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  • Writer's pictureWLM

How long do we carry shame?





I've been listening to the book 'Girl, Wash Your Face' by Rachel Hollis. I respect the truth she tells and the "Things That Helped Me" pieces of each chapter bring a utility to the book that makes it better than most self-help books.


Each chapter begins with a lie that we tell ourselves. Then Hollis goes in to how the lie has affected her life and what has helped her in quieting the judgy voice in our heads. The lie for chapter four hit home for me.


The lie: I'm better than you. In this chapter Hollis goes in to how she believed she was better than another girl in school who shaved her toes, all while Hollis herself did the same thing at home. While listening to this chapter I went through a whole spectrum of emotions from embarrassed to angry, sad to empowered, and most of all, shame.


My journey with shame has been a new endeavor and one that keeps popping up lately without much provocation so I don't think it is quite over yet, if it will ever be over. I was watching the Netflix show Big Mouth the other month and in Season 2 Andrew gets a visit from The Shame Wizard. I was in tears by the end of the episode because I realized that I live with this wizard in my head all day, every day. It got me thinking, what have I done that I feel so shameful for? So I began a recollection of all the shameful things of my past.


While traveling with a school group once I made fun of an awkward girl and read her diary to some friends over the phone. Who did I think I was anyway? In truth, I admired her for not trying to conform to a group like I was. She was finding herself and trying new things without worrying about what others thought about her, something I was incapable of at that time. Thankfully she was a better person than I was and wrote me off to follow her own path. I still think of her often and let the guilt waves wash over me sometimes, my penance I feel I owe to her and the earth for the wrong I did to her.


Then there was that time I bit my sister, the way I handled that situation in high school, the time I broke up with a boyfriend in London when we had a two-week trip ahead of us, and of course, the time I got mad at my grandmother for ruining a party I was going to have while my mom was out of town.


Sometimes I open the floodgates and just let it all roll over me. I accept that these snippets are part of my story and try to keep the lessons learned in the forefront so as not to repeat history. But that is what they are: history. What reparations can I make to those people I have wronged now? How long do you carry The Shame Wizard on your back and what event determines that the karmic balance has been reestablished?

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