Recently a friend of mine shouted “health is not a meritocracy!” I was at once amazed by how tangibly I felt relief from shame for not having done “well enough” at solving my health issues. My illnesses are not a result of a failure to have lived well and earned merit by eating, exercising, sleeping, or even forgiving as I “should.” Working against this shame is ongoing as is the work to grapple with not feeling as if I am failing something for being fat or living on the edge of financial capacity or continuing to keep unhealthy relationships out of my life (thereby not ‘forgiving’ those who are unsafe). This shame has a tougher weight than any that curves around my centre or thighs. This is my wish for you: may you divest the weight of shame.
- May you feel free to re-examine your past without shame for not having “let it go” and without believing that you are not “living in the moment” by needing to grieve and go back to heal old wounds.
- May you feel no shame in keeping alert to the dangers abusive people may pose for your life and the lives of those you care for. Whether this involves not speaking to your mother or keeping a former co-parent out of a child’s life, may you feel free to grow spiritually and emotionally without shame regarding not having forgiven or forgotten.
- May you feel no shame for chronic pain and fatigue. No one is equipped to prescribe the meaning of your illness, its cause or its “cure.” May you divest from the idea that health is a meritocracy that you are failing–be it through pizza consumption or the idea that if you loved yourself better you would not be sick.
- May you feel free to be fat without trying to be otherwise. You do not need to be a “worthy” fat person by trying to be thin. Without a diet or exercise plan, you are entitled to feel beautiful, sexy, and loveable in your body exactly as it looks at this moment.
- May you feel no shame if you are poor. Your relationship to poverty is part of a larger system of inequities rather than the result of personal shortcomings or failure to successfully become an adult. You do not need to feel as if you have not actualized or manifested abundance if you are poor. It may be that you didn’t have middle-class parents to help you out as a young adult or that health or illness get in the way of making money in capitalist culture. You capital is not your worth.
There are so many more ways that we are shamed in our bodies and selves. How are you divesting of shame? What has been powerful in your life?