An Antidote for Shame, Giving Yourself Love

What the heck does “Shame” or “Giving Yourself Love” have to do with running an organization? In my decades of experience, love and shame touch everyone thus every organization. These two words are rarely discussed in organizations, but always lurk beneath the surface. Sometimes in some very healthy settings the concepts are discussed and exhibited. We all hunger for love and we all carry shame.

I grew-up quietly hungry for love, but being told that someone who loved themselves had an emotional disorder called “Narcissism.” Adults would preach, “It is more important to give to others than to oneself.” Most of the activities I faced in school and sports were competitive, meaning a person won and a person lost. In my youth I was confused, by what adults were telling me versus my young, lived experience. 

I struggled in school and felt ashamed. I excelled on the playing fields and saw others struggle, overtaken by shame. If I brought-up this dichotomy to adults they would hush me, by saying something like, “You will understand when you get older” or “That’s a silly question!”

Love was not nearly as ever present as shame. In fact, I grew-up at the United States Military Academy where a cadet exhibiting a “public display of affection” and being caught, faced punishment. Again, I privately would hear about the importance of being affectionate and loving people, but saw first hand where people were punished for any kind of overt actions. As young men we were shamed if we cried and praised for heart wrenching stoicism.

Young women were in the same environment that fostered detachment and punishment for expressing love. They too felt the shame of school grades, physical appearance and social status (just to name a few).

I’ve gravitated toward others who appreciate other people, toward situations where learning is encouraged. I've moved toward coaching and helping people of all ages understand the importance of being responsible and accountable.

The decades of experience have brought me to daily discussions of love in all of my coaching relationships. I think my years of living have shown me how to appreciate and notice the love around me. It is a blessing in my life to feel love whether it is walking a golf course, petting a dog, being with dear friends, the intimacy of our family as well as a myriad of other situations. It is opening our hearts to feel love that is a marvelous antidote to our shame.

One of my business coaching services, provide clients the tools and processes to hire more effectively. Part of my service is helping the person(s) doing the hiring, understand what biases the candidate has in their thinking and how to evaluate current behavior.

When a person moves from the position of candidate to employee, I begin a debriefing session. Starting this process can be a bit anxiety provoking for the individual, but as the debrief moves forward, most people get more and more comfortable. I’ve read hundreds of profiles which posit it is easier to give others love than give love to ourselves. Over 80% of the profiles I read carry this theme.  

The debrief is an opportunity to look at what they may want to do differently as they move forward in their new position. Shame is at the root of some of the themes the profiles highlight.

For example, perfectionism, over promising, and “shoulding on oneself” all are products of shame.  These patterns cloud decision-making, exhaust someone mentally and continue the punishment of failing to give ourselves love.  As Waylon Jennings sang, “Looking for love in all the wrong places.”

Our shame is real, it is not just a concept, it is an emotion that gnaws away inside of us. We act out our shame in so many fashions and it is a drain on our energy and emotional intelligence.

So, if we all carry shame, what can we do to exorcise the demon?

What I have discovered is to make a daily practice of learning how to give love to ourselves. These are simple activities like saying hello to people, smiling, going for walks, cooking a meal, hugging someone, writing a report instead of procrastinating, talking strait with a teammate who needs your help and learning how to be kind to oneself.

Above is what you often see at college football games. I recommend people get one of these, tape their name over the college name and slogan and hang it in a prominent place in their office. This is a great reminder that you are #1.

I am closing with a Doug Adams’ quote, “The deeper you learn to love yourself, the deeper you will love others.” Make your life richer, career stronger, your leadership better and your business more profitable by giving yourself daily doses of love.