Well, I’m paraphrasing, but that was the gist of it. So, imagine my surprise when I opened a handwritten letter addressed to me (with a local postage stamp on it) and read that.
A letter from an anonymous friend, who meant well by telling me I’d gotten plump and needed to shed a few.
“Anonymous” said she remembered how I used to look when I was thin. She was doing me a favor by recommending a weight loss product that really worked.
Well, she obviously knew me. Within the last year, I’d had a baby, and I still couldn’t fit back into my pre-baby jeans.
The note confirmed what I already thought about myself– I’m fat–but didn’t want to say out loud. Even though I thought everyone was already thinking it.
I thought, “Just buy the product and try to lose weight.”
Well, the “friend” turned out to be a weight loss company. It was an ad campaign in which they sent out “anonymous” hand-written notes from “friends” with an ad for a weight loss product attached.
They were counting on people feeling bad about themselves and being desperate for a change.
And, it worked.
We’ve all struggled with being comfortable with who we are. We’ve had the fear of not measuring up or meeting other’s expectations. It can be frustrating and leave us feeling unworthy.
The company was counting on me feeling that way. And, why shouldn’t it?
As hurtful as it was, it was quite genius. They’d tapped in to what a lot of women feel but are afraid to say, “Something’s wrong with me.”
That feeling has a name.
Few know what it looks like but everyone knows what it feels like. It’s the most common but least talked about of all human emotions.
Believe it or not, we’re all affected by it. Why? Because it hides in the daily, the most familiar places in our lives: parenting, body image, finances, education, work, marriage, appearance, family, background.
It’s the feeling you get when you go on Facebook and see your friends’ happy faces and great vacations. Or read their long endearing love letters to their spouses on their anniversaries. We start to feel bad about ourselves.
It’s the same feeling that makes you go to church Sunday morning with a smile smacked across your face when you really want to cry.
Shame is that feeling that tells me I’m flawed. I’m bad.
- I’m not enough.
- I don’t measure up.
- Who do I think I am?
- I’ll never be as good as they are.
After reading the note–right on cue–I shied away from the very thing that could’ve helped me: Relationship. I was embarrassed. I didn’t want anyone to know. I even debated telling my husband.
Too many times instead of moving towards people when I feel shame, I move towards secrecy or isolation. It’s only in relationships I experience compassion, empathy, and understanding. Healing. The only things that can soothe the feeling of shame. Hearing “me, too” or ” I understand” or ” “I get it.”
So how do you get a grip on shame, so it can’t keep its grip on you?
- Tell someone. My natural tendency is to want to keep my flaws a secret. I don’t want people to think there’s something wrong with me. But allowing people to come along side me and say “I understand” or “me, too” is comforting. Compassion says you’re not alone.
- Accept compassion.Allow people to comfort and empathize with you.
- Challenge your thoughts.
- Everything can’t be your fault; if it is, that makes you God.
- Recognize triggers.
- Realize you can’t control what other people think.
Someone had said what I already believed about myself. And, I was hurt.
But. . . I still told my sister. She told me her friend had received the very same note. And her friend was just as upset as I was.
Obviously her friend felt the same way I did. And, we got sucked right in because it enforced our own self-defeating thoughts. Shame had its grip on us. And the company was counting on it.
No matter who you are or what you have, it’s a difficult feeling to escape.
What has you in its grip? And, what are you willing to do to get out of it?
A civilian journalist and former editor for the U.S. Army’s award-winning newspaper, The Cannoneer, Sheila Qualls is now a stay-at-home mom, writer, and speaker. She writes from the experience of 30 years of marriage, five kids, home schooling, ten corporate moves, and two dogs and a ferret. (May they rest in peace.) She shares her life through a window of humor and transparency, one awkward moment at a time at http://www.sheilaqualls.com.