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We all know shame – that feeling of embarrassment for doing something we regret.
Change shame, however, is different. It shows up when you look back on who you were or what you did then and feel shame creep up, asking yourself why you didn’t make those changes sooner.
Why is it that we don’t use these moments to celebrate instead of chastise? It is time to turn this around.
What You’ll Discover in this Episode:
- What change shame is and how it shows up in our lives
- The problem with getting stuck in change shame
- How change shame can be a gift
- What we can do when it strikes
- How to leverage it to do more of what is working
This episode is an invitation to love our journey a little more. And to celebrate who we’ve become by looking at where we’ve come from.
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Full Episode Transcript:
Welcome to the Expat Happy Hour, this is Sundae Bean from www.sundaebean.com. I am a solution-oriented coach and intercultural strategist for individuals and organizations and I am on a mission to help you adapt and succeed when living abroad and get you through any life transition.
Shame is defined as a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.
Like if you embarrassed yourself at the office Christmas party after too much hot brandy, or if you lashed out in public at a store clerk over something that was actually not a big deal.
You feel really bad about something, something that you did that you’re not proud of.
But there’s something that popped up recently around shame that I want to name, I call it change shame. Change shame is different from the humiliation of something you’ve done wrong or foolish. Change shame is that feeling that you have when you make changes for the good, and now you look back on who you were, what you did or how you showed up in the world with shame
It’s ironic, but let me explain.
Change shame showed up for me in a really silly way. I was getting something ready for a corporate client and it required me to go back to a video series I did, I don’t know 2017 or maybe even earlier, and I looked at the video and I saw myself. I was like, “Oh my, your makeup Sundae, oh look at your hair and what’s with your cheeks? They look like chipmunks.”
I was super judgy about myself when I saw this video. So much, and I’ve to be really honest, that I hesitated to share it. And to put this in perspective, the sharing of this series could make the difference of tens, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars in my business.
Because of my flipping makeup or my hair?
I mean “Hello ego” how bad is that?
And I realized that I was feeling change shame. And it’s not what you think, I’m not talking about the ego stuff, “Oh, she was, wearing bad lipstick.” or “Her hair wasn’t nice.” That’s not what I was feeling that change shame around, although admittedly I’m not a big fan of the way that I looked, it was something much deeper than that. Because at that moment I looked at the gap, the symbolic expression through what I was seeing. At how I’m in a totally different space than I was then, I’m taking much better care of myself and those physical changes were symbolic of inner changes.
Objectively two people might look at the one video from then and one video from now and say “Okay, it’s fine.” Both of them are fine. But for me, it was about my journey to where I am. And where I was then was oblivious to the fact that I wasn’t taking first-class care of myself. Or what I thought was first-class care was just not abusing myself, you know, like occasionally going for a run, trying to get in meditating on occasion, like those sort of things. It was for me the gap and the images was an awareness of where I am now. And I was judging myself for that. For being there then and not there now.
And it came up again, the same thing just happened.
I went to this amazing conference of Families In Global Transition, connected in deep and meaningful ways with a lot of people, and came back feeling a face-to-face hangover.
If you’ve listened to my episode 54, you know that feeling when you are connecting with people that you love and care about and then suddenly you’re not in the same room and again you feel a slump right? That’s the face-to-face hangover.
Everybody was suffering, so we were seeing messages on Facebook about the this gap that everybody feels after the conference, and I shared that I had to listen to my own episode of face to face hangover to recover. So the organization Families in Global Transition shared the podcast, and I went “Ching ching”, because I had listened to episode 54, that was like 75 episodes ago, and I heard the difference in the quality of my podcast from then to now, and I wanted to go “Oh don’t share it, nobody listen!”
Then it got worse.
The 60-second version, I call it Expat Happy Hour in 60 seconds, it is a one minute video of me talking about the podcast. That face-to-face hangover video popped up in my newsfeed and I was like, “Oh my God, look at that bad hair, look at that lipstick, look at the gap of the development you’ve made internally and how that’s expressed externally.”
I was in a full flash of change shame, so much that I wanted to take it back, I wanted to have them not share it, not listen to it, not watch it. Feeling super vulnerable, like “Ugh people are gonna see me, my bad choice of lipstick and my hair was bad and on my podcast delivery that is like seventy five episodes ago of skill development.”
And I wanted to hide it.
But the thing is the content was actually still good.
In fact, one of my members of my Facebook group, Expats on Purpose, shared it with the group and said “Listen, I just came back from time with my family, listen to this if you’re in the same space community.” She even shared that she shared it with her mother.
So the quality isn’t something that was up for discussion, but for me, I was stuck in change shame. Shame for growing, shame for learning, shame for changing. It’s the shame we feel for not having it already figured out then.
We know we know from Brene Brown that shame is not a useful emotion. Brene Brown says “Shame is the most powerful master emotion, It’s the fear that were not good enough.” And this is really kind of out there for me to share with you, but I’m doing it because you might have done it, too. And I want you to know you’re not alone and I want us all to say “Hey, what can we do instead?”
Stop judging ourselves for not having it figured out then.
