I just got done watching Brené Brown’s TED Talk, Listening to Shame, and have an urge to be vulnerable.
If you put shame in a petri dish, it needs three things to grow exponentially: secrecy, silence and judgement. If you put the same amount of shame in the petri dish and dose it with empathy, it can’t survive. The two most powerful words when we are in struggle are, “me too.”
As I read this again and again, I realize that it takes ME alone to mix the three ingredients in the first petri. Not only that, I can mix it into a great storm, without hardly any effort at all. The three ingredients are a stair step leading me to the abyss of shame.
I fear exposing so many parts of my life. What if people knew the real me? I might not be accepted or worse yet. I might be rejected. I might not be loved. What ever it is, this part of me is so horrible, I must hide it; I must keep it a secret.
I have to keep this to myself. My lips are sealed. I can not tell a soul. Not a word to any one. Since I make a conscience decision to keep my secret, It is so easy to trip to the next step, It is the sound of silence.
And why stop, there? Let’s keep going. This secrecy, this silence is bad. I make the final dive into the abyss. I make a judgement. I am bad, I am worthless. I am not worthy of love, not from anyone, not even myself.
With no help from the outside world, I find myself in the stew of shame. As the pot roils, I am buffeted by the internal and external world. The simplest comment like, “what happened here?”, turns into a blunt instrument which I can use to further inflict pain on myself. It’s a crazy place, shame. It is no fun being there. And as much as I know that, I spend far to much of my life there.
If I can only stop myself from going from one step to the next, anywhere along the way, it makes it much more difficult to bathe in the bone chilling waters that is shame.
Wouldn’t a shame free life be a wonderful place? Yes it would! Over the last three months of my life, I have been somehow able to miraculously keep myself out of the stew of shame. I have to say, it is a great place to be. I might go as far to say that it is a nirvana, a little slice of heaven on earth.
I really have to make more of an effort to stay away from this dark lord. What are steps I can take to keep myself away from the dank abyss known as shame?
A wise man, once said lust hates the light. If I expose my inner most thoughts, my inner most struggles to the light, I break the vow of secrecy. I expose a little bit more of who I am to my confidant. And in breaking that vow of secrecy, I am vulnerable.
And without the secrecy, the silence has no reason for being. What is the reason for silence if there is no secret to keep? Another step avoided.
And without the silence, the next step is that much harder to take. There are no judgements to be made. No sadness to feel. No shame to be felt.
To me, it seems my first step to shame, secrecy, holds the most power. By avoiding the whole secrecy thing, that makes the next two steps exponentially more difficult. A little vulnerability up front goes a long way in breaking my chain.
Paraphrasing the words of Mrs. Brown, vulnerability is not a sign of weakness, it is the most accurate measure of courage. This reminds me of a magnet that my younger sister gave me that hangs in my bathroom, “Courage doesn’t always roar, sometimes it’s the little voice inside that says I’ll try again tomorrow”.
So, for me to remain healthy, I must willingly force myself to be vulnerable. And in the vulnerability, I am courageous. I can be that little voice inside my head that says, “‘I’ll try again tomorrow.” And shame will have no power over me!
If you have made it this far, I ask you to comment, even if it is just two words. I might suggest you use the two most powerful words in a struggle, “me too.”