“Shame hurts our soul the way physical pain hurts our body.”
The dictionary describes shame as: ‘a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behaviour.’
Contagiously Positive Girl translation: Shame is like an emotional termite for our soul. If we let it in it will eat away and take down the structure of our home – our mind, body and soul.
The person we guilt and shame the most is ourselves. I see many people, myself included, holding themselves hostage to a mistakes they made. I also see lots of shame around money, relationships, parenthood, what we said, what we didn’t say, what we did, what we didn’t do. And, we also feel shame around what other people make us feel shameful for. There is this great quote from Anais Nin. “Shame is the lie someone told you about yourself.”
To fully unleash your inner contagiously positive, we have to accept ourselves. And that means examining things about ourselves, like the judgements we have of ourselves, and that includes the things we feel shameful of.
SHAME HOLDS US HOSTAGE TO OUR PAST
I remember the first time I felt incredible shame about being in debt. I had never talked about money with my new boyfriend, my now husband. I worked hard to get myself out of debt, but I was still working on bringing my credit score back up. Instead of feeling proud of how much I had accomplished, and how I gotten myself out of debt, and was now doing well financially, I felt shame that I had gotten myself into that situation in the first place. One day we were car shopping, I was going to buy myself a new car, and the salesman came back and said I would need a co-signer because of my low credit score. In that moment, I felt so much shame as I sat there beside my boyfriend and he was finding out about what I felt was a shameful money story for the first time. He couldn’t have been more supportive or cared less about my past. The moment I shared my story with him, I felt a sense of relief and freedom. It takes so much energy and emotion to hide the stories we don’t want anyone to ever find out. But when we share it with someone we trust, it feels like heavy shackles being released.
I tell you that story because shame is one of those things that hold us hostage to our past. If we are shackled to our mistakes and in a cycle of should’a, could’a, would’a, how can we expect to feel free? As humans, we have a deeply rooted desire to feel free. There is nothing freeing about being stuck in our shame stories.
WHAT ARE YOUR SHAME STORIES?
To release shame, is to be aware of where we are feeling shame. Begin with this inner inquiry:
Where are you feeling shame? What is the shame story that you cringe if you think anyone would ever find out?
Where are you holding yourself hostage to a mistake, or anything that made you feel guilty or shameful?
Once you have done this, I encourage you to look at it, feel it and work on forgiving yourself.
FEELING SHAME FOR YOUR EMOTIONS/REACTIONS/ATTITUDE
You’ve heard me say over and over again, like a broken record, that it’s okay to have negative days. It’s okay to have negative emotions. Shame and guilt is not welcome in any feeling that you have – you feel it, it matters. Accepting that you are human being, with a wide range of emotions, will make you feel so much happier, less stressful, and free.
Instead of shaming yourself, or letting someone else shame you into wondering why you are feeling a certain a way, focus on working towards feeling the way you want to feel.
I am not positive all the time, but I don’t let myself take up permanent residence in in that negative space. I work the work of feeling it, healing it, and learning from it, so I can move forward from it. I feel it without experiencing a shame hangover.
“Its’ one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, to forgive.”
We ALL make mistakes. These mistakes are opportunities for us to learn, grow, change and evolve. We try not to make the same mistakes again and we don’t hold ourselves hostage to our mistakes. You learn from it and you say to yourself, “I’m going to do better next time because now I know better.” When we know better, we do better.
I have imperfect moments. I react to emotional triggers in a way that I wished I hadn’t. I say things I wish I hadn’t. I’m human. I’ve learned to practice processing my feelings in a way that helps me with my foot-in-mouth, and my I’m-sorry-for-what-I-said-when-I-was-angry syndrome, but I have also accepted that there is a difference between responding in a positive way, vs. stuffing down the feelings just to avoid any discomfort or pain. This means that I have learned not to shame myself for feeling the way I feel. I will always apologize for my reaction, but I will not apologize for the feeling. Declare that you are a human being who is perfectly imperfect.
Here is another inner inquiry:
Where are you feeling shame based on someone else’s opinion or words?
How much of the shame and guilt you feel is based on what someone else has told you?
A few months ago I was feeling shame around my reaction to feeling unheard, not valued and unsupported. After lots of inner reflection, and talking it out with a dear friend, I realized how much I had been letting other people’s beliefs and opinions cause me to feel shame about who I am. I had to do the inner work so that I could feel it, learn from it and move on from it. It is definitely a process that is sometimes uncomfortable, but not any more uncomfortable than what shame feels like.
We can’t avoid the shame, it is going to show up, but we don’t need to drink so much of it that we are hung-over for days. We avoid it so we won’t feel pain, but avoiding it just brings us more pain. I want you to really take this in: unleashing your inner contagiously positive doesn’t mean never experiencing a negative emotion.
You are not going to be mindful and positive and happy and feel super energized every single moment of the day. Now that may not seem like the contagiously positive girl thing to say, but it actually is. It frees you from feeling any shame, guilt, blame, self-anger, self-loathing that you may be giving yourself in those moments.
Consider this your permission slip. “Today, I give [enter your name here] permission to be a perfectly imperfect human being with a full scale of human emotions.” Give yourself permission to declare that you need to be given the space to be imperfect without judgement. This felt so incredibly freeing. I deserve that space, and so do you.
Give yourself room to have imperfect moments, without shame, or fear of judgment, so that you can learn and grow and strengthen your inner world.
Affirmation/Reminder/Declaration: “I am perfectly imperfect.”
What would a shame free life look like?
What do you need right now in order to feel ready to begin releasing shame and guilt from your life? It could be talking to someone, which I think is such a great place to start. Just getting it out feels freeing.
Who can you reach out to? Who do you trust enough to say, “I’m not doing so well, I need to get something off my chest.” It could be writing it out. It could be saying sorry to someone. But it really starts with the inner work and forgiving yourself.
If you want the extra support, I’ve got your back. I created a beautiful 9-week course called Unleash Your Inner Contagiously Positive. It is a spiritual journey to discovering your happiness and we spend an entire week on ending the shame game.
Laurie-ann Sheldrick, The Contagiously Positive Girl