Bird Cage

Last week I was in an intimate training situation with several other coaches wherein I quickly discovered I was practically the only one not earning 6 figures a year.

They were all just regular dames like me, ranging from Millennial to Baby Boomer, with a lot of the same fears and doubts.

Once I found out their gross revenues, however, I felt that old familiar sensation of being the outsider, not quite good enough to belong.

My coach was teaching a number of business building techniques, one of which had to do with list building with the help of a joint venture partner; someone with a bigger list who’d be willing to offer a free gift via an online event you’d create. Towards the end of the workshop, with only a smidgeon of time left to get my questions answered, I asked what I might possibly have to offer people like the high-rollers in the room, that would entice them to partner with me in this way.


Now, I was unaware of how my anxiety, coupled with an affectionately awed term like high rollers,” was so un-PC. Frankly, I don’t believe any of the women in the room were such snowflakes that they were truly insulted or couldn’t handle it.

“Is anybody offended by my saying “high-rollers” here?” I asked, incredulously. In response I saw a young woman, who ironically had just starting her coaching practice, nod slowly with quiet vehemence.

Suddenly I felt totally humiliated in front of the group. Completely shut down.

As I see it, my coach and I had really triggered each other. Consequently I went into what Brene Brown calls a “shame spiral”… the worst of all places to be apart from a burning building….because you’re the building that’s burning, figuratively speaking.

There was a choice to be made in that moment. Get swallowed up and disappear inside (or outside) of my body and forget anything that happened afterwards, or stay present and get the answers I needed.

After all, this event wasn’t free. And regardless of how I felt about her in that moment, I know my coach is masterful at what she does. So would I become a victim of what I perceived as her hurtfulness, or get what I needed?

I was able to manage the later. And that was what it took to belong in that room.

Of course there were after-shocks, and further triage was needed. I ain’t Wonder Woman. Believe me, I left the event reeling.

I even drank a Mojito in the middle of the day. Not exactly a productivity enhancer.

The next night I was up until 2 in the morning writing and re-writing an email to my coach….you’ve been there, right? All part and parcel of a shame spiral.

Thankfully I know well enough from past experience that such moments are not ones in which to open your mouth or hit send.

By sitting on that impulse, and talking it through with my husband the next day, I came to realize that once I fell into the shame spiral I had given my power away. And I was the only one who could take it back.

Here’s why: The difference between an adult and a baby in big pants, in my opinion, is that an adult knows no one can shame her without her permission. The baby is what I’ll call a “faux victim,” because as we all know, the world is full of very real ones.

Unlike the Faux Victim, when an adult feels shamed, she knows it’s an inside job. There’s no need for vindication or external validation because that presumes dependence on an outside fix: to be rescued, exonerated, to have another give her permission to feel okay about herself.

Some of us are more susceptible to shame than others. I know I am among that number. That vulnerability resulted from events long ago, which may have even been reenacted in one form or another over more than one lifetime.

I have information as to its origins, which is helpful. But awareness alone, while the first step, is not enough.

We all must learn to manage our vulnerabilities to succeed in life. It’s like having a broken leg that heals, but still hurts when it rains. That doesn’t mean it’s broken again and you should lie around in bed with your leg suspended from above in a cast. A little Tiger Balm should do.

If you too are easily shamed, you have to realize there are a lot of shamers out there. So gird your loins, my friend. “Cause shamers be shamin.” Just as haters be hatin’ because they lack self-esteem, people with the Shaming M.O. are trying to pass the shame ball so they don’t have to feel shame within themselves.

And let’s face it, we’ve all had those moments. I’m not proud of mine.

So here’s the key: You don’t have to catch the shame ball, or throw it back. That only perpetuates the cycle.

Just let the ball drop.

And next time, drop it even faster.

Shame is a crippler. While it allows you to have a Mojito in the middle of the day, it’s a luxury you cannot afford. When it hits, find someone to help you work through it.

You’ve got way too much to do if you’re going to create the life you want, to waste any more time hanging out in, or perpetuating shame.