Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

Shame Is Something We Learn

Recently, my son Aiden danced for the first time. Without any prompting or either parent showing him how, he just started moving to the music. First his hips, then his hands, and eventually his head bobbed, as if the act were hardwired into him. It was amazing.

Dancing kid

Photo Credit: Jonathan Adami via Compfight cc

At this age, Aiden doesn’t understand social norms. He doesn’t grasp that some men don’t dance, that it’s not always appropriate to bust a move in front a room full of strangers. And I love that. All he knows is that he feels the music, and when it plays, he has to move.

This isn’t something he was taught; it just comes natural. Some day, though, Aiden may not be so quick to move his hips. Some day, his friends might make fun of him for dancing or clapping or having blond hair. Who knows. Kids are cruel. But for now, Aiden dances.

My son, who is still very much a toddler, knows no shame. What little fear he possesses, he probably learned from me, over-parenting him while he was attempting something brave. But for the most part, he is shame-less, in the very best definition of the word.

I, on the other hand, am not. Insecurity has haunted me most of my life. As a child, I was overweight and awkward, with long hair and too many flannel shirts. As a teenager, I was often picked on, pushed around, kicked, teased, and called every name in the book. The result was a heightened level of caution when approaching risk in life. I knew the pain of embarrassment, the sting of shame when you stepped out of line. And I was determined to avoid it at all costs.

This was what I held onto for years, while secretly dreaming of becoming a writer. I’d been writing my whole life but was still afraid to admit I wanted it. Who was I to attempt something so bold? But when I finally shed my shame and decided to embrace my identity, something inside me came unlocked. And what I discovered is that shame is not our natural state. It’s something we learn. [Tweet]

Pat the Cow

Not long ago, my father-in-law decided to teach Aiden to call him by his first name, Pat. The next morning, our little guy woke up, saw a book with a cow on the cover and somehow connected the two experiences. He began calling the cow, “Pat.”

Weeks later, when asked, “What does Pat say?” Aiden would reply, “Moo!” We didn’t have the heart to correct him, partly because it was so hilarious and partly because at this age he can do no wrong in our eyes.

Call us naive, but we are doing everything we can to keep our son from feeling embarrassed. We try to not unnecessarily correct him or tell him his way of seeing the world is wrong. Because maybe it’s not. Maybe in his magical world where everything is new and wonderful, all the cows are named Pat.

I’d like to believe that innocence is not a weakness, but a virtue, and it’s our job as parents to preserve it for as long as we can. Sadly, shame will come to our son soon enough, in spite of our efforts to fight it. But for now, we are enjoying watching our boy believe in what is true and good, even if it means calling all the cows “Pat.”

Remembering to dance

Isn’t it interesting that dancing comes natural, but shame is something we learn?

Shame is not like your sense of smell or sight. We are not born embarrassed. Fear and self-doubt are habits we learn, often from those who have teased us into compliance or forced us into conformity. And at some point, if we are going to discover why we were born, we must unlearn these habits.

If you and I are going to unlock our true purpose, we’ll have to deal with shame head on. We’ll have to face our demons and reclaim who we really are. Finding your calling isn’t like a job search. It’s not about learning a new skill, but about reclaiming who you really are.

Some of us have been shamed out of our dreams and passions, forced to live as shadows of our true selves. Along the way, we knew we were faking, but we just didn’t know there was an alternative.

You were told to hide your gift, that the world didn’t need what you had to offer. But those were lies.

We all have a great work in us, some unsung song demanding to be let out. Many of us, if we are attentive enough, can hear the music, vibrating in our bones. So maybe it’s time to unlearn our shame and once again remember to dance.

When was the last time you felt shame for who you were? Share in the comments.

About Jeff Goins

I write books and help writers get their work out into the world. I am the best-selling author of four books, including The Art of Work. Each week, I send out a newsletter with free tips on writing and creativity.

