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How I Personally Cope With Shame

 

Today, I want to talk about shame. It's something that I am very familiar with in my own life. In fact, many people struggle with shame and don’t even realize that is what they are dealing with. We grow accustomed to listening to the incessant chatter of the voice in our head, the voice I call the Inner Critic.

When I talk about shame, I'm not talking about anyone actually DOING anything wrong. I'm talking about the FEELING and the thoughts that we are somehow wrong, defective, inadequate, not good enough, or not strong enough. Everyone feels shame, but most of us don’t recognize the forms that shame can come in. For instance:

  • Shyness is shame in the presence of a stranger
  • Self-doubt is shame about a possible failure
  • Embarrassment is shame in front of others
  • Self-consciousness is shame about how you are perceived
  • Feeling not good enough is all-encompassing shame about yourself

Our Inner Critic triggers shame by whipping up habitual thoughts that have been playing on a repetitive loop for much of our lives. Think about expectations about yourself or your life that you haven’t met, or the fear of failure or rejection in your relationships.  

Throughout my life, my Inner Critic focused on believing that I was not as good as others. She spent years of my life comparing me to others and feeling afraid that I would somehow be rejected or judged. It was the shame from my Inner Critic that put me on the path of self-growth in the first place. All of the work of Dethroning Your Inner Critic stems from my almost 30-year study of the mind and how our lives are designed by our thoughts. 

I am living proof that rewiring my mind has given me a life that would not have been possible if continued to let my Inner Critic rule my mind. Because the old shame still rears its ugly head to this day. But thank God I have the tools to separate myself from my Inner Critic and design my life using a new mind.  Otherwise, everything in my life--my relationship with myself, my relationship with my husband and kids, my family, my friends, my business--would be entirely different.    

We’re not taught that the thoughts in our mind are not real. There’s no education for this which is so crazy! Managing the thoughts in our minds is the most important thing we can ever do for ourselves.

We live in a culture where scarcity and perfectionism are the norm. Because of this, we hide our fears, our pain, and our shame. We pretend that our lives are not messy and that we don’t have any insecurities.  We keep doing what we’re doing and think we just need to do it better or do it more often in order to make life go the way we want it to...all so that we can avoid looking at ourselves. We try to figure out the best way to hide this part of ourselves. 

The more we protect ourselves, the less we are able to connect with people. What if they see that we really don’t have it all together or we really aren’t good enough? Our self worth is dependent on making sure that we keep this part hidden. It’s dependent on what people think of us.

We think that to be successful, we shouldn’t need help or shouldn’t have fear or we shouldn’t have insecurity. We try to paint the illusion that we don’t have any shame and inadequacy because we associate that with being weak.

Examining your own fear and shame is the discomfort that we all need to step into. 

If you can’t look at your vulnerability and pain, how can you learn and grow? Life becomes all about protecting that part of yourself rather than a willingness to explore your deepest fear and pain as a way to let go and grow...to be free.  

Fear. Shame. Perfectionism. Blame. Accountability. Trust. Failure. Regret. These feelings are like quicksand. We live in the future so we can try to prevent these feelings from surfacing in our lives. We get so overly focused on avoiding these feelings that we neglect our inner knowing about what is right and best for us. 

This is how we lose ourselves in dysfunctional relationships, trying to fix and change situations or people in our lives, (and take it personally when life mirrors our dysfunction back to us). We say, “I’m a failure” when the reality is that we knew this relationship or situation was dysfunctional from the get-go. We just didn’t pay attention to our inner knowing because we were too focused on protecting these vulnerabilities.

We can’t get past feeling like a failure or like we’re not good enough if we’re not willing to see it. We can’t heal that which we’re not willing to look at and own. And we can’t do this self-examination alone. We need to be willing to ask for help from the people we love and trust. Otherwise, we are so busy hiding ourselves that we never have a true sense of emotional intimacy.

We ALL need people. PERIOD. It’s in our DNA. We have a fundamental human need to be seen and heard.  

