I may be an adult, but name-calling still hurts. Being taken still makes me feel like a fool. My initial emotional response is to take the shame and suffer a self-induced soul slug-fest: a jab to the heart, a cut to the eye, and a full count on the floor. I had shown myself: (a) my tired, concerned struggle, and (b) my gushing appreciation of a personal hero. In return, I was betrayed (a) by someone I thought was really listening and understood but wasn't, and (b) by a cunning charlatan. It was a sham. While I lay with the air knocked out of me, shame let itself right in.
Truth, lies, and surprise.
I was blind-sided yesterday. I showed my bleeding heart and bleary-eyed exhaustion to the wrong person who did not see humanity, but a failing human. Gas-lighting grew it into projections of me at my worst: controlling, hostile, and possessive. Aghast, I apologized for any misunderstanding and excused myself to lick my smarting wounds and wonder: do you even know me, and do I know myself? I felt tricked and small, my spine slunk and cowered in recoil.
Two weeks before a savvy scammer posed as a leader in my field and reached out to me pretending to be someone I deeply admire. Even though it seemed too good to be true, I had one foot floating off on cloud-what-if-it’s-real? I responded and chatted, sharing personal tidbits and contact information. When the grounded foot said, that cloud sure looks like a storm cloud instead of the cotton candy you thought it could be, I investigated. The contact had been a clever mirror copy of the real thing, that didn’t check out. I felt duped at missing the warning sound of thunder that seemed so obvious in hindsight. Why did I think I would be noticed and it could be real? Why did I go all fangirl and feel fancy and float off on an unlikely cloud instead of staying suspicious and fully grounded?
Shame is a dirty word.
Shame is a dirty word.
It’s a cruel tool of coercion and self-depreciation.
Last year I turned a major corner as I marked up the pages of Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly in red pencil and margin notes. The wildly popular (and illuminating book is about the perils of shame and challenging strength of vulnerability.
“Shame is the most powerful, master emotion.
It’s the fear that we’re not good enough.”
“A deep sense of love and belonging is an irreducible need of all people. We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong. When those needs are not met, we don’t function as we were meant to. We break. We fall apart. We numb. We ache. We hurt others.”
I may be an adult, but name-calling still hurts. Being taken still makes me feel like a fool. My initial emotional response is to take the shame and suffer a self-induced soul slug-fest: a jab to the heart, a cut to the eye, and a full count on the floor. I had shown myself: (a) my tired, concerned struggle, and (b) my gushing appreciation of a personal hero. In return, I was betrayed (a) by someone I thought was really listening and understood but wasn’t, and (b) by a cunning charlatan. It was a sham. While I lay with the air knocked out of me, shame let itself right in.
You aren’t your emotions and you don’t have to believe every thought that rushes through your body and brain. At least that’s what all the mindfulness training I’ve been doing reminded me. I also believe it all. I want to fill my mind with truth, and that shock of emotion and shame was brutal, nothing like the gentle corrective guilt of the spirit saying, a little more to the right, you’ll get this. I know that nudgy feeling well.
Choose how you want to feel, if even if it feels pretend.
Shame corrodes the very part of us that believes we are capable of change.
– Brene Brown
But there’s the catch, and what caught me and stopped me from staying down- I knew what none of those people had taken the time to vet. None of those accusations were true and my emotional response wasn’t something I had to continue to feel. I reached out elsewhere and confessed what had happened and called out for confirmation and comfort- the same way my foster daughter does almost every night around 2 AM. Sandra? She says I’m scared. I call out from my bed (since I get out of bed for very little at 2 AM), I’m here, you can go back to sleep. We both do.
The people I trust most answer my own call, reminding me that I too am mostly just tired and worried, but okay. I can go back to where I was before and really am: trusting, vulnerable, and believing. I’d rather take the risk of being knocked down again, than not rising. I can choose, and I’m back up with a few hours of decompressing, deep breathing, and a little help from my friends. And the guardian angels that whisper in my ear, you know who you really are, it’s how you respond, how you choose to feel next.
Choose how you’ll feel, choose who you are.
I watched something recently that clarified the power of choosing how you will feel vs. your emotional response. (Jump in at 11:20 for that specific bit, though I listened to this whole interview twice it was so good.) I had a choice. I decided none of those messages held real truth- warnings, sure- but they weren’t coming from sources or people I trust. It took hours to fully release the shame that crept in but knowing that old demon, I shooed him out, pulled in the mat and closed the curtains. Shame never speaks the truth; the emotional response to bend to it need not last.
After a few hours, I wasn’t pushing and reminding myself I who I really was, I was acting like myself again. An opportunity came in the afternoon to open my heart again to help someone who was hurting, and I rushed in.
Tell me, when have you turned away from a pit of shame and chosen to listen to the truth from yourself, a trusted friend, or God?
Leave a comment below and click to share. I’d love to talk about the meat hooks of shame and the worthy (but terrifying) risks of vulnerability.