On episode 49 of Shit We Don’t Talk About, Mia flies solo with random musings about shame.
“Your slip is showing.”
Amazing how a small statement like that can stop a grown woman in her tracks. Having grown up in a religious environment where skirts had to be worn and there was always the risk that your slip would show at the bottom of your skirt or random lighting would reveal the shape of your body, this would be an instant invitation to waves of flashback shame.
Shame weighs the same. It doesn’t matter what the word or the trigger or the memory is. Shame is always the same, and it sucks.
“If you put shame in a Petri dish, it needs three ingredients to grow exponentially. Secrecy, silence, and judgment. If you put the same amount of shame in a Petri dish and douse it with empathy, it cannot survive.” – Brene Brown
Shame is an unspoken epidemic. It is the secret behind many forms of broken behavior.
This is an issue for so many women. You saw it in the movie “Carrie”. Screams of “plug it up!” while Carrie squirms bring up memories of wrapping a sweater around your waist and praying that nobody notices the natural biological process that we treat like modern-day leprosy. Half the population has a period. Why are we tip-toeing around this?
Men and Shame
YouTuber Jack Wright recently released a tell-all video where he describes his experience with sexual assault at the hands of a female collaborator. Watching him in such an uncomfortable position really highlights the shame that a man can experience when placed in a position of “weakness” that we simply do not accept for a man. Horrible things happen to men too. That’s bad enough. Having to endure the shame of perceived and judged weakness makes things even worse than they already are.
Self-Shaming And The Slippery Slope Of Humor
We all have those thoughts, experiences, and memories that trigger shame in us. They are personal and unique to each of us. That shame is real, and it makes us somewhat fragile. When someone is experiencing that kind of shame, trying to defuse it using humor can be a slippery slope. Keep in mind that what might not seem like a big deal for you can be a topic loaded with shame and embarrassment for someone else. Along those lines, we can sometimes fall into the trap of berating or deprecating ourselves under the guise of humor and levity. The use of humor is great. It can be so helpful when we are forced to navigate through difficult moments and situations. But when it comes to shame, we can sometimes “overuse” humor to gloss over the shame and the pain, and can wind up accidentally turning on ourselves in the process.
And? So? The Power of Ambivalence
Returning to Brene Brown’s acknowledgment of silence, secrecy, and judgment, do not overlook the power of ambivalence. When we allow those shameful memories, actions, or traits to just be without arguing with them, trying to reason them away, or trying to hide them, we find power. Shrugging your shoulders at shame and allowing it to surface without resistance is not exactly a fun thing to do on an emotional level at any given moment, but the end result of those interactions can be acceptance and a sense of peace about what once was a source of emotional torture.
Shame vs Guilt
Shame is feeling bad over who we are. Guilt is feeling bad over what we’ve done. Shame feels will tell you that you are broken at your core, inherently flawed, and maybe unfixable. It leads to the conclusion that things cannot change because there is nothing you can do to make a dead horse gallop. Guilt, on the other hand, when experienced in a healthy and productive way, can inform action and positive change.
Ask yourself, “Is this something I do all the time, or was this just a mistake?” Mistakes lead to guilt. A perception of repeated “bad behavior” may lead to shameful conclusions.
What are your thoughts on and experiences with shame? How do you handle the things you feel shame over? If you’ve got feedback or helpful advice on this topic, tweet Mia on Twitter at @swdtapodcast or @miavossonthego
Brene Brown on Shame:
What Sienne Mae Did To Me
Shame vs Guilt
Popular Quotes On Empathy, Shame, and Trust
Letting Go Of Shame
CPTSD and Self-Defeating Behaviors
Mallory Erickson and Jennifer Pastiloff – Shame In The Fundraising Game
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