June 14, 2016

Coming Home, Part 3: I Still Have Shame

This week, we continue our series with Elloa Atkinson. She shares powerfully about how she let go of being "finished" healing.


Today, a slightly awkward yet equally relief-inducing confession: I still have shame.

Yes, I call myself a “life-changing coach” and I am 14 years drug-free and sober. Yes, I’ve done a ton of inner and outer work in the last decade and a bit. Yet I still feel shame, and not infrequently either.

Not only with that, but I’m also intimately acquainted with many other elements of being human: judgement, jealousy, comparison, fear, insecurity, immaturity and a penchant for sugar that often teeters on the edge of being out of control. 

Basically, I’m still human! Argh!

I’ve done a lot of healing ‘stuff’ over the years, and so far, none of it has cured me of that particular malady that comes with being human or is perhaps the being human itself. 

I’ve done workshops, breathwork, therapy, a ton of movement practices, EMDR, EFT, shamanic journeying and a lot of crying. I have had a shamanic soul retrieval, have done twelve step programmes, family constellations, singing lessons, gestalt work, have had spiritual awakenings, couples therapy, coaching and a multi-generational family study.

Surely I should be sorted by now? 

Surely I should be done with what my dad calls all this “hippy shit.”

Surely I shouldn’t have any shame left in me?

As nice a narrative as it sounds, the reality is an unequivocal no.

I still feel shame and fear. I still get insecure. I still feel a ton of self-doubt (two weeks ago my coach sent me an article on the Imposter Syndrome, something I’ve read about a lot but have always kept at arm’s length, the subconscious thought being that ‘I’m beyond that stuff’, and lo and behold, I saw myself -- my thoughts and fears -- in every descriptor).

Here I am, a so-called transformational coach and I am still fully human, still very much in the process of becoming me.

It’s less appealing perhaps than the “I was in pain but now my life is sorted” glossy before-and-after story, but it’s made of the stuff of a real life: gloriously messy in its authenticity. I refuse to present myself otherwise, just as I refuse to downplay my brilliance.

There is a lot of conversation in new age and personal development circles about healing, and dozens if not hundreds of modalities that offer it. When I purchased my life coach insurance, I was a little overwhelmed by the number of therapies on offer. In the slightly icky world of online marketing, we coaches and healers are taught to communicate what the outcomes for our clients will be. 

Freedom from shame!
Self-love and acceptance!
You will feel more confident than you ever have!

On and on the promises go, offering to clear negative, limiting beliefs for good. To be honest my ego sometimes feels a little insulted when I read about a powerful technique for clearing blocks and beliefs in 30 seconds or less because so much of the work I’ve done has been stomach-churning, sweat inducing and downright painful. 

Yet the possibility eats away at me: “Is this the missing piece? Is this the secret sauce I’ve been looking for all my life?!”  Maybe a fire walk will do it, or a new energy technique, or a superfood. Perhaps the answer is in a breathing technique I’ve never heard of, or a shaman I’ve yet to work with. (For the record: I am currently doing a conscious connected breathing 10 week process, and I’m going to Peru in November to work with a shaman so these are very real examples!)

I sometimes cling onto the vain hope that there is something out there that will permanently take away the insecurity, fear and shame from within me, making me invincible to it. I can still get caught up in shiny object syndrome, wondering if there is a magical process, therapist, workshop or healing method that really will give me that extra something and take the shame away. 

I think that’s perhaps what’s underneath a lot of the glitzy promises -- they tap into the very understandable desire to be free of all and any icky, uncomfortable, vulnerable, messy, uncontrollable emotion, whether that is shame (get body confidence for life!), uncertainty (get clear and get going!) or fear (take charge of your relationships, for good!).

Being in the industry, I read about new stuff all the time, and with the proliferation of amazing websites, graphics and perfectly curated social media feeds, it’s very easy to start to get sucked in, even as an intelligent, well-informed person. The lesson is simple: don’t believe the hype.

So what is the truth here?

