Shame is the feeling that you’re not enough. It is what holds us back from being where we most want to be. Whitney Lauritsen’s guest in this episode helps us overcome this hurdle by developing shame resiliency. She sits down with Kyira Wackett, a passionate mental health therapist and founder of Adversity Rising. Kyira believes that all of us have the capacity to author our own stories and relinquish the holds of shame, fear, and anxiety if we can learn to do the hard work, sit in the discomfort to face our true selves, and trust the process. Learn to let go of shame and have the willingness to fail and flail. Follow along in this great conversation as Kyira shares tips on how to become resilient.
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Shame Resiliency And The Ability To Be Human Together With Kyira Wackett
We will naturally get there when we start this conversation, but a big component of working through shame is shame resilience. It’s noticing when the thoughts come up to invite you to that place of stress and handling it differently than your automatic response. The only thoughts that I notice when it first happened were I have a lot of scarcity thoughts around time, money and energy, those three resources.
I will have this thought, “Did we waste this time? Now what?” You pause and my response in my head was, “What a lovely opportunity to connect with another person. Does everything have to be output-oriented?” As soon as I could make that shift in my brain, it all went away. That’s when I could be like, “What do we need? We can move it to a different time.” It’s simple but not easy. It takes a lot of practice knowing you did not start this interview to make my day harder. Our systems are not trying to make lives harder. They are just doing whatever they are doing. If we can let go of that feeling like, “The world is out to get me.” It makes it a lot easier to let it go.
It makes me want to do something very creative with the show and start the show while we were discussing that. This might be one of my new experiments with surprising the audience. They are like, “Did I miss something?” This happened. I paused a TV show and came back to it 30 minutes or an hour later. When I unpaused it, it was in the middle of something. I was like, “I must have missed something.” I rewind a little bit and realized, my brain assumed that there was more context, but the show did not provide any.
It was one of those neat moments. We should go with this and let this all playout for the context of what we said we wanted to talk about, which is to share the behind-the-scenes that have guided us for the past hour and half that we spent troubleshooting an issue. I want to acknowledge you. Your patience, your resiliency and your troubleshooting. You have shown up in such beautiful ways that will have a ripple effect on me throughout the day as we are going to talk about shame, anxiety, fear and a lot of those emotions that come up for me.
To put some context into the audience, we were scheduled for 1:30 to 3:30 and everything was going fine. As soon as we clicked record, we were in our flow and the recording just stopped. It is an issue that’s been manifesting with me in different facets of my recording, but I have not figured out how to fully troubleshoot yet. Typically, during these moments of troubleshooting, my brain goes into this blinders-on and hyper-focus. I got to bear through it. It’s almost that survival mode that you shared before the issue started.
I have noticed this about my brain and the more I become aware of how I work. These could be in intense situations or minimally intense. For this specific situation that we are in, the stakes are not that high. We can reschedule and everything is fine. We are going to figure it out and we did. They are just minimal issues and I can move forward through them.
What I’m expecting based on my patterns is that after we finished recording, there will be that come down moment of, “I made it through, I survived.” It’s like I get hit with another wave of shame or anxiety coming up later like, “I feel so bad for wasting our time.” The stress will come upon me. As a side note and something that I have addressed on the show, I have had sleep issues most of my life in terms of sleepwalking. To me, it seems that my brain is operating in a state of fight or flight in ways that I’m not even fully aware of unless I’m sleeping.
One night was bizarre. I did my sleepwalking but it was like a panic where my brain believed that whatever was happening in my dream was true. I had this panicky dream of somebody was watching through my window and the neighbors could see me. I remember in my dream feeling ashamed. I remember thinking, “They saw me change. They are watching me sleep.” There was the fear of other people watching you, which is scary but I also remember the feeling of shame in that dream.We need belonging, support, approval and validation in order to be okay and to function and thrive in the world. Click To Tweet
What happens with my brain chemistry and whatever has caused my sleepwalking issues is I will start to act out my dream. What I did is I ran to my computer. Somehow my brain thought that I can solve this issue on my computer. I found myself sleep computing. I remember being at my desk and waking up and realizing, “What am I doing here? This is not real.” I went back to sleep. I bring that up because I have been trying to get to the root of my sleep issues. I did a sleep study. I’ve been trying to get the doctors involved. So far, the biggest clue is that I’m carrying around stress, anxiety or fight or flight reactions that are happening.
I wonder if I’m pushing them so deep down that they are only coming out when I’m sleeping. My brain has managed to cope so much. That ties into the situation now because I wonder what the ripple effect of this stressful scenario is. We can explore that. I wanted to give context and I also just wanted to thank Kyira for holding space for me but also managing her stress and what this might have evoked within her. I’m curious what your processing has been during this troubleshooting issue that we have had.
As you were talking, my brain is so excited to come back to and talk a little bit about maybe 6 or 7 different themes about what you brought up. To start with where my brain went, the biggest thing that sounds like you and I share is our country and our culture have this confusion between perfectionism and high-functioning anxiety with having it all together. We feel like we have to be perfect. We have to get everything done. Nothing can happen, nothing can go wrong. This is when we were talking about my scarcity mindset is around, “I never have enough time. I never got anything done.”
I wake up already thinking about all the things that I need to get done, thinking, “I did not get enough sleep.” I’m judging myself on both sides and went to bed telling myself, “I did not get enough done and I’m not going to get enough sleep.” This is the crux of what we exist in this world and this is ultimately the baseline of shame. It’s feeling like we are not enough and how we show up in the world is not enough. If we are not perfect or constantly at this high level of functioning, our sense of connection and belonging in the world is going to be taken away from us.
This has been indoctrinated in us since we were little. We develop our core beliefs about ourselves and our place in this world. I have a two-year-old daughter, she’s developing them right now. This is not to put our parents and caregivers or anybody under the bus because 99.99% of the population has a negative core belief based on the systems and cultures we live in. It tells us, “We are not enough, worthy, lovable and beautiful unless, fill in the blank.”
