it's embarrassing to lay your soul bare flowery language spilling out of fingertips onto a painfully white page afraid of being perceived as stroking my own ego or propping myself up as something special there is nothing unique or profound in the experiences I paint somewhere along the line I got the idea in my mind that producing anything is the same as proclaiming it's worthwhile for the rest of the world to contemplate and consume an arrogant arm extending outwards with crumpled poems clenched in a fist but my words were never meant for anyone but myself publish them or pull them into pieces to scatter in the breeze it's all the same to me the pleasure is in the act of creation plucking dusty strings deep inside to see what sound comes out it doesn't matter if anyone else hears I don't expect an applause I don't need anyone else to understand
Humility is generally viewed as a good quality. Without it, the most incredible people can become narcissistic and unpleasant to be around. Shame is a bit different. It’s not thought of in a positive light. The mere word brings up feelings of discomfort and maybe even a vague memory of a time when you felt shame in your own life. However, at least in my experience, suddenly encountering a shameful moment is what deflates my ego enough to allow me to find humility again.
Shame is a very interesting emotion. It is definitely one of my least favorite. It cuts deep and leaves lasting scars. But I think that this is because shame may have developed as a means for us to make sure we don’t become separated or exiled from our herd. Shame is generally something that we feel when we are behaving in a way, or doing an act we wouldn’t want others to see or even know about. It’s an important inner valve to help us determine what will cause friction or change the way others in our group view us. Which, in the past, it could have meant a death sentence if we were cast out.
There have been many times in my life where I can recall a jolt of shame immediately redirecting me towards humility and self-reflection when moments before I had been boisterous with an overly-inflated ego. There is nothing wrong with being proud or confident, but sometimes it can get a bit out of hand and start to tip over into conceit. That’s when shame can really come in handy to help us check ourselves before we get out of control.
I had a particularly shame-filled encounter yesterday evening. I won’t go into detail, but I’ve been internally cringing ever since. Part of me still wants to jump out of my skin and pretend it never happened. In the past this would have sent me on a downward spiral of destruction. (Sometimes I go a bit past “humility” and into the realm of self-hatred.) This time, I refused to close my heart to myself and to the world just because I’ve made some big mistakes. Instead of turning away, I’ve been examining what happened more closely. I’ve been asking myself: What has this incident taught me? Is there something to be grateful for in even the most painful, embarrassing moments?
Though it still makes my insides contract whenever my mind glides over the memory, I’m actually glad that it happened the way it did. For one thing, it certainly could have been much worse. Simple embarrassment was a small price to pay considering all the possible alternatives. I’m also glad it happened because it shook me out of my stupor. It quelled my growing rage and judgement of others and deflated my foolish ego. If given the choice I’d pick humility over hubris every time.
Instead of my normal, borderline road rage on my drive home that evening, I drove slowly, mindfully, with grace and compassion for all my fellow humans on the highway. A humble heart is quick to kindness. It’s much easier to hold space for the errors of others when you’ve just been reminded of your own shortcomings in such a direct way. Being embarrassed is a reminder that we all make mistakes. It offers insight into our hopes of how others would respond to those mistakes we make and, in turn, makes us more willing to offer that same understanding to those around us.
Shame is also often the catalyst for a much needed change of direction. There is a small thrill in getting away with a shameful act, and the more often this happens the bolder and more obnoxious we become. Being found out is often necessary before we can really recognize the need for change. And yesterday was definitely a blessing in disguise for me. It was a huge wake up call. It was the kick in the pants I’ve been needing for awhile now. So even though it stung and continues to sting, I’m grateful. In fact I hope that memory brands my soul for years to come as a reminder of who I truly want to be. Shame shows us when we’re not being that version of ourselves.
