Tag Archives: vulnerability

Don’t Blame Shame!

I do not like it when I am flooded with shame.  Having said that, those are some of the most profound and valuable choice points I have ever had to face.


Shame is a feeling – not a mental activity.  It is that flood of heat that comes when I am exposed, standing naked in whatever it is I have done.  Maybe I got caught in a lie or said something mean that clearly upset someone.  Yes, I am someone who can tell a ‘white’ lie (see, already I want to spin lying into something less severe, not so bad).  Yes, I am someone who blurts out defensively when upset not fully aware of the impact it might have.  In that moment, when someone catches me or I catch myself, I feel shame.  The raw rush of energy that erupts when I am faced with myself.  That feeling is a wonderful opportunity to choose.  I can either try to cover it up by saying, I am not the type of person who would do that, or I can be vulnerable and own up to what I have done.  In the former, I step away from my vulnerability and hide in guilt or denial.

So for me shame is never the problem.  The problem lies in the choice.  Do I try to control myself and the outcome, or do I step into that moment of exposure?  I want to be fair to all of the various articles, books and literature about shame.  Actually, I love Brene Brown‘s work on vulnerability in Daring Greatly. However, I disagree with her definition, and what sounds like her dislike, and blame of shame. I have to admit, I feel a touch of shame just saying that, and I will still “step into the arena” as she encourages us all to do.

I don’t believe she is talking about a feeling at all when she talks of shame.  No, I think she is talking about the mental pathway that can so easily be engaged once I recognize that I am someone who can do ….. (whatever that horrible thing is).  That mental process is what I call “self-hate” or “shaming myself.” Now, that is one bad-ass challenge. Not to mention that we, as people in our efforts to look better, cover up, take control, have learned ways of ‘shaming others.’  Though again this has very little to do  with the feeling of shame, much more to do with mental pathways that allow us to take down someone else so we feel okay.

Too many feelings get bad raps. Anger is another that gets all sorts of bad press.  Mainly because people associate angry with violence – two very different things.  Anger, the feeling, much like shame – is simply energy in motion.  Anger can be an amazing opportunity to step into aliveness. Again, it offers a rich moment of choice. There are definitely things I am glad I get angry about, such as, sexual violence, people bullying other people, people hating someone simply because they are different – these are things that stir up anger in me.  Now, if I lash out myself, well that simply isn’t the noble choice.  (And honestly, I have done just that and felt some particularly painful shame about it.)  But I don’t want to lose my anger.  When I know it and embrace it, I can use my anger for good. I have energy that drives and motives choices in my life to stop violence, stop prejudice or whatever cause gets me angry.

It’s the same with shame.  No one wants to say – I am a liar.  But frankly, most of us are at some point – actually many times a day.  That moment when we own all of who we are, the good, the bad, the ugly and the beautiful – well, we become whole, alive, real, authentic.  It won’t last forever.  We are human, not simply divine.  We make make mistakes and shame is actually a wonderful reminder that we can self-correct.  Stay in the shame as a feeling (meaning only seconds of a flood of energy) and say, “I am someone who lied, blew up at colleague, cheated on a spelling test in 3rd grade.”  Yes, I am that person.  I feel hot and a touch embarrassed writing this out on my blog; however, I also believe that as I become okay feeling my moments of shame – I am less likely to ‘shame’ someone else.  I am also much more likely to realize that I make mistakes, and feeling guilty or beating myself up about those mistakes simply takes me out of the game, the present and opportunity to choice vulnerability and more on.

When I choose to be vulnerable and reveal who I am, I can, in that moment, do something different.  I can ask for help. I can cry or say I regret what happened.  I can be present and possibly shift the outcome because I’m not controlling, denying or hiding.

So next time you feel shame welling up – don’t run, don’t hide – don’t blame shame.  Step into that feeling and find out who you really are, and then choose what you do next!  It isn’t comfortable, but shame also isn’t the problem – it is just a feeling, energy and an opening for you.  Step in, own and be vulnerable! It is amazing what can happen after that!


A Crack – That is Letting the Light In

Looks like I am going to be going back to my roots. My life is presenting me with many opportunities to test my own congruence about valuing differences and acceptance.

On a personal level I am having to re-define relationships because our differences are no longer open for dialogue and more about black/white and right/wrong. Of course, in this course of re-defining I am having to look at how I am holding on to my position or presenting what is important to me. In the past, I would say I have always been a bit like my boxer, Bailey. People know where I stand, and I can look tough. However, equally like Bailey, I am not nearly as tough as my bark.

I have been learning that indeed I am quite an open-heart-ed person, who cares more about the relationship than my own point of view. Most of my life I think I have covered up this softer side because I really did believe that a tough front would be safer and create less pain. If no one ever knew that I cared deeply, they would more likely give me an honest opinion. Plus, I grew up watching lots of strongly opinionated people sit around a dinner table and wrestle with politics, religion and various other intellectual challenges, and it seemed to me, the best at it, were the most opinionated and loudest. So I went that route.

Many years later, a few health challenges and lots of deep emotional de-armoring, I am realizing that there is indeed another path. One that isn’t easy for me but much more fulfilling and quite frankly, honest. That path is one of vulnerability and intimacy (into-to-me-see). The problem with the new path is that I often have a shaky voice and don’t sound quite as solid. Also I cry. I am not comfortable crying. Just doesn’t come easy. Plus, big tears for me is usually not so obvious to anyone else. Inside I am wailing, but outside I think I look a bit more tight.

Still, I like me better this way. I like being able to finally say to the world – I care more about you and I connecting, having an honest dialogue than I do about a truth, or any one opinion.

Of course, I am also learning that this is not a value that everyone has or is interested in considering. Some folks really are all about finding ‘a truth’ – or the ‘truth’.

I work in relationship to a very charismatic leader who has become quite respected for some very simple and practical wisdom when applied to business, teams and leadership. I love his message – well the message in the books. It seems he is becoming more interested in including his strong religious values as part of his message. He has a platform from which to speak and wants to speak about what matters most to him. On one level that is great. However, his religious beliefs are not mine. At first, I thought this wouldn’t be a problem. I respect differences and have always loved working with teams, people who are very different than me. However, I am getting the message that may be my belief – but not his. He believes in one truth and that truth quite clearly makes some people ‘wrong’ or eliminates the values of others. That’s not okay with me.

So now both on a personal and a professional level, I am being challenged to stand forth. To show up and not fight about these issues but to speak from my heart, my heart that feels a bit broken right now. Much like the Leonard Cohen lyrics, “a crack in anything is where the light gets in”, I believe this broken heart of mine is an opportunity to discover what is next for me. To find my own words and message.

I do have something to say about all this. The message is forming. When I am ready, I plan to step up and without the heavy armor of my past and say what I think. Sure my voice may crack and likely I will have some moist eyes (that you might just think are tight) but I will be strong – not tough – strong.

I do hope the message will be the one my life has been crafting since the beginning. Because I think I came into this world wanting to bridge differences, not knock them down. I think bridges are for crossing over and seeing what life is like from someone else’s perspective. Sure I have an opinion and it is quite likely a good one for me – but it isn’t the only one. That much I do know for sure.