I’m reading a book about shame that my sister recently recommended to me. I’ll be blogging my thoughts as I go, both to help me process what I’m thinking about and to share anything that might be beneficial to anyone else.
In a conversation with my sister, she helped me realize how much shame has played a part in my self-esteem, self-perception, confidence (or lack thereof), socialization, friendships, and overall maturity. In fact, I realized it plays a part in almost every aspect of my life, if not every one, in some way.
In chapter one, the book begins by identifying what shame is and how it feels in order to acknowledge it and the role it has played in your life. There was a story about a boy getting picked last in a pickup soccer game, feeling shame, and even passing it on to his teammates who got stuck with him.
I was an athletically adept child and teenager, and prided myself on my ability to play or learn any type of sport or athletic activity. I was also highly competitive and was usually able to beat most opponents with some combination of coordination, strength, and focus. Yet that didn’t keep me from almost always being picked last for kickball or basketball during recess at school, or in any other sport during gym class that required dividing us into teams.
The reason I was picked last was not that my athletic ability was unknown; it was simply a popularity contest. The team captains always picked their best friends first, followed by whoever else they wanted on their team, whether it be someone they thought could help them win or a girl they liked and wanted to impress. The social implications always outweighed the contest, and since I was not anyone’s best friend or liked enough to be wanted, I was usually chosen second to last or last. The only times I remember not being picked last is because there was one other boy who was equally unliked but unfortunately also much less athletic.
For the most part, I embraced my “loner” status growing up throughout my childhood and teenage years. I always had a few friends, but never many. And I honestly told myself I didn’t want more friends. It was exhausting trying to keep up with the ones I had and meeting new people never seemed very appealing.
But I’m realizing now, I have carried that shame with me for most of my life. Through high school, I literally took myself out of school and homeschooled myself for my junior and senior years to avoid contact with my peers. While I was active in sports year round and participated in the school band, jazz band, and other bands, I never really felt included or part of the team or group. I always felt like an outsider. Even when I was included, I never felt like I really belonged.
I don’t share any of this to be pitied or for anyone to feel sorry for me. Since I never made a real effort to cultivate lasting friendships, I don’t blame people for not wanting to make an effort that wouldn’t be reciprocated. While I always believed most of this was my own choice, and for the most part have been content to have just a few close friends, I never made the connection of how significant something like theses early memories of shame could so deeply impact my life.
As I look forward to my own continual self-improvement, I know I will learn a lot more about myself from reading this book. I believe identifying these memories and stories from my life will help me process them and help me continue to grow.