I struggle with making decisions based on shame and guilt. These decisions are the major, life changing ones, the little bitty every day ones and everything in between. I know there is a good version of guilt, like feeling bad for sitting on the couch reading instead of going down to the basement to play in a Nerf battle with Tim and the boys. That kind of guilt makes me a better mom and I’m grateful for it. This is not the kind I’m talking about today. I’m referencing the kind that overtakes my priorities. I hate when guilt gets played as the trump card. My tendency to people please double teams with it and I make rash, horrible decisions just to try to make the shame and guilt shut the hell up.
I just started reading this amazing book by Brene Brown. The Gifts of Imperfection has helped me understand this whole process. I’m only through chapter two and it’s blowing my mind. I always knew that guilt had an overarching power over me, but I didn’t know how to combat it. You can’t just say, guilt isn’t going to affect me anymore, and poof, you’re free. At least for me, it doesn’t work like that. Understanding how it works in our brains and then how it flows out through our actions is helpful. If I can see each piece of the cycle and categorize feelings and actions, I can finally start to get a grip on it. I have to tangibly process things, talk about it, write about it, then be given measurable steps to follow through. Only then, can I even approach the idea of changing.
Along with her study on shame and guilt, Dr. Brown found that people who don’t let these monsters rule their life cultivate vulnerability. I think this is the very reason I haven’t been able to shake those monsters. I always try to put on a smiley face, make my life sound Pinterest worthy and shove everything else in the dark closet. I can do all of the things myself! Everything is fine! Being vulnerable takes a lot of bravery and courage. I don’t think I have enough right now but I’m sure going to wake up each day and try my best.
Actually, today I’m feeling especially low, so this post is even harder to pound out. When I get like this, I feel like I have tunnel vision. Anything perepheral is fuzzy and I can barely focus on the things right in front of me. Using my brain feels like walking through a thick mud. So, my apologies if none of this makes sense.
She also says that there are certain behaviors that work against being vulnerable. Blaming is one of these. It’s funny how I can totally see myself in all these negative behaviors. When something goes awry, my default is to blame.
We protect ourselves, by looking for someone or something to blame. Or sometimes we shield ourselves by turning to judgement or by immediately going into fix-it mode.-Brene Brown
So blame is equal to self protection. I have to get over this. I’ve put all my energy into putting up walls, while silently suffering under guilt’s heavy pin. Now, instead of lashing out and wondering why I can’t change, I’m working at tearing down these barriers. It sounds pretty scary to me, but this post here is my first baby step.
Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy – the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.
-Brene (again, isn’t she wise?)
I want that light. I want ownership of my own story, even if some of the pieces turn out to be really ugly. I want to be vulnerable and celebrate with those who want it too.