[Excerpt from my upcoming book "Aging Naked"]
Shaming experiences are deeply personal in the sense that what shames me, might not shame you and visa-versa. I find certain things shameful because of the lenses I use in life to create meaning, and those lenses were created over a lifetime of meaning-making experiences, rooted in my childhood and reinforced throughout my life. Shame is also the core driving force behind those "shoulds" I referenced earlier – beliefs we have internalized through the years that tell us whether we are good or bad, on track or off, worthy or unworthy.
We all have some should-driven notions about our ideal selves – our narratives of who we believe we are (or should be), and if we veer too far off of our should-driven path, we often feel shame in response. If shame is left unchecked in our lives, we risk having the targets of our shame serve as a portal through which we view ourselves, how we think others view us, and eventually, how we view the world.
I am a strong, independent and self-sufficient woman and I don’t take crap from anybody. I’m also compassionate, kind and very giving. I can balance a million things at once, and I don’t need any help, because I am very strong.
I have always been this way. I have been reinforced my entire life for these traits and they are the adjectives I’ve used to describe myself—they’ve been my narrative, my story, the bedrock of my confidence, and my sense of self-worth.
But the truth is that I’m not always independent and self-sufficient. For instance, truly self-sufficient people love eating dinner out alone, but I absolutely abhor that, even with my iPad or MacBook as props. I hate traveling alone too, which I often do for work. I get really lonely. I start the sentence “Oh, look at that--” about 100 times only to stop myself when I realize that I have no one to share my observations with. And sometimes I’m selfish and only want to do what I want to do.
And I get really overwhelmed with life sometimes, I mean really overwhelmed, and the only thing that seems to soothe me, is food. Carby food. And then I gain weight and that makes me feel even worse about myself. Also, sometimes I feel sorry for myself and feel as though everyone has a better life than I do—a bigger family, a partner, more money, better vacations.
So no, I’m not always strong. In fact, sometimes I’m pretty damn fragile. And during those times It would be really great to come home and collapse into a partner’s arms while he tells me how awesome I am and whispers other deeply intimate things in my ear, such as “dinner is in the oven… I finished your laundry…I’ve taken the trash out… I bought you a pie.”
This is a blog for middle-aged women, like me, who want to live a life of increased authenticity, and greater well-being, with fewer façades, less role-playing and a lot more fun. I chose a photo with myself and my son because he is my heart.
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