Shame, as it turns out, is everywhere. I don’t think I understood shame as deeply as I do today. I experienced shame at telling my husband, my friends and admitting my past of sexual abuse.
I had shame with all of the business failings. And while I never ultimately “failed” there was a lot of “failures” in business.
Shame, Shame, Shame. It’s everywhere.
This week I was forced up against a shame story that had me spinning. But why shame? See, I have this tendency to pull back, push away, run, hide, freeze when things don’t go “right” or the way I perceived them or wanted them to go.
Persistence. Resilience. Moving forward anyway… but always with a closely guarded wall. A part of me watching, holding back, protecting myself, cutting my looses – quickly – so as not to experience shame.
I can’t tell you how many things I’ve fucked up because of this. How many things I’ve held back, let go of, rushed through, gave up because I was unable to keep going because of shame.
I didn’t recognize it as shame until this week. In fact, for a long time I’ve known that I had this “reaction” this “behaviour” this “surface” thing happen when things didn’t go as planned. And by “didn’t go as planned” I mean “right fucking now”.
I’d pull away. I’d shut down. I’d get angry and resentful at the outside world. Victim mode.
None of which was apparently visible to me from where I was sitting. But the more of this work I’ve done and continue to do, no pattern or behaviour goes unnoticed. And I expose deeper and darker layers of it.
This one I’ve danced around in waves. I’ve been on levels of it. I’ve worked through mountains of it. But I never got to the base of it, to the roots of it, to the guts of it, until this week.
See, my book sales started to fall. It had gone well early on. And I had a lot of support. But as the sales slowed I found it harder to post about it. I felt something I couldn’t name. At first it looked like fear. Then it looked shame.
I realized I was ashamed to ask for help. I was ashamed to keep posting. I felt awkward, like I should just go away. And I wanted to pull back, run away, hide, and wished I had never started it.
I felt the familiar fingers of despair, hopelessness wash over me.
Why wasn’t this working? Why did I bother? Why didn’t ____ support me? What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I just be normal?
It was there and it was the ugly trappings of shame and fear mixed into one. But I couldn’t understand why I felt shame. And I realized I often felt this way. Whenever I was sharing about coaching or a program I was offering. I’d post about it but I wouldn’t post regularly, I wouldn’t talk about it “too much”.
And not just in my business, but in my life. If I asked someone for help and they didn’t show up for me, I wouldn’t ask again, but I’d internalize that there must be something wrong with me.
And I’d get frustrated, prickly, and annoyed.
This week I let myself sink into that abyss. It was ugly. It always is when I let myself sink into that darkness. As I sank into it, I could feel the fear, the discomfort, the shame but beyond that I felt hurt.
I felt let down. I felt that I expected to be let down. And I felt the deep shame of that let down. I realized my feelings of being let down triggered shame which triggered frustration.
So on the surface I was annoyed and frustrated but deep down I was ashamed. Deeply ashamed. Because what does that mean about me?
See, I had promised myself a long time ago that I would never need anyone. I felt deep shame about my abuse. I felt pushed away from my friends because of my family. And I felt pushed away from my family because of my failure to speak up.
And I changed. I remember it clearly. I used to be such a happy, carefree child – in spite of the abuse, I still had a lot of fun and hope. But after it came out, despite my decades of denial, I was the brunt of some not so funny jokes by my friends, causing me to withdraw into myself, feeling deep shame about being naive and stupid to fall for it.
And my family… I was hurt that they didn’t understand… but I understand now because we were all just doing our best. I was trying to walk away from it all and take no responsibility, not be involved, not be one of “those” in the family.
I had no where to turn. Saving myself cost me myself.
I became the jaded, don’t give a fuck girl who promised herself she didn’t need anyone. I shut down, started wearing black lipstick, hanging out with the “wrong” kids, smoking, drinking, fucking around with people. I promised myself I would never be made fun of again, I would never be on the receiving end of that.
As I faced all of this, it tumbled out and around me… pieces of my life showing up and showing me how much shame I felt for needing people, for asking for help or asking for support, even in asking people to come to my events, programs… “selling myself” a difficult battle.
But one I couldn’t sink into and get behind until my book.
And I realized that out of everything I’ve done in my life this is the most meaningful to me. It’s grown wings. It’s my life story, my heart, my soul, my wounds, my trauma’s, my hearing and my recovery and my unfucking of a life gone wrong… but it’s also my purpose, my soul purpose in this life.
Putting it out there triggered my fear of being let down, which triggered my shame… because what does it mean about me if people don’t/won’t/ support me? It means there’s something wrong with me.
And it triggers my shame for needing and asking for help at all. I’m brought back to that dark version of me, that emerged to protect me from hurt, let down. As I tumbled through the memories, the shame engulfed me.
And I realized I have no standards, it’s not about expectations, it’s about standards. The things I accept and don’t accept for my life. The ways I engage, show up for others and expect the same in return. I don’t think about in the time of my “giving” but I can’t help but see it in the time of my need.
And that is my trigger. Giving and giving and giving to people who come to take, who come to pick the fruit but who aren’t there for the planting or the day to day work to get it there.
To protect myself, I pull back, I dull myself, I hide. And I finally realize on a deep level that it’s not actually me that needs to hide, I simply need to stop investing in people who aren’t here to give and take, who are only here to take. It’s not shame I need to feel for asking for help. It’s standards I need to set for my life, who I spend time with, who I get in the water with.
Not everyone deserves the space in our lives they take up.
Hiding, not asking for anything, was a decision I made so many decades ago – still running my life. Decisions shape our destiny. And decisions from a place of shame as a child can turn toxic.
And I was in a case of full blown toxic shame. The only way out is through… so I did what I do best, and what I teach my clients to do… I processed it. I am processing it. And then I am repatterning it.
Because being let down will be a part of life. Being let down means I’m out there living, doing things and trying things. Being let down is part of being human. And allowing ourselves to feel our feelings will allow us to process our hurt, our shame, our not enoughness and allow us to move on.
I know this. I do this. I teach this. I always tell my clients – this work is on going. It’s a practice, not a product. We go to deeper and deeper levels all the time. It gets easier to work through, easier to uncover.
But in order for us to live our best lives we must uncover what holds us back. I knew I had a reaction to things not going well and have been poking at this for some time… but it wasn’t until I out myself in a position with something that mattered so deeply to me, could I sense my deep shame of putting myself out there, asking for help.
And now my work is to consistently overcome this so I can put out into the world my ultimate dreams, my work, and help people do this very work for themselves.
And I will. Because as I overcome the shame that I experience as I do it, I will grow stronger, more confident, more resilient…. as I realize being let down is a part of life. Giving up because someone else doesn’t support you isn’t.
It’s up to me to make my dreams happen, to move on, to accept no’s for what they are, to accept let down’s for what they are…They don’t mean I am not enough. And it’s time I stopped making it mean that about me and release that shame.
What about you? What shame do you need to release? What standards do you need to set for your life? Tracing our reactions and behaviours to uncover what’s REALLY in the way is the key to everything…
PS…Now I’ll ask for it – as a part of overcoming my shame – will you pre-order my book and help me get it published? -> Buy the book.
And if you’d like to talk about how I can help you uncover and work through the same processes I do to release yourself from old patterns and blocks – you can book a discovery call here -> Schedule Appointment