Podcast Episode 78 – Shame & Vulnerability

Jul 2, 2023 | Podcast

I’m Diana Swillinger, and you’re listening to the Renew Your Mind podcast. Episode 78 Shame and Vulnerability. 

DIANA: Hey. Hey, everybody. Welcome to another episode of the renew your Mind podcast. I am your host, um, Diana Swillinger, and I’m always excited to be here with you all and share what’s on my mind, share what I know so we can just do this, um, journey of life that is difficult together and encourage and support each other and learn ways that help us get better at this journey because it is hard. I’m telling you before I dive into today’s topic, which is revisiting Shame again, nobody likes to talk about it, but this is at the core of the work that we all need to do, and I’m even going to talk about it one more time. Coming up with Rhiannon. She and I are going to do an episode where she brings up some of her thoughts based on a ah, podcasted on Shame and just get the discussion going because it’s a hard topic for us as Christians sometimes. So before I jump in with that, I want to thank all of you who’ve been getting over to the Apple itunes app and leaving a review for me. And I want to read one of those for you. So if you listen on itunes, please make sure you give me five stars if you like it and then less stars if you don’t like it. But if you don’t like it, why are you listening? I’m not sure. But go. Give me some good stars. Subscribe to the podcast and then if you have a moment, just write a short three sentence review. What do you like about this podcast that is helping you? Here is a review that I was given recently and I can’t even say the name somebody because, you know, you don’t have to put in your real name on these reviews. You can put in whatever you want. So it’s like wergubsk and then it goes on. It’s like, um, gobblygook letters. 

Anyway, this reviewer, the review is titled Great Pick me up. It says, I have been listening to this podcast for a while now. I appreciate Diana’s take on being mindful of our thoughts. I follow a number of resources that drive the point home that we need to be careful of our thought process because it can really take over in a good or bad way and influence our everyday and our life as a whole. I like that this resource has a Christian slant to it and each episode is short and sweet. I can start a podcast episode when I leave my house and get my boost for the day by the time I’ve reached my destination. Thanks for the great pick me up. Thanks for leaving the review. I really appreciate that. I hope, in addition to getting a pick me up from this podcast, that you all are getting practical tools, practical ideas on how to think and things that you can tangibly apply in your life to start creating more of what you want. Which, as I’m always saying, we tend to want more joy, more hope, more peace, regardless of what’s going on in our life. I just did a free class online last week about how to feel joy in any situation. One of the people that attended commented, it sounds so easy and it does. And in a way it’s not easy, but it’s simple. It’s simple ideas to put into practice, but it’s hard to create the practice. And we need more and more time invested into trying to think differently so that we can feel differently. 

I know God is the source of joy and hope and peace, but I’m telling you, he doesn’t just selectively give that, I’ll give a little here, I’ll give a little there. He is always lavishing that on us. He has a never ending supply of love and joy and hope and peace. What keeps us from feeling it is ourselves. And this is where our thoughts come in. Our thoughts are either sabotaging us from feeling those or helping us to feel those. And so the more you are willing to examine your thoughts and try new ones, the closer you’re going to get to having more of those amazing experiences of those emotions in your life. 

So what I want to do today talking more about shame is to go to the shame expert, Brene Brown. I recommend books to people that I coach, and the one I’ve recommended most, or at least is Tied for the Most is Daring Greatly by Brene Brown. From the first half of her book, I have earmarked a bunch of pages, so if you hear paper, that’s what I’m doing. I’m shuffling the book. I’m going to read some excerpts from the book and stick in some commentary here. And then if this sounds good to you, I recommend you just go read the book. Or if you’ve read it before, read it again. The interesting thing about Brene Brown is that Brene Brown has a PhD in social work and she has other, uh, academic accolades in the social work area as well. But she set out to study in the area of social work how connection affects people and relationships and life and all of that. And the more and more she interviewed and studied people on connection, what she found is that at the root of it all was shame and vulnerability. So she has become known as the shame experts around the world. So I’ll just start reading some of the things I’ve highlighted from her book. 

