Brené Brown is just friggen awesome. Every single time I watch this video I get chills. There is just no substitute for brilliance like this.
“Shame drives two big tapes: “Never good enough”; and if you can talk it out of that one, “Who do you think you are?” – Brené Brown
Shame is, as Brené says, a statement that says “I am bad”. It is different from guilt which is a break in our own moral rules, which says “I have done something bad.”
You can bounce back from an action you have taken that breaks your own rules and causes guilt. It is actually an agent of transformation. You can use guilt to understand yourself and your inner rules better. You learn where your own inner boundaries lie so that you can make better choices in the future. You can apologize, make amends, and move on.
Shame does the opposite. If the shame tape says you are bad, then that is a quality of being. If you believe in the voice of shame, it keeps you permanently stuck and permanently in turmoil. Your own personal hell.
The beauty is that shame can be deflated and defeated, nearly instantly by empathy. Empathy is, most simply, having someone listen to your story and say “me too”. Support and kindness are all that are needed.
Have a listen to Brené’s wisdom on shame here:
Good stuff, am I right?!?
Choosing someone wisely who can be a good source of empathy is key.
Not everyone is well suited to providing a non-judgmental source of empathy. Empathy is not the same as pity or trying to fix the problem, or even a commiserating buddy. Empathy is listening, with love, and a deep belief that the person you are listening to is inherently good, capable, and able to overcome their problems, even if they have no clue of how to do that just now.
Empathy is the ability to recognize that a person is separate from their actions, thoughts, or emotions. It is the understanding that the person is more than their past, more than their failures (real or imagined), and more than their feelings of shame. It is the ability to honestly acknowledge someone’s pain without running and hiding from it. That urge to run and hide is really just us trying to outrun our own shame beast. Listening to another’s shame activates our own shame. If you can do your work to recognize the voice of shame in yourself and others, it gives you the ability to stand still and just be when you hear someone tell you how their world is falling apart. That ability to just listen is so very important for everyone.
Have a watch of this animated video where Brené talks about what empathy is.
Truly, mastering empathy is the greatest gift you can give someone who is suffering with shame.
It is hard work though. Empathy requires that you face your own inner shadow and acknowledge your own points of shame. When you do your own work to release shame and move through vulnerability, you are better able to help others.
Not only that, your ability to form true and meaningful connection with other human beings is increased. These connections are important. Connection can see us through many dark nights and deep dark pits of despair. When we emerge, we are stronger and more resilient. Connection and empathy are necessary and the true antidote to shame.