Now, none of this is to say that shame necessitates some kind of personal change. There are plenty of examples of society teaching us to be ashamed of things that we shouldn’t be ashamed of. For instance, LGBTQ people may feel shame for simply being themselves. Promiscuity in women is often shamed. Victims of violent crimes are even shamed. And there are many more examples of unwarranted shame that is not a call for inner change or redemption. Deep down I believe we are able to decipher the difference. If you’re unsure, as long as you’re not hurting anyone or betraying your own sense or morality, then any shame felt is a challenge to overcome within ourselves, not a call to change.
Humility and shame are a beautiful example of the duality of our experiences in this life. It shows us that even in our darkest moments, there is something to be grateful for. As someone who is a deep lover of learning, I can’t deny that pain is often our greatest teacher. And I’m so thankful that the lesson wasn’t harder. I’m going to make sure that I take it to heart so I don’t have to be taught this lesson a second time. I know that I have been acting against my own interests for many years now. I thank the universe for offering me this opportunity for insight and redirection. I will not waste it.
As you may know, my boyfriend and I have been doing the long-distance thing for nearly a month now. I was somewhat surprised that it didn’t happen immediately, but the other day he finally asked me about sexting. This is the point in a relationship where my emotional and sexual immaturity really starts to become clear to me. I’ve mentioned before that I have hardly any sexual interest. I believe this is partially due to the SSRI I am taking, but I digress. The point is, I wanted to tell him that I’m not comfortable with sending pictures of myself. I don’t really mind dirty talk. I can actually have a good bit of fun with that. However, for some reason instead of just being honest, I told him I was okay with everything. I guess I’m still just afraid that if I’m honest he won’t like me as much.
I hear my mental voice saying these things and I just want to scream. I sound like the fourteen year old girls that I meet at my child advocacy center. It makes me feel so ashamed that I can’t be a better role model for them. Not that they would ever have any clue what I do in my personal life, but still. I feel like a hypocrite, advocating for these young girls, telling them that they have every right to be comfortable and expect their boundaries to be respected. Yet in my own life, I cave to social pressures just as easily. I don’t know why I struggle so much being true to myself in these types of situations. I’m embarrassed by how embarrassed these topics make me at twenty-eight years old.
Now my dilemma is how to go about finally telling the truth about how I feel. At first it felt like it was too late. I said okay, so now I have to keep going along with it. Then I felt ridiculous for thinking that. Consent can be withdrawn at any point. I believe that for the young girls I work with, so I must also believe that for myself. It’s not even that I fear Nate being upset with me. I know he’s an amazingly kind boy and will be completely understanding. He would probably even feel guilty knowing that I’ve been allowing him to push me past my limits.
Which brings me to the next issue I’ve been having. Nate is a very kind, considerate boyfriend. He asked my permission before he kissed me the first time. He routinely makes sure what he’s doing is okay with me when we are together. While I respect the hell out of him for that and wish more men were like him, especially given the things I hear every day in my line of work, it doesn’t really suit me personally. This is where my “problematic” sexual preferences come in. Given that I’m not very often even interested in sex, I have very specific turn ons. Mainly, they all center around being submissive. I like to feel like the reluctant, innocent, object of desire. Quite ironic since in the rest of my life I am a violently outspoken feminist.
In the past this hasn’t been much of a problem. Most men I’ve been with are very forward and sexually aggressive. They didn’t ask permission and my hesitancy was seen as an opportunity for persuasion rather than a signal to back off. Now normally, I’d say that is really walking the line of coercion and consent. These are dangerous sexual situations to be in for both parties. Yet I think that’s part of the reason it excites me. A lot of my turn ons are unspoken assumptions. I like to feel like my partner wants me sooo much that they can’t help themselves. That’s the only way I ever really feel “sexy.” I don’t want to be asked if I want to have sex. I want them to convince me.
Poor communication is where it all starts to become problematic. I know that if I explained the way I feel to Nate, he would be more than happy to oblige me. However, just knowing that he’s doing it because I told him to ruins it. Now do you see my issue? The only thing that gives me a small amount of comfort is knowing that other women have felt this way. I still remember a comedian joking, “I’m just supposed to rape you and hope you’re into that?” Yes, frankly. But I see why that’s not okay from the man’s point of view. I’m really at a loss of what to do about it.
