We all experience shame, also known as guilt, humiliation, or embarrassment. Shame is universal – but we don’t have to surrender to it. We can fight it. Read on to learn how to combat shame.
I’ve had some conversations recently with a close friend about how we want to start a blog to talk about the shit that no one talks about. The stuff that has a such a big stigma attached to it that everyone feels they need to bottle it all up because we don’t think it’s “normal” or it doesn’t live up to these unrealistic expectations that we or society has set for us about how we’re supposed to feel and act. Like when you have problems in your relationship with your significant other. Admitting to seeing a therapist. Struggling with your weight. Experiencing postpartum depression. Admitting to body image issues. Having anxiety about tying the knot. Undergoing financial struggles. The types of things that when admitted to make us feel like a failure. The stuff NOBODY wants to talk about but yet SO many people can relate to. And without the ability to normalize this stuff – to connect with others who share the same human experience – we crack. We develop anxiety. We feel depressed. We disconnect.
When did we become a culture that no longer talks about anything remotely difficult or uncomfortable? When did we all start feeling so shameful about our thoughts, feelings, and struggles?
I’ve been thinking a lot about shame lately after finishing Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly. It’s a must read if you struggle with vulnerability (but who doesn’t). And I’ve concluded I’ve been a bit of a shame basket case and I need to cut the shame out!
Not sure what shame even is? Brown defines shame as “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection…shame is the fear of disconnection – it’s the fear that something we’ve done or failed to do, an ideal we’ve not lived up to, or a goal we’ve not accomplished, makes us unworthy of connection.”
Brown lists twelve “categories” where shame typically rears its ugly head:
- appearance and body image
- money and work
- mental and physical health
- surviving trauma
- being stereotyped or labeled
So how do we combat shame? How do we get out of this vicious cycle of feeling ashamed?
TALK ABOUT YOUR SHAME.
Shame grows and gets bigger when we don’t talk about it so the only way to minimize shameful feelings is to talk it out.
Brown writes in Daring Greatly: “shame derives its power from being unspeakable. That’s why it loves perfectionists – it’s so easy to keep us quiet. If we cultivate enough awareness about shame to name it and speak to it, we’ve basically cut it off at the knees. Shame hates having words wrapped around it. If we speak shame, it begins to wither. Just the way exposure to light was deadly for the gremlins, language and story bring light to shame and destroy it.”
One caveat to talking about shame is don’t just lay your shame on anyone and everyone – that can have its own repercussions. Instead, identify a couple or few people in your life who you trust with all your heart and know they’ll always have your back. Those are the people you should deem your “shame buddies”. The people who you should feel safe talking to and getting vulnerable with. The people who love you no matter what.
We need to start opening up more. Breaking down the walls we’ve built up. Stop worrying about being judged. About caring what other people will think of us. We need to start letting our true selves be seen.
Because by doing so we can connect with other people who might be going through the same thing we are. We can help heal each other by normalizing – by saying, I know what you’re going through. You’re not alone. Because feeling alone is a really, really shitty feeling.
We all have so much more in common than we think. We all share the human experience. And that human experience is one wild ride. So don’t take the ride alone. Find a partner. A confidante. And get vulnerable. Be seen. And combat shame, once and for all.
Tell me, do you ever experience shame? When does shame come up for you? Do you talk about it or bottle it up?