That might be if we explore all the -isms of the country that we live in like racism, sexism and all of these other components. It might be if you are not White or a cisgender male, whatever those things are. They are also in these small scale ways. It could be if you don’t get a certain grade, don’t act a certain way in your household, or don’t follow certain rules and do certain things. All of these messages become a system for operation in the world. Your body says, “You are inherently broken. You are messed up. You are flawed. You are not worthy of love and connection as you are.”
That triggers this big reaction, which we have come to understand a shame because we need connection, belonging, support, approval and validation in order to be okay, to function and thrive in the world. Shame comes in and goes, “What? That can’t happen. That can’t be the case. We need to fix this.” Shame says, “Here’s the answer.” It hands you this platter of a performance. It says, “If you do this and this, act this way and look this way, things are going to be fine.”
If we bring it back to the situation, there’s this certain level of logic that we know that everybody, especially in this pandemic, has become grossly aware that we cannot control technology and that there are so many things that happen. There’s a part of your brain that feels responsible for all these things, even though they are not in your control. The rule book that you have or that your shame has is you need to do these things and everything needs to go a certain way in order to be good enough and worthy.
To come back to your question of what happens for me, because I have such a scarcity mindset around time and around, “I’m in my 30s and I’m not a megastar like this 21-year-old influencer that’s doing these things. I need more fame and I need more success.” It’s the day-to-day tasks of saying you did not accomplish enough. Our shames could have if we had let them play the hand in hand with each other because then my brain goes, “We did not use our time effectively. We are wasting our time. I have to get this done. How are we going to handle this?”
If we would have allowed that to happen, both of us would be in a very different state and this would be a very painful interaction between the two of us. Instead, we both practiced shame resiliency and vulnerability in different ways. We had some open dialogues with each other. We allowed the possibility to be vulnerable about what was happening and how we felt. The one thing you talked to me about was your energy and needing to make sure that you were checking in with yourself about that. Me being intentional with you about I could go past 5:00 PM, but I was honest with you that I have not seen my daughter all day and I want to make sure I’m available by that time.
We could know those things and then say, “The rest is out of our control. How do we show up and just be present together?” Once we could do that and the space was built for safety, our brains could shift. I do think you are going to get off this interview and you are going to still have the stress that has affected you even though the stressor of what we were dealing with is gone. Your body still has to move through the stress cycle. The best thing we know to do is movement. Going outside, going for a walk, and getting your body going can move you through that stress cycle. That’s still going to be there.
I hope for both of us, because we could bring the reframe and the safety between the two of us, I don’t think the shame dialogue will come as intensely. Instead, we can pause and say, “That sucked. That was not great. I wish that did not happen.” Both of us showed up doing everything we could in our control, brought kindness and our values to the table. This worked out exactly as it was meant to or supposed to, or whatever somebody’s beliefs are around that component. We could see the ability to be human together as a gift rather than a marker on how we are not being perfect and robotic enough to meet some standard to be okay.
I feel so grateful that it did turn out this way because I noticed how much more present I feel. It’s a different level of comfort that we are able to get through because we went through a stressful situation together. If we think about the silver linings of tough times and what’s meant to be. Certainly, we probably would have felt good about the episode that we were starting to record before all these issues happened. I find myself showing up in a completely different way that I would not have been able to get to if it was not for that experience with you. It’s also so neat because Kyira and I are just meeting now. We have very little context. We have never talked besides email and setting up the recording time.
It’s such a magical experience to go through something, no matter how small but a stressful situation. I was mentioning to how Kyira I have been through similar situations like this and had a whole host of other experiences that felt triggering to my shame even more. I found that I could not relax. It’s such an amazing thing when two people can be present, vulnerable, share what’s going on and work through it together. It’s everything that you hear about what makes a good relationship.
The resiliency of any type of relationship, but oftentimes romantic relationships. When people have the tools and the self-awareness, how much different a situation like this could be. As you were talking about shame in that way, it’s also interesting for me to reflect a lot on the sleep disorder that I have had most of my life and try to get to the bottom of it. In the US, the medical system has not been easy to navigate with something like this.
I have had to try to find a lot of answers for my sleep disorder on my own. That’s brought me to a lot of dead ends. What you are describing made me think, “I wonder if because I’m trying to get through life from a perfectionist standpoint, it’s possible that I have spent so much of my life trying to cope, hide things, and not even allow my body to go through that stress cycle.” With you saying, “A movement could help.” I thought to myself, “I have a lot to do that I have not gotten to.”
It’s similar to what you were describing, the efficiency, productivity and wasting time that comes up for me too. There’s part of me that feels like it will be so frustrating if I don’t get stuff done that I want it to because we wasted 90 minutes troubleshooting. I could see how if it was not for your suggestion, maybe I would try to push through the rest of the day and I would not acknowledge the stress. I would not allow myself to go through the stress cycle. You say how much movement could help is encouraging me to prioritize moving to the stress cycle before I get to the next thing.
This is part of what’s so relatable with so many people talking about burnout and anxiety. Those words feel like they are coming up so much in conversations and people acknowledging how stressed they are. What I have observed is that most people don’t feel they have enough time, so they are going through their entire days in survival mode. They are not allowing themselves to even complete the stress cycles or even acknowledge stressful things.99.9% of the population has a negative core belief based on the systems and cultures we live in that tell us we're not enough. Click To Tweet
It’s so much so that I had to walk away from a project that I was starting with a group of people. We had been working on this for several weeks. We were planning on doing it indefinitely. I ended up walking away because I did not feel the group environment and the culture that had been created was giving me the space to take care of my mental health. I noticed the pattern that was coming up in that work environment was, “Everybody’s got to hustle.” There were no boundaries in terms of time. Conversations would run over and there would be messages, emails and requests at all hours of the day.
