Empathy is What Kills Shame

When we are feeling shame, we often internalise it and keep the feeling to ourselves. Sharing deep feelings is being vulnerable, and makes us worry about appearing weak. The truth is that even though it may be uncomfortable to start talking about your shame, it’s what helps. 

Discussing these feelings with someone we’re close to means we’ll receive empathy – because shame is something that every one of us feels at one point or another. Much like holding a grudge, keeping shame inside eats away at us, harming ourselves. I talk a lot about being courageous and this situation is no different. Being brave enough to reach out and talk about feeling shame is the only way to start eliminating it.

Going back to the point about vulnerability being mislabelled as weakness – this is something that is inherent in not just workplace culture, but society in general. No one ever really wants to admit when they feel sham, much like they don’t want to admit feeling embarrassed or hurt. The people who live and lead by being vulnerable authentic, kind and brave are those who are helping to change this negative perception.

Think carefully about yourself as a leader and as a person in general – do you foster open communication in all of your relationships? If so, you are already halfway there.

Even if people reach out to you to express those not-so-positive feelings, if you cannot reciprocate that trust then you will never unburden yourself from shame. That’s not to say that shame will ever completely disappear from our lives, but it will be a lot easier to handle and move on from. 

Those who never talk about feeling ashamed are often the ones who feel it the most. We keep silent about shame because we fear being judged as weak. This is what feeds shame and makes it grow. If you don’t do anything about it, if you don’t talk to someone and unload those feelings, you’ll find that shame starts seeping into other areas of your life.

The way to destroy shame before it overtakes your life is by being open about it. If your relationships are built on genuine connections, then the person you confide in will be empathetic. Why? Like I said earlier, everyone has and will experience shame over the course of their life. Speaking with someone who can commiserate with what you’re feeling is the way to give shame the flick. Keeping it to yourself  and believing that you are going through it alone helps shame thrive.

To quote one of my favourite leadership experts Brene Brown, “Shame cannot survive being spoken, it cannot survive empathy.” If you haven’t already, it’s time to start cultivating your relationships and building up the trust, open communication and honesty within them. Even when you go through a difficult experience and are grappling with feeling shame, you don’t have to let it consume you. Simply seek out the empathy and kill the shame. 

What can you do?

If you’re looking for an intensive introduction to courageous leadership which is all about YOU, invest in your development by enrolling in one of our Courageous Leadership One Day Workshops. They’re being held in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne in October, and tickets are only $149! With this amazing low price, we limited spaces left – so find out more and book your place here.

To go even further in depth with your leadership development, Sonia McDonald Inc. also offers a comprehensive Courageous Leadership Online Program. Enrolling in this program gets you access to a range of exclusive resources and workbooks, and the opportunity to join in Q&As with Sonia herself in weekly coaching calls.  This program is for any leader who wants to further their leadership and become successful and courageous – and focus on what truly matters. 

You can join the self study program at any time, or claim your spot in our next Group Program, which opens in January 2020, here.  

By Sonia McDonald – CEO of LeadershipHQ and the Outstanding Leadership Awards, Leadership Coach, Global Keynote Speaker, Entrepreneur, Mum And Award Winning Author.