I realize that this is a VERY personal topic to be discussing in the open forum of the internet. However, I want my blog to be a safe place where I can be completely open and honest with myself and the world. It helps that I don’t know anyone on here personally. Despite that, I’d genuinely like some feedback. Do you have any ideas or suggestions on how I can approach these sensitive issues? Have you ever had similar sexual problems? Were you able to resolve them? How? Any and all advice, questions, or comments are welcome. I can use all the help I can get.
As a kid I remember being asked and hearing others ask the question: what is your deepest, darkest secret? No one ever seemed to believe me, but for the longest time I had no answer to that question. I didn’t really have any secrets. It even struck me as odd that that question seemed to come up so often. Do regular people have terrible secrets that they’re hiding? I couldn’t imagine it. For most of my childhood and adolescence, I was pretty much an open book. Any secrets I may have had were rather by chance than by intention.
Throughout my college years I made a lot of very serious mistakes. Those were really my first secrets. Even so they were only things I hid from certain people. My boyfriend never knew I cheated on him, but it was common knowledge to my close friends, despite my shame. I suppose I also had secrets from my parents in my late teens and early twenties. These secrets seemed sensible though. I kept selectively silent in order to preserve the feelings of those I loved.
After years of living on my own, and particularly during last year’s quarantine, it feels like I’ve become more secretive than ever. These are much bigger secrets in my eyes. Maybe not as damning, but certainly more embarrassing. These secrets are ones I keep out of personal shame rather than courtesy. They are not selective events or things I conceal from only certain people. It feels like these things have crowded around me to form a separate, secret me. There are so many things about my day to day life and the inner workings of my mind that I would be mortified for anyone else to know. It’s gotten to the point where I wonder if anyone even truly knows me anymore.
That’s why I wanted to talk about secrets today. Secrets separate, secrets isolate. I’ve recently read about something called imposter syndrome. This is the experience of feeling like a fraud and/or undeserving of the things and people you have in life. I’d say that fits me, but I hesitate. Is it “imposter syndrome” if you really are an imposter to a certain degree? I don’t feel like this is some imagined perception. I truly believe that most of the people in my life would no longer like me if they knew more about me. Whether it’s true or not, this only encourages me to hide myself away. And the more I hide myself away, the bigger my secrets become.
I see only two ways to remedy this situation and rid myself of this ever-present shame. I could either come clean about all of my idiosyncrasies to everyone I know (no way would I ever do that), or I could change my behavior and live each moment of my life in a way I can be proud of. This second option is my goal. Everyone knows the phrase “dance like no one is watching,” well I want to live like everyone is watching. For the most part I agree with the saying that your true character is who you are when no one is watching. That’s why I feel fake most of the time. But I want to live a life that I don’t have to be ashamed of. I don’t want to keep feeling like a phony when I face the world.
Satya is one of the five Yamas (restraints) laid out in the yoga sutras of Patanjali. Satya means non-lying or truthfulness. I’ve tried a few times to adopt this way of living, but have always given up quite quickly. I really never realized how much I lied, even about little insignificant things, until I tried to be mindfully truthful. Most often these lies come in the form of excuses. I’m too anxious to go hangout with my friends, so instead I’ll say I have other plans. I also tell a lot of half-truths, purposely being vague or omitting certain details in order to stay on someone’s good side. When I really think about it, I guess I’ve been more concerned with other people’s opinions of me than my own self-respect.
After so many years of telling these little white lies, it has become second nature to me. But I’d like to start looking at truth as an act of self-love. Being honest is really a gift to myself and others. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to feel truly worthy of my loved ones unless I learn how to be honest with them and myself. It may be scary, but it’s something I’ve got to do. Happiness won’t be found in falsehoods.
