The Power of Shame
Allow yourself to sit with the emotion of shame – listen to what it’s telling you and what else it could be hiding.
When was the first time you ever felt shame? Do you remember what it felt like?
Most of us can’t recall our first “shameful” experience, but it’s likely one that impacts our lives to this day. So much so, that we continue to breathe it in and silently hope that, one day, the emotions will subside. But they won’t. They stay. They stay until we have the courage to sit with the feelings and confront them.
The path to love is through the shame.
We can’t rejoice in having it all be gone until we sit with the shame and feel its pain. Feel it all and watch as it washes away. Shame is complex because it’s never just about the “shame” itself. It’s masked and disguised. Many times, we don’t notice that our actions are based on something larger, blanketing our secrets and hiding our lives.
We’ve become masters at keeping secrets and telling ourselves lies. We’re OK. I’m fine. There’s nothing wrong with me. We tell ourselves everyone feels this way. But when the lights are off and we’re all alone in the dark, with nothing but our truest feelings, we know that deep down inside there’s something wrong. We know that we’ve been lying. And the biggest lie is to oneself.
But shame is still shame even when it’s called by another name. We hide it and say I feel guilty. Or I feel overweight. Perhaps I don’t belong. I feel wrong. I feel like a failure. And for most us, this list goes on and on. But nonetheless, it all points to something more that is happening inside.
We name it “guilt,” “envy,” “despair,” “loss,” “emptiness,” “loneliness,” “judgment,” “failure” and every possible emotion that has ever left us with an unresolved feeling of sadness.
And with every new day, we throw another unresolved feeling on top of our huge pile of shame. We build and we build. Add another pile to the mountain of shame that is already toppling over. And we never stop. We don’t allow ourselves time to see the pile that we’ve already built, until it’s toppled over and too late.
Imagine the mountains of shame you’re carrying with you right now.
Shame can show up throughout our day. We see it unfold when we attempt to make connections with others that fail. We feel it when we get turned down for a job. Or when we’re excluded from an event, or find ourselves to be the topic of gossip.
We run. We hide. We blanket ourselves with layers of shame and use it as a shield to protect us from additional pain, from other difficult emotions.
If you’ve experienced this before, how did it make you feel? I imagine the emotions were overwhelming and left you feeling horrible.
As children, we’re socialized to understand the difference between right and wrong through shame. If you could recall the first time you ever felt shame, it would most likely be for interrupting, making noise, touching your body parts or even making a mess. Yet, these are all things we must learn and this lesson is most easily understood through shame.
So were our parents wrong?
No, they’re not wrong. But most of us have carried those shameful experiences into our everyday lives. And perhaps now, it exists in places that it no longer should. If you resonated with any of the examples above, then I can almost guarantee that you’ve felt the repercussions of shame.
Maybe you tell yourself to be happy with the job you have because that’s all you’re good for. To continue to tell little white lies to your partner so they won’t know your deep, dark secret, and that you don’t feel good enough for them. Or you may have even whispered to yourself that you should lower your standards and not believe that you’re capable – or worthy – of more.
Well, guess what? You are capable – AND WORTHY – of more. But shame keeps us from living the life we want to live.
It’s important to note that there is a huge difference between “guilt” and “shame.” When someone feels guilty, it’s often (but not always) because they’ve done a “wrong” thing. However, when a person feels shame, oftentimes it’s rooted in a belief that they just are bad.
You’re not bad. Some of us have believed, or been told things, about ourselves for longer than we should have and we need to change our own inner thoughts. We need to know that each and every one of us is wonderfully capable of all that our heart desires and even more. We all deserve love. More importantly, when we let go of shame and slowly begin to lower our walls, we realize that not only do we deserve love, but WE ARE LOVE. Each and every one of us is love.
Are you ready to move forward and lower your walls?
Melissa L. Fino is a defiant high school dropout who went on to receive her master’s of social work from the University of Southern California. Melissa applies her life experience with unexpected challenges and numerous insecurities to empower women to let go of the negative in their lives and embrace the positive. Currently, she is the CEO of LoveYourLife Community, a worthiness coach for women, writer, blogger and speaker. Melissa resides in San Diego, but frequents the East Coast to return to her childhood hometown and Portugal, to spend quality time with her mother. Follow Melissa on Facebook and Instagram.