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  • Hi Jeff,

    How telling this post is! I love how your son is doing his thing and how you’re supporting him, in doing it. I recall a grand dad speaking to his grand daughter not too long ago. He mentioned how if she acted a certain way in public, that people wouldn’t like her, and that she should be embarrassed. Now, the activity was a bit immature but it was the wrong way to go about it. This shame, this embarrassment complex, is passed down from generation to generation, and folks either perpetuate it, or cut it out of the whole pass down bit. You are doing a great job raising your family from a high energy space, which is awesome, awesome.

    I too have the same STUFF I am learning to shed. Different stuff in some ways but I can relate with your childhood too. I just spent the past 10 minutes trying to communicate with someone in Indonesian, or Indo to English. Totally frustrating at times, and funny, but I felt like an idiot at times and embarrassed, instead of rolling with the experience. Getting better, slowly but surely Jeff. I appreciate your lovely nudge in the direction of letting go, laughing and enjoying the moment.

    Thanks much!

    Tweeting from Bali.

    Ryan

  • I can relate to this one Jeff. Can’t we all? I feel like shame has followed me from childhood, like a barnacle and while I can’t shake it loose, I can choose to ignore its cruel comments.

    My son is three, but somehow he felt shame at a young age and I don’t know why since we never tried to shame him, consciously or not. When he’d do something wrong (whatever that means when you’re a toddler!), which was perfectly normal for his age and we didn’t blink an eye, he’d hide his face in the couch. We’d come over and comfort him and ask, what’s wrong? It’s ok. But it was SO sad and I still don’t quite get it.

    I guess shame seeps in early or later and all we can do is try to fill our children and ourselves with love and acceptance, and teach them over time how to turn that channel off.

  • I love this Jeff. Everything about it but especially a glimpse into your own beautiful metamorphosis. Thanks for sharing. While I dance in life all the time I’m still trying to get there with my writing. It’s a work in progress…

  • Angela Lacey

    What a lovely little relating of your son Aiden. It truly does point out that we all end up so very different that we were intended to be. We do that to ourselves, we allow others to do that to us too. No more, at least not for me and not for you. Thank you for sharing!!!

  • Hmmm

    God did not give you a spirit of fear.

    I consciously shed shame when I feel it
    I fight back by doing what I am afraid of or ashamed of all the time
    because I must fulfill my dreams and it is up to me
    God has put all that I will ever need to overcome inside me
    BUT
    If I don’t use it, I won’t know it is there.
    I feel no shame
    It is not part of my divinity but my humanity
    My divinity wants me to succeed, my humanity wants me to fail
    I will follow my divinity.

  • My greek aunt used to stroke one pointer finger over the other one with the words, “You should be ashamed of yourself.” And honestly, we had done nothing to bring that on. It was a regular part of her vocabulary. Consequently, any dancing was soon squelched as well as other childish antics we might have expressed.

    Enjoy every dance move. I do remember swinging on our backyard swing, singing at the top of my voice and not caring at all.

    The good news is we CAN learn how to shed shame, and although it’s a difficult process, it is possible.

  • rapidforceads

    Dear Jeff, but most of the bloggers are shouting that they can teach the way of blogging and get attention but your blog itself took 18 months as you have mentioned above then how it will be possible for others like us (New Bloggers) that we will be get throusand of readers.

  • Grace Cox

    Three years ago, I self-published a book. My proofreader quit on me half-way through the project and I did not have another. A person to whom I gave a copy of the book critiqued it (more than a year after it was published), and she found so many things that should have been said differently, so many “errors” in her view, that I was deeply ashamed of having ever thought I could produce something worth reading. I was deeply embarrassed that I had actually shared the book with a number of educated people.

    • Tracy Cain

      Congratulations Grace!!! 🙂 You’re a TRUE writer! The problem most of us have is our obsession with perfection. But you PUSHED past the obsession and actually shared your work, good for you! That’s a lot more guts than a lot of other people who wish to call themselves writers have done 🙂 So what if it’s not perfect? Nothing ever is. And if it were, people would still find something wrong with it anyway – we can’t please all the people all the time. To me, you are a true writer with a brave heart – you had a message and delivered it! Don’t let them rain on your parade and the gift you’ve been given! Have a great day!!

