Growing up, my mom often said “shame on you” when I did something she didn’t approve of. Back then it was a common phrase I heard from mothers all over the neighborhood. (As an added bonus, we also got the simultaneous index finger rubbing motion.) At the time, I didn’t really understand what the shame scolding meant. I only knew I had done something I shouldn’t be proud of.
Over the years, I internalized the negative energy of the phrase and it became part of the audio track of my brain. Got a C in chemistry? Shame on me. Wrecked my first car? Shame on me. No date to the prom? Shame on me. Kissed somebody’s boyfriend? Shame on me. Divorced my husband? Big shame on me. Gained 10 pounds? Ugh. You get the idea.
As the years went by, and the events of my life got bigger, the shame I felt about them grew exponentially. I was a pro at feeling shameful. I’d feel shame about things that weren’t my fault. Things that other people did to me. Things that I never saw coming.
What did I do with all this shame? I buried it. I never told anyone about it. I lived with it like a big, dark secret.
When you have all that shame buried deep inside you, you have to eventually do something about it because just like any other emotion, shame has an energy. It doesn’t just roll around in your brain or lie dormant in your heart.
It moves around your body and can cause physical problems. It pulses up and down your spine. It makes your stomach upset. Your head hurt. Somedays it hangs out in your solar plexus, making you feel like someone’s fist is stuck in there. You feel less than. Unsure. Lost.
In order to deal with all this shame, we subconsciously develop a coping mechanism. We drink. We gamble. We do drugs. We shop.
Or, if you’re like me, you become a perfectionist.
This was my drug of choice. I wasn’t going to let that shame out no way, no how. So I stomped all over it, pushed it way back down inside and decided that I was going to do everything perfectly. I’d lead a perfect life. Have the perfect friends. Wear the perfect thing. Have the perfect dogs. The perfect house.
This went on for a few years until that got completely and utterly exhausting. (And boring.) When I couldn’t take it anymore, and my solar plexus was so tight I couldn’t breathe, I looked for an outlet.
The Universe led me to a wise, older woman who has become my soul coach. She gave me a safe place to spill my beans – all of them. Little by little, session after session I shared my dirty, shameful stuff.
Turns out, my stuff wasn’t so dirty after all. That’s the thing about speaking your truth. When you say your “dirty” stuff out loud, it’s not dirty at all. It’s victorious and clean. It’s the best, most courageous parts of you bubbling effervescently to the surface.
Letting that toxic energy release from your body leaves you spiritually free.
Only with that freedom can we really feel life and know our purpose. We don’t have to spend time and energy hiding who we really are anymore. We’re free to be everything we’re here to be.
Here’s what I can offer to start your shame-free journey: Be bigger than shame. Be brave. Share your stories with people you trust, because connecting with others is the key to purposeful living.