Moving Beyond Intrinsic Shame

Shame lives in your head and is perpetuated with silence. Moving beyond shame, especially the shame of speaking about sexuality, benefits this author and is a choice that all adults can make to have more confidence within themselves..

Choose Positive Aging to Build Confidence (at any age)

You CAN go back again, and if you’re lucky…many things won’t be the same. 

This week finds me in a small town in Wisconsin, visiting my parents. It is a different season here than the warmth and flowers I left in California not even a week ago. While most of the snow is gone now except for the occasional oversized dirty snowbank, I realize it is also a different season of my life.

Earlier I took a walk by myself, something unheard of in years past because my very active mother, always anxious to get out and walk, would prod me to traipse along the river and view the memorial plaques nailed to trees and benches for grandparents and families long since past. But this year she cannot walk without her hip bothering her. “Arthritis,” the doctor said, but as long as she doesn't walk she'll be okay. 

But will I?

Although I only lived here with them for a couple years in my youth after my father retired from the Army and Ft. Banning, Georgia, before I took off to bright lights, sunnier skies and dreams in California that I didn't even know existed, in many ways, this is still home. And the reality of how home has changed hits me hard.

I walked for the first time ever, by myself. While not intending to, I went by some of my youthful haunts.  I even walked into an old bar I once frequented, in those days called the Hang Out, now known as the Lounge Around.  Not having entered it's doors for almost thirty-five years, as I stood just inside the door, it was intoxicating to remember the alcohol-induced haze of my life back then at eighteen. Transported in an instant back into being that naive insecure girl who really just wanted comfort for a while, I envisioned myself at the bar again and felt the draw of that bad boy who would come to haunt me for the rest of my life, the one who introduced me to stronger feelings of love, fear, and cocaine.  

My motto is, “compare yourself only to yourself,” and the reality is that when I compare my body of thirty-five years ago to the one I have today, much has changed.  My physique, stamina and the way my body functions, has deteriorated.  Yet, when I compare my brain today to that young girl’s brain that I used to have, I certainly don't envy my feelings of being less than everyone else and the low self-confidence that kept me from being able to clearly set boundaries and speak my truth.

I'm REALLY glad time has pushed forward and I've changed.  

When we compare ourselves to ourselves it’s important to choose what we’re comparing.  Comparing my mind today to my mind back then is a much more fruitful comparison than to how I looked or the energy I once had. A comparison of my two different minds is a comparison I can actually feel good about. Building confidence, building self-esteem, building self-respect and self-knowledge, all the aspects that lead to Self Appeal, is about choosing to think the thoughts and engaging in the activities that help us feel good about ourselves so we continue on a cycle of positivity.

The reality is that our bodies will fail. My parents, once younger livelier and able to walk long distances, are now more sedentary and less active. I yearn to have my parents stay the way they were and for myself to keep growing. This isn't realistic. This is the longing of a young girl who's afraid of losing people whom she once thought of as God's and who she will always associate as being comfort and home.  

Choosing to focus on one’s growth and not on inevitable decline is the key to all positive self-comparison; the realistic view for person’s who want to live a grateful life built on experience and wisdom. This will raise your self-image.

Time does not stand still, and we really don’t want it to, although often we can make ourselves believe that we wish it would.

Fancy? or Safe?

How are you feeling about your body?  
Do you need to be fixing it all the time?  
Are you more concerned with how you look to others?

If you’re focused on it looking a particular way, rather than honestly feeling it, you’re insecure. An extreme example of this insecurity is the younger sister of a friend I had years ago. She ALWAYS got up an hour earlier than her boyfriend. In the years they were together, he NEVER saw her without makeup.

It’s hard in this culture to be safe in one’s body because advertisers and marketers want you to feel inadequate so you’ll buy their products.

Statistics range anywhere from 250 to 3000 advertising messages and images that we’re bombarded with every day.  Some sure signs that you’re being too fancy in (and neglectful of) your body are:

  • You criticize and judge yours and others’ appearance 
  • You spend money on brand-name clothes to the detriment of your financial well-being
  • You stuff your feelings with food, shopping, or some similar activity
  • Your exercise habits are excessive and you feel obsessed and exhausted 
  • You have sex, more often than not, drunk or with altered consciousness

 If any of these apply to you, a question you might want to ask is, “Does my ‘look good’ feel good?”

Not quite thirty years ago, a long-time colleague who I accepted a date with after knowing him for some time, came to my apartment.  Only present for a few minutes, he blurted, “Is this it?”  I had a hand-me-down sofa, and other bargain basement furniture.  His comments hurt, and I simply said, “Yeah,” but later thought, “Sure, it’s not fancy, but it’s clean, and I feel safe here.”

Similarly, it’s more important to feel safe in your body, in essence, your home, than to have it be fixed up and fancy for someone else.  

How do you know if you’re safe in your body or that your body is safe with you?

  • You have clear physical boundaries
  • You dress appropriately (low-cut tops for work environments aren’t appropriate) 
  • You exercise regularly for health but without obsession
  • You rarely overeat, binge, or purge with relationship to food
  • You don’t stuff or escape feelings or insecurities with food, exercise, work, drugs or anything else that can be used or done to an extreme
  • You reserve your sexual intimacy for the right person and enjoy that intimacy to the fullest unencumbered by body shape or size

Thirty years ago I let his comments upset me and I felt inadequate, but fortunately, much growth, self-awareness, and safe self-approval has occurred in the last thirty years, as evidenced by a recent exchange on an airline flight I took. It would have been easy for me to feel inadequate sitting next to a stunning twenty-two year old recently on a return trip from the Midwest.  She was much younger than me, taller, adorned with artfully done shadows and creams that enhanced her naturally beauty, and attractive in that way that only the really young can be. Her entire life stretched before her.  

But I didn’t feel jealous. Instead I chatted with her easily and reflected on the difference in not only our mindset, but the thoughts I’d had at her age and the respect I’d had, or more specifically, didn’t have, for my body then. I marveled at the growth I’ve made in the last thirty years and was amazed at the much gentler, loving way I interact with and treat myself. I have respect for this body and the way it’s supported me all these years. Today, a body I’d once neglected and treated in an unsafe way, I feel safe in. 

You can too. The first step is to be aware of the messages you’re giving yourself, then you can take action(s) to be safe in your body—your home—the only one you’re ever going to have. Check out my program, Love Your Body, Change Your Life to begin being safer in your body today. 

Fifty Shades of Confusion about Love and Sexuality

Bondage and submission aren't new themes however America’s puritanical underbelly of sexual conservatism dangerously conflicts with the permissive, modern-day hookup culture giving young people the wrong, or no, message about sexuality and abuse.