No one is immune from feelings of shame. No matter who you are, how successful by social standards or what kind of position of authority you hold, shame is part of being human.
Since my personal stand is for all of us to have the freedom to be conscious leaders of our lives, I know that shame can erode the spirit, and distract us from what we want to do, who we want to be and who we can be.
We cannot inspire and lead when we suffer from free-floating or debilitating shame.
Since Brené Brown‘s liberating research, we are more familiar and perhaps even more comfortable with the subject of shame.
Among many of her important distinctions are these; shame denotes “I am a mistake” and guilt, “I made a mistake.” If either of them seriously diverts your ability to live with a sense of fortitude, worthiness and purpose, there are many ways to remedy that.
Often, guilt translates into “I am a mistake, unworthy, wrong and bad,” even if we draw demarcation lines. They bleed into one another.
Shame comes in many forms – the misguided offences and excesses of youth, the unintended consequences of passion, the broken hearts and unkind words – all of which, when remembered, cause us to cringe.
Then there are all the ways in which we’ve been targeted or taunted for being bigger, smaller, thinner, heavier, darker, lighter, of this culture, of that race, of this faith, of that gender.
There are forms of shame that seem less tangible, lingering like a low-grade infection. They hang around like a fog that refuses to lift, nagging like the overbearing relative who doesn’t know when to keep quiet or leave. They gang up, come in waves, and when they come, they strike hard.
They tell you that you’re not enough, not as good as, that you don’t add up, that there’s something intrinsically wrong with you, and they rattle on.
You may think that removing shame will take a supernatural intervention. But what you need is to practice telling new stories of hope.
10 ways to cut through self-deception and move forward
- Begin by knowing with certainty that shame no longer serves you. You don’t need to give it the most comfortable chair in the house.
- Shame is a saboteur that keeps you static, victimized, stuck in poor me and in practiced helplessness.
- You can stop fanning the flame of obsession, holding yourself hostage to a memory. The bell has rung.
- If you believe that you have no choice about what you think, you’ve cast a spell on yourself through repetition. You always have choice and you’re naturally resourceful. You can find a creative way to cast a better spell and chose other thoughts – ones that empower you.
- If you have invested many hours practicing the suffering of your shame, you can also practice forgiving yourself and getting on with bigger and better things. Self-forgiveness is only a thought away, though it takes effort and vigilance to speak to yourself with gentleness and compassion.
- If you haven’t already made amends to those you’ve hurt, now may be the time. If they won’t forgive you, you must do that job.
- Your pain is self-inflicted; therefore, you can stop it. No one gets to treat you badly, least of all yourself.
- You can stop marginalizing yourself. It wasn’t okay when they once called you fat or dumb, and it isn’t okay for you to do that to yourself today.
- You can use clear, logical thinking and question the media with its messages about success that aren’t all that human or people-friendly.
- With your infinite creativity, you can find or invent something of meaning and value that is much more interesting than the old stories, that gets you wildly excited and maybe helps someone. Redirect your attention toward grander vistas.
It is in community, not in isolation, that you’ll begin to thaw and reshape your stories. It is there that you’ll learn compassion for others and find it for yourself. Together you’ll support each other in becoming whole, living from a place of confident self-authority and soul.
Many who have suffered – as we all have – are creating new stories that will inspire you and help you flourish. Hang out with those folks. You owe it to yourself.
As Jungian analyst Marion Woodman wrote,
Shame was put upon you. It is not yours. Your soul need not be limited by shame.
You, dear leader, are in charge, fierce driver of your own most glorious chariot.
Over To You
What is the central story of shame that has you spellbound? Which of the ways out of self-deception would change the story?
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First published on October 2, 2015 in The Huffington Post Business. To follow me on HuffPost, click here.
© Miriam Linderman 2015
Top photo credit: lilli2de / Foter / CC BY-SA
Bottom photo credit: Foter / CC BY-SA