Each time I write I have to fight past this thick wall of negative inner voices like ‘isn’t it enough now?’ ‘What can you say that hasn’t been said already?’ ‘Who do you think you are?’ etc. But I choose to write anyway because this is my sense-making mechanism…… and maybe my story deserves to be told. Feel the fear and do it anyway right?
The first time I remember experiencing shame was in first grade. It was a chilly afternoon and I’d left class earlier than my friends. By this time I had cultivated the habit of walking with my head down hoping to wade through life with minimal eye contact.
As I walked, head down, kicking dust lazily, I heard my friends walking behind me, in no hurry to catch up. They were mumbling inaudibly amongst themselves of things only 6yr olds found amusing. All of a sudden I heard peals of laughter and my world stopped.
My breath caught. My heart skipped a beat. My life suspended at a precarious angle for a moment. I felt a sting of tears behind my eye balls as the echo of laughter went on and on taking a life of its own. As the tears started rolling down my face so did the beat of my heart pick up to heights I couldn’t comprehend. I wanted to die. I thought I was going to faint.
‘Oh no, my life is over’
I could see flashes of the latest incident that weekend. It had happened outdoors for the first time (as far as I can remember for now) for all nature to witness. The weather had been exactly the same as that moment was. The dust smelt the same. I was so convinced these kids had seen me and I was terrified. Fear mingled with guilt and the heavy weight of shame was unrelenting. I struggled to breathe.
When rational thought returned, I realised there was no way my friends could have seen me because the incident had happened several kilometres away in my village. None of my friends at that time came from my village. But somehow shame and fear of being found out lodged in my heart.
It had been the first time an incident had happened outdoors (to my current recollection). It would prove to be his preferred option for a long time to come. This desperate fear of being found out firmly rooted itself in my heart. From then on I lived in constant fear of ‘being found out’.
For a long time as I grew I fought hard and made a conscious effort not to stand out, to be average, to be mediocre. In most cases I won. But I so hate mediocrity. So you can imagine the inner struggle. For a long time I’ve had this fear of being found out. The feeling of being a fraud.
About 2 years ago one young lady I love so dearly wrote me a lovely note on my birthday telling me how much she looks up to me. How much I inspire her. Instead of enjoying the love in that note, I felt like so terrible, like such a fraud.
Oh. Of the stories of shame and the ashamed!