When I first heard Brené Brown explain the difference between guilt and shame I almost fell of my chair.
Guilt says “I made a mistake”. Shame says “I am a mistake”.
It resonated so deeply that tears filled my eyes and rained down my cheeks. It was in that moment I could feel deep levels of shame rising up. I suddenly saw this scared little 5 year old girl shackled to the wall in a damp dark cell destined to live her life imprisoned by the dark shadows of shame.
Shame is one of those deeply rooted emotions that can often lead to destructive behaviour. Whether it is shame we put on ourselves or that is projected onto us, the intense energy of shame can hold us captive in our own mind leading to feelings of unworthiness and even self punishment.
Over the years I have healed much of my long held shame. We heal in layers and some layers are more intense than others. A few weeks ago another layer of shame crept up to the surface. A dear friend who is on a journey to lose weight bravely shared with me some photos of her beautiful body wearing only her underwear and bra. She had accepted a challenge to be accountable and this was one commitment she agreed to fulfill. My first response was admiration. What a brave courageous goddess! Then slowly my own fear started to rise up like a bubbling volcano. The words “Please don’t make me do that. Please don’t make me do that.” kept ringing in my ears.
For as long as I could remember I have been afraid to be in a bathing suit or naked in front of anyone. Even in the early years of my relationship with my husband the lights had to be off before I would take off my clothes. The fear of being seen naked or even partially exposed was terrifying.
Recently when I explored my feelings of fear rising up I started to question why I continue to feel such fear around exposing my body. I have done so much healing around my relationship with my body. Suddenly another wave of shame washed over me like a tsumani as memories of being sexually abused when I was 5 years old came flooding back. I remembered feeling helpless as a group of teenagers made me take my clothes off and they proceeded to move me into different sexual positions as if I were a barbie doll.
While everything inside of me wanted to yell “No stop!” nothing came out of my mouth. I froze with fear as they laughed and joked. Afterwards I blamed myself for not saying something, for not stopping them. It was all my fault.That was the start of much of my self destructive behaviour. I felt so ashamed and I punished myself for years.
I suddenly realized that my deep fear around exposing my body was still rooted in the shame I felt from that childhood trauma. I was ashamed of my body because I was ashamed of me. Ouch! Just when you think you have healed something another layer comes washing up. I always trust the timing on healing different layers. The timing was perfectly divine. I wouldn’t have been able to get to the root of the shame so deeply and release it so quickly had I not be practicing present moment awareness.
I had the privilege of meeting and hearing Taryn Brumfit speak at Embrace Vancouver. Taryn is the founder of the Body Image Movement that inspires women and girls all around the world to embrace and love their bodies. After witnessing once again a brave courageous goddess bearing all to empower others I was inspired beyond words.
The guidance came in that I am to share my process around healing shame and expose the fear deep within. The fear was intense but I was willing to face the fear and do it anyway. Then suddenly the message came that I was to create a before and after photo of myself and share it in this blog. Are you kidding me? I was even more terrified.
While intellectually I know I have nothing to feel ashamed about when it comes to my body. I don’t have stretch marks from my pregnancy, my belly is fairly toned and I am not overweight. Sure I have some cellulite but who doesn’t. I still felt terrified at the thought of exposing my body to the world. On top of the shame and fear, I also felt guilt because other women have more reason to feel self conscious than I do.
My ego is taking me through a viscious cycle of guilt, shame and fear. On some level I don’t feel I deserve to feel ashamed of my body. The truth is that it doesn’t matter how fit I was or what I weighed, I have never felt good enough. Even at 90 pounds when my anorexia was at its worse, I still was ashamed and wanted to hide my body because it wasn’t good enough. Even when I was teaching 10 fitness classes a week and my body was very toned, it still wasn’t enough. I would still look in the mirror and find any and all faults.
The messages from society run deep in our veins “we are not good enough”. This needs to change and I know change begins within each one of us. I can’t change how others feel about themselves but I can certainly inspires others to expose their fears and embrace their body just as it is.
When fear shows up I know it is simply pointing to something that needs to be exposed and healed. As we shine light on fear it can dissolve. We need to face our fear, not run from it. So through tears, anxiety and sheer terror I accepted my heart’s challenge to expose my shame and fear so I can finally heal this deep dark secret.
So I share these photos because that is what my heart is leading me to do and I know my heart never leads me astray. This is for my healing and the healing of all the women and girls who want to feel FREE in their bodies! I may feel terrified when I press publish for this post but I know in my heart it will be worth it. My freedom is worth it and hopefully it will inspire others at the same time.
♥ Heart Work: So now it is your turn. I have provided a tool to free yourself from the shackles of shame. Be curious without judgment. Be kind and compassionate toward your self. Practice patience and be willing to heal.
S ~ Speak your Truth: shame holds us captive when we keep it secret. When we expose the shame we shine light on the darkness. It is in the light that we can heal anything. Find someone in your life that can be a compassionate witness. Someone who can hold space for your to share your secret and speak your truth without judgment. Whether it be a friend, family member, counselor or other professional, speaking your truth is the key to releasing the hold shame has on you.
H ~ Heart led: trust your heart to lead you in your process of healing. It will lead you to those that will support you. It will lead you to journal, meditation, energy healing or whatever else you need to heal deeply. Trust your intuition. Follow your heart. Your unique recipe for healing is already programmed deep within your heart. It sounds simple but it is not always easy. I share 10 guiding principles and a number of tools to support you developing a deep trust in your intuition in my new book “Heart Led Living ~ When Hard Work Becomes Heart Work”.
A ~ Acceptance: accepting what happened is essential. Things happen in life that we can’t always understand. We can’t change our past no matter how much we may want to. It was what it was. We actually heal our past in the present moment. Accept the feelings, accept the shame, accept your reaction, accept what was and what is. I am where I am and it’s ok. I am feeling shame and it’s ok. Acceptance allows you to make peace with what is and be open to find meaning. It also allows us to release the resistance around anything that is present and drop deeper into the healing process.
M ~ Mindfulness: practicing mindfulness will help you name and identify what you are thinking and feeling. It can also bring to the surface any beliefs you have that may be leading to self destructive behaviours. One common thread with individuals who have carried deep shame is they become perfectionists trying to prove their self worth. When you are curious and present moment to moment you can start to become aware of the patterns playing out in your life that are causing further harm.
E ~ Express & Empty: this is similar to speaking your truth through your unexpressed words but it also involves allowing the expression of buried emotions. I give you full permission to cry all your uncried tears, to feel the anger and resentment toward the situation or person that created such deep shame and to express physically, mentally, emotionally, energetically and spiritually any leftovers. I have been the compassionate witness for many of my clients. I offer what I call “expression sessions”. It is a process to empty anything and everything that is held inside that is no longer serving you. As the Ogre Shrek says “Better out than in”.
Remember if you need support processing and healing deep shame ask for help. My coach Les Brown always says “Ask for help. Not because you are weak but because you want to remain strong.”
It shows great strength to reach out and find someone to support you. Remember having a compassionate witness can help you heal at the deepest possible level. If you feel stuck or afraid to reach out to others I am available for intuitive healing sessions.
Let’s join together and commit to shine light on the shame so we can all heal deeply. When we heal our own shame we give others permission and courage to do the same.
UPDATE: within 24 hours of posting this blog something shifted deep within. I look at myself in the mirror and I can celebrate all of me. I see myself as I am in the second photo. I have since received many emails from women exposing their deep shameful secrets to me and I am putting each one of them in my healing box. Sometimes our deep wounds need witnesses. You are not alone and I have complete faith in your ability to heal ANYTHING. Much love and hugs, Sue