Embarrassment and Shame

Embarrassment and Shame

I think feelings of shame about our own shortcomings are almost universal. I’m not only thinking of a something called “Impostor Syndrome”, that can inflict those that achieve a certain level of success.
We can have a deep knowing of ourselves that no one else does, and we hitch our star on the negative.

However, I’m not talking about the shame and embarrassment we feel about ourselves now. I’m talking about embarrassment of others that are associated with us. It’s almost always family – someone that we can’t disconnect from. We can disassociate, but not fully disconnect.

In trying to analyze the failure of my third marriage, I realized something important. My ex came from a highly dysfunctional family. His mother was and still is (as of this writing) mentally ill. I didn’t hear a lot of stories about his growing up years; I’m assuming they were painful. I spent enough time in her presence to know how sick she is. It was the evil kind of sick.  I’ve spoken to people who knew her and said she had to be asked to leave public places because she was known to verbally attack people. She was hospitalized many times, according to her son. So, I got to thinking. He had to be embarrassed by her open and very public behavior. His sister is a bit of an oddball in a sweet kind of way – openly weird. She’s overweight. My ex’s brother has not only cut his mother out of his life, but also his sisters. When Kim (named changed) would call and my ex would see on his phone who it was, he handed the phone to me. He didn’t want to talk to her.

He grew up embarrassed by his family and that carried over to me. I’m not afraid to be who I am. When we were married, I wrote a cooking column in the local paper. Funny thing is, he suggested it. My columns not only had recipes, but also stories about my life. I realize now how much that must have bothered him.

Another example is – I am a bicycle rider. He had an old bike in the rafters of the garage and I suggested we go for a bike ride. We did. When we returned, he said “well, I’m never doing that again.” I honestly believe he was embarrassed to be seen riding a bike!

His embarrassment of his family is deep-seeded. His dislike of women (not his daughters) is deep-seeded.

Then I thought about my own life. I think my analysis of my growing up years is pretty clear. I think, as I started to mature into a teenager, my parents first and foremost consideration was that I not embarrass them. In other words, don’t get pregnant. At the same time, my brothers were people that they saw as sources of pride. I understand how it happened. That doesn’t make it right.

I cannot overemphasize this. I was a LIABILITY! My brothers were assets. 

There were years during my first marriage that we were prosperous, but mostly there were years when we were dirt poor. Overall, my parents were embarrassed by this. At the time of my divorce, I broached the idea that I (along with my 4 children, of course) move back to my home town, about 200 miles away. My parents said no. Just think about that. They didn’t want me there. It hurts to know these things, but I can also learn from them.

Where am I embarrassed by my own family? I HAVE TO ask that of myself.

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