If we can’t see and hear ourselves, inadequacies, vulnerabilities and all, how can we truly be seen and heard by anyone else? We have all the room for other people to feel small, to make mistakes, to need help. But when it comes to ourselves, that is a different story. We expect perfectionism from ourselves. We should never make mistakes, disappoint someone or need help.

We have the choice to either be swallowed by our shame by not looking at it and owning it, or we can choose to truly see it. Brene Brown says, “We can choose courage or we can choose comfort but we can’t have both. Not at the same time.”

Having the courage to examine habitual and conditioned thoughts in your mind that perpetuate your shame is what transforms your life.  Because whether you like it or not, hurt happens to every single one of us without exception. The question is: Do we want to deal with hurt using a new mind or continue to deal with hurt using the same mind that has caused us all of our pain and suffering in our lives so far? 

When life doesn’t go the way you expected it to, when you have a break up, a divorce, a job loss or a failure, you can either allow your Inner Critic to hijack your mind and feel like YOU are a failure or you can get curious about the thoughts that are making you feel the way you do. You can either recognize that you are feeling an uncomfortable feeling or you can try to numb yourself or operate on top of that feeling.

When we pretend that we aren’t dealing with a tough emotion, the emotion doesn’t go away. Instead, that emotion is what defines us and guides our behavior. What gets in the way of dealing with painful emotion is fear.

As human beings, we don’t like discomfort. We don’t like how difficult emotions feel. We don’t know what to do with the feeling of being exposed and vulnerable. Even though emotion is really only a vibration in our body, it can feel physically terrible and we’re not used to allowing ourselves to experience this.  

Rather than saying "I failed and it feels so crappy", we move to "I am a failure". We act out and shut down rather than doing the work of examining the Inner Critic thoughts in our mind. Your behavior serves as an indication sign which you won’t recognize if you are not investigating. So your behavior is like a blinking red warning light like yelling at your kids or firing off a shitty email to a colleague.  

When I feel shame, it’s my mood that is the first clue that I’ve been hijacked by my Inner Critic.  When I am in an irritable or cranky mood, I need to have the willingness to investigate what’s going on in my mind and why. Again, the good news is that you don’t need to answer those questions right off the bat. You just need to want to learn more: Why am I being so hard on everyone around me today? What’s setting me off? How did I get to the point that I want to punch this wall?

Our instinct is to run from pain. In fact, most of us were never taught how to hold discomfort, sit with it, or communicate it, only how to discharge or dump it, or to pretend that it’s not happening. If you combine that with the instinctual avoidance of pain, it’s easy to understand why avoidance becomes a habit.

Choosing to be curious is choosing to be uncomfortable because it requires us to step into the realm of the unknown. When I was in the habit of listening to my Inner Critic, I stayed stuck for years in the same complaints...but at least I knew what those complaints were. I complained about why my business didn’t look the way I wanted it to or why I had the same complaints in my relationships, but I wasn’t willing to do the hard work of examining how MY thoughts were the culprit. 

I stayed stuck for years rather than embracing the fear of taking actions to change things. I was really self-protecting—choosing predictability over curiosity, and self-protection over vulnerability. I blamed my emotions on other people or other circumstances. It was not until I really did the hard work of rewiring my mind one thought at a time that my life began to dramatically change. 

Our Inner Critic’s favorite pastime is caring about our status and what people think, about always being better than, or always being right. I think of my Inner Critic as my inner hustler. She’s always telling me to compare, prove, please, perfect, outperform, and compete. Our Inner Critic has very little tolerance for discomfort or self-reflection.

When we are hijacked by our Inner Critic, we aren’t responsible for the stories and drama she whips up.  She doesn’t want to find new meaning to the circumstances. She hates curiosity and investigating our habits of thinking that got us here in the first place. Instead, she is all about protection from a shame-based fear of being not good enough. Anger, blame, and avoidance are the inner critic’s bouncers. When we have an experience that drums up a difficult emotion, these three spring into action. Because It’s much easier to say, “I don’t give care,” than it is to say, “I’m hurt.”

