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Saturday, February 4, 2017

Shame Resilience: Overcoming Your Fear of Being Exposed

'Our willingness to own and engage with our vulnerability determines the depth of our courage and our clarity of purpose.'  Brene Brown

Deep Listening Reveals Hidden Shame in us All

The way most of us shun being vulnerable, you'd think there was something shameful about showing our soft underbelly or sharing our struggles. 

But if you're willing to sit quietly and listen deeply to others--without judgment and without interruption--you'll quickly learn you're not alone. When you truly listen with compassion, others will open up and share their pain and shame with you and you'll discover how much you have in common.

In the past month as I've listened to others share what has been going on in their lives 'shame' has arisen time and again as a deep-seated emotion hidden from view keeping people from fully-engaging in life and relationships. 

Just as I was contemplating doing a post on shame I received this email from a long time and far-away friend: 

'As you likely know, I suffer crippling performance anxiety. In reading Brene Brown's book Daring Greatly this morning, it became obvious that shame, vulnerability, guilt, feeling unloved, unworthy and not being included come from the same place. All this makes me afraid to spend extended time with all but a small number of people, invite folks to my house for lunch or dinner, take dancing lessons, go on dates without flagellating myself afterwards, remembering previous errors and repeating them in my mind, and so on -- I'm almost 65 and not living a genuine, engaged life, yet.
Oddly, taking risks and having positive outcomes has had little long lasting impact -- the pre and post process is still excruciating.
I think your hearts would help me develop shame resilience, as Brene Brown calls it. Do you have a series for this? If not, would you create one?
I'm including others in this email because I think it helps to expose shame and vulnerability to the air and not feel so alone in it.' SB

You're not Alone, SB!

What Makes You Feel Vulnerable and Exposed?

SB is not alone in her hidden shame--or in her desire to move beyond the 'secret' fear people may discover she's not good enough making her feel raw and exposed. So many things make us feel vulnerable and ashamed. What is it for you?

What makes you feel totally vulnerable and exposed?

✅Admitting you have a chronic disease or 'something wrong with' your body
✅Thinking you're not good enough exactly as you are
✅Getting laid off
✅Applying for a job
✅Asking for a date
✅Admitting you're unemployed or struggling in a new job
✅Feeling you're left behind 
✅Asking for help
✅Admitting you're lonely
✅Knowing you've been abused or neglected
✅Stating you love someone before you know how they feel about you
✅Thinking you need to lose weight or change your body shape
✅Putting yourself or your work 'out there' publicly
✅Stating what you want or who you are to the world
✅Admitting you feel shame
The thought of personally putting one of these things out in the world makes me squirm in discomfort. I like to appear worthy, strong and in control of my life at all times. The thought of coming clean about any of these gives me pause--yet what's so bad about admitting any of these things anyway?

What's hiding behind the closed door? Shameful thoughts--I'm not good enough; I'm not worthy; I'm imperfect; or there's something wrong with me.
The Unexpected Consequences of Bad Thoughts

What's startling is when you look behind our need to hide the last part of our tale you'll discover a sense of shame is driving the cover up. I know-- really embarrassing to admit. Kind of gives you the shame shudders to realize the thoughts behind the need to hide:  I'm not good enough; I'm not worthy; I'm imperfect; or there's something wrong with me. 
According to Brene Brown, author of  'Daring Greatly', 'The Gifts of Imperfection' and TED Talk, 'The Power of Vulnerability', shame is the fear of disconnection--we think there is something so shameful about us that if people really knew us they would reject us--so we keep our mouth shut and stay invisible.
The unexpected consequences of thinking this way is it keeps us from being seen, heard, and known by others. Through our secret negative thoughts we bring on the very thing we fear--a feeling of disconnection and distance from others.


The Inner Conflict--The Desire to be Seen vs. Invisible

I'm fascinated by a duality of thought I've witnessed in myself--and I suspect is present in you too. Although I live my life in a 'naturally authentic what you see is what you get' way, there is another hidden truth at work deep within me. As I show myself so completely in the world I am also acutely aware of how much remains hidden and unseen by others. I am a master at artfully keeping myself hidden in plain sight.

I once read that an artist is a person who has an overwhelming desire to be seen at the very same time she has an overwhelming desire not to be found. I don't think you need to be an artist to find this conflicting thought at work within yourself. 

Consider that moment you showed up for a job interview, first date, public speaking engagement, or first day on the job. What was your internal dialogue?  There's always that singular moment when we feel vulnerable and exposed---and that's the moment we want to be seen, heard and known and it's the very same moment we want to retreat, be invisible and keep quiet.

Crisis--Dangerous Opportunity


We all experience these private moments of trepidation at the very moment of exposure. Think of them as mini-crises. A crisis is merely a turning point--a moment in time when an important decision is made. The Chinese symbol for crisis is two pronged with the meaning dangerous opportunity.

Another unexpected consequence of your negative thoughts is when you acknowledge them as natural consequences of stepping into your life you give yourself choice and opportunity. It always feels dangerous to be seen, to be heard and to be known. It is also thrilling. 

To step into your life and achieve your heart's desire you must experience, then walk past, the fear of not being worthy or good enough. Choose to see this moment of fear as your 'dangerous opportunity' and consciously chose to step out of the danger into the opportunity.


Choose to Be Seen, Choose to Connect

💙Practice finding your courage in your moments of crises and decide to show yourself instead of hiding. The more consciously you practice this, the better you'll get at stepping into the opportunities that are always present in your life.

💙In 'Four Steps to Authentic Communication' Robert Holden shares a Zulu greeting so simple and direct it's worthy of practicing it in your head even if it unnerves you too much to say out loud. When you come into the presence of another person face one another, look directly into each other's eyes and say 'I'm here to be seen'. The other person replies, 'I see you'.

💙Choose to be seen and choose to connect. Practice stepping out into your life, knowing you have value and wealth inside you worthy of sharing. Your vulnerability and imperfections are what make you lovable and human. Choose to use them to your advantage. 

Hello? I see you.

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For more than 35 years, Susan Meyerott has been helping people lighten up and step over invisible barriers to change one step at a time. She speaks to your heart, puts you at ease, and makes letting go and moving forward with life easier than ever before.

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moey said...

This is so timely as I peck at my shell anticipating release....I just shared the Zulu greeting with a group of friends and requested that we experiment with it with each other. I am soooooo grateful to you to continue to expose these tender parts we all share. Compassion for each other is the path. Thank you Susan and thank you SB!

Susan J Meyerott, M.S. said...

Moey, can you imagine what would happen if you practiced this greeting with your friends each and every time you met? Imagine the thrill of knowing your tender parts being compassionately welcomed when you lay them at the feet of your friends and taken up for safe-keeping like the chicks and eggs of Emperor Penguins. I see you--and I'm here to be seen.