I stepped away because I want to prioritize other things in my life. I want to give myself room to step back from a stressful work environment and recover before I go on to the next thing. I want to thank you for verbalizing it in the way that you did. They are reminders that I’m doing my best to take care of myself, but there are even more things that I could do. Sometimes when we need to hear it from someone else and in a context like that to remind us that we need to give ourselves space to move through each of the cycles of whatever is happening in our life.
One of the things that stands out to me is we have tried to condition ourselves to be logic-oriented all the time. We are always in our heads so everything is okay. That’s where the productivity piece comes from. That’s where the system of the American dream comes from. It’s the production output getting ahead all the time. What we do over time is our emotions and our physical feelings get in the way of achieving those goals.
I was writing one of my emails that go out to my email list. I had been reflecting on a conversation with my mom. My mom is going to be 69 and my grandma is 94. She’s been in the hospital or a respite care type facility after some issues that landed her in the hospital. My mom has been burning out. She is a person that gives off herself all the time. Again, a very shame-based mentality of, “I have to be everything for everybody else at all times in order to be worthy and lovable.”
I said, “I know this must be hard working with grandma to get her home, trying to navigate all these different pieces. There are so many components.” She’s like, “That’s not the problem. It’s how negative and mean mom’s being,” or my grandma in this case. We got into this whole discussion and we were talking about this also about the benefits and the cons of being a therapist. In the sense that I can always bring the skills but I also always bring the skills into the room. My therapy hat comes on and we have this long discussion.
We started talking about how past generations, thinking about culture and laying the foundation for our internalized belief systems, has confused stoicism and repression. It’s this idea that to be strong, we don’t show emotions. What that’s doing is trying to make us logic-oriented cognitive beings, rather than understanding that as human beings, we are feelings-oriented. Our fear brain goes off of those feeling and the systems.
Our physical body is constantly signals and systems, but we repress all of that and try to create a system up here in our brains that we stick with. There’s a great book called The Mindbody Prescription that talks a lot about this in different contexts. It talks about chronic pain. People with chronic pain and chronic illnesses face similar things to what you are describing in the medical community of sometimes feeling written off because things will be said like, “It’s all in your head.”
The reality is it might be. It’s equally valid and important, but it comes off as dismissive because everything that’s up here is like, “Get over that, figure it out, move on. Grab a couple more beach balls and stuff them beneath the surface. Everything is fine.” Instead, it’s saying, “Your brain is an incredibly complex system.” We still don’t even understand 5% or 10% of what it does, but we know it’s powerful enough that when we don’t integrate our full self into understanding what we are feeling, what we are doing, and how we are showing up in the world, it’s pretty savvy. It’s going to show up and it’s going to give us the signals in another way.
For some people, that’s chronic back pain that slaps them in the face every day. For you, that’s these episodes that are uncomfortable, confusing, and maybe sometimes scary when they happen. Your body is telling you something. There’s something happening. It’s trying to integrate something. It’s trying to make sense of something. It sounds very similar to what the brain does after it experiences trauma and it’s trying to figure out a way to integrate this very horrific experience into the tapestry of the rest of your life.
All of this comes back to thinking about systems of operation, where we are all coming into a space performing. There is something that Brene Brown talks a lot about in several of her books. In particular, I remember it in The Gifts of Imperfection, where she talks about the difference between fitting in and belonging. Fitting is what we are describing when we talk about the stress that comes up when we are not dealing with something effectively all the time.
Because we have not adhered to the rules and screwed up in some way, we don’t fit into the picture. It’s the same reason why probably every single person reading this, at some point in time, wore something, listened to something or did something they thought was ridiculous just to fit it. For me, it’s pretending to love country music and wearing Abercrombie shirts that I thought were ridiculously uncomfortable, overpriced and cheap. I did it all the time because I wanted to fit in when I constantly had this belief that I would not, versus trusting in belonging.
That’s what got created between you and me when we could let go of any performances. I did not feel that need to fit in with you necessarily coming in. We had about 30 minutes of good discussion. I felt safe and connected, but we have to be honest to say that there’s still a degree of performance that comes into that. I want to meet your expectations as a guest. You want to meet my expectations as a host. We want to have this great interaction.
There’s still a degree of that happening. By being in this traumatic in a very little t sense, not in a big T sense, but this semi-traumatic experience of everything going down and our anxious or fear brains reacting and feeling this way, it took all that off the table because we could both still see that the other person wanted to connect. We realized we did not have to try to perform to be okay. That’s the shift in the system that now allows you to recognize the stress and deal with the stress rather than ruminate later on in the interaction.
It’s a therapeutic session to hear this from you. I noticed from the very moment that I met you that you were a skilled therapist without even doing the session. I could tell by the way that you speak and hold space. It’s a beautiful thing to witness and a gift. It’s interesting because I want to talk about boundaries with you and that idea of fitting in. For the context of one of my situations with leaving this group, that came up for me because I could tell that I did not fit in from the very beginning.
I have learned to be okay with not fitting in. I have learned to recognize the differences in my personality, preferences, choices, and the way my brain works. I have noticed that my whole life. It took a lot of acceptance as an adult to try not to overperform and to allow myself to just be. I was able to put that into practice with this workgroup environment that I was in. It got to the point where I did not feel they were respecting my boundaries. There was part of it where it was my accountability because I noticed patterns. I would try to let other people know what my boundaries were but a little of that, “I’m going to deal with confidence, but I’m also going to try to stay and give them room to overstep my boundary.”
They did and I found myself thinking, “How do I remind them of my boundary without feeling shamed?” One of the reasons I have struggled my whole life with boundaries is I associate boundaries with shame. I have a fear of something that’s happened many times throughout my life when I state my boundaries, I have had countless times when people had gaslight types of reactions or they overstep them anyway.
That in itself is traumatic. It has conditioned me to be afraid to state my boundaries because I don’t like the way I feel when someone says something. It does trigger my shame, embarrassment or guilt. It’s made it very hard. When I stepped away from the group, I remember there was the before and after. There was, “I’m going to take my time making this decision. I made my decision to leave the group and walk away from the project.” I spent all this time crafting how I was going to do it. It’s the perfectionism of wanting to use the right words, to be kind and not burn bridges.
