How to Release Shame
I'm just going to get real with you, I'm ashamed of a lot of things. I’m ashamed of being too “woo”, of being too serious, of being too young to be an "expert", of being too old to be a "beginner", of being too shy, of being too "advicey", of being too selfish, of being a bad activist and a bad feminist because I’m not out at every single protest. I’m still ashamed of having to quit my salaried job 2 years ago because it was way too taxing on my body, mind, and soul (although I don't regret it, I still feel I "should've" been able to handle it). I’m ashamed of being happy because I’m afraid I don’t deserve it. I’m ashamed of being an incest survivor. There’s more on that list but the point is…we’re all ashamed of something and here’s what I know about shame:
Shame is silent, sneaky, and really self-destructive.
Shame is the emotion that tells us we’re bad, wrong, not good enough, too much, and should basically just hide forever because no one will love us. Shame is the best friend of self-hate, the most destructive force to our minds, bodies, and souls. Shame makes us believe the lies we’ve been told about who we are and what we should be. It says “you are not going to be loved if you act like this. “ Or “You will ONLY be loved if you act like that.”
But here's the thing that I keep reminding myself and everyone around me: We're human. We're allowed. And playing the purity game is useless. We're NOT bad or sick or ill. I talk to clients all day long who tell me their deepest secrets, who face shame head-on. I’ve heard it all (I’m not kidding) and wow, the things we all have seen, heard, and experienced strikes me every day – how do we deal with so much and yet hold so much blame for ourselves? How can we have so much compassion for others but think we're so rotten and worthless inside?
I don't yet have total freedom from shame, but like you, I'm chipping away at it little by little. I don't believe that overcoming shame means living in a bubble of self-love and joy, always having rose-colored-glasses, not taking responsibility for your actions, or painting every single thing you do in a positive light.
I believe that overcoming shame is about being able to get real without taking yourself down into a spiral of self-defeat and self-hate.
It means being able to say that sometimes my actions are selfish/reactionary/ego-based/hurtful/harmful/etc. It means noticing patterns and seeing parts of me that ache, hurt, and yearn to be loved but don’t know how else to do it besides running/shutting down/reacting/lying/etc.
All of our actions and impulses have reason. What we consider pathological is just what we have not yet understood. If we can have compassion and understanding while being honest with ourselves, we can overcome shame.
So here’s what I do to release shame:
I believe that the only way out is through. I’ve learned I can’t fight it, I can’t will it away, I have to see it, feel it, laugh at it, and then forgive it. So I’ve gotten into the habit every month of writing down what I’m ashamed of. I mean, getting real with shame.
So sit down. Get a pen and Paper. Ask yourself:
What are you ashamed of, really? What is the worst thing someone could say about you? What can’t you forgive yourself for yet? I don’t mean the little stuff, I mean that time you didn’t call your friend back and then a few weeks later, he killed himself (this happened to me). I mean feeling ashamed for being un/underemployed or still living with your parents and feeling like you don't have your shit together. I mean feeling ashamed of being so damn depressed that you can’t get out of bed some days. I mean feeling ashamed of lying to everyone because you don’t think they’ll like you if they knew the truth. I mean feeling ashamed of being inauthentic, manipulative, narcissistic, dramatic, weak, unlovable, depressed, an addict, an asshole, an anxious wreck. I mean ALL of it.
Let it out. Seriously. You don’t have to hold all of that anymore. You don’t have to share it with me or anyone else, but at least put it down on paper.
Writing this all out helps me take the constant dialogue in my head and cut through all the bullshit. I finally see all that I’ve been trying to defend myself against, what I’m afraid of people finding out about me, what I don’t want to admit, even to myself. Once it’s finally out there I can:
(a) forgive myself (I'm human, so are you)
(b) laugh (too “woo”, really? No one is thinking that, Jazmine)
(c) understand myself better
And here's what happens:
I begin to think about how that narrative may have begun, why I developed those thoughts and beliefs about myself. In other words, I start to unravel the past to reclaim my future.
I find all the contradictions (I’m ashamed of being too outspoken and too shy at the same time?)
I let the countervoice come in, the one who has got my back (Girl, you think you’re too “woo”? Your spirituality is one of the most valuable parts of your life. Own it.)
I switch the script (Yeah, I’m super “woo”, deal with it)
I give myself a break and I move on.
No joke, I do this every month and it's POWERFUL. I get to see which one’s stick and which ones loosen or get released.
So write it down, let it go. Try this and let me know how it goes in the comments below.