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Shameful Confessions of a Change Coach

Releasing shame

This past month, I have spent a lot of time teaching and coaching about shame.

Shame is a topic that fascinates me. Not only because of the damaging effects it has on our bodies, minds, and nervous systems, but also because I have had to work through so much shame in my own life.

Growing up, I thought shame and guilt were the same thing. In fact, in my culture, we use those words interchangeably. However, they are not the same thing at all.

Guilt says, “I DID something wrong”, whereas shame says, “I AM wrong.” Guilt is focused on the behavior, whereas shame is focused on our identity- who we are at our core. Guilt can be used to redirect or change our behavior, but shame has no such positive effects. Because shame says “I am the problem”, there is nowhere to go from there. I can’t change my core identity or escape from MYSELF, then there is nothing I can do (other than constantly berate myself). Shame makes me an enemy to myself. And the only solution is to reject myself completely.

You would think learning about this and training others would somehow free me from feeling shame, (Oh how I wish it was that simple.) but it doesn’t.

In fact, last week, I gave a training to a group of women on the topic of faith, shame, and female sexuality, and dang it…it wasn’t even 24 hours before I was wallowing in the throes of shame myself. An old, shameful belief system reared its ugly little head that told me, “I am a bad wife if I don’t have sex with my husband X number of times per week.”

(FYI: these confessions really have me feeling uncomfortable with the amount of vulnerability it requires. YIKERS!)

You would think that I would immediately recognize the “I am” statement, label it as shame, work through the shame-releasing tool, and go on about my day. But noooo. I held on to that shame for DAYS.

The truth is, that story was such a familiar one for me, that it felt comfortable- like an old baby blanket to hold. The new belief that says, “I am enough, just as I am, and my pleasure and desire matter too.” …THAT felt 10x’s scarier to believe. So, I chose to continue to believe “I am a bad wife” for days.

The impact- I recoiled from my husband, from myself, and from my own pleasure.

When I finally had enough of feeling like crap, I decided to challenge that shameful thought. I used the RAIN technique to release the shame (Recognize, Accept, Interrogate, and Nurture). I practiced the thought, “I AM enough. My husband loves me just the way I am. I love me just the way I am.” It didn’t land at first, of course, but with repetition, that thought began to sink in, and I began to believe it again.

I was then able to have a conversation with my husband, telling him about the shame I was feeling. As always, he supported me in that new belief, and I was able to connect with myself and him again in a really deep way.

Listen, I am not opposed to feeling guilty when I have done something wrong. I think guilt serves to help me be the kind of person I want to be. But shame has no upside- zilch, nada, zero! So, like many of you, I am working on releasing the shame and replacing it with what is true about all of us, what is true about YOU…

“You are 100% enough. You are 100% worthy, just as you are.”

May we both live in that truth today!

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