All of us know it, the feeling of a sinking heart, the blush of the cheeks and the crushing blow of embarrassment. We are so ashamed.
For some of us the tendrils of the debauched emotion of shame can morph into anger or depression, sometimes both.
Shame has been a cloak that I have worn since childhood. Maybe it was the handful of bullies at school. Maybe it was wanting to be the good girl, but never being good enough. Maybe it was all in my mind. Not being able to put a finger on its source used to bother me.
Being a victim of shame became my norm.
In turn, I fed the ugly beast. Nobody is perfect. Everyone stumbles. Some of us stay down.
The lights of luminous fellow beings who are outgoing and outrageous, have always attracted me. Most of the time I pursue that light, only to fail miserably in my own eyes.
People who suffer from an extreme sense of shame are vulnerable to other people’s opinions. They can be led astray, finding themselves in almost otherworldly scenarios. Speaking from the heart, I have been there and done that too many times to mention.
Shame has left me crippled. Shame has rendered me vulnerable, and depression took over.
Shame that nested inside of me lashed out, wreaking havoc on those I loved the most.
Because of intense shame, I never pursued the perpetrator of the sexual assault, violent as it was. I let shame guide me into the school administration office and quit high school—better that than the alternative.
How could I speak up and speak out with my cloak of shame wrapped tightly around my neck? Shame held me back time and time again, as I suffered from more acts of sexual violence from men of authority. Never would I tell. Never could I say what happened, not then.
Even during my glorious days of rising supermodel stardom shame coiled itself tightly around my soul.
More scenarios of outrageous sexual innuendo, sexual harassment, and abuse followed suit. My heart was cold and disconnected.
My erratic behavior was lauded as being “wild and crazy,” which was considered a positive attribute.
I was “outrageous.” How much fun it was for the fashion audience to watch me in action. Even better, to see me go up in flames.
Unfortunately, my behavior did me no favors. Most people are not therapists. In the fashion industry, few people care about your well-being. As long as you look good and fit the clothing, the show goes on.
Dancing like I did for way too many years to count, one day I found myself sitting at the kitchen table in my apartment in Paris, feeling lower than a snail’s belly. I was casting about for help on the internet and came across an excellent Ted Talk by Dr. Brene Brown, based on shame. As I listened to her words, I recognized myself. I had given into shame and it controlled me. I had lived my life thus far, refusing to admit that I too felt vulnerable.
Being scared, scarred, abused, taken advantage of and left to fend for myself taught me a lot of things. None of which were beautiful, or healthy.
Living day after day, disconnected and disassociated with my circumstances, was my reality.
That day, in Paris, sitting at the kitchen table, I finally found my ticket to a life worth living. I had to muster the courage to admit to myself and the ones that I cared about, that most of the time I don’t know what I am doing. I had to confess that I am scared. I had to admit that I have many regrets.
My heart had been shattered more than once. I have known defeat, helplessness, and despair.
I gave myself permission to be vulnerable. I gave myself leave to release my shame. I gave myself the freedom to accept me.
Nobody is perfect. Many of us try to achieve a level of perfect human behavior that inadvertently sets us up for failure.
When I look back on the days that were less than stellar, days that I wished my life would just end, days that I was too ashamed to be, It is as if I am looking through the eyes of a different person. I can now see beyond the cloak of shame. I now accept with pride that I am a flawed human; I am me.
Finally shame free.