How to Move Past the Fear of Judgment and Break the Silence of Shame

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“If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.” ~Brené Brown

Every time I think I’ve unloaded most of the pain from my past, something surfaces that tells me I have more work to do.

A couple of weeks ago, my boyfriend and I were cuddling one morning. I’m not sure what the trigger was, but out of nowhere, my thoughts rolled down a hill and into a painful memory that I must have blocked out.

Tears rolled down my cheeks as my whole body curled up into the fetal position. He asked me what was wrong and I slowly told him about a sexual trauma I had experienced.

We are radically honest with one another. Sharing the not so beautiful has deepened our connection. I thought I had shared my darkest secrets that carry shame.

I was wrong.

I had minimized and buried this story. Maybe subconsciously, I was afraid he would see this situation as my fault. He absolutely didn’t, and sharing my experience with him made me feel like a heavy burden was lifted.

This last part rang especially true the following week when the #metoo hashtag went viral. It was during that week of teasing through my feelings and thoughts that I realized just how much confusion shame can create.

The word shame can evoke such discomfort that we often don’t see how it shows up in our lives.

If there’s one emotion I see as most prevalent and most hidden in the work I do, it’s shame. Every time I lead a workshop or retreat, there’s a common theme that I witness in nearly everyone. As humans, we all tend to feel in some way that we’re unworthy.

Yet, the last thing we want to do is acknowledge our shame and vulnerability.

But if left buried, shame inevitably causes harm to ourselves and our relationships. In my experience, I’ve seen firsthand how understanding and shedding light on shame can hold the key to healing.

Shame is the emotion that says, “I am bad. I am unworthy.”

It’s not that we did something bad and feel remorseful. That’s guilt. Guilt says, “I did something bad.” But shame is the internalization of “I am bad.”

Most of us, even if we had kind, loving parents, grew up feeling a bit like we had to censor our true feelings and experiences. We may have done this to avoid dismay, protect others, or keep the peace in our families.

We’re conditioned from a young age to feel shame when we learn who we shouldn’t be in the world. But as we get older, we don’t need others to make us feel shame. Shame becomes easily internalized and lives in that voice that says, “It’s dangerous to let others hear my story,” or, “They won’t love me if I share this secret.”

Who we are becomes fragmented so that we hide the parts of ourselves we want no one to see. We unconsciously employ defense mechanisms. While those defense mechanisms might help us to survive, they’re bound to stand in the way of having healthy relationships and growing a sense of self-love.

When we’re afraid to share our vulnerable side because we believe it would render us flawed, dirty, weak, and so forth, we’re carrying shame.

Shame is carried silently and secretly for fear of judgment; yet, it is the self-judgment that grows the longer we conceal our vulnerability.

I refuse to keep painful secrets festering inside of me, as I know that will only keep me repressed and disempowered in the long run.

All humans experience shame, and it presents in many ways. Here are a few examples I’ve noticed within myself that maybe you can relate to:

Being too sensitive and emotional
Not doing enough to “save” my mother from her death
Being too selfish to fully want to be a mother myself
Feeling I’m not ambitious or smart enough to live up to my potential
Struggling to communicate clearly when I have too much in my head
Feeling too “needy” with my partner at times
Believing I was somehow at fault for the sexual abuses I have experienced

My personal list could go on… But what I noticed when writing this list is that while many of the original sources of shame might be specific people or society as a whole, the critic is still me.

When we keep shame locked away inside, we get stuck in feelings of inadequacy. Shame may cause us to feel mentally or physically ill. Feelings of inadequacy can be accompanied by emotions such as anxiety, anger, and loneliness. And when we feel inadequate, we sometimes develop destructive ways of relating to others: avoidance, lying, blaming others, attempts to control others, and so forth.

So how can we deal with this lurking self-critic that wants to keep our stories in the dark?

