Should and shame go hand in hand.
I should be thinner or weigh this number or fit into this size but I don’t so I feel shame.
I should have a book published by now but I don’t so I feel shame.
I should meditate more and when I don’t I feel shame.
I should drink less or not at all and when I do I feel shame.
On and on and on.
All of these “should” create a constant cascade of shame within me. Brené Brown describes the difference between shame and guilt like this: Shame is a focus on self, guilt is a focus on behavior. Shame is “I am bad.” Guilt is “I did something bad.”
I almost always focus on me rather than the behavior.
It’s not a coincidence that should and shame both begin with the “sh” sound. Both are used as way to quiet our authentic selves. To shut up the parts of us who want to stand out, that don’t conform to expectations.
Shhh…don’t make waves. Just follow society’s expectations of women being thin and smiling and nice.
Shhh…don’t you dare accept your body at the size that it is. Not when there are so many diets plans and books and pills out there to “help” you be thin.
Shhh…don’t ever think you are enough just as you are because then an entire industry build on selling you products to “improve” your body, your home, your life will be irrelevant.
It’s interesting and not surprising that the new wave of congresswomen are being shushed all over the place for speaking their truths that don’t conform with politics as usual. They are being shushed on-line and with threats.
Women are shushed all the time by being told they are bossy instead of leaders. That they should smile more because it’s obviously our job in life to make every single person around us comfortable and if we aren’t smiling then they are uncomfortable and we can’t have that.
Women are shushed when we are paid less than men for the same work.
So, how do we begin to escape the cycle of shoulding all over ourselves and the shame that follows?
I’m not exactly sure. I am still working on this myself.
I know it has to do with starting to accept myself as I am right now because if I can’t then nobody will.
It has to do with using my voice even when it shakes. In fact, espcially then.
It has to do with staying in my body, in the moment rather than getting my mind and emotions tied up in knots over how I think I should look or be.
It has to do with redefining and rethinking who and how I want to be in the world instead of letting others decide that for me.
As with everything, it’s a process. So, it also involves immense compassion and tenderness and awareness of when I slip back into old patterns of thought and behavior that are so deeply entrenched in my body and psyche.
Onward! (Liz Gilbert uses this to end some many of her posts and I feel it is so fitting for my life right now, so I am using it, too. Thanks, Liz!)