The shield of shame is an important topic to discuss because shame prevents us from moving forward. If we are not being transparent, open and honest about how we are feeling on an emotional level, it can prevent us from achieving our goals and the things that we want to do in our lives.

Shame can be accumulated in our younger years, because we are put down, unfairly questioned or unreasonably pressurised by others around us. Essentially, shame is coming from an absorbed belief from other people, or from past events where things have legitimately happened to us, by us, and in our life interactions. The next question is; ‘why do we want to get rid of it?’. If this is something that is protecting us, maybe keeping us safe from criticism and harm, why would we want to get rid of shame?

Ultimately, because it prevents us from being able to move forward in our lives and it prevents us from being as open as we could be. The problem with having that shame shield in place is it protects us not just from the negative things, but from being able to achieve authentic connections with other people as well. One of the biggest needs that human beings have, is the need to connect with others. Think about it – all of your relationships with other people, whether they’re good or bad, are based around the connection. We have positive connections, we have negative connections and of course, we all want to be having more of the good ones, more of the positive ones.

In order to achieve that, we’ve got to get rid of this shield that might be getting in the way of people really being able to get to know us. We’ve got to be able to be brave and share the things around our personalities that may be quite difficult to share. Take a moment to think about it; would you rather spend the rest of your life in a relationship with all of that shame or would you rather spend the rest of your life in true, deep, meaningfully connected relationships with other human beings? If you want the latter, then you’re going to have to put the shame shield down and that comes from you being brave. It comes from you stepping outside of the norm and outside of what’s comfortable. Moreover, it comes from being comfortable with the fact that it will be uncomfortable, that you’re not going to get it right every time and that sometimes those connections that you’re seeking to forge, will also be rejected. Can you get through shame without rejection? Probably not, but there are some things that you can do to swing the odds in your favour.

For a start, if you are looking to create meaningful connections with other people and you decide, ‘I’m going to put my shame shield down here’, before you go ahead and do that, make sure you’re picking the right people to honour with that connection. Make sure that you are picking people you trust. People that would be willing to do the same thing for you and should be doing the same thing for you. Make sure that you are picking people who, when you weigh up the odds, are the people that are less likely to spit in your face and walk away. Those that cause you to feel that sense of embarrassment – and, well, you know, just that horrible feeling that you don’t want to feel when you get rejected. Inevitably then, causing you to ramp up that ashamed shield and make it even bigger, thicker and even more potent than it ever had been before. You can, anytime, take that risk and you can put the shame shield down. However, my advice to you is to choose wisely, who you decide to do that with. Also, consider what the things are, that you can do in order to be authentic, be open, be honest, be clear with others and avoid that sense of ridicule and rejection – that we want to try and avoid as a result of putting the shame shield down.

The other thing you can do is talk. The more you talk, the more you put words around your experiences, the more ‘in perspective’ those experiences become. If you’re talking to someone who’s quite skilful with their communication, then they will ask questions that help you to really minimise the things that previously you may have thought of as being quite problematic.

For example, in NLP, there’s a process that we do when someone starts to talk about a problem. Fears and phobias are a really good example here. As the client begins to open up and share their story, perhaps around a previous event where they’d come into contact with the thing that causes them to have their phobic response –  we use a form of interaction and questioning which helps them to really see the problem in a much smaller perspective than they had done previously. For example, if they said ‘I’m terrified of spiders’ then you might respond by saying, ‘oh you mean, the money spiders, like the really itty-bitty-tiny ones?’. Now, very often they’re going to say, ‘no’ to that. Most people, when they are having a phobic reaction to a spider, are thinking about a man-eating spider that’s sitting on their face! When people start to ask those kinds of questions, it gets you to think about the problem in a different sort of way. As a result, it changes your perspective of the problem.

If you are speaking with someone about things that may be quite delicate for you, be that fears, irrational beliefs, or those difficulties that you have in connecting with other people – and the person you are talking to is skilful in the subject area of communication – they will be able to help you change your perspective on the problem. Simply, by asking you some questions or drawing your attention to the aspects of the problem which actually might be quite funny! When you get to that point, it starts to shrink the problem. Will it get rid of it completely? Probably not, but it will go a long way to scratching the surface so that when you play that disc in your mind in the future, it doesn’t play in the same way anymore.

So, here’s my challenge to you; I want you to think about what makes you feel uncomfortable and makes you want to hide behind your shield of shame (and I’ve said in the past about being more open, transparent and honest with others but this is now about taking it to the next step!). This is about taking it to the place where we really face up to the things that are more painful for us to think about and talk about. Those things that make you think “You know what, here’s something that I don’t like about myself, here’s something that makes me feel really uncomfortable, here is an area of conversation that I don’t really want to have with you but I think we should have it anyway.” We’re going to take the things that are really most shameful to us and cast a light on them – talk about them – so that we can see them for what they are and we can put them into perspective, and then we can put them to bed.

Good luck!

By Gemma Bailey