Sunday, March 1

Being "In Shame"

So this blog has become more of a sounding board when I've got thoughts I want to get out than anything else really- and that's 100% ok with me. Things like this are really too long for a Facebook status, but if someone else can learn from my idiotic mistakes, why not share them? I'm putting myself out there with this one, because it's not like the whole world needs to know everything that's going on and personal experiences being posted online are a scary thing- but this time I think it's worth it. I'm going to be totally honest, the past few weeks for me have been insanely overwhelming. With graduation just around the corner, no plans, no savings, and pressure from all sides to keep trucking along without even sputtering for a second, I've done what I know a thousand other seniors before me have done, and a thousand seniors after me will do: I choked. School slipped, friends slipped, my whole life slipped, and even though it was just for a brief second, it was enough to do some damage. The worst part is, when we let our own lives become overwhelmed and we don't immediately address it, its not just us that gets hurt. Damage is never isolated to a single person.

 Enter Tumblr and Brenee Brown.

If you haven't read anything by Brenee Brown, you're missing out. "Self-help" books aren't everyone's cup of tea, but remember I'm a social-worker-to-be so I eat this stuff up. Generally I'm like "oh my gosh, all these skills and insights are going to be great to share with future clients!" but what's really happening is I end up thinking "oh my gosh, I should be someone's client because all of this stuff makes me realize all the dumb things I do." And if you don't like to read, at least watch her TED talk- because she's amazing. Anyways, I'm reading over the Gifts of Imperfection again before we discuss it in class, and I come across something that kind of punched me in the gut. "When we're in shame, we're not fit for human consumption. We need to get back on our emotional feet before we do, say, e-mail or text something that we'll regret." which reminded me of a Tumblr post that I reblogged at some ungodly hour last night: "Just because you've been hurt doesn't mean you're allowed to hurt people/ if you're toxic, put yourself in isolation, be by yourself and heal/ so you don't contaminate others". I can't even begin to explain how true this is- and it's an ugly vicious cycle. When we're "in shame", we're toxic to others. I was ashamed that my grades weren't top notch, that I fell behind in homework, that I wasn't able to be at every friend event there was, that I wasn't loving and taking full advantage of every opportunity that was being thrown at me. That shame turned me into such a toxic person and it completely rubbed off on people around me- my shame bubbled over and infected other people, and for that I will always be sorry.

I'm not saying anytime you're feeling overwhelmed you should pull away from everything and everyone. That's not healthy for anyone unless that's truly your coping mechanism. Complete isolation for me is probably the worst thing possible because I push myself into a spiral where I just get more upset with myself. But knowing this about yourself- what's healthy and what's not healthy for you- that's invaluable. Brenee says earlier in her book "As a matter of fact, we are wired for connection. It's in our biology." Our world is not conducive to isolation. We've been trained, we were born with, we evolved to have, we were created with, (take your ideological pick) an inherent need to connect with others. But when that connection is contaminated by our shame or our doubt or our insecurities, it's a flawed connection. It's ironic that we're wired for connection, when "one of the greatest barriers to connection is the cultural importance we place on 'going it alone'." Do you see the conflict here?

Our design is to connect, but our culture pushes disconnect- and sometimes it pushes disconnect under the guise of connection. It's a complex, mixed up, tangled web. It's so disgustingly difficult to navigate, and even more challenging trying to navigate it alone.

I guess what I'm saying is everyone feels shame, disappointment, overwhelmed, and a thousand other emotions that are none too pleasant. Deal with them, before they take over your life and the life of everyone around you. Find out how you cope. Find out how you can deal. If it's taking a 10 minute breather, if it's sitting down and writing out your thoughts, if it's venting to a friend or a therapist (just make sure it's productive and not a pity party), if it's going on a run or out for a night with friends. And whatever you do, DON'T ignore it or think that you have to go it alone, because you never do.