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Part 2- Origins of Shame

Updated: Apr 4, 2022

The Happy Musician Coaching


In the last blog (Four types of shame) I discussed the types of shame that musicians deal with and how they may originate.

  • Shame from rejection

  • Shame from Exposure

  • Shame of Failure

  • Shame of Exclusion

I want to talk about what feeds toxic shame and what to do about it.

Before I dive in, I think it's important to reiterate that shame is never going away, shame is built in. Toxic shame is what we need to work on.

First, let's acquaint ourselves with what shame is.

Shame is an intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed, and therefore unworthy of love, belonging, and connection.

Most shame thrives on silence. Musicians don't talk about shame a lot, some may be completely unaware that the feeling they are grappling with is shame. Funny, we seem to have no problem admitting we're perfectionists. Yet we stay silent about the shame of not being perfect. For many of us musicians, toxic shame is an integral part of our musical upbringing. Musicians don't grow in toxic shame, we either shrink into nothing or implode.

"Shame loves secrecy. The most dangerous thing to do after a shaming experience is hide or bury our story. When we bury our story, the shame metastasizes."

I dealt with toxic shame and it didn't lose its power over me until I acknowledged it, talked about it, and dug into its origins. Yet, I didn't feel truly free of toxic shame until I talked about it with other musicians. When fellow musicians empathized with me I didn't feel alone, I started to feel like I belonged. Discussing my shame made me realize that hiding did not protect me from feeling that pain, it actually stunted my musical growth and fueled my shame. I use to hide from shame by being super busy, I would be so busy that I couldn't feel or connect with musicians.

So, how do musicians recognize and combat toxic shame?

  • Physically and literally recognize shame: actually, give it a name and think deeply about why you feel shame. Try to remember what fear and experience are fueling the shame. Don't try to shake it off and pretend you're not feeling it. Confront it. I suggest journaling about it.

  • Give your shame a reality check. Is what's fueling the shame realistic? This is called Critical awareness is an active, persistent, and careful consideration of a belief or information related to grounds that support it or not.

  • Reach out and talk about it. This can be scary, but it's necessary to combat toxic shame. Communicating with musicians who can empathize is key. Empathy is the opposite of shame.

Here are some toxic shame origins

  • rejection from a certain music school

  • taking second or third in competition instead of first.

  • comparing your level of music development to others.

  • not having enough money to buy or maintain an instrument.

  • not having support or family friends think “it's just a hobby”

  • feeling like you let down people close to you

  • holding yourself to an impossible standard or perfectionism.

  • being bullied into being paid less than you should.

  • fear of a bad review

  • another musician shaming you.

This list could be longer, but you get the point. Musicians need to be empathetic and seek out musicians that empathize. Toxic shame is social, it's what we think others think about us. Squashing toxic shame requires that we are kind and forgiving to ourselves, so we can be that towards others That is how we squash toxic shame

Are you dealing with toxic shame? How do you think it's holding back?

Candace Lark

Musician, Coach, Educator


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Topic: Acceptance - how it fuels your growth, and why it doesn't mean settling,


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