Monthly Archives: October 2012

Shame…on you

Shame is a feeling that everyone struggles with, men and women of all ages, social status, education level and perceived levels of success. We all struggle with shame. “Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.” (Brown, 68) Shame is not guilt, where we realize we have done something wrong and can’t believe we did whatever we did. It is not humiliation where we feel like we are receiving treatment we don’t deserve. It is not embarrassment where we can see others having made the same embarrassing thing. Shame becomes a part of the story we tell about ourselves, we begin to believe that we are the issue. Shame moves beyond I have done something wrong to believing that I am something wrong.

Men and women experience shame differently. For women the primary trigger is how they look, followed by motherhood. It sounds like this:

  • Look perfect. Do perfect. Be perfect. Anything less is shaming.
  • Being judged by other mothers.
  • Being exposed—the flawed parts of yourself that you want to hide from everyone are revealed.
  • No matter what I achieve or how far I’ve come, where I come from and what I survived will always keep me from feeling like I’m good enough.
  • Even though everyone knows that there’s no way to do it all, everyone still expects it. Shame is when you can’t pull it off looking like it’s under control.
  • Never enough at home. Never enough at work. Never enough in bed. Never enough with my parents. Shame is never enough.
  • No seat at the cool table. The pretty girls are laughing (Brown, 85)

For men it is organized around the perception of being weak, and this comes from both men and women. If you haven’t watched the video, I know I can really resonate with the man who exclaims, “but when we reach out and share our stories, we get the emotional shit beat out of us.” And not just by other guys, women play into this as well. Men learn young how to pretend to be vulnerable.

Shame for men sounds like:

  • Shame is failure. At work. On the football field. In your marriage. In bed. With money. With your children. It doesn’t matter—shame is failure.
  • Shame is being wrong. Not doing it wrong, but being wrong.
  • Shame is a sense of being defective
  • Shame happens when people think you’re soft. It’s degrading and shaming to be seen as anything but tough.
  • Revealing weakness is shaming. Basically, shame is weakness.
  • Showing fear is shameful. You can’t show fear. You can’t be afraid—no matter what.
  • Shame is being seen as the “guy you can shove up against the lockers.”
  • Our worst fear is being criticized or ridiculed—either one of those is extremely shaming. (Brown, 92)

The experience of shame is the same but the way it is received is different between the sexes. We never become immune to shame, but we can learn to become resilient. Shame prevents us from risking and being creative. It tells us we are not good enough, not smart enough, not popular enough…you can fill in whatever possible fear you like. It keeps us out of the arena, keeps us from sharing things that are important to us and keeps us imprisoned in our own shame. It thrives in an environment of secrecy and judgment.

I know I haven’t done justice to Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly, which is an incredible book-better even than the videos, but it is time for me to move on to something else. Enjoy the video and may you develop resilience to the power of shame.

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Cultures of Scarcity

Narcissism, you would think we are surrounded by it, that every person is self absorbed:politicians, movie stars, young people, athletes, police, parents, CEOs, and the list could go on and on, it is ‘those people’ who are self absorbed, but it is rarely me.  “If only we could cut these people down to size, put them in their right place, make them realize that they need to work for a living” might be some people’s response to those people they dub as narcissists, but the reality is that narcissism is an outgrowth of shame.  It is the fear of being ordinary, of not being noticed or being loveable, belonging, being cool. Often it grows from trying to cultivate a sense of purpose in what may seem to be the hollowness in their lives.

We live with scarcity, the never enough problem. Fill in the blank never _________enough:

  • Never good enough
  • Never perfect enough
  • Never thin enough
  • Never powerful enough
  • Never successful enough
  • Never smart enough
  • Never certain enough
  • Never safe enough
  • Never extraordinary enough (this list comes from Brown’s Daring Greatly, 24)

We get scarcity because we live in a world where we believe it and live it. And scarcity strives in a culture where you are hyper aware of what you lack, now the flip side is that scarcity can blind you to what you have. How big of a paycheck is big enough, how much money do you really need, and yet we live in a culture where we are measured by impossible standards and we have visions of perfection put before our eyes-visions of what we should have, what our family should be, how our marriages should be, how we should look and the list goes on and on.  “Scarcity doesn’t take hold in a culture overnight. But the feeling of scarcity does thrive in a shame-prone cultures that are deeply steeped in comparison and fractured by disengagement” (Brown, 26) Wow, we eat, breathe and drink comparison-we measure ourselves against others and alienation or disengagement is one of the words that when you ask people about how they feel that often sums up there experience. We have much greater access to what is going on in the world, but that engagement often focuses heavily on the negative…school shootings, corporate scandals, wars, natural disasters, famines, unemployment-and even when we are not directly involved we feel that these events “out there” are stealing our sense of security “here.”

There are three components to a culture of scarcity:

  1. Shame: is fear of ridicule and belittling used to manage people and/or keep people in line? Is self worth tied to achievement, productivity or compliance? Are blaming and finger pointing norms? Are name calling and finger pointing rampant? What about favoritism? Is perfectionism an issue?
  2. Comparison: Healthy competition is beneficial, but is there constant overt or covert comparing and ranking? Has creativity been suffocated? Are people held to one narrow standard rather than acknowledged for their unique gifts and contributions? Is there an ideal way of being or one form of talent that is used as measurement of everyone else’s worth?
  3. Disengagement: Are people afraid to take risks and try new things? Is it easier to stay quiet than to share stories, experiences, and ideas? Does it feel as if no one is really paying attention and listening? Is everyone struggling to be seen and heard? (Brown,27)

Scarcity is not cured by abundance. There are many people who are convinced that there is never enough money, never enough time, never enough sleep, never enough health, they will never be beautiful enough or smart enough or popular enough. If you live from a perspective of scarcity it is never enough, no matter what abundance you have. The opposite of scarcity is enough, it is a different way of looking at the world. Scarcity breeds shame and fear, but enough allows you to take the risks involved with being vulnerable.  It is not easy to believe you have enough in a culture that thrives on scarcity, just like it is not easy to remain calm when everyone else may seem anxious.

I think we all seek a feeling of being worthy and nobody wants to live a life based on fear. Courage involves risk and perhaps the greatest risk is vulnerability.

Note: I’m doing this because I am trying to internalize some of what I have learned from Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly which is a phenomenal book and this is a part of a series of posts that pull very heavily from that work.

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