Shame Shame!

June 30, 2014 | Gabriel Colella

“Shame derives its power from being unspeakable.” – Brene’ Brown

Shame…one of the most pervasive and prevalent emotions in our society today. Underlying shame is a distinct fear of connection and a fear of vulnerability. It is one of a few reasons that we put on that plastic smile or avoid social interaction altogether. Shame also stops us from being the full expression of who we are. We hide the parts of ourselves that we are ashamed of, often feeling like no one else feels the same way. We are not alone; everyone feels shame at some point and usually about the same things. We often so closely associate what we do and who we are that when we feel shame about something we have done, we become ashamed of who we are.

Shame

While I was driving the other day, I went to pass someone and right at the point when I was side by side with their car, my muffler went. All of a sudden it was really loud and sounded like I really laid on the gas. At that moment I also felt a pang of embarrassment. Embarrassment is one of those emotions that are fueled by guilt and shame. As I continued down the road and became OK with how loud my car was, I began to think, “Wow, my car sounds really bad-ass!” Then I thought, “I wish my car looked and felt as bad-ass as it sounded!”

As the beginning of a new Weight Liberation Tele-Class was on the horizon for me, my thoughts naturally wandered to how people often feel the same way. People often wish they could look as good as they feel, or feel as good as they look, or just look and feel better altogether. This is often where the subject of shame enters our experience. Shame is one of the most pervasive and prevalent emotions in our society today. Shame is often what stops people from being the full expression of who they are and it has a very potent ability to stop us in our lives and from living our lives fully.

Shame-1

One of the great underlying contributors to shame is a distinct fear of connection and a fear of vulnerability. It is one of the main reasons people put on that plastic smile or avoid social interaction altogether. We tend to hid the parts of ourselves that we are ashamed of, often feeling like no one else feels the same way about themselves, or that we are the only one that people are thinking negative things about. When we make it wrong to be who we are, shame takes over and we find ourselves in isolation, often afraid to make the next step in our lives, or ask for what we need or want from others, and even our ability to “put ourselves out in the world” gets diminished.

This may appear to be a general statement at first, but take it in and digest it: We are ashamed of what we are and what we are not. For example, maybe you come from a family that is not wealthy, or your dad drives an old beat up car, or your mom is not as pretty or as “cool” as your friend’s mom. Also, if we identify with the things we like, do and have, then we can be ashamed of who we are altogether. When we are ashamed, we diminish ourselves, our lives and our potential. What is it that we can do about shame when it appears in our lives?

When shame appears in your life there are 5 simple things you can do to manage it:

1) Delete The Need To Compare
One of the ways that is easy for shame to show up is when we start comparing ourselves to others. Comparison can be healthy and show us what we do and don’t want in our lives, but when we start using comparison to judge ourselves, that is when it is of a great detriment to us. If you are aware that your comparisons are starting to bring you down, you are probably inducing shame upon yourself. Take a moment and be grateful for what you have and understand that someone else’s life is really no better than yours. They just live in another set of circumstances. For example, they may have more money, but they may have a horrible family life, or no family at all. It is all about how you are looking at it.

2) Focus On Who You Are, Not What You Do
One of the ways shame is expressed in our lives is in how we judge what we do. Remember, it is not what you do, but how you do it. How you do something comes from who you are. What you do is often based on choices you make, and those choices either come from love or fear. The more you make choices from fear, the more opportunity there is for shame to creep in. For example, you may be doing something with mindfulness and care, but if the goal of that action is directed or driven by fear you may be leading yourself down the path to feeling shame, especially if it does not work out the way you want it to. Who you are is bigger than what you do. Take a moment to go inside and connect with your whole Being to remind yourself that you are bigger than your fears and bigger than your situation.

3) Awareness
While considering our choices, it is beneficial to engage the observer, that part of yourself that is aware of what you are thinking and feeling from moment to moment. If you don’t regularly observe your thoughts, now is a good time to start. Observe the choices you make and take a moment to really engage what that choice feels like in your body. If there is contraction and constriction when you think about making that choice as if it is from fear or love? Also, ask yourself which place you want to make your choice from and then make it. Awareness can give you the needed space to respond instead of react, to choose consciously rather than by default.

4) Support and Vulnerability
Another way to overcome shame is to create a support structure for yourself. Have a friend, or friends, that you can turn to when the going gets rough. Sometimes just talking about and processing the feelings we are experiencing can lead us to the next, better feeling place. All of our feelings want to be acknowledged and having some support from a friend, partner or relative can be quite helpful in keeping us moving in our process instead of getting stuck in shame. Other support structures could be a therapist, psychotherapist, a life coach, or a transformational teacher such as myself. Being able to be vulnerable with someone you trust can help do dissolve shame. Because shame is often attributed to a fear of connection, allowing yourself to be vulnerable and really connect with someone to process those feelings, can help you to know and feel that you are not alone. Vulnerability also allows you to make deep and authentic connections with others who may also be part of your support network.

5) Ask Questions
Questioning your feelings of shame can also be a great way to begin to take charge of shame and steer clear of getting stuck. Here are some to get you started:
1) Is this thought really true?
2) How do I know it’s true?
3) What is the evidence for this thought?
4) What is the evidence against this thought?
5) Can I think of any times when this thought has not been true?
6) Is this thought helping me or hurting me?
7) Who would I be if I let go of this thought?
8) What could I do if I let go of this thought?
9) Am I willing to release this thought?
10) What’s the worst that could happen if I let go of this thought? Can I live with that?
11) How realistic are my expectations?
12) Can I be all of these things all of the time?
It is beneficial to strike a good balance of idealism and realism in your thinking and expectations. Are your expectations real and achievable or are you missing a step somewhere along the way to your expected goal that would help bring that closer to fruition?

These are some points and questions to consider when shame presents itself in your life. Begin to take charge of your shame today and use what it is showing you to keep moving forward in your life instead of getting stuck in the muck and mire of your fears and habitual thoughts.

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