I am still reading Brene Brown's book 'The Gifts of Imperfection' and just re-read the chapter on "The Things That Get in the Way." On p. 36 she says the bottom line is...
If we want to live and love with our whole hearts, and if we want to engage with the world from a place of worthiness, we have to talk about the things that get in the way -- especially shame, fear, and vulnerability.
As she states, we have more access to information, more books, and more good science - yet we are the most obese, medicated, addicted and in-debt Americans EVER. She believes the reason is because we don't talk about the things that get in the way of doing what we know is best for us, our children, our families, our organizations, and our communities.
I like her definition of shame: "Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging" (or, basically, shame is the fear of being unlovable).
Guilt and shame are similar, but there is a huge difference - which is what makes shame so bad.
- Guilt = I did something bad (our behavior)
- Shame = I am bad (who we are)
Therefore, the way to develop shame resilience, as she calls it, involves four things:
1. Name it - understand and recognize what triggers your shame.
2. Talk about it - don't be afraid of the word shame, or to admit that you experience it, just like everyone else.
3. Own your story - be willing to admit that you are an imperfect human being and there's nothing wrong with that. Merely doing something bad (or silly, or stupid, or whatever), doesn't mean you ARE bad.
4. Tell the story - have the courage to share your story with people you trust.
She says on p. 47, to kick-start your shame resilience and story-claiming, start by trying to figure out the answers to these questions:
- Who do you become when you're backed into the shame corner? (what are your symptoms?)
- How do you protect yourself? (do you clam up, lash out, pout, cry...)
- Who do you call to work through the mean-nasties or the cry-n-hides or the people pleasing?
- What's the most courageous thing you could do for yourself when you feel small and hurt?
I found that chapter very insightful (which is why I read it twice). It brought to mind a couple instances from my childhood where I think my shame may have started to develop (and started to develop the way I am). I can remember one time - I don't know how old I was, but I wasn't in school yet - my Uncle Bill was visiting. He had just fixed our screen door and was sitting around with my parents chatting. It was storming outside, and it thundered or lightning flashed or something, and I kind of shook my fist at it and hit the screen. Uncle Bill yelled at me and told me not to touch the screen because he'd just fixed it. He wasn't really even yelling at me, and he wasn't being mean at all, but I distinctly remember feeling embarrassed because I was a pretty shy child and it made me feel bad when I was trying to fit in and then got scolded. I think I ended up just going in the living room and sitting on the couch by myself.
Another instance I have always remembered from my early childhood was the time I had saved up enough money from returning pop bottles to the grocery store, and one of my earliest purchases I can remember was a motorcycle magazine. I was really into cars and motorcycles and such when I was younger, and I thought this magazine was so cool - plus the fact that I'd bought it myself. Well, as soon as my dad got home he threw a fit and took me back to the store and made me return it because he didn't want that kind of thing in our house (or some such reason, which I still don't understand). Again, it was just kind of embarrassing and made me feel like what I liked didn't matter or was wrong, which made me feel wrong and worthless.
There are a few other stories like those that I believe kind of led me to be a little guarded with certain people. I was afraid to be vulnerable in front of them because I feared being ridiculed. Which seems so petty and makes me feel like a baby - it's not like my parents abused me or beat me or mistreated me like so many other people's experiences; I had a good upbringing - but I guess it just goes to show how wacked out a person can be when they hide their shame and fear.
So, I don't really know what the most courageous thing for me to do is at the moment... I'm still processing... but this is a place to start. I am owning my story. That seems to be the start of my feelings of shame. I've replayed those scenes so many times when I've "put myself out there" and then been embarrassed. I usually deal with it by shutting down and letting anger build up inside. That then results in bitterness and depression and a reliance on a variety of vices to try to cope with my feelings of inadequacy. Hmmmmmm......... maybe the courageous thing then, the next time it happens, is to just say, "You know, that hurts my feelings" (or whatever the case may be). I dunno... innaresting stuff.
I should probably stop typing and do some work.