Women's History Month: Jasmine Manalo
Ridding myself from shame to live authentically
By: Jasmine Manalo
I never really learned what it meant to love myself until a few years ago and I am still continuing to work on it everyday. I’ve also realized that I’ve always felt a major disconnection with the relationship I have with my friends and family. There were many things that I let stand in the way of self-love, pure happiness and overall authenticity. What was my biggest barrier? The answer- shame. Shame would make me feel humiliated, exposed and small which caused me to build such a thick wall of protection with my relationships with others. It wasn’t until my first relationship of 6 years ended where it caused me to do some major, deep self-reflection. Before dealing with my shame, I really wanted to understand what caused me to have so much shame.
People pleasing- Since I was a little girl, the idea of fitting in was a part of my everyday life. I’m Filipino who grew up in a predominantly white neighborhood. I witnessed and became a victim of bullying because I looked different from the majority of the kids. All I wanted was to be liked by my peers and so I did anything I could to fit- I became a people pleaser. I think my parents were subconsciously taking action so that I will appear like the other kids. My parents are immigrants and their first language is Tagalog, but it was never spoken in our household. They would rarely cook Filipino food and opted for very westernized foods. My mom encouraged me to use papaya soap and would often highlight my dark black hair to appear more “blonde”. If you’re wondering what papaya soap is- Filipinos often use this to bleach their skin, essentially to look “whiter”. The idea of people pleasing to fit in became second nature, and I carried it all throughout my life.
Bottled up emotions- Talking about your emotions is very taboo for Asian culture in general, and this was definitely the case for my family. Growing up, I don’t recall ever seeing my parents express any negative emotion and it was always happy and unbothered. The most troubling time my family experienced was when my Dad was diagnosed with kidney failure. Even through this tough time, not once did I see my Mom scared or sad and not once did I see my Dad show any sign of weakness. It was almost like showing you had any emotional pain was a burden. My parents only showed me the strong, tough, joyful and positive side of themselves and I grew up doing the same.
Seeking validation- The growth of social media occurred during my young adolescent years. I’ll let that statement speak for itself. Social media added fuel to my fire of people pleasing and bursted into this constant chase for validation.
In high school, I fell in love for the first time and that relationship grew as we journeyed our way through college together turning into a 6 year relationship. It came to an abrupt end when I found out that he was being unfaithful. I couldn’t clearly wrap my head around how two people who gave each other their whole hearts can hurt someone so bad. I kept thinking it was all my fault and that ultimately I am not worthy to be loved and to love. So what does people pleasing, validation seeker, who doesn’t deal with her emotions Jasmine do? Move on to the next person who would instantly give me what I needed to hear at that moment to solidify my worthiness. But that’s the thing- I was so busy seeking validation from someone else that I didn’t bother trying to find validation in myself.
Throughout my life I’ve felt shame for who I was and for who I wasn’t. I grew up feeling humiliated that I was Filipino and I looked different from everyone else, causing me to say and do what people wanted just to fit in. I was taught to always have a smile on my face and never talk about my emotional pain. I struggled with feeling good enough and I hustled for any sense of worthiness. I’m always learning to love myself fully and live as authentic as possible. A few years ago I stumbled upon Brené Brown’s “The Gift of Imperfection” where she talks about shame resilience. Whenever that warm feeling washes over me that makes me feel flawed and not good enough, I turn to these set of questions she poses:
Who do you become when you’re backed into that shame corner?
How do you protect yourself?
Who do you call to work through the mean-nasties of the cry-n-hides or the people pleasing?
What’s the most courageous thing you could do for yourself when you feel small and hurt?
For most of my life I’ve been dealing with shame by withdrawing myself from those I considered the closest to me, silencing myself, keeping secrets and seeking approval from others. Over the years I’ve learned to acknowledge that I am worthy and I’ve learned to embrace my imperfections, which has overall brought me courage, compassion and deeper connections with my personal relationships. I’m nowhere near perfect and I still have my fair amount of struggles with shame. I’ve started to get to really get to know myself and so far I’m loving this person I’m getting to know. Even better, I love introducing this person to my family, friends and significant other.