MMP: Let Go of Your “Shame A Dish”

by Rebecca A. Watson on July 14, 2014

in beliefs, change, Monday Morning Pages, Recovery

When I was little, I was taught the phrase “Shame on you” in German. I’ve got some German ancestors, and well, I guess it was one of the few phrases that stuck through the generations.

Shame on you translates to Schäm dich, but I’d always heard it pronounced “Shame a dish.” Now that I understand a bit of German, I can see how that pronunciation evolved.

weltmeister 2014

Not only do I speak German, but I celebrate football championships! Yay Deutschland!

This phrase became something I repeated quite often to my sisters, my friends and eventually my partners, more or less without thinking about it. In the past several years I can see that it wasn’t a kind or honest thing to do, either to them or to me. To anyone really.

Shame is a tricky beast. Guilt isn’t a fun one either, but at least it has some productive purpose. I’ve heard guilt and shame described this way: Guilt is what we feel when we’ve done something wrong. We feel shame because we think there is something wrong with ourselves.

In the past week or so, I’ve been working really hard on releasing shame I’ve carried with me for a long time. And I think it’s working. This has been a long process, and one that comes up around this time every year.

In 2012:

I had a crazy shame spiral last night. I wonder if I could work on those recordings [meditations]. It might really help me, because I feel like I’m gonna die the way its attacking me. Like it WANTS me to die. WTF?!? That’s the toxic shame for sure. So yeah, you should work on that. It could help.


Some of you know I’ve been divorced (twice). I’ve guest blogged about it. Reading something from last year showed me more about that shame:

I am so embarrassed that I’ve been married so many times, like I am just the poster child for bad decisions.

But also I’m embarrassed that I didn’t say no. That I wasn’t strong enough or smart enough at that point to look around and see that I wasn’t happy and that marriage wouldn’t change that.

Of course, I also wear the family shame, like I somehow bear more of that “What’s wrong with me?” everyone is wondering. Why couldn’t I just figure it out and either stick with one guy or just have the good sense to say no?

Well, because those aren’t the only options. When you think about your “failures” — well when you call them that it’s part of the problem. They’re only failures if you didn’t learn from them and I surely did. Barely at times.

But I did learn that abuse is inherited. I learned a lot of people don’t want to change. I learned denial is a powerful thing. I learned the people closest to us can hurt us most deeply. I learned that there is such a thing as spouse-rape.

I learned not to be a victim, and then I learned to be a predator, to create victims. I learned that not everyone loves or wants to be loved in the same way.

OK so you learned a lot. Why do you hate this part of you? Because it shows my weakness. Because it makes me embarrassed. Because I feel like I failed. Like it was all my fault and I’m some sort of pathetic creature who isn’t deserving of a real relationship. Who didn’t even know what one was. I’m SO embarrassed.

THAT’S shame.

What, where is that shame coming from? A misdirected aim to please our parents? That was at least the first one. I mean, I definitely thought they’d love and accept me if I married [Husband No. 1]. That they’d love and accept us — my choice, my relationship.

It seemed like that was where that came from. People pleasing. But do you see the shame is two-fold because you felt you never got their love and acceptance and because you divorced, you believe you failed in their eyes so now you’ll never get that love and acceptance.

And that is the bottom line about this shame. It all comes down to: I’m not good enough. I was told that story and I’m perpetuation it, carrying that shame over my past.

I can’t change the past and I don’t know that I would, especially because I love how my life is now. I just wish I could let go of that shame.

I am good enough. Keep doing your [meditations]. It’ll work out well in the end — or just in life.

Holy. That’s some heavy shit. Like for realz. And you know what? I could type all that out and see it pretty objectively now (I assure you it was a mess of scribbles when I wrote it), and it’s OK. I don’t feel that shame anymore, which is such a gift.

Of course there are other sources to my shame that I’m still working on releasing, but to say that this one is completely gone makes me feel so light and full of awe.

awe inspiring nature

Like the kind of awe I feel …


… when I realize nature won’t be captured with photos.

Because I’ll tell you a secret: I thought I’d never get rid of it. I thought I was going to carry those horrible ideas to my grave, and I don’t care how old you are, that is a scary thing to believe.

I guess I’m sharing this because I think many of us carry some form of toxic shame. It’s been passed down through the generations as unconsciously as “Shame a dish” was passed down in mine.

What’s good to know is that it doesn’t have to continue. We can let go of these big, bad hateful thoughts about ourselves and know that there isn’t anything wrong with us.

We can know that our imperfections are actually works of art. That everything we’ve done in the past was just practice for what is happening now, and that if we can learn those lessons and live in this moment with love and acceptance, then we are living the dream.

Wondering what this Monday Morning Pages thing is all about? Read how it started. Or check out all the archives.

Photo Credits: My dear friend Ashley, Moyan Brenn, My dear friend Amy

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Deb July 14, 2014 at 7:10 pm

I have been reading some of your stuff….it’s so awesome. I am so happy that you are happy. ☺️


Rebecca A. Watson July 15, 2014 at 8:47 am

Awwww thanks Deb 🙂 It’s so sweet of you to say. Thanks for reading and commenting!


Paul July 15, 2014 at 4:03 pm

Wonderful post, Rebecca.

You know, I was about to write a post on shame and guilt…and then I pop up here and there it is! Must be something that the Universe wants me to see. Hmmmm…but perhaps I will save that post for another day. You did a fantastic job in showing what shame it, how it *feels* and what we can do about it. We have that saying in recovery where we aren’t bad people getting good, we are sick people getting well. And I have to remember that while I am not happy about some of the things I did out there in my life (drunk or sober), that I can see it and know that I am not a bad person. My identity is not my actions.

Great stuff…and congrats to Germany! (I was hoping for them once Netherlands got booted out!)



Rebecca A. Watson July 23, 2014 at 8:02 am

We are sick people getting well. So true. Honestly Paul, I would LOVE to read what you have to write about shame and guilt. Your persepective is always unique (and hilarious at times too, which helps). I’m reading the book I quoted called the Four Agreements, and I think it will help reduce my shame even more as I move forward. I love finding new tools 🙂 Hugs to you and thanks for stopping by.


Monica July 23, 2014 at 4:28 am

Great article Becca. There aren’t even measurement units for the shame i carry. I have spent the past decade punishing myself for horrible, harmful decisions by making even worse decisions. cause that’ll show me! Ugh. I’m loving your writings. But what do you know about the sequence?!😉


Rebecca A. Watson July 23, 2014 at 8:00 am

Giiiiiirl!!! What is up?!? I am so stoked to hear from you, although super sad to hear you’ve been shaming yourself for so long 🙁 It’s such an awful feeling isn’t it? Ugh, I hear ya. Hopefully you can find a way to release it. Sending you good vibes! BIG hugs!


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