Shame and Guilt: two bastard passengers who rode shotgun with me through the journey of my life. For over two decades they followed me everywhere, making my trips arduous and preventing me from sightseeing.
Then, 3.5 years ago, I tossed them out the car. Mid-drive, I opened my window, wind flying through my hair, and told them to fuck off. I was taking this trip alone. And so I did.
For a while it was great. I enjoyed the ride. I felt free and alive. And then recently, someone invited Shame into my life again. And I accepted the invitation, believing wholeheartedly that I missed the company. Guilt followed soon after, without the invitation, knowing his presence was always welcomed. I lost myself briefly, carrying the weight of two unwelcomed passengers until I had to learn the lesson again, this time in a more painful way. The all-familiar conversations happened in my head, as it used to, years before:
“Who do you think you are?”
“You’ve been divorced twice, you’re not worthy”
“Look at you, failing again. Stupid”
“You’re a joke, a fake, a mistake”
This kind of behaviour can quickly become so entrenched, that who I really am, gets blurred even to me. But because I am a truth-teller inherently, I know when I’m not aligned to my purpose. Even if I lie to myself, my body tells me loud and clear when I am off-centre: insomnia, stomach issues, migraines, crying all the time, chest pain – all happening at once. I know that the minute I listen to the murmurings of other people, who don’t have my best interest at heart and who simply have an agenda, I end up getting physically sick, anxious and depressed. And that for me is too high a price to pay. I spent so many years being ashamed of myself for so many different things, it kept me from being the full expression of who I am. I was content to play it safe and remain small because the alternative was way too scary. Life had other plans for me though, and if I was going to use my lessons in service of others, I knew I had to start living in my own truth. I haven’t worked this hard for this long to go back to being asleep. So I call myself out on my own shit, ditch the noise and reconnect to my truth. And then, obviously, share the lesson.
So here it is.
There is an epidemic in our culture. People are living in sacrifice because they choose the safety and seduction of living a lie and owning shame and guilt offered to them by others. The ‘others’ I speak of – however well-intentioned – are people that serve to stifle you from your own growth because they’re too afraid to live their truth. Old constructs of thinking, handed down from generation to generation is another reason why people remain stuck. Removing shame and guilt is incredibly difficult. It means being vulnerable because telling the truth leaves you exposed and open to judgment and criticism. It can sometimes mean the end of relationships, severing family ties or friendships and going against the norm. For so many, this is an enormous thing to bear and therefore honesty and authenticity is unattainable.
For women: shame is a straightjacket, telling us to compete with society’s ideals of how we’re meant to be – thin, perfect, silent, smiling.
For men: don’t be weak, die on top of your white horse instead of falling down. Don’t show your emotions. Work is first. Pursue status.
This concept is flawed. Because, if you choose to live within the confines of shame and guilt, negating what is real and true for you and thinking you’ll be okay with the lie, your sadness, pain and suffering will transpose in another way: alcohol, drug or sex addiction; depression; binge eating or starving yourself; suicide ideations; physical ailments; or hopping from one meaningless relationship to another in order to seek validation.
The idea is not to set up residence with the shame – it’s to find a way through it. We have the most compelling reason to have these conversations – people are killing themselves because the pain is too consuming. When will we ever learn that the truth sets us free! Living a life of authenticity, ditching the shame and guilt for what we perceive as failure, IS a catalyst for massive growth. It’s the gift of freedom, peace and self-love. Every single person who made a difference in this world did so by being true to their own heart, by listening to their own voices and telling the truth. This meant owning their failures and many of the most formidable and inspiring people failed many times over. They had to experience failure in order to grow from it. There is no learning involved when things go smoothly. Ruin is where transformation begins. There is no shame or guilt in that.
The vulnerability needed to release shame and guilt and step into your own truth and your own voice is the single biggest act of courage. Today, I invite you to embrace the courage that lives inside you, and start being true. It will lead you toward a path of happiness and peace. There is nothing more important in this world, than that. The alternative is a slow death. This I know for sure.