• Shame is a condition common to humanity. Brené Brown’s work on this topic has already become legendary, and she defines shame as “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance and belonging.” Isn’t that the fundamental human fear?

    As painful as the experience of shame may be, rather than doing the work of facing and releasing it, many of us seem to hold on to our shame, to wallow in it, to tell the story of our pain over and over to ourselves and anyone else who is willing to listen to the haunting refrain.

    Why? Why would we do this?

    Perhaps because facing and owning our shame requires something of us. We can no longer play the victim to shame, no longer rest in inertia, no longer attempt to get sympathy and attention because of what we have suffered.

    Instead, we are called to become the author of a new story. Maya Angelou famously said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then, when you know better, do better.” In the past, you did the best you could. You did all you knew how to do. But now, you know better.  It’s time to release the shame, to release the old story. It’s time to do better.

    If you can change your perspective, shame can be a gift. It can be a cue that you need to look at your life story in a different way. Rather than claiming your shame, writing your name all over it, and wrapping yourself in it like a strait jacket, what if an honest appraisal of whatever caused you to feel shame could be the impetus for a new life? What if you realized you are stronger than whatever happened? What if you realized that it gave you access to empathy? What if you took the time to notice all the positive ways you’ve grown because of living through this “shameful” experience?

    It’s your life and your story. You are the one who gets to decide how it moves forward. Recognize shame for what it is—something that can be learned from and left behind. The butterfly never feels shame for having been a caterpillar. She doesn’t sit there, glued to the ground with her eyes unable to look away from the cocoon of her old life. She just leaves it behind and rises up in flight, beautiful and free.