Walking through and beyond shame

Every so often we screw up. 

Be it in our own mind, the minds of others, or a mutually shared understanding, where we internalise the message that we’ve made a mistake. To be frank, it can feel a bit poo.

Despite some of us feeling that to make a mistake is like a mortal sin, as the saying goes, “We are all human”, and it happens to all of us.

So what can we do when we can’t shake our shame?

Dr Brene’ Brown has dedicated her mahi to exploring the concept of shame, vulnerability, and courage. She states:

I define shame as the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging—something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection.

I don’t believe shame is helpful or productive. In fact, I think shame is much more likely to be the source of destructive, hurtful behaviour than the solution or cure. I think the fear of disconnection can make us dangerous

Brene’ goes on to explain the difference between shame and guilt saying, 

Shame is a focus on self, guilt is a focus on behaviour.
Shame is “I am bad.” Guilt is “I did something bad.”

Guilt occurs when we can hold a mistake at arms-length and view it for what it is. Shame is when we internalise a mistake and let it erode our self-worth.

Furthermore, when we are in a state of shame, we can dive straight into Fight or Flight mode, where all we want to do is hit back at what has challenged us to the core, or run from it. 

Argh! This thing called Shame is complex and HARD!

So how do we move through and beyond shame?

Once again, Brene has some wise words 

Shame derives its power from being unspeakable

The antidote to shame is to use our voice and speak the unspeakable. But there is a caveat to this. That is, the thing about sharing a shame experience, is you can only share it with, according to Brené, someone who has earned the right to hear your story.

So, this means that you are selective in who you trust to share your shame story with. Don’t go sharing it willy-nilly with anyone who will listen. Instead, select carefully who you can trust with your inner self. Also, someone who, with empathy, can support you to see it for what it is, make peace with it, learn from it, and…let it go.

Brene’ also explains the need for Shame resilience. This is the ability to acknowledge and move beyond shame. She explains it as saying to oneself.

“This hurts. This is disappointing, maybe even devastating. But success and recognition and approval are not the values that drive me. My value is courage and I was just courageous. You can move on, shame.”

For me, this means acknowledging that I gave it my all, with the resources I had at the time…and that is enough. 

All well and good I hear you say, but how do we turn the mind-chatter off?

  • Own it
  • Talk about it (with someone trusted)


  • Be kind to yourself. Take time to nurture yourself, be it getting into nature, connecting with family and friends, cuddling your fur friends, or delving into some far-away reality via a movie or book; just show some self-care.

So, as you move forward through this week, I encourage you to look your shame straight in the eye, see it for what it is and surround yourself with aroha.

Big love


Need a speaker?

There are plenty of speakers to choose from. I am not the norm. You won’t be bored to tears by the same ole’ approach and dribble. How about bringing Mary-Anne for the conference or all-staff day.

Give me a stage and I’ll own it. Give me a room and I’ll energise it. Give me your people and I’ll inform and inspire them. 

Need virtual delivery – no sweat! I have facilitated virtual full and half-day workshops, virtual keynote speaking at online conferences, and might I say, you still get the Mary-Anne goodness you deserve!

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