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Community Spotlight

Coaching Yourself Through Cultural Guilt and Shame

Self-confidence coach Joy Diwa discusses cultural guilt and shame, sharing a self-coaching process she uses to shift perspective and restore self worth.

Guest blog by Joy Diwa

Coach Joy Diwa

Joy is a proud Filipina-American, fueled by delicious coffee, good R&B, and deep conversations. With over 10 years of combined teaching, public speaking, and coaching experience, she’s helped over fifty women and more than a thousand students plan the next chapter of their lives. As a Self-Confidence Coach, Joy believes women should feel good about manifesting the life they deserve. She guides multi-passionate women to be their own joy so that they can go after what they really want.

Joy is a 2020 graduate of the Lumia Coaching Intensive. You can follow her work on Instagram or Tiktok @bemyownjoy or check out her services by visiting bemyownjoy.com. Photos courtesy of paolojayagbay.com.

Coaching Yourself Through Cultural Guilt and Shame

I watched my parents shake their heads in confusion. I could hear the forks hit their plates and my heart beating against my chest.

“I want to leave teaching, so I started my own business as a life coach,” I repeated.

I stuttered as I explained what coaching actually is, and how I’ve devoted time and energy to learn techniques through an actual program, but I was still left with silence at the dinner table. 

  • How can something that finally feels like the perfect fit, feel so wrong? 
  • Why can’t I feel proud of this new chapter in my life?
  • Why does my parents' approval mean so much to me?

As a proud Filipina-American woman, I know how heavy it can be to carry the feeling of disappointing others, the need to put everyone above yourself, and the extra baggage of childhood trauma we haven’t unpacked yet.

If you happen to share some of these feelings and emotions with me, I wish I could tell you that they magically go away. After two years of slowly transitioning into this new career, I am still fighting these feelings. But when these emotions arise, I take myself through a journey of working through my cultural guilt and shame that I’m here to share with you, so that you can move forward and continue living the life that you deserve.

Cultural guilt, or the feeling of being responsible for upholding culturally acceptable behavior, can feel all consuming. 

Especially if you come from a traditional family like mine. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been asked when I’m going to get married, why I haven’t started a family, and why I have the potty-mouth of a drunken sailor. 

If you’ve grown up with similar experiences, it’s hard not to internalize these thoughts and berate ourselves for things we “should'' be doing instead. 

I think the worst part of cultural guilt isn’t hearing the disappointment in others, it’s feeling that they’re trying to fit you in a mold of something that never really fit in the first place. They wouldn’t ask you to walk with a shoe that was two sizes too small, so why would they do it with your life? 

I’ve spent years trying to label myself and do “right” by others, but the beauty of life is that you have the power to choose, to change, and figure out what’s right for you over and over again.

So in the true words of Marie Kondo, it’s time to look at these feelings of cultural guilt, thank them for what they’ve taught you, and throw away what no longer gives you joy.

Instead of spiraling into questions we can’t answer, let’s look at the questions we actually have control over and keep us focused on doing what makes us happy. For the purpose of this article, I’m talking about the decision to be a life coach… but the following self-coaching process can apply to a variety of situations where cultural guilt and shame may be a factor.

1) What triggered the guilt and shame that I currently feel?

“Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.” - Brené Brown

According to Brené Brown, guilt and shame can corrode that part of us that believes we can change and do better. When we experience shame, we lose confidence, and we don’t feel worthy. 

The solution to cultural guilt and shame is what Brown calls Shame Resilience. This is our ability to recognize shame, move through it constructively while maintaining worthiness and authenticity, and to ultimately develop more courage, compassion, and connection as a result of our experience. 

There are 4 elements of Shame Resilience.

The first and second ones are: 

  • Recognizing our shame
  • Understanding how these triggers affect us, and practicing critical awareness

It’s all about knowing how it started, how you learned to deal with it (or not), and how it has impacted you in the past.

By identifying the trigger(s) and noticing what happens to your body when it happens, you can start to create boundaries for yourself to avoid similar situations that continue to cause you this shame.

Setting boundaries for yourself shows others how to respect your time, energy, money, and love. A boundary is an unbreakable vow that you create for your happiness and safety. It does not mean that you love others less, it means that you are actively choosing to love yourself and put yourself first. There is nothing wrong with that. 

 “When we do set boundaries, our relationships can change because we’ve changed what we’re willing to tolerate.” - Nedra Glover Tawwab

The relationship you have with yourself and who you want to be is more important than who you think you need to be for others. 

2) Who in my life can help me work through this moment of guilt and shame?

The third element to Shame Resilience is all about reaching out and telling your story to receive and offer empathy.

Chances are if you’re reading this, you probably experience cultural guilt and shame. That means there’s at least one person in this world who shares similar experiences as you.

The shame you currently feel is completely valid. But you don’t have to go through this alone. There’s this belief that as coaches, we need to have it all together, but you’re human. You are allowed to be a work in progress. You are deserving of love. Your story matters.

3) Why is my culture so important to me?

The fourth element to Shame Resilience involves discussing and deconstructing the feelings of shame themselves.

Let’s start by turning it upside down. If you look at antonyms of guilt and shame on thesaurus.com, you find the following words: happiness, honor, satisfaction, kindness, and strength. 

One of the reasons that we may feel so much cultural guilt and shame is because we care. That is not a flaw. That does not make you any less worthy of love and belonging to your culture. 

Discussing and deconstructing your shame does not need to feel negative and heavy. If we change the conversation and our mindset, knowing that at the root of this guilt and shame is love and kindness for ourselves and our culture, we can inwardly heal ourselves from these negative feelings.

For me, the importance of my Filipino culture stems from the need to feel representation and acceptance. It’s knowing that I’m not alone and that I am seen.

When I look into my core memories of being proud of my culture, I see laughter, I see warmth, I see love. These memories are proof that these feelings can exist in your life, because they have already happened, and you can feel them again.

…But how?

The last question you have to ask yourself is this:

4) What part of my culture do I want to implement in my values, and my work as a coach?

To fight guilt and shame is to live with honor and strength. 

With Brand Story, entrepreneurs are usually asked to identify their brand pillars and the origin story for who they’ve become. By identifying the core values and feelings of your culture that you want to implement as a coach (or anywhere in your life), you are honoring the parts of yourself that helped you get to where you are today. 

There is no prerequisite to simply be. You need no acceptance or approval from anyone except yourself.

The day I told my parents I started my own business as a coach was the day I chose to break the mold I thought I needed to fit, and instead create the mold for myself that was made just for me.

You deserve to create one for yourself too.

Want to Become A Coach?

One of our values at Lumia is that we dare to be different. Our coaches like Joy ignore the expectations society tries to impose on them, and seek to live from their own truth instead. If you are ready to step into your power and you’d like some partners in the process, come check out Lumia Life Coach Training. Grounded in science, our ICF accredited program features authentic instructors, a robust curriculum, and business instruction to prepare you for liftoff.

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