How feelings of shame have affected my life & business #theimperfectboss

My #theimperfectboss moments where feelings of shame have affected my life & business
11 min | This post is going to be raw – for me to write and, possibly, for you to read.

Caveat: While swearing isn’t part of my brand ethics or anything, this post may also get a bit sweary.

It’s important to recognise, I don’t feel this way every day. I’m really very happy with my life. But, like every human, I have moments of self-pity, rage and all the rest – they make the great sides of life more beautiful and wondrous.

 

Shame has become a cyclical emotion in my life and business. Today I’m going to write it out.

It’s something I’ve been thinking about doing for a long time and it’s not easy for me, but I know how important it is for other women to hear – they’re you’re not alone, your feelings are valid and it’s ok to feel shitty sometimes.

As solopreneurs & business owners we make tough decisions, go above and beyond, probably say yes far too often… but one thing that connects us is grit – a tenacity to keep going.

While we strive for professionalism, love to celebrate the highs and share aspirational brand images on social media, we don’t talk about the tough side of things enough.

And, for most of us, our life and business is deeply interwoven.

So here is my confession…

 

This post is part of #theimperfectboss movement where thousands of businesswomen disrupt Instagram and get vulnerable.

#theimperfectboss on Instagram @ashleybeaudin

What is #theimperfectboss?
It’s a movement started by speaker & heart encourager, Ashley Beaudin.
For a couple of days, women business owners around the world disrupt Instagram and get vulnerable, sharing confessions about their imperfect boss moments.
You are SO welcome to join us! Just:
1.     Sign up for more resources on theimperfectboss.com &/or:
2.     Search the #theimperfectboss hashtag on Instagram
3.     Comment with your non-judgemental support
4.     Post your own {tiny to collosal} confession on Instagram + tag Ashley Beaudin & The Imperfect Boss
5.     Find me on Instagram: @jedapearl, read my confessions and tag me too!
This is the first time I’ve participated in the judgement-free zone that is The Imperfect Boss and I’ve decided to dive in deep. I’m also an official Encourager, so you’ll find me commenting & support other brave women over the next few days over on Instagram.
Some women will share their messy desks, pj-days or small frustrations, others will touch those places we fear and loathe inside ourselves or explore trials and tragedies and how those have impacted their lives &/or business.

 

We all feel shame in different ways. I’m not talking about cheeky, sexy, playful or don’t give a f*ck behaviour we jokingly class as “shameful”, I’m talking about guilt-tripping, gut-screaming shame.

That type of shame has followed me – an extension of my Inner Critic – throughout my adult life. No fault of anyone’s, it’s a simple case of being too hard on myself.

One of the first times I felt ashamed was during my first year at art school. They asked for my application portfolio to show it at their open day, with some of my peers. Of course, I was flattered, but when I went to the small exhibition, the following inner dialogue ran through my head:

  1. Everyone else’s work is incredible – mine stand’s out for its poor quality.
  2. Why are the portfolios of all 3 people of colour, out of the whole year-group {100+ students}, being shown? Is this the reason they chose my work?
  3. Is this the reason they admitted me?
  4. I don’t deserve to be here.

Dealing with my Inner Critic has, at times, felt like an insurmountable battle in the nightmare-recesses of my mind.

But, I get over myself, and “just keep swimming” /working until I get hit by the next wave of shame.

Over the years, it has taken its toll, yet has given me important things in return.

 

5 major life incidents which made me feel ashamed

 

1 | Having a baby. Young.

When I fell pregnant 8 months after graduating in 2000, the doer-upper flat we’d just bought had no heating, no kitchen and needed everything from the dodgy electrics to the avocado toilet replaced.

At the time, I felt ashamed our incredible daughter wasn’t going have all the things she deserved.

Other than love, of course, she had ALL the love! And our big extended family rallied round, helped us get most of the flat set up and, by the time she was 18 months old, I turned around, claiming “I’m going to make my girl proud and be a bodacious businesswoman”.

 

2 | Having a baby. Early.

Oh, sweet mother’s guilt – it’s an ugly beast!

Cut to 2006. I’ve been in business for 2.5 years. It’s not been smooth sailing, but my online shop is growing and we’re looking for a new family home.

