collage images provided by: Cosmopolitan Magazine, Harry Miller, and Ricardo Gomez Angel

Your Shame is Holding You Back

Erin Monahan
8 min readSep 29, 2019

What Does Catholicism, White Supremacy, and the Mainstream Environmental Movement Have in Common?

After reading, “I Work in the Environmental Movement. I Don’t Care if You Recycle,” I have been thinking a lot about shame…and guilt. The author, Mary Annaise Heglar shows us that the global narrative on climate change is weighed too heavily on personal choices and actions:

All too often, our culture broadly equates “environmentalism” with personal consumerism. To be “good,” we must convert to 100 percent solar energy, ride an upcycled bike everywhere, stop flying, eat vegan. We have to live a zero-waste lifestyle, never use Amazon Prime, etc., etc. I hear this message everywhere: the left- and right-wing media and within the environmental movement. It’s even been used by the courts and the fossil fuel industry itself as a defense against litigation.

I grew up with a mother who recycled and still recycles relentlessly. The word “recycle” reminds me of my mom. This was embedded so deep into my conditioning that if friends didn’t recycle they would get an ear-ful from me about why they should.

As a kid I was also heavily indoctrinated into thinking that there was a “good” and a “bad” way to be. I wanted to find out what was the “best” way to be. I was obsessed with finding this one, singular, capital “T” *Truthful* way to be. This one, singular, capital “R” *Right* way to be. The one capital “G” *Good* way to be. This was largely influenced by being raised in a catholic family that preached “purity,” as well as exisiting in a white supremacist society that convinces us that there is one “right” way.

I put a lot of pressure on myself to find the purest, good-est ways to be. I was obsessed with right and wrong, and finding out what went into each category.

And it was a rough and painful pull away from that attachment of finding that “it,” that “one thing,” that told me the answer of what is *ultimate goodness.* It was hard to stop searching for the false mythical sign that reads, “This is how you should be!” And this also made me feel constantly disappointed when I believed in one…

Erin Monahan

Trauma-Informed Mindset Coach. Host of OFF THE DEEP END podcast. Founder of Terra Incognita Media. Guide at Vesta Business School. Writer + Speaker.