Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Series: What Do You Do When You Never Feel Good Enough? (Part Four)

If you missed Part Three, please read it here.

Taking Stock
Before I delve into today’s theme, I need to make a quick distinction between guilt and shame and the correlation to LSE and I’ll like you to pay attention.

Guilt describes a feeling of having done wrong or failed in an obligation. It is synonymous with blameworthiness, a situation where you feel responsible for wrongdoing and deserving of censure or blame. Guilt is not an altogether bad emotion; it shows you have empathy; a conscience and can distinguish between right and wrong.

Shame is a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior. On the surface of it, the two words look similar and in some instances may even be used interchangeably but they are not. The distinction between the two words is clearly visible when you consider their synonyms.

Synonyms of guilt include self-reproach, remorse, regret, and contrition. Shame on the other hand is described with words like: disgrace, dishonor, degradation, disrepute, infamy, and contempt.

The fundamental difference between the two words is that with guilt the feeling of regret is separated from the person, shame sees the situation and the person as one and the same. Guilt thinks ‘I slapped my wife and it’s such a horrible thing to do,’ shame thinks ‘I’m a wife beater and a horrible person.’ Shame is you looking in the mirror and feeling like a disgrace to yourself, your loved ones and the rest of mankind…

People dealing with LSE are ashamed of themselves. They fail to create a distinction between the situation and themselves. Their environment, condition, origin or insecurity conspires to keep them perpetually embarrassed. A blind man can be an outstanding guitarist and lead a fulfilled life but a blind person suffering from LSE feels overwhelmed by his blindness. It becomes a challenge that stops him from becoming; sometimes, it becomes the excuse for not becoming.

For the person suffering from LSE, the glass is always half full, the silver lining behind every cloud is incomplete and the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is a myth.

The first step to dealing with LSE is taking stock; slowing down and looking inward long enough to itemize the reason(s) why you might feel the way you do and then coming to a place where you can say ‘Oh well, it’s what it is and how it is and I accept it.’ Here’s a checklist outlining ares you should pay attention to:

      Your Origin: What are the issues surrounding your birth that makes you squirm? Were you borne out of wedlock or into a family that didn’t want you? Maybe you don’t even know who your parents are and grew up with a grandparent or a relative who gave you food and shelter but little else. Whatever your story, it is what it is and as desirable as it maybe, you can’t turn back the hands of time. I had a friend who was borne out of wedlock. Everything that happened in his life, he somehow managed to connect to his birth. He was so insecure because of it, he failed to appreciate just how blessed he was. His monthly remuneration could sustain an entire village but all he saw, what he allowed define him was the 'illegitimacy' of his birth.

      Your parents: If I had anything to say about it, Oprah and Bill Gates would be my parents  (wink) but hey, I’ve already been born. It’s done. I heard of a girl who’s father drove a taxi and would drop her off in school then go about the day’s business. By the time she began primary school, she’ll get down two streets away and walk the remaining distance. Obviously, she was ashamed of her father and his jalopy forgetting it was that same car that paid the fees.
You know, sometimes I wonder how children of serial killers and the likes deal with their history. Growing up knowing your father was/is a murderer or thief or the poorest in the neighbourhood is no walk in the park and must require a special type of optimism and resolve to deal with…

      Your childhood: Children don’t understand Economics. My niece wants food when she wants food. When her school planned an excursion to the U.S, she just came straight home and told my sister about it. It was hard explaining to her why she couldn’t go. The notice was short and there were more than enough things to do with money. Despite my sister’s explanation, she wailed like her heart had been ripped out.
There’s a sense in which you might feel frustrated with your parents or handlers for not making life easier for you; for not providing enough, for leaving you vulnerable to abuse, for abusing you, for divorcing your mum or dad and marrying someone who didn’t love you at all or enough, for being too busy to pay you any attention, for being dream killers…

      Education: So you attended Aregbesola Grammar School (No offence) and had your tertiary education in a monotechnic somewhere…So? I remember a young girl saying “I didn’t attend QC or anything but…” but what? Can you read? Can you write? Can you hold a conversation? Can you express yourself intelligently? Can you problem-solve? If you can, why would/should you apologize for the type of education you got? Do you know how many people will come into this world and leave without ever having the opportunity to see the four walls of a classroom?

      Lessons Learned, Regrets: What if, if only I had, if I’d known I wouldn’t have… hey, it’s done. You got pregnant and the baby is in Creche already, deal with it. You’d be rich if only you followed your instincts and bought Dangote Sugar or Transcorp shares. Well, you didn’t… You saw the signs and married him anyway, well, you've married him… From every situation you can learn a lesson, make sure you do. Don’t lose perspective by concentrating too much on how the script could have played out, the end credits are rolling already.

      Status: You never came first in class, you live in Ayobo, and you can’t sing to save your life; it’s okay. There are things some of us will never be able to do, some things we will never be able to be no matter how hard we try. I will not be able to represent Nigeria in the Olympics as a swimmer. It will not happen. No matter how well I swim, I freak out if I stay in water too long. Instead of concentrating so hard on being what you are not, put all your energy into becoming a more excellent version of what you already are.

      Disabilities and Handicaps: So your mum forgot an immunization appointment and you ended up with Polio and now you walk sideways?  It was all fun and games until you fell on a broken bottle and lost an eye…You were borne crippled, deaf, dumb, blind or by some cruel twist of fate, you’re all of the above. No one said life is going to be fair. We all just make the best of the hand we've been dealt. 

Denial is a deceptive poison. Refusing to believe the sun rises in the east doesn't mean it doesn't; your denial doesn't change the facts. You need to come to terms with who you are and the hand life has dealt you. I’m not talking about what you deserve, or what is fair, or right or equitable, just what is, as is. You need to be able to say ‘This is my history, this is my past, this is the situation I’m in right now and this is how I got here.’ Could things have turned out differently? Absolutely; maybe, maybe not. The shoulda coulda wouldas’ of your life are unimportant right now, just the reality, the fact of it and your acceptance that what has happened has, what is is…

P.s: For a more exhaustive discussion of Shame and Guilt, check out Brene Brown. She's one amazing person you won't regret listening to.

To be continued
©Naomi Lucas


Damilola said...

You made my day Naomi

Naomi Lucas said...

Thanks Damilola