Moving Beyond Intrinsic Shame
It never fails. I do an interview, I put myself out into the universe in some way, and right afterwards I feel good about it, but then, usually, … with the passing of time, and I never know how long that will be—ten minutes or longer typically—what I’ve come to call my intrinsic shame, me at my core, creeps in, and I’m remorseful of or apologetic for something I’ve said.
Sometimes it wakes me up in the middle of the night, and I’m deluged with negative thoughts and want to hide forever under the covers, not sleeping mind you, simply hiding. This happened recently when I posted two pictures of myself on my Facebook page and asked friends to vote for their favorite. “You shouldn’t be calling attention to yourself,” my mind whispered into my soul in the dark hours. I used to hold these thoughts internally and hide from the world, today I recognize it, talk to my husband, and think through what the real problem is rather than stay in my shell of fearful remorse.
The real problem is that I was raised with catch phrases that used to circulate amongst parents of my parents’ generation. “Children should be seen and not heard.” “Don’t toot your own horn.” The real problem is that my parents probably had the same messages instilled in them.
The world today is no longer one of modesty or adherence to the rule that an individual has nothing worth while to say and should leave the talking to the experts. Today we share pain, experiences and thoughts so that others may be empowered on their own journey. The world today is one of, “shout as loudly as you can about yourself,” because everyone else is shouting too. And unfortunately, the world today is still full of people who will shoot down your confidence no matter what you say or do, but also, fortunately, the world today is full of still others who will rally around you to support you because we are now connected to each other every waking minute. Today we are all experts in life as we’ve lived it.
You are who you are at your core, and if shame is causing you to feel “bad” about yourself, you can change. However, the steps to change are s-l-o-w. Have patience and reach out, tell a trusted friend your problem, and the sting of the internalized belief system that wants to keep you shameful will lessen. Without sharing there is only the perpetuation of shame, because shame is a real or, more than likely, imagined, evaluation from others; a violation of cultural or social values. In other words, shame often arises from what you think others are going to think about you. Your shame lives in your head and grows in your isolation. You have a choice to let your shame run you or to take the steps to move beyond it.
This week my shame arose because I’ve been talking about sexuality; specifically sexuality as I learned to embrace after having been a stripper (shameful all by itself but now that I’m talking about it - doubly shameful). The unwritten, never spoken about rule from my childhood being, "Never talk about body or sex." Years ago I read a memoir by Mary Pipher, Seeking Peace: Chronicles of the Worst Buddhist in the World wherein she wrote about stopping public speaking because afterwards she’d lay awake at night rethinking and agonizing over what she did or didn’t say. I can’t say what her motivation behind behind these thoughts were, but I consider this to be part of the inner critic typically the internalized voice that wants to keep us safe, usually instilled when we were young that for adults may be misguided.
You have a choice to retreat into yourself or understand your shame or any other uncomfortable feelings’ origin so you can move beyond it. Choosing to understand will help to raise your trust in yourself and your confidence, however, know that whatever you choose will be right for you in that moment as long as you realize you have a choice and you know that your choice may change in the future. There will be no shame in that.
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