I'm The Only One To Blame For My Shame

Care about what other people think and you will always be their prisoner.
— Lao Tzu

I like to tell everyone that I live life being unabashedly myself and that I don’t care what others think of me.

Well, that’s not the truth.

It’s the truth I want to believe about myself. It’s the person I want to be, and sometimes am, but as a whole, I often carry shame like a backpack on my shoulders, and it’s no one’s fault except my own.

For me, shame is the perception that people are judging me. It’s the internalized belief that others are thinking something about me—my personality, actions, behaviors, beliefs, etc. And, those thoughts I think other people are thinking... well, they are almost always negative.

The truth is, I worry about people judging me when they most likely aren’t judging me at all.

There’s a lot to say about perceived judgments. We all have them, and I know I’m not alone here. It’s the feeling of being anxious about wearing a bathing suit in public. Thinking that everyone else is looking at your thighs, armpit fat, or chubby tummy. We feel this when we lead a workshop and think, “Do these people think I’m stupid?” or “Am I smart enough to be talking about this?”

We suffer in silence about what we think everyone else is thinking about us, but in reality, we’re the ones creating the dialogue.

What’s in your head doesn’t exist outside of it.

That armpit fat or your intelligence level—well, those feelings are a reflection of your own personal thoughts. And, if you give them enough power, they will become your reality,

I want to tell you that I’ve figured this all out in some way, but that’s not true.

I also want to tell you that people really aren’t thinking those things about you, but that’s only partially the truth.

Part of the truth is simple: no one is thinking those negative thoughts about you. Think about the last time you went to the beach or listened to a training. Did you spend the majority of your time judging other people, or did you simply enjoy yourself and soak up the information?

Most likely, you didn’t think twice about the random people in the same space as you.

But the truth is also this: we think that people are judging us because we’ve judged ourselves, or we’ve heard others harshly judge people they didn’t know.

There’s only one way to change this. Stop the behavior. If you’re around a friend who jokes about another woman’s body fat—call her out. Have the confidence to tell her that you don’t appreciate her shaming another woman she doesn’t even know. If you catch yourself doing it, check yourself. We are never going to grow personally if we are bringing others down.

Though, it isn’t that simple. We need to challenge ourselves when we assume that others are thinking negatively. Why carry shame around when you can simply tell it that it has no place in your life. Sure, it won’t be an overnight change, but eventually, the more we correct ourselves from thinking negative thoughts, the less shame can take its place in our lives. 

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes:

Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.
— Dr. Seuss