I was minding the Erik Erikson theory of personality development when I got to the toddler stage. 1-3 years, independence/autonomy versus shame. A jab in my chest-soul- made me stop. I’ve just moved past the balancing tears. Yet here I was doing some refresher reading ati to help a client. Now see; a blog post, pain, and near tears.
When did you first experience the feeling of shame? I’ll go first.
I remember my introduction to shame very well. I was maybe 3-4 years old. I had never felt it before, but something told me I was in trouble with my mum after putting up an impromptu dance performance for some guests my parents had over. They said “whoa” and even clapped for me, saying how good that was. I covered my face, giggling, and ran back into the bedroom. I was exploring something I liked that I’d done in my room alone for a while before that day.
She followed me into the room, and I asked her if I was in trouble, and she said no. She paused and said, “You are big for your age.” Read: you are fat for your age. FAM.
We have forgiven mum. She had her own insecurities.
I started wearing somewhat fitting clothes halfway through high school. You won’t find me in a body suit or anything close today. I shy off stylish outfits to avoid attention. We don’t want people staring at this “big” body, now, do we? Oh, and when I got my first job, mum told me I could go for that body wrap at a spa that tightens you up because I have a fat back.
Enter body dysmorphia. Wanders off to look for parts of lost self-esteem.
That was the starting point, but since then, I did EVERYTHING STUPID to lessen myself and fit in. I felt that I had to do something all the time just to get liked, entering levels of desperation most times. In the process, I collected more shame and enlarged my baggage along the way. So, if you say I’ve changed, no, I am just healing. My whole life has been a HUGE FAT CRINGE FEST with a few positive highlights. I just recently, through “meditation,” learned to stop and observe memories and not engage them. They used to eat me up alive my guy! That means no self-pity, blaming, or anything. Just observe. I fall asleep faster these days. But it’s taken me what, 31+ years?
I have lost relationships, jobs, and opportunities, stagnated, and I have not been my best because of shame. So, any attention I got, in my mind, was good attention, and I did whatever I could, to a degree, to keep it. It was after age 25 that I was like, wait, the neighbor molested me at 3-4 years; never mind that I thought it was such a privilege at the time.
Shame can just mess you up in ways beyond what you can think with your conscious mind. It is this poison that reaches every corner of your life. “Woke” parents today would say that if their child did what I did, they would enroll them to dance classes, whether in person or at the School of YouTube, but this was the early 90s. I’ve always been a good dancer, not the shake your ass, pop-lock-and-drop, but generally where if my parents walked in, I wouldn’t be slapped and showered with anointing oil.
Now we might never know. Issokay.
The interesting thing though is I recently rediscovered dancing and did a whole dance routine in the kitchen while preparing a meal. For the first time, earbuds on, I did not care if my mother or father passed by and saw me. I. Did. Not. Care. Before I’d dance in my room and stop when someone walked past the door. The horror and shame of them “hearing” me dance! The good news is there’s the other side, however long it takes.
I’ve worked through most of the shame whereby I no longer feel the need to please people. I distance myself from those who appear like their “allowing me” in their lives is a favor. I dish out “nope!” endlessly like how Jesus multiplied the five loaves and two fish. I no longer want to please anyone. Finally! It’s the awareness of shame that got me here and the very many sources of it. Oh and Salima my therapist. God bless her soul. The short of it is I can now say earnestly and confidently that I, Wambaire, am worthy of the space I occupy in this world, just as I am. Fat-backed or not.
And yes, mother and I are good. All’s forgiven.
I invite you to consider how shame may be impacting your life. When did you first feel this feeling? How may that be secretly running operations in your life?