In situations where you find yourself upset or anxious with yourself or others, we tend to associate these feelings with guilt and shame. Brené Brown talks about how we often use them interchangeably, and the latter can be destructive. In a book I am currently reading, The Power of Vulnerability, she explains it like this:
- Guilt: I did something bad/They did something bad
- Shame: I am bad/They are bad
Personally, guilt is usually not even in the picture when it comes to my own actions. Shame is my instant response to anything I do. Whether that be something as minuscule as posting something with a typo, to making a decision that does not align with my metrics of value.
“How could I do that? I am such an idiot. I am so irresponsible. I am too weird. Why would anyone love me? Why would anyone choose me?”
This a monologue that often fills my mind on a daily basis. These are all shame statements. These are all destructive statements. They do not motivate. They are not me or my authentic self. As my girl Brené says, “Shame erodes our courage and fuels disengagement.” Shame keeps us from speaking or acting our truth. It prevents courage, change, and growth.
Guilt, on the other hand, is healthy (in moderation). Guilt is what reminds us what is right from wrong (based on our metrics of value) and helps us learn from mistakes. It keeps us growing, adapting, and staying on track with our values.
“I can’t believe I did that; that wasn’t very smart or responsible. However, now that I know that, I will ask for understanding and forgiveness. I will speak my truth and move forward.”
That is guilt. That is growth. That is truth. That is forgiveness.
Eventually, three people check into my class. I walk into the room. It is at the perfect temperature – 103° and 37% humidity. I sit down and thank them for coming to class this morning and speak my truth (that I probably wouldn’t have made it to class if I was not an instructor. ;)) I applaud them for their motivation and commitment.
I explain my theme of the month (authenticity and truth) and that the focus today is on forgiveness. Forgiving yourself or forgiving someone else. Just forgiveness. I go on and tell them that we are all human and often hard on others and even harder on ourselves. Breath to movement, flowing in and out of postures, I remind them of this throughout the next 60 minutes. I remind them that the energy used to shame yourself and others is an energy that they can replace compassion and empathy.
I end class, thanking them for making it to their mat and to take note of how they feel in this moment. Following class, each student came up and thanked me for class. Not only for class but the intention. One person even said that the intention is exactly what she needed to get where she needed to be on her journey.
This is why I do what I do. This is why I share. Why I write, teach, and practice. To touch others and remind myself the importance of taking a step back and to practice what I preach.
After they leave, I go up to practice on my own. To practice forgiveness.
I remember the two key physical ingredients for opening up emotional blockage: heart and hips. I begin to practice; moving my body in any way it craves, but also giving it what it needs. I flow through camel, wild thing, pigeon, pyramid, runners lunge, splits, and wheel. I open my body and hope it helps me open my mind.
As I finish and begin to write, I feel a little lighter.
No, I am not “cured.”
No, that shame in the back of my head is not completely gone.
No, I still do not understand why others treat people the way that they do.
But I do remember this:
“People will love you, and people will hate you; either way it has nothing to do with you.” — Abraham Hicks
I am the only one who knows my story. I close my eyes, roll my shoulders, wrists, and neck; take a deep breath and remind myself… forgiveness.
It is hard; training your mind the difference between guilt and shame. To remind yourself that other peoples actions toward you do not define you or your story.
But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try: try to filter through our irrational thoughts; try to listen to your body; try to forgive.
It all starts with forgiveness.
After forgiveness, growth, love, and truth will manifest.
You do not owe anyone any explanation. Just like no one owes you one.
Everybody has gotten to this very point from a culmination of experiences, lessons, and growth. How they use it is up to them. Just like how you use it is up to you.
Know your truth. Know your worth. You are enough. You are worthy. You are loved. You deserve forgiveness.