Say Goodbye to Shame

by Christiane Northrup, M.D.

Emotional Well-being

As you know by now, my book, The Secret Pleasures of Menopause, revealed a big secret. The secret is that the second half of your life can be the very best half of your life. Why? Because by virtue of having lived through the first half of your life, you now know what’s important and what’s not. Something that would have really thrown you off course at the age of 30 or younger doesn’t bother you a bit.

Here’s an example. Back in my 30’s I was walking down the hospital corridor after going to the ladies room. And one of the anesthesiologists stopped me to tell me that my skirt was tucked up into my panty hose! I thought I’d die of embarrassment. I thought of little else for three days. It made me sick to my stomach. Would he tell all the other doctors? How could I have been such a fool? My mind reeled with the shame of it all. And it was a physical reaction that I simply couldn’t talk myself out of—no matter how hard I tried.

Having done quite a bit of work on the subject of shame at that time, I also knew (intellectually at least), that my reaction had something to do with some kind of shameful experience from childhood in which I had learned that anything having to do with the bathroom and exposure of one’s underwear was truly shameful. I couldn’t remember any childhood trauma of this nature, however.

Fast-forward 20 years. In my early 50’s, I was in a Starbucks in California. And when I emerged from the ladies room, one of the young women behind the counter told me that my skirt was tucked up into my pantyhose! This time I simply laughed, removed the skirt, and didn’t think another thing of it—except to congratulate myself on having released so much shame in the ensuing 20 years!! I’ll bet you can come up with your own examples.

By the age of 50 or so, your self-worth is no longer based nearly as much on how you look, who you’re with, or many of the other externals factors that are simply not that important. By the age of 50 most of us have also gone through the death of at least a few close loved ones. (My father and sister died within a nine months of each other when I was 27 years old.) We know what grief feels like. And compared to the loss of a family member or other loved one, walking out of the ladies room flashing your backside to the world is truly no big deal! So whether it’s a small humiliation or a big grief, at midlife you know the truth of the saying, “This too shall pass.” What a huge relief, eh?

Last Updated: October 31, 2008

Christiane Northrup, M.D.

Christiane Northrup, M.D., is a visionary pioneer and a leading authority in the field of women’s health and wellness. Recognizing the unity of body, mind, and spirit, she empowers women to trust their inner wisdom, their connection with Source, and their ability to truly flourish.

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