  • There is a different kind of shame that stems from relational and moral blunders. Even after repentance and doing the work of reclaiming what was lost, the whisper of shame continues. What right to I have to write about life when I have lived it poorly in the past? It is a lie that must be confronted on a daily basis. If anything, mistakes deepen our knowledge, and the world is desperate to see the grace that brings beauty from ashes.

    Thank you for the sweet reminder that I need to help my kids find and believe their own unique rhythms.

  • Sherwood81

    Good lesson for all of us who have far too often ignored our responsibility to teach and lead

  • Really love this post, Jeff. I’ve had to overcome and let go of a lot of shame in my life. The lies that shame told me kept me stuck in a pit for years. What a horrible place to hang out. I recognize those shame moments much quicker now and know I need to shine the light of Truth on them. Shame tells us to hide who we are or to run from our problems. Truth will never tell us to do that.

  • Oh man… You’ve really struck a cord on this one for me. So needed this. The past month or so have been an emotional roller coster mainly because of the whole “shame / comparison / worry about what others think” loop.

    It’s incredibly unhealthy, I know, but can get so difficult to control sometimes.

    This reminds me of that quote: “No one can make you feel anything you don’t allow.” Which also helps me — because when I remember that, I realize I don’t have to get into that mindset. Don’t have to allow shame, or any thing else chew away the mental space.

    Thanks, Jeff!!

  • I was bullied when I was a kid and the attached fear and shame have stuck with me all my life. I have a passion and desire to work with children, but I’m always pushing it to the side because of fear…..fear of not making enough money, fear that I won’t thrive working with children, fear of taking a step of faith. I’m currently in a career that pays the bills and that’s the jist of it. I’m praying for direction and courage to follow that direction once I find it. Thanks for the encouragement to keep pursuing my passion.

  • Rachel Cramsey

    Hi, Jeff. A very interesting and fitting (for me) read. Thanks for writing about and promoting discussions around shame. I think you might be interested in the work of Brene Brown, who is a social worker and shame researcher who really delves into this topic. The two of you seem to be on the same page, especially w regard to the hold shame can carry over us once it latches on. I hope fatherhood and life in all its facets continue to treat you well. Write on.

  • Melissa

    Thank you so much for this post. Excellent! As a psychotherapist and clinical trainer the shame issue is huge and we deal with it professionally all the time. Personally, as someone who has been overweight since I was there except for some extraordinarily unhealthy few times I was “normal” size, I found a place of self acceptance and also exercise, eating mostly healthy foods most of the time, low blood pressure, good cholestrol and such, even pushing 60. Yet…I still have clinicians call me out on my weight in their evaluation forms when I am teaching internationally. I have to remind myself if it is their shame or mine. I find, now, more skills in not receiving it anymore.

  • Serg Aksenov

    Great piece of writing about real life! I can relate to that, Jeff, I have a 3 year old princess Sasha:))) today she has decided to be sparkly:))) so she has picked a pinky purple dress and has worn it proudly to preschool with a big smile on her face:))) When she is happy, I feel so much joy, it’s hard to describe:)))
    I think it’s always two-way street with kids: they teach us about life as much as we do, maybe even more…so let’s rock’n’roll and progress together! It should be a great journey!

  • Nancy Lee Ma

    I really appreciated your article. I too, was made fun of when I was a child, and now embrace every bit of being different. As adults, the true survivors are the ones who know how to be different and don’t care what others think. We are each designed to be different and for those who can’t accept others uniqueness are the ones who lose out. Keep encouraging Aiden to be different and share your experience with him because he will appreciate the true survivor you have become.

  • Jeff, I can’t tell you how much I identified with this post. It seems like you wrote it specifically for me. I was shamed from “dancing” from when I was seven years old. That and a number of other “shaming” events left me scarred for life. I was trapped in fear. Even when I managed to overcome that fear a couple of years ago, the vestiges of “shame” still crop up.

    The latest was this morning. I woke up scared. My worry was on the course I am about to launch later this month, the “Leadership Safari”. The landing page is up. I had procrastinated to get it going for a couple of months. Due to my audience, the payment gateway has to include mobile money options on top of the major cards. It wasn’t until I was to integrate than the payment gateway holder inform me that I need a plugin developed. That on a nearly non-existent budget is crushing! But I will forge on.

