Shame. The word itself causes a physical reaction. The cringing feeling of discomfort. The instant pain of embarrassment. The, “Oh no! Don’t get too close!”, feeling. It is a silent enemy because there is no clear ability to tell who is struggling with shame from the outside. It is the internal battle between who we are and who we think we need to be. According to psychologist Brené Brown, over 90% of women experience shame about their bodies. However, other categories of shame include: identity, parenting, health, aging, and the ability to speak out with confidence.
Shame tells us how we are supposed to live and who we are supposed to be while simultaneously revealing our failure to meet those expectations.
Brené Brown defines shame as, “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance and belonging.” Shame tells us to put value in what other people think. When we do this, we can lose ourselves in the process of trying to meet the expectations of others. Shame tells us how we are supposed to live and who we are supposed to be while simultaneously revealing our failure to meet those expectations. The result is fear, blame and ultimately disconnection. Shame tells us we cannot share or change the things we dislike about ourselves. Therefore, the negative things we say about ourselves become something we start to believe.
So how do we overcome the monster of shame?
Vulnerability is the first step in breaking down the power of shame. This is a difficult step because our culture equates vulnerability with weakness. However, voicing our shame does the opposite, it causes our shame to wither. It is important to find a small group of people you can be vulnerable with who you can trust. It is good to set expectations with one another and to remember that empathy is key. You should create an atmosphere that is is free from talking down or disqualification. The goal with vulnerability is not necessarily to try and fix one another’s situations but it is to provide a space to openly voice struggles and allow perspectives to change in the process.
Though imperfection, can cause many people to feel shame, striving too hard for perfection can also cause shame.
The second step in overcoming shame is giving yourself the ability to be imperfect. Though imperfection, can cause many people to feel shame, striving too hard for perfection can also cause shame. According to Brené Brown, the problem of perfection is that it causes an unwillingness to look back at our own actions with understanding and compassion. The solution is to focus on improvement, by focusing on self-worth despite imperfection. Surrounding oneself with a group of people who can affirm and value us as imperfect people also allows change to be possible.
REMEMBERING YOUR ORIGINAL DESIGN
When we can present our authentic and imperfect selves to the world, that is when true belonging becomes possible.
The third step, and possibly the most important, is remembering who God says we are: We are; beloved (Romans 9:25), a treasured possession (Deuteronomy 7:6), His child (John 1:12; Romans 8:17), free (Galatians 5:1), redeemed (Ephesians 1:7), restored (1 Peter 5:10; Colossians 1:13), and forgiven (Hebrews 10:17; 1 John 1:9). When we see ourselves as God does, the opinions of others lose their power to control how we see ourselves, and we can simply be who we are. When we can present our authentic and imperfect selves to the world, that is when true belonging becomes possible.
This blog was based on the book, “I Thought it was Just Me,” by Brene Brown.