Understanding & Combating Shame

“Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.” (p.69) –  Daring Greatly by Brene Brown

In Brene Brown’s chapter “Understanding and Combating Shame”, she eloquently outlines how we all feel shame, we all are afraid of it and the more we don’t talk about it, the greater hold is has over controlling our lives.

As a person who comes from a very broken background of lies, family divorce, manipulation and so much more darkness, I have dealt with the shame of coming from an imperfect background. I grew up, and still to this day, feel that because I come from a background that can’t be described as perfectly loving and with love just a phone call away that I could never connect with another person. No one would understand me. That I wasn’t worthy of love. I felt that if I ever opened up and released some of my shame, I would be burdening the other person. Because I have a lot of darkness, a lot of “not okay” moments that happened to me, a lot of horror stories that shock people, that still shock me.

This couldn’t be farther from the truth.

“Shame is the fear of disconnection. We are psychologically, emotionally, cognitively, and spiritually hardwired for connection, love and belonging. Connection, along with love and belonging (two expressions of connection), is why we are here, and it is what gives purpose and meaning to our lives.” (p.68)

I realize now that I have been so filled in shame about my past that, in fact, I have sunk so deep in the quick sand that I would rather avoid any connection than to be turned away or “shunned” by anyone. I would rather disconnect and maintain control on my side than reaching out my vulnerable hand in connection. Who can I trust to empathize with me? How do I recognize a kind, empathetic person versus a person who won’t care about my story or will hurt me when I am most vulnerable?

As Brene Brown puts, “If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive…A social wound needs a social balm, and empathy is that balm.” (p.75). The only way to not allow shame to eat you alive is to release the secrets you have been holding on so dearly to as to maintain your image, your porcelain doll-like exterior. Brene shares something that gave me a profound gasp of relief on a following page: “Empathy is connecting with the emotion that someone is experiencing, not the event or the circumstance. Shame dissipated the moment I realized that I wasn’t alone – that my experience was human.” (81) Yes, no one went through the exact same sequence of terrible words said, things thrown, dreams shattered, but, people can emphasize with the emotions I have felt: betrayal, fear, confusion, anger, loneliness.

Basically, what I’m trying to say is that I hate the thought of new relationships who don’t understand my tangled background because I am afraid that once people figure out my shattered past that they will realize that I have more heavy weights that I am trying to juggle – that they will think I am too much drama. But, what I am realizing every single day through reading these books and talking with more people is that every person has their own bag of Santa coals. Everyone has pain. Everyone has heartache. Everyone has been betrayed by their family. Everyone has been confused by the action of their mother or father. Everyone wants to feel loved and like they aren’t alone.

“You’re only as sick as your secrets” (82). 

I don’t want to be sick. I want to be fresh, alive and happy.

I want to be me.

What secrets are you hiding in the deepest crevice of your closet?



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