Shame has a funny way of robbing us of our strength, our identity, and our ability to show up in our own lives. I asked myself how I’ve allowed shame to undermine myself, and this is what came up.
Trigger warning: I’ve dreaded and dragged my feet on exploring this, and on speaking it; there are secrets that I have kept hidden from even myself. I have committed, however, to the growth that I know will come from being vulnerable, and honest with myself. This started out as a personal growth exercise. I did not expect it to become a confrontation of my own boogeyman – a traumatic experience from my childhood. But, that’s the thing about roads. They take you to places you don’t always expect.
My entire life has been determined by a perception and belief that I am significantly different; on the fringes of what is “normal” or “acceptable.” Memories float before me like specters. A personal slide show of regrets and inadequacy: that time when as a boy my favorite toy was a cabbage patch cat, the times when I was afraid to take off my shirt in public, the times when I couldn’t control or understand the intense emotions of my anxiety, my fear of other people, of rejection. Each image flits across my mind faster, and faster; a strobe light of shame. Each one cuts me like a knife, and I turn inward, holding myself, shrinking back, becoming smaller. I believe that smaller is what I am meant to be. I feel undermined by the way I was hurt – broken into invisible pieces that I can somehow feel but not handle. The shame of these experiences, the pain of my wound, and of who wounded me, threaten to overwhelm my very foundation. I feel myself spinning out of control – lightheaded and dizzy. I pull in tighter, becoming smaller, more afraid of the world, and more ashamed of myself.
Blackened images course through the screen where sensation and memory have become disconnected. My mind has lost the records, but my body remembers. My body holds the backups. In my pain, I tell myself a story; that this is always who I was and who I was meant to be… that there is only badness here, and that I must scramble to keep the rest of the world from seeing my broken “otherness.”
I struggle to understand and separate what was there before, and what came after. And, in that confusion, my mind makes it all one as it tries to weave broken strands together in a tapestry of negative space. In my shame, I tell myself that this is all there is, that this is all that I am – small, broken, hidden, and helpless. It is, in part, true. I was shattered without knowing, without consent. I was broken without knowing.
I was living around the negative space, but haunted still by a dream that I might be more than my brokenness. That I might be stronger, more powerful, and more capable than I had convinced myself to be. I am learning to become at peace with my shame. To bring it to light, and in so doing… to bring myself into that light. In the warmth of the sun, I see that “haunted by a dream” is rather untrue; that by holding myself captive to my shame, I cut off other truths of who I am. That I am more than my brokenness, and the glimmering shards of my woundedness are a part – and only a part – of a much larger whole.
In the past, I have told myself that, “Who I was is not who I am, and who I am is not who I will be;” a mantra of hope and rejection all at once. As if I needed to become more or different from what I am right now. Accepting and embracing the shame of my trauma, of my past and present, I now choose to say,
“I was enough, I am enough, I will continue to be enough. I am in a constant state of becoming, but my becoming has no bearing on my power or worthiness. It was always there. It will always be there. I am enough.”
I stand in the light. I am enough.
*I could not have explored this, written it, nor begun to come to peace with it without the support and guidance of meaningful relationships in my life, and a good therapist. If upon reading this you feel difficult feelings come up, please don’t hesitate to reach out for help. I am enough. You are too. You deserve to know it.