Posts Tagged ‘shame’

A couple months ago, a friend sent me a link to a TED talk about vulnerability.  I was traveling and didn’t get around to watching it until a couple days ago.  I realized right away that I had already seen the talk, and although I couldn’t remember any specifics, I remember liking it so I kept watching.  I liked it again.  And then I watched a follow-up talk the speaker, Brene Brown, did, also at TED.  This time it was about shame.

Main messages:

vulnerability = good

shame = bad

I figured I must have already written about vulnerability, but I couldn’t find anything on my blog specifically about that, so I thought I’d do it.  I definitely haven’t touched shame.

(Aside #1:  I just finished an article in The New Yorker about the phenomenon of TED talks, and had a pang of feeling cliche to be writing about another TED talk on my site!  The article is very interesting and points out what you kind of know after watching a TED talk:  they are skillfully produced.  And produced to pull you in and make you emotional.  I had to ask myself if I’m just another tool who drank the kool-aid.  But I decided, screw it…produced or not, these two talks bring up a lot of important things and if they give people something to think about and examine about their lives, then so be it.)

(Aside #2:  I watched the videos up in Bolinas, where I was providing moral support for my younger son who was going to a camp up there with a friend.  I was only supposed to stay for two days and then leave him for the rest of the week.  But my son was struggling.  He’s very attached to home and family and he has a hard time stepping out of his comfort zone.  He doesn’t like to feel vulnerable.  Every time I talked with him about staying alone, he would tell me to speak more quietly.  He didn’t want his friend to know he was nervous.  He was embarrassed.  And then I realized I was also feeling vulnerable because I know that some people feel I am too soft with my son.  And I know I am sometimes, but I honestly don’t see the point in pushing him too far too fast.  But at the same time I know he needs to become independent and learn to cope in uncomfortable situations.  What was the “right” thing to do?

After I dropped my son and his friend at camp yesterday morning, I drove away.  Headed back to S.F.  I was struggling with my own fear that it would be hard for him, and knowing it was time for me to get back.  I felt like I should rush home and start working, but then I saw the sign for Stinson Beach and thought there was absolutely nothing so pressing that I shouldn’t take a little time to unwind.

I walked and thought, and thought and walked.  I thought about vulnerability and shame and how closed off so many people are.  I felt glad that my son could recognize his vulnerability and I, mine.  And we could still move forward.

He’s coming home this evening and I will hear all about it.  I did get a text at 6:30 a.m. this morning.  Nothing wrong, just reaching out.)

My asides aside, I think both TED talks are worth watching and hearing.  It’s a good reminder that as uncomfortable as being vulnerable is, it’s what gets people closer together and what brings us to new places.  And, we all have shame.  Don’t let it rule your world.

I was drawn to a recent article in the New York Times by Tara Parker-Pope, Go Easy on Yourself, a New Wave of Research Urges (click here to read the whole article).  I’ve been trying to do that over the past few years…go easy on myself, that is.  I’m getting better at it, but I’d say my strength, and inclination, is still to be hard on myself.

Self compassion, as it’s called, is a new field of study and researchers are finding that people who are kind to themselves are less likely to be depressed and anxious.  They also add that self-compassion is not the same as self-indulgence.  I sometimes wonder when I’m “taking care of myself,” whether I’m just using that as an excuse to avoid doing something that is difficult or unpleasant.  And so, I think it’s important to be really honest with oneself.

The author says one way to get a clearer idea on how to be nice to yourself is to think about what you would tell a child or friend in your situation.

Imagine your reaction to a child struggling in school or eating too much junk food. Many parents would offer support, like tutoring or making an effort to find healthful foods the child will enjoy. But when adults find themselves in a similar situation — struggling at work, or overeating and gaining weight — many fall into a cycle of self-criticism and negativity. That leaves them feeling even less motivated to change.

And that’s the thing, you want to stay motivated and open to possibility.  Reminding yourself that it’s hard to lose weight, get new clients, switch jobs gives you some breathing room to fail and struggle, but ultimately it doesn’t take away from your desire to lose weight, get new clients or switch jobs.

I was drawn to coaching and love doing it because I am very good at supporting others and steering them out of their own way.  I’m not always as good at using the same techniques with myself, but I have started to ask myself what I would ask a client in my own situation.  How would I support her/him?  Why am I able to have total faith in the brilliance and potential of others, but not in myself?

Are you more compassionate with others than you are with yourself?  What are your most common self-criticisms?  Can you think of a new, more supportive way to look at yourself?

***WARNING*** This blog post is about song lyrics.  If that is too cheesy for you, please wait for my next post!

Every once in a while I feel particularly moved or inspired by song lyrics or they make me think in a different way.  I consider writing about them, but I always decide that what moves each of us is so particular to us and to the moment that I should stay away from it.  So I have a rule not to write about song lyrics.  But I’m breaking that rule once.  The song came on yesterday as I was jogging, and although I usually skip over slower songs when I run I felt compelled to leave it on.  As I ran and breathed and thought it became clear to me why this time it was okay.  So here goes.

I was taking a walk a couple months ago listening to music and half paying attention/half letting my mind wander.  I had recently put a bunch of new music on my iPod, so there was some stuff I hadn’t heard yet.  I remember sort of liking a new song and feeling somehow connected, but still not really paying close attention.  And then the last line of the song played and it struck me:  “And there’s just no getting around the fact that you’re 13…right now. “

Wait a minute, I thought.  I’m not 13 right now!  And I think it’s precisely the “right now” that gets to me.  I’m not 13…I’m 44!  Why was I relating to a song that is all about a 13-year-old’s emotions?!  The song is Tell Yourself by Natalie Merchant.   Since then I have listened again and again, and yeah, it resonates.

So what I’ve come up with is how much it reminds me that my 13-year-old, 10-year-old, 18-year-old selves still reside in me.  No, that’s not quite right.  I know they’re there, but certain lines in the song made me reconsider my 13-year-old assumptions and feelings from a more compassionate place.  I’m not 13 now, and just as Natalie Merchant has an older person’s perspective, so do I.   So while it’s comfortable to tell myself certain things…mostly because I’ve been telling them to myself for so long, maybe it’s time to stop.  Maybe my 44-year-old self needs to step in with some perspective and support.  Maybe that would be good for both of us.  And so that’s what I’ve been doing in small ways and it feels really good.

What have you always told yourself?  What would it be like to change the story?

If you’re curious to hear the song, click here.    It’s attached to a video on YouTube with scenes from an Ingmar Bergman movie.  Personally, I would just listen and not watch…didn’t make much sense to me.