I was like, “I’m going make this go smoothly.” In the process of doing that, I did not have a lot of expectations. I felt like I’m going to be satisfied with the way that I left this. It turned out that I did have an expectation because after I left the group, I was very disappointed with how the group reacted. The way that they reacted, I interpreted it as, “They don’t like me. I have never fit in this group. They did not want me here anyway. They are probably relieved that I left.” I could feel the shame and it was so heavy.Shame is this universal emotion that we're all going to feel so there's no getting to a point where you never feel it again. Click To Tweet
This is something that I was so uncomfortable feeling. I wanted to run away from it and I wanted to do whatever I could to move past those emotions. I wanted to skip over that stress cycle and that shame spiral. My brain was moving forward like, “I’m feeling shame right now. How do I get through this quickly so I can get the shame over with?” It was such an interesting thing because it does not work that way. I felt like I had to sit in it and let myself feel the discomfort of that environment while also reflecting on why I was feeling that way and not even to problem solve.
It’s not like I could go back in time. We could not go back in time to not have to deal with the troubleshooting. It’s like something happened. It triggered me, then what? This is the question for you. If you can’t go back in time and fix something, and if you probably are not going to be in that situation again to plan not to have that happen, it’s not like you can problem-solve something that may never happen again for you because you can’t fix it in the past either. What are some tools that come up for you for people that struggle with that whole process that I just shared? I can’t be alone in it. I’m imagining.
There are a few things that you talked about that are key to point out. The first is that shame is an emotion. Shame is a very specific form of fear. No matter what you do, you are programmed to feel fear. There are benefits for our fear response when it happens. Shame is this universal emotion that we are all going to feel. There’s no getting to a point where you never feel it again. You are like, “I’m great. I’m good. Nothing is ever going to happen. I can trust that even if I screw up, the world is going to be okay.” We are never going to have that fully.
Step one in the phase of working through this is the radical acceptance that you are going to experience shame in your life. What we talked about in the moment of our interactions, the decision and the emphasis on shame resilience is not getting to a point where I never feel the shame again. It’s being able to respond rather than react to it when I’m triggered by it. When you talked about this interaction with these people, a couple of things happened that are key to point out.
One is when you are describing this intentional way of trying to go about how you leave this group, how you plan your exit, and how you deliver it. You are doing something that’s to some degree consistent with what we call the “asker versus guesser” mentality. If anybody ever had that friend or maybe you were that friend when you were in middle school or elementary school, where they would ask to come over.
I had this kid that lived across the street from me that would always be like, “Can I hang out? Can I come over? Can I sleep over?” I’m like, “What are you doing? No. I did not invite you. Why are you doing this?” That’s an asker. An asker is somebody that believes, “I have the right to ask for or assert my needs and put anything out there.” The other person has a right to respond. A guesser is doing what you were doing in this interaction. You are trying to anticipate everything that could possibly happen in response to what you are doing, and then crafting how you approach it based on all of these thoughts, interpretations and possibilities.
You are expending a lot of energy into the pre-phase of doing whatever you are going to do. When in reality, most of that is out of your control. What that does do when you are overemphasizing that is it conditions your brain to see the reaction of the boundary or in this case, the exit, as more important than the boundary itself. It’s not just, “Why am I setting this boundary? What are my values? How does making this decision align with my values? Does this feel right to me?” You can think about how to show up and be kind or how to be grateful for the opportunity without assuming responsibility to make it easier for them, or dealing with the responsibility of trying to make things okay for them.
When the reaction was whatever it was, your brain automatically codes that interaction as a failure. Now you are ruminating on all of these possible conclusions that they might have about you. Our fear brain is an all-or-nothing response system. We can’t live in the gray. Logically, we can sit here right now and talk about however many people were in this group. There are a billion-plus people on the planet. Statistically speaking, it’s a very low population of people on the earth that may or may not have this thought about you. You are going to be okay even if they did think all the horrible things, but that’s the logic-brain.
Even if the logic-brain says, “They might feel disappointed, upset or have a judgment about me for what I did, that might not mean that they don’t like me as a person.” There are all sorts of other conclusions. Those are logic-oriented. Your fear brain only knows yes or no, right or wrong, good or bad, safe or unsafe. Because there’s a possibility that it could be bad, your brain overinflates it as bad. It becomes this big thing that you are carrying with you.
This happened to me about 2 or 3 days before the New Year. I went on Etsy and I sell some of my handouts. I did it as an experiment in 2021, I was like, “We have wait-lists of over 100 people to get in the therapy office with us. I have a coaching client wait-list. I have people doing all these other things. We need more resources out there, so what can I do?” This was one platform through which I was trying to share more resources. I had said from the beginning, it was very low stakes. It’s not a big deal. Logic-oriented, I can say that. Shame brain-oriented, “I wanted the five-star reviews. I wanted it to be perfect. I wanted everything to be amazing.”
I went on and ironically enough since we are talking about boundaries, it was on a worksheet that I made about five ways to say no without being a jerk. I got a bad review. I got a one-star review from this person and it was so mean in ways. I still don’t know if that’s a bit of my reactivity or not, but I remember looking at it and I timed it because I have a little bit more awareness having worked on this for years now. In my own brain, I could feel my shame coming on. I noted the clock and I watched how long it took me. In fourteen minutes time, I was ready to shut down my entire business.
I was googling the legal ramifications of backing out of some of the contracts that I had signed for 2022. I was ready to leave therapy and to stop everything. I’m like, “You are a terrible therapist. You are a hoax. I don’t know why anybody has ever worked with you.” This one person who does not even know you, I don’t even know who they are, must have known you better than yourself. What they are doing is they are reflecting those innermost fears that we have.
The realm of possibility that everybody thinks that I’m the worst therapist on the planet and should not be practicing is pretty low. Logic-brain-oriented knowing that, “You got a one-star review. It’s also just an Etsy shop. It’s not life or death.” I can say all that here but in fourteen minutes time, I was ready to shut my whole business down.
