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Shame: An Honest, but Painful Emotion

I think that most of us have things that we feel embarrassed about. We might even have things that we feel ashamed of. Are there things about yourself that you would rather other people not know? Things that you would far prefer not come up in conversation?

One thing that has made me very uncomfortable for a great many years is my discomfort driving. Yes, that’s right. Driving freaks me out.

As some of you might know, I suffered with agoraphobia and panic attacks as a teenager. As such, it likely comes as no surprise that I didn’t rush out to the MTO on my sweet sixteen as many independence-seeking teenagers do. Instead, I waited. And waited. And then waited some more.

There always seemed to be a reason why it wasn’t a good time to start driving. In my early 20s, I had a strong emotional reaction to having my vision corrected to 20/20. How, I reasoned, could I safely drive with less than perfect vision—even though an 18/20 correction would have been deemed legally appropriate. Following that, I didn’t live at home, so it wasn’t convenient to go driving with my parents.

There was always something.

“I’m in school and don’t need the expense of a car.”

“My parents’ cars are too expensive to learn on.”

“It’s a bad idea to let your romantic partner teach you how to drive.”

And so on went the excuses until the mere thought of driving was powerful enough to give me heart palpitations. Sadly, as time went on, the idea of learning to drive became more and more daunting. It felt increasingly embarrassing not to be able to drive—a skill (to be dramatic for the sake of emphasis) that even ditzy, reckless teenagers manage to master. As strange as it might sound, I think that part of me felt like it would be less embarrassing to simply never drive than admit I didn’t know how and still needed to learn.

Finally, just before my 30th birthday, my sister convinced me to take the plunge and at least get my G1 learner’s permit. After much angst, this was achieved. I was proud of myself for doing it, but sometimes had to fight hard to silence the negative self talk. I fought to replace the, “You should feel embarrassed that it has taken you so long to do this basic thing” with empowering messages like, “Good for you for having the courage to do something that challenges you.”

Knowing how nervous I felt at the prospect driving, my dad very thoughtfully gifted me with Young Drivers In-Class and In-Car lessons. I don’t remember the exact timeline anymore, but it took me at least a year to dredge up the internal fortitude to sit in for the Young Drivers in-class sessions. I really had to marshal my self-confidence to withstand the idea of being in class with a group of teenagers. I then waited for just about as long as I could before completing the in-car component.

Are you noticing a theme here? Yes, my resistance was powerful.

Finally, just before my license was set to expire, I booked my G2 road test, as well as a few supplementary lessons with Young Drivers. I took my G2 road test... and failed.

But, SURPRISE, I misunderstood the graduated licensing system. I thought that, because one needs to wait a year between getting one’s G2 and taking one’s G test, I needed to pass my G2 with at least a year left on my license. But no. One simply needs to pass one’s G2 test by the license expiry date and then be willing to pay to have one’s license extended, thus granting oneself another five years to attain one’s full G license.

I think my shock and pleasant surprise was the wake up call I needed. Since some of the aforementioned negative dialogue still sought to seep into my conscious mind and I was ever paranoid about the possibility of hurting others as I sought to become a competent driver, I decided to suck it up and pay for yet more lessons with Young Drivers. As I got better, I started to go out driving with my parents and a good friend.

In the end, I wound up taking over 50 private lessons with Young Drivers, but it paid off because I now have my G2 license.

Have I grown to adore driving? No, though I do hold out hope for the future! Do I still prefer to avoid highways? Heck, yes! But that’s okay because I have learned to stretch my limits, while still respecting my comfort zone.

In the end, it isn’t our “failures” or perceived shortcomings that truly define us. “Failing” is immaterial. What truly matters is how we respond to hardships. Do we give up and accept defeat, or do we get up, dust ourselves off, and keep working towards our goals until we succeed?

It isn’t always easy to face our demons, but it certainly can be character building. It’s incredible how empowered we can feel on the other side of a hurdle that once seemed insurmountable.


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