Shoulda, Woulda Coulda -Ugh!

“Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda.” Those voices can be so loud! They are experts at creating shame, and shame keeps us stuck.

I’ve tried Ignoring them, but that doesn’t work. I’ve yelled at them to shut up, but that doesn’t work either.

A friend suggested that when I hear them, I can simply say, “Oh, thanks so much for your input!” I’m assuming that meant they just want some attention.

Still, I wondered where these voices that create such shame come from in the first place.

A woman once told me she felt terrible shame about getting divorced.  When asked why, she thought for a moment and then got a look in her eyes as if a light bulb had just gone on over her head. “I feel ashamed,” she said, “because I have always judged other divorcing women.”

Her shame was born because she now assumed others were judging her.

But it’s more than that.  Shame appears not because someone may judge us, but because we give that judgment such power. How many of us judge ourselves by what we think others are thinking – about how we look, what we say, or the choices we make. Judgments can cover everything from assessments that we are destroying our lives to condemnation for not polishing our toenails. Exhausting, right, and who made up these rules anyway!?

Instead of checking in with ourselves, we’ve been checking in with others and in the process have become disconnected from who we really are. To reconnect we can listen for the voice of compassion, which can sometimes be difficult to hear over all the other noise in our head.

Compassion allows us to pay attention and listen to shaming voices without judgment, and to sit with this shame as if it were a dear friend in distress. As we watch our shame calm and dissolve, we can find comfort, acceptance, and peace, and reconnect to who we really are.


Barb Greenberg, Founder of Rediscovering U, speaker and an award winner author.

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