The shame I feel when I make mistakes does not feel normal. It feels like a poisonous pit in my stomach that affects my whole body. I know I should get over it and get over myself, but the urgency of the feeling pulls me in. It feels like proof of my unworthiness. The pain of feeling unworthy is one thing, but the fear of being found out is even more intense. Having my failings on view for all to see is overwhelming, but what am I afraid of? Why is humiliation so painful?
My imperfections exposed make me want to jump to my defenses and explain, justify, correct. No one is allowed to dislike me in my mind. I make not being liked mean something. It is a brand of shame searing my skin. A bitter pill to swallow. A kick in the teeth.
I offended someone without meaning to. I am judged as selfish and unscrupulous even when that is not my intent. In this particular scenario, wires were crossed that will never be untangled. I am hearing it second hand. Names are not shared but the unfairness stings to the quick. It comes and goes. I dismiss it as thought. I try to get over myself, but then it rears its ugly head. I know enough to recognize this is not about the other person. I know enough to understand this is about my standards and expectations. I know enough to see that it is my own judgment that is causing my suffering. I know enough to know I am the one who is unbalanced, but I don’t know enough to be free.
I am not allowed to offend. I am not allowed to upset. I am not allowed to anger, and if I do my safety and worth are online, at least that is what I have believed.
Shame got my tongue. Shame muddles my mind. Shame has me question my reality. The misunderstandings place my security outside of myself. My safety is found in the world of pleasing others. Being disagreeable, offensive, unlikeable, and unpleasant is a mortal sin. It is a threat to my survival. The automated thinking sneaks by my prefrontal cortex in a reflexive response that feels real and speaks alternative facts as truths. My emotions are happy to lie to me.
There are two realities: one of my unconscious conditioning that has me living in an unsafe world where one false move has me crashing through the gates of hell and another where I rest in the soft embrace of unconditional love that provides security no matter what. I live between these two worlds. Stepping back and forth as I explore this human existence. That is it, folks! Not much else to see here. It is what it is. Life’s a bitch and then you die. At least that is the upside!
Making friends with my reptilian brain is the best I have got so far. Being with my lunacy in a loving way when the shame consumes me does provide solace. Perspective is my friend. Knowing I’m crazy when I’m crazy is helpful. And also understanding that none of this needs to be different. Painful feelings aren’t the invitation to jump on the bandwagon of fixing myself. They are a normal part of the human experience. And the solace of recognizing I am only ever one thought away from a fresh insight is a long cool glass of water on a hot summer’s day.
I am not perfect. I make mistakes. There are opportunities for me to embrace being unpleasant, unsavory, and displeasing, not for the sake of it, but because there is no life without missteps. How am I to learn if I don’t color outside of the lines? What are the lines? Many of them I don’t see. I can’t see them because they live in the minds of another. My lines aren’t your lines, and me living my life trying to intuit your coloring book doesn’t serve me or you.
Feedback is the key. I have my blind spots and the only way I can learn is to get feedback from you about what I don’t see. Not seeing my blindspots does not make me bad. Your judgments aren’t my fault either.
We all have our alternative facts and misunderstandings running rampant in our minds.
Judgment is the warning signal that lets us know we are in the field of right and wrong and understanding has fallen by the wayside.
People might think I am calling for an amoral existence where anything goes, but if we look around we can see the atrocities that are perpetrated. They exceed what my mind can comprehend. The moral compass of right and wrong is not stopping that. Perhaps there is a deeper compass that Rumi was pointing to that listens more deeply to the heart and has compassion as the guide.
My autonomic nervous system has not caught up with this level of enlightenment, but the grip of shame is subsiding as I ponder what a world might be like when my worth is not measured by getting it right. Instead, I am valuable simply by being. Can that be enough? Are we all enough even with our failings? Wouldn’t it be easier to treat each other more kindly if we start from there, independent of the behaviors that transgress our inner critic? The inner critic is so quick to jump on the bandwagon of judgment and raise a ruckus of outrage, but can getting it wrong be the start of getting it right? Can getting it wrong have nothing to do with who I am and my lovability? And if it can, can I see this?
Rohini Ross is co-founder of “The Rewilders.” Listen to her podcast, with her partner Angus Ross, Rewilding Love. They believe too many good relationships fall apart because couples give up thinking their relationship problems can’t be solved. In this season of the Rewilding Love Podcast, Rohini and Angus help a couple on the brink of divorce due to conflict. Angus and Rohini also co-facilitate private couples' intensives that rewild relationships back to their natural state of love. Rohini is also the author of the ebook Marriage, and she and Angus are co-founders of The 29-Day Rewilding Experience and The Rewilding Community. You can follow Rohini on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. To learn more about her work and subscribe to her blog visit: TheRewilders.org.