1. Speak kindly to yourself.

Most likely, at some point you’ve heard the phrase, “Shame on you,” or, “You should be ashamed.” It can easily become habit to talk similarly to ourselves and challenging to learn to speak kindly.

A simple framework for healing I teach comes from an ancient Hawaiian tradition called H’oponopono. H’oponopono means “to make right,” and it’s rooted in the essence of reconciliation and compassion.

H’oponopono consists of four phrases: I’m sorry. I forgive you. Thank you. I love you. You can use these phrases speaking to another person. And you can use them with yourself. Here’s a personal example of the latter:

Melissa, I’m sorry for making you feel the trauma you experienced was your fault.

Melissa, I forgive you for placing blame on yourself and carrying shame all these years.

Melissa, thank you for your courage to shine light on your vulnerability and resilience.

Melissa, I love you and I commit to treating you with lovingkindness.

2. Self-soothe with movement and massage.

Think about what happens to your body when you recall a memory that carries shame. Often our bodies slump sinking our heart into the back body. Our gaze drops and our brows furrow.

Emotions, including shame, reside in the body. Much of what I practice and teach relates to physical ways to release stuck emotion for this reason.

If we want to reduce the unworthy and unlovable feelings we carry, it can help to self-soothe your body through dynamic movement practices like yoga and dance. Self-massage, tapping, and comforting touch while speaking kindly to yourself can help to release shame.

3. Share your story.

The most uncomfortable, but perhaps most effective method I can offer you is to share.

You don’t have to share your vulnerability with the whole world. Many of my friends shared courageous, deeply personal stories on Facebook in response to #metoo. For a moment, I thought I had to share this way as well, but then I did some reflection.

There are times I share my vulnerability through my blog or when I hold space for a group. But I don’t always want to share everything with strangers. In those cases, my partner is my greatest witness because of his ability to hold space for me.

Whether you share in a twelve-step program, with a loved one, or therapist, or in an article for the world to see, there’s immense healing power in this process. When our voices are heard and we’re seen just as we are, we open up the door to growing a new sense of self-love and self-worth.

About Melissa Renzi

Melissa Renzi is a Licensed Social Worker and Certified Yoga Teacher. She helps sensitive souls transform anxiety and cultivate lasting self-love. She leads global retreats designed for women, introverts, and highly sensitive people that focus on renewing self-care and deepening our connection to nature. Access her 60-Second Techniques to Release Anxiety for some fast-acting, mind-body approaches to anxiety relief.

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Are you Focusing on What you Don’t Want?

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What do you love in your life?  I’m not asking what you don’t love or want in your life but what do you love that is in your life right now and what do you want in your life right now. So many times, we can say what we don’t want and we leave it […]


Healing is Not Linear – Highs and Lows Are Part of the Process

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“Just like a muscle needs to tear to grow stronger, sometimes we need to wade into our own darkness to find a brighter light.” ~Lori Deschene

Sometimes we need to journey into the deepest, darkest, scariest, most painful places inside in order to reach the next level.

This is what happened to me last week.

When I was younger, I was in an abusive relationship that created a lot of stories in my head. These stories became beliefs that I carried around for a long time. Beliefs like, “I’m not good enough,” “Relationships are painful,” “I don’t have a say,” “I need someone else to show me I’m worthy,” and “I need to be perfect to receive love” (just to name a few).

As a conscious adult, I’ve done a lot of healing work and spiritual development around this, and am proud of the growth I’ve experienced between where I was then and where I am now. But even still, I have setbacks. We all do.

None of us are immune to the fears and self-doubt that pop up when “life happens.” None of us are safe when the ground we’ve worked so hard to establish gets ripped out from us.

After lots of self-development and work around relationships and love, I recently declared to the Universe that I was no longer afraid of being alone and that I was no longer afraid of being vulnerable and my “true self” in a future relationship. So, the Universe delivered. Big time.

