We can learn so much from our pets, in their innocence and purity of heart. They enjoy every moment, they are always excited about the future, and, most of all, they are completely shameless. They live in the present moment, carry no guilt or negative emotions over their actions of the past and, no matter what, they love well. My beautiful puppy Ethan thinks nothing of rolling over and exposing his soft underbelly to be rubbed, whether to me or a complete stranger. He is not ashamed to show who he is, or ask for what he wants. Can you imagine if we did not burden ourselves with the past mistakes we or others had made, but offered forgiveness and love? If we did not hide our weaknesses and showed the world our true selves, unafraid of rejection or disappointment? What a beautiful thought.
Each and everyone one of us carry the burden of shame. Some of this comes from our experiences and lessons learned in childhood, some from choices we have made in our careers and relationships. For many, the shame that is carried dwells deep within our hearts and can affect our ability to go after our dreams or have the kind of intimate relationships we all so desperately want. At its worst, this powerful negativity can influence all aspects of our daily lives. We cower and hide ourselves, for fear of rejection and disappointment; we limit our lives because we are ashamed.
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However, whatever the guilt or shame that you may carry, it is important to know that you are not alone. Each human being has experienced something in their lives that they feel shameful about.
The question now becomes, how do we work through the shame? How can we confront it, own it, and forgive ourselves and others for inflicting this pain upon us? One thing I know for sure, as a coach, is that we cannot ever move past anything that we hide deep within the recesses of our soul. Having open & honest, safe & collaborative conversation is one step in owning and overcoming the shames that hold us back. In most cases, revealing what it is that shames us, bringing it into the light and confronting it, lessens its power and, in some cases, even helps us to realize that it truly only existed within our own head and heart to begin with.
I believe it’s the “what ifs” that keep us from truly acknowledging these experiences that limit our lives:
What if they know this about me and take their love away?
What if they find out I have been dishonest and I don’t get what it is I have worked for?
What if I truly say what’s in my heart and I do not get my needs met?
What if they find out my secret and think I have no morals? No self-control?
What if THEY think poorly of ME?
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If you really consider it, all of the “what ifs” are actually about others and their opinions of you. BUT, what about your own opinion? Your thoughts, your views, have the most power.
Not one of us is perfect; all of us have been wounded by others’ actions and have wounded others in return. I know that FORGIVENESS is the key for working through shame, but until we look at the shame head-on, we will not understand what or whom it is we need to forgive.