My Shame Meets Brene

“She could never go back and make some of the details pretty. All she could do was move forward and make the whole beautiful.” Terri St. Cloud

She could never go back and make some of the details pretty. All she could do was move forward and make the whole beautiful.” Terri St. Cloud

The financial crash that began in 2008-2009 has had a harrowing effect on my finances and lifestyle. The consequences have made this past decade “rich”in learning experiences for me. I have had to learn a new way to live internally and externally. I’ve had to learn to wrestle with my demons of shame and perfectionism. I’ve had to learn to live above trying circumstances by developing a lifestyle of gratitude.

I remember the day several years ago when a friend mentioned listening to a TEDtalk by a woman named Brene Brown. I had never heard of TEDtalks or Brene, but that night I listened to her talk on vulnerability. Life had broken me open enough to want to learn and change. Since that night, I’ve listened to all I can find and read most of her books. I’m a Brene groupie.

I was on the “unraveling journey” Brene writes about in The Gift of Imperfection.I was a classic case. “Shame is the birthplace of perfectionism” which our attempt to block any pain coming from blame, judgment and shame. Unfortunately it is an ineffective attempt. Shame only paralyses us. In Rising Strong, she says to ask not ‘what will people think?’, but instead ask ‘how can I be my best self?’ Also ask yourself what story you are telling yourself, what is your internal narrative? These questions are a thread throughout her work. We have to own our stories by “reckoning with our feelings and rumbling with our dark emotions- our fear, anger, aggression, shame and blame.”

I had to own my story of financial loss, embarrassment, shame and fear. I began by owning up to my grown children, then my sister, then my close friends, then trusted colleagues. I can’t say it got easier, but I got stronger and healthier. Brene is right- “shame and fear can’t tolerate powerful connections between people.” Shame can’t survive out in the open, being spoken aloud, and “emotional stoicism is not badassery.” Badassery is coming clean, raw honesty and vulnerability. And yes, it’s scary to do. However the flip side of vulnerability is joy. Adela Rogers St. John says, “Joy seems to me a step beyond happiness…joy is a light that fills you with hope and faith and love.”

Joyful living is wholehearted living. It’s living from a deep well of “worthiness, courage, compassion and connections.” Graham Cooke, another writer/teacher who has influenced me, says life is not about resolution of hard circumstances. It’s about learning to overcome, learning to live above our circumstances, to practice joy and gratitude. The process of hard times helps us redevelop our identities, to help us see the benefits of grateful living. Brene puts it this way, “…the process of regaining our emotional footing in the midst of struggle is where our courage is tested and our values are forged. Rising strong after a fall is how we cultivate wholeheartedness in our lives; it’s the process that teaches us the most about who we are.”

#brenebrown #risingstrong #thegiftofimperfection #grahamcooke #brilliantbookhouse

3 thoughts on “My Shame Meets Brene

  1. I had never made the connection between shame and perfectionism, but it certainly resonates. Much here to consider. Thank you!


    1. Robin, I didn’t either until I listened to Brene’s TEDtalk and then read it in her books. Makes so much sense now. Applying her wisdom to my life has made a big difference in my mental health!! 😊


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