Image found via Pinterest.

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!)


Saying Yes = Taking Up Space.

take up space

An aunt once said to my mom that I shouldn’t be going to the movies alone in the middle of the day. That there was always housework to do. My mom totally defended me, saying that I worked hard and deserved to take time for myself.

I felt judged and shamed. This came to me because of the struggle to say yes I wrote about recently. Sure, it’s hard to say yes usually because of fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of failure. Fear of (fill in the blank yourself).

But there’s this other, insidious reason I struggle to say yes.

Saying yes means taking up space in the world.

Saying yes means claiming my space in the world.

Saying yes means I think I deserve something that I desire, for myself.

It’s okay if we say yes to others. We aren’t questioned or judged if we say yes to being PTA president or making brownies for the bake sale or watching a friend’s baby. When we say yes to helping others we are a good person. When we say yes to ourselves, well…that’s selfish, right?

Women are taught to be nice which usually means saying yes even if we want to say no. We don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. We are taught to stay small literally (hello diet industry) and figuratively.

Hillary Clinton was extremely popular in polls as First Lady, Secretary of State and Senator. But only after she had achieved those positions. When she declared that she wanted those positions, her popularity plunged. How dare a woman want something for herself? How dare she want power? How dare she take up more space than we are comfortable with?

I am 53 years old and still struggling with this. It’s getting (a little) easier. Just being aware of this tendency opens my world up a little more

I’m learning to say yes more more often, not out of obligation but because it is what I want, whether it’s a new adventure or a movie in the middle of the day.

I’m finally beginning to believe that the world is big enough to hold all of me.


The Shame of Pain.

Image. Sarah via Flickr

Image: Sarah via Flickr

I was going to start this post with this sentence:

I hurt my back.

But that feels like I am blaming myself. Which I was when it first happened 15 days ago. How could I have let this happen? What did I do wrong? How stupid of me.

I didn’t tell many people. When I realized that I hadn’t posted about this at all on social media, I had to ask myself why.

The answer?

At first it was that I was embarrassed. Here I am, a yoga teacher, and something happened to my back going into shoulder stand. But as I dug deeper, it felt more like shame. Shame that I had let this happen. Shame that I was bedridden. Shame that I was letting my students down. My fellow teachers down. Shame that I felt I was letting my family down by not being able to care for them.

Brené Brown says that guilt is I did something bad. Shame is that I AM bad.

Big difference.

Shame is slimy. And heavy. And I couldn’t understand why it was slithering around me now. So, I dug deeper. After all, being in bed gives one much time to ponder.

I have been a stay-at-home mom for almost 22 years. Over the years I’ve brought in varying amounts of money through writing, teaching writing, teaching yoga and graphic design. Since it’s always been extra money, I realized that I place much of my “value” on being able to take care of my family, take care of the house, take care of all the logistics of our daily lives.

Being unable to do my normal routine left me feeling like my value was suffering. Ridiculous, I know. Truly, my logical, conscious brain knows that. But I’m dealing with that sneaky subconscious part of my brain.

And I am dealing with it. Confronting its lies, the stories it weaves all designed to make me feel small and less than.

I’ve been using this time to write in my journal, meditate, practice self-Reiki and EFT and I am churning up a lot of stuff, stuff I will continue to post about as I process it all.

For now, I know that I am not to blame for what happened. That it doesn’t make me less than. I didn’t cause the pain. I am experiencing the pain. It happened for a reason. It’s got me doing some deep inner work.

I feel like I am peeling back and shedding layers and layers of crap.

I feel light.

I feel aligned.

I feel present to it all:

      The pain.

      The moment.

      My feelings.

      My life.