I’ve been pondering shame lately, as I tend to carry a fair bit of it, and I finally figured out what it is.
To explain shame, I’m first going to briefly explain what it means to be nervous. Being nervous, an old mentor of mine said, just means we want to do well. Nervousness can bring about anxiety and hypothesizing and such which can interfere with our performance, but I’ve found that realizing I just want to do well lets me ride the feeling instead of attempting to shut it up.
Shame is similar. Shame means we want to do better in the future. That time we made some mistake that still haunts us to this day? That’s just our mind giving us a head’s up that we don’t want to do it again. Shame can be a strong motivator to improve.
Shame can be misused, too. Say we have a personality trait or nervous tick that’s harmless or we have no control over, but someone keeps making fun of us for it. That’s an abuse of shame, and wholly unfair to us. Shame is often used by bullies and abusers to manipulate people, and it’s important to discern where the shame comes from.
I’ve felt much more confident and less anxious ever since I had these realizations. Hopefully, they’ll help you too! And, to borrow a link from Chelsea Manning: We got this!