Shame exists within all of us.
He sat across from me, it was clear he was feeling ashamed. “I have to tell you something about myself ,” he said, “and I don’t want you to judge me—I want you to help me.”
He explained how at work he would randomly pick a person and walk by and whisper, “Shame on you, they know!“
As he walked away he would turn around to see the person’s reaction, and it was always the same: confusion and bewilderment, followed by worry, then fear, then panic. He could see their deep shame and fear and it gave him some pleasure.
His story made me cringe, but it also taught me some important lessons about shame.
Lesson one: Shame Exists:
Shame is a source within us all. Shame can stem from the belief that we are not good and we are unworthy. It keeps us stuck in ourselves, feeling the pain. It makes us reject ever finding our true self or knowing who we are. This is the fate that resides within us if we live with shame.
Lesson two: Shame and Blame:
Shame fosters the belief that we are to blame, and that we are utterly powerless in our circumstances. Identifying our shame helps us take responsibility for our mistakes without believing we are the mistake. One must learn to be kind and compassionate towards themselves and to have a heart for their own imperfections.
Shame tells us we make mistakes because we are a mistake.
Lesson three: Shame That Binds:
Shame binds us when it stays unresolved, shame attaches itself to all our emotions and creates havoc with our feelings. If we want to heal, we have the responsibility to liberate ourselves from our shame with empathy and care. Sometimes we may feel worse before it gets better, but when shame is looked at closely it can free us to be the person we are meant to be without being ashamed of who we are.
Choosing ourselves over our shame gives us an chance to choose life.
Lesson four: Shame and Fear:
When shame is laced with fear, it gestures to us that we are in danger and it keeps us feeling ashamed. Facing the fear loosens the grip of shame by helping us understand that our shame is not everything we are and it does not cloak all that we do. Knowing that we can deal with our secret begins to take the weight off.
Lesson five: Shame and Transference:
Shame on you is really shame on me, the ones causing us pain are wounded themselves. Sometimes we look for someone to blame for our suffering, and those who really hate themselves transfer their hurt to lessen their pain. Be kind to those who have hurt you, because they too are hurting. (And if you are experiencing these feelings yourself, please seek guidance, mentorship, and help.)
The ones causing us pain are wounded carriers of shame.
Lesson six: Shame Exposed:
Shame is like a wound—if it is never exposed, it will never heal. Discharging shame releases the toxicity of the emotional pain that causes suffering. If we can share our shame with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame will cease to take hold of us. Shame cannot survive if faced with understanding and compassion.
Shame derives its power from silence. It drives us towards our limitations.
Give yourself permission to put a stop to shame. If you keep your head down out of shame or fear, you miss the heart of what truly matters.
Lead From Within: Shame exists within all of us. Do not be ashamed of asking for help; find a safe person to share one of your shameful parts of yourself and lead yourself away from self-defeating attitudes.
Artist: Davit Mirzoyan
Of Lolly’s many awards and accolades, Lolly was designated a Top-50 Leadership and Management Expert by Inc. magazine. Huffington Post honored Lolly with the title of The Most Inspiring Woman in the World. Her writing has appeared in HBR, Inc.com, Fast Company (Ask The Expert), Huffington Post, and Psychology Today, and others. Her newest book, The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness is being released by Portfolio May 2017.