How Shame Shapes Success
“Shame is a soul-eating emotion.” – Carl Jung
Shame. It’s a universal phenomenon; we all experience it at times. It can keep us chasing perfectionism, spinning in imposter syndrome, and sprinting into lockdown mode.
Recall a time when you experienced shame. It might have been a reaction to judgment by others…or maybe it was your own.
More than likely, you had feelings of inadequacy, unworthiness, and a belief that something is wrong with you. This belief is fertile ground for a lack of self-trust to take root, ultimately eroding your self-confidence and relationships, as well as business success.
Shame can often run our lives and undermine our success, but far too often, we keep it hidden. We’re ashamed of being ashamed…a big reason why we stay stuck in a cycle of wanting change but not asking for help.
What I know for sure is shame loves silence. I speak from experience.
There was a time in my life when, from the outside looking in, I had life by the tail; strong, confident, loving, straight-talking, and unapologetically boundary-bearing. Yet, in my most important relationship, I had given my voice, and hence self-confidence, away. Talk about imposter syndrome, lack of self-trust, and chasing perfectionism…and a mountain of soul-sucking shame.
My self-bullying was in full-on attack mode.
Diminished joy, lack of self-confidence, and unhealthy relationships (aka, lack of boundaries) are some of the more obvious impacts of shame. What isn’t always so apparent is how shame shapes your success in business.
It’s impossible to get the support you need (personally and professionally) when you’re too ashamed to admit things are not as they seem. So you sit in the discomfort of knowing something’s got to give but not clear on what and feeling too vulnerable to ask for help.
To others, it looks like you’re happy, confident, and successful but the reality is you’re white-knuckling it on the inside, needing help and (especially) a safe space to explore what’s going on for you.
Feelings of unhappiness and shame are hard and let’s admit, on the surface may seem easier to ignore; believing if you just worked harder, you’d figure it out. That rarely happens.
A few of the long-term consequences of not seeking help are a struggling business, low to no self-esteem, and unbalanced relationships.
3 Ways to Recognize & Remove the Cycle of Shame
Self-Compassion Will Release the Grip of Shame
You can’t have success without self-compassion.
It’s impossible to do the work necessary in business when sitting in shame and cloaked in imposter syndrome; lacking the emotional safety you need to put your ideas out into the world confidently.
No doubt, Maslow had it right with his hierarchy of needs. Before we can be motivated to move to the next level in our life (and hence our business), we need to have a foundation of safety so that we can try and fail and learn from the experience… then hit delete instead of rewind, stopping shame before it takes root.
Approaching what’s going on with a healthy dose of compassionate curiosity, and unhooking from judgment (mostly our own), allows you to let go of perfectionism and negative self-talk so you can explore your triggers and release them.
When you practice self-compassion, you’re more aware and less judgmental of your thoughts and actions, making it easier to pivot your focus in the moment and move towards what brings you happiness rather than into hiding.
You can’t become what you can’t overcome. Self-compassion helps get you there.
Do a Shame Reality Check
Our perception is our reality. What we believe to be so, is so for us.
All behavior is belief driven, thought driven.
Your thoughts have tremendous power; they determine your mood, your self-image, your actions…your success.
Can you think of someone who isn’t living into their potential because of their belief about themselves? What are your beliefs about yourself?
When sitting it shame it’s like looking at life through the zoom lens of a camera, all you can focus in on is your flawed self. It’s easy to get lost in the identity of your repetitive negative self-talk, distracting you from your goals.
Do a reality check and be vigilant about what you’re thinking. Is it propelling you forward or keeping you stuck? Bringing you joy, or bringing you down?
Creativity and aligned inspiration will flourish in joy and positive thinking.
Challenge the story you have going on that’s creating feelings of shame. Ask: is it so, is it true? Play your story out to the end game. More than likely, your limiting thoughts were the trigger, not your capabilities.
Clear Boundaries Put the Breaks on Shame
Our boundaries reflect who we are and how we relate to others.
When you’re experiencing shame, your boundaries (personal and professional) can quickly become ‘negotiable’ which can lead to resentment, anger, and frustration…and an overwhelming dose of, well, overwhelm.
Here’s a hard truth: most of the time when people push or ignore your boundaries, it’s with your permission. Ouch.
It’s your responsibility to establish and communicate what your boundaries are. Hard to do when shame has you by the ankles.
Boundaries are guidelines for yourself and what you’re willing to tolerate. Treat them like a gate to your most precious garden, guarding your business, your life, family, joy, fulfillment, safety, and success.
Establishing clear boundaries, with an intentional way to communicate them without apology, requires self-compassion, a reality check, and a clear picture of not only what you want, but WHO YOU WANT TO BE.
When you lack boundaries, you can easily become scattered, overwhelmed, and unproductive; creating a lack of self-trust and a sizable case of shiny-object syndrome (or procrastination).
The beautiful thing is, you can only take responsibility for how respectfully you share your boundaries.
It is NOT your responsibility for how the other person reacts…that’s theirs to own and work through.
As Brene Brown says,
“Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind.”
Be clear, kind, intentional, and unapologetic in your boundaries. It will improve your relationships, your business, and your confidence so that shame will no longer shape your success.