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There’s something liberating about not pretending. Dare to embarrass yourself. Risk. Drew Barrymore.

It is the false shame of fools to try and conceal wounds that have not healed. Horace

Last night I didn’t go to Toastmasters. I didn’t have a role, and it was cold outside. Any excuse will do if you want an excuse. I got on the scale this morning; I’ve been using the same excuse to not get to the gym.

In Brene Brown’s book I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn’t) she says women have described various physical reactions to shame, including stomach tightening, nausea, shaking, waves of heat in their faces and chests, wincing and twinges of smallness. She says she didn’t even recognize her own physical response to shame at the beginning of her research. Only after she interviewed about fifty women did she begin to recognize her own reaction to shame.

She realized some women with high levels of shame resilience recognized and could describe their physical reaction to shame. It seems to recognize our physical reaction to shame, and naming it, increases our opportunity to be mindful and to react consciously. When we recognize these triggers we can take some time alone to “pull ourselves together” or “sort through our feelings.”

Brene Brown tells us vulnerability is not weakness. When I see vulnerability in talks at Toastmasters I see it as pure courage. It takes courage to tell the truth, in many ways I believe it is true, “the truth will set us free.”

Vulnerability is the birthplace of creativity, adaptability, change, and innovation. She tells us we need to talk about shame. She says we can’t address our problems with race relations, police brutality, corruption, or anything else without addressing our shame. We failed at doing what we should have done. Many of the ills in the world shouldn’t have happened. We know this and so we feel shame that they did. We can’t fix anything unless we face our shame and the situation that has been created.

It is the same in our own life. We have to face the things we aren’t proud of. The failures in our life, the things we didn’t do, didn’t finish, the mistakes we made, where we weren’t perfect. “Never good enough,” and” who do you think you are” is what shame tells us. Shame is “I am bad,” guilt is “I’m sorry I made a mistake.” Shame is highly correlated with negative behaviors, alcoholism, drug addiction, gambling addictions, domestic violence, anorexia, etc. Guilt means we can change something, because it is outside of us.

Unlike guilt, which is the feeling of doing something wrong, shame is the feeling of being something wrong. Marilyn J. Sorenson

Never feel shame for trying and failing for he who has never failed is he who has never tried. Og Mandino

Shame for women is this web of conflicting expectations we don’t feel we meet. We aren’t good enough, pretty enough, thin enough, good enough. Shame paralyzes us, guilt can energize us. “Do it all, do it perfectly and never let them see us sweat. “This is who we want to be, we feel shame because we aren’t that person.

For men, shame is one thing, not being perceived as “weak.” Men feel women would rather see them die on top of their white horse than see them fall down. When a woman can sit with a man in his incredible vulnerability and shame, and empathize with him he feels understood, valued, that is empathy. The worst thing we women do to our men is shaming them. Men feel that women are harder on them than anyone else. When men can sit with women in their vulnerability and shame, and listen to her so she feels heard, not try to fix it, just listen, that is empathy.

Empathy is the antidote to shame. Shame needs three things to grow exponentially, secrecy, silence, and judgment. When we can say to someone, “me too,” this is empathy. This is the antidote to shame; we are jumping into the puddle with them. We are letting them know they are not alone. We have been there too, and it’s okay to feel what they are feeling, think what they are thinking, and move forward in their lives. Even if we become as good as we can be, we will never be perfect. We need to be okay with daring greatly, failing greatly, and trying again. We need to be okay with this when it is ourselves, our families, our partners.

Are we able to empathize with others? Can we feel guilt instead of shame, and use it to fuel our lives?

Your shame hides in many places – in anger, blame, denial, workaholism, perfectionism, drinking, and anything else you compulsively engage in to make yourself feel better. But if you could just learn to be vulnerable for one second, and open up to the pain, you would find there’s no place left for your shame to hide.  Adam Appleson

Shame is the most powerful, master emotion. It’s the fear that we’re not good enough. Brene Brown

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