Some days, I wake up and absolutely everything that can go wrong does.
On those days, I come home and blame the world for my misfortunes. But after a day like the one I had not too long ago, I've learned to appreciate those days. It's much better than coming home and having no one to blame for your misfortunes than yourself. Maybe there's something refreshing about having your problems in your control, but I'd much rather feel like a victim than a fool. Or at least, that is the battle I had with myself a few days ago. I walked into a war with myself, caught somewhere between the valley of self-worth and the valley of uncertainty.
I'll take the valley of the shadow of death over the valley of the shadow of shame any day of the week. When it comes to shame, most of us are old pros. Myself included. I can stand in front of the mirror and beat myself up with the best of them. By the time I'm done, I'll have myself convinced that I'm not worth much and that all my endeavors will be fruitless.
But why do we do this?
On the list of most common phobias, the fear of spiders, heights, public speaking, or cramped spaces usually top the list. But what about the fear of self? I've heard so many stories of folks who self-destruct, but not because of the mistakes they make during the day. Rather, it is the private berating that occurs once the day is done, where no one else can see.
I've played that game, and I'm convinced that the only place it leads is to more despair, self-loathing, bullying, and relationship destruction. I'm also convinced that most of the men who come see me complaining of anger issues are really dealing with shame unearthed.
There's too much of it going around.
Shame is the thing we all know, but we don't want to talk about.
We understand what it feels like to hide ourselves from the world for fear that someone would actually see us. Some of us actively participate in shaming others for their mistakes, which usually only drives people further away or more deeply roots them within the behavior for which we were shaming them in the first place. Ever wonder why no matter how much bad press a celebrity gets, they just keep on trucking? Ever wonder why no matter how many times you tell yourself that you are too ugly, too fat, too short, too dumb...nothing positive seems to come from it?
Shame is a chasm between him and his healthy relationships, between us and that goal we want to reach, or between you and the mirror that sometimes lies to you. It can be a quiet companion whispering in your ear, or an obnoxious spectator who screams at you from the sidelines.
Risk is an enemy of shame.
Or vulnerability. This is the conclusion that researcher Brene Brown came to in her years of understanding how shame impacts women and men. To be vulnerable, to let people see you, to open yourself to the opportunity to be healed is the bridge over the chasm. Shame only has power to the extent that we choose to stay isolated, hidden. Anger, apathy, cold logic...these armor us against authentic vulnerability. Choose instead today to lay your armor down. Choose to let someone you love and trust see your pain, your disappointment, your fear. Who knows, maybe you'll discover there was no fight to begin with.