I was sobbing. I had that activation before bed. I have a very different issue with my sleep. I have had some trauma in my past and my brain processes any of my anxiety in a very similar way. I will get so keyed up that I will wake up hearing sounds that have not actually happened. I could feel all this coming on. I had to stop and go, “All right.” I was in the Etsy shop. I was going to close that down. I was looking at, “How do I shut down a business in Oregon? How do I back out of my therapy patient?” I had to pause at this moment and go, “You have to do something to move through this cycle. If I don’t do something right now, I’m going to be up all night.”
Imploding my business was what I was going to do for what purpose and point. The other thing in those moments and tying back to what happened for you, when we get to that stage, we get very reactive. There are three ways of reacting when we feel shame and we get to that heightened state of agitation. Think about it on a cellular level, your cells are all coming up here and they are reverberating at this high level.
For these three systems, the first is to move towards, which means, “How do I people please? How do I make myself of service to everybody else?” You and I share that a little bit in the sense of our daily lives and interaction of how our shame forces us to operate. We allow the boundary erosion or we give ourselves more freely to people. It sounds like in a very similar journey, you wanted to work on, “How do I set and affirm my boundaries to myself and with other people?”
The second response is moving away. That’s the, “I just want to shut down. I’m going to close everything out. I’m going to go hide in my closet.” In my instance, it was, “I’m going to shut down my whole business and go no-show on everything that I was supposed to do moving forward.” There’s the third response, which is moving against. That’s when somebody tries to fight shame and anger with shame and anger. In that fourteen-minute period, I had several responses queued up of what I was going to say to this person. I don’t know them. I don’t know the context of their experience.
They have every right to feel how they feel about something that I created. That’s theirs. The goal of these three different responses is, “How do I get away from feeling the shame as quickly as possible?” That’s what you are describing. I call them bandaid solutions. You don’t even feel better. You have moved into a different location. You are just jumping from spot to spot. You keep finding new shame and you hop again. It’s like an inner tube that’s slowly leaking and you keep putting band-aids on, but it’s the crappy Dollar Store band-aids that don’t even hold up when you are putting them on there. The leaks just keep coming out over and over.Our ego is best friends with our shame. Click To Tweet
For all of us to think about in the context of when we experience shame, coming back to this place of, “We are going to feel it.” What’s helpful is to shift it rather than from a place of avoiding it or fixing it right away. It’s responding to shame with more shame and saying, “How do I slow down to not overinflate this feeling that it’s a bigger deal in the context of my life overall than I want or need it to be?”
I had a choice with this review. Is the review the thing that takes my whole business down or is the review and the opportunity for me to think about how I take feedback, and where I need to ask for feedback from people in different ways or think about ways for me to process how I engage with other people? The third step, is one person’s view of me, even if it’s shown publicly, that big of a deal in the context of how I can frame my life and how I show up overall.
It is that comforting feeling within me of, “I’m not the only one that experiences this.” I don’t even have to do a therapy session with you to see you as somebody who’s likely a very good therapist. It feels silly when I hear this. I’m like, “How could she feel that way? She’s got these tools and she’s talented and skilled.” It’s that humanity within each of us. Even when we do have the tools, the resources, the knowledge, and the awareness, it still comes up. That leads me to a question based on a scenario that reminds me of your Etsy experience.
I started doing a daily livestream. I’m still committed to doing it because I said I would do it daily. It’s been the challenge of showing up for something even when I’m tired or low energy, just doing enough to keep my commitment. This specific livestream because of the trouble that we have had, I have had similar issues with it. Every single day I have done my livestream, something has gone wrong.
It’s been an interesting experience because to an extent with me being a people pleaser and a perfectionist, it’s hard for me when things do go wrong. I often get to a point of letting it go. You know how you can be your own worst critic, but when somebody else comes around and says the things that are your own fears, it’s like, “This must be real,” because of my tech issues, I have had a few people reach out to me and complain about some of the things that have happened.
I found myself feeling so frustrated and thinking, “Should I just give up and not do this?” It feels like matter how hard I try, something is going wrong. I’m super embarrassed. I want it to go smoothly. I don’t want anyone to see me as not perfect. I’m afraid of people looking down on me. With the amount of emotions that have come up for me doing this livestream, I started off feeling excited about it and proud of it. I imagine with your Etsy, when you made it, you felt good and confident about it enough for you to list it. Maybe deep down, there is part of you that did not fully feel that way. As soon as you got that review, it revealed it.
It’s similar to my situation. I’m thinking, “The only way that I can avoid feeling the shame that I felt is to stop.” I’m just going to give up on the livestreams, but there was still this voice inside me that said, “No, you have to keep going.” My next question to follow up on your scenario and mine is how do you keep going? For my situation, I want to keep going but I’m feeling insecure about it. I’m afraid I’m going to show up and people are going to see my insecurity. I’m afraid that it’s not going to be as good. Even if I keep going, there’s part of me that’s like, “Am I a glutton for punishment? Am I just asking for criticism? Can I handle this criticism? Is it worth the criticism?”
That’s something that I have had to ask over and over again with everything I have put out with my work. Somehow I have kept going with it, but there have been a number of projects that I have given up on. I’m curious about how have you navigated it? How did you get through that situation to keep going and not give up on your practice? What other tools in general, have you found useful for others in moving forward when something is extremely uncomfortable, but there’s still a little part of them that wants to do it despite the discomfort?
You are pointing out some key things, which is any time that we are doing anything unpredictable. I often think about it as the predictably stagnant or the predictably crappy. For many people, they are going to have things that they do every day and they go, “I don’t want to go to this job anymore. I’m not feeling fulfilled in this relationship.” We are talking about this livestream or the Etsy shop. There can be things where we don’t feel fulfilled, but we keep doing them, and/or things that we do and they take us so far out of that spectrum of just fine. They light us up in a different way.
