THE BLOG

Shame and Me

05/21/2015 11:21 pm ET | Updated May 21, 2016

I have been running from myself my entire life. That is the truest statement that I know. It's hard to say, hard to take into myself. But there it is. I have been filled with a deep sense of shame for as long as I can remember. I acted in ways that reflected that shame, I did shameful things, I didn't value myself. I told myself that I did the things I did because I'm different, I used this excuse for my behavior on the surface but deep down held onto my shame like a talisman, pointing the way for my behavior, my true north. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy, isn't it, shame? We feel shame and we act in shameful ways. At least that's how it's been for me.

But the reality is that I am different, always have been and there are times when I marvel at my differentness and revel in it and am proud that I march to the beat of my own drum. But the rest of the time, I ridicule myself for not being like everyone else. Ridicule my choices and say terrible things to myself. Truly, deeply painful things that hurt me in a way that only I can. Shame, for me, has always been the price I pay for being different.

Many times I felt that I had to pretend that I was like everyone else and it heightened my sense of shame that I couldn't do it, I couldn't be like them. The shame deepens when I compare the bloops and blunders of my life, what I call my B roll, to everyone else's highlights. I see the perfect selves they offer and I see my imperfect self and I wonder why I can't be that.

I have a friend, a former drug addict, who had relapsed after 5 years of sobriety. He is smart and kind and funny and he was beating himself up over his relapse. He was terribly ashamed of the things he had done. He had hurt a lot of people, including me. We stood there in his driveway, the cold, wet dreary day pressing in on us, adding to his desolation and aloneness. I felt such compassion for him then and recognized a fellow shame sufferer in a way that I hadn't before. I told him to offer himself the same kindness and forgiveness that he would to a dear friend who had done what he had. He looked at me and I saw gratitude for my forgiveness but there was also something else, resignation. I recognized it when I saw it. He was holding shame's hand as a lifeline and was terrified of letting go.

I thought about that driving home. I have never been kind to myself; never handle myself with the gentleness I offer to friends. This is a vicious circle, I feel shame and I'm afraid that I will never change and then I do the same things I have always done. I love inspirational quotes and sayings, full of forgiveness and hope but rarely do I apply them to myself. I keep them wrapped up in pretty boxes, like gifts that I receive and never open, because they're too pretty to use, too pretty to get dirty in the real world of messy lives.

When I'm not tearing myself down, I kinda like that I zig when everyone else zags, I like the fact that I grew up talking to trees and fell in love with a cow as a child and have been a vegetarian for years. I like the quirks, I dig the quirks, it's when I veer off into comparisons that I get confused about who and what I am.

I'm learning to be honest about my differentness, my quirks, my weirdness. To be able to sit with myself and simply be weird and be okay with that. Not feel less than. Become comfortable in my own skin. I'm trying very hard to be proud of who I am and accept my past and forgive myself as I would forgive someone that I love. My goal is that other's disapproval won't touch me at my core. I am committed to being who I am and as long as I am truthful then I am honorable. Alone in the dark in that space between waking and sleeping, I tell myself that being honorable isn't dependent upon other people's opinion of me. Being honorable is being truthful.