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Shame: The Ultimate Dream Stealer

We are all born dreamers. As children we dream freely of living in castles, flying to the moon, having 12 kids, dancing for a living, playing in the NFL or anything else our hearts can conceive of.

We are also all born believers. As children we believe in ourselves, we believe in the impossible, and we believe we can live our dreams.

However, as adults we are often void of believing and dreaming. Our self-esteem is dim and our belief in our dreams is only a faint whisper of hope we entertain in dark times.

Why? Shame.

Shame is a sneaky and cunning force that paralyzes us in fear and strips away our hope. Shame is the voice in the back of our head telling us that we are bad. Shame works so well because it strikes us in one of the most foundational parts of our psyche, our identity.

Experience has shown us that we act in ways that are consistent to our identity. Our identity is something we have defined internally. It is the way we see ourselves.

Smart, Dumb, Fat, Skinny, Funny, Shy, Annoying, Bossy, Strong

These are all different words we can use to identify ourselves. If you believe you are the “fat kid” you will eat, dress, act, joke, and speak as if that is who you are.

Shame is often confused with guilt. Guilt is a feeling that lets us know we did something that does not feel right to us. Shame however attacks our identity.

Guilt says, “I did something stupid.”

Shame says, “I am stupid.”

This distinction is so subtle, but it is EVERYTHING.

Imagine an 8th grader doesn’t study well for an exam. They end up failing.

Guilt would say “Not studying more was dumb. I did a dumb thing.”

If this voice wins they will most likely correct the behavior, study hard, and pass the next exam with flying colors.

Shame would say, “Not studying more was dumb. I am so dumb.”

If this voice wins they will most likely not correct the behavior. If in their mind the real problem is that they are dumb and studying would be smart they won’t do it. It doesn’t match their identity.

Do you see how sneaky and debilitating shame is?

Shame is the first major road block my clients face in our work making their dreams a reality. Shame has robbed them of their belief in their dreams and in their ability to actually live them.

Shame can be eliminated by simply changing the way you frame your past and current experiences. Go into your mind to those times in the past when you believed the shame voice and change it. Give yourself compassion for your past decisions and change the story from being dumb to doing something dumb.

Most importantly moving forward, commit to never listening to the shame voice again.