As soon as something happens that feels like a threat to it, then we want to go back to our state of fine. You could be fine if you did not do this livestream for the rest of your life. The world would go on, you would be okay. There’s a part of you that wants to do it, so there’s a different connection and buy-in with it, which means the threat is bigger. There’s something about understanding for us how the ego works. I compare a lot of things to toddlers because I have a two-year-old.
Thinking about her, failure is the best thing that I can promote for her development, but also in terms of modeling. It’s to constantly try things that fail and flop. That gets conditioned out of u as we are older. You have to get straight A. You have to go to a certain school. There’s a very specific conveyor belt that everybody is funneled to based on their different intersecting identities and the culture that they exist in. As the scope of possibility goes down, the tunnel or the opportunity for failure, exploration or flailing a little bit goes away.
In reality, I still think the worksheet that I put up was great. What I have learned is the way that I marketed a few things about the worksheet is not so great. It’s an awesome learning opportunity for me. Instead, because have gotten so focused and I remember as a kid and an emerging adult, my mom struggled with some pretty severe substance use issues and what we did not find out until many years later was undiagnosed bipolar disorder. In the midst of her struggling with some substance use issues, she spent a significant amount of time in jail and treatment centers.
I moved in with different family members and I became a chameleon. In one household, my nickname was Cinderella for a while because I was always picking up after everybody and I was doing certain things. What happens is whether somebody has trauma or not, the circumstances that lead us to say, “When you act, do or you are this way, things are better and more convenient for everyone else.” They become the pillar on which we assume everything we do has to be built. I’ve got to the point where everyone would say, “You have it all together. You are doing all these things. I don’t know how you do this. Everything you do is successful.”
That builds into the shame narrative because what’s happening is at my core, I still believe I’m crap, broken, flawed, not worthy, and not good enough. I have just perfected the performance so no one can see. When something happens like when he left the review, when you got that feedback about the livestreams, what happens is you go, “They see it.” Now, if I told you five times you have an itch on your nose, eventually you are going to start to itch your nose because it’s becoming this thing that you fixate on.
Part of this is then if we go back to the toddler brain and the ego is realizing that our ego is best friends with our shame. People talk about being egocentric, that’s not what we are talking about. Your ego is this base part of you that wants to make sure that you are seen and heard because you need to be. You need connection and belonging. The ego starts to write the story that you have to be the hero, the victim, and the villain in every story. You are responsible for getting everything right and doing everything for everybody. As soon as something goes wrong on any platform, you are the problem.
Even thinking about the interaction with the people where you left the group, the only scenario that you are sitting on is something bad about you, “You are letting them down. They are thinking this about you,” rather than saying, “That tells me a lot about their character if they are upset with me about making a choice that’s best for me in my life.” The victim, meaning that we also will get to the point where it’s like, “The whole world is happening against me.” That mentality starts to happen when we get stuck there.
It’s like, “Why do I even bother? Why do I even try? Should I even keep going?” This is a little bit of what would start happening with you with the tech issues. It’s this, “I have to be perfect. I can’t have anything wrong. I got to be able to fix it.” We will go between you and me. “I’m stealing her time away from her. I’m doing this.” Also thinking, “This keeps happening to me. Why is this happening?” Those three roles drain us. Part of moving out of this is to start to recognize when that’s happening and to realize when we are over-inflating ourselves, not only just in our stories but everybody else’s story.How can I show up with kindness when that's the harder choice? Click To Tweet
Instead, in this case of the livestreams, there are a couple of people that are disappointed. Even if we go back to the review, the review was not even about the content. It was about a couple of things that were in there. There was a typo and one other thing. That person made a choice not to get out of what was intended for them to get out of it. They made a choice to make it about how I screwed up, not about trying to find out what they could learn. That person offering you feedback, there’s a difference in saying, “You have been having some tech issues lately. I wanted to let you know if you are not sure what it’s like on the viewer end.”
There’s a way to provide feedback that’s constructive, then there’s a way to provide feedback that’s about making them feel better. If we boil down to it, it’s their shame getting manifested and reaching out to you. I don’t say that to be mean to them because I was ready to send this terrible response to this reviewer. We are all guilty of acting from our shame, but then you have to come back and say, “What’s my intention here?” When you started out doing these livestreams, did you start out to get ten thousand, million, bazillion views? Did you want to be the most famous person on the planet? Did you want to get famous off of these things? Did you do it because it was a platform and a way for you to connect, share information and support in the world?
What we have to be mindful of is to come back to your intention and route it to your values because your ego is only driven by external validation. External validation does not line up with our values. To me, the shift was going, “I started out wanting to do these things to be the best support I can be to the people that I can serve. I know I’m not the best fit for everybody.” Maybe that means places like Etsy are not the right fit for me, where everything is based on a review and trying to be the best and better than all the competition. We are a culture that’s been driven off of only buying from a five-star review rather than pausing and learning about that person, business or the context of a review.
Maybe that’s feedback, but my intention was to show up with humility, a willingness to keep growing and be better and to provide resources and support for other people. Am I doing that? Yes, so how do I stick with and show up and do that, rather than allowing my ego to overinflate my role over here, and then take me away from living my best life, and having a maximum impact on the world around me?
I feel like I could come back to this anytime I face these issues, which is frequently. It leads me to a follow-up question that I am constantly ruminating on. I don’t know if there’s an answer, but I’m curious about a perspective you could offer on this. Why do people write such critical things? You touched upon it’s their shame. I made an episode on this as part of my own way of processing.
I was sharing about one of those comments and how it triggered me. Part of my reaction was, “If only I could just understand why they wrote that, then maybe I can move through this.” The why is often an important piece of context I need when I’m processing because I don’t always get it. For most of these people, you could ask them, “Why did you write that?” They might not give you an answer. They may never respond. You may never hear from them again, or they will respond in defensiveness and they might not get to the root of it.
