When I felt how intertwined fear and shame were, I knew I had a powerful tool to shift an old story. Read on for a short tale about fear, shame, and the power of softening into one’s self.
I was standing on the corner of Calle Valencia and Paseo de Gracia in Barcelona, just before lunch time. It was a crisp, autumn afternoon, and I was quivering with excitement. I was meeting the handsome, Argentinian man, Marcello (can you imagine?), whom I’d first met a few nights ago at a friend’s dinner party. He was late.
This was pre-cell phone era, so as I stood there, alone, waiting, looking up at Gaudi’s Casa Mila, I felt my excitement turn into fear, and my fear turn into defiant pride in a matter of minutes. He wasn’t coming. I was sure of it.
My belly started to boil, chin to jut, chest to puff out and back muscles to harden. My story of rejection and unwantedness had found the opening it needed in those anxious 15 minutes of waiting, and it took over. I’d shut my excitement down.
A false bravado had quickly covered my tender vulnerability, saying, “I don’t need you. You won’t hurt me,” before I even knew his last name.
Eventually, he arrived. We walked back to his flat. We ate pasta with tomato sauce and fresh parmesan and drank a bottle of Rioja. I’d go home later that evening and never hear from him again. In future, lonely moments, I’d curl up on my couch and wonder what was wrong with me. This was a common place for me to be sucked in by shame. (quick summary here… the answer was nothing. We just didn’t have more in common than our love for Italian food and Barcelona …oh, and our first names!)
If I could look at that young woman today, I’d tell her to soften. There’s nothing wrong with you. Soften into yourself. It’s one of the most powerful things you can do.
But damn if it isn’t scary to do this.
When we soften, we FEEL ourselves – the tender parts, the needs, the desires, the past experience that was cut short. And it’s scary to let those course through us fully, without holding onto the old stories, and to trust life.
Fear is an ever-present companion to shame, rejection. and humiliation. It’s the energy coursing through us that says, protect yourself, because if you don’t, the bad things will happen again. Don’t show them your tenderness, sensitivity, or quiet needs. It’s dangerous.
And when we listen, the old story continues.
But fear is also the energy of the unknown. The energy we need to move into wide open space that’s full of potential.
So if we want to shift shame, to deeply undo the hold it has on us and the way it shapes our lives, we have to agree to be afraid, with our full body, in those moments that could suck us in, to SOFTEN, and let the energy of fear move through us as potent flow and sensation:
- Blood flow
- Heart pulsation
- Hot flushes
- Cold rushes
- Trembling legs
- Inner shaking
- Deep breathing
- Full body awareness
When we step out of the old story, we’ll meet a richness of sensations, without interpretation. When fully embodied, they leave us clear, soft, connected, boundaried, open-hearted, and sure … able to feel life.
This is the power and potential you hold in your body. But it takes practice. Learning to release fear is an important step to becoming free of an old shame story.
In those moments where shame is triggered, KNOW that you have a choice.:
- Take the fearful path that shrinks or hardens you and holds struggle, loneliness. and doubt.
- Step into the unknown, full of sensation, wildly alive in your body, and free to be 100% yourself.
That choice is always there. We just need courage and awareness to make it.
PS -I don’t know what could have happened differently that fall day in Barcelona, had I been able to soften into the moment and let myself shake, chatter and quiver. I don’t think it would have changed the outcome of this specific meeting, but I do know I would have suffered less, alone on my couch. I would’ve been free of the feeling that something was wrong with me, and just gone about living my life in one of the most beautiful cities in the world.