It still feels surreal to me, but I officially have a boyfriend again after five years of being single. I feel ridiculous being so happy and giddy over something so commonplace, but I can’t help myself. I hadn’t even realized it had been five years until now. Time perception is such a wild and ever-changing thing. It’s crazy to think that when I was in school, a mere four years enveloped a huge, important chunk of my life (high school) and now the past five have just been a vague blur, hardly worth remembering. I suppose there were highlights within the past few years, but they don’t seem to stand out as much as similar things would have when I was younger. Maybe the structure of school just allowed for a more organized, and therefore more easily remembered, life.
Regardless of how long is seems, it has been five years. I’m 27 years old now, yet I definitely still feel 22 if not even younger when it comes to my emotional maturity. As someone who is quite proud of being more intelligent than most, it is quite a painful realization that my emotional intelligence is so stunted. It really has never been so obvious to me as it has in the last few weeks with my new partner. The littlest thing makes me tongue tied with embarrassment. Then that embarrassment is compounded again and again as I cringe at myself, embarrassed of being embarrassed. I’ve always felt that I am clueless and awkward when it comes to dating and romance, but it didn’t seem like that was all that uncommon for my age back when I met my first boyfriend. However, even though so much time has passed since then, I feel exactly the same as all those years ago. A far less acceptable place to be emotionally now that I’m no longer 16. Over a decade has passed with little to no progress in that arena.
I suppose I’m just being too hard on myself again though. I don’t have to be perfect to be worthy of love and affection. It’s okay to make mistakes and feel embarrassed. My new boyfriend doesn’t seem to be put off by it at least. I’m excited to learn and grow with someone by my side to support me again. Especially someone so considerate and kind as the one I’ve found. Although it does feel quite unfamiliar. I’m so used to being on my own now. It feels strange to tie myself to someone else, to not only have myself to consider or look out for anymore. Someone made a comment on one of my other posts about just waiting until I feel more emotionally developed or “ready” to start a relationship again. Definitely sounds like good advice. Unfortunately, I’ve already been doing that for half a decade! Remaining on my own seems to have only been making things worse, not better. Instead of growing as a person, I’ve remained in a stagnant cocoon, off in my own world. It’s only made it harder for me to be with others, not easier. Just like with most things, if you are waiting for the perfect moment, chances are you’ll be waiting forever.
This analytical, obsessive mind of mine just loves to get lost fixating on the details. I’m always stuck worrying about all of the unknowns ahead. For once I’d like to just enjoy the blissful happiness that I have in this moment. It’s time to let go of fear and to learn how to just trust, in myself, in my fellow humans, in this universe. All is well. I am healthy. I am happy. I am loved. I have found a beautiful, intelligent, kind, vegan boy who wants to be with me. And for the first time in a very long time, I desperately want to be with him as well.
The throat chakra is connected with communication. It helps us to express ourselves, our feelings, and our personal truth confidently and clearly. I still don’t know exactly where I lie on the sliding scale of believing all of these things. However, I do find it fascinating to learn about chakras and integrate this knowledge into my own life. At the very least the chakras are a nice way to visualize a lot of the obstacles that come up within ourselves. Sadly for me, no matter what chakra I think about, it seems like I have a blockage in it. It’s no wonder I feel so anxious and on edge.
Today I wanted to focus on the throat chakra though. For me, like the heart chakra, this chakra is easy for me to buy into. Our language even has phrases that have become part of our shared culture that seem to reference this energy center. “Frog in your throat,” “lump in your throat,” “choked up,” “choking back tears,” all of these remind us of that familiar sensation of tightness in our throats when we are struggling to speak.
It seems like the art of communication has become more and more forgotten as humanity becomes more comfortable texting than speaking in person. It is much easier to choose the right words when you have time to think about it and carefully craft your response. Especially without the added pressure of the person waiting right in front of your to hear what you have to say. With texting you can take as long as you want to figure our the perfect way to phrase your thoughts.
