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orange_heartIf I could give you one piece of advice it would be this – never ever ever think you are above something. Every time I get smug about anything, the universe gives me a little kick in my backside just to remind me that I am human. It is humbling and often manifests in the most embarrassing ways. For example, believing for a second that I have it all figured out when it comes to sex and relationships only to have a MASSIVE FAILURE IN JUDGEMENT. Oh yeah, turns out I make mistakes just like the rest of us. Duh!

In fact, recently I did something that upset someone – let’s just call it a violation of their boundaries – and they were totally correct, I was WRONG. There was no getting around this. And how did it feel? Truly, truly awful that’s how. And that is the power of shame – it’s when you violate your own internal value system – whether in your eyes only or also in the eyes of others – and you therefore feel a complete disconnection from yourself and your own worth. It’s one of the darkest emotions, often living in hidden corners of our minds where we don’t want to go but yet also driving us to avoid any further occurrence of shame AT ALL COSTS. It’s the kind of discomfort that can actually drive us to do things that are against our own interests in order to avoid or hide those things of which we are ashamed. In particular, we may avoid someone or even treat them badly because of some shame they remind us of.

Some people believe that shame is useful, even necessary. Shaming is used all the time to teach people what is and isn’t acceptable. The idea is that being made to feel bad is the only way to ensure good behaviour. However, this is just false. Our good, loving behaviour comes from exactly that – love. When we are kind, considerate, funny, caring, affectionate, or brave, we are coming from a place of light. These things do not come from darkness and pain. It is SAFE TO LET LIGHT GROW. You do not need the dark to keep you in control!

So what do we do when there is no getting around it? We were wrong, we did a bad thing, and there is no squirming out of this one…:

  1. Do not run from it – if you are actually wrong then trying to reconstruct your whole perception or belief system to eradicate this will be more damaging in the long run (it’s the kind of behaviour that gets us into perpetual cycles where we become more and more desensitized to our behaviour, telling ourselves it’s not so bad…)
  1. Speak it – get it out into the light because shame only survives in darkness. Shame operates by making you think you are unworthy and need to hide. Tell someone and if you really can’t bring yourself to then write it all down, it won’t seem so scary then.
  1. Forgive yourself – learn from it and move on. Cut yourself some slack just like you would if someone you loved had done the same thing! You achieve nothing by beating yourself up and it is actually more likely to make you act out again.

We all make mistakes, we all let ourselves down once in a while, and we are all worthy of love. Never forget that. Learning and striving to live well are what matters. However, if these sources of shame are becoming painful habits, do not forget there is help out there for you…

May you always remember the light within.

Love, Helen

Dr. Helen Johnson

Dr Helen Johnson coaches creative, complex thinkers, and leaders in their field to challenge themselves, be more effective, and lighten up. Through her group programme, Deeper, she offers a way to hone your coaching and personal development skills while also doing the powerful work on yourself.