THE SHAME THAT’S NOT YOURS TO CARRY
June 21, 2021
Shame keeps us tethered to the negative thought cycle of unworthiness. In my encounter with shame, I’ve come to realize that it demands that we seek permission to exist. Permission? But how? We are supposed to live as the best versions of ourselves but shame keeps standing at the door asking you to seek permission to exist.
This permission is masked as our need for other people’s approval or validation especially when we make decisions that point back to the shame we imagine we will experience if we’re not doing things as they should be. Today’s society has made very little room for differences to exist but people have had to fight through the shame to exist differently – and they still are. We are even shamed for things beyond our control like gender, sexuality, and race. At the end of the day, we hold each other to certain (and even unreasonable) standards that give shame the front seat to our lives.
To unlearn shame begins with self because it’s a self-evaluation emotion. We may not have much control over others and their likelihood to propel shame but we can change ourselves. And for that to happen, we need to unlearn the most basic things we’ve been conditioned to be ashamed of.
- Shame for your identity
It’s tiresome to keep fighting for the right to live as your truest self. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the way you were born and you don’t have to be ashamed of existing as such. We all want to live beautiful lives where we don’t have to keep defending our most basic human rights. Wear your identity proudly as a badge of honor. Life is truly not long enough to allow shame to rob us of the freedom to be ourselves. This is easier said than done but the first step is looking at yourself as the most important person to ever exist in your universe and that person deserves to spread their wings freely. You don’t have to choose an identity that is palatable for people to feel comfortable with themselves. Live in your truth no matter how other people interpret it. Whenever I find myself wondering what people will think, I say to myself, “That sounds like their problem. Not mine.”
- Shame for your background
We didn’t choose the families we were born into or even grew up with. Whatever baggage and trauma you inherited from your caregivers is not your fault. I’ve met many people who are ashamed of their backgrounds and they carry this burden into their adulthood. They feel as if they aren’t good enough people because they were born into dysfunction or poverty. Encounters with their family members remind them of everything that’s wrong with them. Something I’ve found useful in dropping background-related shame is thinkingof yourself as an independent entity who has a life separate from your family members. One who’s worth is not attached to how good or bad the upbringing was.
- Shame for other people’s wrongdoing
Shame makes us believe that we’re deserving of the bad things that other people do to us. We victim-shame ourselves into believing that there must be something amiss in us that’s why people wrong us. This is especially common with Gender-Based Violence and sexual abuse. Shame keeps us from speaking up for ourselves because we’re afraid of the consequences if we oust the wrongdoers. It tricks us into protecting them while we suffer in silence. Your voice is your weapon and it’s powerful. Whether people believe you or not, stand up for yourself. Say no – it’s a complete sentence. Report to the rightful authorities. Think of speaking up as a way of honoring and respecting yourself. If someone crosses the boundaries you’ve set, they’ve disregarded and disrespected you and you need to take the right action to protect yourself.
- Shame for choosing yourself
Remember to put yourself first and consistently doing so may have you labeled as selfish but keep doing it anyway. Put your mental, physical, and emotional needs first. Look out for yourself the way you do for people you love. And it doesn’t have to be grandiose either; it’s just taking the small steps needed to ensure that you’re functioning in your healthiest state. If that job or relationship is too toxic, don’t be ashamed to end it and go where you find the most peace. If you feel like you’re running yourself to the ground trying to meet everyone else’s needs, don’t be ashamed to communicate your boundaries.
- Shame for struggling or needing support
The sad truth is that most people are not good at asking for help. We feel as if we’re a burden or we don’t want other people to know that we need support. There is nothing wrong with admitting that you need an extra boost or a little light when you’re experiencing darkness. Ask and continue asking for help from people who love you and from professionals like us who will help you through the process until you find your way again.
At Langniappe, we promise you a little extra. Our goal is to assist you in bringing about lasting and positive changes to your life. The word “Langniappe” means a little extra. It is a word that many people who have grown up in the Caribbean or Louisiana know very well.
“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”
– Brené Brown