“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”
The first time I remember feeling shame, that gnawing feeling in the pit of my stomach that something’s wrong with me, was in middle school. I struggled in my relationships with girl friends, and remember one particular conversation with a girl friend who told me she didn’t want me around when the boy she liked was there because I was “too much,” and when I was my full self I was “obnoxious.” I know that those words came out of a place of her own insecurity and fears, but they impacted me deeply.
I started to believe that who I am is obnoxious, that I needed to tone down my personality, my happiness, my intelligence, and myself in general to be liked and even loved by others. I desperately sought attention from boys, believing that giving them my body and my heart was the only way to overcome my “obnoxious” personality and be “loved” the way I was longing for. When I compromised my boundaries and values to make them happy, I felt an even deeper sense of disappointment and shame.