The Most Difficult and Worthwhile Question I Ever Asked Myself:

"What am I ashamed of?" 

I'm just going to get real with you, I'm ashamed of a lot of things. I’m ashamed of being too “woo”, of being too serious, of being too young to be an "expert", of being too old to be a "beginner", of being too shy, of being too "advicey", of being too selfish, of being a bad activist and a bad feminist because I’m not out at every single protest. I’m still ashamed of having to quit my salaried job 2 years ago because it was way too taxing on my body, mind, and soul (although I don't regret it, I still feel I "should've" been able to handle it). I’m ashamed of being happy because I’m afraid I don’t deserve it. I’m ashamed of being an incest survivor. There’s more on that list but the point is…we’re all ashamed of something and here’s what I know about shame:

Shame is silent, sneaky, and really self-destructive.

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Shame is the emotion that tells us we’re bad, wrong, not good enough, too much, and should basically just hide forever because no one will love us. Shame is the best friend of self-hate, the most destructive force to our minds, bodies, and souls. Shame makes us believe the lies we’ve been told about who we are and what we should be. It says “you are not going to be loved if you act like this. “ Or “You will ONLY be loved if you act like that.”

But here's the thing that I keep reminding myself and everyone around me: We're human. We're allowed. And playing the purity game is useless. We're NOT bad or sick or ill. I talk to clients all day long who tell me their deepest secrets, who face shame head-on. I’ve heard it all (I’m not kidding) and wow, the things we all have seen, heard, and experienced strikes me every day – how do we deal with so much and yet hold so much blame for ourselves? How can we have so much compassion for others but think we're so rotten and worthless inside?

I don't yet have total freedom from shame, but like you, I'm chipping away at it little by little. I don't believe that overcoming shame means living in a bubble of self-love and joy, always having rose-colored-glasses, not taking responsibility for your actions, or painting every single thing you do in a positive light. 

I believe that overcoming shame is about being able to get real without taking yourself down into a spiral of self-defeat and self-hate.

It means being able to say that sometimes my actions are selfish/reactionary/ego-based/hurtful/harmful/etc. It means noticing patterns and seeing parts of me that ache, hurt, and yearn to be loved but don’t know how else to do it besides running/shutting down/reacting/lying/etc.

All of our actions and impulses have reason. What we consider pathological is just what we have not yet understood. If we can have compassion and understanding while being honest with ourselves, we can overcome shame.

So here’s what I do to release shame:

I believe that the only way out is through. I’ve learned I can’t fight it, I can’t will it away, I have to see it, feel it, laugh at it, and then forgive it. So I’ve gotten into the habit every month of writing down what I’m ashamed of. I mean, getting real with shame.

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So sit down. Get a pen and Paper. Ask yourself:

What are you ashamed of, really? What is the worst thing someone could say about you? What can’t you forgive yourself for yet? I don’t mean the little stuff, I mean that time you didn’t call your friend back and then a few weeks later, he killed himself (this happened to me). I mean feeling ashamed for being un/underemployed or still living with your parents and feeling like you don't have your shit together. I mean feeling ashamed of being so damn depressed that you can’t get out of bed some days. I mean feeling ashamed of lying to everyone because you don’t think they’ll like you if they knew the truth. I mean feeling ashamed of being inauthentic, manipulative, narcissistic, dramatic, weak, unlovable, depressed, an addict, an asshole, an anxious wreck. I mean ALL of it.

Let it out. Seriously. You don’t have to hold all of that anymore. You don’t have to share it with me or anyone else, but at least put it down on paper.

Writing this all out helps me take the constant dialogue in my head and cut through all the bullshit. I finally see all that I’ve been trying to defend myself against, what I’m afraid of people finding out about me, what I don’t want to admit, even to myself. Once it’s finally out there I can:
(a) forgive myself (I'm human, so are you)
(b) laugh (too “woo”, really? No one is thinking that, Jazmine)
(c) understand myself better

And here's what happens:

  • I begin to think about how that narrative may have begun, why I developed those thoughts and beliefs about myself. In other words, I start to unravel the past to reclaim my future.
  • I find all the contradictions (I’m ashamed of being too outspoken and too shy at the same time?)
  • I let the countervoice come in, the one who has got my back (Girl, you think you’re too “woo”? Your spirituality is one of the most valuable parts of your life. Own it.)
  • I switch the script (Yeah, I’m super “woo”, deal with it)
  • I give myself a break and I move on.

