Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Listening to Shame

Ted Talk Tuesday: Listening to Shame

This talk touched on so many tender points from within me, I just had to share it. What I found just as interesting, were all of the many intelligent and heated discussions that ensued in the comments section. I could paste all of the amazing quotes from Brene Brown here, but you would get so much more out of her talk if you just listened for yourself. But I will give you a couple of teasers from her speech.

“If you put shame in a Petri dish, it needs three things to grow exponentially: secrecy, silence and judgment.”

Shame is not guilt.  Shame is a focus on self; guilt is a focus on behavior. Shame is “I am bad”; guilt is, “I did something bad.”

“Shame is highly correlated with addiction, depression, violence, aggression, bullying, suicide, eating disorders. And what is more interesting, guilt is inversely correlated to all of these things.”

Please watch this talk, and if you feel comfortable enough, I would love for you to leave a comment here of how it impacted you. Because I can pretty much predict, it will impact you.  

I suspect we all need to deconstruct who we really aren’t to get to what we’ve always been. And to do so requires us to expose ourselves. Not easy, is it? We are commanded in the New Testament to confess our faults one to another. But I rarely do. You know why? If you really knew what my faults were, you would have power over me.  Being vulnerable takes immense courage. Anyway, it’s a wonderful talk, and the comments are even more so.


  1. I always appreciate when secular studies confirm what the Bible has already told me. Unfortunately, *knowing* something from the Bible, and really *getting* it are often two different things. These other studies can help give us language to understand some things, and to relate them in a practical way to our own lives.

    This amazingly dovetails with a series of lessons I'm working on right now. I've spent the last several years on a journey that is teaching me who I really am. As you put it, Ann, I've been deconstructing the "ideal me" that others imposed on me and that I could never genuinely be. And I've been shedding the shame that I felt about never becoming that mythical person. What a burden that has lifted.

    I agree with Brené that we must allow ourselves to become vulnerable in order to be "real", both with ourselves and others. And we need to accept that it's ok to be however we are.

    Yes, we all can still strive to be better. But if we fall down, just admit we did (the guilt), and then say, "ok, let's just continue from where we left off."

    For those who belong to God's family, God says it best--you ARE a new creature. Or to put it another way, I'm not a sinner who's been saved. I'm a saint who sometimes sins. There's that perspective thing again.

  2. Just read over the blog again, and had another thought. You said that if you confessed your faults to others, they would have power over you. I beg to disagree. You would grant them only as much power has you have shame over your faults. Does that make sense?

  3. Very interesting perspective. When I read we are to confess our faults one to another, I picture this scenario. A group of people are in a circle and each has a weapon in their hand pointing at the others in the group. An agreement is made that all will put down their weapons, but someone will always say, "Ok, but you go first." Then the suspicious and wary stares continue, until everyone slowly lowers their weapons down at the same time. Then they all stand to discuss freely what is really bothering them. But it seems to be played out over and over again, that someone always has a knife secretly hidden in their sock.

    The only way out of that would be to have no shame in your faults, or disappointment in the faults of others. How often does that happen?

    1. Well, obviously it doesn't happen often enough. That's why we need people like Brené to study and teach us about concepts such as shame and guilt, and the part they play in either boosting or limiting our creativity and, even more, the depth of our relationships with others.

      When we can finally adopt the perspective that we're all in the same boat, and be comfortable with the fact that we're all imperfect, we can begin to shed the shame that shackles us to conformity, and then be free to express and enjoy who we really are.

      Unfortunately, we are so brainwashed to believe that other people's opinion matter, that many will never even try to open their eyes to the possibility of seeing things any other way. Hence the circle of weapons, each one trying to protect themselves from any appearance of imperfection. Perhaps what is needed is for a few enlightened souls to say freely, "Hi, my name is. . .I'm a human being and I screw up once in a while. So what?"

      As fiber artists, you and I and many others who read this blog know that we sometimes have to re-do and re-do something before we're happy with it. How many of you have shared your project mistakes with other artists and gotten the response, "Yep, been there before. Here's what you do."? Were you ashamed to own up to making a mistake? Why not?

      Now take that same approach to life in general. This confessing your faults to one another that the Bible recommends isn't asking you to spill all your worst beans to everyone all the time. It's simply saying that when you have a problem, don't be afraid to share it with someone who may be able to help. Don't be afraid to admit you're human. You never know but that your own willingness to "be real" may encourage someone else along the way.