I got a Facebook message this morning from someone I haven’t spoken to in at least six or seven years, that suggested I should be ashamed of myself for something he thought I’d implied, maybe in something I wrote years ago, I’m not 100% sure exactly but I can make some guesses. It’s a strange phrase, “You should be ashamed of yourself,” one you don’t hear much after you hit 12, and I keep thinking about it. It’s crazy how very NOT ashamed of myself I am, about the thing he suggested I should be ashamed of or in fact, of anything. Really, I can’t ever remember feeling ashamed of myself. Sometimes I feel bad about mistakes I make or things I’ve said or the time I crashed my parents’ car into the brick wall next to the carwash but ASHAMED OF MYSELF? No. My actual self is great, in my opinion and the opinion of people whose opinions matter, and sort of beyond shame; it’s an unchangeable marble that can’t be touched by physical or emotional or mental feelings. If I ever feel shame, which is rare–I more often feel guilty or disappointed in myself or just ugly and mean–it’s because of my behavior and I direct it there, at the thing I did, so I can possibly learn how to change it. Behavior is changeable, self is not. Maybe this way of thinking about myself has to do with my amazing parents and being raised religion-less and therefore being a person with no internalized concept of Original Sin. I mean I’m very lucky, right? Because it seems to me that people who who feel ashamed of their deepest selves must be miserable and hurting and constantly making the same mistakes over and over again, unable to change because they are embarrassed about the solid marble that is their self.
I make a lot of mistakes but frequently they are different KINDS of mistakes.
It wasn’t a question, the message I got this morning, it was a statement, but the more I think about it, the more I think it was a kind of question, not for me but for the guy who wrote the message. Maybe he meant to ask himself, “Should I be ashamed of myself?” instead of presuming to tell me how to feel. But if this were an actual conversation, before he answered I would say: “Don’t be. Be sorry about things you’ve done. Acknowledge we all hurt people–you’ve hurt people, I’ve hurt people–and try to figure out a way to accept yourself, change the behavior you don’t like and then move on.”
I also might add, since this is an imaginary conversation: “Don’t ever fucking tell me how to feel again. And don’t send me messages at midnight so I have to wake up to your toxic self-loathing which then poisons my entire day.” And then, I might feel bad for being a dick and try to think about ways to act less dickish, even in imaginary situations. But ashamed of myself? I would never feel that.