I just read Brené Brown’s book, Daring Greatly, which was recommended to me recently and which I’ve been meaning to read for a while. It’s about vulnerability, shame, guilt, connection. Basically, Brown writes that allowing ourselves to be vulnerable is courageous not weak like so many of us seem to think. We all fear vulnerability in ourselves and seem to admire it in others.
When someone dares greatly by expressing vulnerability, such as quitting their lucrative career to pursue their passion without any guarantee of success, people often admire that and label it courageous. I would like to add that there is no bravery without taking action in the face of fear (vulnerability). If you’re not afraid, it’s simply not courageous, even if admirable.
Yet, for all of us at some point, we resist vulnerability within ourselves; whether it’s following our true calling, reaching out to ask for help, admitting something didn’t work out, trying again after ‘public failure,’ apologizing without justifying when our actions have caused pain! (Even if we can justify our actions.)
Further, we harbour shame ultimately because we’re afraid that we’re not good enough or worthy, and we worry what others will think (of us) and that we’ll be judged and lose connection—and connection is our primary driver in life.
The other distinction Brown makes is between guilt and shame. I’ve said for quite some time that guilt is a useless—and harmful—negative emotion, but I’d like to modify my submission. Let Letterman swoop in and replace the word guilt with shame. In other words, as Brown so eloquently reveals, shame is ‘bad’ and guilt is ‘good.’
The difference is thus: shame makes whatever I’ve done about me, the human being, and guilt makes whatever I’ve done about my doing. It goes back to: I’ve done something ‘bad’ (guilt) vs. I am someone ‘bad’ (shame). Again—as I’ve said before—right/wrong and good/bad are highly subjective, but for the purpose of brevity, I’ll leave that for another conversation.
Guilt helps us to evaluate, take new actions and make amends if necessary. Shame just makes us feel like shitty people. So, guilt: good; shame: bad. (So to speak.)
(I’m obviously summing up, but it all seems fairly common sense to me, even though common sense isn’t that common at all.)
The part in the book that got me thinking though (because it directly relates to me, of course—and this blog) is when Brown states that over-sharing and/or airing our dirty laundry (read: this blog) isn’t considered vulnerability at all (um, yeah, right) but that it may be a look-at-me desperate cry for attention (sideways glance—okay, fine—I’ll give her that one) and that true connection only comes from mutual trust and sharing. (Fair enough).
A GF of mine, who’s done some nip and tuck of her own (I have several who have, but this blog isn’t about outing anyone else, that’s their business), questioned my ‘tell all’ style. I wondered why my revealing all made her feel uncomfortable, after all she wouldn’t have mentioned it otherwise.
GF: “Why do you want everyone to know?”
Me: “I’ve felt like a fraud. I get compliments on my appearance and—meanwhile—I’ve done all sorts of things to look the way I do. I just think it’s false and misleading advertising.”
GF: “Everyone does it—or wants to—it doesn’t make you a fraud.”
Me: “I feel like a fraud. And it’s not really fair, in my mind, for me to pretend it’s all natural. It just doesn’t feel right. I can’t explain. Maybe I’m rebelling against my mother.”
GF: “I’m not ready for that kind of real.”
Me: “And that’s totally okay! I have a whole different set of boundaries and zero concern about privacy on this, that’s my deal, you’re allowed to have your deal.”
My GF is quite private, not just about her persuasions toward her own version of “polishing the stone”, but generally. We are quite different that way. Both ways are okay, as far as I’m concerned, despite Brené Brown’s suggestion that we keep some “vulnerable sharings” between trusted loved ones. I do have boundaries. I don’t write about other people’s stories (without their permission) that can be identified. I respect boundaries and privacy.
I am well aware that this blog is full of too personal TMI! My personality herein is the real me. Well, one of us. My family, very close friends and not-so-close friends who knew me before I became a pontificating professional (read: land pimp) recognize this me.
“You nutbar, I so remember this you!”
For the record, I am also that pontificating professional, but I’ve overused that aspect of my personality and am bored with it (read my real estate articles and blogs, and you’ll see why).
I thought about the conversation with my GF, and I thought about Brown’s words a lot before writing this post. I wanted to be sure I wasn’t writing with a knee-jerk reaction. I don’t think I am. But I wondered if anyone else might be wondering why I’m exposing myself in public like this, so I thought it fair to explain said exposing.
I feel like an entertainer here. A standup comedian of sorts. They say some really personal and politically incorrect shit on the stage. This is my stage: on the page. (Bonus: No one can throw drink coasters and rum-soaked straws at me!)
I’d like to suggest that in my unique case (self-righteous validation to follow), based on the number of private emails I get from some of the people who read this blog (female—and male) and who express their most personal thoughts and life challenges (and triumphs) — “Thank you so much, I’ve finally decided to get a [boob lift/tummy tuck/Botox injections/etc.] and not feel guilty about it!” “I just wanted to thank you for your emails, they cheer me up, my friend died recently and I’m having such a hard time with it…” — there is genuine mutual trust and sharing. And the extra coffee dates I’m offered (male—and female) feel like real vulnerability and connection. And that feels good.
I figure if I can positively impact even one life with my TMI over-sharing, I’m okay with that. Plus, I like the attention.
My family has always jested with me saying, “You’re shameless!”
My reply has always been, “Yes! Yes, I am!”
My GF texts me the other day, “Hey, maybe the real authentic you is somewhere between professional and all out there!”
I write this blog and send it to her for approval.
She texts me: “…what I was trying to say is … Don’t feel you have to completely recreate who you were to create someone you feel you have to be in order to be thought of as ‘not ordinary.’ All of who you were, and just ‘are,’ is amazing … I love you dearly! …you have nothing to prove to anyone else.”
I say, Thank you friend for really seeing (and accepting) me. Love you 🙂
What have I (re)learned?
Over-sharing isn’t shameful or, if it is, I’m shameless—but since, according to the Brené Brown book, I didn’t pass the shameless quiz then I’m just confused—but well connected (!) and that is what counts.
Just because I’m an open blog doesn’t mean you have to be—there’s no shame in not sharing. We all reach out in our own way. There’s no right or wrong (some restrictions apply). If my TMI makes you uncomfortable, don’t read it! My motto: If it feels good do it, if it doesn’t – knock it off, already! And don’t worry, I won’t guilt or shame you—or out you.
Keep sharing the love and laughter, baby! Hug it out. (Um, please share this love, see page “Help Anna!” or just forward this to a trusted friend!)