The Challenge of “New”
I’m launching a new project soon. To be honest, it’s much more than a project. It’s a very big endeavour and it’s going to involve a lot of people.
I am so excited.
The funny thing is, though, I’ve been inundated with thoughts that who I am is not good enough to launch this endeavour.
Recognize the Shame Cycle
I’m familiar with this feeling. The last time I felt it was two years ago around this time of year. Then, I was launching a reiki business, while also about to take on practicum clients during my training period for mind-body healing (INsideOWT). Everything I was doing was new: launching a Facebook page, writing and editing a website, writing content for the first time, choosing hours, meeting with first clients, practicing a modality in which I had only a few months’ experience, and having money conversations, all while continuing an intensive, intuitive practicum that required complete presence.
At the same time, one of my children went into public school after I had homeschooled them for five years. One of the super-fun things about being a homeschooling mom is that you constantly fight self-doubt as well as the doubt of others: there are whole groups of people who want to tell you how you’re wrecking your children. As I volunteered in my child’s classroom, I saw where my educational practices fell short: resilience, sticking to an unliked project, etc. Everything highlighted the lack I felt.
I attended a holistic business conference around that same time that shook me to my core. Looking back, I recognize my reaction as a trauma response. I doubted myself more with every presentation. While the stories felt authentic, the sales pitches disturbed me. All I really wanted was to serve. Couldn’t I serve without fleecing people in need? And could my brain just calm down, please? I thought I just had to get through this stressful period, but I wasn’t experiencing only stress.
Recognize the Stuck Feeling
No. It was shame. It was lack of self-worth. It was seeing everything through a negative lens. It was feeling like I would never be good enough. I was training to be a healer and I couldn’t get a grip on my own anxiety. It wasn’t until I felt too overwhelmed to attend a weekend family event and later cried for hours to my husband that I realized I was not okay. None of my arsenal of self-care practices resolved the cycle.
Recognize the Origin of Shame
So I found a counselor. We worked through some of the thoughts and feelings affecting me. She reflected to me what she saw: a wise, experienced woman who knew when it was time to ask for support and who was deeply self-aware. (These words soothed me so much. I did know myself. I had grown). We agreed to use the word “and” to reframe some of my experience: I can be knowledgeable in healing and suffer from anxiety. My counselor assured me that I was not free of suffering—part of being human—and neither is any expert in the field.
But I made the most progress the day she looked me in the eye and said, “Where do these shame voices come from? Whose voice is that?”
Suddenly I stared internally down a long tunnel, filled with the faces of old, white men preaching at me over pulpits. Every voice told me that my body was wrong, my thoughts and feelings were wrong, I should never have an opinion, I should always be meek and quiet, and I should never, ever put myself forward publicly or privately. The ultimate message? “Stay in your place”—and that place was mothering and housekeeping, not in public with my own voice and opinions. Then, for the first time, indignation bubbled up inside me: how dared they diminish my worth, the light that is mine to shine?
It is no wonder that as I believed in my worth enough to publicly step forward for the first time, these voices of the past, programmed into me for 28 years, rushed forward to scream how wrong I was to do so. How dare you believe in yourself. How dare you step out of your place. How could you even think you’re good enough to do this?
Support Yourself to Move Out of Shame
Those voices have been speaking again as I move toward releasing my newest offering to the world. This time, though, I know where they originate. This is a programmed brain repeating the messages it has heard. Not only that, brains designed to protect us will always shrink away from something new. New represents the unknown, always containing risk and maybe danger.
So how do I become brave enough to take the risk even when the voices are screaming?
- I recognize my limitations. It is unwise for me to do more than one or two new things at a time, or too many voices start screaming at once. I pay attention to my nervous system’s capacity.
- I recognize the voices that are speaking. They are programmed into me but are not me. Every time I hear them, I respond with the voice of my centered self, which tells me I am strong, capable, wise, and worthy of sharing myself with the world.
- I reach out. I speak with people who have my back and believe in my skills and the service I offer. They remind me of the light they see in me.
- I stay in touch with my body and emotions. I am prone to over-thinking at these times, so I exercise, journal, and use my mind-body healing practice to find the root of anxiety and shift it. I practice yoga to center myself and release emotions.
- I celebrate past successes: the community I’ve found, the clients who are my allies and friends in healing, the deep self-knowledge, the hands-on experience. The writer who lets the public see her heart. My gosh, I shudder to think of how I’d feel if I hadn’t taken those steps into visibility two years ago. I am so much braver now.
- I stay open to what else may be true about the new: it may be the best thing that ever happened to me, as past experience has taught me. The more I take risks and experience the payoffs, the more reward pathways are built into the brain for the next time I try it.
What Could You Experience Without Shame?
It is so normal for “new” to feel overwhelming, scary, insurmountable, foreign, dark, risky, too much, or uncertain. It is natural to feel not good enough, especially if your formative years were reinforced by this message, those voices.
It is normal to worry as you feel all of this, but do you know how else “new” can feel?
Releasing the old.
Yes, “new” can be freedom. Because of that, I shake off every old voice that clings to me—not just by positive thinking, but by doing the thing those voices tell me not to do until they are so obliterated by what is newly dawning that I bask in rays of freedom.
So long, shame voices. Eat my dust.