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Shame Is Painful. Shame Is Powerful. Shame Is A Manifestation Of Your Fears.

April 5, 2011

Think back to the last time you felt ashamed or your most embarrassing moment. What happens?

If you’re like me, then your cheeks are probably glowing red. You feel like you’ve been thrust into a spotlight. You want to shrink away, but feel so visible. You might even try to make yourself smaller.

As crimson creeps up my neck towards my cheeks, I involuntarily lift my shoulders and curl them inward. I push my stomach towards my back. I create a concave space. Shoulders as close to kissing as they can be; I shield my chest and heart from view. I retreat into a protective shell.

Embarrassment has sense memory. Like listening to a song and remembering who you were when you first heard it, shame can transport you.

This afternoon I decided that today would be the perfect opportunity to review my most recent embarrassing experience.

You see, I had a free phone consultation with someone I admire. I wanted to talk to her about the new project I’m incubating. She asked me a few basic questions and I couldn’t answer. Much like an earlier experience with my mentor, I couldn’t find my words.

For three weeks, this call has been amplified and replayed in my head. Today, I sat down and listened to the recording. I readied myself, cringed and pressed play.

Sounds dramatic, yes? Well, it felt heavy. Pregnant with fear and expectation. I’m told that’s what happens when you put something off instead of dealing with it immediately. You wouldn’t know anything about that, right?

I listened to the call. All thirty minutes of it. While I did have a hard time articulating my thoughts, it wasn’t really as bad as I remembered it.

That disconnect –between what I felt at the time and what I heard today– got me thinking, Why did I feel so damn ashamed in the moment?

I was embarrassed that I couldn’t answer seemingly simple questions about my great new shiny idea.

I was mortified to be clumsy and awkward in the company of someone I admire.

That sounds so small. Like it should be easily dismissible. But, both are tied to fears and desires of mine.

I want to be “on.” I want to have the answers. I’m terrified that I’m not good enough for my dreams. I worry about what other people think of me.

Maybe you have the same fears. Maybe yours are a bit different. Doesn’t matter. I’m willing to bet there’s a link between your fears and that shameful or embarrassing moment you conjured earlier.

Shame is vulnerable; it lays you bare. It’s uncomfortable, often painful.

But, it’s also telling. If we can disarm shame, remove the sting, then I’m certain there’s a way to transform it into a tool. I don’t have the secret yet, but I know it must be possible.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. April 5, 2011 10:14 pm

    Oooh, I feel this one. I often have felt shame in even answering what I’m doing/planning because I think it sounds stupid. The truth is that I have the words…I have the whole scheme in my mind (even if it needs work, I usually have something in there), but the minute I’m asked I freeze. I freeze because I’m excited, idealistic, passionate, and hopeful. None of that is fancy and pulled together and I do not like to be made a fool of so I freeze. I try to find words that sound smart, strategic, and appropriate. Words that make me sound like I have a plan and not too emotional. In the process of trying toconvert my excitement into something more “professional” within seconds, I get the second level of embarrassment from seeming like I don’t have anything substantial. I feel like I shouldn’t be taken seriously…tail between legs…begin spewing qualifiers and it’s really not that importanters. Welcome shame and I can’t believe I did that. Ack!

    Leigh, I really love this. Lots to reflect on and goodness to absorb here!


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