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My Internalized Shame

Updated: Jun 16, 2020

“I define shame as the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection.” –Brene Brown

It's difficult for me to talk about racism and this is something I am working on so I will. I grew up in a household of a hateful bigot who freely taught his children fear and bigotry. His shotgun was ready at the front door empty of ammo because our mother wouldn’t allow it to be loaded. Our family outings involved ice cream cones at Mountain View Drive-in and then a leisurely ride through the tobacco fields and housing to gawk and leer at the indigent workers and their families. The lectures held biased lies about those who were different. Shame grew inside of me. Guilt accompanied it. Every word for 22 years was delivered on a platter of fear.

I am willing to do the work it takes to be fully present in this society and face my internalized bigotry. I was a child, naïve and impressionable, and soaked up the lies that have inhabited every cell of my body. I feel guilt and shame for allowing my participation in such hatred AND I was just a child. Nevertheless, the guilt and shame are there.

As the shameful truths unfold in our society, I can choose to turn a blind eye and pretend I don’t feel the depth of emotion accompanying these truths as they are all tied back to my childhood. Or I can continue my existence in my discomfort and heal my relationship with my shame.

My current values are cultivated by my heart, my life experience and an overwhelming need to claim everyone’s right to exist in harmony and freedom without judgment or shame. I’ve learned I can live in discomfort while I face my past and find forgiveness for others as well as myself.

As a child I had no tools to deal with the trauma I endured. The resulting shame stifled my voice to forgive my circumstances. I am an adult and as I, I see my tool belt of helpful beliefs, exercises, reminders and actions that I claim as my values. The current unrest in our country is giving me the opportunity to air out my shame and guilt.

I affirm I will participate in discussions about racial injustice and not run away. I affirm I will treat myself with gentleness and comfort as I face my past. I believe as I air out my shame and guilt, it will dissipate and be replaced with the love and respect I hold for every living being on this earth. Thank you for being witness to my process.

Participants’ reflections:

  • This is a sober time. It feels like a time of mourning. I will talk from principles, not politics. We’re all connected. I am part of a multiracial family. But I am not all-knowing. I choose to be in an open heart. To be prayerful, and ask my higher power how to respond lovingly. This is a marathon. There will be short sprinters. How do I want to make life changes going forward? I’m not a marcher or protester. I am joining conversations as a listener. That is my gift. I am reminded of a poem about Christmas, where there is initially a flurry of activity with unwrapping presents. The real work then begins, which is to go out in world to celebrate and be in a loving space all year.

  • Last night, PBS had special “Race Matters” which was great. I related to what you read. I grew up in a similar situation as you. As a country, we need to develop new appreciations of how our country was built on the backs of African-Americans.

  • I married into law enforcement family. All of us are not racists, the news is difficult to watch.

  • Pointing fingers is easier than feeling the pain

  • I am compelled to take action as well. I am starting a 21-day racial awareness program to face personal and systemic racism in my life. It took courage for you to do that reading.

  • Everyone should be dialoging. Our dialogue here in this meditation is a model. Every assumption we’ve had is out the window. I think there will be a revolution. Positive or not.

  • Visualize the positivity of it

  • Held belief of fears growing up. I struggle to come to peace with that. Fears of being hurt. My father thought he was doing better than his father. In our era, we are looking at ourselves more. Growing up I learned I was not supposed to associate with blacks. The training I had is not true. Drama in my family around race and immigration. It continues if I don’t change. I liked “every belief served on a platter of fear.” It’s nice we can do this

  • My stomach gets upset when emotional. Thank you for being non-judgmental and present.

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