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Is your shame heavy? Does it sit on your shoulders and make you feel small?

Dr. Zoe Shaw describes her shame as a trunk she had to carry. It weighed her down. She’s my guest on the podcast today to talk about how she let go of that trunk of shame once she owned her story.

Dr. Zoe Shaw is a psychotherapist, author, speaker, and media contributor. She is a relationship expert who specializes in the subject of complex shame and codependency.

In this episode, you’ll hear:

  • How the shame you felt as a child impacts your adult relationships
  • Why we accept shame and betray ourselves for the sake of belonging
  • How shame can be overcome when you can take back your story and find your voice


Shame starts in your childhood

Shame often takes root when we are very young. As we carry that shame into our adult relationships it can morph into blame.

Blame of ourselves or blaming our partner.

I brought my childhood shame into my marriage. Dr. Zoe listens carefully to the tiny child inside of me, just as she addresses the child inside all of us on her podcast.

Here’s an example:

My shame story started as a little girl after my parents’ divorce. When my dad would drop me off at my mom’s house, he’d ask me to tell my mother about his next plan to pick me up.

I was a life coach even at age five and said to my dad, “It’s not right for a 5 year old to be the go between. Could you please talk to my mother yourself.”

He told me told me that I’d understand why he couldn’t talk to her when I grew up.

Dr. Zoe helped me see that, in that moment, I was facing a choice: betray my values about communication, or stay connected to my father. I opted to make it easier for my parents to not communicate.

To have Dr. Zoe help me see this is powerful.

I can see so clearly now how I carried that message into my own marriage.

There were many times I made it easy for my husband and myself to fail to communicate as well because that is the pattern I learned.

I felt the shame that my desire—to have my dad talk to my mom—or later—to have my husband help more with the household chores—was too big an ask. I felt wrong for wanting what I wanted.

Shame is so insidious in how it has us telling ourselves lies. But I lied to myself for the sake of belonging. And I understand why that was so important.

I have compassion for that little 5-year old me who was sad and lonely. She didn’t want conflict. She wanted to belong.

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Own your story and let go of shame

Dr. Zoe shared her story and told us about how her secret made her feel shame.

She was sure that if she told her secret she would lose her family and her husband.

We all experience this. We worry about how the people we love will look at us after we tell them our deep dark secret shame.

Dr. Zoe told her secret anyway.

And the world didn’t end.

The world doesn’t end when you share your secret shame. When you own your story, you break free of your shame and you get be who you truly are.

Acceptance will help heal your shame

It’s Big Work to own your story.

It takes vulnerability and a curiosity about the past that is steeped in empathy for the person you once were.

Acceptance will help you own your story and begin to heal.

As Dr. Zoe says,  “All behavior makes sense in its context.”

Notice what is giving you shame. Then look at it in context.

Notice how difficult your circumstances were. Notice the choices you were forced to make.

After you notice your past self, and offer yourself compassion, Dr. Zoe quotes Joseph Burgo, “True self-forgiveness comes when we cease longing for a different past.”

How about you?

I wonder about the shame story you tell yourself? How is it impacting your relationship today? Text me at 970-210-4480 and let me know how you are reaching for that gorgeous self-forgiveness that gives up all hope of a different past.

Connect with my guest

In this episode you heard from psychotherapist, author, speaker, and media contributor Dr. Zoe Shaw. Dr Zoe is a relationship expert who specializes in the subject of complex shame and codependency. On her podcast, Stronger in the Difficult Places, her guiding premise is: “We’re not fixing them, we’re fixing you, and that changes everything.”

Want to hear more from Dr. Zoe? You can read her blog or pick up her book A Year of Self-Care: Daily Practices and Inspiration for Caring for Yourself .

Want to stop arguing and start connecting with your spouse? This FREE e-course will offer you habits to improve your marriage communication so you can smile more and fight less. Sign up to improve marriage communication.

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