An Open Letter to Shame
I’ve known you for a while now. You were introduced to me when I was little. You showed up when I was suspended from school, and again when I was caught lying (I don’t remember much of what happened, but I do remember how you made me feel).
You assumed the role of helicopter “friend”, pretending to look out for my best interests, always making sure I was careful about not taking on any challenges in which I might have to step out of my comfort zone.
I stayed in my cocoon, in my comfort zone, where I I was safe.
Or was I?
Shame, I trusted you, so I didn’t speak up in class because you didn’t want me to risk sounding stupid. I didn’t put myself out there and accept opportunities that would require more exposure than I felt comfortable with (what if people would judge me negatively)?
You eventually had me convinced I wasn’t smart enough, or pretty enough, or dynamic enough to succeed. You had me believe that covering my flaws, my imperfections, my stretch marks (both physical and emotional) was a prerequisite for love and acceptance. I believed you. I didn’t question you. I rarely left my house without makeup on, I even explored the world of cosmetic surgery. Worst of all, I stopped asking questions. I was silent. People assumed I was quiet, shy, or introverted. I had no way of knowing who I was because you took up most of the space in my head.
I became quiet.
The silence was deafening.
Shame, I am not blaming you, because I know that blaming points fingers elsewhere, and I am responsible for my life.
I must admit that you are pretty darn good at your job. I admire your tenacity, and there’s a lot I can learn from you. You’re as persistent as they come ( I can use some guidance in that department). In a way I feel like I should thank you. You taught me to stand up for myself.
You have a purpose that I don’t fully understand, but I accept you for what you are because I recognize that this is my only path to change.
They say “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” I never really understood this quote until I got to know you better and began to realize that when we keep our enemies close, we learn how they operate and how to deal with them.
Brene Brown is the hero that exposed you. She got to know you so well, you could no longer get by her. She has called out the critic in you and taught me the language I so badly needed to engage with you in a healthy way.
Shame, I have chosen to step up and move forward. I acknowledge your presence with no judgment. If you want to stick around, I can’t make you disappear, but I can choose to keep you at a distance , as a frenemy of sorts. You will serve as a reminder of how far I have come and how I found the courage to reduce you to a voice I don’t need to answer to.
Living in a comfortable cocoon made me appreciate the value of stepping out of my comfort zone. Now I have wings that I will use to dust off your residue and soar in ways I never thought possible.
Thank you shame for teaching me the importance of inoculating my children (and myself) against you, and while they might inevitably meet you one day, I am hopeful that the only purpose you will serve is to remind them that they have the power to choose.
Shame, I choose to accept your challenge. You may have entered into my headspace rent-free, but now I am my own landlord and I’m looking for a new tenant.
Best of luck (you’ll need it).