When I began undergrad I had a grandiose vision of what I would accomplish. With my acceptance into UW-Madison I was inspired to truly pursue my dream career of being a human rights lawyer. I worked hard in high school to be involved in activities to receive scholarships to fund my education. My track record and involvement in every extracurricular activity led me to believe that I would be successful in anything I did and that there was no way I would fail. Fast forward to the end of my freshman year and that dream was quickly falling out of my hands. I succumbed to the lifestyle of partying and truly “living the ultimate college experience” that I lost focus. With the partying came skipped classes, no studying and ultimately a GPA less than 1.0 and academic probation.
Yep, I blew my chances. No matter how hard I worked to get back on my feet I could not escape the detriment that my first year had caused. I began to tell myself that though I partied my failure was really another way of telling me that my dreams were too big. That I was naïve to even think I could do such great things. As I went through college (even withdrawing for a semester to get back on the right track) I carried around extra baggage constantly telling myself that I wasn’t good enough and that my GPA was the true proof that I wasn’t meant to do great things. Fast forward to graduation and my not good enough belief was validated as I applied for jobs that had a 3.0 minimum GPA, which I unfortunately did not have and thus couldn’t even score an interview.
When I entered the workforce I felt like a fraud and not good enough. I was so ashamed of my academic performance that I let it impact my professional career. I believed that my co-workers and peers were much smarter and more deserving of success because they had the GPA to prove it. My shame was only furthered when I took the LSAT and applied to two law schools and was ultimately rejected. My score was average but my GPA was the nail in my coffin. I again felt so ashamed and so embarrassed, truly believing that I was not meant to be successful or do great things.
My how things changed, since this is a blog post I can’t go into great detail on how I eventually began to believe in myself and not the number on my transcript but I can tell you that today I truly believe in myself and everything that I want to accomplish. Am I perfect, NOPE! But that’s what is so great. I have lived and learned through experience. Many of us succumb to society’s goals of what is socially acceptable. We judge ourselves instead of accepting ourselves. We tell ourselves we’re in some way incompetent or not deserving because we bench mark ourselves against others ideals or values versus finding our own brilliance.
My goal of this series is to create a forum for learning and connecting. An opportunity for others to let go of the self-shaming and stop giving it control over our lives. What’s your story? We all have many. I want to hear yours and so do the other readers!
In closing I will leave you with the definition of shame from Brown’s book.
Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance and belonging. Women often experience shame when they are entangled in a web of layered, conflicting and competing social-community expectations. Shame creates feelings of fear, blame and disconnection.
Let's stop shaming others and start empowering them to shine!
If you’re interested in sharing your story please answer the following questionnaire and send to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you want please send a photo of yourself that I can post, if you would rather remain anonymous that’s okay too!
What are you ashamed of or what is one of your shame experiences that you would like to share?
What type of support would you have wanted from those around you to reduce your shame?
What has helped you overcome the shame in this instance?
What would you have told yourself then that you know now?
Jenn DeWall, Denver based life & career coach for Millennial women