Living with shame can make you feel like you do not want to feel at all. It makes us want to avoid people, making eye contact and even avoid entire relationships even when they are not particularly deep.
Shame is not your identity. Shame is a feeling. Shame can take over your life. Even the tiniest failure, any and every small setback, and any unkind words get you spiralling down deeper into shame. It may make it seems like shame is just part of who you are, like it is in your personality and part of you at the deepest level.
Realising that shame is only a feeling, noticing that it comes and goes but who you are at the core stays the same whether shame is present or not, allows you to see how you can begin to release it. Shame does not limit your choices just like other people do not. What is limiting your choices is you and only you, and that means you have the power to release the grip it has on you.
Being free of shame, living without it, is not about not feeling bad. It is tempting to think that once you rid yourself of shame you never have to feel bad about anything again. Living free of shame does not mean that you do not feel bad but it does mean not having to hide that you do. You are free to tell others that you do not feel OK, to not pretend that you are doing better than you really are or that life in general is better than it is. Living without shame is having more courage to let others see you as you really are.
Being free of shame, living without it is not about feeling good. Being free of shame is the ability to allow yourself to experience the whole spectrum of feelings and emotions knowing that when you feel anything that would generally classify as a negative emotions, it does not mean that you are going backwards, that it is normal to experience feelings like that too. Being free of shame means being able to be present in the moment accepting the feelings and emotions that you have, and allowing them to tell you more about what is going on with you. It allows you to listen to yourself without judgement.
Shame connects. It is easy to think that the only person feeling shame is you but most people feel shame. Shame also has a habit to transmit to other when we experience it. When you feel shame it seems to find a way to share itself with others in your vicinity which is why, if you have kids especially, it helps being aware of it working like that.
Shame shows us when we need to be more vulnerable. Because shame shines a light on the places where we feel we have the most to lose to show ourselves fully, it also shines a light on where we have the most to gain to allow ourselves to be vulnerable. It does not mean that we immediately have to become vulnerable when we notice shame creeping up on us, but it gives us an indication of where our wounds are and how we can better support ourselves.
For more information on shame, check out the post next week.