Updated: Apr 16, 2021
Bravery can show up in so many ways – standing up for a cause or injustice in the face of adversity; quitting a job you’re unhappy in before you have another one lined up or signing up for a yoga certification course to realize a long held dream.
Being brave is about overcoming those voices and stories in your head that tell you that you’re not good enough. That you shouldn’t start that business because you don’t know what you’re doing. That you shouldn’t take that time out for you even though every cell in your body is screaming you need a break.
It means pushing the envelope of your comfort zone, flying in the face of conventional wisdom or finally facing up to something that you’ve been avoiding just because it makes you uncomfortable.
When I was considering how I could continue my own personal growth by being brave, I wanted to focus on something that would truly push my boundaries personally and be truly vulnerable. At first I was a little stuck. But then I was talking to one of my colleagues about her area of expertise when I realized what it had to be.
Sex! I have never been comfortable talking about sex. Don’t get me wrong. I like sex. The act of it. As long as I didn’t have to talk about ‘it’ as it relates to me personally.
This started me thinking about why, at age 55, was it so hard for me to talk about something that is such a huge part of life. When I looked at it more closely, I realized that I had some shame around it. At first I wasn’t sure exactly where it came from. We never talked about it in my house growing up, which may have added to the mystery. Upon further reflection, I realized that what I knew about sex growing up was in relationship to the girls in school who did ‘it’ and were labelled ‘sluts’ and the subject of the juicy gossip of the day. No matter that the boys they were doing it with were viewed with awe and admiration for their conquests. It didn’t even occur to me at the time that there was something very flawed with this discrepancy, but like so many things we learn growing up, I accepted it as fact and internalized it.
That meant as a female, I should be ashamed when I had sex. It was somehow wrong.
So a long marriage and two kids later, clearly this no longer holds up, and it’s time to get to the bottom of it.
Now that I had some context for it, and could label the feeling around it, I started researching. It turns out, I’m not alone in my shame about sex. Like me, many women grew up with the story that it was not ok to experience personal pleasure, and in fact, the topic is purely tabu.
The problem is, is that not talking about shame only makes it more insidious. It’s like it thrives in the dark, taking a deep hold of our inner fears. The more we hold onto it, the more powerful it becomes. Brené Brown, a renowned shame researcher says: ‘‘Shame cannot survive being spoken. It cannot survive empathy…it needs 3 things to grow exponentially in our lives: secrecy, silence and judgement’.
If that’s the case, then the anti-venom for shame is shining a big old spotlight on it. By talking about it, the stigma dissipates and the shame becomes exposed for what it really is – a fraudulent perpetrator that keeps us stuck, shackled by fear.
So if you, like me, have been holding on to shame around sex – or any other area in your life – and you are ready to free yourself from it so that you can live your wholehearted authentic life, then join me in seeking out the myths that are keeping you stuck.
And while it’s not easy to speak your shame, it’s not until we face it and expose it - bravely and vulnerably - that we will be free.