Saturday, March 14, 2015
Shame is a powerful emotion which can cripple a life. Its force can distort one's self-image and sap one of all confidence.
It is important to recognize that there are two kinds of shame -- personal shame which is feeling bad about yourself, and social shame which is other people judging you negatively. Often people suffer social shame and internalize it as personal shame. If others are judging us, we have a natural tendency to believe them.
Fortunately, that didn't happen to me.
From earliest memory, I knew I was different. I knew I was female despite everyone telling me otherwise. Social shame imposed by my parents and others didn't dissuade me from my core belief; rather, it taught me that people are capable of mistakes and also of cruelty. The power to conform in our society is Procrustean.
I never internalized the social shame thrust at me. I never felt personal shame about wanting to be feminine or identified as female. Naturally, I learned to hide my nature as protection against abuse, but I never became ashamed of it. When I can reveal my true self, I do. Only late in life (my fifties), however, have I felt safe to be open about this publicly.
Due to society's intense pressure on women to appear attractive, many young girls feel ashamed of their weight or their looks. That reaction to social shame is so common as to be almost universal. It doesn't, however, make it right. Judging female appearance can have terrible effects on girls and erode their self-confidence.
Have you ever felt ashamed of yourself? Have you felt others judge you based on your appearance or another feature that causes you to stand out? Were you able to overcome social shame and avoid it creeping into your soul? How?
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I always wore glasses since i was four years old. Until the end of high school i was always picked on for being fat and having glasses but it was only from a few kids, but one year i suddenly grew and lost a lot of weight. i came back from school holidays and i was bigger then them and they realised they could not push me around and do what they used to. I have learn't to shrug off the comments and get on with life. Life is not easy as long as you love who you are and keep those people who appreciate you around all those other people can get stuffed :)ReplyDelete
We all accept you for who you are Ally and that's all that matters
Thank you, Dale. And thanks for sharing your story.Delete
Shame is a very useful tool to gain power or to sell people things they don't really need. I think most people experience shame at some point in their lives for something they should not be ashamed of, but the degree to which that impacts their whole life or causes pain will vary. I experienced shame about my breasts being too small and then later about them being too big. When they were small I did not feel feminine or attractive but when they got bigger I felt I would be judged as slutty. I think this is common experience. I recently attended a performance by Ivan Coyote, a brilliant writer and spoken word performer who wants to expand our views on gender. Something she mentioned is something I have recently become aware of, which is that people within the LBGTQ community are not all accepting of each other and employ shaming towards others who do not fit with their own ideals, for example butch lesbians vs female-male transgendered people. I hope I used the correct terms there but I have also learned that terminology varies depending on whom you are asking. In a perfect world we would all just love and accept everyone as they are. All I can do is keep trying to contribute to that in my own ways and try not to let anyone shame me for being who I am. Thank you for your thought provoking post and for being you! xoxoReplyDelete
Thank you, Shawna. Yes, it's sad to report that there is a vicious war going on between "radical feminists" (a group I used to belong to in the Eighties) and transgender activists. Very dispiriting.Delete
It usually happens when I wake up at 2 am. And, unfortunately, I deserve all of it. I have much to atone for. But at least I know that.ReplyDelete
Getting better though. You are a very strong person.
Hey Ally, As usual a very thought provoking post. I think each of us battles with this debilitating emotion for very different reasons ~ thank you for always giving us things to think about and contemplate in our own lives and see where we can make things better.ReplyDelete
You are a very special human being and I am so honoured to be part of your life!!!
