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I remember the day the shame began.
I was 15.
A close girlfriend had come to my house, and we were in my bedroom.
All around my bedroom, I had photos upon photos of friends, family and snapshots of myself. I loved these photos. I had gone to Michael’s Art Supply store and bought some of those large rectangular photo montage frames where you can put in all different shapes and cut outs of photos. They filled my room with warmth and love.
I had several photos of myself from various moments of my life thrown into the mix as well: my first prom, dance performances, peaceful moments at the beach.
I loved those photos of me.
My friend made a grand tour of my room and paused in front of one of the photos of myself. She then said to me with a raised eyebrow and a ladle full of disdain something that has stuck with me for years:
“You sure do love yourself.”
She was right. I did.
And I immediately was filled with so much embarrassment.
After she left, I looked at these photos and actually felt pain looking at them.
I felt so embarrassed by how much I loved myself, how much I enjoyed having images around of myself that I loved.
I took them down, one by one, and stuffed them into the back of a drawer.
I have spend the last 20 years since that day doing all manner of inner work in order to – metaphorically speaking – bring those photos of myself back out…to own that, yes, I do, I do love myself. And I love making art out of my body and my beauty.
What happened after that day is that I began to slowly but surely associate any feeling of self love or a deep sense of inner beauty with shame. I somehow lost the freedom within myself to authentically share who I am, especially when it came to my creative expression.
I have written poems that I have shoved into the electronic drawer of my hard drive.
I have danced dances so epically honest and beautiful and inspired…in the comfort of my bedroom, behind closed doors, terrified to let that part of my self be seen and rejected.
I have recorded songs on cassette tapes that live in a box in my garage. No one has ever heard them but me.
My soul has ached over this.
It’s an invisible loss, the loss of a soul’s most honest creations.
And its effects can be devastating.
Instead of celebrating the art and beauty of my body and my voice, I began to place external value on myself and how I looked. Looking beautiful became about getting a guy, not the feeing of love that comes from adorning oneself or regarding one’s body as a temple.
Writing an essay about the greatest learning of my life thus far for college applications became about what I could say that would get me accepted to Penn or Princeton, rather than a simple, honest answer to that question. And by 17, trust me, I had had enough challenging experiences in my life to provide something of soul revealing truth for that college essay.
Through my twenties, every spark of creativity or inspiration in the realm of art or unique work I wanted to bring to the world was met with heavy resistance, self doubt and fear of rejection.
On the outside, I looked like I had a pretty wonderful life – and I did – except that, there was a whole world of beauty and creativity with in me that was on complete lockdown. I was the only one who saw it. And with my whole being, I wanted to share it and set it free into the world.
There are several teachers, ideas & revelations that have since contributed to my liberation – which is a daily, devotional practice to being true to myself, often laden with deep challenge – but I will mention one today that I believe has the power to transform our relationship to the nature of shame and its place in the creative process.
In 2009, I was on a phone call with a wise, dear friend. I was lamenting how much I longed to share my spoken word art with the world, and how much shame I felt about it being perhaps too “out there”, too much, and perhaps alienating of my family and friends. She said to me,
“Shame is an indicator that whatever is underneath it must – MUST – be shared.”
That one shift in perspective on the nature of shame has continued time and time again to set me free to share my truth.
Shame has become like this giant fog horn that lets me know that even in the deep, chilly cloud of intense fear of humiliation, some treasure of truth lies waiting to be expressed and given.
It might be a communication that I need to deliver. Or an edgy desire. A poem, or a story in a talk. An admission or an ask for forgiveness. A piece of wild jewelry that is just begging to adorn my ears, but that is so out of the box for my usual style. It might be a dance, or a song I wrote for a friend’s birthday.
Sometimes that share is timid. Sometimes it requires Herculean levels of bravery. But every time I do – Every Time – I feel utterly ALIVE.
I have a dear friend who was to officiate my wedding with David this June (We called off the wedding due to intense smoke conditions caused by the Slide Fire in Sedona. That’s another story, another post…:).
This guy’s name is Porangui. He is Brazilian and is a fantastic musician. He is also a profound sound & energy healer, and his soul pours through his eyes. Recently I met with him and before sharing about a new crop of creative inspirations and desires that have come up in my life, and I said to him– “Now, this feels really edgy…”
He laughed and said, “Oh, I live in edgy.”
And when he said it there was such a rush of aliveness and sexiness that wafted from him and filled the room.
Living on the edge is really where it’s at.
It is edgy sharing your desires with people in your life, and it’s edgy putting your truth and your creative inspirations into the world.
It’s edgy because you are moving from what you currently know into the unknown. You don’t know how what you share will be received. You don’t know how it will turn out. And you certainly don’t know who you will be on the other side.
Living on the edge means being in continual choice as to what you hold as your God in your life – the dominating power of shame & fear of rejection, or the liberating beauty of following your truth and creativity.
One will surely destroy your life.
The other will take you to untold levels of aliveness and direct connection with your divinity.
Nothing brings the depth of soul satisfaction and juice that we long for like vulnerably sharing the truth of who we are.
Sharing your truth, your desires and your creativity with others might scare the be-jesus out of you, but guaranteed, whether it creates peace or upset, you will feel ALIVE.
And aliveness is absolutely, positively where it’s AT.
Desires shift and change, ebb and flow. You don’t have to follow them all, but leaving them unexpressed for fear of ridicule or rejection slowly kills the passion and creativity of our souls.
These days, I’m still in process of taking the poems, the songs and the pictures I love of myself out of the drawer, but at least now in my life I have wisdom on how to do that.
Shame – the fear of outright rejection for what I do or express – continues to be my guide on the challenging & rapid river of creativity and honesty that is my life.
When I see it, I say a prayer and then dive right into its heart. It scares me every single time.
But that’s living on the edge.
And it’s here – on the edge – where all the stuff of our deepest dreams live.
My friend Ali Shanti recently expressed on Facebook how scared she was to live into the scary, truth-filled stuff of her life. My other friend Nisha Moodley promptly replied with something that ignited my heart. She said:
“Let’s hold hands and run right into the discomfort together.”
That’s who I’m committed to being for you.
I’m here, holding your hand, feeling extremely uncomfortable and simultaneously absolutely passionate about your truth and mine.
I’m not sure there is anything to do really but say “f*ck it”… and fly.
So let’s do it, woman.
Let’s set this world on fire with the power and beauty of who we truly are.
Who am I?
I’m an international women’s thought leadership & public speaking trainer and speechwriter for conscious women on a mission. You can download my free trainings on public speaking, writing the talk of your dreams & read more of my writings at http://kcbaker.com.
I hang out a lot on Facebook. Connect with me on FB here.