All right, so it’s going to be about shame and vulnerability and relationships. Here we go. Vulnerability is the cradle of the emotions and experiences that we crave. Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path. If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive. Self compassion is also critically important. But because shame is a social concept, it happens between people, it also heals best between people. Did you catch that? Don’t we think of shame as something we just go do on our own? I always say with shame, I like to hide in my closet. It seems very solitary and lonely. But she is saying shame is a social concept because it happens between people. And it’s true. We’re not just hiding in our closet with shame. When we have shame, we carry it around with us and it affects how we relate and connect on every level, and it robs us of authentic relationships and connection. I like to think of this what she’s saying with shame heals best between people. When we share our stories with somebody and they respond with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive. It’s like shame is this dirty, dark little thing we want to hide in a corner, in the dark. But if we bring it out to the light, it cannot survive. It thrives in the darkness. It thrives if you refuse to share it. If you refuse to be vulnerable with anyone, if you refuse to bring what’s in you to the light, it thrives. 

But when you’re willing to share your story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive. And then she’s also talking about self compassion here, being critically important. She goes on to say, self compassion is a key, because when we’re able to be gentle with ourselves in the midst of shame, we’re more likely to reach out, connect and experience empathy. This is where it starts with self compassion and self love. I’ve heard person after person say we’re supposed to love God, love others, love God, love others, love God, love others. We suck at loving other people when we don’t love ourselves first, because we don’t bring our authentic selves. We bring our shame filled, non vulnerable selves to our relationships. And it’s not real love, it’s not real connection, it’s not real compassion, it’s not real empathy unless we are first willing to be self compassionate with ourselves, gentle with ourselves, with our own stories, with our own pain. And when we nurture and love ourselves, then we get the courage to step out and share that with other people. And now we’re in compassion and love all right, let’s see what we got next. 

Okay, now she’s talking about empathy. Empathy is a strange and powerful thing. There is no script. There is no right way or wrong way to do it. Empathy is simply listening, holding space withholding judgment, emotionally connecting and communicating with an incredibly healing message of you’re not alone. I think sometimes we’re afraid to give empathy because in a way, we need to be vulnerable, too, and just sit and be like, it’s okay. It’s okay for you to have all these feelings. So often we want to pull other people out of their feelings because it’s uncomfortable for us. But we get to let them have their feelings. We get to just come alongside and we get to say, you’re not alone. I am here. That is empathy. All right, now, she goes on to talk about the vulnerability armory, which is ways we try to protect ourselves from being vulnerable. And she talks about, um, scarcity and shame, of course. And so here it says, the properties of scarcity as shame are, uh, comparison and disengagement. Well, it appears that believing that we are enough is the way out of the armor. It gives us permission to take off the mask. Again, often a debate, either we’re worthy or we’re not worthy. We’re terrible sinners, or we are beautifully and wonderfully made and worthy. Which is it? I mean, I just had this discussion with my son this weekend about original sin and all that, and we’re not going to get into deep theology here, but were you just born a sinner and so tough luck. You need to think you’re not enough. You need to know you’re not worthy. You’re less than. You’ll never measure up. And that’s why you need Christ. 

But that’s not it at all. Christ came, Christ died on the cross. Christ gave it all for us because we are worthy. We’re not pitiful, lowly sinners. We are enough. We’re enough for Christ to do the most amazing things for us. Other people see us as enough. The same way you look at your friends that you love and your children and the people in your life that you treasure. You would never let them say they aren’t enough. You would let them know they are enough. And the key Brene Brown is talking about here is when we know we are enough, when we’re willing to believe we are enough, then we have permission to take off our mask. When we take off our mask, we get to be vulnerable and we get to connect. God made us to want relationship. We need relationship. It is good for us. And the way to get it is to know we’re enough, take off our mask and be vulnerable in connection. Crazy. I know it seems counterintuitive sometimes, and it can seem scary because we’re afraid of rejection. And we’re going to talk about that here with the idea, uh, of we want to connect. Because we want joy in our life. We want to connect because we want good things, but then we’re afraid we’re never going to get it. So here Bernay writes joy is the most difficult emotion to really feel. Why? Because when we lose the ability or willingness to be vulnerable, joy becomes something we approach with deep foreboding. In a culture of deep scarcity, of never feeling safe, certain, and sure enough, joy can feel like a setup. We wake up in the morning and think work is going well, everyone in the family is healthy. No major crisis are happening. The house is still standing, I’m working out and feeling good. Oh crap. This is bad. This is really, really bad. Disaster must be lurking right around the corner. The concept of foreboding joy is a method of minimizing vulnerability. What the perpetual disappointment folks describe is this it’s easier to live disappointed than it is to feel disappointed. It feels more vulnerable to dip in and out of disappointment than to just set up camp there. You sacrifice joy, but you suffer less pain. 

