Who do you find more interesting, Angelina Jolie or Jennifer Aniston?
Personally I find Jolie far more mesmeric. Her drugs, the blood and girls. Pashing her brother, hating her father, losing her mother – the constant fighting with her hubby! The range of emotions, anger, righteousness, tears and drama. Beautiful yes, privileged yes – HUMAN YES!
Aniston, not so much – not a wrinkle, not a pimple, never messed up, no emotion.
This is not a comparing thing, I am sure they are both fabulous chicks making their way in the carnivorous machine that is Hollywood; just two well-known personalities that allow me to illustrate a point.
That point is – it’s our broken bits that make us so fabulous and interesting, allowing others to connect with us. What we’ve been through in our lives teaches us empathy. Empathy helps us to experience what others are feeling, it brings us closer together.
I am sure if we were personal buddies of both of these women, we’d know their lives are littered with bad decisions, things they regret and probably some pretty unpleasant experiences. Jolie allows us to see some of this. Her greatest quality in the public arena is she never apologises for who she is, she never justifies – she gets on, makes her choices, lives her life and does the best she can with what she has.
I believe the key, my beautiful friends, is to feel no shame.
There is a big difference between feeling guilt and shame. As Brene Brown so beautifully describes the disparity of the two. “Guilt is, I am sorry I made a mistake. Shame is, I am sorry I am a mistake.”
Do not confuse the two. Guilt is about our behaviour; surprisingly it’s a positive emotion. When we feel guilt for something we did, we see the action as separate from ourselves. The feeling may not be pleasant, but it is extremely powerful and allows us to make amends, and move on.
Shame doesn’t allow this because shame is personal. Shame is not about what we did, it’s about who we are. When we feel shame for who we are, we carry this with us every day, colouring our choices, defining our beliefs.
Like fear, shame seems to be a tool often peddled and readily self-administered, to beat ourselves up and keep ourselves small. Big shame, little shame. Feeling ashamed of how we look, where we were born, ashamed of things that are out of our control. Things we did not choose, that were often chosen for us, shame of not fitting in or measuring up.
Employers will try and use shame, the media shames, teachers shame, coaches shame. Parents and friends can sometimes shame without even realising the damage they are doing.
Shame breeds self-hate and self-harm at worst, nearly always victim behaviour. It keeps us small, clips our wings and prevents us from being all that we can be. It is massively associated with obesity, depression and addiction of any kind.
I know this first hand.
I was raped. I was 16. I was with friends of the family. One man raped me while the other watched. I’d had a beer with them and had been playing cards; for many years I was certain it was my fault, that I had somehow created it.
From the fragments of memory that remain, it was the other guy sitting on his chair watching his mate, that tore through my soul – leaving me shattered, my body no longer mine. God was I ashamed.
Fuck knows why!!! (Excuse my words – but I need them right now!). I did nothing wrong, nor foolish.
It had nothing to do with me.
I know that now and feel NO SHAME. They are the ones that should feel ashamed! As a teenager, I didn’t know this. Every word, every image, every noise I was hearing from the world around, told me loud and clear, it was my fault; it was I that should feel ashamed.
So I did, I carried my dark secret inside, put on boxing gloves, and said fuck you – I don’t care.
Oh, I looked tough on the outside alright.
(I’ll show you some photos one day: head shaved, pierced nose and nipples, hard drugs,) I was surviving until I could find a way to step through and stand up.
And I did.
And I am doing it now. I am doing it for my 16 year-old-self and for every other girl or woman, and boy or man who needs someone to be strong, to light a path, show a way.
As mental as it sounds, I celebrate those dark days, they have made me who I am, a crusader and a warrior. A woman with compassion and love, and so much to give.
We think we need to be perfect. It’s the opposite, we need to be human, flawed and vulnerable, open and strong. To cast off our capes of righteousness and fear, that keep us apart.
Shame is born out of judgement, our own and from others. We nurture it through staying quiet and keeping hidden, collecting evidence to fuel it and keep it alive. That’s a habit and a choice, one that can be changed by creating new evidence and choosing differently, moment by moment.
Recently my daughter showed me a Facebook page of a school friend who had gone from 186kg to 91kg. There she was, pants low down, baggy skin all over the place. I didn’t need to read her words, what she was doing by who she was being, said everything we needed to know. She was staring shame right in the eye and giving it no room to develop; shame has no place when courage takes centre stage.
By being visible, standing up and stepping out, she extinguishes the oxygen shame has to breathe; she opens the door for love and support, stands in her brilliance, beautiful and strong.
I celebrate her and all those like her. I wish I’d had the courage when I was her age, to throw my head back, tell the story and ask for help.
What the world craves most is authenticity, emotion and connection; realness amongst the media bullshit.
The Internet is the best and the worst of what is happening right now. The worst with all its superficial comparing and competing and a hideous channel for the glorification of evil.
The best because it is OUR media.
We, for the first time in history, control the content of the most powerful and global media in the world – Social Media. We can sensor the negativity, the hate and the judgement. We can exalt our humanity and revel in our joy. We can laugh and be silly, indulge in whatever makes us feel good, pandas or puppies. We can say no to airbrushed duplicity, shaming and bullying. Voice our distaste, or simply click unfollow or unfriend.
We have a voice to create an agenda, join a movement, make a difference. Don’t be afraid to share or post, give praise and support when your heart tugs you to. For the first time in history you don’t need a journalist or a PR consultant, you can have a say, you can start a ripple that becomes a wave.
There is a consciousness rising. I am so certain of it – we see evidence everywhere. Billionaires giving away their fortunes, the new Gen Y Millionaires wanting to make change instead of building mansions and hoarding.
We know what goes viral, the celebration of the human spirit in all its permutations; courage, excellence, persistence and pure joy.
I love that a lonely fat guy can get bullied in the UK, then within weeks be dancing at the super bowl surrounded by people showing him he matters. All done through the power of social media and the goodwill of us – real humans. Not the freaky few feasting on fear and loneliness – rolled out by paid media, the lapdog of consumerism – to keep us spending, stuck and afraid.
Do you want to create change in your life and the lives of those around you? Then connect with your emotions, don’t run from them anymore – feel them, feel the roller coaster, you will be O.K.
Stand up humans, be brave. Hold up your scars and wounds with pride, make amends for when you’ve screwed up, forgive yourself and those around you who have done the same. Drop the rope, feel the relief.
It is by living that we evolve, have more to bestow. If you don’t have any war wounds, stop letting fear define your choices. Are you sitting back because you’re frightened of failure, or is it success? Let go of the outcome, failure is not possible when your intention is to experience your life.
Stand with me, in all your wonderful brokenness.
Whatever the secret is you hold, big or small, one or many, the things that haunt you, that you feel you can’t escape; visit them now, but with no judgement or shame. Feel the pain it brings you – fear, anger or regret. Now own it like a tattoo, part of your past, your story, the roadmap that is you.
You can’t let it go; it’s rubbish when they tell us to. We must not blot out the bits we don’t like, the colourful stuff we think we should hide. We are all of our life’s experiences, they give us strength, empathy and wisdom. Celebrate them, be grateful if you can.
Never ever again feel ashamed of all that you are.