Shame, Insidious Shame

Shame is seductive, slippery, and subversive. It pounces on us when we make a supposed “mistake” and tells us that we ARE this or that.

  • You are unworthy 
  • You are less than 
  • You are a fraud 
  • You are ugly 
  • You are wayyyy behind where you should be right now

It maligns our essence. Our “self.” It says this is who you ARE.

As in permanently. Unable to be anything else. Ever.


What if you were to shift the shame that you feel into, instead…

…a compassionate evaluation of your behavior (including that you might have to go right a wrong) WITH unconditional love for the true, worthy, and loving you that resides inside?

Let me explain.

Let’s pretend that you have shown up in the world in a way that you are not proud of. (This is the “mistake” I reference above).

Let’s say you just lost it with a significant other. You flipped out, acted defensively, yelled, attacked, and had a razor-tongue that was eviscerating. And this did not go well.

(Yes, I wanted to use a really juicy example).

What I would proffer as a question is:

What occurred that triggered my feeling so fearful or threatened or unseen or unloved that caused me to act in this way?
(Now just to be clear, we are each responsible for our own feelings and interpretations in life. So nothing “made” you feel any particular way).

BUT… for that moment, your most vulnerable self felt unsafe and unloved and unseen in some way — fear is ALWAYS the reason we act out.

Once we take a step back and, with curiosity, recognize what was underneath our acting poorly (the fear), we can then be compassionate to the part inside that felt so threatened and therefore acted out.

AND then we might have to go make an amend or right a wrong, yes!

But we can do it with a ton of SELF-COMPASSION rather than SHAME.

It’s like this:

SHAME VOICE: “You are such an ass. No wonder people don’t like you. You are a loose cannon. You are out of control. You don’t deserve good friends. You are less than as a human being.”

SELF-COMPASSION VOICE: “Hey there, look like you really felt threatened there. It felt as if you were unsupported and unseen. And that made you feel panicked and hurt and so you acted out. I understand why you felt so vulnerable in that moment that you turned to anger and rage. But none of that is true. You are safe, you are loved, and those fear-based beliefs aren’t real, they never were. So I have unconditional compassion for why you behaved how you did, yet it is still not OK and it hurt others. So now, we need to center ourselves, and then go take responsibility for our actions and make amends.”

Self-compassion and understanding is always warranted. We can always change our behavior. There is NO truth to that damned shame voice that says you “ARE” ________.

Our internal essence is love always, even when it gets clouded over. Shame is false. Shame never helped anyone. Love always wins.

Barb Wade

Barb is a Speaker, Author, and Coach, who has been on the leading edge of Transformational Coaching for over 15 years. Barb works with high-achievers who, despite external accomplishments, are finding themselves yearning for more freedom, joy, and meaning in their lives. Barb herself knows that “hole” of quiet desperation that can exist even though achievement is high.

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