I’m currently reading The Gifts of Imperfection and have landed on a section that talks about shame and how it gets in the way of what Dr. Brown calls wholehearted living. She says that shame is universal, yet we tend not to talk about it. Unfortunately, per her research, the more we try to hide shame, the more it has control over our lives.
She asserts that we need to talk more about shame, and even further, about the negatives in our lives. She recalls a speaking event where a woman wanted her to talk only about joy because, essentially, no one wants to think about shame. We probably all encounter this sentiment in our daily lives. Have you ever allowed yourself to be vulnerable enough to vent a friend about negative events, only to have your feelings dismissed with a hand wave and a “Stop being so negative. There are so many people with worse problems.” Well, yes, there are. But that doesn’t mean I don’t feel horrible at this moment.
She talks about the difference between shame and guilt, with guilt reminding you that you did something bad and shame asserting that you are bad. Such an important distinction isn’t it? I think that if I had read this at an earlier point in my life, I would have been able to let go of my imperfections much sooner. Sometimes we make mistakes, but that doesn’t mean that we are ruined as a person. And it doesn’t mean that we have to ruminate on them as a penance for what we did. We amend, learn from it, and move on. Furthermore, we can do something kind for ourselves to help us heal from the shame. Self-compassion is so important.
Hopefully, you have a person in your life that lets you share your shame stories and embraces you with open arms when you do. And likewise, I hope that you hug yourself after you share them because it takes tremendous courage to do so.