How shame could be holding you back. Empowered Enchantress, Clare, spent more than 50 years of her life playing the “good girl” for her conservative, politician family. Deep inside her was a profound knowing she’s here to facilitate magical sexual awakenings for women, but she felt crippled by shame, and unable to step into sharing her business idea with the world.
Shame is one of the most powerful negative emotions, with symptoms that burrow deep into the body, shaping our health and emotional responses. It takes ownership of the mind, whispering “you’re not good enough; you’re not worthy; you’re not qualified; nobody will ever take you seriously.” It eats you from the inside out.
In the world of fast solutions and faster sales, this is very often used as a marketing tool. A popular manifestation of this uses a straw man identity such as “wantrepreneur,” packing it full of every horrible thing a client thinks and does against themselves. Only to sell them the solution (to this fictitious identity crisis)… Become the “Heropreneur.”
And inside those programmes? Hundreds – sometimes thousands – of people who aren’t getting the results. Not through marketer’s willful ill intent, but through lack of understanding of what shame actually is, and why it cripples us.
Shame is domestication.
In the story of Adam and Eve, the first shame creates the need for clothing. Clothing remains the most intimate and culturally constructed, policed way of domesticating the sexual body and being to conform to society, but it is far from the only one.
As a doctoral researcher, part of my work was studying the realities and identities emergent from shame, and how it has shaped the contemporary world. What became apparent is that over the time of the early modern witch trials, two understandings of women which remain with us to this day, became consolidated in culture.
Firstly, the good woman. In the witch trials, good women and cows appear in exactly the same contexts. They move in similar ways (confined) and are tied to the livelihood of the homestead through their blood, sweat and milk (and no doubt tears). Witches were accused of attacking good women and cows identically, and the impacts on families depicted as parallel. Good women and cows breed at the man’s want. They raise their young well.
Secondly, the bad woman or witch. She not only appears like a cat, but shapeshifted into one. Cats and witches appear interchangeably throughout the trials, and are co-constructed as going where they please; demanding what they want; promiscuous. They discard their young, and explore taboo things. They fight. They’re unruly. Loud. Obnoxious. Everything a good little girl should never be.
It wasn’t (as is commonly believed) the men who accused women or witchcraft. Accusations came in the form of the internalised patriarchy, fears and judgements of other women.
Is this relevant today?
How many celebrity women, young or old, have you seen called out in the media or on social platforms for being “catty” in some way? Too much? Too loud? Bad mothers? Going where they “shouldn’t” and more? Consider how Jennifer Lawrence was demonised by women for highlighting the fact that, as the main character, she was being paid less than her male supporting actors.
In any cross section of society, internalised fears and judgements being turned against entrepreneurs offering “different” or “taboo” isn’t just likely, it’s certain. But isn’t pushing the envelope exactly what entrepreneurship is about? How can we do that, and also “know our place?”
Let’s return to Clare. In just a few sessions she was able to radically release the “good girl” and her internalised domestication. To embrace the wild, noisy, powerful, magical, sexual side of herself. And then to launch and sell out an entirely sexy new service, all in just 8 weeks – setting her business and life onto an incredible new trajectory.
If shame is a problem for you, or you feel like you can’t share your truth, here are three steps you can take to change your reality and identity too:
- Work with someone who understands what shame is and why it matters. Because it’s relational, shame has to be resolved in a healthy, structured relationship
- Learn to put yourself first, and to recognise that no matter what you do, there will always be some people who aren’t ok with it. The best you can do is be true to yourself, and find the people who love who you really are
- Don’t play small just because it’s expected of you. That’s the domestication in action. Believe in bigger, wilder, more rebellious actions than you ever imagined were possible (again, having the right support here to take them is a great investment)
- Tell people about the journey. That’s an essential part of not only lifting your own shame, but creating culture change that positively impacts others.
One of the most important aspects of working on shame is to remember it is not your fault, and you don’t have to fake being positive all the time, in order to create success. We find ourselves in a culture of toxic positivity and spiritual bypassing, where we’re deeply uncomfortable seeing hard emotions in others thanks to suppressing our own. That’s part of our domestication.
We not only stay in our own shame, but we unconsciously leave others in theirs too, simply because we don’t know how to be in the space of emotion.
We get to avoid hard feelings by bypassing. But we also get to stay stuck. Impact and income, with joy, freedom and ease comes with a price. It’s in feeling the hard feelings, being held and witnessed in them, and finding a new normal for yourself along with all that you are, that you create incredible growth in business and life.