I’m so ashamed…

Yeah. Here I am… the dregs of society. Not good enough to conquer myself, not smart enough that an employer would want to keep me even though I have a disability, not physically strong enough to “just do it”, not mentally strong enough to force through on willpower alone.

Stop it.

I am not a fan of positive thinking. I’m not a fan of hypnosis tapes or soothing water fall meditations. I don’t need anyone to coddle me and I certainly don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me.

I’m also not a fan of beating someone when they’re down. And guess what.. I’m down.  Because no matter how much of an adventure it is, being homeless isn’t an optimum mode of living.

So if I refuse to beat on someone who’s down, why do I allow myself to be beaten down? Even more confusing, why am I the one beating on myself?

So stop it. If you’re reading this and you’re in a similar position, stop it, right now (but keep reading). If you’re reading this and thinking of someone you know who’s in this position and thinking “I know they could pull themselves up if they would just try!”, stop it!

Now for the consideration of the feelings.  It’s no wonder I want to feel ashamed of myself. There is great social stigma attached to being homeless, or even being nomadic (which is usually something completely different).  We teach our children to fear “the bums” and use the homeless as object lessons against drugs (hint, most people aren’t homeless because of drugs; though many do use drugs to get away from the reasons that made them homeless).   And humans are primarily a pack animal. We want to fit in, we want to be safe in the middle of the herd.

So.. you’re sitting there saying, Sure, I know why I feel ashamed, I know that it’s not a good idea to beat myself into a pulp about where I am in life, but I don’t know how to NOT feel ashamed.

I’m not too sure how that works either. Some people will tell you to offer help to those who are even more unfortunate than you are. Okaaaay.. sure, but what if you *are* the bottom rung in the little fishbowl you inhabit? And why should you have to focus on the fact that at least you’re one rung above someone else? That doesn’t seem to be a very stable point to base your emotional well-being on. Some people will say “focus on what you CAN do, not on what you can’t do.” Okay, great. There’s lots of things I can do but no one else puts any value on those things I can still do. Not all that useful for regaining your self-respect when no one else respects you.

I think that it all comes down to knowing how to accept other’s value judgements without internalizing those value judgements. How do you do this? I don’t know really. My guess is to stop “caring” what “other people” say. I haven’t been very successful at this.

What has helped me the most is to try and understand why other people say what they do. Are they afraid they might end up homeless and not be able to survive homeless? Are they angry because they feel guilty because they’re going out for steak that night and Sunday’s sermon was feeding the poor? Are they trying to improve their pack position by currying favor with those more popular (which leads them to ridicule, heckle, or abuse you)?

When I look at their actions this way, I find that I often feel sorry for *them*. Not for myself. *I* am prepared and can adapt to living homeless without falling apart. I don’t have anything to feel guilty for, I share with those I can (even being homeless I can share what I have, knowledge, maybe some prepared food, a real conversation person to person), and take care of myself as responsibly as I can so I don’t take up space that someone else might need in the hospital or the shelter or the food bank. I have no need to improve my pack position. I know where I am in the pack, I know that I have the skills to live here, and I’m busy living instead of manipulating or fawning over someone else.

That’s the best thing I’ve come up with for myself. Of course your reasoning will be your own.

If you aren’t homeless but reading this blog, would you be ashamed to be homeless?  How would you deal with it? Would you feel that being ashamed is all you’re worth?

If you are homeless, are you ashamed? If so, for the same reasons I mentioned? If not, why not? And did you have to learn to not be ashamed or were you one of the few who never saw anything to be ashamed about from the start?

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