    Thank you for sharing this. It lifted me up. My shame shall not guide me…

  • Great advice, Jeff, and your own personal journey is inspiring. As for dancing, I think I’ll spare you, me and everyone else the pain of watching me dance!

  • Willow

    Yesterday, my neighbor sent me a text/photo of my first-grade son dancing to “Gangnam Style” with her two boys. I love, love, LOVE the fact that not only will my son will do this at someone else’s house, but that she appreciates this kind of freedom as much as I do. In all honesty, she is much better at promoting free expression than I am. She and her husband both have degrees and careers in the art world, where I am a boring chemistry geek. I want my child to sing and dance, play and express himself, without feeling shame. I have been “busted” by coworkers driving by my house, while my son and I are having glorious light saber battles to the death. I have been caught singing in the car as I pull into the parking lot at work. I am honestly not trying to attract attention, but I also don’t always squelch my actions because somebody might see me. I was not always this way, but I have purposefully broken away from the cookie-cutter persona that is often expected, and I’ve allowed myself to be me. This especially applies at home or in non-work events. There is a limit to how much fun nerdy science people can have on the clock, after all, especially when we are making medicine. 🙂 Thank you, Jeff, for the wonderful post. In life, we cannot forget to dance.

  • Krithika Rangarajan

    Please share a video of your munchkin dancing to the irresistible tune in his unsullied soul! 😀

    I agreed with everything you said, but would just like to add that – sometimes – the shame is self-inflicted too! For instance, no one (but one guy who is no longer in my life) said I was ‘fat’, but his one comment led me to a diagnosis of Anorexia, multiple hospitalizations and loss of most of my teeth.

    I struggle with accepting myself as a whole every day, but really cannot blame anyone else for my stupidity (not anymore, at least…I used to be adept at ‘copping out’ by pointing fingers at someone else!)

    Love ya
    K

    • Willow

      K,
      It was just a screenshot, no video, but thanks for asking! You are right, in that shame can certainly be self-inflicted. I would never suggest it’s easy for people to change that, but I would encourage people to find some way (a great friend, a support group, a therapist, whatever feels right for them) to make it a priority to overcome that shame. It’s not going to be an overnight process. It may take years, but it’s SO worth it. We have to love ourselves – the weird, wacky, imperfect, unique people that we are! It makes such a difference. I know. I didn’t always love myself, but I do now. I’m so far from perfect. I’m still trying to improve myself, and always probably will, BUT I also love me for who I am right now. There is a tremendous sense of peace that comes with it. You can do it.

      -Willow

  • Well said, Jeff. As a child, I was drawn to ballet. My parents insisted I take piano lessons instead. I’m a grandmother now. One of my granddaughters has music and dancing in her soul. Watching her inspires and fulfills me.

  • JR33D

    This post really resonated with me Jeff – Thanks so much for publishing it.

    I’m striving to take my photography seriously and make it my life’s passion and livelihood. I’ve gotten work and compliments from local businesses, some of which are Fortune 100 level companies. My work has been seen on their brands’ social media channels by hundreds of thousands of people and liked many times.

    Recently I’ve started developing my presence on Instagram, and it’s going very slowly finding followers who will stick with me.

    Just about an hour ago, a follower I personally know whose opinion I respect stopped following me. And that tiny act sent me into a tail-spin. Every internal doubt I have about myself sprang into sharp relief and took a grip of my consciousness. If this person doesn’t feel like my work is worth following – isn’t worth sticking around to cheer the progress – maybe I just suck at this – maybe I have no right to be putting my work out there. Maybe I’m terrible at this after all. Maybe all the work and progress I’ve seen over the past few years is a fluke.

    It’s crazy how something so small and really meaningless can trigger the shame response we’ve learned so well over our whole life.

    I had to catch myself – examine the evidence before me and weigh this tiny act against all the positive feedback I’ve been receiving and realize that the difference between 64 and 63 followers this early in the game doesn’t mean a thing about my abilities or where I’m going. Progress is progress. Just a few weeks ago I had zero followers. And just 3 years ago I couldn’t take photos with nearly the confidence and competence I do now.

