Admittedly, this is a heavy subject for a blog. Here, you will not find beautiful photos of perfectly plated food, the latest fashions, home decor, or beauty tips and trends. You will not find what appears to be an ideal life. There is plenty of that to be had on the internet, and I am a big fan and daily reader of many of those blogs! But that is not real life – for me, it is an escape. When I check my favorite blogs, I find myself getting pulled into what looks so perfect, and sometimes I feel kinda icky inside. Sometimes a little envious of what appears to be an idyllic life with no bad days, no failed recipes, no marital spats… and I am guessing I am not alone – I cannot be the only person to experience this to some degree.
And it is not just blogs that promote perfection. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter… social media is crammed full of what looks like perfection. Personally, I see through it all… most of the time. But as I admitted above, I do fall victim to the façade. Nearly three years ago I quit Facebook. I was quite active, and loved to post photos and updates of all of the GOOD. Since quitting, however, I have felt so much lighter and really have not missed it at all. I have also become more aware of the dangers of only seeing the good. For me, it lead to envy, jealousy, sometimes even feeling not-so-great about myself. In short, feelings of shame that MY life was not as perfect as my hundreds of “friends.” It is really nice to not feel that way on a daily basis.
Please do not think I am here to try to get anyone to quit using social media (I did, after all, open a Twitter account for use with this blog), but I do believe there should be more thought given to the impact social media has on our society. In my opinion, social media has become one of the biggest tools for shaming, and that opinion will provide a lot of material for me to explore here on this blog. For now, though, let me explain why I have chosen to devote this space to talking about shame.
What is Shame?
Brené Brown, PhD., LMSW, is a shame researcher. She writes that shame is “the intensely painful feeling that we are unworthy of love and belonging.” Basically, shame brings out the “I am bad,” “I am not worthy,” “I suck,” “I am such a screw-up,” instead of “what I did was bad,” “Yeah, I messed up, but I’M still ok and worthy and just because I screwed up does NOT mean I suck.” We can experience shame while recalling specific memories, when we hear or think something (including those little messages that play in our own minds), while we are alone, or with others. Shame does not discriminate. It is universal. Different people experience shame to varying degrees, but the truth is, no one is exempt from shame.
Yet no one wants to talk about it.
I first heard about shame in an appointment with my therapist. Of course, I did not want to talk about it. Seriously, even the word is yucky sounding. Plus, at the time I did not think shame applied to me. Nope, I do not have any shame and therefore, I do not need to learn about shame. Amazingly, I was able to avoid the shame conversation for about six years. But finally, my number was up, and it was up in a big way. What ensued, was an intense battle against the shame that was threatening to ruin me. Finally, about six months ago, after praying and pleading for help, I decided to attack shame head-on, and my first step was to read I Thought It Was Just Me, by the aforementioned Brené Brown. Slowly, my eyes were opened, and I began to learn about myself and my feelings and reactions. I also learned that I was not alone. I read many stories about people like me who felt the way I felt, and thought the way I thought, and feared the same things I feared. I gained courage to dig deeper, and I began to develop resistance to the shame that had controlled me for so long. I have so much work yet to do, but I am encouraged and inspired every day because of what I have learned. Now I want to share!!!
I believe Brené started the conversation, and I want to continue it. The conversation will not be exclusively about me. I will share my experiences and struggles, as well as my victories in the battle I am fighting. But because I believe our society is suffering so greatly from an epidemic of shame, I will also write about what I see and hear – and why I believe what takes place in our world every day is so damaging. I am no expert. I do not have a psychology or social work degree. I have had a lot of therapy. I have read some good books. I have done a lot of thinking and journaling and praying and soul-searching. And now more than anything, I have been observing – myself and others. I would love for you to follow along as I share my experiences and the lessons I have learned. I believe, that by becoming more aware of the shame that pierces our lives, we can all make changes that will have a huge impact on how we feel about ourselves, how we treat others, and how others in turn treat us.
THAT is why I have chosen to write about shame.