You’ve heard that dirty old dumping line: “It’s not you—it’s me.”
Well, today I’m here to tell you:
It’s not you—it’s everyone.
So many of my clients feel shame about some aspect of how, who, and what they are, or in something they have done.
I call these things the “If They Only Knews,” because many of us fear that if people only knew these things, they would know how mean, bad, selfish, and unlovable we really are.
Read that last sentence again.
With such high stakes, is it any wonder we tend to hide our ITOKs?
If our very worthiness is on the table, it’s only natural we’d try to protect ourselves from ever being “found out.”
And as a result, many of us go through life assuming that we are the only ones with all this baaaaaaad stuff inside, unaware that just about everyone has ITOKs, or has had them at one time or another.
This hiding and secrecy only adds to the shame, and it also keeps us from connecting with others as deeply as we might, from getting the help and support we need to change or heal, and from really opening up to show who we are.
(Author Brené Brown writes and speaks brilliantly about the impact of shame on our sense of worthiness and ability to connect to others. For more on this subject, spend some time with Brené!)
Do you hide something you’re ashamed of—something you’re sure even your best friends would judge you for?
“If they only knew,” you might think, “they wouldn’t think I’m (fill in positive, appreciated, or complimented quality here).
If they only knew…
- the unkind thoughts I think
- how messy my home really is most of the time
- how much I actually care about/crave money, sex, companionship, etc. (while I seem to be unmaterialistic, independent, and so on)
- about that horribly mean thing I did in elementary school
- how much I screwed up with my kids
- what I eat when no one’s watching
- how lonely I am
- what a manipulative jerk I can be when I fight with my partner
- how much credit card debt I’ve racked up with impulsive/compulsive spending
- that I’m not actually as smart as they think I am
…they’d know I’m really no good.
What many people don’t realize, or believe, is that the “everyone else” who have it together don’t have it together as much as you think.
I’m here to tell you that just about everyone—no matter how kind, pure, put together, perfect, in control, selfless, confident, or attractive they seem—has at least one ITOK walking around with them.
You are not alone.
It’s not you.
We just get really, really good at hiding them.
If you are going through life plagued by the ITOKs, here’s the best medicine I’ve found:
Find someone you deeply trust with whom to share those dark thoughts or truths.
Someone who will just hold the space for you without judging you.
Someone who won’t tell you not to feel bad, or to let it go or just get over it already…but who will support you as you do what you need to do to work through or heal from your ITOK.
Amazingly, just the very act of sharing these dark secrets takes away some of their power.
Again, and again, and again, my clients have released years and sometimes decades of shame just by being brave enough to talk about the deep, dark, “if you only knew how bad I really am” skeleton(s) in their perpetual closets.
I’m talking tremendous shifts here.
With sharing comes releasing of the negative, destructive, self-feeding energy.
With releasing comes healing.
With healing comes new power and emotional/energetic availability to connect and contribute to your full potential.
When you’re out from under the shame cloud, you can mine the gold from your perceived mistakes and fallibilities, and begin to make choices in alignment with who you want to be.
Right now, whether or not you’re ready to share your ITOKs and give them the light and air they need to dissipate, know this—and it bears tri-peating:
You are not alone.
It’s not you.
Photo by Jonathan Kos-Read