Questioning the Story that Shame Tells Us

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about shame. This has been very powerful for me because as it turns out— I have a massive amount of shame. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I even began to relate deeply to the word, shame. That, in itself, is interesting to me because it means that I didn’t have a conscious and somatic relationship with my own shame.

Shame would move up through my body as an insidious, dark energy. Rather than investigating the source of it or questioning where this shame came from, I simply believed it. I believed that this shame was telling me the truth. It may have been an ugly truth that I didn’t want to hear (and didn’t want others to know about!), but it seemed to know what was accurate about me in a terrifyingly intimate way. 

I realize that much of my life was spent trying to prove that dark inner voice wrong. Shame would rise up and say I was fat and ugly. I would go to the gym, do a cleanse, or buy a new outfit. Shame would tell me I didn’t have worth or value. I would work harder to achieve something externally or better myself psychologically and spiritually in an effort to know I was worthy of being here.

I could go on. Looking back, a lot of my actions were partially driven by an attempt to counteract this unconscious shame that seemed to constantly whisper painful truths which needed to be hidden.

Yikes. It’s rough to think about now. The good news is that falling captive to shame does not need to be the story of your life. Shame is another fleeting emotion— not the deepest truth of who you are. Who you really are is the spacious presence that allows for this vast range of human emotions.

You can witness your shame as it rises and see if there is something for you to learn. Perhaps there is some genuine guilt about a particular action you took that you want to reevaluate or remedy. Perhaps this shame is just an old pattern from childhood that says you aren’t good enough as you are. That’s okay! There’s no problem with old patterns showing up. The most enlightened beings among us still have their particular neurosis and thought patterns.

The opportunity is to stop identifying and believing this shame. It isn’t true! You may need to get mad for a bit to really know that it isn’t true. A new favorite TedTalk of mine ended with the speaker saying “F*ck Shame” as his closing statement. Ha! Awesome. Let’s get mad. It’s time to push back against the belief that we are inherently unworthy.

However, there will also come a time when you can allow shame as another wave in the ocean of who you really are. It may rise, but if you don’t identify with it, it will also fall. 

Rise… fall… rise… fall…

The ocean doesn’t have a problem with the waves. They are all phenomenal expressions of what is possible in this world. Let yourself be fully human and fully alive. Allow for everything to exist, and in this allowing, you’ll know that who you really are is bigger than any story— be it a glorious story of success or a painful story of shame. 

You are all of it… and none of it. 

Om, shanti, shanti, shanti.