Shame, guilt and fear: my favourite cocktail

Today has been a rollercoaster, but I didn’t think I would be feeling like this tonight.
I finally went in for my back tattoo which took 5 hours (and we’re only half done!).
After a well-deserved pizza and a Netflix film, I should be happy.
Instead, I am feeling ashamed, guilty and fearful.

“If we can share our story with someone
who responds with empathy and understanding,
shame can’t survive.”

– Brene Brown (so please be understanding folks!)

I know I’m not the only one who has gained a few pounds during lockdown.
While I started up with long walks and runs, I slowly eased into a lazier lifestyle.
And honestly, I didn’t mind!
But when my tattoo artist took a photo of her work and showed me my back, I was horrified to find two cheeky rolls underneath my armpits on each side.
Where had they come from?
After years of body positivity, I was body shaming myself hard.

“Maybe there’s more we all could have done,
but we just have to let the guilt remind us
to do better next time.”
– Veronica Roth

I came home this evening, zoned out as usual after an all-day tattooing session.
Working hard for the upcoming Extinction Rebellion events, a fellow rebel messaged me.
The poster I had designed last minute won’t do, they went ahead and made a new one.
I didn’t stop to think how tired me sounds way harsher, misunderstood the message and felt so disrespected I let my hurt ego sent a message.
When I received a call, I let it go to voicemail and deleted that one immediately.
I knew I was being petty, and when I reread what I had written I felt incredibly guilty.

“Laughter is poison to fear.”
– George R. R. Martin

On edge, not knowing what to do with my emotions, I turned to Netflix.
Scrolling through endless movie recommendations, I decided on Three Identical Strangers.
What I thought was an upbeat documentary turned out to be a dark drama involving suicide.
Even worse, it was a great movie.
So instead of turning it off to something light-hearted to lift my mood, I kept watching.

Sipping on shame, guilt and fear
I felt cornered.
How do I reparent myself now?

Here’s what I did:

If I feel ashamed because of some fat rolls, I am going to hug myself.
With everything that’s going on, gaining a bit of weight is ok.
After all, I kicked an addiction this year!
And I can change this! I can go back for runs, not because I feel ashamed, but because I love myself and deserve to feel joy when looking into a mirror.

If I feel guilty for how I acted, I probably should feel guilty.
I reread my messages and reached out to my friend to apologise.
She thanked me and together we discussed a solution to the problem.
While I felt small and stupid before, now I felt empowered and strong.
I could have dug in my heels, but growing up means swallowing our ego.

If I felt scared, my nervous system had reason to be anxious.
The human body is quite simple, it reacts to whatever stimuli we feed it.
I’ve always known that scary or concerting movies at night get me on edge.
Often they even lead to nightmares and sleepless nights due to my CPTSD!
So now I get to use my tools (these ones and these ones) to bring flow back into my body.
I refuse to go to bed anxious, and after this post I will journal my heart out and write lots of things I’m grateful for and change my outlook on life.

Emotions such as shame and guilt are inherently neutral.
I do not decide whether to feel them, but I do decide how to act upon them.
And in the end that turns out to be the same thing.

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