Shame and guilt are both born of judgment, but there is a distinction between them: Shame is silent. We wear our guilt—and we hide our shame. We'll share our guilt—it's a way in which we look for acceptance. We purge ourselves—telling our best friend, our sister or brother; we confess our supposed sins to God or to clergy. But we don't share our shame. Instead, we lock it away in a dark closet where we hope it will never be revealed, but all the while it is shaping our lives. Because that which we do not bring into the light of day controls us.

Shame can be about anything, from our choice of sexual expression—if you ever want to clear a room, just start talking about sex—to our bodies, our addictions, our secret thoughts. Sometimes it comes from having an embarrassment of riches—a person born into a privileged family may feel ashamed about that. It manifests in so many different forms. As they say in 12-step programs, it's cunning, baffling and powerful.

Shame leads to isolation. The antidote for shame is intimacy. Authentic vulnerability. These emotional states are one and the same. In order to be truly intimate with another person, we must be authentically vulnerable. In addition, when we reach that place of vulnerability, we are also able to receive—truly receive—from another. When we express all that we are, there is no room for shame to creep in. This willingness to be honest, even if at times it's uncomfortable, is how we release the shame within us, so that it can no longer gather weight and density.

Look into your own eyes in the mirror. Just relax and breathe. Maintain your gaze. See the part of you that is sacred. See your soul. See the truth of you. Witness the part of yourself that cannot be tarnished. The simple part of you that is free of the complexities of life. From this place of intimacy with yourself, speak the truth that cannot be spoken. Your deepest shame. I promise you that this deep shame is shared by every single human being. By voicing it, you are letting it go.

Sum It Up by Pat Summitt Panache Desai is the author of Discovering Your Soul Signature: A 33-Day Path to Purpose, Passion & Joy from which this excerpt was taken.


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