“Shame derives its power from being unspeakable…If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.”
― Brené Brown (Queen of Vulnerability)
Ok guys, I just want to make one thing clear: This is not going to be a sob story about how awful my childhood was. I actually had a pretty fun childhood doing all the childhood things like cheerleading, softball, swimming, singing in cute little plays, and getting way too much salt water in my eyes at the beach.
This is a story about a messy situation in my life that I did not allow to dictate what I believed about myself, and the beauty that comes from kicking shame in the ass.
So, yes, I had a pretty good childhood, filled with lots of love and Nickelodeon. But when I look back on my childhood, I cannot help but remember the constant battle I fought internally when people told me that I was “such a good girl.” I legitimately thought I was “bad.” Dirty. Stained.
They don’t know me, I thought. They don’t know what I do.
Ok, ok. I know that sounds really dramatic. But it kind of was, because…
one of the first memories I have of my childhood is watching some pretty intense pornography.
I didn’t seek it out, I was just flipping channels at home one day with a friend of mine (I was 5, she was 4). We were quickly “caught” and then curiously asking:
“What were they doing? What is that? Why was that man so mad at that lady?”
We were given a talk about “what mommies and daddies do when they love each other” and quickly hurried along to another subject, rightfully so. What adult wants to give “the sex talk” to a 4 and 5 year old? (Awk-sauce.)
Anyways, long story short-ish, this experience of watching these people partake in sexual acts pretty much changed my life. My friend and I were really close, and we played house all the time with her to-die-for Easy Bake Oven and highly-coveted, swaggy Fisher-Price Kitchen. We usually took turns being “mommy” or “daddy” and had a “baby” and cooked and cleaned and did cute childhood things together. However, after the porn thing, we had a new practice to implement into our “house” game. We would take turns being “mommy and daddy” while acting out the things that we saw in the video because “that’s what mommies and daddies do when they love each other.”
This “game” continued on and off for about 5 years. I went from an innocent, wide eyed little girl, to feeling dirty and weird and possibly-a-lesbian-but-how-can-I-be-a-lesbian-when-I-like-boys. What started as an innocent childhood game when I didn’t know any better had become a full blown sexual addiction to masturbation and pornography. It became cyclical. If I did something “dirty,” I felt bad about myself, and those negative feelings about myself needed to be released, usually in the form of another sexual act. And then I felt bad about myself all over again. The cycle continued.
At age 12, I had a secret life of porn and masturbation. By 14, I was in a car with an 18-year-old boy allowing myself to be pressured into things that my gag reflex couldn’t handle. By 17, I was finding myself in bed with boys to “prove” to myself that I “wasn’t a lesbian,” even though by that time I didn’t see anything wrong with being a lesbian. By 19, I’d experienced a few one-night-stands hoping to feel loved and wanted in the strong arms of some beautiful man, even if only for a few hours.
I don’t tell you guys this in hopes that you will feel sorry for me and that you will excuse my behavior or something.
I tell you this because I know for a fact that I’m not alone. I am not the only one that sticky-fingered shame has gotten ahold of somewhere along the way. I can’t tell you how many women and men I have opened up to about this story, and how many of them have met me with shock and then tears when they realize that they, too, have had similar experiences that they had blocked out of their memories. So many people had been shamed into thinking that they would take their secret childhood sex lives to their graves.
The problem with shame, though, is that it cannot coexist with self-worth.
I thought I was a pretty “confident” person. And I was. I was confident in my ability to make friends, in my ability to be attractive to men, in my talents as a singer, etc. But “confidence” is not the same as self worth. Confidence is an awareness of your external value. Self-worth is an awareness of your internal, irrevocable value. Unfortunately, if you are in the grip of shame, you are not able to see your internal, irrevocable value. Shame and self-worth cannot coexist in your heart. It’s either one or the other, guys.
For the sake of my quality of life and for the sake of my interactions with the people that I love, I knew I needed to expel shame from my heart. The first step? Choosing one person. Just one. And telling them about every detail of what had made me feel ashamed.
I can just hear you now, “Oh hell nah, Genevieve. You do you, girl, but I’m not doing that shit.” Welp. That’s fine. But I’m telling you, the extent of your secrets are the extent of your dysfunction and unhappiness.
There is freedom to be had from the cycle of shame in which we find ourselves. It starts with talking about it. We need to come out of hiding about our childhood sexual experiences and realize how many of us have been struggling in private, without an advocate, or someone to just say, “Hey, I see you and I still love you.”
When we realize we are not alone, we begin the process of expelling shame from our hearts so that real, genuine self-worth can begin to grow.
Who knows what beautiful light and healing can come from walking through the temporary painful tension of “confession.” We may step out on the other side as free and honest human beings. (Sign me up to be part of a culture of free and honest humans. I’m down!) Love y’all.
Let’s get our shit together,
“The purpose of light is to create more light, to open people’s eyes, to reveal the marvels around.” -Paulo Coelho
Written and loved on by Genevieve Simpson