Few years back I was invited to a social function where I wasn’t familiar with the guests, only the host. The event turned into an annual gathering and I became acquainted with the people. The last time I participated, I acted in a way that my desire to keep part take abruptly came to a standstill and I started dreading the thought of crossing any of them again.
I won’t go into the details of what happened but to clarify, no harm was done to anyone or anything. Rationally speaking, I did nothing inappropriate so no laws were broken nor moral rules. What I did was shake up the status quo in the group. Not sure if you’ve noticed, but some oppose behaviours stretching beyond that which is considered “socially acceptable”, even when it has no real basis to cause a ruckus if you take a second to logically think it through. On a conscious level I’m aware that many react and project outwards when dared to get out of their normative comfort zone. But in actuality, I believe, it’s a great chance to investigate the core of the personal discomfort instead of pointing fingers at the catalyst. Anyway, to sum things up, I put my foot where it “didn’t belong”and needed to scootch back to my place. But to be frank, if it wasn’t for my fear of (harsher) repercussions I wouldn’t have settled with a mini skip over “the line”, I would have bulldozed far past it.
Recently an invitation dropped in with the same social circle. Let’s just say I’m put in a position where I’m obligated to attend and face my past “misdeeds”. Mind you, I haven’t interacted with these folks for years yet identical resistant feelings seem to resurface. The universe sure has a sneaky way of pushing me into a scenario I’ve dodged for a lengthy time. While dissecting my reluctant attitude to reunite with the group I discovered an emotion I won’t voluntarily approach. Any time I go in the vicinity of it I want to hide or change my string of thoughts quickly. I’m talking about shame. What baffles me is why I feel shame when my mind doesn’t agree that I should. Most likely it’s a result of breaking an ingrained social cue which automatically equals a shame response. I’m suspecting it’s evolutionary scraps from back in the day when breaking social rules could result in getting kicked out of the pack and subsequently, slim chances of survival. Today, although the outcome might not be as dramatic as a death sentence, emotionally speaking it’s the same sort of sensation. By no means do I want to portray shame as the emotional bad guy. He (yes, I’m referring to shame as male) does serve us by keeping us and others in check by regulating our behaviours to function appropriately amongst each other. It only becomes somewhat inconvenient once shame appears when objectively it holds no bearing.
So what to do? Regardless if there is a “valid” reason for shame or not, the perception is just as real. There are two routes I’d like to promote to achieve a healthy relationship with shame. One way is to air out your business! At one point in my life I did not only feel shame about a certain behaviour but a massive chunk of my lifestyle. Yes, I’m referring to being a thirty plus woman with no experience of romantic relationships in the traditional sense. This “deviancy” used to fuel my shame and I decided to post the self explanatory text 30 years of age and always been single, shame oh the shame 🙂. Was it comfortable to write and have it out there for anyone to see? Hell no. However, I can attest to the relief that followed and I’m happy to announce that as we speak, what I used to consider shameful turned out to be my strength (that’s for another time but I touch on the topic in Forever singleness- has it been worth it?). I dare you, to bring out your shame to the light, air out your dirty laundry, make it public (have you realized the motive for writing this piece yet?) ! It kickstarts the process of transforming shame to an awkward temporary visitor rather than an intrusive squatter. If putting your personal business out there feels a tad too much, you could always follow Rene Brown’s advice and share your shame with another. René Brown is one in the forefront on the subject of shame. According to Brown the “antidote” for shame is empathy. Empathy creates an inhabitable environment for shame to grow. Personally, I’d argue self empathy is the most significant form of empathy. However that could be a tricky approach to begin with. So if you’re curious about the emotional shift empathy can cause, confide your shame with a close one, therapist or feel free to email me.