Before we can drop shame (or at least lessen it), we must understand what it is. So what is shame? Brene Brown calls shame “something about me that if other people know it or see it, that I won’t be worthy of connection.” The dictionary calls it “a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.” So let’s break that definition down … what if we can lessen the pain, humiliation and distress by really getting and believing that our behavior wasn’t necessarily wrong or even foolish? Let’s simply accept decisions we have made and forgive ourselves. (Cue the Serenity Prayer.)
Let's put having herpes into context. Put it back into perspective of your whole life and all the myriad decisions you have ever made. If getting herpes was the result of one decision you made to sleep with that one person, then let it be just that (without the 20/20 vision). It was a single decision amongst many. Would you have similar humiliation about other decisions in your life? Would the shame be just as intense? If you’re deep in debt, would the decision to purchase your car feel the same? This is the key to self-forgiveness: At the time, we didn't know better. Now we do. We don't get to judge our past selves based on something our present self knows from hindsight. When we can use these times as opportunities to learn and grow instead of judge and shame, we can discover the gold hidden in the shadows.
The secret is the perceived negative aspects of herpes don’t change your identity unless you actually identify with them. Identifying with certain things and not others is ultimately our decision. After all, a negative comment only affects the person who agrees with it (For example, to a blonde, a nasty comment like “Your green hair is ugly!” would most certainly not get in because it's clearly not true.)
Human nature (and especially our overly-marketed society) unfortunately gives us the sense that there is something inherently wrong with us (especially me, says you). And herpes seems to be that thing that pushes that feeling into reality, that somehow proves those feelings of inadequacy to be true. Well, it’s not true. There’s nothing wrong with you. You can let that go and be free to find a new, more empowering belief to live by.