They say that we learn things like hate, shame, racism, prejudice, insecurity, fear – we are not born that way. And I found that notion floating through my mind over the course of today.
Some of us do harbor an innate sense of insecurity, fear or many other possible personality traits. But I question if ‘they’ are right. Is it innate – or was it cumulative comments, experiences and judgments that resulted in our feeling the way we feel?
If someone didn’t say we are fat when we gain a few pounds, would we think of ourselves as unattractive in our weight?
If someone didn’t make us feel self-conscious about our loud mouth or quiet voice, big nose or knock-knees, would we think of ourselves as unattractive in our looks?
If we were not repeatedly rejected or abandoned, would we be ready to run from a friend, family member or love at the first slight?
And if someone didn’t make us feel weak for having a forgiving heart, would we think of ourselves as oversensitive or emotional?
When it comes to sharing personal matters, I am open, honest and willing to take the risk that others may judge. The written word, when made public, is intended to provoke thought, stir emotions and support others along their journey – it should be raw, genuine and true. If my mistakes can bring comfort to those who may be struggling with like issues, giving them hope and strength to make that next step – whatever that step may be – then my job is done. No shame about it.
Yet I am a walking paradox. If I were to meet you on the street, I may or may not choose to share anything with you. It would depend on you, the energy I absorb or that gut sense that is – always – right with me. The only mistakes I’ve made are when I disregarded my gut and allowed my heart or mind to take over. And that is a guaranteed disaster. But the struggle will continue to be real. It’s who I am. No shame about it.
If you feel shame about who you are, where you are, what you’re feeling or what you’re experiencing now – stop. My shame was learned. I am convinced that I wasn’t born with it.
Shame can be such a conflict. People tell you that you shouldn’t share this or that. People tell you that you should not admit this or that. People can make you feel bad about being honest – and that is where the seed of shame is planted and takes root.
Some shame is productive and needs to exist. It can be our reminder of damaging mistakes that serve to guide us so that history doesn’t repeat itself. It can help us rise from the ashes and strengthen our resolve to be a better human being.
It is when shame becomes crippling, paralyzing us and keeping us stuck rather than moving us forward. It is when shame becomes our existence and we can’t see past it. It is when we don’t perceive it as a lesson to be learned, but rather a cross to bear that weighs heavy on our very being.
As shameful as something may be, it can sometimes help to share it. When you say something aloud and release what you’ve been carrying alone, it can be cathartic. And you may find that you’re not alone and that shame you feel may not be as terrible as you think.
Here are some tips to help you overcome the burden of shame.
Be honest – but be selective.
Not everyone is open or willing to accept honesty. Many want to hide the mistakes, cover the errors and bury the issues. And that’s ok. But for you to move forward in your life, choose your target audience who may be yearning to listen and apply what you’ve learned from your experiences to their current dilemmas.
Be strong – with who you are.
If you think your experiences can help someone else, share. I recall how many years I suffered because I was taught that you should present a perfect image to the world – and I’m so far from perfect. I succeeded professionally – yet I was miserable. As an introverted extrovert, I was in a line of work that put me in the center of a daily dog and pony show – but that isn’t me. It was in conflict with my very being who preferred to be behind the scenes, connecting others. But I lived it out loud for years, unhappily.
If you don’t want others to feel shame, you need to be real. Don’t hide behind your mistakes or challenge an insecure person who may have everything to give, to prove themselves. Meet people where they are. Capitalize on their strengths and stop trying to overcome their weaknesses.
We all have something to give and can complement each other.
No shame about it.