Why I'm Finally Letting Go Of My Millennial Shame

Sex, periods, weight, I'm letting all of it go.

30 year old woman Andrey Arkusha/ Shutterstock

Sex. Periods. Weight Gain.

Shame. Shame. Shame. 

If reading the first line of this made you shudder, then I’m guessing you might have also grown up during the boy band, Y2k era or somewhere around then — and if Y2K sounds as outdated as LOL to you, then this article might not be for you.

I was born in '88 when perms were still cool and butterfly clips were getting ready to make their debut along with those spiky headbands that gave us all scalp injuries.


It was a time before the internet, smartphones, and TikTok dances. It was a different era, to allude to my girl Taylor Swift, whose music I basically grew up with being almost the same age.

Some would argue it was a happier time, a simpler time. And in some ways, I suppose that’s true.

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Still, for the women out there in their thirties, you also know that in many ways, it was a more complicated time when it came to shame, guilt and what it meant to be a "good girl."

I used to think it was just me that got squirmy when sex came up as a conversation. Or periods. Or my weight.


I used to think I’d grown up in some ultra-conservative household without really knowing it.

One where "good girls waited until marriage" and didn’t talk about anything sexual. Where sex scenes were promptly fast-forwarded, and chastity was something to be praised but not discussed. It was just a given.

I thought I was the only one who grew up hiding tampons in my sleeve and who thought the absolute worst travesty in life was someone else, especially a male, knowing I was on my period. I grew up with PMS jokes and shame around that time of the month.

And then there was the weight issue, where scales were frequented to carefully monitor every ounce.


At ten, I remember being told eating too many M&Ms would make me fat, so I needed to be careful. I was encouraged to stay the smallest size of jeans and learned that going up a size was one of the worst things that could happen.

Shame was the name of the game, in many ways.

Don’t talk about sex (or think about it). Don’t let anyone know you bleed once a month. And do not, for the love of all things, gain a pound.

But recently, I watched a TikTok that discussed how millennial baggy fashions (oversized shirts, cardigans, and camis under everything) came from our mothers, who were taught that any imperfect body or bulge needed to be covered.




It struck me how I wasn’t alone — and it opened my eyes to the unhealthy tenants that have always been a part of my body image because that was the principle I was taught.

Also recently, while listening to the Rachel Hollis podcast, I’ve come to understand that shame around periods is also something many of us have dealt with.

Few of us really even know about hormone fluctuations and how our cycles work because we really weren’t encouraged to talk about them. Periods were something we were pulled aside to discuss in fifth grade away from the boys — and something we kept hidden in high school.


We were taught that there were so many things a woman had to keep secret to stay desirable: the number of sexual partners she had, the number on the scale (unless it was impressive, but I’ve yet to know what was deemed impressive) and when she needed to buy tampons.

Discretion was needed to preserve the image that womanhood was dainty perfection at its finest.

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It’s crazy to me that it took until my thirties to realize how messed up all the shame put on the women of my generation was.

I’m of course not talking about everyone. I’m sure there are some of you out there who grew up with a healthy view of sex, periods, and weight. But I know from talking to others, from social media, and from women being willing to share their stories that there are many of us who grew up in the cloud of shame.


I also know it isn’t just women this happens to; millennial men had their own set of expectations to abide by, too.

But I’m here to talk about the experience I know — which is that these feelings of guilt played a big role in my twenties and I don’t think I even realized it.

Seeing the new generation of Gen-Z girls, though, gives me hope.

This new generation seems to be more confident in their bodies, no matter their size or shape. Crop tops abound and confidence flourishes. They aren’t afraid to talk about hormones or cramps.

As a society, I think we’ve become more open about sexuality, with a plethora of sex podcasts and books discussing the topic in ways that empower women instead of sticking with the antiquated views of sex.


Still, as a woman in her thirties, what does this mean for us? Is this why so many of us feel a little lost in this decade, a little outdated, a little unsure?

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Part of the secret to coming to peace with this topic is recognizing how our pasts shaped our views.

Was it all bad? No, of course not. There were benefits to how we were raised (see: fewer smartphones.)

If nothing else, I think being able to stand on our own two feet and say "no" to a narrative we were taught builds strength of character and assurance in our own, individual beliefs.

We can't blame our parents or the generation before us. Our parents did the best they could with what they had. I do believe that.


Still, I think we owe it to ourselves and the future to recognize that it’s a different time. We’re different.

Many of us have healed. Masturbation, female orgasms, menstrual cups … hopefully, these topics no longer feel taboo for us.

We understand that periods are natural. We realize that sexual experiences should be about women's pleasure, too, and not just about pleasing men. We understand that all bodies are beautiful, especially our own.

Still, it’s a journey many of us still walk on every day. It’s a journey of self-love, of forgiveness and of stepping out of the box many of us were taped into.

One of my friend’s parents used to say, "You are who you are, where you are, when." 


It’s a beautiful sentiment about how our surroundings and backgrounds influence who we become and what we do.

You are who you are, where you are, when. 

But I think what I’ve come to understand is that the when has changed — and so can we.

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Lindsay Detwiler is the USA Today Bestselling Author of The Widow Next Door. In addition to writing novels, several of her articles have appeared in myriad prominent women’s publications.