shame, and yoga, and new years

I want to talk about shame.

I feel a bit awkward publishing this as the rest of the blog world is promoting warm, lighthearted 2013 recaps and 2014 wishes. Because, while I’m going to try and keep this from becoming longwinded, the subject is heavy. And I need to set it down. There is relief in letting go of weight, but there is also an ache. I hope my high school teacher Mama Hood is pleased to know that I often repeat Carl Jung’s quote in various situations in my life. And to no surprise whatsoever, I find myself saying it now:

There is no coming to consciousness without pain.”

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I recently bought a book (Daring Greatly by Brene Brown) at the suggestion of Naptime Diaries. And then I bought a second one by the same author at the suggestion of Amazon: I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t): Making the Journey from “What Will People Think?” to “I Am Enough”. My purchase sat in the virtual shopping cart for quite some time as I mulled. The reviews were overwhelmingly positive but the title rang a little too self-helpy for my tastes. And by “tastes” I mean my closely held belief that I am OBVIOUSLY way too cool and mentally stable for that nonsense. Eventually, I caved and applauded myself for buying new books instead of rereading Harry Potter again. When the package arrived I set aside Daring Greatly in favor of the other. Brene Brown opens with an introduction describing why & how she came to be a researcher of shame (more specifically, shame and its effect on women) and how that choice has been received so far. I thought some points she made were interesting – especially the outlining of embarrassment, guilt, humiliation, and shame as four distinct and separate experiences. The difference between guilt (“I did something bad.”) and shame (“I am a bad person.”) struck me. Overall though, I found myself thinking that I didn’t have a whole lot of shame in my life. I felt for the women who shared their specific shame situations, but no personal recollections sprang to mind. And with that, I set the book down (all of twenty pages in) and went to bed.

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I woke up this morning and immediately felt the weight. It was heavy in my heart and in my mind and I pushed through morning yoga (new year’s resolution: check!) with the grace and poise of an elephant seal.

Tadasana

Irresponsible

Forward fold

Selfish

Down dog

Lazy

Chaturanga

Disappointing

Baby cobra

Pathetic

Virasana

Annoying

Namaste.

The echo of calm waves gently lapping through the speakers became water filling my lungs and the shame was salt in my eyes. I was handing a check to a friend, asking them to wait until Friday and hearing their reply, “Well maybe you shouldn’t live paycheck to paycheck, huh?”. I was placing clothing with tags into a donation bin because it didn’t fit anymore just two weeks after purchase. I was still in bed at 11:55am, yet to have showered or walked the dogs though I had promised to Andrew a homecooked meal for his short break from work in five minutes. I was standing in the bathroom washing away fresh makeup because it might be seen as silly or ridiculous. I was biting my nails and scratching at my skin after publishing a bikini-clad photo to instagram in hopes of showing that eating disordered bodies don’t always look like eating disordered bodies.

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I was/am overwhelmed with the fact that I do have shame. A lot of shame. Almost every day I feel shame. There’s so much shame I didn’t even realize it deserved a name outside of Rachel’s Life. I don’t know what to do with all this weight except to set it down. And there is relief and there is an ache. Relief that I no longer have to define myself by those terms. Ache from the pressure that was painful but familiar.

Brene Brown defines shame and its relationship with women:

Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance and belonging. Women often experience shame when they are entangled in a web of layered, conflicting, and competing social-community expectations. Shame leaves women feeling trapped, powerless and isolated.”

As a Christian, I equate shame with Satan attacking my heart, faith, and psyche. My mom refers to it as “the story you tell yourself”. I don’t want to tell that story anymore. To myself or to other people.  For New Years, I am fond of choosing a word, phrase, or maybe a verse to place in my heart and take with me for the next three hundred and sixty-five days. This year is “be brave & be kind”. Be brave enough to tell your truth without letting the fear of judgment hold you back. Be kind to others and do not use shame as a motivator, way of communication, or as a method of processing your own feelings and reactions. Courage and compassion.

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I have only read twenty pages of this book and I have quite a few left to go. So, I am hardly an expert on the subject or even on my own shame for that matter. But, it’s a read that I encourage you to take on. And when you do, please let me know so we can be a soundboard for one another!

Be brave & be kind.

 

14 thoughts on “shame, and yoga, and new years

  1. It’s really brave of you to post this, and I appreciate it because sometimes it can feel like I’m the only one who feels a certain way while everyone else just has it all together. But the truth is that we all experience feelings like this and it can be difficult to know how to begin to address it. One thing I heard that has stuck with me was that the type self-critical/self-shaming thoughts we direct toward ourselves are things we would NEVER say to a sister or a friend if she were feeling low and came to you for support. So why be so mean to ourselves?
    I hope this new year is a very happy one for you!

    1. Thank you so much for this comment! The feedback so far has been very positive and it just goes to show that these really are universal feelings and experiences; we are NOT alone in our struggles and sharing them with one another is a crucial step to working through our “stuff”.

      So true with the sister/friend comparison. If I hear a friend negative self-talking I try and say something along the lines of, “Please don’t say those things about my friend, they aren’t true.”

  2. Seconding what acookinthemaking said. I really appreciate your openness and vulnerability. I feel bolstered by knowing that other people have similar experiences and that a lot of us are struggling together <3

  3. I really loved this post. It’s so powerful and relatable..you need to write a book. Seriously. Just sayin’. And the use of those photos adds a tremendous amount of grace and tension…definitely goes well with the tone of the text. (I just had a flashback to 3D Design class…yikes!) Anyways, I love you and your points of view! Your blog is amazing!

  4. I just read this and I am blown away with your honesty and your courage. I hope you are being brave and kind and reaping all the blessings Jesus has ready for you. While I generally don’t feel like I’m filled with shame (maybe I’mt oo cool to admit it as well), I know that there are areas I am ashamed of, or I think I’m ashamed of them. Maybe I’m just feeling guilty? I don’t know. I’m thinking I might need to track that book down.

  5. Beautiful Rachel. I really want to find this book and read it with you. Upon reading this I FELT your shame with you. I want to follow your example and let go of shame. Thanks for this incredible post. <3

  6. Hey girl hey. I just found you on Instagram under a pear shape hashtag and I’m so glad I did! I’ve read your blog posts up to this one and my heart and prayers go out to you in this difficult time. 😔 I so appreciated this post because my mantra for this year is to be me, to be honest and to stop letting what I perceive others perception of me control my life. You were brave and allowed yourself to be vulnerable and that deserves nothing but respect and appreciation. I love book recommendations and will be looking those that you listed. I added you to bloglovin and IG and can’t wait to follow your story. 😊

    1. “.. and to stop letting what I perceive others perception of me control my life”

      This is the number one thing that holds me back in life Definitely a struggle but I’m not giving up yet! Thank you so much for coming by my little slice of internet, I love meeting new friends (:

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