explore, nurture

Shame and vulnerability

Painful recent events have brought me to delve into important aspects of my life, security, health, love, work, money happiness… and what I found disturbed me. While dealing with some intense emotions which ranged from fear, sadness and anger, I found to my annoyance a negative underlying voice whispering that it’s not surprising, as I’m too weak, too old, too stupid, too impatient, too too too…And here’s the crux of it; they’ve (feel free to add your own names…) either found out or will find out.

How can I possibly be a kind, loving, creative and fun loving parent, friend, partner or colleague if I’m so hard on myself? In her book The Gifts of Imperfection, Brené Brown writes that shame is fueled by this kind of negative self-talk.

“Shame is that warm feeling that washes over us, making us feel small, flawed, and never good enough.”

Brown says these messages can take a variety of forms:

  • I’m flawed.
  • I’m not: good/pretty/talented/successful/rich/masculine/feminine/tough/caring/pretty/skinny/creative/popular enough.
  • Who do I think I am?
  • No one can ever find out about _______________________.
  • I’m going to pretend everything is OK.
  • I can change to fit in if I have to.
  • Taking care of them is more important than taking care of me.

In a previous post I shared Brown’s TED video on vulnerability. In her brilliant follow up talk she focuses on shame.

“Shame, for women, is this web of unobtainable, conflicting, competing expectations about who we’re supposed to be. And it’s a straight-jacket.”

And what’s the antidote to shame?

“ If you put shame in a Petri dish, it needs three things to grow exponentially: secrecy, silence and judgment. If you put the same amount of shame in a Petri dish and douse it with empathy, it can’t survive. The two most powerful words when we’re in struggle: me too.”

As Brown says shame cannot grow if you talk to yourself as you would talk to a loved one, if you reach out to someone you trust, and tell your story.

“If we’re going to find our way back to each other, vulnerability is going to be that path. And I know it’s seductive to stand outside the arena, because I think I did it my whole life, and think to myself,I’m going to go in there and kick some ass when I’m bulletproof and when I’m perfect. And that is seductive. But the truth is that never happens. And even if you got as perfect as you could and as bulletproof as you could possibly muster when you got in there, that’s not what we want to see. We want you to go in. We want to be with you and across from you. And we just want, for ourselves and the people we care about and the people we work with, to dare greatly.”

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