Daring Greatly: Understanding and Combating Shame

We all have shame. We all have good and bad, dark and light, inside of us. But if we don’t come to terms with our shame, our struggles, we start believing that there’s something wrong with us – that we’re bad, flawed, not good enough – and even worse, we start acting on those beliefs. If we want to be fully engaged, to be connected, we have to be vulnerable. In order to be vulnerable, we need to develop shame resilience.

The dictionary defines shame as a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.

6e0f56f27b208e64bf58f1b3fceb4faeBrown describes shame follows “Shame tells you that you shouldn’t have tried. Shame tells you that you’re not good enough and you should have known better.”

Brown’s 3 key points with shame are too crucial to not include:

  1. We all have it. Shame is universal and one of the most primitive human emotions that we experience. The only people who don’t experience shame lack the capacity for empathy and human connection. Here’s your choice: fess up to experiencing shame or admit that you’re a sociopath
  2. We’re afraid to talk about shame
  3. The less we talk about shame, the more control it has over our lives.

Shame is the fear of disconnection. Connection (love and belonging) is what we are hard-wired for, and cannot thrive without. Shame is the fear of disconnection – it’s the dear that something we’ve done or failed to do, and ideal we’ve not lived up to or a goal that we’ve not accomplished makes us unworthy of connection.

 

6c3c87ad39e300a78ea3760fab6ec1beI’m not gonna lie, this chapter was really hard – like I had to stop half way through kinda hard. As I was reading I found myself thinking “Oh I’m not held back by shame. It doesn’t affect me.” …FALSE

I just needed more time to think and process.

Brown even warns against this thought. That if you think you’re good, you’re wrong. We’re all affected by shame.

The lie I fall prey to is the one that I’m not good enough and I’ll never amount to anything.

I remember having a conversation with my dad a few years ago where he commented that I am not the confident girl I once was. I don’t remember most of the conversation. But he tells this story from when I was taking piano lessons and I proudly and confidently, in front of plenty of strangers, played my piano recital. And I was absolutely terrible. I was also in kindergarten or first grade. But what he remembers is the confidence and courage that I displayed going into my recital. Somewhere along the way of these last 20 years of life I lost that confidence. I was told in one way or another that I would never amount to anything or never succeed, that I lost all confidence.

Thankfully, I made my way through nursing school. I found a career that I love. But I still see this lack of confidence perseverating in my daily life.

Over the weekend I was able to visit with my boyfriend. On my last day there when he got off work we went for a walk. He asked me what I came up with for my blog (he knew I was brainstorming). I was terrified to answer him. I was afraid he would tell me I was stupid, that this blog is a waste of my time, energy, and effort. I was afraid he would tell me people wouldn’t find those topics interesting. Due to my fears, I gave him short answers. And instead of telling me how much of a failure I am and how idiotic these ideas were, he built on them. He gave me ideas, that I’m actually planning to use. When I was expecting to get shot down, he supported me.

One of the hardest things with this relationship is being vulnerable, and allowing myself to show someone the things I’m passionate about. I’m also learning how much I live my life in fear. Fear of what people are going to think, fear that I won’t be the expectations set before. Fear that I’m going to fall flat on my face and people are going to make fun of me. Fear that I’ll be considered stupid. And because of this fear, I hide. I don’t talk about my blog with other people. I struggle to talk about essential oils with people. I occasionally share about my exercise choices on my instragram but I really don’t talk about it. When people ask me for help with different things like essential oils, healthy eating, exercise, stress management, self-care, and healing from headaches, I panic. My heart starts racing and I will say “I don’t know” and then proceed to go into a rambling. Rather than confidently answering. When my coworkers or friends tell me that they liked my post this week I feel my face turn red and I want to find a table to hide under.

And the reality is this fear, this desire to hide is choosing to live in shame. It’s choosing to allow the shame gremlins take over.

What am I going to work through this fear? I don’t really know. Start talking about these things more. Start sharing about the things I’m interested in. Allow myself to be passionate about things, and allow that passion to shine through the fears. The biggest thing is baby steps. My conversation on Monday with my boyfriend was a baby step.

 

Shame resilience and combating shame.

Shame resilience is the ability to practice authenticity when we experience shame, to move through the experience without sacrificing our values and to come out on the other side of the shame experience with more courage, compassion, and connection than we had going into it. Shame resilience is about moving from shame to empathy – the real antidote to shame.

The 4 Elements of Shame Resilience

 

  • Recognize shame and understand its triggers — self knowledge, are you aware when shame is gripping you and what triggered the feeling?
  • Practicing critical awareness — Reality check. What are the messages and expectations driving your shame?
  • Reaching out — phone a friend. No connection, no empathy.
    Practice courage here. Reach out despite the desire to hide.
  • Speaking shame — when you aren’t sharing what’s really going on you can’t get the love and support you need.08a15a873c3a1714e6c083b37ecb096e

 

Own your story. When we bury the story we forever stay the subject of the story. If we own the story we get to narrate the ending (pg 80)

I am not what has happened to me, I am what I choose to become. – Carl Jung.

We have a choice. We have a choice in the way we live our lives. We can strive to live whole, authentic, honest lives or we can choose to allow shame to rule our lives. We can choose connection and vulnerability and the risks that come with that or we can choose to live in the isolation of shame. I don’t know about you, but I know I want to live the more abundant life. I want the life with connection, with love and belonging, with empathy.

Only when we’re brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.

We’ve all got light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That’s who we really are.

 

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