For the longest time I’ve described my difficulties with speaking my mind as a fear of confrontation. However, lately I’ve started to think that it’s more than that. I’m just afraid to speak my truth. I am so concerned with what other people will think of what I have to say or the reactions it may illicit. I pause, panicked, searching my mind for the most polite and non-offensive way to speak the words I want to say. So many times I’ve gone along with something I didn’t want to just because it was too difficult and awkward to say no. Even when I’ve mustered up the courage to say no, I often feel ashamed and guilty about it. I have to stifle the urge to profusely apologize. And apologize for what? For being honest? There should be no shame in being true to myself. The idea that so many times I’ve put the needs and desires of others ahead of my own just to avoid feeling awkward saddens me deeply.
I hesitate to be so open and share the details of my private life any more than I already have on this blog, but no one knows who I really am on this site anyway, so fuck it. The reason I’ve been contemplating these things is because of my date yesterday. I notice my shortcomings in self-expression the most when I am dealing with romantic relationships. I usually seek out a partner that is so emotionally intelligent that they are able to compensate for my extreme lack of personal insight. I realize that is unrealistic though. I can’t expect my partner to simply carry my weight. I must try to push myself through my own hardships.
Anyway, I always dread the moment when someone I’m dating tries to be physically intimate with me. I’ve mentioned on here before that I have a very low sexual interest, especially with people I’m not in love with or very emotionally bonded to. There have been many times in the past where I have given reluctant consent to sexual encounters simply because I felt obligated to. I felt too guilty and awkward to say no. I realize the horror of that statement, but it’s true. Even though I did that to avoid confrontation or uncomfortable conversations, it never ended well for me as you might imagine. This attempt at avoiding healthy communication and mutual understanding and respect led to a lot of pain, heartbreak, and even more unpleasant conversations down the road.
Knowing that my date was going to be stopping at my house to pick me up yesterday, I had already tried to mentally prepare myself for what may come later on. Sometimes I’ll even do something like avoid shaving so the embarrassment of them discovering that forces me to be true to myself and say no to their advances. Humiliatingly enough, sometimes that has even failed. As I had anticipated, the dreaded hour drew near where this lovely man I met wanted to go further physically than I was comfortable with. While I am proud of myself for sticking to my guns and declining, it doesn’t change how embarrassed and ashamed that moment made me feel.
I did my best to explain that it was only because I still did not know him that well, but I feel I could have said much more than I did. I desperately wanted to discuss it more, but that damn frog in my throat wouldn’t let me. I spent the rest of the evening suffering in silence. I am always afraid that saying no will result in the end of that relationship. I know how foolish that idea is though. Wouldn’t I rather it end there than have slept with someone who would have stopped talking to me if I hadn’t? Just the idea of sleeping with someone for any other reason than because I deeply desire to is terribly sad.
Part of the issue is a lack of experience in these types of scenarios. I don’t have many healthy examples to draw from. Most of my social skills have been adapted from television and movies. But when it comes to sex, these sources are even more unrealistic than usual. In my mind, it seems perfectly reasonable to not have sex with someone the third time you’ve ever met. Then why do I feel so awful for saying no?
Part of my fear is not knowing when, if ever, I will want to say yes. One of the many reasons romantic relationships are so hard for me to navigate is that I struggle to enjoy each moment as it comes. I am always wondering what the end result will be of every decision. I can’t enjoy a kiss, because I’m busy panicking about where it might go from there. I can’t listen to my own body when I am worried about what will make the other person like me the most. I guess the only real way to improve my communication skills is to keep getting practice through uncomfortable moments like these. I’m sure it’s much more embarrassing to be declined than to be the one declining. Yet my empathy for the other person’s position only makes what I’m experiencing all the more painful. Just a few days ago I was so happy and excited. Now I’m not sure how I feel at all. I feel detached and depressed mostly. I have no idea where this relationship is going to lead, nor do I know where I want it to at this point.
