A friend shared Mary Lambert’s song Secrets with me this morning…. I’d never heard her before and wow I love it! So here I am sharing it with you: Mary Lambert – Secrets.
Have a listen, but come back here as it set me off on some musings I would love to share with you.
So it got me to thinking about secrets, and how I love how Mary brings lightness to such a challenging subject – shame – the feeling that we need to keep parts of ourselves secret – the cause of so much pain for so many people. Especially young people.
Yesterday was World Mental Health Day and my Facebook feed was filled with heartwarming, live-affirming messages about taking away the mask, reaching out when you need a friend, not being ashamed of how you really feel. It felt good to share them. And today I am thinking about why we keep secrets about ourselves. What is shame? What is it about this emotion that has us hide our ‘imperfections’ – those shadow parts of us that we don’t feel are acceptable?
I define shame as the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection.
Brene Brown is the foremost researcher and writer on shame today. She was researching connection and, because shame is the experience or fear of believing we’re not enough, not worthy of connection, and how people described their experiences of connection with her was by describing disconnection.
She said she was curious as, during her research she interviewed a lot of men and women who, rather than waking up in the morning and saying, “I’m not enough. I don’t have enough. Nothing’s good enough,” woke up in the morning saying, “Yeah, there’s a lot of scarcity, there’s a lot of perfectionism, but I am enough.” What did they have in common?
She found that, when she went back into the data asking that question, what these men and women had in common was the willingness and capacity to be vulnerable. As she says:
It’s about the willingness to be imperfect, to be vulnerable. It’s about the courage to wake up in the morning and acknowledge that no matter what gets done and what doesn’t get done, that I’m enough, and that I’m worthy of love, belonging, and joy. Those are irreducible needs for humans.
So, as I am so often thinking about what wholehearted living is – as that is what I feel I am all about – at the foundation of the work I do with people. How does shame fit into that? What is the mechanism that drives us to feel shame? Why know more about it and what our individual shame is, what our secrets are?
Shame is our armour, our self-protection. Too often our life experiences have shown us that being uncool is not safe. The kids that laughed at us… So shame swerves the being laughed at, mocked, isolated, disconnected. The real pain of it is that it serves the opposite – to keep us disconnected, literally keeping us cool – our hearts not warmed but chilled. And so often, as we grow older, we realise that sharing our vulnerability is actually cool! And that when we share a secret about ourselves that we are terrified someone else will laugh at, they share back – and it brings us closer! And actually people are inspired by our courage/vulnerability.
Cool is the need to be perceived as completely in control, completely certain, risking no emotional exposure at all. It’s the straightjacket of, “I’ve got everything managed.” It’s emotional stoicism, not emotional exposure. Cool is really dangerous.
Being uncool is courageous – especially when we are not being uncool for the sake of its “cool to be uncool!” Being uncool by removing the mask is exposing, vulnerable – crying when someone hurts your feelings, standing out from the crowd by just being you, admitting you still need a hug even though you are a so-called grown-up.
One area of shame for me, like so many women and men, has been around my weight, always has been a struggle for me, even when I look back now and can see I really wasn’t ‘overweight’ at all… Recently I have had a breakthrough though with embracing myself the way I am – and on a recent holiday I felt really free to swim and sunbathe – knowing that we are all beautiful bodies – all shapes and sizes! I remember a blog post I read some time ago by a Mum in which she said she had realised how much fun she was missing out on with her kids by being embarrased to run around with them on the beach and that the memories and experiences were far more precious than her warped self-image.
So – what’s your uncool?! Why not reveal a secret today!