We run from vulnerability because we’re afraid of shame and how shame makes us feel. Shame is distinct from embarrassment, guilt, or humiliation. These terms refer to the painful emotional reactions to things we have done. Shame, however, is felt when our thinking shifts and we believe that we, our very essence, is now unworthy of being seen because of what we have done. If we hide from this painful feeling, we numb the center of all feeling.
Shame can also be defined as the fear of disconnection. The human condition, with its inevitable heights and depths, is no walk in the park, and it is almost unbearable without human connection. Shame dares us to do the impossible, to live in a state void of connection and love. But connection and love are the very things that make surviving worthwhile.
Just like darkness is defeated by exposure to light, voicing our shame quickly destroys it. The more aware we are of what shame is, the quicker we can identify it with language and free ourselves from its grip. If we have let shame fester, sharing our story with a trusted friend will expose it. We can also take a more proactive approach, and make it a habit to speak our shame in the moment and then replace it with the truth. The truth will always be that we are enough and that our imperfect actions are distinct from our identity.