run like Phoebe if you’ve ever seen that episode of “Friends”. Basically I’m all gangly, wobbly and I flail about like a child drowning accidentally in the neighbours’ pool.
I had one summer where I stayed with grandparents who treated me constantly and fattened me up, so I got teased; I got made fun of for now being chubby. I was terrible at sports because I lacked confidence. I threw the bat during a baseball game and knocked the wind out of the back catcher kid so bad he was rolling on the ground with a purple face, maybe I hit him in the nuts, shit. (Sorry Chris Gibb where ever you are), because I was clumsy and had NO business being on that field. I was always a bookworm, which I also got made fun of for, so basically a nerd. I felt ashamed that I wasn’t good at sports like the others. I felt ashamed when the kids would yell “Put your weight in to it!” Making fun of my now plump physique in my second hand clothes I received from my cousin who was 6 years older than me. Try sending your kids in baby blue bell bottomed cords that snaps up the front like a bloody diaper and watch them come home in tears and resent you until you are 41 years old. I was ashamed of my clothes. I just never seemed to fit.
My parents also divorced when I was 13 and at that time I was the only kid from a broken home. Shame. Counselling, and then more shame. Apparently it’s not uncommon for children of divorce to blame themselves and this results in a tremendous amount of guilt for a child to carry in to adulthood.
The desire to fit in carried throughout my teens and frankly junior high and High School were a nightmare. I got bullied so much in one school, I mastered the art of skipping class in the eighth grade. I got shoved up against lockers by heavy set girls, pelted with snowballs as I left and I was blocked out of my locker by the “mean girls” in my school. I felt so ashamed. What was wrong with me? I was just a meek, shy, mild mannered kid who enjoyed reading. I NEVER changed in the girl’s locker room either, I chose a stall because I was either ashamed of my body, I’ve always had thick German legs, plus I was was worried that I would get caught sneaking a peek at a boob; I struggled with my sexuality my whole life and didn’t even come out until I was 34. The only problem with changing away from the other girls was because then you get labeled as A) weird B) must have something weird like a 3rd nipple or she’s a “dyke” and back in the eighties it was not acceptable to be gay. Another shame I held in for another 21 years.
I also spent my twenties as fat girl. Yes I was fat. I ate everything and I ate often. All the wrong foods and no exercise mixed with some wrong medications made me balloon up during what should have been a great time in my life. I was ashamed of my body, my size, ashamed to eat in front of others. I was ashamed to even ask for assistance retail stores. I was “mooed” at like a cow on two separate occasions. I finally wised up and changed my lifestyle and dietary habits and lost 120 pounds which I have happily kept off for about a decade now.
The next “shame” I couldn’t hide any longer. I fell in love with a woman. I kissed a girl and I really liked it. I always felt so awkward in my “straight relationships” Like I was sleeping with a brother or a cousin at the very least. My ex boyfriends could probably attest that it often required copious amounts of alcohol for intimacy to occur. I had to come clean with everyone including the God I thought would hate me if I did.
My family were not religious by any means, I however, through my paternal grandmother, began reading the Bible at a very young age, as her eyes failed I read her her favourite passages. At 18 I had decided I would become a nun. I attended Catholic Church 2-3 times a week, studied both religious studies and Latin and because I wasn’t really that interested in men I thought great. This is what I will do. There was a sister I confided in a few times but because I was often depressed she eventually stopped returning my calls. I was now ashamed I had depression, even the church didn’t want me. The shame and guilt of depression carried over to when I was contemplating “Coming Out”.
At 34 I became very involved with The Word only this time l was seeking help for the fact that I have liked women most of my life. I was so ashamed of this “depravity”. I foolishly believed I could be made straight through church and avoiding women. I once sought counsel from the Pastor’s wife who basically told me I would not get to enjoy heaven if I went down this path. “Hate the sin love the sinner” I was told. I prayed for months and do you know what I got back? “Be yourself” so I did. I came out and told all my friends and family I was gay. Since I have come out, I have lost a few friends over it, went through gay marriage and now gay divorce and am currently happily in love, I’m done with being ashamed of being gay now.
The current shame and guilt I live with daily is the shame of being sick. I have an invisible illness. In fact, I have several. You can’t tell by looking me but I have chronic pain from Fibromyalgia, Osteoarthritis, Degenerative Disc Disease and Endometriosis. I am 41 and at 37 I was unable to maintain work due to chronic illness. I have “Chronic fatigue” which may actually be narcolepsy (I’m getting whatever tests done, always with the tests- I feel like a bloody pin cushion) so my shame is not “Making a living” and being a drain on society. My ex friends, ex wife and even some family still treat me like I’m just lazy and don’t want to work which is really infuriating because I literally feel like I have no control over my own body, but to have no one believe you? That makes you feel ashamed. Guilty for not being able to contribute much financially like a “normal” functioning member of society. Ashamed because at 41 I can’t afford my own car and have to bother my 64 year old father for a ride to my doctor.
I feel ashamed I don’t have what people might consider a “normal life” for someone my age. I could never have children, another shame for not being a “regular” woman. A guilt I carried through 2 failed relationships. I don’t own a home, own a vehicle, have any assets or savings. Because of my illness I fall asleep constantly making me appear lazy, shame. I can’t lift that item because the vertebrae in my back scrape together and lock, shame. I’m only 41! I need help with things like shopping because I can’t carry items or I forget things. Embarrassing shame. I am virtually housebound because public transit (if I can even walk to the bus stop) makes me violently ill from an overwhelming mixture of smells to the motion. Shame, I really should have a car. I can’t afford a car though so, shame.
It’s only now I have come to this conclusion. Well, the shame stops here. This is the year I stop feeling ashamed, guilty, and unworthy. I am in the midst of big move to a new province with my best gal and my dog. She accepts me for who I am, she actually sees past the illness and sees me; and she’s not ashamed.
I look forward to a fresh start with her by my side. I’m not ashamed anymore, I’m not afraid.
Live Humbly, Be Charitable, Live Graciously,
“Ashamed Girl With A Bag On Her Head” by Stuart Miles www.freedigitalphotos.net
“Gay Pride Flag” by Serge Bertasius Photography www.freedigitalphotos.net
“Butterfly” by arztsamui www.freedigitalphotos.net
“Definition of Shame” http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/shame