8 years ago at the start of my journey out of sexual shame, I told my college professor: “It seems to me, that shame is a worthless emotion.”
Brene Brown, primatologists like Frans De Waal, psychologists like Reich and many others would agree with me.
As that young woman in college, I looked around and saw a world in pain, suffering under the weight of their own shame.
They could not relax and stand to even look at themselves… nor see others for who they truly were. The shame of their humanity was too much.
Sexual shame is one facet of the shame we have for just BEING who we are. Whoever that is.
Body shame is another.
Emotional shame and all the masks we wear to hide our feelings is yet another.
To understand shame, you must understand that guilt and shame are not the same.
Guilt is feeling bad because you have done something wrong.
Shame is believing there is something wrong with YOU.
Empathy births guilt.
Shame impedes empathy.
The more I rid myself of all manners of shame, the more compassion I have for myself and others. I am able to empathize better with others too. I am able to understand and love them better.
I questioned for many years whether that phrase I said to my professor (who mentored me lovingly for so many years) was really accurate or not.
He said “Without shame we would violate each other. The world would be lawless.”
But all I’ve ever felt in shame is how great the separation is between me and everybody else.
All it’s ever made me is more self-conscious and through that, self-centered, deceptive and disconnected.
Shame doesn’t help us understand or love each other. It divides us from self love and external love.
What is the way out of shame?
The best way I’ve found is to effort to truly understand myself and my motives without judgment. Then to give myself… and others permission to be who we are.
Sounds simple but it’s a multi-year, perhaps life-long process!
Thankfully it seems to get easier with time.