The Secret World of Platforms and Bells: A Personal Short Story


One of the ways I Personalized my own family trauma was to take on the belief that I was too small. (Read more about Personalizing Trauma)

I rationalized and believed then that my smallness of size and stature contributed to the trauma around me. I became deeply ashamed of my smallness. I believed that if my friends were to know how truly small I was, I would suffer from them trauma similar to that I had suffered in my household. So I created a secret. I attempted to hide the reality that I was small. This was an involuntary secret. It was involuntary because at the time I wasn’t aware I was using secrecy as a tool to protect me. (Read more about Involuntary Secrets)


Now, in a way I was fortunate to live in the seventies, because, in that decade, you could buy platform shoes and cover your platforms with bell-bottom pants. And this is exactly what I did. I went everywhere and did everything in my platform-bell-bottom combo.

I scored a whole lot of goals as a soccer player on the school playground in those platforms: if you knocked on my front-door you would be standing outside waiting for as long as it took for me to put on my bells and zip up my platforms. During late-night teenage parties, if I was tired and had to go lie down, you would find me sleeping in my bells and platforms.

I was so successful at the disguise that one morning I was caught in a rainstorm and I arrived late for school. My platforms were soaked through, so I unzipped them and placed them on the radiators for a few minutes to dry. Inevitably, I was caught in my stocking feet by a passing student. I still remember him making the comment I so dreaded to hear: “I didn’t realize you were that small.” I felt a deep humiliation when he said that and a panic that he would go to the rest of his friends and tell them that he had uncovered my secret. I vowed I would never be caught out again. Never, under any circumstances, not for anybody, would I remove those shoes in a public situation again.

My shame was the part of me who felt small and therefore inadequate and deficient. (Read more about Parts)

My defenses were the parts of me who believed that if this aspect of me were to be known, the “pain” of this shame would be felt again, and so their job was to creatively keep this part – the Small Part – out of sight: out of your sight – and out of the sight of my own awareness. (Read more about Defenses)

Had you asked me how tall I was back then, I would have added a couple of inches onto my answer. In reality, I am five feet, two inches tall. (Even now as I write this, as I reveal this once hidden fact to a wider public audience I feel an ever so slight twinge in my stomach in reflection of a defense part deep down who still whispers, “Are you sure you know what you are doing? Do you want to risk rejection from your readers?”).

In the seventies, I was five feet four inches tall – five inches if I could get away with it. To take my shoes off and stand in front of you as five-feet two, would have been for you to see my pain: the shame of my inadequacy. I held inside the expectations that you would taunt, bully and shame me.

 So, instead, I created a secret – an involuntary secret. Except, I would never have told you that I have a secret, nor did I admit to myself that I have a secret. (Read more about Secrets)



Contemplation Questions:

What aspects of yourself do you feel shame towards?

What parts of your character and personality do you withdraw and hide from your world?

Do you hide them from yourself, meaning you will never admit to yourself that they exist, or that you feel that way about yourself?

What started this secret?

Is there a cost to your secret now?

How might your life be different if chose not to hide away these parts of yourself?


You have just read an excerpt from Pietro Abela’s forthcoming book, A Return to Consciousness

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I wish you well


8 thoughts on “The Secret World of Platforms and Bells: A Personal Short Story

  1. As a small person who always wished to be tall and thin I can understand the part of you that felt shame for also being small. Somewhere along the way I learned to “build” a “big” personality to compensate. I think you have shown yourself to be very tall in sharing this information. Thank you.

  2. Robin Maynard-Dobbs

    Pietro – I can certainly understand the urgency behind the part that says, do I really want to reveal this? I am already feeling inadequate and this just confirms it. At the same time, shame flourishes when it is kept secret. On the other hand, shame can breathe and stretch and check out if its really so here and now when it is shared. The power of vunerablity is that it connects us to our humanness. Everybody’s got something they dont want to show.

    • Thank you for your wise words, Robin.

      The shame I recounted was prominent for me up until twenty years ago. These days I simply don’t think of my size in relation to anyone else. This reflects the comfort I now have with myself.

      As a public speaker of twenty years I rarely experience stage fright before an audience. However, if that audience is unfamiliar stage fright will make an appearance before settling down again. When I was writing about shame for my book and I used myself and my own shame as an example, that stage fright briefly showed up, because I was intimately sharing myself before an unfamiliar audience. And then it quickly settled down again.

      Before posting this recent blog, again stage-fright-anxiety emerged. Representing emotions and feeling is foundational to my work. I felt it was important to leave that sentence intact so that my anxiety as well as my old shame could have honest representation.

