“The way exposure to light was deadly for the gremlins, language and story bring light to shame and destroy it.”
I’ve previously discussed how light is a lifesaver and changer, if you let it shine. You must be the one to make the conscious effort and bring truth out of obscurity. You can choose to let your shame weigh you down, but if you focus on bringing forth reason over feeling, you’ll find yourself crawling out of your shame hole.
If you’re unaware, this is a gremlin. It’s from the horror movie Gremlins made in the ’80s.Brown uses these little monsters as symbols of shame. I prefer to monsterize my inner demons, or just straight-up refer to them as demons. Either way, you get the point. Shine a light on the darker parts of ‘you’ and you drive out the monsters lurking within.
Everyone carries their shame in different areas, but the light disperse it all the same. The best part about our mutually shared shame is that, as Brown puts it, “language and story bring light” into the darkest places.
All of us struggle to find that light, at one point or another but Brown suggests four elements to get us on the path to shame resilience. These aspects, in any order, are key to helping you overcome putting yourself down. I, for one, am pretty good at recognizing my shame and what “triggers” me. Few things do upset me as much as they used to, but when you have a mother who’s a professional at Catholic guilt-tripping, you’re never entirely shame free.
1. Recognizing shame and understanding its triggers.
Although shame and guilt are two different things, they aren’t unrelated. Guilt results from external inaction, irresponsibility, et cetera whereas shame is all internal. And my inner black hole feasts on shame, so I’m all too familiar with this lovely feeling.
The funny thing is, most of my shame is self-inflicted. I’ve very rarely encountered others who shame me for who I am. I have a low tolerance for people who won’t accept me, unless of course, I’m in love with the person. Then I get the deluded idea to sacrifice my self for their happiness. Ladies and gentleman, do not make this mistake.
2. Practicing critical awareness.
When you’re shame spiraling, check yourself before you wreck yourself. If you’re spending your mental energies shaming yourself for tardiness, or social faux pas, or under/overdressing, or not meeting your unrealistic expectations of yourself–stop.
If you expect to fit 5000 things into one afternoon, and you barely get through one, you’re setting yourself up for failure. My family is not one of efficiency. My parents are pretty good at prioritizing their responsibilities, but when it comes to taking care of themselves, I personally feel that they don’t do enough.
At every family get-together I can remember, I never understood why my parents ran around like headless chickens with food prep and cleaning the house. I wondered why they hadn’t done it sooner than the day of or a few hours before. I eventually realized that they hadn’t made the time, or they simply didn’t have the time.
I’ve learned from the past that it’s a waste of time to lose your head, but that doesn’t stop me from doing it anyway. Then, I get mad at myself for putting too much into one afternoon. Even last year, juggling my first years of graduate school and teaching, I expected too much of myself. Maybe if I hadn’t wanted a social life, or been in a serious relationship, I might’ve met expectations better. Things as they were, I expected far too much of myself.
3. Reaching out.
Which brings me to reaching out. Last year, I didn’t ask for help when I needed it. I was also shamed and humiliated by those who should’ve been supportive. I eventually got better at reaching out, not being ashamed to admit I was a mess and in need of help.
It took a few boxes of tissues and buckets of tears, but I eventually sucked up my pride and asked for help. And then the shame started to fade. And then I began sharing my story with strangers, to commiserate or support or merely connect.
4. Speaking shame.
I’m working so much more actively to explain myself to people (mostly my mom) about why I’m so defensive. I think it’s because I feel ashamed of not caring about impressing her anymore. I’m still figuring out what I’m ashamed of, but honestly, it’s no longer anywhere near as bad as it used to be.
Now, I can identify it and put it out in the open. No longer am I walking in shame, but with my head held high.