Dear Feelings of Shame- I Owe You An Apology

Image of figure sitting on some sort of rough light red ground, arms are clasped under their knees and head is faced down into knees for article on Dear Shame

There’s something that’s been weighing on my mind. OK, more like weighing on my stomach. And IN my stomach. It’s heavy, fiery, internal. Like granite stones rolling around the pit of my gut. After years, really decades, of trying to ignore it. Trying to think my way out of it. And trying to starve it away… today I’m trying something new. Today I will write it a letter. And I’ll start it off by saying: Dear Shame.

Dear Shame,

First of all, I’m sorry. I have carried you around my entire life. Every single moment I have tried to ignore you. Pretending you weren’t even there.

Shame: I have done everything I could to block you from my awareness.

I’ve piled food on top of you. And I tried to starve you away. I have attempted to think you away. Exercise you away. I completely closed myself off to you. I dove into pleasing everyone else in my life, so that maybe, just maybe, you would disappear.

But it never worked.

Because, dear shame, you were still always still there.

I was afraid if I sat down with you, you’d overtake me. That I’d go under, never again to come up for air. And I was ashamed of having you. I thought by simply carrying you around, it meant there was something wrong with me. That I was bad. Dirty. Not good enough. Never good enough. And so I pretended you weren’t even there. The moment you started to rise within me, I did everything I possibly could to shut you down. And shut you up.

Dear shame…

I’m sorry I didn’t hear you. I never even tried listening to you. It didn’t occur to me you had something to say. I closed myself off from you. Yet you remained, deep within my gut. Where I hated you.

Shame, I realize now that I never just allowed you to be in me. To work yourself through me. Instead I attempted to hide you. Squeezed you with clothes, trying to camouflage you as if you weren’t there. I tried to purge you from me. To shrink my gut so small you couldn’t possibly exist.

But no matter how small I shrunk my belly, shame remained in the pit of my gut.

Never once did I allow you to be. Instead, I ran from you. I ran to my studies. To the workouts. And to the scale. Later I ran to my career. Then my husband. And my kids. I ran away from you so fast I tricked myself into believing I’d lost you. I thought maybe if I was just “good enough”, if people loved me “enough” or if I was happy “enough” somehow you’d never be able to catch back up to me.

But you were still there- always there. Festering deep within my gut. And when the kids went to bed, the sun went down, and I was alone with myself- I felt you there. Like a brick, you weighed me down.

Dear shame…

I didn’t realize I’m not special or unique just because I carry you. In fact, everyone has met you. I couldn’t see that having you does not make different from everyone else. Or wrong. It doesn’t make me who I am. I didn’t realize you just wanted to move through me. And that once I allowed you to move through me, I could move on.

What I didn’t understand was: by trying to ignore you, hide you, or outrun you… nothing was really changing. Because you were there, within me, all along. I never reached out a hand to you, never opened my ears to hear from you. Never just experienced you.

Now I understand that you bring me messages. You are real and you are there, and having you doesn’t make me bad or wrong.

Shame- you’re a part of the human existence.

I understand now everyone carries you shame. You were passed down to me from my mother. Who got you passed down from my grandmother. And so it goes…

You are part of the human existence. Because we all want and need to fit in. To belong. And to feel loved and accepted. You alert me when these needs are not getting met. And you do something else for me, shame. You protect me from other difficult feelings.

Underneath you

When I finally gained the courage to sit with you, shame, I found out there was so much more to you. I invited you to the table, to sit down for tea. Not ever realizing you’d bring so many others along with you. There was much more underneath you. For you were helping to cover other painful emotions. Only after sitting beside you was I able to meet the feelings below you. Feelings like anger. And sadness. Grief. And fear. You point me towards other emotions waiting in line behind you. Wanting to be felt. Processed. And to be healed.

What I understand now, after years of healing and developing my inner warrior, is that I am strong enough to sit with all of these uncomfortable feelings.

Not only can I tolerate you shame, but I can learn and grow from you.

Thank you shame

So, dear shame, thank you for visiting. Thank you for moving through me. I know we’ll meet again. But next time, instead of trying to rid of you, trying to ignore you, or trying to shut you down…. I’ll set a place for you. So you may sit down with me for as long as you need. I’ll listen to the messages you bring me and look deep below you. Knowing that once you’ve been witnessed and processed, you’ll move through me.

It’s ironic really. The more I tried to avoid you shame, the longer I carried you with me. While all along, witnessing you allows you to flow through me. Leaving behind you a trail of other feelings waiting in line to be felt. To be processed.

And to be healed.

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2 Comments

  1. says: Hayley Smiley

    Lisette,

    This is beautiful. A lot of what I’ve been learning this month has been about acceptance and letting things go through me, rather than fighting them. Everything is our world tells us to avoid pain (and maybe even pleasure or any feeling at all). What I’ve come to realize is that all of the avoidance techniques and the stress I feel from just having something uncomfortable in my life, actually makes things worse. I am trying to accept the feelings I have, like shame, and accept the suffering I will experience as a necessary part of my journey. Instead of running, it’s time to lean in.
    Thank you for portraying that so well. 🙂

    1. YES!!!! Thank you so much for reading and for your thoughtful comment Hayley. It sounds like you’re doing a ton of amazing work. This is a huge lesson I have been learning lately too. Sending you lots of warrior hugs! 💖💖

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