Your Dimmer Switch

by Carol Hess on May 21, 2013

Let me ask you a question.  Are you all in when it comes to your work?  Are you playing big?  Are you letting yourself be seen?  Nope, me neither — at least not as much as I want to.

What about your personal life?  Do you feel really connected and engaged?  Are you living your life out loud?  Nope, me neither — again, at least not as much as I want to.

So what the hell is stopping us?

Shame is stopping us.  Shame is keeping us small and keeping our light dim.  Shame is telling us we’re not good enough.  Shame is demanding to know who the hell do we think we are.

Yeah, I know.  You would rather put bamboo splinters under your fingernails than have a conversation about shame.  Me too.

But we have to have this conversation.  Here’s why.

  • Because we all feel shame.  If you’re a human being, you have shame.
  • Because shame is the barbed wire fence that keeps us disconnected from each other.
  • Because with shame comes depression, addiction, eating disorders,  suicide, bullying, violence.
  • Because that’s how we take away shame’s power – by talking about it.

So what exactly is shame?  Don’t get it mixed up with guilt.  Guilt is what we feel when we make a mistake or do something wrong.  We feel guilty when we behave in a certain way that, to a lesser or greater extent, goes against our values.  Guilt is about our behavior, our doing.

Shame is what we feel, not when we make a mistake, but when we believe we are a mistake.  There is something wrong with us, with who we are.  We are defective in some way.  Shame is about our beliefs, our being.

Shame comes in two flavors.  Vanilla Shame tells us things like, “That program isn’t perfect yet. You’re not ready to launch.”  Vanilla encourages us to take one more course, gather one more credential before we open our business.  And it’s underlying message?  “You aren’t good enough.”

That’s shame talking.  And it’s a lie.  You are good enough.

Chocolate Shame says, “I can’t believe you’re going to write a book.  Who cares what you have to say?”  Or it shouts, “You’re going to do what?!  What makes you think you can open your own business?”  Chocolate demands to know, “Just who the hell do you think you are?”

That’s shame posing that question.  Ignore it.  It doesn’t deserve an answer.

Have you ever watched a bucket of crabs?  One lone crab will painstakingly crawl up the pile of other crabs until it reaches the top.  Just as it’s about to escape, the other crabs pull it back down.

The next time you’re thinking you aren’t good enough and getting ready to pull yourself down, don’t.  The next time you’re tempted to listen to that voice asking you who the hell you are so it can pull you down, don’t.

The very best way to climb out of your shame bucket and help everyone you care about climb out of theirs is to tell each other your shame stories.  Shame needs secrecy, silence, and isolation in order to live.  Destroy it with your honesty, communication, and connection.

Brené Brown said, “Only when we’re brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”

If there’s one thing I know as the Star Polisher it is that you do indeed have the infinite power of your light.  I can see it.  Don’t allow shame to dim it.

I never really got what the big deal was about shame until I read Brené Brown’s latest book, Daring Greatly.  I recommend it highly. 

Here’s the link to my radio show this week where I talk more about shame and tell a couple of my own personal shame stories, including one I know we both share.



by Carol Hess


Categories Personal Empowerment, The Art of Star Polishing, The Mind Game

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Kate May 22, 2013 at 1:10 pm

Great post, Carol!


avatar Carol Hess May 22, 2013 at 2:18 pm

Thank you, Kate! I appreciate your feedback.


avatar Randi May 22, 2013 at 3:16 pm

Very timely post Carol! Great reminder to play big and put my message out into the world. :)


avatar Carol Hess May 22, 2013 at 3:47 pm

Yes, Randi, there are people waiting for your message right now! Play big and go for it! Which I think is exactly what you’re doing, don’t you?


avatar Shawn Driscoll May 22, 2013 at 4:47 pm

My dimmer switch gets quite a workout! I grew up with the kinds of crazy making messages that said “be good…but not too good…no one likes a show off” and so I was always modulating myself trying to find the safe zone of not showing off and not slacking off.

I spent a good part of my adult career being the ‘behind the scenes’ right hand person to someone else who wanted the spotlight and was happy to have me in the shadows propping them up. I have had partners and bosses say ‘hey, good job…but next time, can you tone it down a little. you’re making the rest of us (me) look bad.” Duly noted.

I’ve spent the last 4-5 years really trying to let go of my firm grip on that dimmer switch and step out of the shadows. So I thank you for this piece. It’s one more support system in my ‘step out’ arsenal. I too, loved Daring Greatly and recommend it often to my trailblazing clients and friends. I appreciate you Carol!


avatar Carol Hess May 23, 2013 at 5:39 am

I can identify with what you’re saying Shawn — the crazy-making messages from your childhood and the “power behind the throne” syndrome in the office. I, for one, think you have done a terrific job of letting go of your dimmer switch. In fact, just yesterday, as I as watching and listening to your latest webinar (“How to Get Known for Something Uniquely Your Own”), I kept thinking how incredibly business-smart you are and how generously you share your smarts in a way that breaks it all down and makes it so accessible to others. I can’t begin to tell you how often I’ve used what I learned from you in Your Signature Program for both myself and my clients. So I’m delighted you are letting that brilliant light of yours shine, Shawn!

By the way, readers of this blog, I can’t recommend Shawn’s Your Signature Program highly enough. It’s one of the best programs I’ve ever participated in. Shawn takes you step-by-step through the process of designing a program that is going to knock the socks off your clients and your business (in a good way!). You will learn so much that you’ll be able to apply over and over in your business. And, no, this is not a paid announcement. It’s just that what Shawn delivers is so darned good and worth every penny. (By the way, her program is very reasonably priced.) Here’s the link for more information:


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