Shame on me

Anxiety, anger and discomfort are our teachers. They tell us what is unresolved, what makes us feel insecure. This is where we learn about what we need to work on or understand better. Resolve these things, be at peace with them, and that’s one less demon in your life. Easier said than done (what isn’t, really?), but even thinking about them is helpful.

For instance, I feel resentful when I feel taken advantage of but I like offering help on my own terms. This must confuse people: I offer to give and but when favors are requested I get all pissy pants. I also feel resentful when other people are prideful about their children, their accomplishments, their lives. Like, oh yeah, my life is better, my kids are better, my job is better. Why? Because I think my stuff isn’t actually good enough or because I fear losing it all or because I don’t like to brag, I tend toward self-deprecation, I value humility. Fair enough, but who made me the boss of what others do or don’t say? So here’s what I’m trying: to listen to them but also to listen all those insecure voices in my head. I say hello to those voices, ask them to settle down, breathe, tell them it’s OK, that they don’t have to have an opinion about others and their stuff. Not my circus, not my monkeys.


Yesterday I was thinking about shame. I was feeling shame, because I had people over to watch the Oscars and I didn’t like the dish I made and I had to go to bed early and I woke up feeling tired, even sick, and I skipped my spin class and when I got to work I wanted to hide, to not talk to anyone, to find someplace to take a nap. Turns out many, many people stayed up late to watch the show, drank too much, felt like shit. So be it. It passed. But the thing to dig into is this: shame? Why shame? Instead of moving on so quickly, focus on the feeling — not the party or the dish but the feeling.

Last night, walking home from the train station, I felt better. I was thinking about what I call shadow traits. I think every “good” trait has a shadow side that represents that trait out of control. For me: I have a strong will, determination and completion energy — if I start something I need to finish it. I don’t like loose ends.

All good, except keep an eye on what’s in the shadows. Intractability (once I make a decision, I don’t like to change my mind). Inflexibility (I get stubborn and dug into my way, even when shown a better way). Same thing for punctuality, a near holy virtue in my mind. Its shadow: risk aversion, judgment about lateness, small-mindedness, even pettiness about a minute late here or there. Blameful of myself when I’m a minute or two late (shame, shame, shame).


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