The truth is, I have experienced transformative self-acceptance. My best friend Liz will tell you that I am so different from the scared girl she once knew who basically just cried and felt paranoid most of the time.

The truth is, I have felt love for myself beyond anything I ever thought was possible for me. I used to stare with pure hatred at my body, the loathing and disgust escalating with every second -- yet I would be unable to tear my eyes away from myself. My body took the brunt of the blame for my hatred, and my hatred was a blood red, intense swirl of pain and anger that bubbled from a seemingly bottomless pit within me. 

The truth is, I have genuinely experienced this thing called healing, but I am under no illusion that the journey is ever over. For me, this life thing is about forgetting who I really am, then remembering again, then forgetting, then remembering again. Over time, I get to hang out in the remembering part for longer and to be able to remind myself of it when I’m back in the forgetting again.

The truth is that no one gets a fast track ticket through life. They work in theme parks, not in human beings.

So if the goal isn’t to become superhuman and to bypass shame and fear (which is actually a symptom of toxic shame), what is it then? Here are a few ideas.

  • What if the goal wasn’t to be free of shame but to learn how to feel it and find within myself a loving, compassionate presence that can help me experience it without getting overly identified with it?

  • What if the goal was really to learn how to navigate life and all the human thoughts, feelings and experiences that come with it while keeping my heart wide open?

  • What if the measure of progress wasn’t how free of shame I am, but now able I am to be with my pain, surrendering to it and allowing the experience of it, rather than seeking to transcend or overcome it?

  • What if the practice was to let life move through me, to be the riverbed allowing the great gushing river of a wholehearted life to trickle, flow and sometimes torrent its way through me?

  • What if the goal was to keep remembering the truth, and to see each opportunity not as proof that I haven’t done enough healing, but that I simply have another opportunity to remember?

  • What if experiencing shame wasn’t shameful but was actually a sign of how un-numbed I am today? What if each moment of shame was an opportunity to reclaim the truth?

I am whole and I am undone.
I am full of playfulness and love, and fear and doubt.
I am the entire ocean in a drop, and I am irrepressibly, uncontainably, imperfectly human.
I have the capacity for great joy and deep shame.
I love, and I fear.
And these are all just experiences anyway.

I don’t know if anyone puts it better than Rumi with his poem, The Guest House:

This being human is a guest house. 
Every morning a new arrival. 

A joy, a depression, a meanness, 
some momentary awareness comes 
as an unexpected visitor. 

Welcome and entertain them all! 
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows, 
who violently sweep your house 
empty of its furniture, 
still, treat each guest honourably. 
He may be clearing you out 
for some new delight. 

The dark thought, the shame, the malice, 
meet them at the door laughing, 
and invite them in. 

Be grateful for whoever comes, 
because each has been sent 
as a guide from beyond.

Read Part 4 of this series!


Elloa Atkinson is a life-changing coach, an inspiring speaker, and a writer whose work has been featured on the home pages of the Huffington Post and the Good Men Project.

A certified life coach, Elloa also has over ten years experience of assisting, supporting and leading emotionally intense personal development work. She is a long-term student and teacher of A Course In Miracles and believes that we are all inherently whole, innocent and worthy of love and that our core problem is that we have forgotten that. 

Connect with her at elloaatkinson.com and via Facebook: http://facebook.com/elloa.atkinson.miracles


  1. If only I could give less power to shame, guilt and fear. I have experienced the ups and downs you describe. One minute I feel healed and the next I feel I have a great river to cross. Thank you for putting this in words that make sense. They are very powerful.

  2. Hi Stanley. Thank you for sharing your experience. I want you to know that you really are not alone. As I shared in this post, I still have shame. Some days I also feel like there is a great river to cross. Acceptance comes when I say okay to it. Okay, this is my life's work. This is my curriculum in this lifetime. This is what is on my plate. Okay. I can say okay to it, and that takes some of the suffering out of it. If ever you want to connect more, do come on over to my site and book in for a conversation with me. I am sending a lot of support your way.

    Love Elloa


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