Yesterday, while walking home from a dance workshop, I remembered an early childhood experience of feeling shame.
The memory arose as I was focusing on my right leg and thinking about how it naturally turns inwards, thinking about how I struggle to “picture” the right side of my body in my mind and as such, my right shoulder and leg turn inwards. Lately, I’ve been trying to correct this through muscle activation exercises that I learned from a physiotherapist and by attempting to form a mental map of the right side of my body (the latter is more difficult and I wonder if some small part of my brain is underdeveloped, or perhaps there exists some severed connection of my nerves. The discrepancy between my right and left sides has only recently come to my awareness so it honestly could be anything.)
Then I remember how I was always being chastised for being pigeon toed as a child, which is having my feet turn inwards as I stood and walked. I was told off for sitting on my legs when seated (a habit I am yet to drop when my feet so infrequently touch the ground due to the fact that I’m a micro-human who never even made it to 5 foot tall) my parents mused on whether it was caused by the strange way I had crawled as a baby and often as I walked, I would be scolded for not walking properly. I internalised the feeling that this was something at which I was failing and it fed into the feeling that I walked wrong, weirdly, that other people could see and that it was freakish, inefficient and ugly. That feeling has never entirely gone away.
I am certain that it was not my parent’s intention to make their little girl feel as if she was the Quasimodo of feet but such is the sensitivity of a child, to whom their parents are gods whose opinion counts for everything and who can wound in ways that adults can be so painfully unaware of.
Yesterday while walking, I remembered the shame and the sense that I had of failure, the belief I once held that I was responsible for the deficiencies in my gait… but then I realised something that made me have to stand still for a moment; for every criticism offered to my childhood self, was little Jessie ever offered a viable solution? Physiotherapists? Specialists?
Criticism offered without solution is hard enough for an adult to deal with. But we must be so careful when criticising a child for a problem that they have for a child is unlikely to have any concept of how to fix their problem and so instead they will be left with a sense of their being wrong, broken, faulty somehow. Shame. Criticism without support and solutions will only teach a child to feel shame.
When I was a little girl, I thought that I was a monster. I’ve spent my adulthood fighting that feeling, learning to work with that feeling and trying, now, to reflect and understand where that feeling comes from. I am not interested in dwelling in the past, nor placing blame and writing even this is difficult and scary for me as I have no desire to upset my family should any of them stumble across this blog entry… but I feel, perhaps, I need to start unpacking some of these things as a means of freeing myself from the faulty conclusions that I came to when I was small.
Since I can remember, I’ve felt that there is something fundamentally wrong with me. Broken. Perhaps this is a feeling that all people are familiar with but it feels like a cage of perception and I’m tired of the ways in which it shapes every aspect of my life. Sometimes I imagine what it might feel like to not always feel guilty, broken and monstrous and the feeling is like air entering my lungs and expanding my chest. The feeling is… open spaciousness. I want more of that.