Shame is a fear-based feeling. It’s not helpful or healthy to internalize shame. What is shame? According to the dictionary, shame is a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behaviour. It’s excruciating; it causes mental, physical, and spiritual problems. I experienced feelings of shame as a child and by the time I was a young adult, I had no idea that shame and fear drove every decision I made. Shame loves the darkness, and so I kept it there. I didn’t tell anyone how I felt for 29 years because I didn’t really know how. I just wanted to stay ahead of it, keep on moving, keep masking it with alcohol and drugs, but nothing worked.
Shame wants you to keep it a secret. It gets big, strong, and powerful in the dark. It feels like a monster. The first thing to do is talk about it, which brings light. Shame shrivels in the light of day. The more we share our truth with others, the lighter we become. We have to embrace the immense juicy fullness of being human. Being human is messy, and we all have the light and the dark in us. Don’t carry shame around. Shine a light on it. Remember that no one has all the answers and no one is perfect, no matter how well they pretend.
I was so scared to admit how broken I thought I was, I had to trust that something was on the other side for me. I took it one step further. I wrote comedy about my shame. I told theatres-full of people about all the things that had brought shame to me, mental illness, internalized homophobia, drug addiction, and sex work. It was liberating for several reasons. People accepted me. Then, unexpectedly, they shared what they were ashamed of with me. I wasn’t so different after all; we are all human.
It didn’t happen overnight. Sharing shame, writing about it and performing it takes time. It also takes courage to face your shame head-on. It is painful to unpack it and sit with it. Making friends with my shame dissolved it. Shame is an inner bully. Making friends with it will allow you to confidently express the authentic fullness of who you are, on the stage and off.
Love your inner child. Get out of the shame spiral and shine a light on your shame.