I’ve had some discussions on shame with my therapist. I still hate to admit that I need a therapist because I think it’s shameful… along with the eating disorder. Shame is hard. When it comes to eating disorders, we live with shame. It’s all around us, all the time.
Shame: noun: the painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonorable, improper, ridiculous, regretful, etc., done by oneself or another.
Often, when thinking of things that have happened to us in the past or how others treat us, or what’s going on, I think there are times when we take that shame/embarrassment on ourselves. We take the shame of the events and the actions of the other person and we become embarrassed when it’s not our shame to bear. There are times when the shame is NOT ours and we should not take that one.
If we are mistreated in any way, that is not our shame to carry. We do not have to take the feelings of another person’s actions and hold ourselves accountable. Each person is held accountable for their own action. If your friend (or anyone) does something terrible to you, you don’t have to feel awful about it and own his/her actions; it’s their shame to carry. I had a coworker spreading rumors about me being a “bad” teacher because she was jealous of my abilities. My principal explained to me that it was happening because I was such a great teacher, but I felt so embarrassed and shameful about what was happening… that was HER shame to bear, not mine. I didn’t have to take on her shameful actions and attach feelings to them. Those were her actions. Yes, they were about me, but I didn’t do those things, or say those things – Other people noticed that it was her doing it all. There were obviously things happening that made her feel like she should talk about me, but I shouldn’t be ashamed of the fact that she talked negatively about me. That is on her, not me.
I think we often work so hard to perfect ourselves and the word “improper” is what hits us hard. When something “improper” happens to us, shame comes in. Anything that we feel is not proper makes us feel like we are not right. Every human is so different and that is what is so great about us all… but when we have a critical voice in our head, anything different seems wrong and improper. Something that is different is not wrong or improper, in fact, it should be embraced for how unique it is. This is hard to learn and live by.
I still have a hard time with this, but the actions of others are not actions for us to take on. We cannot take on the shame of others based on the choices they make. We can’t control the actions of other people, we can only control our own actions. It sounds so selfish, but your shame is not my shame. My shame is not your shame. The actions of others do not define us, nor can they control us. We have to know when we can say, “this is your stuff, not mine and I will not take this on.”
You do not have to take on the shame of other people or this disorder. I am trying to find a way to no longer see this disorder as something embarrassing. I guess the hard part about it is the fact that I’m a teacher, therefore a mentor, in a way. My eating disorder and recovery getting out isn’t something teachers want people to know about. My shame and embarrassment of another teacher finding out/spreading it isn’t my shame to own, it’s her’s. Her choice to stoop so low to spread my personal struggle is her shameful behavior. I think someday, when I’m recovered I won’t care who knows and I’ll freely talk about it, but until I’m there, I worry that others will know when I’m struggling and they will judge me. Truthfully, as stated before, if they do judge me, that is their own stuff to own, not mine…. because truthfully, if you knew my whole story of where I’ve come from and what I’ve been through…. and you still judged me, you would look like a complete asshole in front of anybody – and that’s your shame to hold!
I wasn’t sure this whole “It’s your own shame to own” thing would work, until I had to tell some coworkers. I didn’t want them to find out from that teacher spreading rumors so I spilled the beans (haha… pun intended). Well, when I told them, they gave all the shame to her!!! Their comments were all along the lines of, “Oh my gosh, you’ve got to be kidding me? she didn’t do that to you? who would ever do that???” So, the rational world out there will place the shame in the right direction. If we could learn to do that too, we would save ourselves a lot of grief!
“You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.”
– Winston Churchill