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“Shame derives its power from being unspeakable. That’s why it loves perfectionists—it’s so easy to keep us quiet. If we cultivate enough awareness about shame to name it and speak to it, we’ve basically cut it off at the knees. Shame hates having words wrapped around it. If we speak shame, it begins to wither. Just the way exposure to light was deadly for the gremlins, language and story bring light to shame and destroy it.”
– Brenè Brown

You may have noticed I have not been in this virtual writing space for a while. I will share in other occasions more details about that, as I want to write more soon about midlife, trauma and the intricacies of living with (physical, acute or chronic) pain.

For now, let me share insights gained recently about shame, the fear of criticism, and emerging from my self-imposed cave.

You may remember that I live in a small village in Southern Spain and teach Movement Medicine dance classes. It’s been a while since our last live session. Engaged in post-menopausal inner exploration, managing chronic pain, juggling online work, and diving into somatics and trauma training, my journey has been both challenging, intense and nourishing.

After the violence escalated in the Middle East, I decided to finally offer another event in my local community to raise funds for the Parent’s Circle, which is a joint Israeli-Palestinian organization of over 600 families, all of whom have lost an immediate family member to the ongoing conflict. The PCFF believes that the process of reconciliation between nations is a prerequisite to achieving sustainable peace. Check it out and donate if you can. 

Returning to the dance, I had the vision to offer a space to unite in solidarity towards those who suffered a terrible loss, violence, tragedy and trauma, dance for those who can’t and share songs, poems and our embodied dances and prayers. I also wanted to offer visibility to artists in our community.  

I felt vulnerable when stepping out of my cave, especially as most local dance practitioners are younger, strong men. However, the inspiration, joy and energy sparked when collaborating with special guests fueled my courage. 

The event showcased various art forms. We had people who sang devotional songs, chants in Hebrew, Arabic and Aramaic, and poems. We had an artist creating a powerful mandala. We had a photographer so we could send pics to the Parents Circle. And a local woman who is more than seventy and who sat and participated wildly in the dance as a compassionate witness. 

It was a magnificent dance, and people really went for it. There was sweat, tears, laughter, joy, grief, anger, celebration and surrender. We had the whole spectrum and brought all that in motion so it could become poetry and an offering to All Life. 

We danced for Self, Others, and Community.
We danced to include the inner parts we reject, abandon, forget or numb. We danced to witness them and extend our warmth, understanding and compassion to them.
We danced for our loved ones, including those with whom we are in conflict or perceive as enemies. 

We danced to honour the Web of Life and each other daring connection.

We allowed ourselves to meditate, through movement, about ‘what is within me that sees you as an enemy?’

The dance is a big mirror, so within, so without.

Coming out of the cave in this way felt warm, meaningful and purposeful. Considering what is happening in the Middle East, the dance catalyzed intense processes in the participants that are challenging to digest in daily life. We gave movement, expression and voice to difficult emotions.

People told me they danced with the war and conflict inside them, with their inner aggressor, victim and rescuer.

People told me the space had moments of connection, healing and beauty. There is something powerful about coming together with a shared intention.

And then the shit hit the fan.
A couple of days after the event, I received some unsolicited feedback. It hit me like an arrow. I will not repeat the words here because I don’t want to give it more power. But I can tell you that it was awful and hurt my heart. 

Overwhelming shame. 
I want to go back to the cave again. 
Run away. 
Be invisible.
I fear those words (so sharp and precise like a blade) could damage my reputation here and confirm what a shitty Movement Medicine teacher I am.
My inner critic is loud kicking and screaming.
I am a fraud.
I am a failure.
I feel a part of me that completely disconnects from life and freeze.
I will never share my work again.

But this is what my inner wise wild woman is telling me:

I will not go there.
I won’t absorb this toxicity in my ‘circle’ and heart.
I keep the integrity of my boundaries.
I protect my little girl inside of me.
I trust myself.
I belong.
There is space for my medicine.
I stand for myself.

And I am not sending out any ill thoughts against this guy (although I felt outraged) as I know that energetically, that is neither good for the ‘sender’ nor the ‘receiver’. If any, I see how troubled he is. Maybe he could not stand an older woman shining! Ha ha ha…
All this made me stronger, and it has been a proper initiation.

Many beautiful things happened afterwards. 
And I did something different this time. Rather than hiding and isolating myself, I reached out for support. People, friends, colleagues, and many dancers showered me with love, compassion, solidarity and encouraging words.
I made a list of what people told me and allowed myself to open up, receive beauty, and allowed life to hold and support me. 
I made a ‘good enough’ job. I did the best I could. I had a good intention at heart.

When shit hits the fan, we need community, good allies, healthy mirrors and people who can offer us a reality check.

‘Sometimes, we are just collateral damage in someone else’s war against themselves.’ Lauren Eden

So, dearest ones, don’t let the fear of criticism or failure prevent you from giving your gifts. Many people may not like it when you stand in service, especially as an older woman. Don’t let them pull you down. Don’t take on their ‘transfer’ or projection of perfection onto you for not being the perfect ‘mummy’. There are a lot of angry children out there. Don’t let ‘inner’ and ‘outer’ patriarchy stop you. Don’t give space to feedback that comes from those who are in the cheap seats and not in the arena with you, daring bravely with you, as Brenè Brown says.

You are needed.
Your love is needed.
Your service is needed.
Your story matters.
You don’t need to be perfect or ‘completely healed’ to offer your gifts.
You don’t need to be a guru. Just trust the goodness of your intention.
Rise sister, rise up!

The world will suffer if you don’t show up with your medicine. And if you don’t give what is yours to share, your health may suffer, too.

Please reach out or hit the reply button if you have had a similar experience or want to discuss the fear of failure and criticism. I would love to have that conversation with you!

Let’s be kind to each other!