Shame. It's not the type of subject you would openly discuss at your friend's baby shower. Nor is it the topic du jour at the local yoga studio as you head in for your morning workout. But shame has received some much-needed airtime in recent years, thanks in part to the brilliant Brené Brown. Studying shame and its effects on the human condition, Brown has the following words of wisdom on this emotion:
"People have one of two reactions when I say shame. They say, I don't know what you're talking about but that has nothing to do with me. Or, I know exactly what you're talking about and I'm not talking about that. But here's the bottom line with shame -- the less you talk about it, the more you got it."
It makes sense doesn't it? Nobody wants to talk about shame or -- more specifically -- the one event, experience or lifestyle choice that has led to them feeling shameful. And spoiler alert -- this is a personal one for me. I felt intense shame for most of my teenage years and for the entirety of my twenties due to unspoken trauma. This in turn resulted in addictive behaviours where I would use drugs and alcohol as a means of stuffing down my feelings and numbing out to the point that I could escape and pretend I was okay, if only for a short time. Oftentimes, when I came down from the high and returned to reality, I would feel worst than I did before I reached for my mind-altering substance of choice.
Today, my outlook is very different. I have been incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to share some tough aspects of my past here on The Huffington Post Canada, talking in depth about the trauma I endured, the addictions that resulted, and my journey through sobriety and into purposeful living. My shares have been met with immense support and tremendous compassion, and as a result it's created many significant turning points for me in my healing. What I didn't expect is that it offered the additional benefit of showing the world who I am and, by proxy, building an honest personal brand that is true to who I am as a human being.
That's me. Now the spotlight is on you. If you're a small business owner or solopreneur, it's absolutely essential that you share your shame. Here's why.
It shows the world who you are
There are enough start-up robots and entrepreneurial automatons out there, without you sounding like yet another one of them. We live in a world with access to instant information which in so many ways is a wonderful thing. It does however have the negative consequence of creating an enormous amount of noise. Bit by bit, each individual note comprising our social media and digital crescendo starts to sound the same. We all sound the same. Why is this an issue? Because absolutely nobody has your unique combination of personality traits, natural abilities, desires, values and life experiences. While it might sound trite, the truth is that if you're not sharing openly and being yourself then you are doing this world a great disservice.
You hold the pen
From a public relations perspective, it's smart to get ahead of the story and take control of the narrative (as we used to say back in my corporate PR days. I know it sounds gross. Hang in there). The thing is, none of us are perfect. No, not even you. Or me. Especially me. We've all made mistakes and made bad decisions, but if you're honest about them, you're never going to be in the position of your past actions coming to light and having to explain your actions from ten years prior.
Why this works
For example, as I mentioned, I'm proud to say I'm clean and sober. I've openly talked about my battle with drugs and alcohol, why these addictions happened in the first place, and how I overcame them. Having shared my story from the place of wanting to help others in recovery, it offered the added benefit of honestly and transparency. Put simply, nobody can threaten to expose skeletons in the closet, when my skeletons are out in the front living room dancing to EDM and happily waving to passers by. Everyone knows. There are no secrets.
It helps you to heal
Referencing once again the wise words of Ms. Brené Brown, "Shame cannot survive being spoken about." What does this mean, exactly? It means once you admit to the world that, yes you were bullied severely in your teens and it hurt like hell, you can rise above the trauma and move forward. You don't have to feel ashamed of it anymore. In fact you're empowered by it. This is especially important if you're in a helping professional because the bottom line is, we don't arrive in this field of healing others by accident. There is always, always a reason for our career decisions and I'm willing to bet my last Timbit that your decision to help others is based around something painful that happened to you or your loved one(s) at some point in your lifetime. So share that. Share your why. That way, people see the human being behind the college degree and professional certifications hanging on the wall. Trust me on this one.
Isn't it time you put pen to paper and shared your story with the world?
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