This morning I woke up thinking about shame. I've had many instances of shame throughout my life. Growing up the kids at school shamed me for not having the right clothes, the right shoes, the right musical taste, and so on. Teachers used shame t try to motivate the students to "do better". It's pervasive throughout many of my childhood experiences and in some ways defined them. True, my parents tried their best to help me not care what other people thought, but like most advice given to children by adults it's not actually heard until the child becomes an adult.
One area that I've struggled with is my handwriting. Early on my handwriting was not great. I remember many exercises in first grade writing the alphabet and getting poor marks for it. Every kid knew that an "F" on the paper was a bad thing to see, and there would be repercussions for it. I felt shame for not being able to write well. Worse, when the teacher asked for the papers back I stuffed them into the little cubbyhole of our shared desk. Eventually I had a pretty packed little cubbyhole of reminders of my shame. I was also not the smartest person when it came to understanding the consequences of my actions. Near the last day of class we had to clean out our desks. Most kids had just a few things to throw away. Not me. I had (what seemed to me) piles and piles of papers coming out of my desk. It was like a shitty magic trick where the number of papers didn't ever seem to end. That was another moment of shame as the kids and teacher were incredulous with my shame-achievement. I was mortified. Another thing to add to my mental board of shame.
This was something that dogged me throughout my educational career. Papers would come back to "write neater". I'd do my best to slow down and write but it became even more frustrating because my writing lagged my thoughts. When I got a computer I couldn't wait to get a word processor and a printer so I could type my papers instead of hand-write them. That lead to another bit of shame. The first printer I had was an Okimate 10 printer from Okidata. (Here's a contemporary review of the Okimate 20, which had a 24 pin head instead of the 9 pin head that my printer had: Okimate 20 Personal Color Printer. Replace "slow" with "painfully slow" and "Draft Mode" with "Default"). More than once my teachers told me to "change the ribbon", which, for a thermal transfer printer is impossible (the ribbon used heat to transfer the black dots to the page. There was no way to reuse the ribbon because the ribbon had a clear-space where the black dots used to be). I had to explain this to more than one teacher in high school. Shame again, because my printer wasn't good enough for their standards.
So what brought this up? At my oncologist's office they have a form to fill out for new patients. I abhor forms because they're yet-another-example of how information can be lossy because of bad handwriting. Well, this was no exception. For my email address they had "decafhad.net" instead of "decafbad.net". Apparently for new patient they send out a link for their CareSpace portal. I never received it. Finally I inquired about how to get access to the portal. After several iterations of not getting an email they realized my email address was entered wrong in the system. I blamed it on my handwriting. Why not? It's been my constant companion of shame.
So you might think that I've kept this bundle of shame for all of these years and that it consistently reminds me of where I've fallen short. Not at all. I've learned something valuable to keep shame at bay. I realized (again later in life where it can't help younger me) that shame is something that I bring upon myself. We've all witnessed someone who literally has no shame. Usually we regard that as a negative (and in some cases their shameless activity has hurt someone, but we won't dive too far into that tangent). What I've learned is that I don't have to dwell on the shame. I can let it go whenever I want. Usually that's pretty immediate, but in some cases it takes a little longer to unpack. Realizing that I'm in control of what I feel and how long I feel it is empowering. I can just let it drift off and not have to worry about it.
This isn't to say this is easy. It takes practice and a willingness to pull ourselves out of our patterns of feeling and dwelling on shame. But it is possible.
I hope these anecdotes help you with your own struggles with shame and any other feelings you might have around them.