I’m not going to give up just yet though. I have to remind myself not to be so serious all the time. Just enjoy the time I spend with this guy for what it is. I don’t need to know everything that the future holds. Part of the fun is not knowing. All I have to do now is stay true to myself and follow my own feelings and intuition, letting each moment unfold as it comes.
Shame is a powerful emotion. It grips us, stays with us. While other memories fade, shame seems to linger, just as poignant as it felt in the moment, for years afterwards. I can still remember some of the very first moments in my life that made me feel ashamed. The first was in daycare. I must have been only three or four years old. We were going around the group, introducing ourselves maybe, all I can remember is that after our turn, we got to pick a toy from this massive pile in the center of the circle we were seated in. Immediately I fell in love with this florescent yellow/green duck stuffed animal. The rest of the world seemed to fall away as I focused on how I had to have it. I began to feel panicked that another child would choose it before I could. Who wouldn’t choose that magnificent duck?! This panic led me to speak out of turn. In desperation I tried to take my turn early so I could secure the duck, but was gently chastised and told I had to wait. That is my first memory of shame. A shame so sour that even though I did end up getting that duck (still have it today at my mom’s house) the moment was ruined anyway.
I also have another very early memory of shame. It was my first day of kindergarten or one of the first. My family and I were seated around the table having dinner. I was telling everyone how my day went at school. There was a boy I knew because our fathers were friends, and I had always had a crush on him. At one point during dinner I proudly announced that I had told this boy that I loved him. To this day I can feel that sickening silence that followed. My mom, dad, and sister all stopped and stared at me dumbstruck. I immediately recognized that I had done something wrong. I don’t even remember how that incident ended, nor if it was ever brought up again. I just remember that bitter piercing shame.
I’ve read before that shame has a profound effect on us. I don’t need to be shown much evidence to believe that it’s true. We can all feel the power of shame in our own lives. Sometimes I wonder how those early memories of shame have bled out into the rest of my life, how they changed me. Generally shame is a social emotion. It is a cue that what we’ve done is not socially acceptable and that it could put our place in the group/society at risk. This is why it strikes us so intensely. It is a defense against behaviors that could get us ostracized. Although like most remnants of our evolutionary history, in the modern day sometimes it can be a hindrance instead of a help.
I’m actually not sure if anyone else experiences this, but I feel shame about things even when I’m all alone. And not about anything that would make sense to feel shame about. There are moments when shame grips me deep down, in my core. I feel ashamed to exist, to be who I am. For example, sometimes I’ll be having fun dancing and singing in the shower only to be suddenly overcome with shame. It’s hard to explain why. I guess I’m ashamed of feeling good about myself, of what other people would think if they knew how I had just been feeling and acting. It doesn’t really make sense even to me. But because of these feelings up until recently I would hardly ever allow myself to dance, even all alone.
It makes self-love and self-acceptance very tricky for me. Because my shame primarily seems to come from moments of feeling proud or liking myself. It usually follows intense happiness or joy about something I’ve done or am doing. Like this blog for instance. I love writing on here everyday. It makes me happy and I’m not doing it for anyone but me. But there are still moments when I feel ashamed of the things I’ve written. I think to myself: how dare you think anyone cares what you have to say, it’s so embarrassing that you prop up this false image of yourself online. I think similar things about anything I create. I’ll be so happy with it and desperately want to share it with others, but when I do I feel ashamed. I’m ashamed for thinking anyone else would care, for wanting to “show off.” I never fully believe any compliments I get. There is always some small part of me that wonders if they are just being nice.
All of this shame I harbor inside of me is just another example of how I tend to take life too seriously. Shame only works if you care about what people think of you, if you have an image of yourself you are trying to protect. When I imagine the times when I’ve seen someone else do something embarrassing or shameful, I don’t care much. At most I just feel pained because I am empathically sharing their embarrassment. I want to start facing my shame, to get acquainted with it, to know what makes it tick. And eventually to make peace with it. Shame is a product of the ego. I hope to someday let them both go.