APADIA 28: The Unproductivity of Shame
Finances and food are similar for me. I didn’t grow up handling either as smoothly and calmly and well as it seemed like everyone else did. There’s a lot of shame tucked into the cracks.
I felt so guilty about how bad I thought I was at it, that I didn’t want to talk about it. Not like things were ever as terrible as they could have been, thank goodness. But I was just that embarrassed about my shortcomings and how much better I thought I should have done. All I wanted was to feel comfortable – unfettered yet secure – but I couldn’t figure out how to do it alone. And of course I had to figure it out alone, rather than show anybody how clueless I was, right?
I’ve been getting slowly better at each thing over the years, and in looking back, I realize how much it’s been connected with me being able to talk about each.
I’ve made a lot of decisions based on feeling safe. Not all. Some of my biggest and best decisions flew in the face of that. Of course, so did some of the worst. But what I’ve realized is that “hidden” is not at all the same thing as “safe.” I think perhaps my emerging guide is this thought:
Ask for help with the thing you feel most ashamed of.
I’ve come across several things recently that have helped me figure out a lot about the unproductivity of shame – in particular, the work of author Brene Brown, artist Lucy Bellwood and life coach Brook Castillo; Psychology Today; the Headspace community; and the Our Daily Bread app. I recommend them all wholeheartedly. Here are a few of the things that have hit me recently from their work. I hope they might help you too.
- Lucy Bellwood: “The work that you really care about is the work that your brain will try to stop you from doing. It’s perverse, but brains are jerks, and that’s just the way that it is sometimes. … It is a fight every day to do something that I care about and want to do. It’s a lot easier to do [stuff that’s] not productive. But the other stuff is scary. And so I avoid it.” She went on to say that she needed to create, and then defend, intentional time in which to do that work.
- Psychology Today: Avoidance of fear is self-sabotage.
- Headspace: It’s actually wise to do some self-protective care when things get rough.
- Brooke Castillo: (paraphrased) ‘Everyone is worthy. And there’s not only nothing bad you can do to be less worthy – because your actions are predicated on who you’re wired to be and who your experiences shape you to be – but there’s nothing you can do to become more worthy. It’s impossible to put everyone on a scale from good to bad, because it just becomes impossible: how do you decide which innocent newborn is more or less worthy?’ So… if I can believe everyone is worthy – which comes easily for me… I have to also logically believe I’m not worse than anyone else. Which was an epiphany.