Flushed cheeks, ears on fire, how can I disappear? Just one embarrassing memory surfacing was all it took. As my heart palpitations thump in my ear and my breath grows shallow, I begin to panic. Thoughts are stuck in a cycle of self-loathing. All I want is to escape my body, to break free. I don’t want anyone to see me. Yet, here I have to stand, greeting my students as they arrive at school. I cannot let this shame engulf me, but it is hard to think of a way out. -my experience one random morning at work
Have you experienced something like this before? Moments of shame can pop up or be triggered in the least expected places. Shame is different than guilt. Guilt is our conscious reminding us and encouraging us to make a change or seek reparation. It is our awareness of a mistake that can lead to productive activity. Shame, on the other hand, is a feeling of unworthiness. It belittles us and obstructs us from doing good. Shame is a sense that something is wrong with us or that we are irreparably damaged. When we feel that way about ourselves, then we struggle loving ourselves and being loved. Anxiety and perfectionism are often the branches that stem off of this root of shame.
So back to my morning at work: What could I do in that shame triggered moment where I wanted to run and hide but I could not?
Below are the baby steps that helped me climb out of that hole of shame before I sank too deep.
Try a Breath Prayer.
Breath prayer combines deep breathing and intention together. Deep breaths can slow down our heart rates and calm our minds. When I set an intention for what I want to receive, then I am bringing my energy and focus there, instead of focusing on the shame. It could be as simple as thinking “Hello love” on the inhale, and “Good-bye fear” on the exhale. The beauty of the breath prayer is that I can do it anytime and anywhere. Taking these conscious breaths while saying a prayer are always my first resort in a moment of shame. As I stood in the hallway at school, I used St. Julian of Norwich’s quote for my breath prayer.
I breathed in “All shall be well”. (4 counts)
As I held that breath in, “And all shall be well.” (5 counts)
Then I finally released my breath, “And all manner of things shall be well.” (8 counts)
Send some love to someone else.
It could be a quick text, a loving prayer, or even writing a thank you letter. When I focus on love, and I direct my attention outward, it relieves me of that inner turmoil… at least for a moment. I often picture the smiling face of someone who I dearly care for and then send them a quick bitmoji, gif, or just a text to say that I am thinking about them. I then concentrate on all the little things that I love about them and say prayers of gratitude for them. In this moment at school, I imagined my little niece dancing crazy and free and the way that she hugs me tightly and tells me everything with her whole heart.
Go for a walk.
Movement, fresh air, and observing that world around often can give me a different perspective. But if nothing else, it helps me to release anxious energy. And as I discovered in my moment at school: If you can’t walk outside, even walking around the room can help. Just move your body any way that you can.
These are 3 tricks that have worked for me when caught up in the immediate moment of my own shame. The next time shame pops up in your life, give them a try and let me know what you think!
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About the Author: Julie Glaser is a healer who creates sacred spaces for people to share, release, and grow. She’s in the habit of being in awe and wonder and writes to share her own experiences and learnings with other inquisitive souls in the process of transforming.