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Growing Through Shame

Shame is something that we often try to avoid. Walking through a place of such vulnerability is understandably undesirable, because human beings are naturally quite pain aversive. Our aversion to pain doesn’t exclude emotional pain. However, can we grow without a certain level of discomfort? Can we really begin to live a content life without trudging through what we would like to avoid? At times, it seems like we can. We distract ourselves. We compartmentalize things. But where is the line between numb and content? It’s likely between a river of fast moving, muddy water that, should you dare to try to cross, you might find what you’re looking for on the other side.

Walking through shame inevitably will hurt. You’ll likely want to retreat and hide, because that’s what you’re used to. To a large extent, we’re trained to react that way. For animals in the wild, vulnerability can be the end. For humans, it has the potential to be the beginning. Through taking full responsibility for who you are and what decisions you have made, you begin to figure things out. This space is uncomfortable, yet it’s a healthy place to uncover and understand difficult issues such as what you are in control of, what you’re not in control of, what you value, and what your strengths and weaknesses are.

So when you feel vulnerable, don’t close yourself off. Look for feedback from trustworthy sources. Listen to what these people have to say with healthy skepticism. You then can address key issues such as “who am I?” and “what do I want?” Those two questions are almost impossible to work through without allowing yourself to be vulnerable enough to look at them from different angles. Some of those angles are painful, or even embarrassing. However, you always have options, and you can best work through those options if you utilize all of the information that is available to you.

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