We joke “he just wanted to see the world early”, but…

I felt ashamed I couldn’t carry our amazing son to term.

At 28 weeks I had a placental abruption – a rare complication which, for me, involved a 40-minute WTF contraction, passing out and being rushed to hospital and prepped for surgery. After 48hrs in a surgical delivery room with a very chilled-out baby in my belly, I was transferred to the maternity ward for 3 weeks.

The joy of a pretty healthy 9-week premature baby was hard until he was home from hospital. But with hourly feeds and keeping a business afloat, I didn’t get round to processing it all until a year later.

I still carry that shame. And, yes, I know it’s ridiculous. But it’s mother’s guilt on steroids {maybe those steroid injections for his lungs amplified things haha?!}.

Why hold myself accountable, for something completely out of my control? Is that what happens when chaos, perfectionism and disgrace combust?

Even though he’s healthy and thriving.

Even then.

 

3 | Closing my first business let people down

The was the toughest decision I’ve ever made business-wise. And, though my hand was forced in some ways, I felt like I let a lot of people down.

While I love what I’m doing now, I had another business-life before 2010. It was a mix of young, hip design fairs featuring selected designer-makers, with VIP previews + great press coverage. I even got shortlisted for a couple of business awards.

After the first couple of years I had to stop the events-side of the biz, but that wasn’t so bad because my online boutique was growing. Plus pop-up shops were soon to become a thing, which was great.

By 2010, 7 years in, life-altering shit had happened {coming up below – whoo-hoo!} and it was time to close biz #1, Velvet Boutique.

The shame of letting 40+ designers & the Scottish craft/design community down has sat with me all this time.

I’ve never talked about it before today and I still hate that it feels like a failure.

Though it really wasn’t. It was just time for a change.

{And was my business that important anyway?}

 

4 | Not having full-blown breast cancer

This is some weird head-f*ckery!

First-off, I don’t feel ashamed to have had breast cancer – I’ve not hidden it. I celebrate each year since. I don’t blame anyone or anything, like diet, lifestyle, pregnancy hormones, genes etc.

I feel ashamed my body’s let itself down, again – our healthy cells kill off mutating ones all the time and mine stopped working

And in a wholly subversive, nonsensical manner, I sometimes feel like an imposter, like I didn’t really have cancer because it was caught so early there was no need for chemo or radiation. Just 6 surgery and years of hormone therapy, which is no small thing, but still – WTF craziness is this?!

Breast cancer brought all sorts of wonderful meaning into my life and it made me finally “out” my writer self. It’s kinda been worth the shit.

 

5 | I’m ashamed I have chronic pain

It’s not fibromyalgia, it’s not chronic fatigue syndrome, it’s not anything with an actual name FFS!! I’ve been through rheumatology and neurology, among other departments. Scanned, poked & prodded.

Only my close family, friends and a couple of clients know. Now you do too! And, you know, that’s okay.

Up until today, though it’s an ongoing battle this self-shaming, the reasons I’m ashamed are {in no particular order}:

  • I look fine – I don’t look ill
  • My body has, yet again, failed me – that old chestnut – which sometimes makes me feel like I’ve given myself chronic pain {yep, bonkers}
  • If clients know I have chronic pain, they won’t think I’m up to the job
  • I’m ashamed I have to take a cocktail of at least 21 pills every day to stay functional
  • My brain is a wee bit cloudier than it used to be, for example:
    • I take longer over tasks, so can’t take too much on and obsess over making sure my work is correct
    • I feel like I suck at speaking / can’t get the right words out and it makes me feel like an idiot + rather nervous on video & video calls

I’ve kept this big part of myself pretty private. No high-fives for coping with another year of chronic pain! Only the annual cancer-free shout-out is allowed.

It started in the spring of 2010, a couple of months after I’d had a “tidy-up” breast surgery with practically no post-surgery pain {as compared with a challenging 9-month recovery on tramadol 2 years prior}.

A small bump on the top of my hand became an inflamed over-reaction and that was it. Week upon week over the next few months the hot, tingling, 24/7 pain spread from my extremities in. Accompanied with exhaustion.

It took about 2 years of physio, pacing & other strategies to get my energy levels to a reasonable level.

