You Have No Power Over Me – On Shame, Empowerment and Telling Stories

by Sarah on June 12, 2015

Last night, I was at a body positive underwear party (hosted by the amazing Pleasure Pie), and one of the exercises we did was to pair up with someone and tell them our life story in six minutes or less with a focus on how we have viewed our bodies.

Once upon a time, an exercise like that would have deeply triggered me, and I might have told a story about struggling with my body, disliking my body, or hoping to change it. But last night, instead, I found myself telling a story with a much happier ending.

I’ve been reading Daring Greatly by BrenĂ© Brown recently, and one of the things she talks a lot about is how bringing things that feel shameful into the light is a way to take the power out of them. And I think that is what has happened with my body image story; each time I’ve told a piece, whether to a friend, on this blog, or on a stage, it has helped dispel some of the silence and secrecy and guardedness I had previously felt around talking about my experiences of my body.

By telling my story over and over, I have dispelled its power over me.

As a result, tonight, rather than crying or feeling sad or not being able to access my words, I told my story from a place of empowerment. And as I told it, I wove in a new thread – one of knowing that my body has always been fine. Even though I may have struggled with the messages I received from external people and structures, I had this beautiful realization that I’ve always kind of known I was okay and that finding the size positive movement has only validated what I already felt to be true.

But the only way to get to that place where I could tell my story cleanly and without shame was to first tell it when I was still stumbling around in darkness and didn’t yet know its shape. I had to stand up over and over again and say things that felt overwhelmingly hard in an attempt to continuously shed little bits of light on the landscape.

Realizing last night that I was finally at a place where I could see the whole thing for what it is felt incredibly empowering and also breathtaking in it’s awesomeness.

This also comes on a week when I’ve felt strongly that I want to recommit to my writing, and I hope this is only the first piece of that, because by continue to tell my stories here (and hopefully on some other platforms as well), I can bring even more light to the dark shame-y places of my stories and take back the power from cultural narratives that have been imposed on them.

And if I can do that for myself, then maybe the world will also get a little bit lighter for someone else.

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