I met someone new. He wasn’t like the other men I’ve dated—men who are safe and stable, and who give me a sense of being in control of the situation. He was uncharted territory for me. Hard to read. Mysterious. Kept me guessing.

He would surprise me with nice gestures like showing up with sunflowers, sending me unexpected notes about how beautiful I am, you know… the works. Not to mention the sex. THE SEX! For the first time, possibly in my whole life, I felt really seen, appreciated, valued and truly beautiful while having sex. There was nothing awkward or uncomfortable or weird or threatening about it. I had met Mr. Perfect… or so I thought.

What I know now that I didn’t recognize then was that this guy was an assignment. The Universe heard me loud and clear when I announced that I was ready to be alone and/or in a vulnerable relationship (which is actually a very confusing declaration to make in the first place, so… no wonder stuff got weird!), and so I was sent this guy—let’s refer to him as Mr. Perfect from here on out—as a test.

Mr. Perfect was an opportunity for me to put into practice all of the things I had learned about myself over the past twenty-five years.

Let’s just say that I failed that test. Miserably.

After an all-out eight-day binge on this guy, we were both like a couple of strung-out addicts, totally manipulative and controlling and hopeless about our futures, but pretending everything was just groovy. We were practically playing house together when we hadn’t even known about the other’s existence just a month earlier.

Somewhere throughout the week with Mr. Perfect, my energy shifted. I went from this high-vibe, loving, independent, strong version of myself, to this weird, controlling, self-conscious, anxious, creepy version of me. I went from Jennifer Aniston status to that chick in Mean Girls who’s obsessed with Regina George way too quickly, and my old limiting beliefs started to take over.

Suddenly, I was operating from that old, abusive relationship version of me.

The version of me who thought that being vulnerable in a relationship meant getting hurt.

The version of me who thought that the guy needs to control everything, and that I am not safe to speak up about what I really want, because you never know how he’s going to react.

The version of me who felt uncomfortable in her own skin, so tried really hard to look pretty, say the right thing, and always do something more in an effort to be noticed.

The version of me who thought that I needed a man to “save me,” or that he was the one answer to all of my problems in life.

You can only race like that for so long until you crash.

And so, eight days of passionate sex, cute notes, sleepless nights, hours of butterflies in my stomach, several dinners, one brunch, way too much tequila, and two bouquets of flowers later, we bottomed out. Both of us.

Mr. Perfect and I took a crash course in “How to Not Date as Intentional, Conscious Human Beings 101.” Our worlds both went spinning—his, with a huge f*ck up at work, likely the result of us spending too much time together; mine, reversing to harmful coping behaviors that used to show up when I was younger.

When I got the text from Mr. Perfect that started with “We need to talk,” I went into a downward spiral of emotion and drama. He wanted to end things. I wanted to die. I literally paced outside my apartment building for three hours trying my very best to not have a heart attack.

I questioned everything. Was any of it real? Did I mean anything to him? How could I screw this up? How could I fix it? I needed to fix it. How could I mess up such a perfect thing?

But suddenly, I had a beautiful recognition. I noticed that there was a shift. In my heart space, I could feel the presence of my Higher Self. The part of me that’s connected to something bigger. The part of me that knows these stories of not being good enough are complete BS.

And just like that, I was no longer living in the stories that were sending me into a near panic attack. I was above that. I knew that I was better than that. That I deserve more. That it wasn’t my fault. That I didn’t do anything wrong. That I was still just as worthy as love and acceptance and beauty as anyone else on this planet.

In that moment, I forgave myself.

I forgave myself for the behavior that caused him to end things.

I forgave myself for the fact that I let it get to the point where we even engaged in an eight-day binge on each other.

And most importantly, I forgave myself for all the negative and self-doubting talk, limiting beliefs, and lame stories I told myself when it happened.

I saw that the stories were keeping me stuck. I saw that they made me revert back to this old version of me that I no longer was. And I saw that I had the awareness and the power now to intentionally choose to believe a different story instead.

