Outing Shame


Do you ever have a shame fest? You know one of those that comes up and rages no matter how much you have done, are doing, or have planned to do. All you hear is shame screaming at you, “You are not good enough. It doesn’t matter what you do. You have never been good enough. You will never be good enough. You are a fraud, fake, phony.” As the storm progresses all the shouts of ‘you’ become echoes of “I” as you begin agreeing with shame.

Sounds like my Sunday afternoon this week. Like some of my days, afternoons, and evenings.

I am a coach, but my business is not where I would like it. To be clear it is not where I would like it due to the shame of not being good enough to be a coach. According to my clients and their results I am a very good coach. My shame of not being good enough has no connection to reality. That’s how shame works.

To fill the financial gap while I grow my business I am an Uber driver. This Sunday morning, I was out driving Uber. Every time I drive my shame starts and builds to a scream. There is nothing wrong with driving Uber except my shame tells me that driving Uber is embarrassing, not professional, not fitting for a coach. I am a coach fraud.

I came home early from driving for a grandson’s birthday party. I was late. Late because I kept driving Uber on the way home. Always doing more to make more. On the way I felt the headache begin. As I walked in late and saw everyone eating my headache yelled. Most of my shame storms come with a headache from the pressure I put on myself. I ate separately from the family in my office. Blinds closed. Hiding so no one would see my shame.

Then there is pride, shame’s cousin. Always close by. Pride is the driver that keeps us, me, doing more, earning more. Doing anything, maybe everything, to make up for shame. To quiet shame. The catch about shame is that regardless of how much you, work, how much you earn, how much of anything you do, shame is always there. Again, there is no connection between shame and how much you do.

Some may use alcohol, drugs, sex, pornography, work, working out, shopping, food, anything to numb the shame. Trying to find relief but only temporarily. Numbing doesn’t just numb the shame, it numbs all the positive feelings. Brene Brown says you cannot selectively numb. You numb one. You numb all.

What works? For me confronting shame. At the very least, I write it about it in a notebook I keep. You could see me purposefully yelling in the car. Expressing physically to get the energy out. If my wife is available, I call her and share how I am feeling. Learning to tell my wife was a breakthrough. We have been married almost 33 years and for most of our marriage I kept it all to myself. Shame does not want you to tell anyone. That could be embarrassing. Whoever I tell could reject me if I tell them. At least that is what shame wants me to believe. I can also reach out to my coach or counselor. The last is to write about it and tell the world. Shame needs to be outed.


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