We have all experienced it but shame is a painful emotion that is rarely spoken about. Most of you may feel compelled to suppress this emotion or deny its very existence.
That was until Dr. Brené Brown opened up a global discussion emphasizing the importance of embracing shame and vulnerability. Dr Brené Brown has spent 12 years studying vulnerability and shame at the University of Houston. This global conversation was initiated when Dr. Brené Brown conducted an inspiring Ted Talk discussing her research findings, which has reached over 6 million viewers.
Dr Brené Brown believes that guilt is an adaptive and helpful emotion. She explains that guilt is an acknowledgment that your thoughts or behaviors do not align with your values, causing you to feel psychological discomfort. This can lead to a personal awakening in identifying that change is neccessary. Shame however emphasizes on ‘self’ and not ‘behavior’. Shame says ‘I am bad‘ and guilt says ‘I did something bad‘. Shame is often suppressed and manifests in harmful behaviors.
“Shame is highly, highly correlated with addiction, depression, violence, aggression, bullying, suicide and eating disorders”.
Shame is exasperated by secrecy, silence and judgement. Societal pressures often drive us to portray a flawless or ‘seemingly’ perfect self thus masking our vulnerability. This masking only succeeds in alienating us from ourselves and others. In the famous words of T.S Elliot you may feel pressured ‘to prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet‘. Shame often drives us to hide the authentic version of ourselves, by supressing one’s emotions due to feelings of inadequacy.
Empathy is the antidote of shame. The most powerful way to alleviate shame is simply by saying ‘me too‘ and opening up. Showing our vulnerability to others allows us to connect in a way that is absent of secrecy, silence and judgement. When you allow yourself to be vulnerable, you are being open with yourself and others. Dr Brown teaches that vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change. With the absence of shame, comes strength, courage and resilience.
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