Amongst all the clamor of the world, we seek to be heard. Amongst all the shiny, sparkly bright fluorescent lights, we yearn to be seen. To be seen and heard is a necessary human need and want that drives each and every one of us in very different ways.
We so badly want to be validated.
To be told that it’s okay. We’re okay. We’re loved. We’re supported.
Only we don’t want to admit that we even want these things; instead, we walk around under the guise of “not caring what anyone thinks.”
The ironic part is that we so badly need others to see us and hear us, to validate us, because we aren’t seeing and hearing ourselves. We so badly want to be seen and heard that we create identities that actually cause the exact opposite of that to occur over and over again in our lives.
We live in boxes and labels that others have created for us, others who came long before us, and we cut off parts of ourselves to fit in these boxes. And what do you think cutting off or denying those parts of us does to us? It most certainly doesn’t validate us. How can it validate us when it’s actually us denying part of who we are?
It just further perpetuates the disconnect within, along with the feeling that something isn’t right. We aren’t right. I should know. I lived this way for the first 34 years of my (almost) 40 years on this planet.
Driven by shame, inequality, inferiority, and utter dislike of myself, I turned to drugs, alcohol, and depression very early on because it all put an end to the endless cycle of pain that I was living in. Continually being not good enough hurts. Telling yourself over and over again that you suck as a human for every mistake you make is quite painful. The self-loathing of shame cuts like no other.
Shame takes the things that are part of our inherent nature as human beings and tells us that we aren’t good enough and that something is horribly wrong with us for those things. Sometimes it also takes events that have happened to us at the hands of others and tells us that we are at fault for those events, while also telling us that those events somehow determine our worth.
For me, it was basic flaws like not being perfect at everything and having emotions. That’s right, I spent three decades being ashamed of having emotions. And cutting off your entire emotional body is like having a wisdom tooth extracted with no anesthetic — it’s painful beyond words.
It sounds funny now, and yes even to me it is absurd that something so fundamentally human could cause so much pain, but I assure you that the pain of living under that shame for many years was quite excruciating. But then again, someone who starts shooting heroin at age 18 isn’t exactly loving life, are they? I know I wasn’t. I was just desperately searching for anything to shut off the excruciating inner mantra of criticism, worthlessness, and anxiety.
The most challenging aspect of being a shame-based person is that we can’t always pinpoint exactly where it came from because there is a genuine psychological issue called “carried shame” where parents pass it on to children. And who knows how many generations it actually goes back! So getting to the why of shame isn’t always a feasible option for us.
From what I’ve come to understand through my own journey of freeing myself from the entanglement of shame, it is more important that we identify the shame and what behaviors we cover it with than it is to trace it back to the exact initial cause. Psychologists would probably argue with me, but all I know is what freed me from this pattern, and it wasn’t therapy.
I covered my shame and inferiority with an overly aggressive internal monologue that judged everyone and everything. I kept everyone at a distance outside of a fortress of walls so that they would never see inside because I was so afraid if they did they would see my truth.
I put up a massive front of not giving a fuck and went full punk rock, fuck-the-world rebel by age 16. I gave up everything I cared about, and the funny thing is that I still didn’t feel like I fit in. And that feeling lasted for 20 more years until I finally accepted myself in all of my flawed human emotional glory.
I acted like I didn’t care about anyone or anything when deep down all I wanted was to be seen, loved, validated, and told I was good enough. Only I didn’t know I had to say give that to myself. I sought it out in people and partners who were as emotionally unavailable as I was and that validated my story that I wasn’t worth love, because look, I keep attracting assholes!
Finally, I came full circle in my mid-30’s when I realized that I was the problem. It was me and my inner monologue of pain and shame that was creating my reality, and I set out on a mission to change it before I died of a drug overdose. That’s when I started digging and digging deep.
I realized that for any of us to change, to free ourselves, we must excavate those insidious belief systems we carry and drag them out to the light of day to be challenged.
We create a reality based on those beliefs, and the craziest part is that they aren’t even based in truth or accuracy. They’re based on perceptions, trauma, and carried wounds that sometimes predate us.
The brilliant part about excavating is that in the process we get to heal. We get to shed. We get to change the story that has been playing out for generations. We have that power. You have that power.
And that’s what we mean when we say Hug Your Chaos.
For more self-study, The Urban Howl recommends The Universe Has Your Back: Transform Fear to Faith.
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