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Embracing Shame

Shame is the warm feeling that washes over us, making us feel small, flawed and never good enough.

Brene Brown

Have I told you I just love Brene Brown’s work. She’s a psychologist based in Texas and she just gets it. I use her quotes quite a bit.

I’m sure you know that it can be super difficult to speak up about things that are intimately important to you; things that are culturally shameful to discuss. What is it about shame that keeps us silent?

Well, I so happened to recently purchase a book by Brene Brown that covers shame in great detail. It’s called Daring Greatly. And, the information is so poignant, I can’t help but share it. See if it speaks to you.

Brene has spent decades studying shame, vulnerability and human imperfection. Through her research, a definition of shame as emerged:

Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.

Now before you think you’re above shame, let’s be honest, everybody has shame – it’s universal. Brene has discovered twelve “shame categories” we may experience:

  • Appearance and body image
  • Money and work
  • Motherhood/fatherhood
  • Family
  • Parenting
  • Mental and physical health
  • Addiction
  • Sex
  • Aging
  • Religion
  • Surviving trauma
  • Being stereotyped or labeled

Do some of these areas of shame hit home to you? My biggies on the list are appearance and body image, work, motherhood, mental health, and aging. We hold onto specific shame categories from different experiences in our life. I believe our personality and gender define them, as well.

Well, this is all depressing and defeating. How do we rise above shame? Well, Brene has some helpful pointers about that, too!

  • Recognize shame and understand its triggers. What messages and expectations trigger your shame?
  • Practice critical awareness. Are the messages and expectations you carry realistic and attainable? Do people really want or need those things from you?
  • Reach out. Connect with others and own and share your story. Brene says shame cannot survive being talked about.
  • Speak shame. Are you talking about how you feel and asking for what you need when you feel shame?

This is some scary stuff to delve into, huh? My question is, if everybody has shame, why is it so hard to talk about? Let’s encourage each other to share ourselves. Have you ever noticed when someone does share their shame how much more connected you feel to them?

This probably isn’t my last post with Brene Brown’s wisdom in it. I’m sure I’ll come back to shame, vulnerability and connection in the future. In the meantime, I highly recommend you check out her work or books HERE.

Andrea Berryman Childreth

Author Andrea Berryman Childreth

Andrea Berryman Childreth is an award-winning author of the book, ON THE EDGE: Help and hope for parenting children with mental illness, founder of The Lemonade Project, advocate and parent coach. She has first-hand experience with parenting a mentally ill daughter and has struggled with mental illness, herself. Her goal is to help empower people to openly share their stories and improve access to equitable mental health services.

More posts by Andrea Berryman Childreth