The culture of comparing. And contrasting. Othering. Judging and avoidance. Fear of failure and fear of judgment. Over performing and hustling for approval. The disease of perfectionism and outward validation. What are these? These are all the materials required for the construction of the most form- fitting, vulnerability- proof, ego-loving shame suit. Yes, SHAME.
I don’t think I need to tell you about shame: what it is, how it feels and what it looks like. Like most of us, just by glancing in the mirror or thinking about the last thing we did that we aren’t proud of, we can feel it. That unexplained burning around your heart or that sinking feeling in your stomach. That feeling of wanting to run so fast that you actually shed your body and start anew. Yeah, that’s shame. And, we all have our own suits. The suits themselves are very tricky and very well constructed. This is because the suit itself looks, feels and even sounds just like us. Except, it’s heavier. As for its super power? Entrapment. It turns ourselves against ourselves: increasing the volume on the ego and acts as a petri dish for feelings of judgment.
Unlike most outfits, the ones that we can take off at the end of the day, shame stays on. It is stuck to us like the lycra of a downhill olympic alpine skier. We don’t take shame off, we layer up. Yes, we put other “outfits” over top. Some call these masks: friend mask, professional mask, fun mask, daughter mask, wife mask, you-name- it mask. So what’s the problem? We cannot truly be ourselves when the shame suit is our base layer. Can you relate? Thought so. Me too. So, how do you shed the suit? I am far from perfect (I can already hear my ego talking smack on that one) and have a suit of my own that I’ve been trying to peel off for years. The following is what I have learned about ‘Shedding the Shame Suit’:
- LEARN about your suit. Seriously. What does it look like? What does it feel like? What are its triggers. HOW is it serving you? My suit feels uncomfortable in the calm and seeks busyness all the time; my suit measures value with productivity.
- TAKE IT OFF one piece at a time. Shame HATES vulnerability. It has taught you that it protects you. Convinced you that your shame suit is your very own super hero cape. And that being vulnerable is bad. You are not safe in the outside world without your suit. You believe this. I call bullshit. Try for a day maybe exposing just an arm. Go one day without criticizing yourself on your weight or judging a coworker on her relationship. Maybe tell one person in your Tribe something you are afraid of. Whatever you do, keep it simple and keep it easy. You will quickly see you will not die. The thing is, you have to start by learning to trust yourself. Trust that you are enough exactly as you are.
- EXPOSE yourself. No, not in the confession- olympics- oversharing- expose yourself kind of way. Rather, I mean BE yourself. Set boundaries. Say no (which is a complete sentence by the way). Cry. Share your story. Ask for help. Just don’t hide. I am still learning this one. It’s a long painful process but, I am still here aren’t I?
- BURN the suit. You have no use for this suit. ZERO. It actually does nothing for you. Shame is the antagonist in the story about connection. When you carry shame, every single one of your relationships will suffer.
- Self CONNECTION. External validation is a part of the disease my friends. You need to go inside out on this one. Allow yourself to be enough for yourself. Connect with yourself: what do you love? What are you good at? Find one thing you are creative at and embrace it. Get outside daily. Take yourself on a date. CONNECT WITH YOURSELF.
Next up? Attacking the Ego.
p.s Want to learn more about Shame?
WATCH this: Listening to Shame
READ this: I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t)
DO this: Exploring Shame Worksheet