We’re standing here together for all the world to see!
Have you ever heard that song by Garth Brooks? It is one of my favorite songs. The first two verses are as follows:
“Well I’m shameless when it comes to loving you. I’d do anything you want me to. I’d do anything at all. And I’m standing here for all the world to see.” 1 Now imagine, instead of a man singing that to his lady lover, you sing that to yourself. That changes the whole context of those lyrics. The thought of singing a song to myself stirs the cynic inside of me, but I have walked through life feeling shame. If you are a survivor of rape, sexual assault, abuse or any type of violation of your person, then you know firsthand how we blame ourselves. How easy it is to just accept that you are shameful for something that is NOT YOUR FAULT! We shame ourselves for just being human. It needs to end!
It has taken me 33 long years to accept that sometimes we make mistakes, but we do not have to carry the shame of those mistakes as penance. Whether the shame was caused by something that happened to you or from self-shaming for just being human, you do not have to live in shame. For me personally, I was a “self-shamer”. I would constantly think and meditate on something I did wrong. It could be something simple as using the wrong tone in a text message or it could be an outburst at someone I loved. I would apologize, but I would not let it go. I would constantly think about it to the point of getting that stomach dropping feeling that makes you want to vomit. The shame I felt would make me distance myself from those I loved. I couldn’t accept that I was just human and I had a human moment. That does not mean that I excuse my inappropriate tone, words or actions, but only that I made a mistake. I allowed self-shame to steal my happiness and my ability to forgive myself. The same applies to all you survivors, who have had shame thrust upon you through no fault of your own. You do not have to own the shame of someone else.
Now that I have a daughter, I understand, even more so, that I need to cut myself a little slack and forgive myself and stop with the self-shaming. I have realized that I am now teaching another person how to see herself, how to react, and how to be a “good person”. I would never want my daughter to walk in shame for any reason whatsoever. This realization has been like an “Aha!” moment. If I wouldn’t want my daughter feeling shameful for mistakes, then why am I making myself sick over them? These past 18 months have been life changing. I find myself singing to myself “I’m standing here for all the world to see!” I am standing here in self-acceptance and self-love because my daughter is watching me. She is learning from my reactions how to cope with life. This is what I want to teach her and anyone who has ever walked in shame of any kind: It is a process and you will have moments when that stomach sinking feeling tries to come back, and that is ok. Remember this though, you have the power to stop, take a breath, then let it go. The more you do this, the more you will discover those feelings of shame don’t occur nearly as often or even as intense as it once was. If you make a mistake then correct it or apologize and move on. If you have a flashback to the moment of your trauma, remember their actions may have caused you to feel shame, but it is not your shame to own. Their shame belongs to them. Return to sender. You are the main one being hurt by the shame that you feel, no matter who’s shame it is. That is not ok. It is not ok to distance yourself from love, especially self-love, or support because of shame. As a very special person has said to me, “It happened, you can’t change it, but you can let it go.”
I hope that my daughter sees this example in me. I hope I can show her that she can love herself shamelessly and she does not have to own the shame thrust on her by anyone. She can embrace the lessons from mistakes instead of the shame that tries to steal her happiness. She can return to sender any shame that tries to take hold from someone else. I absolutely believe in forgiveness and encourage humble, heartfelt apologies when the situation warrants them. I truly believe forgiveness is for you, yourself, and you. I don’t believe we need to carry shame from any rape, sexual trauma, abuse, mistakes, misjudgments, or wrong tones. Let it go and learn to love yourself shamelessly. Embrace the lesson you learned, not the shame. You will find that you walk a little taller, you see the world a little differently, and you can forgive the mistakes of others more easily. It is a process, but it is worth it! I am walking this new path with you. You can be shameless! We can be shameless together and stand together for all the world to see!
Ashley Davis RN, BSN
Support Supervisor at Wings to H.O.P.E.
1 Joel, Billy. “Garth Brooks – Shameless Lyrics.” Metrolyrics.com , Universal Music Publishing Group, 2018, www.metrolyrics.com/shameless-lyrics-garth-brooks.html.