I have just finished a book that honestly has been one of the best I have read in a very long time. The book is called Daring Greatly by Brene Brown. The book is all about vulnerability and its ability to transform our relationships, leadership, parenting and more.
The theme of the book that really affected me deeply was all the chapters on shame. I realised as I read this book, that so much of my life and my decisions in my past have been shadowed by shame. A shame that has pervaded most areas of my life. Its not that I have lots of secrets in my cupboard, I have disclosed all of them to my closest friends, it is the way I process and deal with transitions and change in my life with shame.
You know that internal voice that tells us we should have known better, we shouldn’t have trusted that person. That place in our hearts that mocks saying if only I had tried harder, if only I had not rocked the boat, if only.
Many of us live our lives in shame and there is a devastating cycle that comes out of those shadows in our leadership, our parenting and in our relationships. Without even realising we speak and lead with shame.
As I was reading the book a story from my teenage years flooded my memory and I realised how this season in my life had shaped and shamed me. I remembered being a part of a dancing troupe that I absolutely adored. We would dance together 2 or 3 times a week and as a fourteen year old, the acceptance of my fellow dancers and my teacher was paramount. We would compete in competitions and every trophy and medal we won, didn’t fill the deep need in me to be liked. You see just as teenage girls can be, there was a click in our troupe that decided to bully me. They would constantly tell me that I smelled and any time that we practiced our dances, they would snigger and laugh and try to move away from me because they believed I smelled bad. I remember pretending to be asleep on a bus as we drove to a competition and I could hear them gossiping and telling each other how they didn’t want to dance next to me on stage because I was smelly.
Oh the shame.
Oh the heartbreak.
I have never told that story to anyone. I haven’t even whispered its darkness because I have always feared that it may be true.
In relationships hoping that I would be attractive enough, that someone would love me, in friendships controlling the circumstances so my shame wasn’t exposed.
“We judge people in areas where we’re vulnerable to shame, especially picking folks who are doing worse than we’re doing. If I feel good about my parenting, I have no interest in judging other people’s choices. If I feel good about my body, I don’t go around making fun of other people’s weight or appearance. We’re hard on each other because we’re using each other as a launching pad out of our own perceived deficiency.” Brene Brown
Shame is like a cancer of our souls.
Week after week, day after day I encounter people who have been parented with shame, who have lived in relationships with shame, have done everything they can to cover up areas of vulnerability that they pray no one would find out the weakness in their lives. We literally have a generation of soul sick people who are doing everything they can to live up to the expectations of their families and whenever they fall short shame layers their heart with another piece of rotten wood.
What do you feel shameful about?
What parts of your life are full of shame?
Do you lead, parent or love from a shameful place? (hoping if I make them feel ashamed of themselves they will treat me better!)
I want to encourage you to read this book, but one of the ways that Brene Brown teaches to get rid of our shame cultures, is to expose those places of shame in a safe way, with people that will love and accept you and start to process them.
One of the greatest reasons that shame is so destructive is that it implores us to keep secrets and to keep those places that we are ashamed of hidden.
The more that we hide those thoughts and emotions of shame, the more they control how we act, how we love and how we move forward into our worlds.
Take time to reveal those shameful places.
In quiet and safe ways.
Find a friend, find a counsellor, find a pastor, find someone and let’s wage war on shame this holiday season.
Till we meet again.