“What’s the worst that can happen?”
I’ve been asked that by A multiple times. I know why it’s one of those things he doesn’t get. Because to him, I’ve been one of those people who really don’t give a crap about what people think about me. And to a large extent that’s true. When we’re talking of ‘people’ as this collective group of faceless people who gossip. But every time he asks me this question, I know in my head I already have an answer.
“Because I’ll make a fool of myself.”
And it’s hardly ever about making a fool of yourself in front of the faceless people, is it? No. It’s the ones you know. The ones whose opinion you find yourself caring about, even against your best judgement. And the more I think about it, the more I realise that over the years there have been many times I’ve felt shame (I’m sure we all have), but the ones I remember, have been moments I’ve been shamed by people close to me. And it’s always worse because they never say things to hurt you. How easy it would be to brush words off because you know the intent behind them is hurt. But here, the intent is the meaning of the words themselves, carelessly thrown at you, sometimes as a joke. But they stick.
Your thighs look like you have elephantiasis.
How is your sister so fair, and you’re so dark?
Your voice is weird.
Why did you date so many guys?
He called you easy.
You’re average looking.
You’re cute, but don’t let it get to your head. You aren’t like hot or anything.
You’re cold hearted.
These have come from family, close friends, lovers. And while now, years later, I know a lot of them to be untrue, why do I still remember them so clearly? Why do I think about my legs when wearing a short skirt? Why would I never try to lend my voice to a video? Why would I think ten times before talking to a guy, just in case he got the wrong idea? Why would I never step out without kajal to hide my dark circles and complement my dusky skin?
The funny thing is, most of those comments caused me to rebel in ways while growing up, anything to prove them wrong, or to show I didn’t care. But the fact that they’ve stuck around, shows I clearly care.
And I wish I didn’t.
I wish I could embrace Brene Brown’s thoughts on vulnerability and just get out there and do what I want to, irrespective of the outcome. Every day, I’m hoping I’m building towards that moment – that step towards overcoming shame.
But acknowledging shame is step one, right?
P.S. How do you deal with shame?
P.P.S. Also one of my favourite quotes from Brene Brown’s book (must read, in case you haven’t!):
A lot of cheap seats in the arena are filled with people who never venture onto the floor. They just hurl mean-spirited criticisms and put-downs from a safe distance. The problem is, when we stop caring what people think and stop feeling hurt by cruelty, we lose our ability to connect. But when we’re defined by what people think, we lose the courage to be vulnerable. Therefore, we need to be selective about the feedback we let into our lives. For me, if you’re not in the arena also getting your ass kicked, I’m not interested in your feedback.