I hosted a call on zoom last Saturday which was meant to be an informational call about our new coaching program: Project Me First.
I had planned to open the call by sharing a short personal story of how I came to understand that all change begins within, and why the inner work we guide people through in the Project Me First program is important.
It was an epic FAIL.
At least that’s what my MIND told me.
I ended up giving a 30 minute rambling confession of how I relate more to white privilege than the experience of growing up black in America.
I spoke about coming to Howard University (The Mecca) from my homeland of Jamaica in 1980 and discovering for the first time, that black people were prejudiced too.
That I was able to clearly see for the first time the “colorism” (black on black prejudice) that I had very much grown up with in Jamaica, but that we label as “classism”.
I spoke about the disdain I felt for black Americans and the “chip they had on their shoulders” and how I looked down on Africans, especially Nigerians, feeling they had no “class”.
I spoke about my gratitude to Donald Trump and that despite my disdain for his behavior, I was grateful that it inspired me to look within myself and find – and address- my own racial prejudices. I also faced where I did not have the unwavering, unshakable belief in myself that he displays.
After the call, I found myself feeling tender hearted, sad and disappointed. I was angry at myself for not sticking to my “agenda” and not achieving the objective of the call. I felt I had left people confused (which was confirmed by an email I received by someone who had been invited to the call by a white friend who values my work – but misunderstood what the intention of the call was).
As the day progressed my whole system began “freaking out”. I felt nauseous. It was hard to breathe. I felt a panic attack coming on. I recognized I was experiencing terror in my body.
(As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and trauma, these physical sensations are not new to me. I would often experience feelings of terror in my body as the repressed memories were released from the tissues of my body during a healing session).
Feeling tender hearted and sad was not so much of a surprise with all that’s going on in the world. I have been “triggered” -i.e. – in a heightened, reactive, emotional state, almost daily for the last week.
The stress has been building over the last few months – with corona virus restrictions on travel and human physical connection; the economic impact of the ensuing global shut down; and then the riots about the police murder of (yet another) black person in America raising the issues of racism, prejudice, inequality and injustice – I have been increasingly triggered and uncomfortable.
What WAS surprising was observing my internal reaction after the call ended. The level of self HATE that bubbled up as I sat with my feelings. (I have done SO much work on this!)
I felt sick to my stomach as I observed the insults I was hurling at myself in my mind. The disdain I felt towards myself, as I told myself that I “should know better than to make more than one offer at the same time because “it only confuses people” and “a confused mind always says no”.
It was painful to observe the way my self confidence diminished as I self-flagellated, saying “I should know better”, and as I chastised myself for “talking about the ‘wrong’ things, the ‘wrong’ way.”
And then, the ‘piece de resistance’, the final blow to the gut: “Isn’t self-love what you TEACH people? How can you help anyone if you still struggle with this yourself?”.
My heart began to ACHE.
Fortunately, emotional healing is one of my areas of expertise and I have many tools in my toolbox. Decades of self-healing and personal growth have equipped me with the power to CHOOSE to change my experience.
I used the tool of EFT (tapping) to honor, express and release the thoughts and emotions, calming my nervous system and bringing me back to a centered, grounded state.
I chose to sit with the feelings of disappointment, shame, overwhelm, self-criticism and self-hatred that we’re arising within me – knowing the healing power of simply feeling and acknowledging them, without needing to understand why I felt them.
I chose to feel compassion for the woman (me) who is so deeply conditioned to blame and shame herself for showing her vulnerability or speaking up. For the woman who learned to judge her highly sensitive and emotional self – especially when she felt anger and rage.
The choice to practice this self-care allowed me to shift and I went to bed feeling calm, happy and connected.
When I awoke the next morning, understanding and clarity were waiting for me.
I realized I was having what Brene Brown calls a “vulnerability hangover” – A gut wrenching feeling that happens the moment we decide to get real about who we are, what we want, and how we express it.
In revealing new, vulnerable parts of my story, I had exposed myself (my truth, my heart) and opened myself to their judgment and criticism – and my own!
It’s the risk we must take in order to create deeper, more authentic connections.
So why am I choosing to share this story with you?
Because I know the antidote for shame is to tell. To speak up. My shame wanted me to shut up and NOT tell this story.
I access another level of personal freedom every time I release the limitation of shame and give myself permission to speak my truth, unapologetically.
Because I want to dispel the myth that we have to be “perfect” to lead. Or that powerful leaders don’t struggle with the very things we help others with. (It’s often exactly WHY we are so good at what we do).
Because I hope it will cause you to reflect and become more self-aware.
Because I deeply desire to live in a world where there is equality and justice for all.
Because I know that no one is truly free until we are ALL free.
Because I know that before I can practice greater acceptance of others I must first practice greater acceptance of myself.