I was not one of those pretty, bouncy, popular girls who sailed through high school with yummy boyfriends and delicious, life-affirming first sexual experiences. I was shy and awkward and much taller than all the boys. I was convinced that any attention I got from boys was not real. I still feel sad for my 16 year old self, who knocked back boys with apparent callousness but really because I couldn’t believe that they were actually interested in me – I thought they were going to ridicule me and reject me.
I felt shame – for not being desirable or attractive (my perceived reality).
After I turned 18 this sense of shame around not being good enough for a boyfriend turned into sexual shame – I believed that I had missed the boat to move from sexual novice to expert in an acceptable time frame! I was so ashamed that when I went to uni (in a different city) I pretended to have had boyfriends and to be sexually experienced, and lived in fear of my new friends finding out the truth.
This shame led me to miss out on many wonderful relationships. It stopped me sexually expressing myself. It stopped me being able to receive love.
Shame had created this huge barrier to intimacy and kept me a prisoner for years.
I was finally freed from it when I had a relationship with a man who was so in love with me that I had the courage to admit my “shameful” secret. And of course the drama, rejection and ridicule I had feared for so long never happened.
Through my clients I have learned that sexual shame is incredibly common. Although the story and experiences attached are different, so many of us carry shame around sex – whether that is about not being good enough, not “normal” or unworthy to experience sexual pleasure. It is the cause of much distress, loneliness and sexual dysfunction.
How do we move beyond shame?
- Have the courage to be vulnerable and authentic. In other words share your fears with someone trustworthy. This could be a close friend, or a professional therapist or coach. Shame thrives on secrecy.
- Develop self –acceptance. You are aiming to speak to your inner self with the same compassion you would show a close and beloved friend.
- Parent your inner child. Your wounded inner child is the one attempting to keep you safe. Seek professional help if this feels too difficult to do alone.
- Celebrate you! One way to do this is through creative expression. I love to dance. It helps me get into my body, have greater love and acceptance for myself, express myself authentically and joyfully and feel really alive. It’s a great launching pad for letting go of shame and expressing yourself fully in the world.