We’re trying to beat vulnerability to the punch. We don’t want to be blindsided by hurt. We don’t want to get caught off guard. So we literally practice being devastated or never move from self elected disappointment. Wow. Because of our shame, we’re afraid to be vulnerable. When we’re afraid to be vulnerable, we will not let go of that protection in order to allow the good things in. And then Bernay says, when we spend our lives pushing away vulnerability, we can’t hold space open for the uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure of joy. We’re desperate for more joy, but at the same time we can’t tolerate the vulnerability. Wow. This is why when I hear people say we’re supposed to feel shame, we sin. We should feel shame. We’re lowly. We should feel shame, we should walk around feeling shame. And Christ is the answer. No, Christ is the answer for shame. Yeah, but we’re not supposed to walk around feeling it all the time or we won’t be engaging in a healthy way in what he’s created us to be in relationship. We can’t show up and be healthy and offer goodness and love to a relationship when we’re stuck in shame. It m doesn’t work. So there’s a lot more in this book and we’re getting close to about halfway through. 

So I want to give you some practical things that Brene has said that will help you do something about this. Okay? And if you like this, go ahead and read the rest of the book. There’s a lot of good stuff in it. But Brene Brown goes to I mean, some of us, I think we’re like gratitude. Practice gratitude. Everyone says practice gratitude, but listen, gratitude works. That’s why everybody’s talking about it. It it’s like, hey, go out and exercise. Go out and exercise. You’ll feel better. If you exercise, your body will be healthier. If you exercise, you’ll be stronger. If you exercise, we all believe it. We don’t get sick of hearing that and think, oh, well, now if everybody’s talking about it, this must be some hoax. No, everybody’s talking about gratitude like we talk about exercise. It works. It makes you feel better. Uh, in your emotional state, you feel stronger. In your emotional state, you feel healthier. You feel energized in your emotional state if you practice gratitude. So Brene writes it this way. Gratitude, therefore, emerged from the data as the antidote for foreboding joy. She studied and studied and studied and interviewed and did research and research and research, and gratitude emerged from the data as the antidote to foreboding joy. So if you are not letting yourself enjoy life and connect with people and feel that contentment, the antidote is gratitude. Okay. She wrote from her studies. Participants described happiness as an emotion that is connected to circumstances, and they described joy as a spiritual way of engaging with the world that’s connected to practicing gratitude. She said, While I was initially taken back by the relationship between joy and vulnerability, it now makes perfect sense to me. And I can see why gratitude would be the antidote to foreboding joy. Scarcity and fear drive foreboding joy. 

We’re afraid that the feeling of joy won’t last, or that there won’t be enough, or that the transition to disappointment or whatever is in store for us next will be too difficult. We’ve learned that giving in to joy is at best, setting ourselves up for disappointment, and at worst, inviting disaster. And we struggle with the worthiness issue. Do we even deserve our joy, given our inadequacies and imperfections? What about the starving children and the war ravaged world? Who are we to be joyful? If m the opposite of scarcity is enough, then practicing gratitude is how we acknowledge that there’s enough and that we’re enough. I use the word practicing because the research participants spoke of tangible gratitude practices more than merely having an attitude of gratitude or feeling grateful. In fact, they gave specific examples of gratitude practices that included everything from keeping gratitude journals and gratitude jars to implementing family gratitude rituals. And then she says three lessons she learned about joy. Number one, joy comes to us in moments, ordinary moments. 

