I am reading the book by Brene Brown: “The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are” and wanted to share some of her amazing insights about shame and vulnerability.
Maybe it will resonate with some of you.
Or maybe you’ll feel uncomfortable with the word shame and want to turn away. Maybe you will think it doesn’t apply to you.
Brene talks about being authentic in a culture that wants us to “fit in” and “people-please”. She ponders the anatomy of authenticity and what are the parts that come together to create an authentic self? This is what she writes:
Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.
Choosing authenticity means
–cultivating the courage to be imperfect, to set boundaries, and to allow ourselves to be vulnerable;
–exercising the compassion that comes from knowing that we are all made of strength and struggle; and
–nurturing the connection and sense of belonging that can only happen when we believe we are enough.
Authenticity demands Wholehearted living and loving–even when it’s hard, even when we’re wrestling with the shame and fear of not being good enough, and especially when the joy is so intense we’re afraid to let ourselves feel it.
Mindfully practicing authenticity during our most soul-searching struggles is how we invite grace, joy, and gratitude into our lives.
It’s interesting–I have had a gut-level aversion to some of Brene’s teachings and did not want to read her books until yesterday. She is one of the leading researchers on the topics of shame and vulnerability in the world. The word “shame” didn’t resonate and I felt an aversion to a spiritual teaching which urged vulnerability and seemed to increase egoistic attachment.. (Ha ha–whenever one feels an aversion, isn’t there usually something that aversion is mirroring?)
If you had asked me last week: Do you feel much shame? I would have shrugged, maybe shook my head, discounted it. Maybe some episodes of shame, but nothing chronic. (Except maybe a vague shame connected with even the word “shame”.)
After beginning to read the book it was like a light illuminated in consciousness. Shame came into focus very clearly. It felt like something woke up and could suddenly see shame clearly. Brene might say shame is culturally taboo. The ego will do everything to push away feelings of shame. It doesn’t want to see shame, to feel it, to acknowledge its existence. It would prefer positivity.
Yet without clearly seeing and allowing the existence of shame, it goes underground. It’s often repressed. It isn’t fully allowed in this moment as a guest.
When it’s allowed–Oh, hello, shame, here you are again, come and sit awhile, I see you, you can exist, oh you dear sweetheart, don’t cry, OK, yes, you feel like you messed up, we’ll walk through this together–then something deep inside releases and allows more access to present moment awareness.
Shame can be very subtle. It doesn’t have to be a big full-blown sweating “Oh, I’m so ashamed!” It can be a tiny wave of discomfort, barely acknowledged. It can be a whisper of fear.
I am amazed, yet again, at the mechanics of ego’s repression. How we don’t see until we see. How we don’t wake up to a fragment of ourselves until we do.
We may wonder why we can’t stay awake in the present moment. Why we keep re-identifying with the personality, with the ego. It seems like it’s so easy for unconscious energy to subvert our intentions.
I am welcoming shame into this life in a conscious way. Come and show what you’ve been trying to teach. I will try not to push you away any more, even in subtle degrees.
Shame, what kind of tea would you like?
P.S. If you read yesterday’s blog post you will see a distinction between the words “shame” and “regret”. The two words can seem to point to the same concept. They describe what we feel when we sense we have “missed the mark” in our thoughts, attitudes or actions. However, they seem very different to me. Regret is an honest appraisal of seeing how we perhaps acted from less-than-stellar intentions, unconscious reactions, frustrated emotions. Shame exists when we feel ourselves “bad”. Instead of seeing our actions as imperfect, we feel ourselves as unworthy. It is no minor distinction.
One can empower and encourage consciousness; the other often debilitates and leaves us spinning in circles of confusion and despair unless we can fully allow it to appear without repression or acting out. One gestures towards healthy accountability; the other toward more unconscious reactivity.