How many times have you been told to “just stop” being a people pleaser? Or caring what others think? Or putting everyone else’s needs first?
But, it rarely works that way, right?
If you could just magically start…
valuing your own needs…
telling your naysayers to fuck right off…
you’d have done all that long before now.
And if you’re anything like me and the folx I work with, you tend to make it a personal failing when you just keep repeating the same toxic patterns.
But, I want you to know that it isn’t personal.
The problem isn’t that you’re weak, don’t have enough willpower, or don’t want it bad enough. The problem is that you haven’t addressed the root cause.
In most cases, the root cause of relational issues (like shitty boundaries, always saying yes, and bowing at the altar of the martyr) is tribal shame.
Cool. Now you might be wondering…
What is tribal shame?
Great question! I’m glad you asked. 😉
In a nutshell, tribal shame is the feeling of shame we experience when we’ve internalized an external source of pressure and/or conditioning to be a certain way to be safe, loved, and to belong.
And since our feelings drive our action, tribal shame tends to lead us to codependent behaviors, martyrdom, people-pleasing, over-empathy, and otherwise undervaluing our own needs. It also tends to create an obsession with other people’s thoughts, attempts to control or manipulate others, and rumination/anxiety about social encounters.
So, now I bet you’re wondering…
How do I get rid of tribal shame?
Well, first, you don’t get rid of it. In fact, you can’t actually “get rid” of emotions. Emotions are “meant” to flow through our energy bodies and come in waves until processed and integrated.
So, as with all emotions, you feel, process, and integrate its wisdom into your life.
In doing so, you may start to notice that tribal shame literally FEELS external. It may even feel like a pressure coming from outside of your body.
And that is because it is!
Humans are tribal creatures who are wired to survive.
When we were cavemen and cavewomen, each member of the tribe played a vital role in the survival of the tribe. If someone in the tribe threatened the tribes survival, a correction would have been made.
For example, let’s say that you’re a little kid in a tribe that lives in a forest, and you discover the campfire.
Being a kid with no awareness of what fire is or can do, you think it might be fun to start poking it with a stick. After all, the fire kind of looks like it’s playing with all of it jumping, popping, and crackling.
Your mother, or some other elder tribe members, see you poking the stick into the fire and immediately jumps in to correct your behavior. They scold you in some way, and you feel shame.
As with all of the primary emotions, that shame has an evolutionary purpose. You feel that shame and instinctively know that you’ve done something that threatens the well-being of the tribe.
That shame guides your future behavior in a way that ensures the survival of the tribe. You no longer poke sticks in fires all willy-nilly like.
Today, though, we live in a completely different environment than we did back then, and that instinctive sense of shame has become hijacked by ulterior motives, rules, and values that have absolutely nothing to do with our survival as a species.
So, nowadays, it might look more like being told that you’re too bossy, or too loud, or too emotional.
In this case, the “correction” isn’t arising from an actual threat to the tribe’s survival. It stems from the other person’s own fears, beliefs, values, and emotional or spiritual wounding, and it’s mostly unconscious.
And our nervous system interprets that correction in the exact same way it would if we were corrected for poking fires with sticks.
Our environment has evolved, but our nervous system hasn’t.
So, when you feel that sense of shame, it’s essential to recognize that it didn’t originate from you. It’s probably been passed down from generation to generation, for God only knows how long.
That recognition, which you can tell by FEELING it, opens the door into the spiritual wisdom of the shame, which is always about restoring integrity WITH YOURSELF, with your own values, with your own beliefs, and with your own desires by assessing the actual risks of the situation and integrating any shadow aspects that come up along the way.
That, of course, won’t always be easy, but that is the work, none the less.
And with that work done, the people-pleasing blah blah blah bullshit will naturally fall away.
It can only be that way.