For Christmas this year, I gave my boyfriend Matt a really awesome food dehydrator.
It was something I thought he would really enjoy, but also I really really love beef jerky.
I mean I LOVE BEEF JERKY.
Anyway, my boyfriend is really sweet, and has been making delicious homemade beef jerky ever since Christmas.
The only problem is, if left to my own devices, I’ll eat an entire batch in one sitting. I seriously do not have the will power to stop.
For this reason, Matt has decided to hide the beef jerky and ration out a few pieces daily for me to enjoy. He’s not being selfish. He just works hard and spends money on delicious beef and wants to make it last. I don’t blame him.
However; as smart as my boyfriend is, he’s not the best at hiding things. Even though he does this trick of opening and shutting every cabinet in the kitchen in an effort to confuse me while I sit on the couch with my eyes closed patiently awaiting spicy chewy meat, I always know where it is. I’m telling you, me and beef jerky, we’re connected like that.
I was able to locate the last batch he made within seconds, tucked deep in a cabinet behind the blender and trays we never use.
For days, I held that information close, but didn’t act on it. I ate my rationed beef and never complained or sought out more.
One day though, he forgot to leave me a few pieces, and I couldn’t restrain myself. I couldn’t sit in a house where I knew there was jerky, and not eat it.
At first I was only going to have a single piece. And then I decided he wouldn’t notice if I took two. Two pieces turned into 6, and when I realized what I had done, I was embarrassed and full of shame at not only going behind his back and stealing jerky, but also because I failed at utilizing my will power.
I tried my best to rearrange the jerky in the bag so that it didn’t look like any was gone. I went through a list of excuses that I could use when he noticed that the jerky had been depleted.
Maybe I could tell him the dogs did it. Maybe I could tell him that I mentioned to a neighbor that we had amazing dried beef in my house, and he must have broken in and found it.
I even looked up recipes and pondered where I could go to magically make jerky in three hours so that I could replace what I ate, plus have a whole lot more to keep to myself.
I finally decided to just focus on something else and come up with an excuse later. Maybe he wouldn’t notice.
That night after dinner, Matt totally called me out.
“I noticed you found the beef jerky stash.”
I raced through my list of possible excuses, but in the moment, it seemed like too much effort.
I simply laughed and sheepishly admitted to being a jerky burglar. I told him I couldn’t help myself and that I’m a big fat pig, and that I would buy some more and that “I didn’t mean to.”
He laughed and said that he knew it was bound to happen, and that he was glad I got to have a treat that day.
We had a good laugh and I was able to move on without guilt or lying or continuing to worry how I would go about convincing him that there must have been a spectacular apocalyptic event where God took all the beef jerky from the world and sent it back up to heaven where it belongs.
I know this all seems trivial, and it is, but it made me realize how much better I felt -just by being honest about my shame.
During this little journey of mine, I’ve realized how often shame causes me to act in ways that I’m not proud of. In fact, I doubt that there is a more powerful emotion.
We work so hard at trying to “fit in”or be someone that other people respect. I know I’m guilty of saying things or representing myself in ways that aren’t necessarily true, in order to hide things that I’m shameful about. I come up with excuses and spend so much energy trying to portray myself in a certain light.
So often, when I feel that someone is criticizing an aspect about myself that I cannot change, or something that I know to be a fault, my first inclination is to make them feel as bad as I do.
When I first started working in morning radio, I would spend hours seeking out nasty comments about myself on the internet and obsessing over them. If someone said “That Carissa girl is so stupid,” I would replay whatever dumb thing I said that morning over and over and self criticize myself into a deep depression. I would study that person’s profile and draft up responses that were intended to make them feel as bad as I did. Sometimes I even sent them.
Somewhere over the last four years, I’ve been able to separate myself enough from my show character so that those comments don’t hurt me as much. I know how I portray myself on air, and I also know that while that is me saying those things on the radio, I’m purposely exaggerating my vulnerabilities. Plus- haters are gonna hate.
Sometimes though, it still gets to me.
Just last week after posting a silly video where I squished various foods with my body in a effort to poke fun at work out videos, someone made a comment on facebook that compared my face to William Defoe.
I mean, ewwww.
I can change my body by working out and study things to become smarter, but I can’t really do anything about the way my face looks, save put a paper bag over it.
I immediately went into classic Carissa shame behavior, and let myself get worked up. I watched the video over and over looking only for flaws in my appearance. I had just forked up $375 for some new headshots, and started thinking up what I could do to cancel them, because I don’t want to pay a ton of money to take pictures of my stupid William Defoe face.
I even sent a response to the dude letting him know he made me cry and ruined my day and that he should feel terrible.
Sure, it made me feel a little better in the moment, especially after he took down his comment.
But did my response help me in the long run?
No. I spent a good 3 hours of quality time feeling bad about being me. I spent precious energy looking for more flaws in my appearance and annoying my boyfriend by asking him for affirmation that I don’t look like a 50 year old man.
Ruminating over people’s opinions of things that I can’t change didn’t make me feel good, and it certainly didn’t do anything to change my face.
What I should have done?
I should have just reached out to someone that I trust and shared the fact that I felt vulnerable. I should have simply accepted the truth that someone has a opinion about me that I don’t enjoy, and moved on with my day. I should have recognized the fact that the person who told me I had a face for radio might be having a bad day. Maybe he was just trying to be funny. He definitely has his own insecurities about the way he looks and maybe he was just reacting to his own shame.
Regardless of how I reacted, I’m grateful for any experience that can help me learn. I know now that sometimes the best combat for shame, is to simply recognize that I have it-just like every other person on the planet.
It’s one of the beautiful truths that unites and connects us. We all have moments where we feel so insanely uncomfortable in our bodies and just being ourselves.
The absolute best thing I can do in these shameful moments is to admit that I’m human, and that is sometimes a very difficult thing to do.
Every shameful moment is an opportunity to connect with other humans, simply by sharing my experiencing and admitting that I have feelings just like they do.
And once it’s out there, I don’t have to do anything else. I don’t have to lie, or scheme, or try to hide the fact that I sometimes eat a pound of beef jerky or that I’m scared that my face is not attractive.
I’m me, and always I’m not perfect. And that’s perfectly OK.