Shame is Prison, Vulnerability is the Key

Craig Stanland
5 min readMar 24, 2021

I was in 2 Prisons.

One Physical. One Mental.

The physical version was Otisville Federal Prison.

My mental prison, my personal hell, was the all-consuming power of Shame. Hurting the one I love, disappointing my family, letting myself down. Ignoring the voice inside that told me not to commit the fraud.

I believed with all my soul that I destroyed the greatest gift life has to offer us:


I was trapped in my head and couldn’t see a way out or even a reason to try.

With every ounce of my being, I believed,

“I am undeserving of love, happiness, forgiveness, and peace. I destroyed love and will never be worthy of it again. I deserve a lifetime of punishment.”

This was my prison. This is where I lived, every day falling further into Darkness, with no end in sight.

Shame is an insidious disease that lives, breathes, and grows in the Darkness. Shame thrives in Isolation. Separation. Disconnection.

Shame wants to be alone.

It will eat us alive from the inside out unless we do something about it.

What do we do with something that lives in the Dark? Something that craves isolation, separation, and disconnection?

We shine a light on it. We shine a light on it by speaking about it. By being open, by having the conversations we’re afraid to have.

Shame withers and dies in the face of vulnerability.

When we are vulnerable, not only do we shine a light on our Shame, but we also give others permission to do the same.

When we shine a light on Shame, when we are vulnerable and open up — we take the first step out of the Darkness.

And we realize that we are not alone.

I couldn’t jump headfirst into vulnerability; I was too afraid. But I knew that if I allowed Shame to consume me, it would never release its grip on my life.

How did I get to the place where I could be vulnerable, be open, and share?

Craig Stanland

I write about my journey from corporate success to federal prison and finding joy, mission, meaning, and fulfillment beyond professional and financial success.