‘You Should Be Ashamed of Yourself!’

Somebody From Your Past  (Hopefully not your present.)

Question: Why is public speaking the number one fear of humanity, a fate worse than death for many people?

Answer: The nightmare of being publicly shamed. It’s about shame, folks. And where there is shame, there is anxiety. And perhaps all anxiety is performance anxiety.

Performance anxiety has paralyzed many a human being from expressing themselves, and not just sexually and artistically. The anxiety comes from the following linking in our thinking: Our performance-ability equals our lovability. The end of anxiety, Viagra not withstanding, comes from releasing the belief that we must perform to be loved. The remedies that facilitate the healing are self-love and a commitment to being authentic. Both involve getting some practice at facing, embracing, and releasing shame.

Performance anxiety comes easy to me. I am a performer by trade, one who deals with an abundance of anxiety, both on and especially off the stage. My greatest challenge in my intimate relationships is remembering to cease performing. In my original family unit, being myself didn’t seem to work all that well, so I learned other ways to get my needs met. Performance, which started as a coping mechanism, evolved into a successful career. Becoming an entertainer sprung forth from the belief that simply being who I am was not enough. I have seen it time and time again with others as well… our wounds become the doorway for our larger gifts to emerge.

Pretending to be someone I’m not in order to be accepted and liked by others has been a full time gig, and most of my life I was not even conscious that I was working it. Now I am at a place where I can see what I am doing when I’m hiding behind a facade, seducing others with talent or charm, or withholding a truth to not rock the boat. Like seals in captivity, I learned to pass through hoops to get the fish. Only I’m beginning to realize I’m not in captivity. And the first step towards claiming my freedom is awareness.

When I become aware that I’m acting out an old pattern, if I sidestep shame, I can celebrate. What was once unconscious is becoming conscious. Soon, in God’s perfect timing, the inspiration and willingness will arise to leave behind the old and step into something new. If I beat myself up, I slow the process down and suffer my guilt. But if I simply observe the pattern from a neutral place, the light of my non-judgmental awareness begins to transform it. Modern physics has rediscovered that the observer changes the observed just by witnessing it. This is also the alchemical solution to dissolving old, unwanted beliefs and behaviors: observation without the shame and judgment.

In addition to celebration, I choose to grieve what the lack of authenticity has been costing me… loss of self-esteem, loss of connection with others, and being out of harmony with my own values. I give myself compassion for my deep longing to be liked by others, to avoid being criticized and abandoned. And I affirm in gentle tones that I can survive and even thrive without the validation of others, that I no longer have to perform to be loved, and that I am worthy of love just for who I am. In other words, I stop abandoning myself.

A while back I was talking to a new friend, and she asked me what it was in my relationship history that women haven’t ‘gotten’ about me. I had trouble answering, and after watching me squirm for a few moments she volunteered a guess. “Scott, you lead with your sensitivity, and all the men I’ve ever met who do that have rage in their shadow. I think that what women haven’t understood is that you can be a real angry son-of-a-bitch sometimes.” I laughed uproariously, and told her she was right-on. It felt so freeing – and frightening! – to know that someone could see past my Spiritual Sensitive Guy, and was inviting me to acknowledge a wider range of expression than what I usually put out to others.

Trying to be nice all the time is like stocking your kitchen just with sweets. What about cooking spicy once in a while? I’ve been in relationships where my fears of loss and abandonment were stronger than my commitment to expressing my truth and taking care of myself. I put my partner’s feelings before my own, and we both suffered from it.

Yes, there are ways of being spicy that can damage the delicate thread of intimate relationships,  but there are also ways that are likely to contribute to connection. Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication has helped me learn both the consciousness and the language of self-responsibility, emotional honesty, and compassion. More information about his work can be found by visiting www.cnvc.org.

I also have a kindred spirit friend named Marina Smerling who teaches NVC and is somewhat of a shame release specialist. Her email museletter is called the Shameless Heart and I highly suggest you consider signing up at www.shamelessheart.com.

Lately I have been observing how much seeking approval and validation from others has cost me in my adult life. I have kept all that pretty hidden from people, including myself, because I was embarrassed to be wanting something that I judged as so unspiritual. My evolution requires asking people for what I want openly instead of manipulatively. I am also learning to look at my thirst for external acceptance as a signal it is time for some internal loving, a time to flood my inner landscape with positive self-talk. Instead of judging myself for being needy, I am practicing meeting my needs by appreciating myself from within.

Unworthiness has got to be the ultimate state of pretending. When I believe that there is something about me that renders me unlovable, I am suffering from a profound case of mistaken identity. We are all innocent, precious and lovable children of God. No matter what. No exceptions. Part of what makes children so pure is that they are transparent, with no hidden agendas. Authenticity, then, is part of a pathway back to our true identity. We take the fig leaf off that we put on ages ago when we allowed the serpent (shame) to convince us that we had something to hide, and we journey together, back to the garden.

Scott Grace wears many hats. He is a counselor, coach, minister, inspirational speaker, recording artist and modern day troubadour. He travels through the United States, Canada and Europe giving concerts, talks and workshops, as well as presenting at conferences. Scott can be contacted at scott@scottsongs.com. His website, www.scottsongs.com, is an inspiring and playful place to visit.

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