In this episode, Miriam talks about shame, silence and secrets and how they affect us. She explores what shame is and how it affects our mental health. Shame and silence are linked and it creates isolation. She shares her own journey and adds in there the idea of secrets that we don’t share and they eat us up from the inside.
- Shame can affect our mental health, it thrives on secrets we believe we have to protect
- Secrets can be harmful for our mental and physical health and also our relationships
- Miriam explores her relationship with shame, isolation and silence. She craved connection but shame kept her isolated from the people around her.
- She shares how she finally released herself from shame
- How the secrets we keep have power over us and sometimes we keep them longer than necessary
- She suggests some ways you can release shame and become less isolated. She is available to do this work with you as a trauma recovery coach.
“They say Time heals all wounds. But in the case of trauma, that’s now not how it goes.”
“Many things happen to you, but the gem that you are still in there in you. So it’s a matter of giving voice to those feelings of shame. naming them out”
“Sometimes we have secrets that we we’re so scared that we come and destroy everything. And then we don’t even realize when the secret has no power anymore. And we keep it and sometimes people keep secrets with a lifetime that they could actually read themselves of and find freedom.”
ABOUT THE HOST
Miriam is a Trauma Informed Coach, an African, a mom of three daughters, a blogger and writer. After graduating from the London School of Economics, she built her international career in the fields of banking and international development, working for organisations such as the World Economic Forum, Lombard Odier Private Bank, JP Morgan, the Mastercard Foundation and the United Nations. She now uses her passion for psychology and dedicates her time to coaching others to free themselves from the burden of childhood trauma. Her wish to help other women connect to their inner wisdom, love themselves and follow their passion. In her effort to destigmatize mental health and normalize mental health conversations in black communities, she wrote her memoir about surviving childhood and finding her worth.
Miriam Njoku 0:09
Hello dear listeners, today we are going to talk about shame, silence and secrets. Shame can be defined as a feeling that a person is at their core bad or wrong. It's a bit linked to guilt. But shame is more internal shame can lead to many mental health challenges including depression and anxiety. It can also make it difficult for someone to become close to others. Because if we are stuck in this feeling that we are bad, there's something wrong with us within that, if we may, we might believe that if people get close to us, they will discover how bad we are. So we can keep people at arm's length. Some people are so paralyzed by shame that they cannot even be productive at school or at work. shames often actually stems from traumatic experiences. Some people think that the bad things that happened to them were deserved, that they deserve for these bad things that to happen to them. They might feel shame about being abused, sexually abused. Yeah. So when it's like that it's important to go to therapy or find help to release this shame because when we keep secrets, they fester and they eat us up and secrets they feed into shame it's and silence to all the things we don't talk about all the hurt or the pain. Because we're in court encouraged to just move on. That was a long time ago, you should be over that by now. They say Time heals all wounds. But in the case of trauma, that's now not how it goes. If we don't tackle the trauma, we don't work through it. It stays and then it impacts our lives even when we don't realize that's what's happening. Yeah, shame, silence. Because silence too can be imposed. All the things we don't have the right to talk about. When we hear things like Africans Don't, don't know depression, there is no depression in the African community or in the black community. Those the stigma, right? Those ideas are not from our community. We don't know that. We don't suffer from that. And then people who feel these feelings who suffer from depression or anxiety, where they we they keep hiding their hurt. And then they're overwhelmed, because there's so much shame to even see anything. And then it can lead people to isolate themselves even further. And make it even really difficult to ask for help. And people try to cope on their own. And they wonder but how come I'm not coping I should be over this by now. Everybody told me so. So it must be my fault that I'm not coping, there's something wrong with me. So it's that cycle feeding itself. But the thing is, research has shown that secrets can really really be harmful for our well being our relationships and our health. And since shame thrives on secret keeping, it's important that we release ourselves from, from from from secrets. We can keep secrets, as I said before, regarding our mental health, prior trauma, our own happiness, or even our physical appearance, that we are ashamed of many things. And since there is no body to turn to sometimes to talk about these things. We might just keep them bottled up. But it's really bad for our health. There's really a correlation between all of these things and physical ailments people suffer sometimes some people they can have eggs, bad egg or eggs all over the place. But sometimes it's just all the pent up emotions that they cannot put word to, that they don't dare speak about. It puts us at a higher risk of illness or of these, these emotions we give inside. So my relationship with shame, well, shame has been a big part of my life. A big big part. I can say that for many Yes, I couldn't form close relationships with people. I kept people at arm's length, I would only meet friends if I
if I could manage to put my best foot forward if my depression was not so bad that the that I could pull myself together, get dressed and then go and they laugh. The thing is, when I was reunited with my mother in Switzerland, I never saw my mother show any emotion, then she was fine. So, for me, I didn't have the right to speak about anything. And my mother never asked us about anything about our life, it was just supposed to be smooth. Sailing, right? All that shame about all my early childhood abuse is all the shame about many things I went through, made that I had a really negative image of myself. And I just felt like if anyone knew the real me, if anyone met the real me, they will reject me, they will run away from me. So of course, it kept me isolated. All I craved was to be connected. But I was only I was so afraid that I stayed in isolation. And it was really difficult managing all my relationships that we my friendships, my relationship with my mom.