Yes, I exercise.

Yes, I saw that TV programme, read that article, saw those trial treatments.

Yes, I’ve heard of/tried that therapy.

No, I haven’t invested thousands of pounds in every conceivable alternative medicine/treatment.

No, I don’t trust magic cures on dodgy “health” sites – don’t send me those links.

No, I don’t put my health first all the time, because:

  1. I want to enjoy life, which means choosing to go to events, knowing I’ll feel horrendous for days afterwards.
  2. I enjoy my work and that involves, you know, working.
  3. I’m a mother and mums always put their kids first – we can’t help it.

Plus, choice and autonomy matter.

Okay, time to wind this part up because, when I talk or read about pain, I feel myself flaring-up and flare-ups aren’t much fun, unless it’s a payoff for a seriously great party/day out!

 

On a smaller, daily level, I also feel ashamed because:

  • I don’t spend enough time hanging out with my family, because I’m working
  • I got bored within minutes of playing “imagination” games with my kids – give me a board game, arty project or anything constructive instead, please
  • I haven’t looked after my body enough – my weight has crept up 4 sizes, I don’t exercise as much as I should.
  • I put my kids, who I love dearly, in nursery at the age of 2 so I could work, not because I had to keep a job or we needed the money, but because I needed the {head}space to write & run my business – being a mum is only one part of my identity.
  • I need LOTS of time alone. As an introvert, I’ll happily go on holiday with you, but I will need at least one day to myself per week!

 

~ ~ ~

My shame has been purged!

~ ~ ~

 

How has shame negatively affected my life & business?

My own personal brand of shame has:

Made me think

I’m being ungrateful or selfish

I’ve let people down

Something out with my control was my own fault

 

Held me back from

Taking bolder risks

Believing in myself

Being open about my chronic pain

Putting myself first

 

Made me feel like

A failure

I’m stupid

I’m not deserving

 

How do we stop feeding our shame monsters?! {Or, how I deal with mine}

It’s easy to slip onto the helter-skelter of negative thoughts and lose sense of all logic.

It takes serious effort to push through those loathsome emotions and pierce them with common sense.

We each have our own Inner Critics who try to eat away at our confidence, when really they’re just a hungry, attention-seeking child who needs love.

Our sluggish, hateful shame curdles inside us, saturating everything.

We tuck it away and put on a “brave face”.

But the real bravery is facing your demons, living the experience, feeling ALL the emotions and dealing with them in a healthy way, like talking about them.

I’m not great at the sharing part. I prefer the role of listener and supportive friend.

 

Feeding my shame monster, but {mostly} knowing when to stop, has given me:

Resilience

Grit

Empathy

Respect

 

Those are some pretty wonderful, useful life skills right there.

So let it curdle – let it saturate a day or two.

Give yourself permission to feel like shit.

If you’re struggling, reach out for help, from an impartial therapist, family member, friend or ally and get to a point where you can:

  • Validate your feelings
  • Action your logical common sense to gain perspective
  • Don’t feel ashamed for said perspective!
  • Treat yourself as you’d treat your most-loved loved ones who were in pain
  • Accept this may need to be a constant effort for a while
  • Take a lungful, or four, like you learned back in yoga class, and
  • Move the f*ck on {to the next minute/hour/day/etc}
  • And, repeat!

* * *

P.S. Moving on doesn’t mean forgetting. It means absorbing and building your resilience.

P.P.S. Writing, even without sharing, has been a great healer for me – I highly recommend it.

Thank you for reading!

This was a tough post to write – to be so open, but it has also helped me heal through this process. I’m off to get even more public & confess on Instagram now!

 

Come and participate in The Imperfect Boss!

Confessions of imperfect bosses - the reality of solopreneurship & life as a business owner

 
1. Sign up for more resources on theimperfectboss.com &/or:
2. Search the #theimperfectboss hashtag on Instagram
3. Comment with your non-judgemental support
4. Post your own {tiny to collosal} confession on Instagram + tag Ashley Beaudin & The Imperfect Boss
5. Find me on Instagram: @jedapearl, read my confessions and tag me too!

 

I’d love to hear if any of the feelings around shame or experiences I’ve talked about resonate with you? 

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