This is the second of my posts in the Red Carpet series. Today, I talk about shame.
So, why the Red Carpet? And why shame? I'll explain more as you read on ........
Shame is a socially constructed emotion and response to what is not considered by society to be an ‘acceptable’ norm. It is a feeling that arises from the supposition that you have done something wrong or that there is something wrong about what you do, who you are or what you feel.
We may feel shame about something that is real about us or that we perceive to be real.
Shame, shaming and being ashamed are things that we don’t often talk about.
To feel shame is particularly destructive. To have shame attributed to us can be incredibly painful.
We fear shame. And shame is the perfect ally for keeping our thoughts and feelings suppressed.
Shame makes us keep things hidden. We may withdraw from situations because of how we feel about ourselves. We may even keep them a secret from ourselves. This may be because we hold a fear that if we reveal something about ourselves, our situation or our thoughts, that is perceived to be shameful, we may be judged and experience further pain.
We learn to feel shame at an early age. It is not a lesson in its own right but we pick up cues around shame from those around us and we may start to experiences feelings of shame for childhood misdemeanors or things that we are or do that are judged to be inappropriate.
As we mature, shame grows with us and at times, others may also attribute shame our way. Shame may be attributed to our being or our circumstances, where they are considered socially unacceptable or inept. Or to anything that is different about us that doesn't fit into what others see as an acceptable norm. Irrespective of whether it is true.
I will use a few of my own experiences of shame here that may resonate with you too.
I have a very strong work ethic. I was brought up this way and I’m also incredibly motivated and very passionate about personal development. After I had my daughter, I struggled to get back into the workplace doing something that was flexible in order to spend time with my little girl. So, I took the time to learn something new and do things differently. To forge a new path that worked for me and my family. All the while, I experienced comments like ‘you’re a dosser’, ‘why don’t you get a proper job’ and ‘I don’t know what you do all day’.
And, because I was learning to do something that was a bit outside the box (that I was enjoying), comments like ‘you’ve got too much time on your hands’ and ‘it’s alright for some’, regularly came my way.
You can see how that would have jarred for me at the time and caused me to feel shame because of my own values and beliefs. It was hard to feel rejected from the workplace - my strong work ethic and background, was really being compromised. I already felt an element of shame. My natural resilience and drive to turn my hand to something else was then questioned. And that can be when your sparkle starts to fade. You start to recoil from where further judgement may come from, in case it adds to any existing shame.
You may have examples like this of your own.
Another area where I have experienced shaming over the years is around where I come from and my accent. And shock horror - I was brought up on a Council Estate. It did me no harm whatsoever. But I was passed over for opportunities in the workplace when I was younger, and as will resonate with many, I was judged to be lacking in intelligence because of the way I spoke. I refer here to a time when this sort of thing was allowed to happen in the workplace. It was common and generally went unchecked. As a young girl, I was easy prey.
Again, shame was attributed here to something personal to me and my circumstance that is outside of my control. There are many examples like this where people have been held back or ruled out of moving forward in the workplace. I am one of many.
I have shared these particular examples because I know that many people have experienced similar situations around identity and their circumstances. And by hearing the experience of others, we feel that we can be a little bit easier on ourselves. Also, these examples highlight how shame can trip us up when we experience something that is out of control or that we cannot change about ourselves. Because we don't want it either. Or perhaps we do - but feel that we shouldn't.
Dealing with shame
If we don’t bring these things into check, we can become so ashamed by what is attributed to us, that we stop talking about it. We feel too ashamed to speak openly about the aspersions that have been cast our way, and we put a protective mechanism in place to stop becoming the brunt of someone else’s judgement. It can make us defensive because we fear that others will believe these things to be true of us too. As though we are flawed in some way.
Shame can make us silent and it can make us want to hide ourselves and recoil. It can hold us back from doing the things that we want to do. Or stop us from doing the things that we know that we can do.
The way forward is to start changing the narrative. That is exactly what I have done and will continue to do. Because, anything that holds us back is not worth having. We must question the essence of where and how our shame has come about, and how it is affecting what we do. This is not always easy because it may not be possible to change a particular circumstance about us or our lives. But we can change the way we look at things by accepting them for what they are and looking at what we can do to start moving away from holding these feelings.
The best way to release ourselves from shame is to open up to what we are feeling. And the first place to start is by being truthful with ourselves. Learning to accept the things about ourselves that cannot be changed, will take us one step closer to removing the protective barriers that we feel. And as we feel more comfortable about that, we can start to question whether we want to continue to allow these things to define us. Because they don't have to. They are not our story. And we don't need to be put into a box against our will.
We get to choose the way forward. And we also get to choose our response to anything we can't control. Because our circumstances are not an indicator of our capabilities. Neither do they need to constrain us. There is absolutely no shame in wanting to be the best we can be.
The only thing that will ever hold us back is in allowing shame to become bigger than us.
But once you start to look shame in the eye and challenge it, you may also discover that the thing that is supposedly 'wrong' about you, is actually your greatest strength.
And that's when you will start to flourish.
Other posts in the Red Carpet Series (click post below to read)
I have introduced the Red Carpet Series as a way to start encouraging honest conversation about some of the thoughts, feeling and emotions that we don't always feel comfortable about sharing. That is often because we may feel that there is shame associated with doing so. I’ve had some huge revelations in doing this work myself and also with my clients. There really is nothing like holding a mirror up and shining a light on what is actually going on inside of us. It is also true to say that some personality traits over the years have been treated like defects. I’ll be talking about these too! It’s incredibly insightful work and I want to share this because when we start to understand ourselves, and aren’t afraid of our thoughts, it’s incredibly freeing and empowering. Hence, the Red Carpet - because all of these emotions are a part of us, along with the good ones. So, by accepting that we have them, and giving them a bit of air time, it saves the problems that arise - instead of doing what we often do and brushing them under our 'proverbial' carpets. Keeping them hidden. Until they trip us up again.
My name is Nicky Kentisbeer and I am a Mindset & Confidence Coach. I support women to work on their mindset and develop the confidence that they need to move beyond the challenges that are keeping them stuck, towards a place that they would much rather be. I do this based on the belief that we have within us the most incredible resources and capabilities to find our own solutions - irrespective of our background or starting point. There is no barrier to entry.
Maybe you have a feeling of being stuck, going round in circles or living the same day over and over? Or, are you finding that the way you approach problems and challenges always gives you the same result? And it’s not the one that you want. As your coach, I can support you to understand and address the things that may be holding you back from achieving your goals. Through 1-to-1 coaching sessions, we will explore what it is that you want and the steps that you need to take to get started. I will ask lots of questions! Questions that you may not have asked of yourself. It is through these questions that I invite you to look at things in different ways, from a different perspective and access your own solutions accordingly. I will also invite you to look at old beliefs and the stories that you may be telling yourself about your abilities. I do not teach nor tell you how things should be done. And there is no judgement. If this resonates with you, I invite you to book a free 30-minute call with me to discuss whether coaching would be the right approach for you to start turning your ideas and aspirations into action.