Happy Sunday, readers! Today we are going to talk about Shame.
Today we have an awesome special guest joining us to contribute a post about shame to our Adulting series. Posts go up each Sunday as we follow along with the steps in the book, Adulting. Read more about what this is by clicking HERE.
Today’s guest is one of my favorites (or my absolute favorite), my wife, Chelsi. 🙂
Chelsi is a social worker who works as an Outpatient Therapist.
Let’s take a minute to talk about shame. . . . *and she was met with a resounding chorus of silence, crickets, and uncomfortable fidgeting.* Anyway. Lately I have been deeply intrigued by the work Brene Brown is doing on shame. I believe her research and discoveries related to shame can give us the key to live more whole-hearted and meaningful lives. Most of the ideas and information in this blog post come from Brene Brown’s work.
We all know that feeling of shame. That horrible, burning, sinking feeling that makes you want to crawl into a hole of darkness and disappear into the depths of nothingness. Brene Brown related shame to being the “swampland of the soul.” You know the feeling. Its when you call your boss and leave an impassioned speech about how you could do their job better than they can when you were five and have that desperate need to break into their office and erase the message. Or when you send that text message to someone important only to have the immediate hope, by some grace of God, that the message fails to send.
What is it that drives shame? What is it that lurks inside of us, ignored until we do something that leaves us feeling vulnerable and appearing weak? Its the idea that we are not enough: skinny enough, smart enough, worthy enough, etc. We live in a culture that constantly tells us that we are not enough just as we are. We are supposed to wear certain make up to make us pretty, wear clothes to look attractive, weigh a certain amount to appear beautiful. How do we promote feelings of worthiness in a culture where every part of us is criticized and judged by others? It seems nearly impossible to maintain feelings of worth.
But, I’m reminded of a quote from Teddy Roosevelt:
“Its not the critic who counts; not the one who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly, who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deeds, who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly…”
Brene Brown reminds us that there is a part of us that engineers staying small. A part of us that says, “Yeah, I’m gonna go in there and kick some ass! As soon as I achieve perfection!” Brown tells us, “Shame is an epidemic in our culture.” We all have it, we all experience it. Women, we all know we have to do it all, do it perfectly, and we can never let anyone see us struggle. Men, we know that above all else, you are never supposed to seem weak. Because if we show the broken pieces of ourselves, it will cause others to disconnect with us.
That leads us to wonder, “Is there something about me that will make me unworthy of connecting with others? Unworthy of fitting in? Unworthy of being accepted? What if I’m not good enough to connect like everyone else, connection being the essence of human experience??” This is the thing about shame – it is a fundamental feeling of “I am bad. I am sorry, I’m a mistake. I am not enough.”
What do we do with these feelings of shame? We ignore them. We numb ourselves to them. We try to control all things that could lead to shame; uncertainty and vulnerability. But, as Brene Brown so aptly points out, when we numb ourselves to hard emotions, we also numb joy and excitement. This leads to misery – making us wonder about the meaning and purpose of living, which makes us feel vulnerable and afraid. So, we go to the fridge and grab a few beers and a banana nut muffin to distract ourselves.
Brene Brown reminds us that we are the most in debt, obese, addicted and medicated population in US history. Shame can lead to addiction, depression, violence, aggression, bullying, suicide, eating disorders, and the list goes on.
How do we deal with shame? If we keep it a secret, silence it, and respond to it with judgement, it will grow faster than we can handle. This will lead to the aforementioned problems. However, vulnerability and shame can be the birthplace of creativity, innovation and change. Brown states, “The ability to hold something we’ve done, or failed to do, up against who we want to be is incredibly adaptive. Its uncomfortable, but adaptive.”
People who are able to use shame for their own benefit and don’t get dragged into the swamp of despair have four main characteristics. They have the courage to be imperfect. They treat themselves with compassion. They connect with people because they are authentic. They have embraced vulnerability as necessary and fundamental to connection. These people have an innate sense of worthiness, love and belonging. Most importantly, they BELIEVE they are worthy of love and belonging.
Step 7: Avoid Shame Boomerangs
In the book, Adulting, by Kelly Williams Brown, she explains the importance of avoiding shame boomerangs. A shame boomerang is when one of these horrible feelings that we have been discussing comes back to continually haunt you.
“Inciting shame incident -> bad feelings -> forgetting and/or getting distracted for a little while -> shame boomerang returns -> bad feelings the sequel, et cetera, all damn day.“
The thing with shame is that unless you build a resistance to it, it will continue to come back and haunt you. We’ve all felt it. So now its time to figure out how to build a resistance to that shame.
In order to build resilience to shame, it is vital to know what triggers shame for you. Talk to yourself like you are someone you love. You would never tell a child, “You are so stupid, and worthless. How dare you make that mistake?” Talk to yourself with kindness. Reach out to others and share your brokenness. Talk about your shame. Shame cannot survive being spoken, and it cannot survive empathy. Practice gratitude and joy in vulnerability.
Remind yourself, “I am enough.”
This will allow you to step into the arena to dare greatly and kick some ass.
Thank you again for sharing, Chelsi, on such an important topic!
Show Chelsi some love by leaving comments below!