Sunday, 13 March 2016

What's the deal with shame?

In one of my favourite songs, Taylor Swift recognises that she could have saved herself the trouble of a turbulent relationship, if only she had trusted her first instinct: that the person in question was best avoided. This revelation is quickly followed by an admission of shame, and is echoed a few more times in the song by the phrases 'the blame is on me' and 'the joke is on me'. I find it interesting that Swift brings out into the open the intense criticism women are taught to employ against themselves in navigating the complexities of their relationships.
It's hard to live in the world as an intelligent, empathetic female without picking up a hefty dose of self-loathing along the way. Our world puts incredible pressure on women to perform a number of roles, and to do so perfectly (e.g. partner, worker, mother, daughter, friend, etc). The self-criticism we engage in is often debilitating. We judge ourselves and others harshly, even as those of us who are feminists seek to empower, love and accept, and encourage our womankind.
My first response to 'I knew you were trouble' was mixed - I loved the melody, but I wished I could ameliorate the lyrics. I wanted to have a narrative about foresight without the intrusion of shame. At the same time, there was something liberating to Taylor admitting she was ashamed, because shame is often something we try to hide. Singing the line 'shame on me now' became a problematic outlet for my own repressed self-loathing.
Eventually I learned to allow the line to just be, and not judge Swift on it. Every human being is multi-faceted, and capable of feeling a wide range of feelings. I made space for the imperfection of expressing shame in my life. It was perfection that was the problem, not the shame. Once acknowledged, shame doesn't have to stick around for very long. It's suppressing your feelings that I recognised to be more damaging.
Every time I sing the song now I have a slightly different reaction to it, one which continues to be complex, and one which I welcome for this very reason. 

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