    I’m glad to have found your work and your story for inspiration. And I’m glad that I can tell when my shame response kicks in so that I can take a deep breath, examine the facts, and stop it.

  • This is powerful Jeff. Shame is something we all learn and it can be so hard to unlearn it. Shame and guilt, as well as that feeling that whatever one does, one can never do ( or be) enough. Of course these are all memes, and not based in reality, but unlearning them is a real challenge.

  • Donna Freedman

    It’s taken me decades to be able to say “I am a good writer” without feeling shame. Here’s how that shame used to sound:
    –“Says who?”
    –“Well, aren’t you full of yourself!”
    –“Who do you think you are?”
    Fact is, I’ve made a living as a writer for 31 years and have won regional and national awards for my work. But until fairly recently, I was ashamed to say, “I am good at this.”
    To be clear: I don’t walk around bragging about what a great writer I am. But I no longer pretend that I don’t know what I’m doing, or that I just got a few lucky breaks.
    P.S. Liberating oneself from shame = increased peace of mind. I highly recommend it.

  • rebelheart

    As a kid, I, too, was picked on for being ugly –though unlike you, I was skinny and had glasses and crooked teeth), and we had moved when I was in the middle of 2nd grade from Fort Worth to a small town in another state. So I was also picked on for my accent and for being from somewhere else. I was shy and nerdy. But one thing I enjoyed doing at
    home, even at a young age, was dancing. I never took dance lessons.

    Then when I went to high school, I was still skinny and nerdy—a nice, quiet, conservative looking girl. But when I’d hit the dance floor, I was someone else. I didn’t care what people thought. I just loved moving to the music. Abba’s “Dancing Queen” was popular at the time, and it was me. I attended school with many African-Americans, and they used to tell me, “Julie, You dance like a black person,” which I considered the highest compliment. Recently, a young African-American told me that he couldn’t dance. I couldn’t help but think that maybe it’s because the music today isn’t as motivating? But that may be me, just being old. lol

    I still love to dance. One radio djay said something about people who grew up listening to disco are in the best shape, because it propels you to move. I believe that’s true, but I’ll dance to anything, not just disco. Metallica is great. My youngest brother used to say that Madonna’s song was for me: “Only when I’m dancing can I feel this free.
    At night, I lock the door where no one else can see.”

    So, please tell your son to never stop dancing. My son used to ‘move to the groove’
    when he was a toddler, and I always encouraged it, especially when we’d attend
    Cajun dances. I told him that girls ALWAYS like a guy who’s going to dance with her. It’s rare to find one who doesn’t. He keeps on dancing using college ballroom as an outlet. It’s a great way to meet girls too!

    So, Jeff, maybe one day when all the windows are covered, you can dance with your son. No one laughing at you. Just you and your son having fun and feeling the music.

  • Great post and so true as well, great insight here Jeff. That’s why I love getting out on the dancefloor and making a fool of myself, lip syncing in private (and occasionally in private), and doing some crazy dancing to my ipod in private – just a chance to let go and be a bit child-like, lose that shame that we all pick up.

    Great post Jeff.

    • hah! nice, James. I never would’ve guessed it. 🙂

  • Janelle Keith

    Such a great post. I’m blown away by the way you write my feelings so well. Thank you. I used to weigh 244 lbs. Shame keeps me trapped mentally there with the lies that I’m obsessed with food….still. That I can’t become a runner and that I’ll never measure up. That I’ll never be strong enough to get story of change published. Shame is something that hinders me. Working past the shame of my past and looking forward to my future that is bigger than me. Pressing into the new me at maintaining half by body weight now, 122. That took great courage to dance in front of this audience.

    • Wow! Congratulations, Janelle! You should be proud.

      • Janelle Keith

        It’s a dream come true. Now how to help people out of their shame closets…interesting that’s the proposed idea for my book project. Based around the junk we collect in our closets, that keep us prisoners to fear and shame. Its in the cleaning of those dark places where the freedom shines the brightest. 🙂

  • K D

    I think I will just get a bracelet that asks, what would Jeff Goins do? Some challenging perspectives here.

