Originally published on 11-14-13
Shame is what I tell my Comads and no one else. Shame is what I’ve never had the guts to admit on this blog and worse shame is that which I may have never even fully admitted to myself. Shame is…if anyone knew this about me, they would shut me out; they would no longer love me. Shame is what I feel I have to keep so tightly under wraps or else…
Of the many things I learned from reading the book, Daring Greatly, I learned just how much of an impact shame can have on a person. Dr. Brene Brown helped me identify what I had been feeling all those years and why once in while I’d feel better about certain situations and why others would just linger in my heart and in my psyche for years and years.
Brown teaches that:
Shame tells you that you’re not good enough and you should have known better. Shame is disconnection; it’s the intensely painful feeling or experience believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging. Shame derives its power from being unspeakable. Shame is something we all experience.
After I read this, light bulbs were going off in my head like a city wide carnival. Shame tells you that you’re not good enough and you should have known better!
Brown continues and gives areas that we as a society commonly feel shame around. Areas such as: appearance and body image, money and work, family, parenting, mental and physical health, addiction, sex, aging and even surviving trauma. As I read I thought, has she been following me?
After she identifies shame and when we most feel it, Brown gives us tools to help us through tough moments when the winds of shame are too much to bear. Know that just because we have access to these tools and even when we learn these tools well, doesn’t mean that we are immune to shame. It does mean that we will have a better chance of surviving the moment and walking through the shame instead of wallowing in it for an undetermined amount of time. So during the tough moments like: seeing your child’s face after they realized you didn’t make it in time to see their dance recital or, seeing your arch nemesis at the book store, only she looks like a model and you look like you just cleaned your house, or that moment when all your friends are out and having a good time and you stayed home because you didn’t have enough cash to get you through the night, Brown gives us help to hold onto.
1) Practice courage and reach out. Share your experience with someone who has earned the right to hear it. This means we can’t just share with anyone. We ideally want to share with someone who will hold space for us and just listen. Don’t go telling your co-worker that you don’t really know that well, call someone close to you who will listen and not judge. Tell them what you’re feeling and what’s going through your head.
2) Talk to yourself the way you would talk to someone you really love who is in the midst of a meltdown. For example, you wouldn’t tell a friend, “You’re so stupid! How could you be that stupid?!” In that moment with a friend or a loved one, we would be kind and understanding. We usually wouldn’t tell our friends, “You are the worst person that ever walked the earth!” We would probably say something along the lines of, “You made a poor decision, let’s learn from it and move on.” Let’s not forget to extend that courtesy to ourselves. Life is hard enough without us lobbing loads of judgment on ourselves.
Shame comments leave marks. Shaming someone we love around vulnerability is the most serious of all breaches. Even if we apologize we’ve done serious damage because we’ve demonstrated our willingness to use sacred information as a weapon.
Shame comments are powerful and can change the course of someone’s life. Brown teaches that shame is highly correlated with addiction, violence, aggression, depression, eating disorders and bullying. If we as a community would make an effort to change our words, to force ourselves into saying, “You made a disappointing decision,” instead of “You’re a disappointing person,” we could change our corners of the world. More people would be walking around with a better sense of who they are and what they can offer.
3) Own the story. Don’t bury it and let it fester. If we own the story, we get to write the ending. If we own the story, we can steer it. If we own the story, it doesn’t own us.
One last tip I learned. We have to shift our words from, I am bad to I did something bad.
When we say, I did something bad, this will elicit feelings of guilt and will likely help change our behavior. For example, I drank too much and that was a mistake. Guilt = I did something bad.
When we say, I am bad, this elicits feelings of shame and will likely push us further into dark corners and where nothing god happens. For example, I drank too much and I am a mistake. Putting that anvil of shame on our shoulders hurts our possibility for ever leading a joyful life. Shame = I am bad.
We have all made mistakes, some of us have made HUGE mistakes and we will all continue to stumble and fall. Unless we develop Jesus like actions and perfect self-esteem we can bet that shame is going to keep coming at us. Good thing we can get a grip on it.
We will all be blessed with high points and low points, but constant depression and suffering are lesser choices. Suffering doesn’t make us better, it dims our life. Let’s look at shame in the eye, recognize it and tell it to hit the road. Part of Daring Greatly is living in our authenticity, and showing up in an honest way. Let’s keep inching into who we most want to be.