Ever had one of those days where you’re plugging along, big smile on your face and feeling pretty durned good about life?
“Dude, you rock! I got this life stuff all figured out.”
Then you get thrown a curve ball.
Not a horrible hook, but just God’s little off-speed reminder, “Um, not so fast. You are still figuring this crap out.”
What happened to me was so little that I almost pushed it back inside my mind and forgot about it. But, that’s not how my mind works. Stuff eats on me, manifests in other ways (buh-bye corn patch) and keeps nagging at my brain like a gnat in the ear until I face it.
So, here’s me swatting that gnat.
Hubs calls out from the living room a couple of days ago, “Hey! Your daughter just challenged you to something on Facebook.”
Assuming that it was another ALS ice bucket challenge, I simply said, “I already donated and we are out of ice.”
“No. Not that. You just need to look.”
So, I did and found this:
Awww….it’s my pretty college girl! I could look at this generous smile all day. And her laugh? It’s one of the most infectious and endearing sounds ever! I may be biased, but my daughter should be the poster child for genuine joy and love.
Anyhoo, once I pulled my eyes from that glorious smile I read the post that went with it:
I was nominated by Alyssa to post a picture of myself right when I get out of bed, without any makeup and to say three characteristics I believe I have.
I am a problem solver, good listener, and kind-hearted. I now challenge Ashley, Michelle, and Lindsay to do the same! Love you ladies! And let your beauty shine!
What followed was a series of random thoughts. What started out as benign quickly progressed to full-blown neuroses:
- My girl doesn’t ever need makeup–she’s pretty inside and out
- Come to think of it, those other girls don’t need makeup either
- I don’t wear much makeup
- Um. I don’t think I want to do this
- People don’t need to see me on Facebook. I’m on there waaaay too much as it is
- Ugh. I hate selfies
- Correction: I hate myselfie selfies
- Where is the damned ice bucket?
My dear Tanna had unknowingly tripped a “shame trigger.”
Until about a year ago, I’d never heard of a shame trigger, but after learning the definition, I realized that I’d been living with a bunch of gremlins for years. Feeding them after midnight and dousing them with water in the form of negative self-talk and poor self-esteem.
Brene’ Brown defines shame as “an intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance and belonging. Women often experience shame when they are entangled in a web of layered, conflicting and competing social-community expectations. Shame creates feelings of fear, blame and disconnection.”
From another interview, she says, “There are no universal shame triggers. There are no events or situations that make all of us feel or experience shame. Without exception, all of the participants’ shame experiences fit in one of these categories: identity, appearance, sexuality, family, motherhood, parenting, health (mental and physical), aging, religion and a woman’s ability to stand up and speak out for herself. These are the categories in which women struggle the most with feelings of shame. When we experience shame we feel trapped, powerless and isolated.”
As you read this and start to wonder, “What’s the trigger here?” you might automatically assume that I don’t want to be seen without makeup.
Dear friends, that ship sailed years ago. Many of you have seen me at my worst and accept me anyway. I’m not scared of wrinkles and you already know that my good hair days are those that the pony tail doesn’t accidentally end up in a greenhouse fan.
Everyone feels shame differently, but most of us feel it physically before we even realize emotionally what’s going on. Think back to a time in grade school when you were shamed. Do you remember what your stomach did, how your heart pounded and pulse raced? But, what triggers you have might not even be a blip on the radar screen for someone else. Shame is personal and visceral and it had me befuddled for a couple of days.
My shame triggers are: parenting, motherhood, identity and vanity and this innocent post triggered all of them at once with vanity being at the top of the list.
Vanity is what almost kept me from writing this.
Not only do I have a tendency toward being vain, I don’t want anyone to know that I’m vain. I’m humble to a fault because I’m trying to bludgeon and kill that vanity monster. Additionally, this is not a humble-brag plea for compliments. I hate getting compliments, especially about my appearance. The voice in my head says, “Just who do you think you are? Get off your high horse, Michelle…you’re not all that.” I worry that my less-than-desirable outsides will reveal my ugly insides, too.
I didn’t want to take a selfie, because to me, selfies are the ultimate demonstration of vanity. Not for others–I don’t judge them–I judge ME. Then I started to beat myself up because I knew I was missing the complete point of the assignment. What are ‘three things I like about myself?’
How horrible that I couldn’t even find three? How did my daughter turn out so awesome? How can I be a good parent and teach her about self-love if I can’t even do it myself?
Why am I making such a big deal about this? Just take the blanketedy blank picture!
So, I went out onto the deck as soon as I got up Saturday morning and tried to take a picture. Every one I snapped just looked uglier and uglier to me. I was mortified. As the snapping continued, the inner voices and gremlins rose to the surface until I stopped trying and erased the evidence.
I walked inside and found Scott in the kitchen,
“Did you take enough selfies?”
Shame punched me in the gut and I was whisked back to the a classroom filled with nuns’ voices mixed with others, “Vanity is a deadly sin.” Fortunately, I also heard Brene’s voice in my head, “Don’t shrink – don’t puff up. Stand on your sacred ground.”
That’s when I decided that I needed to write about this, to be the authentic mom, wife, friend and writer that I’ve been trying to be for almost a year now–trying to emulate the tag-line that sits prominently on my web page, “Celebrating the art and soul of imperfection.”
If this is what celebrating looks like, then I definitely need a new concept of party time, right?
Honestly, I felt an obligation to address this even though it makes me wretch on the inside doing so. You don’t have to be a woman to experience shame and negative self-esteem and it’s only by addressing it that we can conquer. One of my blogger buddies, Michele set forth a concept of call and response and I tried to follow her lead. Seems like I’ve been called to write for more than selfish reasons. If one person reads this and finds a way to tackle their own shame, then it’ll be worth all the angst it took to write this.
From Brene’ in an interview with Mother’s Movement Online:
We must also find the courage to share our stories and experiences. We must reach out to others and speak our shame. If we feed shame the secrecy and silence it craves— if we keep the struggles with our bodies buried inside – the shame will fester and grow. We must learn to reach out to one another with empathy and understanding. There is a tremendous amount of freedom that comes with identifying and naming common experiences and fears— this is the foundation of shame resilience.
It’s with a gentle nudge and prompt from my sweet girl that I finally post a little picture and three things that I like about myself. It will never be a selfie–I can’t fix everything over night. But, it is definitely without makeup or filters and maybe captures me at the most vulnerable I’ve been in the last 40 years.
As far as what I like about myself? It’s actually pretty simple:
- I’m a good mama
- I treat others the way I want to be treated
- I make an awesome banana cream pie
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this. It was difficult to write. Special thanks to my sweet Tanna. You heal me more than you’ll ever know and I want to be just like you when I grow up. Have a great first day of being a college Junior!! xo
Now, it’s your turn! What three things do you like about yourself? What is your take on the selfie craze? What are your shame triggers?
If you are interested in reading/hearing more from Brene’, I highly recommend the following video series: The Power of Vulnerability. Here’s a sample from one of her TED talks where she addresses shame and vulnerability. She’s funny, authentic and will fill your day gut-punching honesty.