Unknown Speaker 6:38
She put a distance and I also put a distance so we were not close. And, yeah, it's really, it's kind of really sad and isolating.
Miriam Njoku 6:51
That's the word. And sometimes actually, to deal with this feeling of shame. We can pick up coping mechanisms, some people turn to substance abuse, drugs or alcohol. compulsive behaviors, like shopping, or gambling or even workaholism. And mine was that workaholism, like working so hard to prove to myself and a word that I was worthy that I was because I struggled with so much of feeling that I am worthy. And, and also, like society loved when you would, I mean, I was so much praised for having good grades in school. But sometimes it would slip by and then I would sleep and I will say something really very negative about myself. And then so I would say, but don't say that. You cannot say that. And then I will just say, Oh, no, yeah, I was just joking. But I was not joking. So I will just go back into my shell and stuff. But I think the key again, is to reach out for help. reach out for help in the way that make you comfortable. It could be like a group, if you have friends, talking to friends or doing group therapy, or, you know, there are many fellowships online that you can join, or coming to me for coaching. Because I'm a trauma recovery coach, as you all know, I don't know, you could do many things. But it's the idea is to break the cycle of isolation, and connect, connect to the to others and know that there's nothing wrong with you. As Oprah says in her new book with Dr. Perry, they are the question is What happened to you? And not what is wrong with you, but it's not because there's absolutely nothing wrong with you. Many things happen to you, but the gem that you are still in there in you. So it's a matter of giving voice to those feelings of shame. naming them out, like calling out What are you ashamed about I ashamed of your body of your I don't know, your job, or the things you're ashamed about. You can write them down, you know, or tell a friend or journal about them. And then you can tackle them one by one, you can take a small shame or they you see okay, does this really make sense? Is this Is this true? And then you can work on that to undo it. Yeah. And maybe with time, you can free yourself from shame. My freedom from shame came when I was pregnant with my third daughter. And that's when I found my voice to even talk about these things. I'm talking About. So it's important and it's so freeing not to be calculating what I tell people. I was so much, I was so ashamed of being discovered at work in with my friends with my, like always making jokes trying to entertain everyone, because I was just so scared of being rejected. But not at I myself, I don't even remember what I tell people because I know, I see the same things I don't have to calculate, or when I told this person, but I didn't tell this person, but I don't want to tell this person. But all those crazy calculations with the aim of keeping me hidden. And because I was trying to be safe. I don't need that anymore. Like, I don't care how it looks like, I just know. That's me. And then I know how I feel. And then I don't know what it looks like. And I don't care, actually, because that's other people's business. Yeah. So if you want to talk about shame, I like talking about this topic, because it holds a lot of people back. It's really, it's terrible. And sometimes we keep secrets longer than we need to. Sometimes we have secrets that we we're so scared that we come and destroy everything. And then we don't even realize when the secret has no power anymore. And we keep it and sometimes people keep secrets with a lifetime that they could actually read themselves of and find freedom. And they keep holding on to that secret because that's what they've learned. They don't know any better. Okay, I need to go You guys know I'm a mom. I can hear my baby crying. So yeah, I wanted to see more things but I think we get the gist of it.