I See You, Shame



I see how you constantly remind me of my past, of the dark things that happened to me.

Your voice taunts me: “It is your fault. You asked for it.” No matter how much research I do, no matter how much I read about the trauma—the consequences and the grooming related to molestation—your voice somehow silences the voices of the experts.

Always lurking in the hidden places of my being, you cast a shadow over me, tainting how I see me. Despite all the work I have done over the years to heal the pain of my past, you have remained steadfast, urging me to be better, to achieve more, a consistent record that whispers, “You are bad. You are not good enough.”

Because of you, I have even wondered if my infertility is my punishment for my past. And even though my head screams out against this thought, it seems my heart has continued to be wooed by your voice.

So I’m tending to the body, and it’s resurrecting a part of myself that I thought was dead.

I see how you harmonise with Shame. My heart dances to the tune that you two sing in the deepest recesses of my being. Shame is the descant; you are the melody. You are the one with whom I am most familiar. I think this is so because sometimes I convince myself that I have conquered Shame, and that I am no longer enthralled by Shame’s tune.

But you, Anxiety, are ever-present. Sometimes I have a greater grip on my emotions, and I am able to still the volume of your melody. But this has not been the case these last few months. Huge changes have dismantled the volume controls, and now your tune plays at the maximum volume. In order to regain some sanity, I acknowledged how weak I had become, and, through the encouragement of a friend who is a psychologist, I found some relief with the help of anti-depressants. Even though I can still hear your tune, it is thankfully in muted tones.

It is to your voice that I surrender when I constantly try to disqualify myself from various spaces. Your voice encourages me to think, “Who am I to be in those spaces? I am only a stay-at-home mom, a woman who has no clue where she belongs, whilst everyone else is doing amazing things, living out their passions and dreams in ways that change the world. I am doing nothing. I am not adding value anywhere.”

As I surrender to your voice, your presence increases in my being. My thoughts become frantic as I compare myself to people I admire, and I consistently come up short in my eyes. Then I try to find ways to compensate for my inadequacies. I try to do more—more studies, more activities, more projects. I try to be the best—the best wife, the best mother, the best friend, the best daughter, and on and on the list grows.

Even though my head knows that I will never be perfect at anything, even though I read many blogs and articles written by wives and moms, sharing vulnerably of similar struggles, even though I am surrounded by a community of friends and family who constantly love and affirm me, I have continued to dance to your tune, Anxiety and Shame.

But I am tired of it. And I am tired of you both.

I want to look in the mirror and love the “me” I see.

As I reflected on this month’s theme, I came across the following quote on instagram:

“The good you find in others, is in you too. The faults you find in others are your faults as well. After all, to recognize something you must know it. The possibilities you see in others, are possible for you as well. The beauty you see around you is your beauty. The world around you is a reflection, a mirror showing you the person you are … What you see in others shows you yourself …” Author Unknown

A flame was rekindled in me, and I realised, again, that I no longer wanted to dance to your tune. I want to be free from your deceiving song and long, and choose, to live a life of contentment and flourishing.

And so I am going back into therapy, to work with a psychologist to manage, and eventually divest myself, of both of you. With her help, I hope to learn and develop the proficiency in dancing to the rhythm of an old familiar song that has been sung for hundreds of years. It is a song that was composed at the dawn of creation. It is found in the opening chapter of the sacred text of the Christian faith, and the songwriter is Creator God who sustains all of creation. God’s song, in Genesis, is the one to which I wish to surrender. The song speaks of being seen, and that which is seen is affirmed as good.

Seven times the refrain echoes the goodness of creation:

Then God said …

And God saw …

… And it was good.

Seven times this affirmation sounds forth a beautiful, life-giving tune, singing of the truth of the essence of all of creation—goodness.

“God created humankind in God’s image, in the image of God, God created them; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27)

The essence of my being is affirmed and afforded incredible dignity. My beginning, and the entirety of who I am, is vested with goodness because I am created in the image of the good God.

More than that, “God saw everything that God had made, and indeed, it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31)

Today, a friend shared the following with me, “Most humans want this. The Zulu say, ‘Sawubona’ as a greeting. It translates to: ‘I see you.’ I recognize you are there. It’s a powerful want for a lot of us, to be seen, to be heard.” This rang true for me. I want to be seen by me. I want to see me the way God, and my people, see me.

And so the prayer of my heart is:

Lord, help me see me through your eyes and the eyes of all who love and appreciate me.
Silence the voices of Shame and Anxiety, and replace their song with Yours.
Transform my eyes so that I may see myself the way you, and they, see me.
Heal my heart I practise the art of loving all of me, the shadow and the light in me.
Help me to embrace the good that I am, the good that I do and possibilities that lie awaiting with me.
Help me to trust in your love for me.
Lord, walk with me as I journey towards the mirrored reflection that says, “I see you, Nicole. And what I see is good.”