Over the past week, I’ve had several interactions with clients that have involved the word “shame,” so I am deciding to revisit the story regarding my cereal confession so we can get to the heart of the whole damn shame matter, ASAP.
As I’ve already told you, although cereal played a starring role in that post, my message had nothing to do with calories, body image or having “earned” a splurge. Quite the contrary, it had to do with what the cereal has come to represent for me, which I will share with you now (for the record, I’m about to strip down and get very, very bare):
When I arrived at college, eyes set hard on a professional dance career, I was given a warning during my orientation: I was told that I was no longer a big fish in a little pond. That my life was going to change quickly. That I was going to be tested.
And it did. And I was.
As a wise senior in my program put it after a particularly grueling day, our directors viewed us as thoroughbred horses where only the strong survived. In fact, I remember exactly where we were when she said those words (walking south on Amsterdam Ave.) because I vowed to myself right then and there that I would never be broken.
Throughout my 4 years there I learned a lot. Academically and artistically, sure, but it was my subconscious that was the real sponge. Because as I was told to “lay off the Pumpkin Pie” when I headed home for Thanksgiving, watched as dancers were applauded for showing up to rehearsals when they were sick, the message became very clear to me: success requires sacrifice.
You must be talented, yes, but those who truly shine never, ever give in.
These words became my truth, figuratively tattooed on my skin with an ever-visible presence. So much so, that one day in May in 2004, my class of 30 dancers – chosen from hundreds who applied from around the country – graduated with a class of 15. And you could bet your ass that I was proud to be one of those who was still standing.
Fast forward 15 years, and my “truth” continues to greet me each morning. It talks to me at red lights and in the shower. It sits on my shoulder when I’m drafting the plans for the next stage of my business.
And it calls me weak in the middle of the night when I “give in” to a bowl of cereal.
So, my friends, this is why I ask you “what is YOUR bowl of cereal?” What object/person/situation sets off your irrational thinking?
What prompts you to think you’re less than you really are?
Because somewhere along the way, things were presented to you as absolute truths that really aren’t. You may have been taught what it means to be successful, beautiful or popular. Or perhaps you were taught what it means to be a good parent, friend, or spouse.
We hold onto these notions. Believe they are guiding us (and perhaps, for awhile, they are). But when they start to make us feel fat or weak or unsuccessful or unattractive, we need to heed those emotions as an internal warning sign.
We need to step back and have the courage to ask ourselves “but what if that’s not really true?”
And no doubt it is goddamn hard to untangle these “truths” from our reality. Just like it is to un-hear things you’ve been told. Because while you may have never been called fat, no doubt you’ve been told what it means to be beautiful.
But I’m here to tell you that those are their ideals. And they’re wrong.
So next time you find yourself feeling ashamed, be curious. About where you learned that who you are is not okay.
And let’s vow to spring clean that silly thinking from our psyche.
In it together. Today and every day.
PS – Stay tuned later this week for our first installment of “Dear B&B…” MANY of you need to hear it.