Great thought-provoking piece. I often have to settle arguments between children where another boy has called a boy a girl as a form of abuse or because of social stereotypes, another boy perceives something another does as girly and try to explain something doesn't have to be 'girly' and try to make them understand. We have intrigued LGBT week and read books on such themes (such as The Boy with Punk Hair) and done lots of work on this so I hope things change but many parents also instill the opposite so it is a long battle.x xReplyDelete
Pink not punkReplyDelete
Despite how difficult this whole thing can be for you much of the time, I'm so glad you've never succumbed to any actual shame like many do. I hate that you felt you had to hide it and purposely learn "male" behaviors and patterns to fit in and stop the scrutiny and intolerance. But at least you never fought against your true nature in your heart, soul, and mind. You have a capacity for forgiveness for that type of thing that I just don't think I have.ReplyDelete
When I was in middle school...well, really, I could probably just stop there because enough said, right? ;) But back then I got made fun of a lot for having "big lips." Some girls said they were perfect, and some gave me crap for them. I always liked them and don't remember ever wishing I could change them - but I sure got sick of the negative comments. I would say "all the haters are probably getting filler injections now to look like me," but in all truthfulness I just hope they feel more secure in themselves now than they did back then because I know that's what caused them to act out. Thin lips, full lips, they're all beautiful, and I don't care how cliche it sounds. :)
I also had a few comments back in middle school about maybe I was mixed (black and white). Going through puberty, my hair texture completely changed. It seemed like it was that way til I left middle school and went back to how it was before. Between my lips and hair and butt, there were a lot of comments, especially from one girl who I think WAS mixed. I thought she was trying to insult me at the time (even though it would not have been an insult to me) - but just now I wondered if she was looking for some kind of validation for herself if she was being teased or wanted to find someone with that in common.
Finally, I have birthmarks, which I'm sure you noticed in person, on my chin and neck. To this day, I still get people asking me if I have a hickey. Yes. Yes, I have a hickey right on my VOICEBOX that literally never goes away. I mean, c'mon. I'm not embarrassed about them - in some way, they reinforce my tie to my mom. I am used to the comments and questions. But it would still be lots less annoying not to have to field them at all. I told Jason yesterday that I need to make up a story about it when people ask just to mess with them. I said I could say we had a wild night and make them jealous. He said I should tell people I had a tracheotomy as a child and watch their looks of horror. I am totally trying that one out next time. ;)
And I think I told you how I got made fun of in P.E. all the time in middle school by this one girl because I was afraid to really get in there and play whatever sport we were doing at any given time. That stayed with me quite a while. Now I just feel sad for her and hope she's in a better place. Those girls in college I told you about - I can't even remember now WHAT they made fun of me for.
Maybe between all of that and losing my mom so young (who never got to TRULY feel her own self-worth before she died) - not to mention having a daughter now - I guess this is why female self-love and self-worth are issues so close to my heart and life purpose.
Wow. Shit, that was long. The old long-winded me reared her head again! Yeah!Delete
And I will share your post on my blog once I get my domain back.Delete
Thank you, Jen, for sharing. Your story helps me understand you better. I can see why you are so devoted to supporting self-love. I hope you find it for yourself.Delete
BTW, I didn't notice any birthmarks during our visit. I just remember your beautiful smiling face.
I was raised by a mother who was raised with so much shame dumped onto her she dishes it out on a regular basis to her daughters. Now finally in my 50's I have decided to speak up to her and ask her to stop shaming me. Unfortunately this has caused her to shut me out and we have stopped communication completely. I'm okay with this as I am no longer willing to put up with being treated that way.ReplyDelete
Your writing about knowing you were feminine on the inside is interesting because my son is going through this right now. He is a junior in high school and came out to myself and his dad recently but not to anyone else. He is hiding for now, but not ashamed. He's beginning to show interest in feminine clothing but for now prefers to keep it "under wraps" until he's out of school I suppose. I showed him your blog and perhaps he'll be visiting with a secret peek once in a while. ;)
Thank you for sharing, Joni. I'm always available to you and your family for private conversation by e-mail. I'll help in any way I can.Delete
Thank you, that really means a lot.Delete
Sometimes I was picked on because I had braces - however a lot of kids had it a lot tougher that I did. I remember having to stand for a few of them, mostly guys. There was one guy in particular in high school who rode my bus. I was one of the few people who talked to him and always made a remark back to anyone being nasty to him and it usually drove them away. Funny thing is, this guy I was "friends" with now sees me and doesnt even say hi. What a world.ReplyDelete
People can be cruel, children more so at times. I've been called allsorts by complete strangers who I thought were old enough to know better, like the table of men in a pub who called me a dog (on my birthday to boot, which didn't shame me so much as complete upset me) and I was called a freak by a car full of men when I was a teen which bewildered me more than anything, particularly when I overheard them pass me by and say, "Let's turn the car round and call her a freak!" and they did too.ReplyDelete
I have had most things about me ridiculed by my own family which has left me with crippling self esteem issues.
I'm sorry, friend. That's terrible. My sympathy goes out to you.Delete