Oh, the Shame


Shame is a bitch.

A motherfucking cuntbusting[1] bitch.

Of all negative emotions, it’s the one that hits me the hardest, because it challenges my very existence.

To stare in the face of your shame is to stare into the gut clenching void that says “you suck too much to be here at all.”

What I’ve learned is that shame can come from many places, and not just from being actively shamed in your childhood.

If you didn’t get nurtured enough as a child, you can feel unworthy of existing.

If you’ve been through traumatic events, you’re ashamed of being broken.

 I realized I could not look people in the eye, could not actually be seen, could not in any way grab attention because what people might see was too much to bear.

People would see just how broken I am, how much pain I experience. People might acknowledge my existence, in direct contrast with a part that would like to disappear, ashamed to wake up in the morning.

Ashamed to want.

Wanting is for humans, bitch. You’re too broken to deserve anything. Especially sexuality, which is so closely linked with our primal needs and validation. You definitely cannot want sex or intimacy.

Fear of rejection was not just fear of an uncomfortable feeling. It was one step away from spiraling into a void, total emotional annihilation.

It explained my fear of success as well.

To succeed is to be seen. It means being noticed, looked at, acknowledged. The greater the success, the greater the shame of how unworthy I am of any of it.

Now dance with that for 12 hours.

At a recent ecstatic dance festival, I danced with these feelings for hours. They would rise up, a tightness in my back, in my sternum, that would become so overpowering that I’d collapse on the ground with a head rush.

Then keep going.

 You want shame? I’ve got shame for days.

People who see me dance often want what I’m having. Dude, it sucks.

I’m crying on the dance floor.

Don’t worry, all good. I got this. I always got this. Anything other than that would be shameful.

Suddenly, instantly, magically, I’m embraced by at least three women. Jewish Israeli mothers with children of their own. “Let it out,” they say. “We know where you’ve been.”

It’s soft in there, and safe.

I feel grateful. And ashamed of crying. So I cry about that too.

I shift my feet to get more comfortable. There’s a fear that any slight movement might make them go away. Any sign of life might end this. And who are you to be comfortable anyway?

They stay.

I realize that artists are the bravest people in the world, because they put their souls on a stage.

I realize that the key to moving through the world is to present your truth fully and unconditionally, gathering the people who resonate with you along for the ride. You cannot control the response. Just keep expressing unconditionally, without need for reciprocation.

I realize that there are two ways to cope with shame – to be held back by the fear and avoid the world, or to cut off those parts and move through the world with scripted callousness. I know many people who do the latter. Both do their own type of damage.

I realize that experiencing love lies on the other side of shame, because until then all love sent your way will fall short, deflected by the armor of your unworthiness.

I can’t tell you how to move out of shame – it’s such a perfectly self-perpetuating cycle where acknowledging it makes you an even more shameful person. You’re ashamed of the shame.

But I hope that you can find something in you to start looking at it in the face. Maybe just a peek at first; glance at it, then avert your gaze.

Push yourself to the limits of how much you can be seen.

We’ll be here. We’ve been seeing you the whole time.

[1] I experienced a lot of shame with this word. It came to me, but then I second-guessed myself.

What if I insult people? What if people dislike me because I’ve used it? What if I didn’t realize it’s the most insulting word in the English language? What if it offends women? I really want women to like me. What would that mean for my sense of self?

So I left it in.

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