I didn’t grow up in a home where shame lived. I was encouraged to follow my dreams and never pushed to be anything or anyone I didn’t want to be.
My mother single-handedly raised three children to be compassionate, hardworking, involved individuals. I studied and pursued an acting career for 15 years with my family’s full support, despite it not be a “steady” career.
I am lucky enough to have grown up with a best friend who accepted me and loved me despite all my weirdness and turmoil. That friendship is coming up on 16 years, and we are closer than ever.
So where and when did I accumulate so much shame? At what point did I let my brain encode such debilitating self-talk and let it slide through my consciousness like it was as natural as blood? Was it entirely self-inflicted?
Dr. Brené Brown, a specialist in shame research, describes the difference between guilt and shame in her 2012 TED Talk: “Guilt is ‘I did something bad’ and shame is ‘I am bad.’”
Throughout my pursuit of acting, so much of what I was doing was based on my looks. I was too pretty for this role, but I was not pretty enough for the next. These were not only my thoughts but feedback I was getting from casting directors and my teachers. For a while, it was fun being the pretty girl who gets to play the pretty girl roles, always the ingenue. It became a problem when I started wanting more. More for my career, more from my teachers, more for myself.
I am stupid. That is my personal shame mantra. I think we all have a shame mantra, unfortunately. I am so scared of making a mistake, so scared of being “just a pretty face,” that it is often crippling. When I do make a mistake, as we humans do, my shame mantra begins.
The sad thing is, I have proved to myself repeatedly that I can do the things I told myself I couldn’t, so when will I have enough proof?
The truth is, I never will. I will always find a reason to not be good enough for myself or anyone else. After coming to this conclusion, I have made a conscious decision.
Though I often forget and need hourly reminders, today I know there is NO room for shame in my body. There is no room for shame in my home, my school, my work, my art, my relationships or my family.
I have bills to pay, people to see and love, movies to cry over, books to read, degrees to earn, memories to make, mountains to climb and naps to take. I have no room and zero brain space for shame.
This idea is life-altering. I truly believe that. I will grow new relationships in shameless gardens and raise my future children in a home where shame is talked about but never used as a coping mechanism or intimidation tool. I will create a work environment for myself, my coworkers and our leaders that makes room for human error for the purpose of growth.
I want to clarify that I am in no way saying to take out discipline, structure, touches of tough love, etc., especially with young ones. I am hoping that we can embrace the idea of unshakeable, unconditional love. The “you made a mistake, but I still and always will love you,” outlook with our loved ones and, even more importantly, with ourselves.
I am not saying it will be easy. It will definitely, hands down, 100% be a feat, but I know it’s worth it.
I challenge you to do the same.
There is room for a whole lot of things in our lives, but we are all out of space for shame.