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The Gravity of Shame

With the May snow swirling outside my window, I watched a newly emerged spring green leaf fall helplessly to the ground, as if to say, “too much! I can’t bear being exposed any longer and I want to die.” As I watched the drama, I imagined the full life this leaf might have lived. She would have enjoyed a warm summer with the pleasurable feeling of energy being pumped through her veins. She might have lived out her purpose of turning sunlight and water into a magnificent tree all the while dancing with her sisters and brothers in the calm breezes as well as storms. At the end of her life, she might have turned into a bright orange blaze in the hush of fall before winter brought her death.

This thought lingered with me, and as a staunch friend of both projection and anthropomorphizing, I began relating to this. What can make us shudder from exposure and make us wish we were dead? What makes us fall from our true purpose? “Shame is a soul eating emotion,” Carl Jung once observed. Shame makes us feel vulnerable and exposed to the harsh elements of other’s cool judgment real or perceived, or worse, our own cold judgment of ourselves. We hide from it and avoid situations where it might, like some ever present menace, be provoked.

There is a price to this hiding and avoiding. We miss out on some of life’s joys and avoid experiences that would make our lives richer and more complex. For many of us, it is not the abuse that others do to us that causes our shame; it is our own internal scripts that are reflective of our self-perception and our perception regarding how the world perceives us. From the smallest of self talk to something bigger, we gut check ourselves moment by moment each day to avoid risk, humiliation – shame. Often these scripts go unexamined as they are part of our belief system, and we are as sure about them as we are sure about gravity.

Whether coaching leaders, teams or individuals, part of the real work is helping them to uncover what holds them back from their highest purpose. There are many theories about this including limiting belief systems, fear of failure or even fear of success, but I believe that at the root of these resides shame. Shame that we might be unworthy, shame that we are inadequate, shame that others might see who we “really are” and that might not be good enough, smart enough, or tough enough.

What holds you back? What makes you hide yourself from others? When do you do a gut check before speaking your mind? Find a friend or sounding board and talk it out, or write, draw, or create the emotion so that it sees the light of day. Shame survives best by being hidden, unexamined, and by the belief that you are the only one feeling this way. Ignoring it will not make it go away and can make it grow. Becoming conscious of your own shame and sometimes, just sometimes, merely asking and answering “what makes me feel shamed?” can help shame defy gravity and float away like the May snow.

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One Comment on “The Gravity of Shame”

  1. Website June 16, 2015 at 3:34 pm #

    You could definitely see your skills within the article you write. The world hopes for more passionate writers like you who aren’t afraid to mention how they believe. At all times follow your heart.|

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