I’m constantly left with that question of like, “Why did that woman feel the need to point out minimal mistakes? Why is it that some people miss the point?” What you are bringing up about my livestreams, I’m showing up in hopes that people are not expecting me to be perfect. They know that tech issues happen. Why would somebody be so frustrated and disappointed that I had a tech issue? Why would this woman be so upset and disappointed that you mess up grammar and punctuation? I see it all the time in other people. I can’t imagine pointing that out. I might think it to myself, but I’m certainly not a person that would write that as a review.
When other people are likely not buying your PDF on Etsy with the assumption that your grammar is perfect, they are buying it to get the result of what you are promising and hopefully ignoring it. It perplexes me that other people not only hyper fixate on somebody else’s mistakes and imperfections, but they feel the need to say them in such critical, rude, sometimes bullying and trolling ways, to point out other people’s flaws publicly, and not even realize how detrimental that can be.
You’re sharing that story about your wanting to quit your whole practice. I can’t even tell you how many people I know who have gone through their own version of that. They are a cookbook author and they get awful reviews, they never want to write a cookbook again. I have gone through that myself with platforms like YouTube, where the criticisms and the misunderstandings became so much, I turned off the comments and barely post on YouTube.
It was too heavy. It was too much to bear. I lost sight of my core reasons. My ego was unable to and got so in my way. That has been part of my journey. It’s to do exactly what you advise, but I do want to go back to this question of why do you think other people get so irritated by other people’s mistakes that they have to point them out in such unkind ways?
If we go back to shame and the way that we respond to shame, a lot of times, what we are looking for is to re-calibrate equilibrium to make sure our space is still secure. My mom and I were having this conversation, going back to the dynamic with her and my grandma. There were a few interactions where I said, “Did you tell her this?” My mom told me what she said I was like, “That seems pretty mean, I don’t know if we needed to go about it that way.” Part of the discussion we had was, “She made you feel bad about yourself, and rather than being able to stop and say that’s not okay, you can still validate her emotions and her experience in the world. This is hard for her and what she’s going through is difficult. You can also still put a boundary on or tell her that certain behavior is not okay.”
Rather than doing that, you instead fought back with anger for two reasons. One goes back to your question about the boundary setting of believing that she did not have the right to set a boundary in the first place, and she’s deserving of being treated poorly. If you are conditioned to being in this environment or this narrative, whether it’s an external situation or the environments that we can be in that push us to believe this, or the internal narrative that we have existed in for so long or some mixture of both, everything is going to be believed through that lens.
Clearly, she’s not deserving of being treated better than that. She does not know what to do but she is feeling reactive. Eventually, she’s going to snap in some way, and then she’s mean. That’s part of what happens with the review. I have no idea about the context of what was going on for this person when they got the handout. On a typical day, I read blog posts all the time. I get emails from famous people. This happened with Mel Robbins, where I get her emails. She sent out an email and then sent out another email ten minutes later saying, “Did you catch my mistake?”
The first name filler thing that’s supposed to populate your first name did not do it. A bunch of people’s emails said, “Hi, first name,” with a bunch of weird symbols. She’s immediately writing back to try to make it okay for everybody. I saw it and moved on because it does not matter. It did not affect my day if it said, “Hey, first name,” or if it said, “Hey, Kyira,” the message and the copy were something below it. On our best days, that’s what we are going to do. Even on most neutral days, things are going to be relatively crappy or not how we would expect them to be and we will go, “It’s fine.”
Your cup of coffee order is not exactly what you wanted, you let it go. There’s going to be a day that it happens and you are just not able to handle it. It’s not that the coffee was what sets you off. It’s that You have been repressing your feelings for so long that the coffee ends up becoming the thing that bops the ball right back up from underneath the surface. When that person is sending you that review, they are scanning for ways to do this, not because they are intentionally trying to be malicious but they are still being hurtful and harmful.
They have not yet figured out how to deal with their own distress, shame or whatever it might be that this is the only way they know to process it. If we think about bullies, middle school bullies and people think back to that, everyone is like, “They are being a bully because they have a hard time.” That is quite literally the reason why people bully, whether it’s trauma or something else that’s happened in their brain, they don’t have the capacity or the tools to know how to deal with it. This shame response becomes the only way that they know-how, so they become destructive.
It’s like my two-year-old when she feels like she’s in trouble when I will say, “Didn’t we just do that?” Even with a smile on my face and open arms to hug her, she will immediately shut down if she worries that she is somehow in trouble because it’s an innate response in us. We have this built-in thing of needing to act and be a certain way and that threat component is within there.
You and I are both on very similar journeys of learning how to set boundaries, how to deal with this criticism, and how to keep going in ways that don’t shut us down. We were not taught how to do this when we were 2, 5 or 10, probably because our caregivers did not know how to do it and their caregivers did not know how to do it.What do I have to learn here? Click To Tweet
It becomes a way of, “How can I show up with kindness when that’s the harder choice?” The last big plug I want to make is the show Ted Lasso, which if people have not watched it, do what you can do within the means that you have to watch the show if you can. It is a life lesson in kindness. There’s this one interaction that happened in season two. There is this particular interaction with Ted, the main character, Jason Sudeikis and this other coach. The whole season has been building where you are getting irritated with this other coach. You want to punch him and be like, “What are you doing?”
This one interaction happens that sets it off to that point. Rather than reacting, because Ted had the higher ground, there was nothing Ted had done that any of us could see in the context of the storyline that would warrant being treated this way. Instead of doing that and saying, “What are you doing? That’s so mean or hurtful.” He said, “What do I have to learn here?”
It’s that place of humility and vulnerability rather than letting our ego be bruised and saying, “That person saying something mean about me.” Instead, we go, “What do I have to learn here?” In this episode, we start to think about the storyline this other coach has been existing in and why he feels the way he does about this other character. In my story, this person was being mean for no sense to me whatsoever. I wrote a public response. I sent a private message. I sent an email. I refunded the money. I have got nothing back from this person. In my story, I have already let him play way too big of a character than they need to in my life, and I am presuming to understand the context of their story.
