Disclaimer: this post is not about the film “Shame” starring Michael Fassbender. I have not seen this film, but am assured by many that it is great, and also that you get to see Michael Fassbender naked in it, so I understand if you got excited upon reading the title of this blog post and are now intensely disappointed. Sorry.
Brené Brown, a researcher/therapist/speaker type person who specializes in shame and vulnerability, defines shame as the sense that we are not worthy of love or belonging because we are deeply flawed. This is a definition of shame that I am familiar with after 2 years in therapy, but only recently have I truly understood this definition in my heart and soul and come to grips with the extent to which shame has shaped my life.
Some of my earliest recollections are of feeling ashamed, especially regarding my body. When you’re a young girl who, ahem, develops early, everyone (and I mean EVERYONE) in your life feels the need to comment on your body, from fellow students to teachers (oh, the skeezy male teachers, how I DON’T miss you), relatives, and strangers on the street. Now, I’m not trying to be all “woe is me!” because I had boobs at age 10 – ALL kids, especially girls, are shamed by others about their bodies at one point or another. The point is that I, like most people, grew up with shame, and it still defines me – except now as an adult, my shame about my body has lessened (somewhat) and has been replaced by other shames…pieces of myself that I’m afraid to name out loud to my closest friends, family members, and therapists, much less to the internet at large.
And that’s too bad, because the way out of shame is vulnerability. Being open and honest and risking failure or rejection or hatred or disgust – THAT is how to regain a sense of worthiness, of belonging. That is how to overcome the limitations of shame. Vulnerability is the light shining in the darkness, the sun revealed by a shifting cloud, the…other metaphor about light? I dunno, insert one yourself, I’ve run out of metaphors because I only had one cup of coffee.
Here on this blog, I’ve shared a lot of myself, especially regarding my depression and anxiety and even body confidence. But I still feel unworthy and like I don’t belong. Why? Because there’s so much more I could share, that part of me is DYING to share, but that I can’t bring myself to even whisper aloud. I don’t have the courage yet. There are secrets (not, like, “I murdered someone!” secrets, to be clear, but still, secrets) that I rarely, if ever, discuss with the most important people in my life because a primal part of me just KNOWS that if I talk about these things I will be rejected and banned from the human experience. The universe will confirm what part of me has always known – that I am fundamentally and irreversibly wrong.
So basically I feel like a coward – another source of shame. I’ve been vulnerable on this blog and in my personal life, but only about certain things, so I vulnerability-shame myself (#vulnerabilityshaming, let’s get it rolling peeps) to the point of paralysis.
So how do you overcome shame with vulnerability when you’re ashamed of your lack of vulnerability regarding your shame?
I’m not the therapist, I don’t effing know, but I’m going to give it a stab by posting this entry and being vulnerable to you, dear reader, about my lack of vulnerability. I’m saying it out loud (well, out loud on the internet): In my own mind, I am a coward for not being vulnerable enough. I don’t have the courage to say the things I really want to say. I am a fraud. Sorry.
So there it is – my entry on Shame: Part 1. I don’t know if this will make any sense to anyone; it hardly makes sense to me. I don’t when – or if – I will write a Part 2. For now, I hope that this is enough, and I wish you all the ability to be vulnerable in the face of shame, because you are a worthwhile, lovable person. You are enough.