I’ve been dealing with shame lately.

Brené Brown defines shame as “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.”

Before I became familiar with Brené’s work I hadn’t thought much about shame, except that it might have something to do with guilt.  I know now that it has a completely different meaning than guilt, which is completely healthy and necessary.   Guilt = “I did something bad” and shame = “I am bad”.

I was gifted an ecourse on “The Gifts of Imperfection” with Brené Brown for Christmas.  Brené Brown’s work has been teaching me about all sorts of things like cultivating authenticity and being able to be fierce and kind at the same time instead of a people-pleaser or perfectionist.  But one of the most helpful things it’s teaching me is the importance of self-talk around shame.  I am learning that the ways in which we talk to ourselves can have a profound effect on who we are.

I’ve been identifying the places where shame hits me most and I’ve found that when I’m at college, it’s in the classroom.   I have shame triggers around intelligence.  For most of my life I have felt less-than in the classroom.  I’ve felt not smart enough.  That “not enough” feeling is rooted in shame.  It makes me want to “armor up” and shield myself by not talking in class, which has dangerous outcomes as far as my education goes.

Evidently, I’m working on my self-talk.  One of Brené’s suggestions is to talk to yourself like someone that you love.  The other day when I left class feeling confused and down on myself I thought to myself, “You are so stupid.”  I literally caught myself saying that in my head.  Can you imagine saying that to someone you love and support?  No.  You would say, “I love you.  Everyone has to go at their own pace to learn.  You’re on the right path and if you stick with it, you’ll get it.  It’s a learning process.  You can do it!”  Additionally, you would probably have the patience to talk to them for a long time, until they started to feel better.  This is changing my life.  Try it.