Authenticity: Casting Off the Shackles of Shame

Shame, vulnerability, mindset, neuroscience, authenticity, guilt, self-love, self-acceptance

Would it be helpful to you if you could shift your feelings toward confidence and joy ‘on demand’ like changing the cable channel? How about dialing up gratitude or self-love in a way that feels genuine, not just disingenuous platitudes? There is already objective research proving that when we change the meaning assigned to an experience, it can turn off our fear provoking amygdala area of our brain. The more we practice this, the more confident and resilient we can become.

This translates to giving us the power to break the shackles of shame—typically a self-generated ‘story.’

I’ve given much thought over the decades to shame and vulnerability. Brene Brown’s research, via her 20 million views TED Talk, (admit it or not, obviously someone’s interested in this topic) has made these words more publicly accessible without in themselves provoking shame and embarrassment by broaching the subject in public. Fact is, until we can access dialog, we will stay trapped.

I’m speaking from my experience now; I’ve done and am doing what this brain science is now showing. You can break the stronghold of running away from the mirror only to project your self-frustration onto other people. You can start to live as a whole person, with a whole heart instead of a heart that is fragile and easy to break into a million pieces.

Walking through life trying to avoid being vulnerable I believe leads to what Henry David Thoreau called a “life of quiet desperation.” A willingness to be vulnerable involves emotional discomfort on some level. It also involves uncertainty, which is uncomfortable as well. Learning how to consciously operate my brain has made this much less uncomfortable, frankly. My own journey into vulnerability which began about 15 years ago, and is till evolving, had a huge leap forward as I started to hold myself with self-love and acceptance over the past seven years in particular. Without self-compassion it can be terrifying to be vulnerable because when we are hard on ourselves, our ability to be open to emotional exposure and discomfort is even less tolerable. It’s like we walk through life holding our breath and avoiding anything that feels threatening, even if it means living without authenticity.

I’ve found that this strategy doesn’t work well over time. Putting armor on only increased isolation and started to decrease my resiliency over time. I became more volatile, more judgmental and less mentally agile. I became more stressed out trying to hold myself together and doing too much to distract me from my feelings. My need for predictability and control only increased. My ability to relax and have fun dried up. It’s pretty easy to convince yourself that you are tough and strong when you are spending much of your time alone because you’ve alienated others, are working all the time or you secretly avoid others for fear of not belonging. Fortunately, I figured out a while back that this was not the way I was going to lead my life. It was not the experience I wanted. I finally figured out that I had the power within to change, and change I did.

The first big step was self-acceptance.


Personal Development: What’s the ‘Self’ in Self-actualization?

Inner Peace, Self-actualization, Personal Development, Leadership, True Potential, Mindfulness, Self-aware Leader, Emotional Intelligence

I was listening to a video by an author where he defined ‘self-actualization’ in terms of ‘ego’ or selfish individualism – a type of narcissism. This goes to show the limitations of language and how meaning can be confused. The ‘self’ in self-actualization in my mind is just the opposite. It is the freedom from the mental constructs of the ego-self. And, it’s an ancient concept.

It is the awareness that there is a ‘core’ you that is beyond the labels and judgments of the ‘autobiographical memory’ of the brain’s cellular memory that forms the ego – in neuroscience terminology. Self-actualization is another way of saying, ‘enlightenment’. It is the ‘real you’ Self. It reaches beyond the social conditioning that says, ‘you are only this or that’. Or, ‘you cannot be, do or have this or that’ – just because society holds you in an itty-bitty box of judgment.

Self-actualization is about recognizing more and more who you really are and hopefully accessing more of your true potential. It is freeing your mind from the limitations that create distraction, disease and dysfunction. So, just to be clear, my definition of self-actualization leads a person to be more collaborative with others, not more selfish.