I couldn't guess that my job loss would lead to transformation and a world of women stitching new businesses like patchwork quilts of their strongest gifts and backgrounds. I didn't know the shame would evolve into joy.
I was invited to a women's business seminar, after which I considered starting a business for widows. But I looked in the mirror and felt enveloped by shame that expanded into the room. "Who do you think you are?" I wasn't young enough, cool enough or thin enough.
I was no stranger to shame. From infancy, I was a body rocker and headbanger, told repeatedly to stop rocking against couch backs. And I was the daughter of a rabbi in Las Vegas, taught to smile for the congregation. My busy father, rescuing people from jumping off of hotel roofs and financial ruin, had come from a patriarchal Orthodox family.
Over time, I had so much to say but little space to say it in at home. I went into listening as a profession, with my frozen feelings and yearning to speak my truth.
When I had my shame attack while contemplating starting a business, I remembered sharing this quote from Helen Lynd in a Lifelong Learning Class I'd taught at the University of Phoenix: " ... if it is possible to face them (experiences of shame), instead of seeking protection from what they reveal, they may throw light on who one is, and hence point the way toward who and what one may become."
As I looked in the closet mirror, I began facing my shame. I cried with release in the joy of discovering I am not weird, I am not the shame.
Joyful about recycling treasured parts of who I am, I told a coach I had newly hired, and she suggested instead of serving widows, it would be better to start a business for healing shame, which causes suffering in thousands.
So I started a website Shame into Joy and began with giving a talk, a workshop, personal coaching and tele-seminars.
Initially, I thought that I would be serving people with childhood shaming but was surprised to also hear of the shame of dyslexia, spinal curvature from aging, underachieving at work and cruel comments from teen peers.
And I began to suspect that not only kind, highly sensitive and empathic people were likely to internalize shame, but that it paralyzes among all professions, roles and races.
"It is possible to take shame and, with a loving heart, turn it into something to celebrate," a client recently said as she looked in the mirror at her "flabby" arms, which she usually hides, and saw these are the arms that held her children.
Like her arms, my shame led to my gifts and voice being more or less hidden for years. The job loss intensification of shame - the gift that keeps giving - has given me the opportunity to grasp and hold on for the ride, on a lifelong learning path that embraces imperfections, lets me see with my own eyes through personal, social and cultural shaming, and gives me the privilege of helping myself and others release isolation, embrace belonging and, with daring, share our newfound gifts of inestimable value.
Claudia Gold is a mother, psychotherapist and expressive arts teacher. She is working on a book called "The Rabbi of Las Vegas: Jumping Off Shame Hotel into Arms of Gold."
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