The Happiness Connection  

Your walk of shame

Have you ever been in a situation that left you wanting the ground to open and swallow you up?

Of course, you have. You’re human.

Some people are more easily embarrassed than others. For many years, I was one of those people. I think it’s because I was raised to care too much about what other people thought of me.

I was trying to be the person I believed I should be, rather than who I really am. That person needed to be kept from view.

I learned to deal with embarrassment when I was in my 20s. I used these experiences as dinner party entertainment. No situation was too mortifying to share with my friends, who laughed uproariously.

Everybody loves to hear about another person’s cringe-worthy experiences. We can all relate and imagine ourselves in a similar situation.

I wonder if I’d be so quick to share things that I’m truly ashamed of.

That thought emerged because embarrassment is a mild version of shame.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines shame as a painful emotion caused by consciousness of guilt, shortcoming, or impropriety.

In other words, shame surfaces when you say or do something that re-enforces a deeply hidden belief that you’re in some way broken or not good enough.

You don’t want others to realize this, so your first instinct is to distance yourself from whatever happened. This usually entails running away from it or burying it deeply so you can pretend it never happened.

I think of shame as being an emotional mushroom. Fungi doesn’t like direct sunlight. It prefers a shady environment.

So does shame. It doesn’t want you to bring it into the open, because then it would die.

It prefers to lie in the darkness, waiting for any chance it can find to resurface. Usually when you’re least expecting it. Every time it arises, you remember how inadequate you are.

The lower your self-esteem, the easier it is for shame to materialize. When you already believe you’re less than you should be, you use that lens to interpret your experiences.

As long as you keep shame hidden, it’ll thrive. The best way to deal with it is to bring it out into the open.

I’ve been experimenting with this idea. Is it possible to stop shame in its tracks, simply by choosing to acknowledge and look directly at the source of it?

What better place to start my trial than with my long-time foe, my body image?

I’ve been ashamed of my figure for most of my life. It didn’t fit with the images I was surrounded by when I grew up. The media had me convinced that I needed to look like Twiggy.

Being stick thin and flat chested was the ideal body shape, back in the day. That was never going to be me. Even when I was very slender, I was always curvy.

I’m sure you can relate to looking back at old photos and regretting not appreciating what you looked like. If you’ve always loved and valued your physical self, think about something else you’ve judged as not good enough.

I decided the best way to kick this destructive emotion to the curb, was to stop hiding myself – from me. I needed to bring what I believed was broken into the light and let it be seen. Not just once, but regularly.

It was time to stop behaving as if my body was something to hide. Instead of looking away from the mirror when I stepped in or out of the shower, it was time to lock eyes with my reflection. I wanted to be able to look at myself without the usual lens of criticism.

I added more opportunities to bring my physique out in the open by performing my morning and bedtime routines without anything on. It was uncomfortable at first, but like anything, I got used to it.

One morning I was shocked to see the body that was reflected back to me looked different. I no longer saw a woman who was the size of a barn. Instead, I was greeted by someone with a tall, long-limbed build.

I’ve spent my life looking through a distorted lens. Yes, there are fat deposits and wrinkles, but they don’t make me ugly or substandard. They’re simply part of me and the choices I’ve made.

My attitude has changed because I was willing to uncover my shame and expose it to the light.

Regardless of what your body looks like, it still deserves to be nurtured and treated with love and respect. You don’t have to look like a model to be worthy of admiration and affection.

It’s time to stop thinking you’re broken. You do not need to be fixed. This applies to mental and emotional aspects of you, as well as your physical appearance.

Treat shame with a strong dose of light. It can only thrive if you hide it in the deep, dark shadows.

For me, the process was painful initially. But the end result was worth every moment of my suffering.

You are undoubtedly your harshest critic. It’s unlikely anyone else is judging every flaw and concluding you aren’t good enough.

In the off change that someone is, don’t worry about it. What they think, isn’t part of your journey. That’s on them.

The only one you should care about accepting you, is you.

More The Happiness Connection articles

About the Author

Reen Rose is an experienced, informative, and engaging speaker, author, and educator. She has worked for over three decades in the world of education, teaching children and adults in Canada and England.

Research shows that happy people are better leaders, more successful, and healthier than their unhappy counterparts, and yet so many people still believe that happiness is a result of their circumstances.

Happiness is a choice. Reen’s presentations and workshops are designed to help you become robustly happy. This is her term for happiness that can withstand challenge and change.

Reen blends research-based expertise, storytelling, humour, and practical strategies to both inform and inspire. She is a Myers Briggs certified practitioner, a Microsoft Office certified trainer and a qualified and experienced teacher.

Email Reen at [email protected]

Check out her websites at www.ReenRose.com, or www.ModellingHappiness.com

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

Previous Stories