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Part 1- Four Types of shame

The Happy Musician Coaching


I believe toxic shame is more debilitating than fear. If you think about it we can even be ashamed of our fear. Unlike fear, shame can hide and become buried so deep we don't realize what we may be feeling is shame.

We all experience shame. Shame is biological, it keeps us from straying too far from social norms. We experience shame as a disciplinary tool early in our lives, and it works. When my parents would say to me "I'm not angry, just disappointed" oh my goodness, shame would wrap around me like a sub-zero sleeping bag. I would almost beg for punishment. That type of shame was to help me be a good human being. That shame was fueled by my parent's love. It wasn't toxic, it made me want to be better and do better and not disappoint my parents.

Much of the shame that musicians deal with is toxic and even debilitating. We tend to deal with 4 types of shame. These types of shame can direct our choice of music, performance level, and interactions or avoidance of fellow musicians.

The first type is Shame from rejection: this type of shame usually happens after a negative experience with a teacher, fellow musician, and/or a musician they idolized. Musicians who felt rejected and/or have had their beliefs feelings and values rejected, tend to carry this shame.

Shame is the most powerful, master emotion. It’s the fear that we’re not good enough

The second is Shame from Exposure: If you've been called out for making a mistake in front of a group, asked to perform in front of someone or a group when you're clearly not ready, results in exposure shame. Even finding out that a particular person(s) was listening intently while you were practicing results in this type of shame.

The Shame of Failure is the Third: I don't know a musician who hasn't experienced this. Shame from failure shows up when we feel as though we have failed. It might be losing a competition, missed recognition, not being accepted into a music program or school. This type of shame is also fueled by the feeling that we failed our support system. This seems to be the most widespread shame.

The Fourth is Shame of Exclusion: This one is pretty simple, but also pretty devastating. it's a feeling that we don't belong or we're not liked. This type of shame may be triggered by being fired or replaced in the place you have made your musical home. Interestingly, shame of exclusion is also fueled by fear. Musicians who may not have had these experiences still deal with this type of shame.

Almost all shame is rooted in childhood experiences, yet it can follow us around as if just happened yesterday. Thriving musicians still have bouts of shame but they have learned to deal with and understand it. We cant get rid of shame but we can learn to recognize toxic shame and work through it.

In the next blogs, I will share how to recognize toxic shame and give you tools to cope and thrive.

Have you experienced any of the 4 types of shame, how has this shame affected your music life?

Candace Lark

Musician, Coach, Educator


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