Shame Thrives in the Dark
The Coach Who Feels Shame
Sometimes I get stuck in the thought that when I’m selling coaching there’s an aspirational quality to it.
That it’s my job to help you see who you could become, and to hide away the parts of my life that distort that image.
I do a lot of work to not have dysfunction in my life, but let’s get real. I am human, and humans are far from perfect.
Even coaches need coaches, because we have Survival Brains too.
I think that the very most important lesson that I can teach as a coach is that your ideal life isn’t going to be happy all the time. That everything is sunshine and roses once you just get to that happy place.
It’s a pervasive cultural lie that does so much damage, since we end up resisting the negative because it’s just not supposed to be there.
The truth is that hard, negative emotions are supposed to exist. It’s part of the process, it’s a natural part of being human. So me only showing up as the aspirational coach helps to perpetuate that lie.
I’m going to do a better job inviting you in to the less-than-aspirational moments of my life and how I use mindset work to coach myself out of those moments…
How I shine the light of awareness on the hard, negative emotions to learn the lesson they bring with them.
Checking in On My Shame-Filled Thoughts
As many of you know, I’m a military spouse. Some of the very best mindset lessons and growth I’ve encountered have been a gift from the military lifestyle, but that’s a story for another time.
Jason, my husband, just left for three months on a deployment.
The morning he left we got in a huge fight, the time leading up to his departure did not line up with expectations that either of us held but failed to share with the other.
I was upset with him, upset that I was upset, angry that I was crying, frustrated that this was how the last few hours together were shaping up to be.
I felt the super uncomfortable, yet wildly familiar sensation of shame in my body accompanied by the thoughts that:
“he must not love me,”
“he can’t wait to get away from me,”
“there’s something wrong with me,”
and the solid foundation they are build on:
“I’m not good enough,”
“I’m not lovable,”
and, most certainly not to be forgotten:
“I’m not worthy of love.”
I’ve done a lot of work to rewrite these garbage thoughts, and I usually do a great job of not engaging in shame-based thoughts because I don’t love the pattern they create in my life.
This final, less-than-perfect week was the perfect evidence my big beautiful brain needed to push hard on the shame lever.
We sat in silence, other than my sobs and his angered breathing.
My shameful emotional space had nothing to do with the events of the week or his behavior, and everything to do with my shame-based thinking.
Bringing Shame Out From the Dark
I knew that the only way out of this mess was to shine some light on what I was feeling, to be vulnerable enough to share my feelings, to trust that my husband would hold space for the parts of me that hurt the most.
Because shame thrives in the dark, it atrophies in the light.
So, with a shaky, quiet, voice full of fear, I was able to squeak out a phrase I learned from Brené Brown that’s worth more than its weight in gold:
“The story my brain is making this mean is…”
So I dug deep and grabbed the courage to tell him:
“The story my brain is making this mean is…that there’s something wrong with me, that you don’t love me, that I’m not good enough…I know none of that is true, but the way that everything went down this week that is what my brain is trying to convince me to believe.”
And shame-brain was like, here he comes to prove me true, just you wait.
Those were some excruciating seconds waiting for his response.
My husband recognizes shame as my go to emotion when I’m hurting, scars from childhood abuse.
I’m not sure how I keep allowing shame-brain to talk me into believing that my husband can’t be trusted with that scared, hurting little girl…but here we are, yet again.
Shining Light, Creating Acceptance
When I chose not to hide the ugly parts, the most painful parts, I allowed my husband to show up for me, to qualify and explain the facts of the preceding week.
To hold space for me.
To show up as the man I want and need him to be.
To show up as the man I know he really is.
But first I had to own my thoughts, my emotions, and the story my shame-filled brain was concocting. Then I had to be vulnerable enough to share it.
Those seconds of silence were agonizing.
But they were nowhere near as painful as the hours leading up to them when I was in the shame-spiral.
I had to be willing to shine light on my shame.
To take away the darkness it was gaining strength in.
These hard moments are why we are here. Blocking ourselves from presence and acceptance in the hard moments limits the possibility for expansive joy.
Showing up in the joyful moments is easy.
It’s how we show up when life is hard.
When shame has us backed into the corner.
That’s what helps us grow and create more joy in our lives.
Comment below: How has shame prevented you from living your YES life?