If you follow me at all on any social media, you will have noticed that I’ve spent a lot of time recently talking about shame. I think shame is currently very pervasive and active in our world today. I want to start with a definition so that we are all talking about the same thing. Webster’s Dictionary defines shame as a painful emotion caused by consciousness of guilt, shortcoming, or impropriety. I strongly disagree with this definition for various reasons. The definition I use of shame is: that feeling, thought, emotion, or experience of being somehow flawed, which creates a lack of connection. It is that feeling that you are somehow damaged or defective and therefore not worthy of a deep connection, THAT’s shame. The difficulty is that for most people shame does not typically present itself as shame. Shame is typically labeled as so many different things other than shame. Typical labels include: depression, trauma, anxiety, low self-esteem, low self-worth, poor relationship choices, lack of good choices and the list goes on and on. Allow me to share a very relevant experience with you.
I traveled by myself to beautiful Canada to spend time at a retreat with an amazing Coach and Healer. It was such a healing process for me. Despite having to buy two seats on Air Canada I was determined to go and have a great time on this trip. As part of the retreat, we were going to get hour long massages. The resort was absolutely amazing, so clearly the massage could be nothing short of heavenly! I walked in with my new friends and was handed a tiny little robe… I distracted and stalled when we got in the changing room because the fear and guilt was beating itself out of my chest. Finally after everyone dressed and left the room, I looked at the size of the robe. It was a one size fits all! I was crushed. I tried it on over top of my clothes, and it just wouldn’t work. I left there quickly and called my husband. He attempted to rationalize with me, which was unsuccessful at best. I felt so lost and alone. My amazing Coach called me on my cell phone and asked what was going on, I uttered out what had occurred. She matched my shameful experience with empathy. She asked if I wanted her to go with me to see if they had a bigger size. When we got back to the massage place the woman looked mortified and said it had never occurred to her that I wouldn’t fit in the normal size robe. She “didn’t even notice”.
After my amazing massage, I went back to my room to process this for a while. I was so confused! How could she have not noticed? Is that even possible? And then it hit me: That’s exactly what shame does. It tells you that the one thing you have hidden in the back of your closet that everyone will shame, judge, belittle, or ignore you because of it.
This is just a simple example of how shame manifested itself in my life. So many times shame materializes as anxiousness, worry, fear, stress, depression, unresolved trauma, obsessive thoughts, low self-esteem, the list literally goes on forever. It took me way to long to understand why every time I had a public speaking event my husband and I would have a fight. It wasn’t until I started studying shame that I was able to put the pieces together.
I remember in the early 2000’s when I began to study Brene’ Brown’s work. I literally could not put it down. I felt like she had put a voice to my inner most thoughts, feelings, and concerns. As a Psychotherapist and Coach, I have watched women completely transform their lives. I have watched women who were in the past highly prone to guilt, remorse, anxiousness, and depressed feelings walk away from every one of those issues. This is powerful work.
If you resonated at all with my definition of shame, I want to give you some resources to heal yourself. You do not deserve to live in shame! You deserve to discard those shackles, heal, and soar! I have watched countless women become paralyzed with the shame that they experience!
My suggestions for you to begin healing the shame you have experienced include:
- Treat Yourself with Empathy: Can you imagine how much different your life would be if every thought, action, word or behavior towards yourself was cloaked in a cloud of empathy? That is one of the foundation recommendations I give people who have experience with shame. Shame is so destructive, I encourage empathy towards yourself.
- Share Your Shame Story with People Who Are Worthy: If there’s a person or people in your life who instantly jump to giving you solutions they are probably not a good fit to hear these stories. If there are people in your life who you feel judge you, then they are not a good fit for your shame story. Not everyone is worthy of our shame story.
- Breathe: This suggestion sounds so trite, but I have noticed when one of my shame triggers are engaged my breathing typically becomes shallow and not helpful or complete. I regularly practice deep breathing because it’s so helpful from a variety of perspectives.
- Compassion: If you met every obstacle in your life with compassion can you imagine how different you would experience the world? What if you met you partner, children, co-workers, best friends with compassion as well? The world is in desperate need of a huge dose of compassion are you what it’s asking for?
- Heart Centered Living: Heart centered living has been on my mind for a few months now. I define heart centered living as living life with purpose. Living from my authentic and whole heart has allowed me to fall in love with my life. Not just the pretty, attractive, amazing parts of it. Every single aspect of it; from the messy house to the physical body pain to the climbing medical bills. All of it
I hope this blog has given you some hope. In a couple of weeks I will be leading a group of women through an online shame resilience curriculum. I’m so honored to be able to be a part of this group and to watch them heal and soar. If you want more information check this out: https://jennbovee.com/connections
I would really love to hear from you about where you are at with your shame journey. Have you developed complete shame resilience? Are you interested in developing shame resilience?
Jenn Bovee is a Psychotherapist and Shame Busting Life Coach. Jenn works with people all over the world, and helps them to destroy the shackles of shame to create the life they desire. Learn more about Jenn here: https://jennbovee.com/