Shame, we all feel it. How many of these have you experienced in the last month:

The shame of overeating, of not knowing what you want, of binge-watching YouTube, of drunk texting, of over-reacting to what someone did, of still being single, of lying, of looking down on people, of being selfish, of having dated that weird person, of not having accomplished much, of your body, of how that friend behaves in social gatherings, of asking for help. The list goes on.

These are the ugliest parts of ourselves- at least according to our inner dialogue and self-judgment. Things that make us believe we have failed, that we are not good enough.

Shame is a big part of our shadows: the part of ourselves that we hide under the carpet, not only from others but even worse, from ourselves.

I love how, in the bible, God only expels Adam and Eve from paradise after they became ashamed of being naked. Before feeling shame, they were there naked for eternity and everything was good. But on the day they got ashamed, they were kicked out.

Get it? Nakedness was fine, it was shame that was the issue. Shame was not allowed in heaven. Why? Shame diminishes the person in question, making them feel they need to hide who they are. If before they were divine, now shame brought them a dark spot and made them look down on themselves.

Here are five pervasive ways that shame keeps us small, steals our power, and deteriorates our well-being. 

# 1 Shame Silences Us

When we are ashamed of something, we don’t talk about it: we keep it in, as if a secret.

In shame, we hide, and we pretend something doesn’t exist.

Except, it does. What is it that we conceal? Ourselves. We hide parts of us that we deem ugly, for we think it is unlovable. We silence not only our voices but our behaviors, traces, preferences, and desires.

We do that even when deep down we know it’s not our fault, like when a woman is raped and is ashamed of reporting it and so she keeps quiet. Other times, it is our fault, like when we cheat and lie — do we dare to own our mistakes, to correct ourselves?

The inability to be authentic and stand for ourselves by communicating what is going on takes a lot of our energy and holds us back. It keeps us overworried about covering things, instead of owning them. 

In shame, we give on our own voices away. What could be more disempowering than that?

#2 Shame Makes Us Intolerant and Uncompassionate

In shame, we don’t allow others to see us for who we truly are, for we fear that we wouldn’t be lovable — an action loaded with self-judgement. We also hide these parts of us to ourselves, for we don’t want to deal with them. This is in itself lying to ourselves. 

Shame shows us how intolerant we are of ourselves.

We don’t dare to look at these pieces of us we are ashamed of because we are unable to look at them with self-love, forgiveness and compassion.

This means we feel shame because we lack tolerance toward ourselves. This is lack of self-acceptance, self-compassion, and self-love.

Love is the ultimate healer. Not fear or guilt. And love starts with loving ourselves. 

If love connects us, shame disconnects us from others and ourselves. 

The more self-accepting and self-compassionate we are, the more we get to share these qualities with people around us. 

The more self-loving we are, the lighter is our life, and the more compassionate we get to be as a whole. Less pointing fingers, and more united.

“Honesty without kindness, humor, and goodheartedness can be just mean. From the very beginning to the very end, pointing to our own hearts to discover what is true isn’t just a matter of honesty but also of compassion and respect for what we see.” Pema Chödrön

Watch my free class “Live from the Heart,” a concise video class for you to identify what is blocking you, learn how to listen to your heart, and get more connected to yourself and to life.

#3 Shame Makes Us Feel Bad for Being Who We Are

When we hide things, be it from others or from ourselves, what we are saying is that we are broken, that we are no good, and that we are unwilling to show who we truly are. 

In other words, we are also saying we can’t be honest because we deem our true selves as not good enough.

We can ignore as much as we want what we are ashamed of, but that doesn’t make it go away from within us and our subconsciousness. We just carry the pain in silence and unconsciously, which affects our sense of self-worth and self-acceptance. It creates inner stress, disconnection, and apathy. 

The funny thing is that we all share this same self-talk and still treat it as something to be ashamed of. And just like that, we get a world of people who are not ok with themselves — and think that’s normal.

#4 Shame Is a Controlling Mechanism Based on Fear and Inadequacy, Not on Love

Shame is directly linked with the feeling of guilt and embarrassment, and it could be argued that there is a good side to shame. Because we feel shame, we don’t urinate on the street when we need a toilet, and we don’t pull someone’s hair when we are angry. Shame keeps order. Isn’t that great?

Well, it is a functional mechanism. Now, is shame the best mechanism to “keep order”?

