This week I listened to an episode of the Goop podcast with Glennon Doyle. I love Glennon. The words she writes speak right to my soul. I have so much admiration for her as a person, the way she lives her life, and the way she expresses it to the world, so of course I listen to any podcast she does- this one being no exception. And in this podcast, the line that really got me (and the inspiration behind this post) was, “shame takes you out of the game.” Glennon talks about how it’s not pain, or fear of whether we’re likable or not, that causes us to question ourselves- it’s shame. Just shame. To be honest, I’d heard the word thrown around quite a bit, but had never really stopped to think about how it manifested in my own life. But, as soon as she spoke that sentence, I immediately got it. Shame really is the thing that takes us out of the game.
So what is shame? Merriam-Webster defines it as, “a painful emotion caused by consciousness of guilt, shortcoming, or impropriety.” Brené Brown defines it as, “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging—something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection.” Any of this sound familiar? I know it does for me. I know whenever I’m feeling down it is usually not because something specific is causing me immediate pain. It’s more so this ambiguous, mysterious cloud hovering over my head that I can’t seem to get out from under. I can’t figure out where it’s coming from, so there it stays.
But these two definitions bring it out of ambiguity and create a clearer picture I can understand. Though I am not currently in one of those down moments, I can envision myself when I am, and I see how that little cloud really is just shame. In those moments, I feel unlikeable, unaccomplished, and incapable of reaching the goals I’ve set for myself. I feel as though that must be how everyone else feels about me, too. And then I just want to go hide in bed and binge watch a show because I know that’s safe and I won’t fail at that. But all that actually does is disconnect me further from the truth.
Shame takes grip and pulls you down a rabbit hole of lies. And how do we know they’re lies? Pay attention to your thoughts when you feel good. Deep down, WE KNOW. I know that none of what I just described about myself is true. YOU know the same for yourself. We are LOVABLE. We have many accomplishments to be proud of. And we have every ability to accomplish the future goals we set for ourselves. We are loved and supported AND worthy of both of those things.
What’s really messed up is that, in those shame-filled moments, it’s so hard to see that. It pulls you under and doesn’t let up. It disconnects you from everything around you that will prove otherwise. Your hobbies, your people- basically anything you love that makes you feel good. It traps you. I know there’s been times when I’ve spent weeks in shame. I’ve believed I was a bad person for mistakes I’d made, obsessing over them and wishing that I’d just never made them in the first place.
Shame makes it hard to talk about these things. I feel shame even typing these words- just another example of how it tries to hide the truth. The truth that we all feel like this sometimes. That, while it is part of the human experience, it won’t last forever. And that, the sooner we can turn toward love, the sooner we’ll be out of it. Shame may take us out of the game, but love… it sends us happily back in the other direction. The direction where we love ourselves, where we know we are loved, and where we can’t help but show that love right back. That’s what makes us feel connected to the world around us, and inspired to be a part of it in our own, unique, amazing way.
Glennon suggests we write notes to ourselves for the shame spirals. Think about what/who it is that brings you joy. Or what words you need to hear during those hard moments. Write them down. Keep that note somewhere you’ll be able to reference easily. And, in those times of disconnection, when shame takes you out of the game, try to remember to look at your words. Remind yourself of what it is that brings you back to love and connection. It won’t keep shame from popping up, but it sure will help you in remembering that everything shame tells you, is a lie. You ARE lovable. You ARE capable. And YOU have so much to offer this world.
What has been your experience with shame? What else have you found helpful in turning back toward love?
If you liked this post, you may also enjoy: How to Stop Worrying When You Embarrass Yourself.