Straightening Out The Shame Spiral: I’m Sometimes A Bad Feminist

Sometimes I feel like the world’s worst feminist.

I mean, here I sit, telling people I want to see them be brave. I triumphantly think that I’m starting to see my own worth. I focus on my achievements and I find beauty in fatness and I think, society and my haters (oh, there are haters!) and everyone who overlooks me is not going to win this time. And I promise – I really do believe it at the time. I really do see my own beauty and strength.

And now I’m writing a post that’s going to show just what a failure at feminist empowerment I am.

Almost a year ago, I broke up with my girlfriend of 2 years. And it was hard, and painful, though necessary. Like all relationships that don’t work, this one was broken for months before we finally called it quits. There’s a little thing called denial, and denial makes you think that a bad situation is just comfortable enough that you can stick it out because it means that you’re not swimming in the void, trying to find happiness again. You actually start to believe that a bad situation is happy, and you point it out to friends. “See, we had this happen today. And that means it’s good at the core. It means that all the bad stuff is a blip on the radar.”

But the bad stuff starts to be the norm, and the happy stuff starts to be a blip on the radar. And maybe you walk on eggshells most of the time, but you’re so used to treading lightly that that’s normal, too. And when it does end . . .  it’s like a simultaneous punch to the stomach that forces out all the bad stuff so that you can finally breathe the fresh air.

But I mean, that’s cool. It happened almost a year ago. And I’ve mostly healed from being in a very intense, very emotionally abusive, very co-dependent relationship that had a lot of happy stuff that I still think back on and smile about. You never do forget the first person who makes you feel beautiful even in your pajamas and fuzzy slippers.

Except that when you have scars, sometimes they just have an old, deep ache. And after awhile, you can ignore it. Until someone punches you right in the old wound again.

So I’m a bad feminist today. I saw a picture of my ex looking amazing. Happy, healthy, and successful. And I couldn’t remember to be brave, because all I could feel was nasty jealousy, a lot of hurt, and feelings of disgust at myself for being that way.

Look, no one is perfect, and I’m not trying to beat myself up for being human. But as my friend Anne says (and is saying right now, as we chat over FB), we’re affected by the patriarchy even when we’re aware of it, and it still hurts. I spent a lot of time tonight feeling like the ugliest human being in the world. And it’s not true. Even if all I ever cared about was superficial outward beauty, I’m not a hideous monster. But though rationally I know that, the scar keeps throbbing.

I am lucky that I have good friends who are ready to tell me to stop being ridiculous while acknowledging my feelings and listening to my fears. They accept my humanity, but they tell me it’s time to stop feeling ashamed and regretful of something that would have never worked, anyway. And maybe that’s why though I’m being a bad feminist today, not practicing what I preach, I recognize the influence of feminism in my own life. My friends – women, and also men – are looking past the superficiality of my depressive shame spiral and reminding me to be brave.

Shannon, a new friend of mine, tells a really good story about running a marathon and experiencing feelings of jealousy. And in the end, she reminds us all to run our own damn marathons. Because in the end, it’s our own race that matters, not how someone else ran theirs. It’s such a simple concept, but it’s so hard. I experience feelings of jealousy towards other women all the time. I want to be noticed, to feel special. I want to matter to people (and I do matter – it just sometimes doesn’t seem to be good enough, and I want to be told. Honesty is the best policy!).

I can blame some of that on society. I can blame it on going through a traumatic breakup and hoping my ex looks at pictures of me and is jealous of my life without her. Or I can blame it on myself. Because in the end, it’s my feelings and thoughts that have to change. It’s me that has to straighten out this shame spiral.

So today, I’m a bad feminist. Tomorrow, I’m going to pick myself back up, forgive myself for not practicing what I preach, and return to running my own marathon.

Because the scar might always hurt a bit, but I don’t have to let it bring me to my knees.

Dark and light. Taken by me, found on my Instagram.

Dark and light. Taken by me, found on my Instagram.

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