Shame Away

This past week I started listening to podcasts on my commute to school. I live in central Netherlands but study in the south so I have a 4 hour commute per day. I figured podcasts were a good way to spend my time, I could use these four hours to still be working on myself and learning instead of just sitting there staring hopelessly out of windows. Up to now I’ve listened to three podcasts that all starred Brene Brown and I couldn’t help but take vicious notes throughout the entire ride. I was really confronted with the entire term vulnerability and shame, what that really meant in our everyday lives and seeps into everything we are and do. Yesterday while in the train to school I made a conscious choice that I want to change the way I do life.

The podcast I heard yesterday was about shame and how people experience it/deal with it. Shame is an illness in our lives and differs from guilt. Guilt is not a bad thing but shame festers and only has negative consequences. As Brené well explained the difference: Guilt is saying/thinking Im sorry I made a mistake. Shame is thinking/saying Im sorry I am a mistake. We are not our actions. The antidote for shame is compassion. When you share your shame with someone and it is met with compassion it cannot keep festering. Just like the darkness cannot stand the light, it dissipates. When our loved ones come to us with shame we are so kind and loving to them, yet when we feel shame we beat ourselves up about it. There shouldn’t be a double standard there because when we feel shame we deserve the same love and compassion as we are willing to give to others.

Yesterday I had a pretty bad experience, I was afraid and on edge. On my way home from school I was waiting at the train station for my next train and had about a ten minute wait before the next one showed up. I looked up and saw a man walking towards me, immediately I got a very uneasy feeling in my stomach. He just looked like someone that would make me uneasy and that I couldn’t trust. He kept coming closer till he was standing approximately next to me, constantly eyeing me up and down. I moved a few feet over and he would walk around a bit before ending up next to me again, still not breaking eye contact. It scared me but I figured it was just a person who was confused and didn’t know social etiquette. Once the train arrived, I was lucky it was an extremely long one, I made a run for it to get as far away from this man as possible. I found the farthest entrance to the train, hid behind some people and as I got in the train I couldn’t see him anywhere anymore.

I sat down in the hall of the train with a deep sigh, thinking I would be okay now. The train stood there for another few minutes, and just as the doors were about to close I saw him looking into every door, and the moment he say me he jumped into where I was sitting and just stood there in front of me. Again I felt my stomach drop and my arms become numb. I was happy there were some other people in that part of the train with me, I figured this guy wouldn’t try anything if there were others there. After standing infront of me for a while he moved to a different part of the coupe and I breathed again. I figured it was just chance, a confused dude and it was a coincidence that he was ‘looking’ for me. I immediately tied up my hair and put my hood from my jacked on hoping to be less recognizable. As we were about to reach my station, he came back. I kept my head down and inside my hood as much as possible but he chose to stand directly in front of me. By this point, I know it’s not coincidence, he’s following me. He stands in front of me still staring at me, I call my mum to talk, just to show that I’m not alone but pretty quickly she had to hang up because she was at work.

As we pull into the station, I linger in the train to let him exit first. I knew if I left the train first it would be too easy for him to follow me, so I look him in the eyes and stay standing till he gets out. He took a right when he left the train, so I jumped out and took a hard left. I quickly walk and as I look back to see if I lost him I see him looking around, make eye contact with me and immediately he starts coming back in my direction. On the opposite side of the tracks I saw a train, no idea where it was going but I knew I couldn’t hang around 10 minutes waiting for my connection with this guy lingering. I hide behind the kiosk, and when I was far away enough I jump into the train and hide. Constantly looking out of the window to see where he was. The doors closed and I stood stiff with my back to the wall, jumping every time someone entered the coupe. I quickly called my mum to tell her what the situation was and she said she’d meet me at the station by our house. I get off at the next station and really carefully made my way to the exit, making sure not to make myself too visible incase he saw me and jumped on that same train.

He wasn’t there anymore, I went to the next tracks to catch my actual train home but noticed my hands were shaking. My breathing was unsteady and I was legitimately afraid. What if this guy was going to follow me all the way home, or I hadn’t looked well enough and he was still following me. As I’m writing this My hands are shaking again and I feel the fear creeping back. As I stood on the platform waiting for my next train I bummed a cigaret from someone there and tried to calm down and organise my thoughts. Then I remembered what I had heard that morning, to share our shame with people that will give us compassion and love. Because all of a sudden I was feeling shame about this. What if people thought I was being dramatic? What if I was overreacting or somehow made this my own fault.

It is absolutely ridiculous and ludicrous that I was feeling shame about this. I didn’t choose for this man to make me uncomfortable, to be intimidating, to follow me around, to make me feel unsafe. I don’t deserve the shame I am feeling, so I called one of my best friends and told her what happened, she confirmed that it was okay that I felt this way, it’s not okay at all for people to act like this. I got home and the shame and fear came back, I was afraid to tell my family what happened. Till I again realised I had no fault in this, and it was a good decision. My family responded with compassion and love, confirmed that this was not okay and were even at the point now that I might go down to the station and fill out complaint forms.

Yesterday was wild from start to finish. The morning started with hearing amazing research on why and how we should deal with shame in this way, not expecting that that afternoon I’d already get the chance to practice what I had heard. I feel better today, and think it’s good to share this because it is never okay for someone else to use intimidating behaviour to make others feel unsafe or uncomfortable. That it’s not something to cipher away and think you’re probably looking too much into things. Ask someone for help, go to the people working in the train or the security and let them know whats going on. The people that harass others have serious issues and I honestly believe they are mentally unwell, because a person in their right mind won’t make someone else feel this way. Talk about it, share it with the people in your circles, you’re worth it.

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