So I'm in this women's group about shame. Yep, shame. Sounds fun right?And not at all awkward.
We're talking about it because it's the topic of a book we're reading by Brene Brown, and if you don't know who she is you should go find out. Wow. Just wow. Anyway, the book we're reading is called I Thought it was Just Me (But it Isn't). It's about recognizing shame and building shame resilience. Shame the fear of disconnection. It is the feeling that there is something about us that is wrong, and that wrongness separates us from others. It sends us into hiding.
What I keep coming back to as we talk about this topic is that so much shame comes from the fact that we all have a hard time just being human. Shame pokes us and outright sucker punches us when we buy into the messages all around us about what we should be, what we should do, what we should have. The expectations are huge and conflicting and impossible, but we try with everything we have to meet them so that we don't ever have to feel like we're the ones left out. Shame tells us that it's not ok to just be who we are, to be human.
I have a friend who says we all vacillate between believing that we are superhuman or subhuman. When we're superhuman, we think we can do it all, that if we try just a little harder we can achieve that ideal. We refuse to accept that we have needs or limits. Or we decide we can't do it, we're not good enough, we're less than, and we put ourselves in the subhuman category. We vote ourselves off the island. Either way it's shame at work.
I'm realizing through this group that shame doesn't have to win. We can all just be our imperfect, struggling, up and down, awesome and less than awesome selves. But to do that, we have to take a hard look at those expectations. We have to stop listening to them. But more than that - we need to talk about what they do to us. We've been doing that in this group, because the cure for shame is empathy. We share our stories and we listen and try to enter in and say "you're not alone." At times it feels awkward and uncomfortable because we want so much to do it well but more and more it brings the greatest sense of relief and acceptance. It's a joy to be able to say, "This is me being human" and to have others say, "Yeah, I'm human too."
Why can't we all just be human?