There was the time in sixth grade, when my best friend (since second grade) decided during recess that we were no longer friends. I didn’t get a heads up or any kind of explanation, she just stopped talking to me. Suffice it to say that my years in middle school became intolerable, I never even found out exactly what I had done wrong, it didn’t really matter. In the end she just chose another clique. I was just not “popular” enough. . .
It wasn’t that I got pregnant at 18, I was young and naive then but when it happened a second time at 20 with the same guy who by then I KNEW was not going to change, I should have known better. What could I have been thinking? Then I just wasn’t “smart” enough. . .
Fast forward and years later, I found myself sitting in a 6th classroom with my middle boy. The school had decided they had had enough. He was out of strikes; they could no longer tolerate his “inappropriate” behavior. The principal and his teacher just sat there giving their thoughts and suggestion. Sharing all of their wisdom, never mind that neither was a parent.
I had no words, with tears streaming down my face, all I could say was “you don’t know him; you have no idea who my son really is”. They didn’t care, they didn’t see him or me, they just wanted to avoid any more “problems”. They suggested perhaps he needed more family time. They didn’t say it but I felt it. . . .I wasn’t a “good enough mom”.
Each time there was a fire inside of me. My stomach turned and I literally felt sick, my face hot, burning.
The feeling of just not being ____ enough. Of feeling completely unworthy of anyone’s time or attention.
I wish I could say these were all the shame experiences of my life but the truth is that there have been many, many, more.
Shame is best defined as the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance and belonging. -Brene’ Brown.
Now, I could have chosen to not share these stories here, I could keep this blog as a space for sharing all of the “nice” things that have happened in my life. But I really strive for authenticity, and my goal is to be consistent in all aspects of life, including my online life.
I could choose to keep everything to myself. But here’s the thing, we all have stories. The details may be different, the physical symptoms may feel different but we have all experienced shame.
And honestly I’m so over hustling for approval. These days I’m feeling much more like myself and much less caring about what I’m not enough of for other people. I’m sad for that not enough girl of my past but I don’t want to be her anymore.
It’s exhausting. Approval of others will always be a moving target and frankly I’m ready to just wear my preapproved badge of honor. But it’s not easy. It’s not an off switch that we can just flip.
Shame is toxic.
But we need to talk about it. Because when we speak shame it loses its grip.
What if I told you that that thing you’re worried about? That thing you’ve done that is so shameful? You’re convinced if anyone found out they would hate you and that you’re convinced not a single other person has ever gone through.
What if I told you that I struggle with that too? How would that make you feel?
“shame creates, fear, blame and disconnection.”
Because although we live in a culture where we buy into the idea that we are constantly “connected”, the truth is we are incredibly isolated and alone.
I know this to be true not just from my own life but in talking to friends, working with clients and hearing other’s stories.
As a coach my heart breaks for women who are living in shame of past choices that they just can’t seem to get out from under. And yet I have witnessed incredible resilience from women who are working on being more self-aware, speaking shame and not letting it own them.
And as a mom I know that our ability to be shame resilient impacts the way our children will respond to shame. That’s been the greatest motivator for me to really dig deeper in understanding shame and what it looks like to live with empathy and vulnerability.
Because much of the shame we experience is often passed down, from our own parents and caregivers. Not necessarily on purpose but because it was what was passed down to them and so on. . .
I know this to be true, as a school counselor I saw time and again how shame impacted children from a very young age. Both being shamed by parents and caregivers as well as teachers and coaches.
Over the past year or so I have been devouring Brene’ Brown’s work on shame and vulnerability. It is life changing.
Seriously if you don’t know who she is go check out her ted talk and then come back and finish reading.
From the web site: The Daring Way™ is a training and certification program for helping professionals who want to facilitate Brené Brown’s work on vulnerability, courage, shame, and worthiness. We are a community of wholehearted practitioners who believe in the power of owning our stories, and who recognize that vulnerability is our most accurate measure of courage.
That means I’ll be able to expand my coaching practice to include specific training on shame resilience based on her work. I am excited to be able to offer groups, workshops and other training in the coming months.
So in the weeks and months to come I’ll be talking about shame more in this space because as I said before it needs to be talked about.
I believe vulnerability is contagious and we can change our lives and our families when we are honest, own our imperfections and share our stories with courage.
Sometimes it just takes one person to be vulnerable and start the conversation, and that’s OK.
. . I’ll go first.