Go Ahead

I read today that one of the results of shame is a loss of creativity.

I recall my fascination with the emotion of shame: In all my years of graduate study on shame, I found over and over again that shame forces a person to hide. In my own career, I’m most interested in how the shame response stifles a person’s ability to write.

You simply won’t write freely–with an authentic written voice–if an audience (real or imagined) is shaming you with disapproval, condemnation, and mockery. That’s why I spend inordinate amounts of time creating atmospheres of vulnerability and trust. The writing changes by the end. Students feel accepted, so they finally create.

Shame, remember, is a tormenting sense of inferiority. You’re fighting the fear of shame when you post on Facebook and your first thought is, “People are going to think this is stupid,” or you tweet something and then delete it because it’s not clever enough. The fear of shame often drives everything from the clothes we wear to how we decorate our homes. We do what’s expected and don’t create. We’re not free anymore.

The only solution to shame is to go ahead and make a fool of yourself so you can realize that you’re unconditionally accepted by God, your family, and your friends. Love never depended on your coolness, cleverness, or wise insights. And when it comes right down to it, people really aren’t thinking about you as much as you think they are.

I tell myself with every blog post and every new novel paragraph to “Go ahead.” I give shame a stare-down and tell it it’s been defeated. I’m going to create and be free today, and it feels so good.

You’re loved. You’re accepted. Go ahead and create already! Who cares what happens? 

You can create atmospheres of vulnerability and trust by helping people expose weakness, especially within a family and a classroom. Loving folks regardless of their performance can be a life-changing experience for them. Have you experienced this?

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  1. Yes, becoming vulnerable is part of gaining respect in my opinion based on my experience.  I find your essay interesting with regard to shame and its effect on creativity.  It makes sense.