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How to Overcome Shame

How to Overcome ShameDid you ever read Judy Blume Books as a kid? They were my favorite! Books like:

  • Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret.
  • Blubber
  • Deenie
  • Tales of a 4th Grade Nothing

I loved her books. I wasn’t a big reader, but I always devoured her books. They were about real topics: boy crushes, getting your period, wearing a bra, being picked on, and just the trials and tribulations of growing up.

I loved these books. They were about feelings… they were real. They pertained to me. I could relate to them.

My oldest sister was mean to me growing up. She was borderline sadistic, frankly. She was in a lot of pain, I realize now.  For years I hated her. I didn’t know how to deal with my feelings of anger so I just ate over them. After starting my healing journey I discovered why I was destroying myself: I had buried all of that hurt and rage under 50 pounds of excess fat.

Anyway, my sister teased me for liking Judy Blume books. I felt so hurt by that. She insinuated that there was something dirty or perverted about me for liking books about sexuality and body issues. She was a meanie, all right. I took it to heart and I felt ashamed for liking these books. It was the one book series I truly enjoyed reading and she pinned a scarlet letter on me for it.

Having been sexually abused as a child, I already had shame about my sexuality. I already thought I was perverted and bad. So for her to make this insinuation just exacerbated these feelings.

Well, just the other day I saw a Facebook ad about Judy Blume. She is giving an online writing course. I’m not interested in the course, but it sure brought back strong feelings when I saw her name!

I had a rush of really crazy, wild feelings. Memories of how comforted I was reading her books, and how ashamed I felt when my sister made it seem that I was somehow bad for liking them.

What I see now is that those books spoke to me for a very valid reason. They were about feelings. They addressed real issues that I was experiencing. I felt understood, and connected. I felt like my thoughts and feelings were valid, because they were written about in a book. I always felt strange and different, but when I read those books I felt a little more connected to the human race.

What’s bad about that? What’s dirty and perverted about that?

Nothing at all, of course. But what I see now, is that that was always my tendency. I took feelings which are natural and good and decided that I was wrong for having them. Because I had low self-esteem, I determined that the way I think and feel, the things that are important to me that make me happy, or make a book easy to read, is somehow not OK. Isn’t that sad?

Well, my healing journey has been about debunking myths like these. I no longer believe that desires within my heart are bad. They can’t be bad, because they come straight from God. If it wells up from inside of me, and doesn’t hurt anyone, including me, then it’s a truly good thing. Judy Blume wrote about topics important to girls because it helped them negotiate the choppy waters of growing up. That is a good thing. And my enjoying them was a good thing.

The word desire comes from the Latin root de – sire, which translates to “of the father”. In other words, desire comes from the father, from God. They aren’t bad. They are to be honored, nurtured and channeled in an appropriate way.  But never to be judged, squelched and shamed.

As emotional eaters, we tend to judge our thoughts and feelings, and our desires, as bad. We think they should be stifled and forgotten. But this only makes them grow stronger, and the denial of them only makes us feel even more disconnected from ourselves, from others and from God.

So as adults, it’s time to abandon self-judgment and condemnation. What desire do you have that you’re not paying proper attention to? Is it a desire for travel? For taking an art class? Or an acting class? For more meaningful connection with friends? Do you feeling like going to a silly movie just for the fun of it? Try it. Stop censoring those whispers in your heart and start nurturing them out of hiding.

If it makes you happy, and it enhances who you are, that’s permission enough. Green light says GO.

Let me know what you tried. I’d love to hear about it and celebrate you!