Definition of shame
1a : a painful emotion caused by consciousness of guilt, shortcoming, or impropriety b : the susceptibility to such emotion <have you no shame?>
2: a condition of humiliating disgrace or disrepute : ignominy <the shame of being arrested>
3a : something that brings censure or reproach; also : something to be regretted : pity <it’s a shame you can’t go> b : a cause of feeling shame
Shame can be debilitating. Shame can be suffocating. Shame can be overwhelming. Shame can consume every facet of your life…if you let it.
There are 3 powerful things I’ve learned about shame.
- If you talk about shame, it loses its power over you.
- Everyone has it. (No one is exempt from feeling this basic human feeling.)
- Only you can control your feelings toward shame.
I believe I let shame take the steering wheel of my life for many years. I found myself just cruising along in a metaphorical semi truck that’s on fire, going over 100mph, about to lose one wheel, and we are being chased by fear, overwhelm, perfection, and anxiety. Does any of this sound familiar?
I hope it doesn’t because then that would mean you have little experience with shame and have therefore dodged a bullet. But if that picture of a burning 18-wheeler barreling down the freeway and you holding on for dear life sounds at all familiar, you are in the right place.
We have to talk about shame in order to defeat it. For example, I have lived for years with the guilt of my DWIs. I told myself, “You’re such a screw up. Not only did you do this once, when you could blame it on teenage hormones and being an idiot, but you did it again. Do you think anyone is ever going to hire you for a REAL job with a record like that?”
That, people, is shame. Or at least that was my shame for a long time. Now, I no longer feel trapped by shame because I share it. I believe the power of an AA or AL-ANON meeting can overcome the shame factor. Telling your story frees you from the chains shame can have you shackled to for years.
I hope you can learn to identify shame, in every area of your life, and learn to control your feelings about it. When you feel that physical hot rush shudder through your entire body, or maybe even when you break out into a cold sweat for no reason, sometimes that’s shame showing up with his driving gloves on ready to ignite the flames on that huge truck. Don’t let him drive you off a cliff. Instead, throw his ass in the backseat and tell him he’s not in charge anymore.