When I was a sophomore in high school, a boy decided a good nick-name for me would be Tank. That’s right, Tank. Just what every 15 year-old girl wants to be called. I’ve never told another living soul that until now. I use to hide from him at school. If I saw him in the hall, I’d take a quick exit down a side hall. I wasn’t obese in high school, but I was “solid.” I probably carried 20 pounds more than my girlfriends. So I knew he was right. I was a tank. And I felt shame. And one day, my boyfriend caught wind of that nick-name, and he laughed. He thought it was funny. He didn’t stand up for me. Shame upon shame.
So I’m just going to let that story sit there for a bit while I continue writing. I’m not sure it’ll stay in the post. Because it still hurts. And it’s painful. Retelling it stirs a lot of unwelcome emotions. Regret. Shame. Anger.
I didn’t have the skill set as a 15 year-old to understand and address what was going on. I only knew I had a dirty little secret I didn’t want anyone to know.
I wish I could put Brene’ Brown’s whole chapter on shame right here for you to read. In her book, Daring Greatly, she says, “researchers don’t find shame correlated with positive outcomes at all — there are no data to support that shame is a helpful compass for good behavior. In fact, shame is much more likely to be the cause of destructive and hurtful behaviors than it is to be the solution.”
That statement could explain a lot about us and the women in our life, right? Dirty little secrets of shame. Shame doesn’t cause us to change our behavior in a good way; it will more likely cause us to behave badly. Did his words cause me to lose that 20 pounds? Did I rush to Weight Watchers so that I could rid myself of the reason for the abuse? No, not then. Not now. It just became my shame as I ate a bowlful of chocolate pudding.
Shame is powerful in our lives, and we all carry it to some extent.
Brown makes other sound points in her book, “One of the ways shame plays out is withdrawing, hiding, and keeping secrets. We’re afraid to talk about our shame. But the less we talk about it, the more power it has over our lives.” Her research led her to this definition of shame: “Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.”
Shame keeps us on the outside looking in. We don’t belong with the good ones. We can’t belong. We are not worthy.
Some of the shame we carry in our backpacks doesn’t belong to us, and we should never have picked it up. That shame I gathered up in high school and stuffed quickly into my baggage wasn’t mine ; it belonged in the backpack of that boy from high school. Shame on him. He was a bully. I can see that now, but unfortunately by the time we reach adulthood, the damage is embedded pretty deep. It’s hard to let go.
But some shame is ours to own. What do we do with that? And the bully? I think we have to talk about him, right? But I’m feeling a bit vulnerable after these last few posts, and I think I’ll write something lighthearted over the weekend. We’ll come back to this chapter on Monday.
There’s healing when we share our brokenness.
There’s freedom when we lay our burdens down.
I guess I’ll leave my story right here.
How about you? Is the shame that keeps you from finding your people and place really YOUR shame?
Is it time to clean out your backpack?