Shame is about being not enough in some way that matters. It is about not being smart enough, not being strong enough, not being successful enough, not being liked enough, not being rich enough, not being attractive enough…. not being enough in some way central to the way you think you should be.
It’s companion is fear and terror. The most horrible thing is not to be not enough, but for others to find out. It is exposure, being laid naked in front of people who will let us know how insufficient or lacking we really are that terrifies most of us
And so much of our energy, much of our lives gets wound up in making sure no one really knows. We fear vulnerability as much as anything and the fear of it easily closes us off from everything.
I know. I have lived there.
The last year of my life in particular has been a succession of crisis after crisis. Some of them I have played a role in creating others probably not, but throughout I have lived with the fear that I will not be enough: not smart enough, not competent enough, not tough enough…. just not good enough to do what needed to be done. To some degree all of us, even those who know better, use the distress in our lives as an index of our personal worth or value and I have fought that.
I have discovered that vulnerability is my friend and with it shame loses a lot of its steam, a lot of its power. I have found out there is little to fear in the struggles I no longer fight to hide.
I have found out that being a human being is about both and, not either or. I am both strong and weak. I am both smart and stupid. I am both competent and incompetent. I am both brave and cowardly. I am sometimes far more than I think I can be and sometimes far less than I hoped I would be. Life is a mess. Being a human being is a mess.
And sometimes I am a mess.
And it is all okay. Both the good and the bad. It is human. I try as hard as I can to make each day better. Sometimes they are not. But I try to remember when I can that even in bad days there are clues to better days.
Life sometimes sucks. For some of us it seems to suck a lot. But it does not happen because we are not enough, or we are insufficient or deficient. Sure we are sometimes the author of our own misery. I know I am. But life sucks not because of what is in the way. Something being in the way is life.
It is a two sided coin. It is the capacity to be both wonderful and terrible and navigating the path between the two is life.
None of us are what we want to be but that is because we are unfinished processes and not broken products.
The thing I found from letting folks know what I struggled with or how hard things were was that largely it was the same for them.
It means something to know I am not alone. Shame is the great isolater. It is a plague whose only fruit is loneliness.
I am not saying gush out everything on everybody. That is neither wise or safe. Some people are not safe. I am saying be yourself. Just be yourself.
I hope this is a better day for you and if this is one good day in a row that tomorrow will make it two.