Friday, January 20, 2012


     Shame is toxic and debilitating and more active in our lives than most of us realize. It hides and lingers and acts on us as if from behind a curtain. We are children once again, transported backwards in time to feelings of smallness. When I am ravenous with hunger and unable to feel satisfied no matter how much I eat, chances are there is shame at work; or when I am inexplicably depressed or self-conscious.
     Riddled with shame, I do not feel deserving of the good before me. I do not feel equal to life. I am stumbling and clumsy, embarrassed, and awkward. It's an inside job. I am not enough somehow in these moments. Everyone "out there" appears to have it all together and I alone am bumbling and unsure. On the outside, in these moments, I imagine the perception of me is wildly different from what I feel on the inside. For all I know, others in my presence might experience their own shame triggered by something that I seem to represent to them.
     It's crazy, really, that we are any of us "shame-bound" in the slightest. We are each unique, beautiful, and gifted in our own rights. Some of us (not me!) have a knack for high fashion and great style. Some of us are poised and calm and relaxed. And some of us are all heart and gusto and enthusiasm. It depends what we prioritize: work, family, money, externals, internals, art, nature, books, technology... The rub comes when we have followed one path and encounter someone on a very different path who seems glamorous to us somehow, someone who reminds us of what we have not chosen, but what has been presented to us as valuable in the past- maybe by friends, maybe by our families... and we feel suddenly wrong for choosing what we have chosen.... as if we are ridiculous and have missed an important point somehow. Happily, the doubt passes, but it's uncomfortable when it bumps up against us.
     We all have a roll in the distribution of shame as well as the experience of it. Let's watch out for our tendency to judge and finger-point. Let's be more inclined to say, "Good for you!" than "Why are you doing that?" Let's honor others and respect their internal guides and callings, and honor our own as well. Let's catch shame in the act and send it packing. Let's rejoice in all the different ways we can make our way through life, and none of them wrong or better or anything- just choices and experience and powerful inclinations from the gut.

I bring awareness to all the ways I allow shame to operate in my life, and make a decision to let it go. I don't hand it out or take it in. I make a commitment to live my life shame-free.