    • Hah! Probably “run and hide.” 😉

  • Toes

    I remember having a similar experience with my boy.
    What a great reminder kids are that our true nature is our most beautiful selves.

    Thanks for the encouragement!
    How do you navigate that fine line between shame that is destructive and the kind that’s useful for social development?

    • I don’t think shame is every useful. Guilt says “I did something bad.” Shame says, “I am bad.”

  • Anupam Kumar

    innocence is a virtue, we realize it only after we have lost it…

  • fiona_ballantyne

    Long may he dance with Pat the Cow 🙂 I love Brene Brown distinguishing between guilt and shame. Guilt says I DID wrong. Shame says I AM wrong.

    Shame is the thief of happiness I cannot afford to engage with anymore. Thanks for the beautiful reminder this morning.

  • I think we adults get too smart and complicate life when if we just took a step back and looked at life through the eyes of a child, we would appreciate just how simple and lovely life really is.

  • Sparrow

    When was the last time you felt shame for who you were? – Pretty much every day since I was a young child. My mother went out of her way to publicly shame and humiliate me at a young age, so I am heartened that you care so much about protecting your son from shame or embarrassment. I can’t think of anything positive coming from humiliation; it doesn’t lead to humility (a virtue). I must admit that shame is something i am having a hard time unlearning. Kudos to both of you as parents.

  • Cindy V

    What a beautiful post! I think so many of us can identify with this. May your son dance with joy and abandon for many years!

  • Great post, Jeff. I can’t help but to think its the exact same thing when it comes to lack or shortage. As a young kid, I remember the day I was told that we didn’t have enough. I was taught shortage and have lived my life through that perspective ever since. I have spent the last two years of my life reversing and undoing those events.

    Again, great post.

  • Sassy

    It’s been a long time since I’ve felt shame for being who I am. I’m 60 (nearly 61), and I teach elementary music 2 days a week. I dance with children all day on those days. Elementary school children are very accepting. I live with hugs and smiles when I’m with them. I would never have danced with my high school children ten years ago.

    • Love it, Sassy!

      • Sassy

        Hi, Jeff. I’m a friend of Laura Hile’s – a writer, too. My name is Robin Helm, but when I sign in with Twitter, I use Sassy. I guess I am.

  • Curtis O. Fletcher

    When our boys were little they would spend most of their summer days outside in the backyard. On nearly every outing their first activity was to shed their clothes and spend their outdoor hours completely naked. Needless to say this shocked a few of our friends who brought their toddler sons over for play dates at the “pastor’s house”. Perhaps more shocking to them was the fact that we were fine with it. My wife theorized that the “age of accountability” was that age at which a child learned to be ashamed of their nakedness. Unfortunately I think our boys learned that at friends houses more than ours. The world conspires to rob us of our freedom and clothe us in social conformity is so many subtle ways. Thanks for the reminder to be “out there” as we were created to be…like Adam and Eve, without shame.

  • CM

    Remember to dance, or cry, once more…(like I’m doing right now). The secret dark world of shame knows no boundaries. Great word. Powerful post. Nice work.

  • Hope M.

    So, so good, Jeff! Thanks for sharing.

  • Great post Jeff. I particularly loved the dance example. So true that we become so much more self conscious as we get older. I appreciate you reminding me of that this morning. I am going to dance today in your honour! Not sure if it will be in public – but I will dance for the sheer joy of it! Have a great day 🙂

  • Shairease Rogers

    Great article. True about being shamed and told to hide your gifts. I dumbed my gifts and talent down to make my critics feel better. I was call a show off but I was just gifted in many areas. I made sure I raised my sons to be fearless and that they could do anything with God on their side.

  • Jeff, you didn’t miss your calling. Even though you don’t minister in the context of an overt spiritual environment your gift has been unleashed into the world through the power of your words, your thoughts and your perceptions. Preach it Jeff. Great article!!!

