Wednesday, October 25, 2017

OOTD: Transparency

We all do embarrassing shit. We all do stuff we think others wouldn't approve of. We've all used our roommate's shampoo, kissed a friend's ex, or written a strongly-worded and not factually-sourced tweet about a current event we're not actually familiar with. When we realize what we've done or realize the likelihood of someone finding out, we're stricken with shame.

If you've made it far enough in life to be able to read this (and even if you haven't tbh), you are likely very intimate with shame. It's the feeling that accompanies not fitting into your environment and perceived failure. I say "perceived" failure because people often feel ashamed of life experiences that others wouldn't consider negative. You think there's something wrong with you, that you can't get anything right, and that others see you this way as well. You get that pit in your stomach and just want to disappear from sight.

A common response to shame is to vow to not reveal one's misstep to anyone. You've just done something wrong, something you may have even known was wrong. If our actions speak louder than words, doesn't doing something someone might consider wrong make you a little big wrong?

I've written about how talking about the not-so-perfect aspects of life on social media can contribute to an honest and positive social media environment. Now, I'm advocating that your honesty doesn't need to be blasted onto the internet for all the world to see for it to benefit the world. Being vulnerable and admitting your faults and missteps to a couple people will make you feel better.

I know, I know: One of the immediate symptoms of shame is to want to conceal your perceived shameful behavior from everyone. Hear me out. If you're experiencing shame without having your shameful behavior actually exposed to the world, you're feeling embarrassed in anticipation of what others might say. Just because you feel like you need to crawl into a hole doesn't mean that others think you should.

If you don't know how others are going to react — and you don't know unless they're actually reacting — there's often no point in trying to imagine. You can work with yourself to change how you perceive this failure. Telling others about your perceived failure can actually help you receive the validation and empathy you need in that situation. It can also lift the giant burden that accompanies keeping a shameful secret. Now, the experience gets to just be a human experience instead of a gross one.

To demonstrate the power of transparency when one is experiencing shame, I'm going to share a shameful secret of my own. I only shower once a week. Not wash my hair once a week, shower once a week. Everyone I know showers a couple times a week. Some people shower every day. I've met people who often shower twice a day. I know that once a week is not very often to shower, and I'm very ashamed of my showering habits. At the same time, this habit doesn't affect me negatively enough for me to divert any energy away from the more important things I'm working on to change it. I recently started telling people about this shameful habit of mine when it comes up in conversation. Instead of lying about why my hair looks nice and shiny on day 5, I answer honestly when someone asks: I haven't showered in 5 days. I don't even justify it with a lie about how often I use dry shampoo. I'm just honest.

And guess what: I'm still here, feeling better than ever! Most of the time, people move on pretty quickly, and I realize that this thing I've been feeling gross over for years isn't actually a big deal. Sometimes people even empathize, which makes me feel even better. Honestly, sometimes people express disgust. Maybe one day I'll shower more often, but it won't be because a couple people have told me my shower schedule doesn't match theirs.

So, you see, transparency can make your life better. Just like this transparent bodysuit has made my life better (I feel so sparkly and fun!). Except, unlike this item of clothing, honesty will never go out of style.

What do you do when you're experiencing shame? If you've tried honesty (either in certain situations or as a policy), how has it affected your life? Let me know in the comments below!

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