By Reef Karim
October 7, 2021
Shame is a bully.
It comes at you over and over again, slowly seeping into your skin, rattling your bones, rendering you devoid of energetic optimism.
The #1 reason most people give up on their dreams?
Wait for it… Wait for it… Shame.
The #1 reason most people hold back who they are?
Now what do I mean by that? Holding back who you are?
Holding back who you are is simply not sharing your abilities, experiences and dreams with the world. It means holding it all in.
You may have internal excuses or standard canned answers for why you’re not doing what you really want to do or sharing who you are, but for most people, the real reason is shame.
Shame of looking foolish, shame of being humiliated, shame of rejection, shame of people thinking you’re not smart enough or attractive enough, shame of the attention you may get, shame of your past coming back to challenge you, shame of mistakes you’ve made in the past.
And I totally get it.
In this cancel culture, quick to judge, hard to forgive, you can’t make a mistake, group think society, it’s hard to accept the fact that you will be singled out for something.
We all make mistakes. We have all done someone wrong. Whether it’s during our adolescence when our frontal lobes were questionable or our college years or yesterday, we can’t all be perfect, and it’s this imperfection that makes you vulnerable and relatable but also leaves you open to feeling… you guessed it… shame.
So let’s talk shame.
Here are a couple of definitions of shame…
- A painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.
- A painful emotion caused by consciousness of guilt, shortcoming or impropriety.
Shame holds us back from who we are.
And that leads to conformity thinking and a safe, uninspired, unoriginal life.
Shame can also be conditioned.
If you’re told enough times that you’re not good enough, smart enough, talented enough, attractive enough, “American” enough, you will eventually feel ongoing shame.
It’s as if you now have a type of kryptonite, a perceived weakness.
Shame busting is not easy. You have to release the belief that was implanted from your past.
Otherwise, you’ll continue to let the shame line determine your future.
Here’s some shame lines from people I’ve advised; the line that was running their life before we made some changes.
- Who would listen to me?
- I sound like everyone else
- There’s nothing unique about me
- I’m not smart enough
- I’m not talented enough
- I don’t have enough money to do what I really want
Every single one of these lines, when traced back, originated from a family member, friend, random stranger or bully stating this to them.
It started as an opinion or cruel remark from another person and eventually became a lifestyle for the recipient.
Here’s how it plays out… let’s use the example of “I’m not smart enough”
There’s an opinion statement from someone else that’s negative or cruel (may even be factual in that moment or not at all) “you’re just not smart”
That statement gets taken in and processed in your mind.
You hear that opinion again from the same person or maybe from someone else.
Eventually it shifts out of just being an opinion as you start wondering if it’s true.
You start believing it, and it eventually becomes a cognitive distortion (an inaccurate or negatively biased belief developed over time).
Now you start building your life around this negative belief by passing on opportunities or not pursuing what would make you happy because you believe that “you’re just not smart enough”
And now you’re leading a limited life.
The problem here is that we don’t live as a snapshot; we are always evolving.
I don’t like to think of anyone as “not smart”. We all have experiences that make us wise and we all have the capacity to learn factual knowledge that can make us appear “smart”.
And we can always learn something new through experience, factual knowledge or even our imagination to appear more “smart”.
I do think some people are more curious than others, though.
But I digress…
This is the point in the article where I ask you a question.
How much has shame impacted your life decisions?
Have you held back some of who you are?
And if so why?
For me, it’s quite simple.
I was bullied a lot growing up; for being brown skinned, for my last name, for liking chess, for being too good at ping pong. In other words, for being a brown skinned nerd.
Alas, there always seems to be one bad brown guy in the world…
Hearing all the negative comments about my culture or skin color or people telling me to go back to my country (which nobody seem to know exactly what country that is) made me take pause in revealing who I am.
The reality is I’m East African Indian with a muslim last name and I was meditating and reading Rumi passages from the age of 5.
But there’s NO WAY I was going to share that with anyone because the bullying made me feel so much shame about who I was that I started to think of a safer identity; one that wasn’t who I really am.
Like saying my name is Ari and I’m part Italian and come from a long line of race car drivers.
You can’t run away from yourself because wherever you go, there you are.
When you hide who you are or hold back who you are, you’re not a complete person.
You become compartmentalized, not integrated. You make decisions with faulty data.
Your limitations start to dictate what you do and why you do it; only those limitations are usually unconscious. You don’t realize it’s happening.
Which is a real bummer.
Shame leads to internal pain. It’s like you are unconsciously punishing yourself and you don’t even know it. All you know is that you’re not happy or satisfied and you have no idea why.
Which is why I’m writing this article.
Because there is a remedy.
You must release the shame.
You must forgive yourself for being human and making mistakes.
You must give yourself permission to release your pain and create space in your mind for a better future.
Pain takes up A LOT of mental energy and mental space.
You must muster the courage to live your unique journey in life to your highest capacity.
Most people live at a lower energy level; a life of limitation; never really exploring the unexplored parts of you.
That takes courage.
Bring More of You To Everything You Do
If you resonate with this, if you know you’ve been holding back who you are, then make a concerted effort to bring more of you to everything you do.
Your culture. Your sayings. Your music. Your dance moves. Your food. Your ideas. Your wisdom.
Bring it to your conversations, your business, your content, your relationships.
Because the more connected you are to your originality, what makes you unique in the world, the more meaningful you will find your experience.
You’ll also share some cool things with other people.
And you’ll be busting out of shame.
Shame is a bully. A prison.
And no one deserves a life sentence.
To creativity, courage and connection,
If you know someone who really needs this information, please share this article with them.