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Don't be Ashamed of Your Shame

February 14, 2019

 

I love the following distinction between shame and guilt:

 

Guilt says, "I made a mistake."

 

Shame says "I am a mistake."


Shame is a normal part of our life experience.

 

For me, shame is one of the most uncomfortable emotions to feel.

 

It's only recently that I've even been willing to feel it at all.

 

In the past, I've buried it in chocolate chips or Ben&Jerry's.

 

The other morning I felt completely ashamed. 

 

In other words, 

 

I thought about a circumstance in my life in a certain way

 

and that thought caused me to feel shame.

 

And you know what I noticed?

 

Along with feeling shame, 

 

I compounded the problem with thoughts like, 

 

'I can't believe I'm even ashamed of this. 


'It's so ridiculous.

 

'This shouldn't still be a problem for me.'

 

In essence, 

 

Not only was I feeling ashamed, 

 

but I was ashamed of being ashamed. 

 

Sounds fun, right?

 

My brain is really tricky like that.

 

Once I caught on to what my brain was doing, I was able to take a step back. 

 

'First', I told myself, 'I just need to allow myself to feel some shame.'

 

So I did. 

 

I didn't resist it.

 

Or try to talk myself out of it.

 

I just opened myself up figuring out what shame feels like to me. 

 

For me, shame feels really heavy on my chest. 

 

And a buzzing in my ears. 

 

I think my toes were even tingling.

 

If shame were a color it would be black.

 

And slimy. 

 

Feeling your emotions is all about going into your body and getting out of your head.

 

Every time my brain wanted to analyze my thoughts, 

 

I just gently redirected it to focus on how I was feeling inside my body

 

And you know what? Feeling your feelings is so much easier than resisting them or avoiding them.

 

Once I processed the shame and it subsided, 

 

I took a look at my thoughts. 

 

For me, 

 

this meant I wrote everything out in my journal.

 

I didn't filter.

 

Or edit.

 

If a thought came into my brain, 

 

I wrote it down.

 

Have you ever done that?

 

It's crazy liberating.

 

You might think it's going to intensify the negative feelings,

 

but it totally diffuses them.

 

After I wrote, 

 

I took a look at the thoughts I had written down. 

 

And recognized that many of them were completely irrational. 

 

In fact, most of them were.

 

I separated the thoughts from the circumstance, 

 

and decided how I wanted to feel. 

 

And for me,

 

given the circumstance, 

 

I wanted to feel empowered. 

 

So the thought I chose to believe was

 

"The Universe has my back. Everything I'm going through is going to work in my favor."

 

That thought is really powerful for me 

 

because I believe it. 

 

Brene Brown, vulnerability and shame researcher, said this about shame:

 

 

Knowing this about shame, I called a trusted friend.

 

Do you know that taking this step was the hardest part?

 

Even though logically I knew that what I was thinking was irrational, 

 

I still wanted to hide it.

 

Because shame loves to hide.

 

Shame loves to say,

 

"Don't tell anyone. Then they'll know that something is wrong with you."

 

But I did it anyway. 

 

And of course my dear friend met me with empathy. 

 

And listened.

 

And listened.

 

And listened some more.

 

And suddenly, 

 

my secret came out of hiding.

 

And with it, 

 

the shame subsided. 

 

 If you feel ashamed for whatever reason, 

 

find someone you trust and share with them. 

 

Force your shame out of hiding. 

 

It can't survive that way.

 

 

 

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