I was a teaching mom of 3 children, my relationship was falling apart, I sat on every committee I could and everyone came to me with their problems, I could get things done! Something had to give..... and that something ultimately was me. I started having chest pains at the age of 30 and my doctor put me on a 3 week stress leave. I went to a counsellor and we started digging deep to find what was really at the heart of it all.
Shame, it is the fear of disconnection which prevents us from truly and authentically connecting with each other. It thrives on secrecy, silence, judgement and stops us from progressing. The more you ignore shame, the more it grows and the stronger it gets. It is experienced differently for men and women and it is fed by hidden gender stereotypes heavily present in our society.
For men it is: "do NOT be perceived as being weak."
For women it is: "be perfect, don't let anyone see your struggle..... ever!"
This means that if we want to lead change, we need to change not only the way we perceive ourselves as women but also the expectations and perceptions we have of the men in our lives.
Initially it took time and was uncomfortable to accept that shame was something I needed to deal with.
Then I discovered vulnerability; the nemesis to shame. Shame thrives on secrecy, silence and judgment so vulnerability combats this by opening up,speaking out and letting our true selves be seen. Scary right!?!
Vulnerability can look different in many different situations and it should always be used thoughtfully and intentionally. Among other things it is:
- the discomfort to recognize and admit that you don't have the answers but are willing to look for them
- the ability to recognize and admit that you might have to change your views on an issue or to own your personal biases publicly
- the openness to say when something hurts or bothers you
- the courage to admit that you've made a mistake and to be sorry for it
When I began to tap into my courage to be authentic, it was not comfortable. Often I would have what I came to term "speakers remorse." On the drive home or in bed that night I would feel panic and regret wash over me and my brain would play out the awful things that might happen as a result of speaking my truths. Of course none of them ever happened and I learned that vulnerability:
- is not easy or comfortable, it needs to come from a place of loving yourself
- fosters the ability to treat others non-judgementally with compassion
- allows for authentic connection
- requires courage and resilience, it also builds courage and resilience.
- is life changing
Brene Brown talks about shame and vulnerability in much greater detail. I highly recommend watching her Ted talks, they are phenomenal!