why shame? (and what is it, anyway???)

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.

16 thoughts on “why shame? (and what is it, anyway???)”

  1. You go, girl! Thanks for using you gift to write about that which is so real, so regular and somehow so ignored. I’m looking forward to journeying with you!

  2. Oh, my! THANK YOU, my dear, sweet friend, for being REAL. I am so excited to follow along and be encouraged by what you have experienced and learned! I love your heart and your vulnerability! This is SO very real and huge in my life!

  3. You have always written eloquently and from your heart. I’m proud of you for taking on this topic. Exploring shame is something that I’m interested in pursuing. Can’t wait to read more!

    1. Thank you, so much, Adrienne. I am grateful for your encouragement. This is not an easy topic, and it is scary to be vulnerable. I value you and your support.

  4. I loved Brene’s books and learned so much by reading them. For the first time it made me stop and look at the role shame has played in my life as an adult and how it has affected the choices I have made. Guilt is another part of the equation for me and my guess is that you might talk about that at some point. :)
    I am so happy you are exploring these topics in a forum we can all share and learn from. What a gift to all of us!!!!

    1. Yes! Guilt is a big one, too, but I think it often becomes blurred with shame. There truly is no end to the topics we can explore in this space. THANK YOU for joining in and contributing to the conversation!

  5. Oh my friend! As I read your beautiful, open-hearted words and truths, it feels like this is exactly what you were meant to do! I am so proud of your courage and honesty. You are a beautiful soul and an inspiration! Looking forward to seeing what unfolds. Love you, sister.

    1. Rachel, You have been such an inspiration to me – your vulnerability, transparency, and truth-telling has touched so many, and I learn from you every time I read one of your beautiful posts. Thank you for your kind and loving words. They mean so very much to me. Love you!

  6. I cannot even begin to express how proud I am of you!!! It is often said that the true definition of courage is being afraid and doing something anyway. Your words are powerful and will help so many. Xo

    1. Thank you, my dear seester! I love you and am eternally grateful for your consistent love, support, and encouragement.

  7. This is great, Val! A deep topic that touches so many but doesn’t get talked about. Your words are very eloquent and open. Proud of you!

    1. Jenny, thank you. I know this is a touchy subject, but I believe so strongly in speaking about it, and am grateful for the positive responses and encouragement. We are all affected and in this together!

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