I chose to believe that this story was no longer serving me, and that I could rise above it.

That I actually didn’t need a man to “fix” me or to complete me, but that I had actually been doing that work on my own all along.

I decided that I was done with this belief of not being good enough.

I was soooo done.

I decided then and there to stay committed to this path of personal growth and transcendence, because I see now how all of the pain and struggles that I’ve been through actually happened for me, instead of to me.

All of it was for a reason.

You can do the same. Everything that you’ve been through—every negative thought or limiting belief or fear that you’ve had that’s kept you from what you want the most in life—it’s all within your power to change. If you decide that you deserve it.

Healing is not linear. There will be highs and lows, laughs and tears, moments of total bliss and moments of complete uncertainty and self-doubt. But through it all, is your Higher Self, and S/he wants to see you come out stronger through each and every assignment that the Universe throws your way.

S/he is cheering you on from the sidelines and always there for support as your #1 fan, no matter what crazy stuff comes across your path. And that person, that part of you, needs you to show up to these assignments. To really face the fear head on, to feel the pain, and to move through it.

Because on the other side of fear and pain and struggle and darkness lies your greatness.

Looking back at it now, I don’t think I failed the test the Universe sent me. I think I passed it. Because I chose my Higher Self, I chose self-love, and I chose me.

Maybe that was the lesson all along.

About Lauren Madden

Lauren is a life coach, blogger, and yoga teacher in Phoenix, AZ. She’s actively creating a life that lights her up from the inside out, and helping her clients to do the same! She also has a serious coffee addiction. Check out her blog at

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Do This for Yourself

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Life can sometimes take over and keep us so busy that we seem to not have time to remember to be conscious of our thoughts. Take a moment to remind yourself what are priorities in your life.  Look at those priorities and see what seems the most important to you.  Add being conscious as your […]


There Are Some People You Just Can’t Help

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“Be there. Be open. Be honest. Be kind. Be willing to listen, understand, accept, support, and forgive. This is what it means to love.” ~Lori Deschene

A few months ago, I was totally freaked out.

I was having a cup of tea with a soul-sister friend, and we were in deep conversation. I was crying.

I was explaining, between hiccupping sobs, about how there was someone in my life who was suffering deeply.

Sitting at the café that day, I said to her, “There is this person in my life that I love so deeply, but he is suffering.”

I told her about all the ways I was connected to this very special person, and told her about how I was committed to helping him.

My friend was empathetically listening, and my story went on and on.

“He’s so depressed. When I’m around him, I just suddenly feel so sad. I feel his pain. It’s so deep. I have tried to share my wisdom with him, to help him evolve out of his depressed rut, but he won’t listen. I know he can make a change, but he just won’t listen to me. It’s like his ears are closed to me. What do I do? How can I help him?”

It was then that my dear friend replied in a way that I will never forget.

She placed her hand on my shoulder, and looked deeply into my eyes.

We sat in silence together for a moment.

Finally, she spoke, with such a gentle tone in her voice. “Anya, your lesson is to learn in this situation is simple, yet difficult. Your lesson is that you cannot help this person. Sometimes, there are people that you just can’t help.”

I gasped. Chills ran down my spine. Her words resonated through every cell of my body.

It was all so simple.

There are people in my life that I just can’t help.

So simple, yet so profound. Why hadn’t I realized this before?

And how had I somehow fallen into the trap of taking on someone else’s burden as my own? Why had I gotten trapped in suffering by trying to “fix” someone who was suffering?

These traps are, unfortunately, all too common for those of us with big open hearts. They are quite common for those of us who are caregivers, lovers, amazing friends, healers, spiritual way showers, and all those who wish to use our lives in service to a higher good.

Since that day at the café, I’ve been thinking a lot about my sweet friend’s advice. And I’ve come to a few insights of my own.

First, in order to be helped, a person must first ask for help. A person must make themselves available, vulnerable, open, and humble.

