Shame, Appearance and Me

I’ve recently been using a medical cream all over my face, prescribed essentially to burn off what the doc called “a number” of precancerous spots.  Two to three weeks of what would likely be manageable pain and discomfort seemed a very small price to pay for trouncing the bad stuff, especially as only the affected areas would burn, itch, peel, etc..

I was, and still am, grateful for this medicine. And was gung-ho to start it.

Fast forward almost two weeks and the physical discomfort has been, thankfully, merely annoying and occasionally distracting.  But “a number” of spots has multiplied to the point that much of my face looks like a jumble of raw meat.

Unsightly. I.e. unpleasant to look at.

I hadn’t counted on my appearance being so affected.  Even more so, I hadn’t counted on how affected I would be by my appearance being so affected.  Especially as someone who believes so strongly that what’s inside of us is what really matters.

Still, when I have been out and about, I’ve been thrown off kilter by some folks who have either stared at my face while they are talking with me or have averted their eyes completely. I notice that I have become increasingly uneasy in public, looking for ways to be less visible, like standing in the shadows or styling my hair to cover my forehead.

Sure, I’ve reminded myself that people may be uncomfortable or curious. And I continue to forge ahead in the name of depth rather than superficiality.  While it is still a small price to pay for the medical treatment, the moments of feeling as if I am not really being seen have felt discouraging.

Serendipitously, in another context, my daughter reminded me of Brené Brown’s wonderful TED Talk about shame (“Listening To Shame”), which I just viewed again. Brown underscores what we all know: how essential it is for us human types to feel worthy of connection, of love.

In her work, she defines shame as “… the intensely painful feeling that we are unworthy of love and belonging.”  And she observes that “…shame erodes our courage and fuels disengagement.”

I can certainly attest to that eroding force and fuel.  It brings to mind folks shying away from social situations due to their appearance, as well as studies illustrating disparate treatment of people based on physical characteristics, like weight and “attractiveness.”

Making ourselves small?  Not good for us or the universe!

By far THE most important takeaway from my recent “experiment” with my face has been the reinforcement for me of the importance of KINDNESS.  To the many folks who have really “seen” me over the past week: Thank you!

For reminding me of the astounding power of the human heart and its blazing warmth. For demonstrating how something like a seemingly small kindness can be a priceless treasure of expansiveness.

Brené Brown says, “Empathy is the antidote to shame.”  Word.


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6 Responses to Shame, Appearance and Me

  1. russtowne says:

    May your healing (inside and out) be swift and your days be full of blessings.

  2. Rachael says:

    And I shall mirror russtowne, dear Chloe. May your dance continue to heal. xxx

  3. diahannreyes says:

    Sorry to hear about the uncomfortableness and I hope the medicine is doing it’s work. I wonder, could some of these people who are averting their gaze doing it because they think that is what is the considerate thing to do and not realizing it’s making you (understandably) feel invisible? I can think of a couple of instances- different in detail but similar in other ways- in which I’ve purposely averted my gaze. Now I’m going to think twice as to whether or not that really was the “in service” thing to do. Thanks for giving me this other perspective.

    • SirenaTales says:

      Yes, you are, of course, spot on, Diahann. I think people were uncomfortable and were kind of trying to give me some privacy, or be respectful, in a way. I realized I had done something similar on other occasions. It’s funny because I think different folks would want different things: some would want people to ask what’s going on and some would want no obvious reference to the matter, etc. I was intrigued with the experience of having a different reception from folks than what I am used to–based on my appearance. And thanks so much for the good wishes–yep, things are much better! xx

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