I know that maybe you’re looking back on your life and thinking “Gosh, why did I look at that group of people as so exotic and different when I first moved abroad to Asia or Africa” or whatever, you know fill in the blank space that felt exotic for you. “Why didn’t I just see them as people? Why were they so exotic?”
Maybe you’re judging yourself because after you had a baby you gained 20 pounds and went maybe to the wine more often than you should have and now you’re back on track and you look at those pictures of yourself and you loathe them.
Maybe you’re a parent now to teens and you think back to when your kids were little and you’re like “God, why did I work so much? I was such a bad parent then and now I’m making time for my teens and they’re connecting with me, but I missed out.”
We are so focused on what we wish we wouldn’t have done or what we’re doing now and how it differs from then, that we’re beating ourselves up. When in fact we should be celebrating, celebrating the growth, celebrating the learning, celebrating the awareness of shame. When I think about shame in my body, I have this like tight spot in my chest, it’s heavy. Because we are judging ourselves and in my example of what I just shared maybe I’m also afraid that you judge me for being me then and not what I am now.
So it’s ridiculous change shame is not serving anyone because we’re pulling ourselves down instead of lifting us up, celebrating the growth.
So maybe you’ve done this, when you’ve caught yourself on video speaking that foreign language a little bit amateurish or you see old photos of you and the choices that you made or even how you showed up in your first relationship.
So here’s my invitation to you today.
I want you to think about the areas where you experience change shame.
You know, I grew up in a community where it was really homogeneous and there were jokes told that were downright racist. I think about that kid who is sitting in those groups listening to that and I’m pissed off at myself for not having said something.
That’s change shame, like “Why didn’t you stand up? Why didn’t you say something?”
And now I realize I was embedded in that community and even though I knew something was not right, I hadn’t yet built the skills to speak out. So I’m celebrating that now, that now I’ll speak out and I’ll teach my kids to speak out instead of getting stuck in change shame.
So look at that.
I want you to think about where you get stuck in change shame. Is it around your body? Is it around your family? Is around your parenting, your relationships, the choices you’re making professionally? Where is it showing up?
And here’s the big stretch I’m going to encourage you to make. When you get stuck in change shame I want you to flip it and name what you should be celebrating. Celebrating your new awareness, celebrating your growth, celebrating that you finally went to the doctor and found out what the heck was going on with your hormones.
And one of the things I say to my kids is that I hope when I’m 74 that I look back on these years with some change shame. That I’ll be grateful for how far I’ve come, I’ll be grateful for how far my thinking has moved, I’ll be grateful for how far my practices have come, in the way I show up for me and for others and for my community.
So change shame is actually that biological trigger which is going to help us realize that we’ve grown and we need to celebrate that we’re not in the same place as we were before because the whole irony of this is that change shame is not from something we’ve done that’s bad. It’s from how we feel about the good that we’re doing now.
So instead let’s just focus on celebrating, celebrating our growth. Maybe you can celebrate that you’re not spending every single weekday on happy hour. Maybe you can celebrate that you cut that down and only do that on Fridays. Maybe you can celebrate that you’re no longer working 12, 13, 14 hours a day. Maybe you can celebrate that you only lose your patience and raise your voice to your kids on occasion.
Can we just celebrate that?
Your growth and your awareness and most importantly the strategies that you developed to get there?
So the first thing I want you to do when you’re feeling change shame is flip it and celebrate the good that’s happening now, the growth that’s happening now.
The second thing I want you to do when you notice that, is name the strategies you developed to get there, to get to the good. When you get stuck there we should be naming what worked that got us forward.
One of my clients substituted exercise for alcohol, so that meant instead of spending her time relaxing with her partner over a couple drinks they went for a walk.
Another client stopped the long hours and instead added morning yoga and Lego time with her child. She still worked a lot, but she substituted a few hours to now be the mom who shows up for herself and for her kids.
Another client stopped focusing only on the family and finally made her a priority, and that meant doing one thing for her a week first thing in the morning so that she could serve her family was strength the rest of the day.
So what is it for you? What worked that got you moving forward in your life? Now, you know what you can do more of to keep going.
The third thing that we can do is start scheming, what’s next? When I really get honest about change shame, I want this to hit me like every year to be honest or every six months. I want to be shocked at how far I’ve come. How far have grown.
And so I want to take back this idea of change shame as celebration of change and wipe away the negative wipe away the cloud of shame. But for now, I’m a human and when that happens I get a flash the flash of “Crap, I don’t want anybody see that, I wish people didn’t know that, I wish I were there then where I am now”
See how ridiculous that is?
So let’s use that for momentum and start scheming, what’s next? Where in your life would you love to show up in new ways? What strengths have you shown in the past that you can use more now?
It’s about getting really real and allowing ourselves to stand in that vulnerability and say, “You know what? I’m not perfect, I never have been and never will be, but I’m learning and I’m growing.”
You’ve been listening to Expat Happy Hour with Sundae Bean.
Thank you for listening.
I’ll leave you with two quotes from the expert on shame and vulnerability Brene Brown.
“Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”
She goes on to say “Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day, it’s about the choice to show up and be real, the choice to be honest, the choice to let our true selves be seen.”
And I have got to agree with Brene Brown, there’s no shame in that.