And this is not easy! It’s not easy to be open. It’s not easy to say, “I don’t know; please help me.”

Second, in order for you to help someone with your words, that person must first resonate with the kind of wisdom you have to share.

As a matter of fact, my depressed friend has a totally different worldview than I do, so it’s no wonder he wasn’t open to my words of advice.

There are a thousand paths and a thousand ways to interpret the world.

My way may not be your way, and your way may not your neighbor’s way. We are often so different in our concepts and language for interpreting this mysterious thing called life.

In short, for a person to want your help, that person must be somewhat already aligned to your philosophical or spiritual worldview.

Further, in order for a person to receive your help, they also must present themselves to you in the most perfect, synchronistic moment.

Indeed, they must be standing before you in the most precise, delicate moment: the moment just before the blossoming, just before the great change occurs. It can be as small as a split second of opening.

Timing is everything.

In that moment of perfect timing, they will be not only ready but hungry for evolution, hungry for growth, hungry for truth, hungry for new ways of seeing the world beyond their limited old perspective!

My dear friend who is suffering does not want to grow in the way I wish he would (consciously evolve out of suffering through spiritual practice)—at least, not at this time.

He is suffering and he does not even want to admit that he is suffering. He believes he can achieve no higher or better state in this lifetime.

Once I realized that there are some people I just can’t help, I felt a tremendous relief. A giant stone lifted from my heart, and I could suddenly breathe again.

I realized that I had unwittingly taken on his suffering as my own, in a misguided attempt to figure out how to “fix” him. I had allowed my natural empathy to become a wound in my own energetic body.

If a person you love is stuck in a place of denial to their own suffering or their own addictions or stuckness, then there is a strong possibility that what you say won’t make a bit of difference.

Denial is an incredibly strong force. And if your worldview differs too much from theirs, then it may not be your place to plant any seeds of wisdom. It may be your place to step back from trying to speak at all.

That’s a tough lesson of love, I know, but if you can remember it, it will save you a lot of heartache.

Indeed, if someone is in denial to their own suffering, then that very denial may very well block them from truly hearing you speak.

So, what do we do in these kinds of situations?

Can we take any action at all?

The answer is yes.

When we deeply love someone and we are invested in them (such as a lover, a friend, a child, or a business partner), what we can do is simply radiate love.

When we are in their presence, we can be as light, happy, and conscious as possible.

This light, this presence, this subtle vibration, will subtly shift their energetic field. And though no words are spoken, they will feel a little bit more peace while they are near us (whether they consciously know it or not).

And we can of course listen to them. When they need to talk, we can listen, and we can offer a hug or a gentle, reassuring smile.

Indeed, sometimes, when we love someone, the best thing we can do is shut the heck up.

The best thing we can do is simply be.

Friends painting by Jerry Weiss

About Anya Light

Anya Light, PhD, is a life coach and author of Opening Love: Intentional Relationships & the Evolution of Consciousness. She writes about meditation, Reiki, and other spiritual topics on her blog Awakening With.

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If Your Life Story Depresses You or Holds You Back, Change It

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“The truth you believe and cling to makes you unavailable to hear anything new.” ~Pema Chodron

Too often we let stories from our past define us. We tell them over and over to ourselves and to others until it becomes our truth. What if, without deviating from actual facts, we choose to tell different stories? What if these new stories could bring us more freedom and strength?

Below are some true facts about my own life. I’ll follow each one with the stories I could be telling myself about each one, followed by the story I choose to go with.

Fact Number One

My father abused my teenage mother when she was pregnant with me and left us when I was just a few days old. I’ve never seen him again.

The stories I could be telling myself now:

Men are bad.

Men can’t be trusted.

The reason I can’t hold on to a relationship is because my father left me.

I’m unwanted.

I’m unlovable.

The true story I choose to go with:

They were young. He felt trapped and scared. His fears drove him to behave very badly. He had his own issues from his own childhood.

