“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.” ~Nelson Mandela
Shame. A word that conjures up all kinds of emotions while equally keeping you silent.
Some have even said that shame should be classified as a deadly disease because of how it deeply affects the soul.
Then, there are researchers like Brené Brown who study it.
It wasn't until I started working with my first speaking coach that I realized it was actually shame that had kept me “hiding out” and playing small earlier in life.
Which is typical of women who have experienced shame. Isolation becomes your friend.
I had met my coach at a networking event for women in business. She was warm and caring. I shared that it was overcoming the loss of my son to suicide that actually brought me to coaching.
I told her of my goals of sharing my message through public speaking and advocacy to bring awareness, not only to suicide prevention, but also issues affecting women.
Except, like most people, I had always had a fear of public speaking. Even to get up and say my name used to make my palms sweaty.
So why did the thought of standing up in front of the room and speaking bring on major heart palpitations? After all, I love meeting new people, chatting it up, hearing their stories and learning about their lives. There had to be more to the story!
During our first session, I told her that I thought most of my fears were from a childhood trauma I had experienced. After hearing my story, she said, “You have an element of shame that surrounds your life. You have a fear of judgment.”
I was worried what people would think of me that didn't even know me, or anything about me.
It finally made sense to me.
It all stemmed from being sexually abused as a young kid. The humiliation, embarrassment, and fear of anyone finding out was still affecting my life.
Only now, I knew how important it was to share my story, because it could change a life or save a life.
My life mission was now bigger than my fear.
On my journey to healing, I read many books. Books on losing a loved one, books on overcoming trauma, books on healing your life, and books on getting healthy.
I watched Oprah and listened to her inspiring guests.
One day, something clicked.
Everything that I had either read or listened to that inspired me to take action and move out of my darkness involved one thing: stories!
It was not the technical stuff or the how-to overcome (fill in the blank). It was the stories being shared that I could relate to that helped me change my life.
It was the people who were not afraid to share. They did not let any shame, stigma, or fear stop them because they knew their story might help someone.
When you go through a trauma or loss, you can easily feel isolated, like you are the only one. But when you are courageous enough to share your story, you soon find out that you are not alone.
There are people out there in dire need of someone to talk to, that they can relate to, that will understand them.
Sharing your story empowers others who are feeling isolated to begin their own journey of healing and move forward, to create their own movement, big or small.
It's like a snowball effect. You inspire one person, who inspires another person, who inspires another.
When you are finally courageous enough to share your story, it is a process. Shame will no longer leave you feeling small and powerless.
You will feel the need to get out there, share your story, and make a difference in the world.
Now, when I feel fear creeping in, I remind myself that it is not about me; it is about the person who is going to hear my story, feel inspired to change their own life, and create their own movement of change, one small step at a time.
Photo by Jonatas Cunha