      Then, as you say Robin, shame was allowed to breathe and to stretch.

      Thank you.

  3. i always felt small as a person growing up. the school that i attended was separated into a senior school at grade 9. we had regular assemblies and had to stand in order of size. i was always at the beginning. it always upset me. as most of my friends were very tall and stood far away from me. but as i grew up and after school i discovered that i this did not bother me any more. it was not an issue as i grew to accept and feel better and more confident about myself. it also did not help that my younger sister was several inches taller than me after my 12th birthday.i think that i grew into my own person!

    • Thank you for your very personal comment, Daphne.

      So it sounds as if your self-confidence outgrew the issue you originally had around your size. Would this be true for you?

      • i do believe that to be mother once said to me” good things come in small packages” i replayed that quote many times. so all a part of gaining self confidence.

  4. Hello Pietro
    Thank you for sharing an authentic story which is a brave form of permission giving for secret story sharing!
    I am appreciating the model of overcoming our defensive reactions to those old stories of trauma in our daily lives. Understanding that given certain triggers old secret shame patterns resurface albeit temporarily based on current personal resourcefulness…

    Recently I was noticing/celebrating the lack of presence in my life of my “bad girl” secret. A former (for the most part) belief that deep down there was something inherently bad about me that meant I deserved to be punished and that somehow I was to blame for whatever transpired during conflict between myself and others. I get that …..that part of me was thinking in a truly egocentric and self sabotaging dysfunctional pattern. Now there are other secrets that I seem to hind behind.

    With my “Masters in Counselling completed almost two decades ago and my ongoing life personal growth work….many many workshops, courses, personal therapy sessions” since then….there is still a big part of me that isfearful about my capacity/ability to step out into the counselling world in a public way again.

    This fear part of me seems a little complex and I am taking license her to explore it and risking that other of your clients might wonder about my wellbeing should they read this bloggi style…and perhaps it is obvious this is self real stuff?

    On the one hand I believe I have the training and the skills to do Counselling work again…and on the other hand I fear I should not as my behind the scene judgments are rather “bad.” Perhaps “activist!” My “impulsive outspeaking” angry part will sabotage my capacity. When I left Public Education and my Counselling position I publicly ranted at a School Trustee whom I happened upon in a hallway of a public building one day.. (This fellow tried to defend himself from my attack on him which accused him of having a toosubmissive role as a school board trustee. He explained to me something I already knew… that he too had a school counselling background.) He claimed to know and understand the challenge faced by public school teachers faced in the classroom because of this. I suggested to him that this was not possible. Even I ….then currently employed as a school counsellor…with classroom visits part of my every day work… did not really know what it was like to be teaching day after day… in a classroom environment with several special needs children that with very little outside “real” qualified help to address their needs. And at the end our our conflict the school trustee started pointing his finger in my face telling me something in an angry voice ….I never really heard. The conflict ended with me mockingly telling him that I thought pointing a finger in someone’s face was counsellor training 1O1… Ugh! And walking away. I felt somewhat triumphant…and have never apologised! Actually I did apologize to the gentleman who was standing next to him but he claimed to not remember the interaction :)!

    So how do I enter back on a stage as a helpee with so many individuals on that stage that I want to shake up and whom I judge to be dishonest in their lack of genuine regard for others.

    My parts have opposing secrets. One secret being perhaps I am not good enough to do the work. The other secret …180 mirror reflective opportunity…I am scared of my impulsive attack voice that wants to attack others… Even though I am more than capable of doing the work. I secretly believe that I often recognise something horribly remiss in others. And, this attitude/belief opens up my anxious parts and gets in the way of my ability to participate in social occasions in a relaxed way. I dislike my arrogance and my lack of compassion and I fear anger erupting! How much are these secrets interfering with my ability to get out and enjoy life more and how much as they getting in the way of my ability to act in genuine in loving and caring ways??

    And, of course another secret is that a part of me enjoys imagining how incredibly capable I could be as a counsellor now…BUT! Has my “bad girl” secret really disappeared or have I just given that “bad girl egocentric imposter” part just another stage to exist on? Of course I can control my “impulsive angry outbursts now most of the time” and I have done so in family situations….although I still need a lot more practise at expressing anger in healthy non codependent ways……..!!! And, truthfully the school trustee attack is the only public type attack I can remember acting out? Truthfully, I my goal is to stop allowing the anxiety/judgemental part of me to get in the way of healthier living!

    Thank you… Pietro

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