It sucks, but it doesn’t define me or shape my views of men or myself.

If I’d held onto the negative self talk or views about men, it could have prevented me from being the happy, loving, loved person I am today.

Fact Number Two

In my tween / teen years my mother worked nights in a factory and I didn’t see her before or after school. There was never a parent attending my school music and sporting events or awards presentations and I found my own way home afterward, often walking back in the dark, freezing cold winters of Minnesota.

I got myself up and to school on time, oversaw my own homework, dinner, and bedtimes, and often that of my younger brother too.

The story I could be telling:

My mother didn’t care about me. She was irresponsible. She put me in danger and neglected my needs.

I have to fend for myself in this world or nobody else will. I need to look out for number one. This is why I’m lonely. This is why I never succeeded. I was handed a bum deal compared to my friends. I could have made more of my life if I’d felt supported and had good guidance at pivotal stages of my youth.

The story I choose to go with:

My mother was doing the best she could with what she had.

Being very independent from a young age taught me responsibility.

I’m truly motivated to be present in the lives of my own children, attending their events, encouraging and offering guidance. The past has made me a better mother.

Fact Number Three

The boyfriend I fell madly in love with in my twenties verbally and physically abused me until I was finally hospitalized with cracked ribs. I gave up my career and possessions in California to move to London to be with him. I knew nobody except his friends.

The stories I could be telling myself now:

History repeats itself. I was abused because my father abused my mother.

I deserved it for being such an idiot.

I’m not worthy of proper love and respect.

Men are all assholes.

The story I choose:

I didn’t know my boyfriend well enough before I moved abroad to be with him. I felt unable to move back to the U.S. as I’d given up my job, home, car and life there. I continued to stay with him for too long out of fear and ignorance.

I’m smarter now. I learned what I don’t want in a relationship and it enabled me to recognize what I do want and to find it. I’m stronger and I know myself now. I love myself. I am worthy.

Do you know anybody who’s been dealt a crappy deck and now tells the first kinds of stories? Do they blame past circumstances for their present life? Do they begrudge the people who have mistreated them?

Which stories from your past do you tell yourself and others over and over? Are these stories helping you or holding you back?

Rewriting the script in your head isn’t easy, especially if you’ve been telling it for a very long time.

Here are some ways to begin to dump the old stories and replace them with new ones.

1. Recognize when you’re telling them and press your mental pause button. Stop giving it fuel.

2. Write down the fact, as I’ve done above, then the story you’re presently telling. Now write a more positive interpretation of it. What good has come out of it? What have you learned? How would it feel if you dropped the old story and told a new one? Explore this on paper and see what it brings up.

3. Use EFT Tapping. Emotional Freedom Technique is effective for bringing your story to the surface, getting real about your feelings, then changing the narrative about it. For deep rooted stuff, work with a qualified EFT practitioner.

4. Practice “loving what is.” Have a notebook handy as you read the book Loving What Is by Bryron Katie. Write your answers to her four powerful questions. It only works when you do the work. This book single-handedly healed my relationship with my mother.

Self-limiting beliefs often stem from stories you’re clinging onto that aren’t serving you. They hold you back from true happiness and success.

Begin to bring a gentle awareness to these stories and see if you can give them new meaning. It isn’t about forgetting your past and making things up. It’s about choosing to tell the truth in a less victimizing and more empowering way.

About Kelly Pietrangeli

Kelly Pietrangeli is the creator of Project Me for Busy Mothers, helping women find a happier balance between the kids – and everything else. Mixing practicality with self-awareness, Kelly helps mothers get on top of their endless to-do’s and see life beyond the laundry pile. Grab her free Life Wheel Tool for discovering what needs your focus first.

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All you Have to do

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All you have to do is let the negative vibrations go.  Whether it comes from your past or your present, you have a choice in how you think, feel, and react.  Let those vibrations go and focus on what you love about life or the experience you are having.   Even if it is something small […]