The other day I was somewhere (won't say where to protect the innocent) with a bunch of people from around town - some I knew, some I didn't know at all.
A woman was taking me around and introducing me to people. I couldn't place this woman's face, but knew we must have met before in some context because she was so comfortably friendly with me, and was asking after the kids, how I was feeling, etc. I was embarrassed I didn't remember her, so I was hiding that the whole time she was taking me around I was thinking; how on earth do I know this woman?
"OH!" said the stunning woman. "It's so nice to finally meet you in person!"
Some strange, strangled noise escaped from my throat, and I mumbled some pathetic response, "Um, yeah, yes! That's me." She proceeded to talk to me about how much one aspect of my blog has helped a family member of hers, and said she was a long-time reader but never had "the guts" to comment.
Who do you think you are, the shame tells me. Here she is saying how much she likes your writing and you don't deserve a word of it.
Why? Why is that? Is it because as women we are all too often programmed to fade into the background, keep our secrets and feelings, even our accomplishments, neatly tucked under our skirts (or yoga pants, as the case may be). How can I feel so passionately about vulnerability, spreading the word about addiction, recovery and speaking about my cancer journey and then have this strong shame reaction when someone says it helps them?
Usually, when I'm face to face with people who know me as "One Crafty Mother" I'm at a blogging conference, and referring to people as their blog or twitter name is a common, if not bizarre, tactic. It's how we know each other, and it doesn't feel weird at all.
When I'm around town, though, it feels really odd to be known as "One Crafty Mother". I know lots of local people read my blog - I want that, and I don't get to pick and choose who reads it. It's my choice to put myself out there, and when I push past shame of course I'm glad people are reading, of course I'm glad it's helping. So why do I feel like making myself so small when confronted with it face to face?
It was the same after I lost all the weight - people would tell me I looked great and I'd feel shame. Like I was showing off or something, instead of pride that I had worked damn hard to shed over 65 lbs. Instead of saying "thank you", I'd mumble some idiotic lie like 'it's not that big of a deal', or 'I still have a ways to go', just to minimize my accomplishment.
That shameful, embarrassed person resides in me as much as the writer who feels passionately about being open, honest and vulnerable about her journeys - whether through addiction, weight loss, grief, cancer or spirituality.
It's a dichotomy I'm having a hard time getting my mind around. I wonder if I should have blogged anonymously - kept my identity a secret - but then I realize the fact that people know me, as a real person, makes it easier to identify with my story.
Sometimes I get into a spiral where I think: why are you doing this? why are you out there writing about all this if you feel this shame when you meet someone face to face and they COMPLIMENT you?
I think, when I'm able to be somewhat objective about it, it's because I never, ever want to appear like I'm grand-standing, showing off, or acting like I've got it all figured out. When someone compliments me - even though they're not saying "Wow, Ellie, have YOU got it all figured out" - I feel like somehow I am making a bigger deal out of myself than I deserve. What they are saying, usually, is "I identified with what you wrote; I feel the same way".
I am so fearful of appearing like a bragger that I don't even know how to take a compliment.
If you live around town and we meet, it's okay to refer to me as One Crafty Mother, or tell me you know me through my blog. Clearly, I need some practice simply saying "Hello, nice to meet you!" or how about just plain "Thank you!" when you tell me you like my writing?
If you don't like me or my writing, though, please feel free to keep it to yourself, or just gossip about it with others. I'm not THAT healthy, yet.
And speaking of vulnerability, if you haven't read Jane's post below for the first installment of "Truthful Tuesday", please do. And comment if you can - it means so much to get comments when you bare your soul so bravely, like she did. Thank you.