The surprising benefits of feeling shame

Shame is human, it’s natural and it can be very healthy! Yes, if you deal with your shame in a conscious way it can actually be a cleansing proces. Shame becomes toxic when you either ignore it or allow it to take control over you. They key is to actively and consciously face your shame and feel it. And that’s exactly the goal of writing this post: facing my own shame and let it wash all over me.

For the past two years I have been blogging secretly. Only my family and nearest friends would know about my secret activity. I told a few colleagues, but I wouldn’t give them my domain name. I was so horribly ashamed of my writing! I’ve never been a great writer. At school I’d refuse to read my stories or poems out loud  in front of everyone. During my years at university, my father was so fed up correcting my “not-so-pleasant-to-read” essays, he offered to pay me a writing course (which I obviously never took).

But in fact, my poor writing skills are not the core of the problem. The real problem is my low self esteem. I’m just so afraid of what people might say or think of me, as if they could crush my very existence with their thoughts and opinions. While I am writing this I know how stupid this sounds, but it’s just the way it feels.

Of course, I have considered continuing writing without the knowledge of 95% of the people in my life. But despite my fear I have chosen to dive right into the shame and share this post on my Facebook timeline. And not necessarily because I want to attract more visitors to my blog. No, the reason for me to share this post is on a much deeper level and rather concerns my personal development than the development of my blog.

The past few months this issue has really been bugging me. Feeling the pain of not being able to face my fears and stand behind my own work started to hurt too much. Fortunately, I recently had a good conversation with a friend of mine who really opened my eyes. I told her about my worries and anxieties concerning my blog. She in turn told me about the shame she felt right before the release of her documentary on her own vaginismus. While she was talking I could feel even more shame flushing over me. This woman had the guts to share her sexual problems with the entire country and I couldn’t even share my writing style and my spiritual thoughts with my Facebook friends… As a spiritual blogger I write so much about fear and self love, it’s time to practice what I preach! And it’s time to reap the benefits from my own preach. So, what do I hope to gain after immersing myself into shame?

Courage

Obviously, this step will help me grow some balls! Courage, just like any other habit or character trait, needs to be trained like a muscle. Doing something courageous on a regular basis will free us from ourselves. Most of our fears are illusions and without making courageous steps, we will never find out.

Next to dismantling our illusions, being courageous also gives us the great opportunity of experiencing what lays outside of our comfort zone. Only by daring to take uncomfortable steps will we see what the world really has to offer.

Progress

Taking a step outside of my comfort zone is a form of progress. I have opened and walked through a new door. I have no idea where it will lead me to. But that doesn’t matter. Taking the step will inevitably lead to progress.

Furthermore, I won’t have to ask myself in the future: What if? Instead of making up the consequences in my head, I’ll see them right before me. And if it turns out to be a mistake, I’ll learn from it. Either way, progress is a fact.

“I’d rather regret the things I’ve done, than regret the things I haven’t done.”

Lucille Ball

The progress is not only limited to my own life. By taking these steps I could potentially help other people progress in their lives. Let’s get back to the example of my courageous friend. With her documentary she probably helped so many women with vaginismus to feel understood, recognized and supported. She also helped raising awareness so people who weren’t aware of this issue before have the chance to adjust and change their way of perceiving sex and sexuality.

Last but not least, she helped me to progress in my life. Deeply impressed by her courage, I felt the spark of my own courage to step outside of my comfort zone and face my shame.

Connection

If we have to believe Brené Browns research on connection, shame actually helps us connect to others. At the core of shame is vulnerability which happens to be one of the common personality trait well-connected people share with each other.

People who set aside their armour and take off their masks are vulnerable. And showing your true, imperfect face can make you feel ashamed. But it’s exactly this true, imperfect, authentic face that people can truly connect to.

Apart from connecting on a deeper level with others, I also want to connect on a deeper level with myself. This whole issue has set my nagging inner critic on fire! On repeat I had to hear myself judge and criticise my own lack of integrity and courage. And I know it was right. I guess what’s even worse than losing trust in someone else, is losing trust in yourself. Not being able to walk my talk has taken its toll. And the only way to mend this broken trust with myself is to start walking my talk by feeling the shame.

Reality check  

As I mentioned, many of the doom scenarios are no more than a product of our illusion. But as long as we allow those illusions to be in our head, we will never learn the truth about it. I know in my heart that I’m safe and no judgement on this world could ever kill me.

But thinking and knowing something is not the true antidote to our illusions. Experiencing and feeling it is. Bust your wrong perceptions by bringing them into reality. Shining light onto the illusions will make them disappear like snow before the sun. Keeping them in a dark, unattended corner on the other hand, will make them grow even bigger and worse. While you’re not paying attention, your illusions will slowly take over control, leaving you to be their puppet. So, turn around, face your illusions and see that in fact there’s nothing there but hot air.

Less shame

Who would have thought that? Facing your shame can actually make your shame lose its power. Isn’t that great? In fact, this counts for all our other negative emotions: accepting our emotions and giving them space to be makes them disappear miraculously.

By ignoring and pushing away our negative emotions we are paradoxically holding on to them. We don’t give them the attention and acknowledgement they need in order to transform and heal. It’s like like a to-do item we keep postponing. Just because we don’t give it our attention, doesn’t mean we don’t have to do it anymore. And believe me, I know what I’m talking about. I have been postponing this to-do item for two years and it’s still there. Waiting for me to act, to transform and to grow. ..

“And the day came when the risk it took to remain tight inside the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

Anaïs Nin

Wow, that’s quite a long list of positive aspects for something we so actively try to avoid! I hope from now on you’ll perceive shame differently, so next time you can embrace it and truly feel it instead of run away from it. Save yourself the energy of running and rather enjoy the many benefits. Every step outside of your comfort zone has the potential to enrich your life in so many ways. The steps don’t always have to be big, every small step counts and helps building your courage muscle (and those of others)!

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