Relationships add beauty to our lives. They can be rich and bring incredible joy. But they aren’t always smooth sailing. People ignore us. Ridicule or criticize.
The voice in our head joins the chorus and screams, “I’m not enough.”
She sits at the conference table, wishing she could slide out from her chair and hide underneath. Her face is red with embarrassment. Someone just made fun of her idea – one that she worked hard to come up with and finally dared to share. And now this!
“That's what I get for speaking up,” she thinks to herself. “I'm not going to do that again.”
He finally works up the nerve to tell his wife what was on his mind. “I don't want to go to the beach this weekend. I'm exhausted from traveling, and need some time to recover.” And then his wife scolds him for disappointing the rest of the family. He sighs, and realizes he feels alone and unheard.
When was the last time something similar happened to you? No one noticed you at the party; it was as if you were invisible. You didn't get the job. “You're just not management material.” You started talking and got interrupted…for the hundredth time. Your toddler was screaming in the grocery store and a stranger made a sarcastic comment about ‘people who can't control their children'.
Whether it happened last week, last month, or last year, you probably remember the last time you felt…shame.
Maybe you didn't call it that, but that's what you felt. That sense of “I'm not enough,” or “I don't have what it takes.” And then, “I don’t fit in with the group. I'm all alone.”
As Brene Brown says in her book Daring Greatly, when shame is first triggered we are not fit for human consumption. We are dangerous to ourselves and others. We shouldn't say anything, email anyone, or make a decision. We need to get back on our emotional feet, so to speak.
But then what? How do we keep risking connection when it could get thrown back in our face? When we could be shamed again?
Hear this – we will be shamed again. We can’t avoid it. We can’t protect ourselves from it. It will happen. Strangers, acquaintances, even those closest to us will cause us to feel shame. No one escapes unscathed.
Knowing that, are relationships worth it? Is being vulnerable worth the pain that comes along for the ride? YES!!! In fact, it’s the pain we experience, whether from physical or emotional causes, that deepens the connection we have with others. Why? Because it deepens our empathy. Empathy is the lubricant in our relationships. Empathy says, “You’re not invisible. I see you.” It says, “You’re not alone. I’ll sit with you.”
When shame hits us, we have a choice; withdraw and try to protect ourselves or use it to build empathy. Deepen our connections. Instinct tells us to protect ourselves. In some cases, that instinct might be right. Some people aren’t to be trusted with our most precious treasure – our hearts. But more often than not, instinct misleads us. By protecting ourselves, we wall out the good and beautiful too.
Take the risk. Flex your empathy muscle. Dare to love and be loved. It’s worth it.
Do you have an example when you felt shame and grew from it? Leave a comment below.