I’d argue that no, it is not, for it is the mechanism of a society that is based on fear, embarrassment, and guilt, instead of love, connection, and care. We can refrain from urinating on the street and pulling someone’s hair out of love and respect. 

Shame is a functional control mechanism in a society that has failed to embody love, respect, and care. 

Your well-being and success will never come by reacting to shame and conforming. They come by you daring to authentically live from your heart and soul. For shame will lead you to fear, and your heart to love. 

#5 Shame Keeps the Status Quo Strong and Makes It Harder for Us to Find Our Own Way

Shame is about expectations of conduct, mostly socially constructed ones. It reflects where we over-comply with external demands and/or lack self-acceptance and self-love. It is deeply connected with caring more about what others think, over what you want from the depth of your being. 

Now, which of these two will bring you more bliss and success in life: complying to the fear of other’s judgement, or freeing yourself? 

Let’s say I am ashamed of not having achieved much yet. Chances are this comes from a social belief of what success is, of where I should be. This is following the social “should’s, have to’s, must”. On top of that, I might not be accepting my own path, my own choices, and not loving myself.

Shame is an effective and powerful mechanism to keep the status quo. When we allow shame to run us, shame keeps us in check and keeps us coloring within the lines. And just like that, we have given our own life path and life choices away.

If you want to live by your own definition of success, you must have the courage to stand by it. 

Watch my free class “Live from the Heart,” a concise video class for you to identify what is blocking you, learn how to listen to your heart, and get more connected to yourself and to life.

Be The Hero of Your Own Life

There is no story about someone who hid, conformed, and did nothing about it, the end.

Let’s face it: heroes beat darkness and shadows. No, they don’t put it all under the carpet. They remove the carpet and face it. That is how they win battles and become stronger. That’s how they have a story to tell others, live their purpose and dreams.

The Solution

Respect yourself, by loving, accepting, embracing, and owning yourself. Be guided by your heart and dare to stay in alignment with yourself, by not doing things you are not proud of — not based on what others would say.

Easier said than done, right?  

Empowerment comes from a place of self-love, of accepting ourselves so much that how could we possibly not be who we are, how could we possibly reduce ourselves and not fight for our soul?

How to Free Yourself from Shame

Shame is programming, based on what you believe you are expected to do. It doesn’t matter where it first came from: family, society, school, friends. You somehow accepted and internalized it, so your mind became your own cage. 

That’s nothing to be ashamed of: we all have some kind of imprint like that. That’s one of the many side effects of being a social animal, living in a culture. We all have our own cages. 

Yet, to be free from anything, we need to first acknowledge that we are not free. That means recognizing we are in a prison in our heads.

Even though we are all social creatures impacted by all kinds of social expectations and rules, very few of us are actually up to recognizing we are not free within. 

The acknowledgment our inner prisons is the very first step towards freedom, for it allows us to spot when we are limiting ourselves.

Secondly, we can become less rigid, and more acceptancing, understanding, and connective. We do that by releasing judgments and expanding compassion towards others and ourselves. For instance, abstaining from gossiping and judging others. No longer agents of repression, we have a better chance to return to our hearts. 

It is about living from the heart, where acceptance, compassion and understanding flourish. 

The Practice

Interestingly, this doesn’t mean being shameless: an important aspect of freeing ourselves from shame is to use shame as an inner compass, observing every time we feel it.

The practice is to observe what we are trying to hide, and what makes us uncomfortable, to learn where we are lacking acceptance and love — knowing it can go both ways. Say I am ashamed of lying to a friend about something I did: am I repressing my true self and diminishing myself here? Did I behave in a way that I am not proud of and am I truly letting myself down? Can I forgive myself and change, or how can I correct my act to return to my alignment? 

The invitation: instead of putting it under the carpet, dare to sit with it. It doesn’t matter how small the event is, such as being embarrassed by walking with your shirt inside out for one hour on the street before realizing it. Look the event in the eye and see where you are missing understanding, love, and compassion. Sit in silence with it, feel it, journal about it, vent, and talk to a close friend. 

Shame shows us our bottlenecks. It is a teacher, offering endless opportunities to rise and embrace the wholeness of our being.

I invite you to watch my free miniclass “Live from the Heart,” a concise miniclass demystifying the obstacles to joy. Identify what is blocking you, learn how to listen to your heart, and get more connected to yourself and to life.

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