The Inner Critic is also a fan of avoidance—we convince ourselves that we’re fine, pretending that it doesn’t matter, that we’re unaffected. We feign indifference or stoicism, or we deflect with humor and cynicism. Whatever. Who cares?

When the bouncers are successful—when anger, blame, and avoidance push away real hurt, disappointment, or pain—our Inner Critic might even put down or shame other people for being out of control with their emotions.  

For many of us, the first response is not to lean into the discomfort and feel our way through but to make it go away.

This is when we use alcohol, drugs, food, sex, relationships, money, work, caretaking, gambling, affairs, religion, chaos, shopping, planning, perfectionism, constant change, and the Internet as a way to numb.  And there’s always staying busy: living so hard and fast that the truths of our lives can’t catch up with us.

But no matter what we use, we can’t selectively numb emotions—when we numb the painful emotions we also numb the joyous ones. When “taking the edge off” with a couple of glasses of wine becomes a routine, our experiences of joy and love and trust will become duller, too. With less and less positive emotion in our lives, we become conditioned to numbing.

It’s a vicious cycle...and it’s becoming more and more common in our culture. We joke about it being 5:00 somewhere and wine being a necessary part of motherhood. The truth is that we are the most in debt, obese, medicated, and addicted adults in human history.

We just continue to let our Inner Critic rule our minds and live in a state of pain that becomes our normal until our bodies decide that enough is enough. The body’s message is always clear: Deal with your pain or I’ll shut you down. The body wins every time. We all know someone who “kept everything inside” until they couldn’t sleep or eat or they became so anxious they couldn’t focus at work or grew too depressed to do anything but stay in bed.

Depression and anxiety are two of the body’s first reactions to avoiding pain.  Depression occurs when the old, painful emotions stemming from our Inner Critic have been playing on a repetitive loop for years. Every interpretation, everything the IC says, every judgment about your life and what’s happening, will be totally distorted by the old emotional pain.

Your Inner Critic will feed on every negative thought that arises and gets more energy. You end up thinking about things for hours, days, months or even years, which completely depletes your energy.

If you learn to become intimately familiar and aware of your Inner Critic's thoughts, then she loses her power over your mind. She cannot feed anymore on your thoughts, or on other people’s reactions. You can simply observe your Inner Critic's thoughts and be the witness of its rants.

By becoming the observer of your mind, you can actually learn how to master the thoughts in your mind. The more you practice this separation of you with your Inner Critic mind, its energy will decrease and influence your thoughts, feelings, and actions less and less. This is how this work of rewiring your mind has the power to transform your entire life over time.  

The beginning of freedom is the realization that you are not your Inner Critic. The moment you start watching your Inner Critic, you activate a different mind. You then begin to realize that there is a vast realm of intelligence beyond your automatic and habitual thoughts and that mastering your thoughts transforms your life.  You also realize that all the things that truly matter – beauty, love, creativity, joy, inner peace – arise from learning how to manage the thoughts in your mind. You begin to awaken to using a different mind to design your life.  

I have created a program to master your mind that is a culmination of my life’s work and is truly not only transforming the lives of the participants but transforming my life as well.  It is astounding is what happens when a group of women embarks on the journey of dethroning their Inner Critic together.

It is indescribable what happens when you receive the support and connection from other women who are on the same journey.

When women unite and come together to learn and grow from one another. 

To allow yourself to see yourself in others and practice vulnerability and connection.

It has been the most profound and powerful experience to create this community of women. So if you know you belong on this journey with us, schedule a clarity conversation and let’s see if you’re a fit for this program. Because nothing is more fulfilling than women coming together and learning the power of mastering their minds. Because when you learn the tools to dethrone your Inner critic, you will seriously become unrecognizable to yourself.  

 

I created a group program called Mastering Your Mind designed to help you rewire your thoughts so you can design your life (rather than living in dread about the past or anxiety about the future).

Want in? Let's chat so I can share the details! 

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