  • excellent, loved it…shame is how we adults make sure others don’t get too far ahead of us, or so we think…it’s part and parcel of the scarcity mentality…

  • Moses is what I named my doll, not Barbie.
    I would glance at my reflection in other girls
    patent leather shiny shoes.

    Part of a poem I wrote. I took the blame for shame as she became my shadow.

    Annie Freewriter

  • This is such a great way to look at shame and guilt.

    It’s interesting to think how we started to develop shame and to become embarrassed. We stopped being able to laugh at ourselves because we care too much of what others think.

    Your son, Aiden is a perfect example of to forget what others think or say about us and to just dance to the grooves of life!

    Thanks for another awesome article, Jeff!

  • Tony

    I understand exactly wherre you are coming from, Jeff. As a pre-teen and teenager, I was made fun of for not having enough money, not dressing or looking the right way or not following the “norms”. And I wasn’t even a Christian yet! I am just now learning who I am (at 43 none the less) and refuse to let the shame of the geek in me.
    On a lighter note, aren’t kids wonderful?!?! My daughters make me laugh every day with the off the wall things they say or do, as do my older boys when I see them. I have made it my goal to make my wife laugh every day, in any way possible. It’s worked so far!

  • Fighting the urge to correct my kids is difficult, but I never want to shame or embarrass them. The motivation comes from a desire to see them ultimately succeed, but even those pure intentions can rob a kid of the wonder of imagination and the magic of a moment. Like dancing as if you one is watching or call cows “Pat”.

    I haven’t felt shamed recently, but I recall being corrected often for nitpicky things over the years and that always felt more embarrassing than whatever I said or did in the first place.

  • Bruce Pittman

    Great, great word, Jeff. Very insightful. Shame is so powerful and controllilng. We must confront it head on. Do you mind if I use this in my blog as a guest post next week? Will certainly give credit.

    • Hi Bruce. Feel free to share an excerpt and link to it.

      • Bruce Pittman

        Much thanks, Jeff!

  • Kathryn Leonard

    I have never looked at shame in this way…I have been stuck for so long. I signed up for Tribewriters, did one assignment, and froze again! I used to dance. Your inspiration has opened my eyes and brought new determination into my spirit. Thank you, Jeff, I needed this.

  • Philip Cachero

    …. and when what he’s doing will be ridiculed by those around him, how you respond?

    I love the innocence of this age. I hate what life can do to a soul over time.

  • Melinda Taylor

    Thank you for this Jeff. I agree with you wholeheartedly . I am an older woman who was married to a man who was verbally abuse and was made to feel that I was dumb and stupid. When I got out of the marriage I started to keep journals as a means of healing. Then I started writing short stories in my Christmas letters. People started telling me that they could hardly wait for my Christmas letters to come. Thus I started writing more and more. I write the stories and read them to senior citizens groups, give copies to friends and relatives and I have submitted a few to magazines and such. Thanks to you and your messages I have grown more confident. Thank you so much. I just wanted to tell you a little bit of my story as an example of what shame can do to you

  • Gina Michelle

    This is great. It’s one reason I took my boys out of public school. They are so unique and I wanted to allow them to retain their individuality. One of my kids is a ballet dancer! I don’t think he’d feel free to dance if he was shamed in a public school when he used to move to the music!

  • Kate

    Shall we all dance?! Yes!! Let’s dance!

  • Great post! I can empathize with a lot of your experiences, and I really like the assertion that shame is a learned feeling. So many of us have learned it, and it is great that you are encouraging people to break free of it. And keep on parenting your son with positive, encouraging words. You will be glad you did. 😀

  • Marlane Mazur

    Dance! Yes! I have a picture in my front hall that I love. It says: SING…as if no one is listening…LAUGH…like life had no hurdles & DANCE..as if no one is watching! Thank you, Jeff. This is great. When we were raising our kids, the rules were so different & I often let them break a couple by taking them everywhere with us so they would not be shy about themselves. My grandchildren, today’s generation, are comfortable where EVER they are ! I love that. They are growing up confident in who they are in a crowd or anywhere.
    Aiden’s got great joy to share! You are terrific parents to let him!