“Traveler, there is no path, the path must be forged as you walk.”
I love this book and the grounded theory research journey Dr. Brene Brown followed to uncover a treasure trove of thought provoking insights on shame, scarcity and vulnerability based on the experiences, perceptions and stories revealed through individual and group interviews.
“Shame” and “scarcity” have power over our lives.
The definition of shame that emerged from her research is this:
“Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.”
The research, stories and insights inspire tons of self-reflection. I started asking myself these questions: How has shame influenced my choices, controlled my experience or corroded my relationships? How does shame show up today?
I can only wonder how different our world would be if each of us engaged with life from a place of shameless “worthiness”. As Brown explains “shame” loves prerequisites. Thinking of all the prerequisites for worthiness that are messaged through our families, media and culture makes my head spin.
Brown uncovered this pattern: Shame leads to Comparison leads to Disengagement.
If disengagement is an experience in your family, organization or community, shame may be the root cause.
If you are a parent this is a must read. It will change the way you treat yourself and inspire you to be the parent you want your children to become. Teaching and modeling “shame resilience” will become one of your primary goals. Brown’s wisdom rich “Parenting Manifesto” is available on her website.
If you are an organizational leader, small business owner, or work in management this book will help you change your organization’s culture. “Shame keeps us small, resentful, and afraid.” – We cannot innovate or generate success from a culture of shame.
For people working in health care applying this research to physician/patient communications could be a positive step towards better quality of life patient outcomes.
My top 3 personal realizations from this read:
1. There are “shame traps” everywhere. Brown doesn’t use this term, however while reading this book I received an e-mail communication that left me feeling unsettled and confused. Thoughtful examination of the contents and my feeling caused me to realize that when a person describes you with a vague and ambiguous adjective – beware. It may sound like a compliment or a put down ~ either way it is a “shame trap”. The trap is that it causes you to connect your self-worth with vague and ambiguous adjectives that have meaning only to the person saying it. Some people call these “hot buttons” or “hooks”; “shame trap” is a more complete description from my perspective. Turning on my shame radar alert before reading e-mails, comments or posts is a new shame resilience step!
2. Brene` shares her 10 Guideposts for Wholeheartedly living in Daring Greatly and The Gifts of Imperfection. To her 10, I am adding my personal number 11: “Cultivating Self-Care: Letting Go of Busy-ness and Stress as a strategy for proving Self-Worth.”
3. In our Facebooked world remembering that the “Game of Like” is not the “Game of Life”. Choose life with courage, it is wholehearted.
Even with a GPS we are all stumbling travelers.
One more thing:
Brene makes an important point of distinguishing guilt and shame as polar opposites. Guilt is a positive state that encourages behavioral change. Shame corrodes self-worth and destroys hope.
There is an old saying “Guilt, the gift that keeps on giving.” It seems like it is time to add to that “Shame, the pain that keeps aching.”