Ain't no shame in it
Updated: Apr 14, 2018
Kicking off this blog, or rather the going public with it bit, gave me the major heebie-jeebies.
It's been a few weeks now and, to be honest, it still does. Whilst I've generally had a good response (and some really positive comments and conversations from people both known to me and strangers), that small but pervasive voice in me, the one that's always ready to bring me down, keeps surfacing to tell me I can't really do this, I've got nothing much to say and anyway, who's really interested if I do??
It's got me thinking about this internal, negative voice, the work that I've done to recognise it and whether I'm any better at ignoring it or counteracting its effect on my daily life.
I don't know if I've mentioned it before but for over a year now I've been having regular weekly counselling sessions. I'd had crisis counselling previously - in the year I ended up leaving my long-term relationship (effectively my marriage except he wouldn't do the deed - another story) and in the year after my sister died - but this therapy I started with the intention of it being much more long term or, to put it another way, a process that wouldn't be constrained by having a finite number of sessions in which to 'fix' myself. Mainly because I was pretty sure it would take a long time to sort the mess of me out.
Obviously I'm no expert in counselling, so I don't know if I have a 'good' counsellor, but every time I question whether it's worth it, I know I'm feeling a benefit from having them. Mostly I think it's helped me by making me aware of the behaviour and thoughts that got me to that place where I was so confused by other people's voices (or deaf to my own) that I didn't trust myself at all.
Also, as a result of counselling and being more aware and open to this sort of stuff, I recently came across a woman called Brené Brown. You may have heard of her already, in which case I feel I need to apologise for being late to the BB party!
Brené is a research professor at the University of Houston in the US. As well as being an academic and a researcher, she runs a company, she's written four books, she's a public speaker on her research (one of her TED talks, 'The Power of Vulnerability', is one of their top 5 most viewed talks)...basically she's pretty darn busy and her research on courage, vulnerability, empathy and shame is fascinating.
Shame is an epidemic in our culture...empathy is the antidote to shame
A conversation I had with a friend recently summed up what I now believe to be true: at the root of my depression and anxiety is guilt. What Brené has helped me understand is that, more accurately, it's shame. Shame is the inner voice telling me to worry, not merely about what I've done or want to do (guilt) but also and more destructively, about what 'they' would think of me because of it (shame). That voice is there because for years and years I'd accepted that there's a 'right' way of doing something (anything) and, if I got it wrong, I was going to be in some kind of trouble and that would be shameful.
I'd become so adept at listening to this inner voice that I couldn't distinguish it from my own. Gradually though, and my goodness it is gradual, I'm starting to pick out that voice. I now understand that it is there, which is a huge step and the first necessary one to getting it to shut the hell up. The second step for me has been learning to give myself and my needs importance and priority.
If I'm kind to myself and give myself the kind of consideration that I give to others, even strangers I meet on the street, then how can I not start to think that I and my voice are important? That I can stop feeling some of the shame that's weighed me down for so long?
This might seem like sucking eggs to some of you but, for me, I have to tell you that it's really bloody liberating! For what feels like the first time in my life, I'm stopping to think about what I think about something rather than what other people would think. What this means is that I'm feeling so much more comfortable with the decisions that I'm making. Life isn't any easier than it was a few months ago but at least now I feel like I'm more in control of my present and my future.
And as far as that inner voice is concerned, it may still be there trying to whittle away at my confidence, but it is not going to stop me.
Thanks for reading.