Black Smoke of Shame








Do reading these words make you want to run and hide? They make me recoil. In the back of my mind, I wonder if there is enough bravery within for me to write this blog.


Even my statement of “do I have enough” has shame undertones screaming. Yet, we don’t talk about shame. A few months ago, when I was reading the Gifts of Imperfection by Brene´Brown and listening to her associated podcast Unblocking Us, she brought up the emotion of “shame,” and I scoffed. I even said out loud, “Shame isn’t the issue. The emotion is more around anger or sadness.”

Scoff isn’t even strong enough. It couldn’t be a shame.

At first, I refused to hear how shame was fueling my life. It is very present. As I was reading more about Brene´Brown’s research around shame, it occurred to me that shame is the fuel that leaves a black smoke kind of burn that ensures no one can see the shame.

Here are some examples of shame I have heard or read. I don’t believe these were said or written to shame or hurt, but they did both.


  • You got hurt? That is why I don’t work out.

  • I was not good enough as a leader.

  • My words don’t matter.

  • I wouldn’t call you an artist. It is just your hobby.

  • You are too ______ (fill in the blank).

  • You are just a mom; that is not a job on this form.


Shame is a genuine emotion that develops a canyon within the individual receiving the words of shame, whether said to them or said to themselves.

Some of the most powerful shaming words are the ones we say internally.

Shame thrives on judgment, and when you add secrecy or silence, it becomes a black smoke of pollution around you that is life starving.

It may fuel feelings like:

  • I am unlovable.

  • I don’t belong.

  • I am not good enough.

  • I am different, in a not good way.

It moves you to feeling disconnected.

The quieter we are around shame, the wider the canyon of separation and the more that canyon obscures with dark, stinky smoke.

We don’t have to stay in this place of shame.

We can clear the air by simply saying the words aloud and holding space for ourselves and others with empathy. Empathy is a tool of compassion, and it is genuinely listening and welcoming space for another person’s or your feelings.

Clear the smoke of shame

Learn to hear the words you say to yourself, to others, or you are listening. Are they filled with judgment? What can you do to consciously shift to a space of kindness and compassion? What do understanding and grace look like in this situation?

In every moment of every day, we are human, and as Miguel Ruiz said in the Four Agreements, do your best. And realize your best is different in each moment. This speaks to compassion and letting go of judgment.

Another tool to clear the smoke is to practice reflection.

Become aware of your pain. Don’t try to shove it under a carpet. Or sweep it away into a dark corner. You can’t hide it and bring a practice of compassion to it simultaneously.

Nor will, rolling around in it, like a pig who will roll in the mud, allow you to release the negative reactivity. This is where practicing mindfulness of letting thoughts come and go can be helpful. You can recognize the feeling of shame, send yourself a compassionate message, and release the emotion.

Finally, starve the fuel of shame by giving the shame a voice. Shame can’t survive being out in the sun. Shame can’t breathe with clear oxygen. This means reaching across the canyon gap of disconnection and saying what you feel, sharing your story, and allowing others to become connected.

Too often, when we hear or know of someone killing themselves, we wonder why they didn’t tell us what they were feeling. There is shame in their emotion so great they can see no way out. And in that secrecy, it fueled the shame and the disconnection until they made the ultimate choice.

Coaching Section

What shame are you holding in the dark cervices of your canyon?

You don’t need to keep them there. Find someone who will hold space to hear your voice around what you feel and starve the shame by giving it a voice and mapping a way out. If you aren’t sure who will hold that space for you, give me a call. Or find a coach or therapist you can hire who is trained to hold this space for you.

You are not alone. We are all in this together. We can navigate together to a place of clear connection with lots of oxygen to breathe.


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