I went into a very important meeting with key stakeholders and was asked a question that completely threw me. I waffled my way through my answer, knowing that they knew what I knew which was, I didn’t have a clue! When I was done talking and the meeting progressed to other matters, I could feel myself shrinking inward. I felt so small, irrelevant, inadequate, stupid, undeserving, I didn’t belong. I felt angry with myself for not knowing, for waffling. I should know and if I didn’t know then I should have just said so and saved myself the embarrassment.
The pain of shame. That feeling that makes you want to curl up in a hole somewhere far away. I have battled those feelings many times enough to know how this experience would play out, if I let it. I would agonise over the experience for the next few days, just wanting to hide and be invisible. The flashbacks are the worst, horrible painful reminders of just how much I messed up. This would be followed by bouts of self-loathing and accusations fired at yours truly, leaving me with no choice but to reach out for comfort and solace in food, to help numb my pain.
Shame is an intensely painful emotion, it cuts like a deep wound, it hurts and you feel it physically, in your body, in your heart and in your soul. Shame says I am no good, I am rubbish, I am bad.
But I know there is another way, a better way that will save me days of unnecessary pain and turmoil, if I just allow myself to feel the pain. Yes it sucks, it hurts. Yes I feel stupid, inadequate, not good enough. I am worried about how others will see me after my slip up. What are they thinking? Do they like and value me less? Will they wonder if I am capable? They all seem and sound so intelligent compared to me. This feeling absolutely sucks!
Okay so what does this experience say about me… what am I thinking that they are thinking? That my lack of knowledge means what? That I am not INTELLIGENT, that my inability to give a knowledgeable answer means I am not intelligent and that I am not good enough to do the job. But is this true? Does lack of knowledge really equate to unintelligence? What would it feel like to acknowledge that I did not know, and I still do not know, but I can learn. I am able and willing to learn. It is okay to put my hand up and say that I don’t know but I am willing to learn and find out. I am learning. And just because I am not a subject matter expert, does not make me less. I am worthy and deserving. I am enough, I am good enough, I am worthy of the space and places I find myself. I am worthy of my place at any table. This experience is not here to torment me but to present me with an opportunity for growth and learning.
Working through emotional pain in this way is a powerful self-awareness practice, that helps me deal with shame triggers of any kind. The last paragraph was from my personal journal which helped me resolve the difficult emotions I was experiencing at the time. If you are going through a difficult experience, I would encourage you to take the time to journal your thoughts and feelings, and do so with real honesty. Don’t hold back, be real and true with yourself. Allow yourself to feel, own and explore the pain.
Some emotions, particularly those caused by trauma and abuse may be difficult to work through on your own. If you need support and someone to come alongside you as explore this area, I am here for you, get in touch.