I said it. Yep. The “S” word. SHAME. I want to talk about it today and why it’s so powerful and how we can take our power back from feeling shamed. So let me start first by defining what shame is.
As one of my professional heroin’s Brene Brown would say “Guilt is: I did something wrong, Shame is: I am wrong“. There’s the big difference. If you are feeling guilty because you said something mean to someone or lied to someone, that is a specific action. Guilt is behavior based. You’ve DONE something “bad” and therefore you feel guilt from that action. Shame is different and shame, in my humble opinion, is much more powerful then guilt. With shame, we don’t just believe that we are good people who have made some mistakes. No. With Shame we believe we are inherently not good. When we are in shame we feel like a failure and we believe we aren’t worthy. See the difference? Guilt is an action, shame is a feeling.
I recently experienced feeling shame. I was particularly vulnerable to this feeling as you may recall my previous blog on how I’ve recently been experiencing a bout of increased anxiety. Well, of course, if not careful, anxiety can send me straight into a “shame spiral”. And that’s what happened. Let me begin…
It’s the start of the school year and I have children. Now, usually, when I’m doing pretty good and taking care of myself I would say I’m a pretty good mom. I’m not a perfect mom by any means, but I love my kids and I do my best to keep them safe, fed, and knowing they are loved. But of course, it’s like some sort of unspoken rule, when you become a parent you become a target for shame. There’s always something you “should” be doing better and it leaves you feeling like you aren’t doing enough and you spiral into this ugly pit of failure. Whooo. Went dark there for a minute. Sorry about that. Annnnnyways. I have lots of friends on social media who are also parents. Pretty amazing parents actually. So the first day of school comes and goes. The end of my day I see all of these posts from my amazing parent friends of their kids holding up signs- “First day of ____”….flashback to my morning that day, there was me, rummaging through a laundry basket of mismatched socks trying to find a somewhat match for my daughter while screaming at the top of my lungs to reach the upstairs of my house for the 19th time to wake up my oldest son, a teenager who sleeps until it’s literally time to RUN out the door.
While looking at these beautiful pictures of all of these children, with parents just as busy as I am- but still found time to capture this precious moment in their children’s lives- I began to feel shamed. And it wasn’t anyone’s fault. So don’t mistake me when I say this because I’m not blaming any of my parent friends for me feeling shamed! But I began to question myself- “Why couldn’t I have done a better job preparing the night before so we weren’t rushing?”, “Are my kids going to look back in 20 years and think I didn’t love them because I didn’t capture their special moments on film?”, “What do other people think of me?”, etc etc etc. I began to feel like I wasn’t worthy of my children’s love. I began to feel like I was a bad mother. And I cried.
Then I remembered “guilt is: I did something bad, Shame is: I am bad”. I’m not a bad person, and I’m not a bad mother. I love my kids. I stopped and remembered who I am as a person and what makes me unique. For those who know me, you know I’m not a super sentimental person. Sure, I mean, things have meaning to me and blah blah blah…but I don’t hold on to every little thing. I just have never been a very sentimental person. It’s not who I am as a person. And that reflects in my parenting. I don’t hold on to every little note my kids write or every picture or tooth or hair or whatever other body parts that fall off of their children that parents hold onto….I just don’t do that. I hold on to the memory of what it was, I reminisce through story telling with my children and family. And so while I have no physical evidence to show that something happened….I could tell you a great story about their first day of school. Why? Because that’s the type of person I am. It doesn’t make me worse then other parents, it only makes me different.
I am also the type of person who heals through laughter. Especially when I can laugh at myself. And so I decided you know what, I’m taking my power back from shame through laughter. Because that’s what shame can do to you, it can make you feel powerless. So what did I do you may ask? Well simple. My children got a “3rd day of school picture”…because someday my kids and I will look back at the picture and I will tell them the story of shame and how no one is perfect. And I will teach them the importance of being able to laugh at your flaws and embrace your uniqueness because it’s not what makes you unworthy of love…it’s what makes you worthy of it. So let’s just let ourselves be human, be imperfect, and be worthy.
Until next time,
If you want to find out more about Brene Brown or read any of her books you can find her website at: