How to Drop the Shame about Changing and Rebuilding your Life

Gillian May

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

A decade ago, my life looked different than what it is now. I was working in a corporate mental health nursing job, was in a different relationship, and owned a home. The problem was that I hated all of it, and I was miserable.

I was so unhappy that I got sick, which forced me to stop and take a look at things. What I saw was some deep issues needing to be resolved. I also noticed that I was living a lie and that everything I had built had nothing to do with me or who I really was.

So, I tore down my life and started the long task of rebuilding it, piece by piece.

When I started speaking out about this, I realized I was not alone, as many people reached out to me to share their stories. It turns out that many people have also changed their lives drastically.

I discovered we had something else in common, too — we harbored shame for tearing down and rebuilding our lives.

It’s like we believe we’re not allowed to change, or that if we do, we’ve somehow failed at life. Like me, a lot of the people said they not only shamed themselves, but they were shamed by family and friends.

Shame is not a good companion for change at all. It drains your life energy and steers you from your path. It stops you from seeing the truth, embracing your authentic self, and makes you rely on your head instead of your intuition.

It’s been almost 10 years now since I tore down my life, and I’m still rebuilding it. The difference is that I rarely deal with shame anymore. Rebuilding is like sculpting and refining a work of art. It’s hard, but it’s also fun, and it makes me feel alive.

Often we feel shame because we get caught off-guard by other people’s beliefs that we may have internalized. In fact, the whole reason we often make significant changes is that we’ve internalized other’s opinions and ideas and don’t have a clue about our own.

It’s great to learn from others, but ultimately, we need to know what we want first. And unfortunately, many of us go through life blindly following the masses with no clue about who we are.

Often this is prompted by trauma, health issues, and social conditioning. But that doesn’t mean we can’t start over, learn about ourselves, and find an authentic life.

Getting over shame took me a while. But looking back on it now, there were five elements that helped me drop shame in favor of taking control of my life.

Photo by Chris Lawton on Unsplash

#1 First of all, know that you’re allowed to tear down and rebuild your life.

You’re allowed to change anytime you want; in any way you want. Yes, society and our culture may not support it or make you feel terrific about it, but you’ll have to listen to yourself and not the masses.

You may harbor a strange belief that you’re not allowed to change, but you probably also have an intuition that this isn’t true. And your intuition is always right, remember that.

#2 Yes, they will talk about you and try to shame you.

People don’t understand change because we’re all taught not to do it. Significant changes tend to make others really uncomfortable, especially if it involves leaving old situations and starting from scratch.

Humans are hard-wired to fear the unknown, so change brings up all kinds of freaky feelings in ourselves and others. Accept that this will happen, but know that it doesn’t have to steer you from your path.

You can not change anyone else but yourself. The more you accept that, the better off you’ll be.

#3 Follow your intuition, not your thoughts.

Yes, there’s a big difference between your intuition and your thoughts. I’ve learned the hard way that not following my intuition always leads me down a road I don’t want to be on.

If you know how to follow your intuition, then great. Stay with your intuition always, because it will be your ultimate guide.

Unfortunately, too many of us don’t know how to follow our intuition. When you’ve been taught your whole life to only pay attention to your thoughts, then following your intuition is going to be really hard.

This leads me to #4

Photo by Aziz Acharki on Unsplash

#4 Learn how to follow your intuition.

This means that you don’t believe every thought that passes through your head. Instead, you let them come and go. Some of them will be smart and worth your time, while others will literally be nonsense.

But more importantly, intuition is not about your thoughts, yet thoughts can certainly hijack your intuition.

If you’re on the edge of big changes, it’s essential to be able to listen and understand your intuition, not your thoughts. Because intuition is never wrong, and it will always guide you exactly where you need to go. Thoughts, however, can get you into a boat-load of trouble.

Intuition doesn’t happen in your head, all those words coming in and out, they’re not intuition. Where you will find intuition is more in your body; the sensations that tell you something is wrong or right.

Also, intuition is not the same as an emotion either. Having angry, sad, or happy emotions don’t always equate to intuition. Instead, it’s a kind of “knowing” in your tummy, your heart, or somewhere in your body. Intuition tells you, “yes, this is the way to go,” or “no, don’t go that way.”

Yes, learning how to follow your intuition can be really difficult, but I promise it will be worth spending your time on.

#5 You will be afraid, accept that.

Like I said, humans are hard-wired to fear the unknown, so any whiff of change will bring on fear. The more you can accept that, the better off you’ll be.

Also, if you don’t accept fear as part of this process, then it has the potential to hijack your thoughts and, thus, mess up your intuition. In fact, fear that hijacks your thoughts is like food for shame.

The more you accept fear as part of the process of change, the less you’ll be weighed down by shame.

For me, accepting fear is allowing the body sensations of fear to come and go without letting it invade my thoughts. Sometimes this gets really hard, and when it does, I repeat to myself, “yes, I’m afraid, and I accept it.”

Sometimes I even jump up and down until the sensations pass. And I promise you, it will pass, and when it does, you’ll have renewed strength to carry on.

I’m pretty sure that if I’d known about these five elements back when I started tearing down my life, I’d have been in a better place. I wouldn’t have spent years rolling around in my personal judgments about how I was such a failure.

But anyway, here I am, and thankfully I can pass on some solid advice to others who are just starting to change and rebuild their lives.

One thing I know for sure is that we’re meant to live authentic lives that feel right for us. Not doing so serves no purpose and doesn’t help anyone, least of all ourselves. No, it’s not easy to tear down and rebuild a life, but sitting in shame makes the whole process that much harder.

If you’re at the beginning of a significant life change, these five elements may help you drop the shame so you can focus on rebuilding your life.

Remember, you’re allowed to change, and shame doesn’t have to derail you from doing so.

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I'm a former nurse turned freelance writer. I have extensive experience in administration, frontline care, and education in mental health, public health, and geriatrics. However, after 20 years, I needed a change and always wanted to write. I have personal and family experience in mental health and addictions, so I'm passionate about advocacy and education in those areas. I'm also a traveler, photographer, and artist. I funnel all my various expertise into my writing and hope to provide valuable content that is entertaining and educational. Join my email list if you want to read more of my work -


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