Choose love over shame. So many of us don’t even really know what shame is even though it often lives within us for long periods of time and weighs heavy on our hearts and souls. I used to say that guilt was a wasted emotion, but at least guilt serves the purpose of guiding our sense of what’s right and wrong. Shame is another story completely. All that it does is contribute to feelings of unworthiness and keeps us from pursuing our dreams.
Where does shame come from? We live in a culture that promotes shame at every turn. As humans we need to make sense of the world around us, so we automatically judge everything and everyone, because when we label it, we can define it, and that helps to keep us from spending so much time processing every little thing. Imagine how much time our brains would spend processing if we couldn’t quickly determine what we see, what we experience.
Shame is everywhere, pointing its demeaning finger at us. Shame shows up in the check-out line at the grocery store. The magazines telling us how we should look, what we should eat, who we should marry. Never mind the fact that 99% of the population DOESN’T look like that. We each have our own path and our story of our journey lies within our souls. No one has the same story and no one knows our truth. It’s up to us to align with our story and live it… starting with releasing judgments on ourselves and others.
One of the cool things, though, about being human is that we have the ability to go beyond our initial judgements and not get stuck there; we can reassess our initial judgement. What I mean by this is that when we are annoyed by that woman in the grocery store whose child is throwing a tantrum and she is doing nothing about it, we can reframe our thoughts. First of all, what do we know about her pain or even what her morning was like. The one thing I know for certain is that everyone has pain and everyone has their share of struggles. When we can figure ourselves our imperfections, embrace them even, then we begin to forgive others their imperfections. Compassion always wins. And maybe a genuine smile from you might change her entire day. Simple acts of kindness often have immeasurable power.
When I left my husband, I left behind a good life. I gave up the big house, the not-having-to-work, and feelings of safety and security. I took my entire retirement and savings and put them into wonderful business ventures that completely failed. And I do mean failed. I lost all that I had invested and went far into debt. And I do mean debt. To the brink of bankruptcy. I moved into a tiny house that is not big and beautiful. At 48 I chose to start over, mostly from scratch. I say mostly because I still had my education and experience, and my heart and soul. No one can take that from me.
What I didn’t realize at the time was that I was covered in shame. Shame for leaving a good man and what everyone else saw was a great marriage. Shame for going so far into debt. Shame for failed business ventures and even getting fired from a high-profile job because I didn’t see eye-to-eye with the Board. Shame for ending up as a single mother. Shame for driving a beat-up car. I had judged myself right into a heaping pile of steaming shame. It was so oppressive and condemning and I didn’t even see it. It took reading Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly for me to realize what I had done to myself, what I had allowed to happen.
This sounds like judgement. And it is to a degree. But this entire experience has allowed me to see the gifts I truly have and has extended my depth of gratitude for my life and the wonders in it. So often we are the thief of our own potential and happiness. When we go through challenging and painful times, we lose sight of the bigger picture. When going through a separation or divorce, this is the time to seek support. This is also the time to be incredibly kind and loving and forgiving to ourselves. This is the time to heighten your self-care practices. Move your body. Get out in nature. Don’t sink into the sofa and get lost there. Visit it from time to time, but don’t fall into one of the cushions and stay. Today, practice not judging the judgments that come to mind, because they will. Re-frame them when you are able and don’t judge the ones that get away. You’re human.
Choose love. Like shame, it is also everywhere, you just have to look for it and make the searching a daily practice. It gets easier. I promise.
If you need support, reach out to me. I can help you find what you need, even if it's not working with me. I'd love to help! Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.