I shared in my last post that I’ve been particularly inspired lately by the work of Brené Brown. Brené is a Texan story-teller and shame researcher, whose TED Talks on vulnerability and shame have struck a nerve with thousands, including myself. Daring Greatly and The Gifts of Imperfection were a balm to my soul, and I’ve already recommended them to several people.
Brené often shares people’s reactions when she tells them she’s a shame researcher: horrified, embarrassed (for Brené), confused, etc. People don’t like to talk about shame. In fact, Brené has discovered that shame is one of the most silent, covered-up epidemics of the day. Shame thrives in our society because the weight of it causes us to keep it secret. It robs us of the very qualities we need in order to overcome it: courage, compassion, and connection.
Life-changing, traumatic events cause us to reflect, and that’s a lot of what I’ve been doing. Brené’s work has impacted me because I have many times, especially lately, bought in to several of the debilitating beliefs that cause shame.
Belief #1: I am not enough.
Brené calls our egos “the Hustler”—this is the part of our minds that tells us, “You screwed up again. Life isn’t going well because you are not [smart/pretty/good/working hard] enough.” The Hustler says, “Work harder. Wear more makeup. Jump higher. Bend over backwards. Do whatever they want.” Instead of accepting that life is full of obstacles and that pain is part of the human experience, the Hustler tells us that life should be perfect—that I should be perfect—and that whenever I encounter adversity, struggle, or hardship, it means that I am failing. And when we fail, we experience shame.
Belief #2: I don’t deserve compassion.
When we fail, we have a hard time seeing past our own pain, guilt, and suffering. We forget that suffering is something everyone goes through. Everyone makes mistakes, everyone screws up. Everyone has experienced being hurt by someone else, and everyone has experienced being the cause of someone else’s pain. We forget that this is a moment, and all we can see is how we feel right now—so if how we feel is worthless and guilty, we start to believe that we are worthless and guilty.
We also think that receiving compassion would be excusing whatever we’ve done wrong, but that’s not true. Compassion helps us understand the suffering we’ve caused and moves us to a place of repentance. It helps us accept the consequences of what we’ve done and motivates us to make it right.
Belief #3: I am alone.
Related to #2, when we believe that we don’t deserve compassion, we don’t reach out for the help we need. We keep our shame secret, and we listen to the only voice we’ve allowed in our heads: that of the Hustler. We automatically assume that others will judge us the same way we judge ourselves. And then, because we’ve locked others out, we truly are alone in our suffering.
Brené says that the qualities we need for overcoming shame are Courage, Compassion, and Connection.
We need the courage to face and accept our pain.
We need compassion for ourselves and others—because no one is perfect, and everyone experiences pain.
We need connection with others to remind ourselves of these truths and help us maintain perspective.
I encourage you to take a look at the many resources Brené has made available for overcoming shame. Her website is full of free videos and downloads. Talk to your friends and/or a counselor about what you’re experiencing. Take Brené’s eCourse with Oprah. I know we don’t take Oprah very seriously, but I’m actually finding a ton of helpful materials on her website—like this self-guided, FREE meditation course with Deepak Chopra. No, I am not paid to say any of this. I’m just claiming help wherever I can, and I want to share it with you.
Have you experienced shame? No need to share details, but it’s also nice to know we’re not alone.
Are there any other resources I should know about?