Hi GK! My name is Madeleine and I have vespers tonight. Are there any announcements?
Again, my name is Madeleine and I have vespers. And tonight I want to talk to you about shame. The official definition of shame is “a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.” At various instances in my life, I’ve felt these feelings of distress that we call shame. These feelings, and the word “shame” associated with them, have, to me, always felt like very ugly words, but I’ve recently realized that a way to get rid of this stigma surrounding shame and reclaim some power over my experiences is to speak about them. So, today I would like to share with all of you the most recent event that has caused these feelings.
This past spring, I was at college and had plans to go home for an event one weekend. This weekend was towards the end of my term and I was swamped with assignments so I decided to take the bus home to save myself 10 hours round trip of driving. I worked so hard in the days leading up to that weekend so that I could go home, fully enjoy my event, and then return to school without feeling like I had fallen completely behind. The night before I left, I finished some work, packed my bags, and went to sleep ready to wake up at 6 am the next morning in order to catch my 6:30 bus, feeling really proud of myself for all my preparation.
So, the next morning rolled around and I woke up to see light streaming in through my window. I immediately knew I had overslept and checked the time to see that my bus had left an hour and a half earlier. I realized that despite all my planning in the previous days, the night before I had forgotten to do the seemingly most simple thing: set my alarm. I had my car at school, so I knew I wasn’t completely stranded and would be able to make it home. Despite knowing this, when I realized I had overslept, I immediately burst into tears.
A lot of you may be thinking, “Wow you’re really dramatic. You knew you would get home anyway, so what’s the big deal?” And as I tell this story, there is definitely a part of me that thinks you might be right. But let me contextualize my reaction a little. For much of my life, I have struggled to do seemingly simple things. For example, I am chronically late, almost never showing up anywhere on time. Regardless of the importance of a task, I often forget to do things if they are not written down or I am not given many reminders. I often decide to do something and then get up, walk into the other room, and completely forget what I was going to do. And although none of these things on their own are life changing, when they are happening to me daily, it can begin to feel like I operate just slightly differently from everyone else, in a way that makes doing the easiest of things just a little bit harder. So, although my plans weren’t ruined, forgetting to set an alarm and oversleeping felt like just another simple thing that I was incapable of doing.
If that still sounds a little irrational to you, that’s fair. Let me give you one last explanation. And that is that shame is irrational. Most of the times that we feel shame, it is over something small– something that the rest of the world hasn’t noticed but that makes us feel self conscious. There doesn’t have to be a rhyme or reason to the feelings that we have, but there’s no shame in feeling them anyway.
So in this instance, that feeling of shame that I described earlier flooded my brain. I felt stupid, and so I cried for a while– to be honest for much of the morning– but I eventually made it home and had a great time. And although everything worked out those feelings of shame stuck with me. A few days later I was telling someone about this pattern of being forgetful and how it made me feel and she said something to me that I want to share with all of you. She told me, “We all have things about ourselves that we don’t like and that makes us human. Maybe this is the way that you have to face your humanity.”
That sentence completely blew me away. The idea that those very same things which made me so ashamed were the things that also made me human completely changed how I saw myself. I began to realize that all these little mistakes which had previously made me so upset were just instances of me being human, and therefore imperfect.
Despite this realization, there are still things that bring me shame, but like I said earlier, this experience taught me that talking with people about those feelings takes a little bit of the sting away. So in that spirit, I want to share with you a short list of 5 things that bring up these feelings of embarrassment.
1. I accidentally threw away my passport last summer.
2. When I talk about myself or my emotions, I often begin to tear up for no particular reason.
3. When I was little, I typed number patterns into the phone because I was just kind of super into numbers and patterns and I ended up calling 911, and I made the police show up at my house and do a full investigation.
4. In all my seven years at camp as a camper, CIT, and staff member, I have never been off the high dive.
5. I procrastinate to an almost absurd degree, so much so that I forgot to sign up for my courses this past school year not once, but twice.
It is my hope that by sharing these with you, you begin to learn that our imperfections and faults are what make us human, rather than detracting from who we are. While you may strive to change, you should never be embarrassed for being imperfect. Camp, especially, is a safe place to try new things and fail. So, GK, in the next week and a half I encourage you to leave behind any embarrassment or shame that you carry with you and wholeheartedly throw yourself into the camp experience. Do everything you can and don’t be afraid of looking like a fool because it is in those times that we feel foolish that we are being most humanly ourselves.
And now I’m going to play a song… “Believe” by Caamp