I’ve done this a thousand times. Fit myself into a pair of jeans that hug my legs but leave the rest of me desperately crying out for space or at least a bit of stretch. Finding a high enough waist band to lovingly envelope my curves has been a challenge I haven’t taken time for. So I’ve settled to being pinched, cramped and tied up in discomfort, for the benefit of long looking legs.
Molding myself according to expectations of others is a similar experience. Although it may seem easier, the pain of pushing myself into a default template is ongoing. And just like my muffin top is visible, no matter the kind of sack I wear for a blouse, nobody is fooled by me squeezing myself into the cast of normal/perfect/whatever.
And why is it so scary? I don’t know about you, but for me it is frightening to connect with that part of me that flows over, that needs, that reacts in intense and unpredictable ways, the places that need compassion, acceptance, time. To not cram it into yet another corset, tight belt or behind the mask of a smile.
But to listen. To experience. To see what is.
This week, I’m starting with my body. I bought a pair of jeans with a wide, high waist. Comfy and soft. At the same time I’m letting my feelings roll, jump, hide, run, dig tunnels, whatever. There’s space here, both for a soft belly and whatever sort of feelings that life awakens.
Is there a template in your life that you’ve outgrown and/or are ready to bust out of? If you would surround yourself with tender care and deep acceptance, what would your next step be?
Sometimes life feels so scary, everything comes too close and it is hard to dare be who you are. At those moments, remember – You are not alone. We’re all challenged by the same fear – what will happen if I’m truly myself?
When we dare be vulnerable, despite being afraid, we find each other.
I drew this fox when we were cloud gazing with my kids, on the way to the summer cottage. One cloud was a fox with wings. I remembered this drawing, watching this Ylvis video about what the fox says. Somehow this video brings to my mind the impetus and hope of Big Dreams, a power that has brought me through so much of my life.
When I watch this video, I see innocence, playfulness and exuberance. The willingness to go all out and be vulnerable at the same time. To do it well. Watching this video just makes me happy. I’m glad it went viral & wish that this blast of success is a good thing for Ylvis.
One of my biggest dreams ever was finding my soulmate. This week I and the Engineer celebrate fifteen years together. He brought this video to my attention and the spirit here reminds me of the grand creative partnership and love that we share. <3
This tea party has been a transforming experience for me. As usual, when I focus on something, everything leans in that direction. Friends, articles, comments, e-mails, there has been a lot of beautiful interaction with shame this week. When we started out, shame was something ephemereal, scary, foggy and vaguely threatening for me. There has always been something about my making art that I haven’t been able to shine a light on. Like a shiny, slippery surface that I haven’t been able to get through or see clearly. At surprising times in my life, I’ve suddenly been surrounded by fog, not able to see, with no clue why. As if that hasn’t been confusing enough, the shame has sprung on me both when I’ve succeeded and when I’ve failed.
After this weeks exploration, writing, dancing and painting, shame feels accessible, an emotion among others. I know where it lives, I know what its hair looks and feels like when I brush it. I know what it needs from me. I know it, I see it, I feel it. No more secrets. The phleghm of shame is just green goo. Slimy, yes. But not threatening.
What I’ve learned about shame:
I’ve identified many slightly different kinds. The shame that goes through generations, passed on by shame bearing parents to their children. The shame that is interpersonal, that arises when I try to connect to someone and that person turns into a stranger, distant, odd. The shame that comes from feeling there is something wrong with me, that I am damned, broken, hopeless, doomed. The shame that comes when I create something from my core, from my deepest joy. There is institutional shame that may arise from being different than the expected norm, for instance homeless, unemployed, overweight or something else.
One thing that’s for sure is that trying to be perfect does not protect me from feeling shame, but stifles creativity and aliveness.
So, in Beckoning Shame Out of Hiding, Here Are Some Things to Remember:
“Our internalized shame began as somebody else’s shame. And once we’ve internalized it, it is ours to deal with. It is ours to feel. It is ours to heal.” says Julie Daley.
When I choose to be aware of what is happening inside of me, I break free and my shame is transformed from a lurking fog behind my back, into tangible feelings, experiences, something that can be shared and seen. This feels uncomfortable and stinky, but when I persevere, something fresh starts to open up, that’s been hidden behind the shame. If I don’t dare be vulnerable, that gift remains hidden.
I can trust my impulses, even when they seem cruel, wild or infathomable. When I trust them enough to follow them in writing, painting or movement, they can unfold and lead me to the wisdom that is waiting inside.