No joke, I do this every month and it's POWERFUL. I get to see which one’s stick and which ones loosen or get released.

So write it down, let it go. Try this and let me know how it goes in the comments below.

What Trauma Taught Me About Happiness
 

I was driving across Manhattan at midnight, passing through a city that held me for nearly 7 years. For once, it was peaceful and relatively quiet. Nothing in particular was happening, though I was captivated by everything, every street sign and person walking. Somewhere between the bridges and the lights, I just began to cry out of pure joy. Like…messy, ugly cry. It was probably the first time in my life I had spontaneously burst into tears with no tangible reason behind it. But the feeling was overwhelming. My heart couldn’t hold all of the gratitude and joy I had.

At some point it occurred to me that I was happy because I no longer believed that life was about suffering. I no longer believed that my life would have to be about coping with pain and trauma. And that small realization was revolutionary.

I’ve been a trauma survivor since I was 3 years old. Between grief, death, abandonment, emotional abuse, and multiple sexual traumas, I quite simply believed that life was about dealing with that shit, cleaning up the mess, and trying to cope with the pain. For much of my life, I was ok with that. I got really good at it, because I had to be. I made it my personal mission to find better ways to work through it all. I got real cozy with my shadow (I mean…REAL cozy), healing became my #1 priority, a way of being. Never once did I consider that the years upon years of work would make me feel truly…better.

The thing about trauma, especially early trauma, is that it teaches you to be a fighter from day one. But the very feistiness that got me out of harm’s way, helped me move across the country, pick myself up from nothing, face every demon in the closet, start over a million times, and most importantly…survive, also kept me attached to suffering. It had me believing on some subconscious level that it could never be over. In some sense, I built myself at an early age around a “fighter” identity. And while I honor everything that she had to do to survive, I’ve also had to ask her to put her sword down on many occasions. There are times when surrender is more necessary than fighting. There are times when softness or acceptance is called for.

I didn’t realize that years later, even after letting go of so many of the beliefs, perceptions, feelings, and attachments that held me to the trauma, I still had a tiny subconscious part of me that was holding her breath. I was still under some impression that the trauma work would never be over. And while, yes, of course, there’s always more self-work to do (we’re always changing and require new skills, beliefs, and mindsets for each journey), my life did NOT have to be about coping anymore. Suddenly, after many, many years of deep emotional processing, life was no longer about suffering, or getting by, or coping, or even healing. I was finally allowed to just…be.

In the past, happiness always had seemed so fleeting to me. Small moments of excitement, or accomplishment, or the mere absence of pain. But this kind of happiness I had never experienced before. A deeper peace, a grounded kind of happiness.

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Rooted in everything that surrounded me. A grateful-to-be-alive happy. Happiness that was a deep awareness of the small and beautiful things. The gratitude I had in that moment, driving to pick up my love from the airport to go back to our home in the woods, was enormous. It filled my heart with so much joy for the communities, friends, passions, and freedom I had in my life.

I’ve told myself some crazy things about what happiness is or where I’ll find it. If I just achieve that goal – ok, no, maybe THAT one! If I just find the right people. If I just gain this quality or become this way. If I just work though this problem. If I could just love myself this much more. It’s all lies.

In my opinion, grounded Happiness, is not: happiness despite, happiness because of, happiness deserved or rewarded. It is not a reprieve, an escape, or forgetting of the state of things as they are. It is not perfection or even stability. It is the acknowledgement of everything that is right and good, the deepest awareness of the positive connections weaving together the life you co-created in this world, great gratitude for what has been right in front of you and all around you.

 

Wishing you so much happiness and joy.
In deep gratitude for your presence, 

Jazmine

 
Jazmine Russell