Shame, Embarrassment and Regret
Have you ever said or done something that you wished you could take back?
Recently I was watching a reality tv show where a man did something that (I would imagine) he wished he could've taken back, and I was surprised by the flood of emotions I experienced; anger, disbelief, frustration, sadness… and then empathy and compassion. I remembered times when I have embarrassed myself or been ashamed of my own behavior. It is not a fun feeling, especially because there’s nothing you can do to undo what you’ve done!
But watching it unfold on television with someone who I’d gathered was a kinda decent guy presented me with a chance to reflect on why these things happen.
In exploring situations that I've experienced, I’ve noticed a few things that may contribute to the behavior. The first is sleep deprivation. If I’m tired, everything gets thrown out of whack, especially my thought processes. Second, I’m aware that when I get really involved in a particular situation, I lose perspective. It’s almost like my world becomes so small that I lose sight of anything else around me and I have a harder time remembering that the world is so much bigger then what I’m experiencing at that moment. And finally, stress. Stress is a slippery little bugger that colors all experiences and events. And the worst part is that I'm not aware how all of these things are affecting me until after the fact, when it’s too late.
Shame and embarrassment comes in various degrees. I recently had a mild experience at my son’s gymnastics competition. I’m not someone who uses curse words in my daily life. There was a time, many years ago, back in my New York City days, that this wasn’t the case. But as I grew and learned the power of words, I made a conscious choice to not use curse words. Having said that, a few months ago when my son fell off the high bar during a competition, I let out an expletive that I thought the whole gym could hear. (Like in that scene from A Christmas Story, where Ralphie yells ‘fudge’ but he really didn’t say fudge!)
No, I didn’t actually yell that. My expletive was a mere sh*t. (See I don’t even really want to type it!) But it was loud. And it shocked me. And embarrassed me. I apologized to those around me, who did their best to make me feel better. But the damage had been done. I sat with that for a few weeks and questioned why I couldn’t control myself? I mean, certainly as an adult, I have a choice in how I respond to things. So why was I unable to control the words that came out of my mouth?
I chalked it up to a couple of the factors from above: stress and lack of perspective for sure. I did some Compassionate Self-Forgiveness for the judgments I placed on myself (I forgive myself for judging myself as dumb, unable to control myself, not spiritual enough to avoid using language of my choice… things like that.) And I moved on, setting an intention to do better.
And I did…right up until my son’s last competition- when he fell again. This time off the mushroom (it’s like a pommel horse in the shape of a mushroom)- an event that he had recently won at State Championships. But at this competition, he swirled right off that sucker and before I could help myself, “Sh*t” burst out of my mouth.
My friend and her mother-in-law, a Southern sweetheart, were right in front of me. I immediately apologized. They were gracious in forgiving me. But I wasn’t as nice to myself. I mean, you know better, you do better, right?
So what was going on?
My intention was not for things to unfold the way they did. And while this example wasn't too extreme, I have other more embarrassing and shameful experiences that just still sit heavier n my gut, like a weight, because I just can’t undo them. I think about situations that are much worse- where people have accidentally killed another because of a moment of bad judgment- like texting while driving. And that feeling of regret....how does one get past it?
I’ve considered this a lot and only one thought that comes forward resonates: I am human. And fortunately or not, experiencing this behavior and its repercussions are part of the human experience.
I live by the idea that we are souls having a HUMAN experience. But many times I believe I overlook that human part. I have an irrational belief that somehow if I were perfect and a 'better' spiritual being, my human experience would be different. Yes, our soul chose this lifetime, this body, to complete it’s own spiritual agenda. And yes, there are things that I can do to make sure I’m living in alignment with Spirit’s will. But I can’t forget that second part of the sentence- having a HUMAN experience. And as humans, we will make mistakes.
So my ability to move through these human experiences with greater ease will occur as I learn to forgive myself for these judgments and irrational beliefs.
So I guess the message to myself is to lighten up. (And sleep more, avoid stress and try to keep perspective!) And if I do slip, it’s really ok. Take a breath, acknowledge the misunderstandings and misinterpretations and forgive myself. We are all doing the very best we can! And we really are human.