I used to think that fear is the hardest emotion to overcome, but it isn’t. That title belongs to shame.
Shame is insidious, sneaking up on us without fanfare or drama. It lives in the between spaces, the dark cracks that we don’t like to peer too closely into, the back closet where we conceal all our troubles when company comes over. Fear is obvious – it slams us to the ground, takes over our entire system, paralyzes us. Shame presents as a slow burn, something that we hold so closely that we believe it’s an inseparable piece of us, deep aching pain that we have no idea how to release.
I think we cannot release it because we don’t want to accept it.
I’ve definitely felt shame, and usually my knee-jerk reaction when dealing with it is to try to stuff it as far down as possible. If I don’t look at it, I can pretend it doesn’t exist. Because shame feels so overwhelming, like something I can never come back from once it’s exposed, it terrifies me more than anything else. Not only is it painful to face my shame, there is fear that if I reveal it, others will reinforce my deep-seated belief that I am correct to feel like shit.
This week, I began facing and attempting to embrace my shame. It’s difficult. I’m taking baby steps. At first I wasn’t even sure how to identify it or where it lives in my body. Then I realized that it’s everywhere. It’s languished under the radar undetected for so long that it’s seeped into nearly every area of my life. Acknowledging it and beginning to accept it is an exhausting, frighteningly vulnerable process. It’s also clearing away some of the weight I feel crushing down upon my soul.
I won’t pretend that I know how you can learn to embrace your shame. I’m still figuring that one out for myself. I am simply asking you to consider it as a possibility. When we open our hearts and minds up to a new way of being, when we commit to caring for ourselves, sometimes that’s all it takes for the path to reveal itself to us. You might only be able to see a few inches in front of your face, but what if you trust yourself to keep going? What if you believe that clarity will come, little by little, if you sit with everything that feels ugly and welcome it in? What if you breathe through it until it feels more bearable?
Until you learn to celebrate and wholly embody every single facet of yourself, even those that you usually consider undesirable, unlovable, and unacceptable, you’ll never be fully happy. I am not going to lie to you – learning to embrace yourself, even your shame, is the hardest thing you will ever do.
But you can do hard things.
I love you. You can get to a place where you love you too. Even the shameful parts.