Instead, kindness and compassion would allow me to say, “If somebody is acting that way in the world, they are hurt. They are in pain in some way. I’m not going to be able to make sense of it. It is still not okay that this person treated me this way. I’m not going to allow my ego to get caught up in trying to make it okay for me. Instead, I’m going to try to show love and kindness to this other person and say, “How can I wish them better? What can I learn here?” As we move forward in that, that’s where the balance becomes in setting boundaries, and then not taking responsibility for their reactions, but realizing that their perception is always going to be different than our intention. They are writing it into the context of the story that they are living.
Unfortunately, in the world that we are all existing in, the context of most of our stories is written with the trauma of the last few years. Most people are experiencing symptoms of mental health issues they have never had before. Maybe you having this tech issue was the disruption to that person’s day that took them over the edge that morning. They feel the whole world is letting them down. It still does not make it okay that they gave you feedback in the way they did. If we can validate that their pain is real, then we cannot make it about us and we can let it go so much more easily. We don’t worry as much about their story. We just focus on putting kindness and compassion into our own.
I want to acknowledge your kindness, compassion, and the ripple effect that had on my day. Part of the kindness and compassion that I want to offer is to wrap up given how much our schedules have been disrupted. I feel you have demonstrated all of those lessons in so many ways for me and hopefully, the readers as well in the way that you speak with such grace and vulnerability. I feel like out of most of the episodes I have recorded, this is one of few that I cannot wait to go back to. I’m sitting here trying to let it all sink in and want to reflect on it.
It’s like when you find a good book and you want to read it a second time because you know you are going to find even more lessons. I’m so thrilled with everything here. I’m grateful because these are all universal lessons everyone may experience in different ways, but I imagine that each person has gone through this and maybe on different sides. They have acted out each of us. I find myself acting out on others. You had me reflecting here. There’s a review that I have wanted to leave on this company that I felt let down by.
I thought, “They have let me down in so many ways and they felt so dismissive of me, maybe the only way to get through to them is to leave a public review. Maybe I need to warn other people.” Hearing you talk about this has me stepping back and thinking, “Do I need to do that?” Maybe they messed up with me and that has nothing to do with anybody else, and I don’t need to do this in a form of getting back at people. Sometimes we do. We look for revenge, justice, and we want to be ethical.
Maybe the higher road is to take that Ted Lasso moment and see where we can step back and accept it more. That’s how I can pay it forward and add to more good karma and practice it because I know what it’s like for people to point out my mistakes publicly. Even though their reaction may be valid, it still did not feel good. Knowing that makes me want to rethink how I move forward even in those times when I feel justified in my response. Thank you for addressing my scenarios in a way that related to your own and other people.
I imagine that at least one reader is going to be like, “How do I get more?” I’m so excited to sign up for your newsletter. You shared that you are not so focused on social media, which is a beautiful thing and also a very relatable thing. You have got the email letter. Given that you have a wait-list and someone might not be able to jump into a one-on-one session with you, what else do you offer for those that want to dig in further and get more value from you?
Before I answer your question, one of the things you have summarized beautifully is how do we show forgiveness in a world that is conditioned to make power about having something over someone else, whether that’s a company or a person? You articulated it in a very practical way of realizing your intention to leave that review would have been to make them feel shame, to take their power away, and to feel like you got some power back. It’s instead saying, “What if my intention, if I did provide feedback, was about how to help them be better? What if I took the approach in life to always seek to be better while still learning to love myself for being imperfect, and showing up in my interactions with other people to provide that same opportunity for them?”
You brought context to that in a way that’s very relatable. I’m excited. I made the shift in terms of how I approach things in my business. If we talk about the willingness to fail and flail, I started my business simultaneously when I finished my Master’s program. I knew I was going to see therapy patients but I was also doing public speaking, doing these other things, and wanted to have a different platform to do some work. Coaching is something that I provide. I have been trying out different options to find the best way to support people. This is an interesting place where I have been okay to fail. It’s to learn that every time I see a new therapy patient, I know I’m not going to be the best fit for everybody.
I do a therapeutic book club which has been life-changing for me more than I ever knew. With the small group that gets to do it, it’s been pretty fantastic. It’s a way that people can sign up with a small cohort of people. We read a book and we meet four times over the course of reading that book. I provide discussion guides and handouts. The groups are more group processing. It’s very therapeutic in nature. It’s a lot of sharing across the groups, but it is also about getting that therapy guidance in this space.
The other thing that is launching officially in January 2023 is my new program called Live On Purpose. I have tried to take everything that I have learned in the therapy room as a speaker, in conversations like this, in life experiences, and my years of trying to find even footing as a mom, which anyone that’s been a parent or a caregiver knows is a constant battle. Also, realizing that we are a system and a culture that makes support inaccessible in many ways. With a lot of support and tools, a lot of people that get into the wellness or mental health industry sometimes can be ego-driven.
It becomes about the sale or about giving a band-aid because we are all feeling this pressure to help people not feel stress as quickly as possible. My program got developed out of what do I see the change process looking like when I work with a client? I have worked with people from the hospitalization level down to an outpatient level. What does change look like? What does healing look like? If we want to talk about sustainable and intentional change and living, how do we empower someone to do that?
Early access applications are available on my website to get access to the program early for a significantly reduced rate, and then provide me with some feedback so I can keep learning before I launch it publicly to everybody else. I’m accessible by email. Go to my website, go to Connect, just email me. If you are like, “I want to connect and figure out where I can best get support,” then let’s find a time to talk. Helping people match what their needs are with the right kind of support is something that I am good at. If I can help people with that, that’s something that I want to gift more of in the universe.
I can’t wait to check out the book club. I love reading and processing. I’m thrilled about your newsletters as you were describing them as being like blog posts. That’s exactly what I love to read. Thank you for all you put out there. Thanks for everything that you shared. It’s been a joy to hold this space. I’m sad to end this but maybe there will be a second episode one day in the future.
Thank you so much.
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About Kyira Wackett
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