We all walk around with the shame we have been collecting for years trying desperately to ignore the echoes from the belly of the beast. Those reflections of not measuring up to an expectation – perceived or otherwise.
I am using the word reflections with great intention here as shame in my view is the direct result of a mirrored reflection. This mirror can be held in front of us by our parents, siblings, teachers, friends, lovers or even society as a whole – it isn't the who that matters as much as the impact. The mirror is laden with judgment and unmet expectation – regardless of who is holding it.
What eventually happens is we take these mirrors carrying them with us deep in our hearts. We then use them to hurt ourselves in the ultimate act of self loathing - self condemnation and judgment.
Shame is a master at sabotage.
It's only purpose and goal is to make you feel so worthless that you don't even try to attain your goals and dreams. The constant echo that you are not good enough resounds every time you try to move forward, move into a new and exciting realm of life. It could be a new relationship, new career, new home etc - yet shame paralyses without discrimination.
The threat of failure and vulnerability is literally paralyzing. It's not that you won't try, it is that you can't. The echo of not being good enough is deafening – this is the first reminder about shame.
This master saboteur is at times intentionally used by others. Who are these others? Typically people with an intense fear of being alone or out shinned. In order to keep you present and beneath them they make you feel as though you have no choice but to stay where you are. It could be a manipulative parent or lover. Leaving is next to impossible as the echos are just too loud. When you make an attempt to leave or the person you perceive to be holding you believes you are making an attempt to leave, they raise the bar.
Again I used a particular word with great intention – perceive. The person you perceive to be holding you is not truly holding you. Only with the exception of physical abuse or the threat of physical abuse does this apply. In those cases professional therapeutic and legal intervention is necessary.
Yet in the majority of manipulative relationships and situations it is only a perception that you can't leave. The overwhelming echoes of fear and the risk of vulnerability stop us all dead in our tracks. Failure is not viewed as a necessary feature on the path to success.
But what if your closest friend came to you with a similar set of circumstances. Would you say to that friend “You are a loser ... you have nothing going for you ... just stay at home with your mother … stay in that loveless relationship ... stay at that dead end job.”
Of course you wouldn't so why do you say that to yourself?
Here is the second reminder when healing shame – have compassion for yourself! You deserve and are entitled to the same understanding, empathy and compassion you would offer to a friend. I know this is a frequent theme throughout many of my blogs, PDF's and in my work. Yet I think it is too important not to reiterate. If we can't be compassionate with ourselves then we will never be able to take risks, make mistakes nor find the happiness we crave and deserve.
So remember this – those feelings of not being good enough to follow your dreams are simple that feelings reflected back from some distorted view or intention of someone else. Understanding, empathy and compassion are key to finding your way back to your true self. Once you get there, there will be no holding you back and no telling just how far you will soar!
I recommend the books below to clients who are dealing with issues surrounding shame and hope they are helpful to you!