Tag Archives: shame

Shifting the Balance

I have a skin condition called Vitilgo.  Vitiligo is an autoimmune disorder that causes pigment to disappear.  My body is scattered with randomly shaped patches and spots that have lost all colour.  I’ve named them my islands of white.  Thousands of people are living with the condition in varying degrees.  Although it is purely cosmetic with no other sinister symptoms, Vitiligo can be deeply debilitating. Self esteem can disappear along with the pigment, leaving many people who have the condition feeling odd, unusual, self conscious – sadly uncomfortable in their ever shifting skin.


Like countless others, people with Vitiligo have to confront on a daily basis an aspect of themselves that they might wish to be different.  Plenty of us wrangle with our perceived flaws, spending precious time daydreaming, “If only I didn’t have_____ ” Fill in the blank. It is especially challenging in a media driven society that is intent on disseminating such a limited and superficial vision of beauty.

We are all of course multi dimensional.  But defaulting to defining ourselves by one narrow element is a trap that can easily snare even the most self aware.

Think on aspect of yourself that you are dissatisfied with or that you try to wish away.  It can be a physical feature, a medical condition or a personality trait.  Write in detail about that aspect  of yourself.  Spend time reflecting on how it has affected your life.  Are you self conscious?  Does it stop you from moving forward? Are you worried about other people’s judgment?  

Now think of an aspect of yourself that you feel good about.  A strength.  A quality or feature you have been complimented on and feel proud of.  How has it benefited you? Give this part equal time and attention.  Be specific. 

If we put all our weight constantly onto only one leg, we will most probably begin to feel a nagging ache in our hip.  We will be off balance.  Not unlike giving constant attention to negative aspects of ourselves, while disregarding our strengths and skills.  Something, somewhere inside of us will suffer.

Shift the balance. Centre yourself.


Write for at least five minutes on both topics, remaining aware of which topic wants more of your attention.Go…

After you’ve written, if you’re interested to hear me talking to Nathalie from
VITILIGO FRIENDS about living with the condition and using writing as a tool, you can listen HERE

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Risk It

Two days ago I released the website and the blog into the wider world. It’s strange to know that now I’m not the only one reading these posts! I have had a lot of love and encouragement flying my way as a result, and I am extremely grateful.

Attempting anything new is always a risk. We risk being vulnerable. Feeling exposed. We risk getting it ‘wrong’ and feeling uncomfortable, or at worst having to battle the dreaded, loathsome enemy – shame.

Shame is a such a visceral, pervasive emotion.  It can appear in an instant, usually when we find ourselves at the mercy of someone else’s reaction. It gets us in the gut. Coats us in a slimy film. It has the power to diminish us in seconds. In a blink we can transform from a functioning grown-up into a very small person longing to be smaller, or even more effective – invisible.

Shame is often rooted in our ancient histories (early school experiences; mocking reactions from our peer group or adults; in the most serious cases – abuse) but a present day reminder can trigger instant recall, and we end up tangled in a destructive loop.  Some people go to great lengths to avoid ever being in that position again, and their lives shrink considerably as a result.

I have never been a natural risk taker. You won’t find me bungee jumping or balancing on a narrow edge.  As a child, I was even scared to walk down a steep hill. I was afraid of being hurt or looking like a fool. Some of us just are.  But I am learning to find alternate ways to bungee jump. I am risking breaking the loop in order to try things out.  I am dipping my toes into waters I previously judged far too icey. The rewards, as I am discovering, are golden.  I’m becoming more resiliant and that feels like warm relief. It is not a simple process. Many of us are very entrenched in the habits and ways of being that we have constructed to keep us feeling protected and safe. But ironically, many of us also feel imprisoned by those same security measures. It takes time to bend the bars.

Begin here. Think about an experience where you felt overcome with shame. How did you react?  What were you left with after it had all unfolded?  Stay with the feelings. Be specific. Now write a letter to the people or person who you feel contributed to that shame response in you.  Don’t hold back. Write in BIG BOLD LETTERS. Allow your words to SHOUT.  Tell your truth.  When you are finished – rip it up, or better yet – put it in an envelope (if you still have one!)  Write whatever you wish to on the front, and take it to a post/mail box and slip it through the slot.  Or leave it on a table at Starbucks. Or propped in a tree branch. Or on the bus. Or on a bench.

Just let it go…

Notice how you feel as you walk away.

Sometimes we need a grand gesture to make a start.  Risk it…

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