Number two, be grateful for what you have. And number three, don’t squander joy. And then I’m going to read everything she said with .3 here. Don’t squander joy. We can’t prepare for tragedy and loss. When we turn every opportunity to feel joy into a test drive for despair, we actually diminish our resilience. Yes, softening into joy is uncomfortable. Yes, it’s scary. Yes, it’s vulnerable. But every time we allow ourselves to lean into joy and give into those moments, we build resilience and we cultivate hope. The joy becomes part of who we are. And when bad things happen, and they do happen, we are stronger. Now doesn’t that sound like a practice worth doing? As I was reading these passages to you, and I titled this episode Shame and Vulnerability, I didn’t really think about calling it Shame, Vulnerability and Joy, though. That would be a better title, probably. Or shame and vulnerability and gratitude and joy. Think about that. 

The solution to shame is vulnerability and gratitude. And when you practice vulnerability and gratitude, you get joy. Now I know. Like when I did the how to have joy in any situation class last week. It sounds easy, but I know it’s hard, and here’s why. And then we’ll wrap it up with this. But our brain is very, very used to holding on to the story we have in there. If your story is, it’s not safe to share me, it’s not safe to love me, um, this is painful. I don’t trust them. Whatever your story is, if you hang tight to that story, it’s hard to release it. It really is. It seems foreign. So it’s not just that we’re scared something bad might happen. It’s also that we are creatures of habit. Like, I’ve been doing it this way for ten years. Uh, if I change, that’s going to be the unknown. And I don’t like the unknown. And our brains instinctively don’t like the unknown. I think that is what makes these kind of changes in our practices of how we think and feel and do things to seem hard. You, uh, might have heard me before say, well, I live in Wisconsin, and it’s still summery here, but in winter, people go cross country skiing up here. And when you go cross country skiing in the path that many people have gone before, you have two ruts in the snow where your skis just glide super easy. They don’t go off the trail because they’re in the grooves, and they just take that path. It’s the path of least resistance. But if a skier wants to go off and explore somewhere new and do something different, they’re going to have to get out of those well grooved paths in the snow, and they’re going to have to lift their leg up with the ski and keep doing that with leg after leg up and over the new fresh snow. That is not a path well worn. And it takes energy, it takes focus. It’s not gliding and easy. 

It feels a little more like work and maybe even drudgery. But you’re going someplace new. You’re going someplace beautiful, you’re going someplace unexplored for you. But you know it’s going to be better than just sticking in the same old ruts you’ve always been. It’s worth doing the work to try something new. Easy concepts, but they take work. This is a practice, but it’s one worth doing. If you want more joy, you want more peace, you want more hope, you want more connection. Let’s get unstuck from the stories we’ve been holding on to so tightly and try something new. If you don’t know where to start, start with writing a couple gratitudes down every day. I still have spiral notebooks in the house for my kids. So when I want to just start writing something or take a notebook around with me and remember to write things in easy to grab a spiral notebook and write gratitudes or I am thankful on the front and just leave it out on the counter, leave it on your desk, leave it next to your bed, wherever in your car, wherever you’re going to. 

Remember to stop and write down a few things that you’re thankful for. And one other practical thing you could do is shed a little light on something. I wouldn’t go out there and tell someone your deepest, darkest, shameful secret if you’re not used to doing that. But you could tell them something, one um, thing that you’ve been hanging on to that you feel a little shame with. One thing you’re willing to put a little light on and take a risk and see what happens. Find somebody you trust. Tell them something that you’ve been hanging on to in a darker corner of your mind, share it with them and put a little light on it. And that will be practicing vulnerability in a baby step way. All right, I hope this was helpful. If you liked what I shared today, you should check out Bernay Brown Daring Greatly. She also has some YouTube videos, so you can find her there. All right, that’s what I have for this week, so I will talk to you next time. Take care of you. 

As an advanced certified life coach, I help Christian women trying to live their best lives, but they still feel unsatisfied and stuck. I teach thought management skills that work so you can enjoy life again and step into who God has created you to be. Don’t forget to head on over to Rympodcast.com to get my free resources or a free coaching call.

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