Shoulds start taking their toll on me, sapping my energy each day I consider being something I’m not in order to play along with tradition.
What I’ve recently realized is that my shoulds are intertwined with introversion and shame. Ouch.
This weekend will be Thanksgiving in Canada. While I am beyond grateful for my life in all its abundance, my desired expression of that gratitude has nothing to do with the holiday obligations that have been a part of my life (perhaps of our culture).
It’s partially the introvert in me. Attending large group gatherings overwhelms and drains me (even when it’s family). And on the other hand, hosting (even small groups) in my own home feels like a breach of my ‘personal safety zone’ (an invasion of sorts).
I’m sure it has nothing to do with introversion, but I dread meal planning, preparing the house, cooking, getting “dressed”, entertaining, overnights – it feels like I’m getting ready for a performance that holds no meaning for me. So Thanksgiving, which starts the long holiday season that unfolds over the next couple months, feels like the time I need to start putting on my armour. That requires a lot of energy.
Where does the shame come in?
In not feeling good enough, capable enough, sociable enough. I find myself questioning, “What the hell is wrong with me?” and “Why can’t I just be normal?” and “Get over it, it’s no big deal”.
“Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.”
Brown goes on to describe the common responses to shame: fight, flight and/or please. Regardless of which response we choose at a given moment, the end result is disconnection. As an introvert, this was a big ‘aha’ moment.
Well, as I’ve been trying to decide what to do for Thanksgiving, all three responses have run through my imagination:
- Rebellion (fight);
- Escape to a private beach-front bed and breakfast for the weekend (flight); or
- Put on the mask of the “hostess with the mostest” (to please).
Of course, in my mind, I know that none of those choices is ideal (although that B&B does sound wonderful!).
I think back to my mom (also an introvert). She always felt that holidays were important times for families to celebrate together. She would go above and beyond with the baking, cooking, cleaning, decorating – to the point of exhausting herself – to try to make each gathering special. To make us feel special.
It was about connection and memory making. But I think it was about something deeper for her too.
She never got the appreciation (or help) she deserved. I remember how great it was to ‘take in’ all that she created. But since I don’t ever remember contributing, I didn’t realize how hard it was to actually accomplish it. Until it was my turn.
I don’t know how she did it. I do know that I can’t keep up. And I find that, as each year passes, I feel less willing to try to keep the traditions alive. Then I feel guilty (i.e. I am considering doing something bad by saying ‘no more’), and the shame response kicks into full motion (i.e. I am bad).
In truth, I’m happy to take a walk with my little family (a trio), enjoy nature and a few authentic moments with each other, and call it day. Add a good cup of coffee and some pumpkin pie and I’m a very happy gal. Fire on the beach – I’m over the moon. That’s my version of celebrating Thanksgiving.
Indecision and grappling with feelings of “not enough-ness” drains my energy.
So how will I find peace amongst holidays, introversion and shame?
As I keep reading Daring Greatly (which I highly recommend by the way), it becomes clear that empathy and vulnerability are better responses than I’ve been considering. So I suppose that’s why I’m writing…
Can you relate? In what ways is shame showing up in your life and work?
Know that you’re not alone. We’re all doing our best to work through the confusion and to be more true. Be as kind to yourself as you are to others.
Happy Thanksgiving! I AM GRATEFUL…