It is an act of love to look after one’s self, not an act of community terrorism.”  ~ Jana Joy ~

Are you a shame purveyor or do you fall victim to them?

We all know what shame purveyors look like.  We may even occasionally catch a glimpse of one in the mirror.  It’s a person who points a finger and offers a judgmental comment designed to make us feel bad about ourselves.  Sometimes it comes in the form of a pseudo-compliment or phony compassion.  Here are some examples of the shame we’re sold:

“You’re so lucky to have a partner who doesn’t mind if you abandon your children to go off for a weekend away.”

“Oh, I could never do something like that.  I’d feel too guilty.”

“How do you manage to work full-time and still find any quality time for your family??”

“So, what do you DO all day as a stay-at-home mom? Don’t you get bored?”

“I wish I had time to take a nap/get a facial/go to lunch.  I’m too busy taking care of my family/community/work commitments.”

“You should help out more by joining our committee/volunteer for this cause/donate your money and/or time for this and that.”

“You should… You should…  You should…”

The response in my head is always, “You should mind your own business and stop should-ing on me!”  What I actually say is, “No, thank you.”  That’s it.  I don’t make up excuses.  I don’t offer apologies.  I just say no.  I used to be a victim of the shame purveyors and engaged in all the activities I should be doing in order to be a “good” mom and a “good” person.  But I was so busy and tired all the time that I turned into this resentful, crabby cow.  And what did I do with all that resentment?  I turned it on others and should-ed all over them.  I paid it forward.  After all, sharing is caring… right?

Then one day, I learned the valuable lesson we all have to learn the hard way.  In order to really be of benefit to others, I need to take care of myself.  I cannot give what I do not have.  If I’m burned out and exhausted, I’m not much use to anyone.

It is an act of love to look after one’s self, not an act of community terrorism.  But the shame police in my head and the shame purveyors around me would have me believe otherwise.  Taking time for myself to engage in an activity that feeds my soul, but is, otherwise, of no direct benefit to others will cause the collapse of civilization as we know it.  If I’m not there to hold it all together, it will all fall to pieces (can you say, “control freak?”).  As it turns out, the world keeps on spinning, even while I’m getting a facial.

Now that I’ve (mostly) conquered my inner shame purveyor, when I’m faced with one, I’m usually filled with compassion as I know all too well that the shame they’re attempting to push on me is nothing compared to the shame they heap on themselves.  I say “usually” because, I admit, sometimes my initial reaction is to want to smack them!   It takes a lot of practice to get past the habit of shaming myself and others, but, like anything else, the more I practice, the better I get at it.

If we all stopped playing the shame game, we would be free to live our lives purposefully and joyfully.   I encourage you to release your inner shame purveyor and stop the vicious cycle of abuse.  A true gift is one given from love, not out of shame or guilt.

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