My shame responds to experience, painting, sound, writing, moving, sharing, breathing, but analysis seems to stop everything in its tracks and produce pain. Experiencing the shame opens it up in a different way.
When I check in regularly with myself and hold a safe space for all of my thoughts, feelings, experiences, for what I see, hear and sense, in their entirety, no matter how uncomfortable, with compassion and acceptance, inner phenomena always has a meaning that I can understand.
Creativity and Shame
We are all invited by life to be vulnerable in order to be able to create, that is what activates creativity – our core, the essence of who we are. Part of that vulnerability is the willingness to feel your shame and allow it to move. Creating brings forth what is real. What is real can be explored, moved, expressed, shared and encountered compassionately.
Thank you for participating in this tea party with compassion, thank you for exploring this intense topic together with me so authentically and bravely. What have you learned about your shame?
And it is quite a journey. Whoa! So, the next painting was a very different drawing when I started this morning’s work. As I listened to Bon Jovi [again] and painted, ever so often I had to get up and dance. The Engineer sat safely in the kitchen, working through his flu and I was painting in the living room, dancing like mad to keep the shame from paralysing my body. So what you see is as much a “dancing” as a painting.
The shame kept wanting to grow in the painting, so I let it grow into its true form. At some point, though, Fant (the elephant) decided that T. (the tiger) had been alone in the hot spot long enough, so he jumped into the fray to hold his friend’s hand. I am reminded and want to gently remind you, to choose a safe place for anything concerning shame – painting it, expressing it, exploring it, feeling it, sharing it. You’re not alone.
If you want to purchase this as a print, click here.
Shame and art
Shame is s physical emotion. Do you recognize the hot flashes, the blushing, the looking down, the foggy thoughts, the paralysis, the curling into a fetus position, the fountain of sweat, aching tummy, headaches, breath taking anxiety, hot flash of anger? I do.
The two years after I graduated from art school where a walk of shame. I longed to make art, it was almost a physical yearning. Yet every time I grabbed a brush, a pastel or a pencil, self-hatred started gushing.
There was no escaping it. I had a tape of particularly hurtful critiques and comments that I had collected, that started playing in my head, LOUDLY. It seemed that the very act of making art triggered shame, hatred, anger and it was all directed at myself.
For the longest time I blamed art school and the art world. Yeah, like until five minutes ago. Ugh. :/
But I’m realizing now that the fact that my deepest shame and deepest joy were bound together is nobody’s fault. Not even mine.
When my son was three and a half years and my daugher was one and a half years old, I had a moment of panic. Returning to work kept coming nearer and I knew how the demands of generating money could suck all the time from art making, especially if the art maker was crippled by creative self-hatred.
One day I put down a paper on the floor. Armed with colors, brushes, stickers and my little daughter, I started painting together with my little fire cracker. Safe to say, I was so busy with the raging fire of impulses from my baby daughter, I had no time to hate myself or what I was doing.
After this painting, I still felt the yearning to paint. Love yourself. That was the need I kept hearing inside of me. In order to be able to create, I had to start loving myself and creating from where I was. The following week, when my children were napping, I sat down and fervently asked my inner world to help me combine my inner power and ability to love. Stroke by trembling stroke, I painted this painting.
Brené Brown, who researches shame and vulnerability, talks about shame resilience. Because we all have shame triggers and experience shame, the important thing is not to avoid it, but learn to know those triggers and develop shame resilience. Here is what is included in shame resilience.
1. We recognize when we are feeling shame.
2. We recognize our cultural and social expectations and how we react to shame.
3. We make meaningful and empatethic connections to others.
4. We share it with the right people. Shame cannot survive when we encounter it with empathy and compassion.
Today I invite you to bring your shame into this Compassionate Tea Party and share something, it may be just a symbol for the thing you are thinking about. There is tea, sympathy and compassion here for all of our shame.
How can you let yourself gently move through your feelings today?
What is inside of us is rarely visible, except in moments of vulnerability and openness. Sometimes it is hidden even to ourselves. That is why I love the power of art, which is to make the inner world visible, tangible, movable.
Do you ever feel like this? I do, frequently. When I do my other job and meet people in art life coaching, I’m amazed at the connection, space and common purpose that can be found, when we dare be vulnerable. Time and time again it gives me hope, that we are more alike than not. That authenticity and sharing is possible.