When Shame Keeps You From Making a Decision

Christel Van Gelder Stories 1 Comment

A friend of mine, let’s call her Alana, is afraid to show her emotions.

So she hides.

She hides behind loudness, rudeness and even obnoxious behaviour towards her nearest and dearest.

She walks around with a mask on. Always.

She does so, not because she wants to, but because she doesn’t know any better. She’s afraid that if she shows what she really feels, she will be a burden to others. She fears admitting not all is wonderful in Alana’s world.

But she’s most afraid of being seen. With all her scars, her wounds and her fears.

So she walks around with her I-am-so-tough and everything-is-jolly-great-mask on. Always.

That must be so exhausting.

I know for a fact it is because I wore a mask for a great many years. Albeit a different mask — I didn’t do tough and jolly. Still, it was a mask, hiding my depressed feelings, my discontent, my utter sadness. And I did a good job at it as people were very surprised when the mask came off and all of a sudden the rebel came out.

Surprise is an understatement. Shock would be a better word.

But going back to Alana.

Alana is afraid of sharing her story. Because she may be judged and proven to be not as tough and jolly as she makes out to be.

I for one know that most of her friends can see she wears a mask. They know a bit of “the story”. What they don’t know is her version of this story, as she keeps that locked up safely in her vault. That impenetrable vault, where she must hurt deeply. Where shame is eating away at her.

That shame is her greatest enemy — well, Alana is her own worst enemy.

As long as she is ashamed of her story, she will never share. She will never know the relief, the comfort, the warmth and love she gets by sharing that story.

What Alana doesn’t know as well is that all her friends —I included— are ready for her whenever she wants to come out of her vault and put her story out there in the open. When she is ready to be vulnerable.

And let me tell you, she has some very good friends who will be there to receive her with arms and ears wide open.

To listen to her, no judgment.
To sit with her, no words.
To just be there for her, whenever.

However, Alana’s friends, moi included, no longer know what to do. How to approach her. It’s not that we’ve not tried. Au contraire. But we always run into that concrete wall of utter toughness and jolliness, into the iron mask that is welded to her face into a perpetual smile. The mask of all-is-wonderful-in-my-world.

As long as she lets shame and fear rule her we can’t do anything. She will have to make that first tiny step herself.

My hope is that one day Alana will open that vault, let out her shame, tell her story. Become totally vulnerable. And will be held by our arms, will be heard by our ears and will be seen without that horrible smiley-mask. So she can feel the warmth and love and comfort of true friendship.

Because I know that coming out of hiding and just throwing out your story is very powerful. It will change your life. It will change Alana’s life.

But she is the only one who can make that choice.

Will she stay or will she leave the vault? That’s the question.

And for now, she’s staying. Inside the vault. Inside the shame. Inside the hurt. No arms to hold her. No ears to hear her, no eyes to really see her.

As long as she is her own harshest judge, there’s nothing we can do. And that makes me sad. Because I know that change is possible. That people are much more loving and less judgmental than she thinks.

I remember that once I was held, heard and seen, I felt so safe.
So it’s possible for her as well.

Tonight I’ll say a little prayer for Alana. I’ll send her a bit of loving energy, even though I often become impatient with her.
I’ll tell her we’ll be there when she’s ready if she’s ready.

Let’s hope that one day she’ll be just that.


If you feel you’re locked up in your own vault of shame and guilt, you can always reach out. I’m here for you.

I offer a free chat, about 30 minutes long, so we can get to know each other. No strings attached.

if you’re interested, shoot me an email.

One last note to ponder before I leave you: Be brave, be vulnerable, be seen, be heard and embraced by loving peers. Be free, dear one.


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  1. Pingback: What To Do About The Thoughts That Erode Your Self-Esteem In A Toxic Relationship - Christel Van Gelder

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