The emotions, when paid attention to, will indicate the pile of crap speaking to me. I can allow them to lead me to it or I can walk away, busy myself with some distraction, and press the ignore button. Walking away doesn’t make them go away. Instead it becomes a game of whack-a-mole, pushing them down, until the next event comes along.
When I can feel the tears right behind my eyes I know something has been touched or even jabbed. The last words out of my mouth to David brought them. “I just want to be included”. As I felt the sadness sweep over me I knew somewhere, deep inside, there was shame.
I love Brene Brown’s definition of shame: “Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance and belonging”.
I was reminded of something I heard yesterday at church. “It’s in the teenage years that we are least convinced of our value.” It struck me then, it strikes me now.
Something transitions in the teenage years. It did for me. I’ve seen it happen for my kids. As I think back on mine I am painfully aware of the many experiences that left me believing I was flawed and unworthy of acceptance and belonging. These things have stuck with me because the truth is we often value ourselves based on the reactions and words of others, often misinterpreted. We allow people to be a part of telling us who we are, or are not.
It was in junior high that I first was made fun of for my middle name. I was 13 – 14 years old. Lamar, is not a popular name for a girl. It’s a surname in my family passed on to me. I had never really thought anything about it. I’d never been ashamed of it or even thought there was anything wrong with it until the girl sitting behind me began to taunt me. Suddenly I was embarrassed and ashamed. Each year I cringed as the homeroom teacher called out my full name.
The teenage years were the years that boys first really began to notice girls. I looked more like Twiggy than Marilyn Monroe. Hearing the boys, laugh about my skinny legs sent me into quite the shame storm. My body was unacceptable. I stopped wearing skirts and dresses to school after that. If they couldn’t see them, they wouldn’t make fun of them. It took me years and a few extra pounds to get over that and be comfortable wearing dresses again. If you had the right shape you were asked out. If not, you weren’t. That was a hard one to get over.
It’s not just the way the boys treated me, the girls jumped in, unbeknownst to them, and added a different spin. Everyone was vying for attention and acceptance. Girls can turn their backs on you quicker than anything.
High school, here in the 70’s, included sororities with “rush”. You were either chosen or not. I followed my friends and went out for the clubs they did, after all we were a pack coming out of junior high for our first year. They got chosen, I didn’t. As they moved on to new groups I was left behind, leaving me to feel excluded from the group I had grown comfortable with. I had to start all over. Tenth grade became one of the hardest years of shame that I had ever experienced.
It was all about popularity and whether you were in or out. You could be popular in junior high but once you reached senior high that all changed. You think you have these great friends for life and apparently they’ve forgotten all about you and what you’ve shared together. At least that’s how it was translated to me. I didn’t have the tools to process it all back then. It became a prominent place of shame.
Suddenly my body wasn’t the right shape, my name was the wrong name, and I was wrong for the groups my friends had moved onto. Add in the fact that I wasn’t chosen for the cheerleading squad after setting my heart, practicing religiously, giving my all. Where did I fit in anyways.
There are so many things set against you in the teenage years. Honestly I think it’s where most of the garbage I believed about myself got deeply planted in. It carries on through life with you, forming your belief system. If you don’t believe me, just ask my husband.
I felt excluded then, I still can feel it now. It might be one of those things that gets triggered the easiest. Because everything I had been comfortable with, changed in my teenage years.. Suddenly I felt evaluated, judged and excluded.
I wasn’t really set up to deal with that stuff in the right way. The world stepped in and told me where I belonged and where I didn’t. And I listened…. It didn’t just end there, it moved into my church life. The church can often be brutally exclusive, especially if the focus is based on what we do and don’t do.
Slowly but surely my mind is awakening to the shame I’ve lived under. My operating system is being renewed to the reality that this world and the people in it do not give me value. God established my value when He put me on this earth. As I belong to that, I belong to myself. I live in confidence knowing I have a place in this world because He planned me to be here. He thought of me, fashioned me and loved me completely as I am. That’s my reality, that’s my focus. No one in this world will ever give me that.
My grands remind me of it constantly as I watch them. They have not been tainted by this broken world. They are so free. They are comfortable in their own skin. They don’t care what others think about how they look, dress or act. They know they are loved and cared for just as they are. That’s my reality too.
Exclusivity is the lie I lived. To God, every part of me has always been perfect. I have always belonged with Him. I can’t get more included than that.
©copyrighted: Julie H. Todd 2019