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I Thought It Was Just Me


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standing in courage

I just got an email today from Liz Garcia, one of the amazing professionals going through our Connections Certification process.

During our national trainings we talk about shame being a "full contact" emotion. Shame doesn't just happen in our head or heart, we experience and hold it in our bodies. We always ask participants to identify where shame shows up for them. Liz shared, "In my feet because I use them to walk away from situations when I should stay." 

Liz, a courageous educator in Texas, has since gone back and shared the shame resilience work with colleagues. Recently they held  a "Power Statement Photo Shoot" where folks wrote a personalized power statement on a meaningful part of their bodies. 

Now they're tossing around the idea of having a gallery showing. Amazing! 

When I asked Liz if I could share the story and offered to make it anonymous, she said she knew all about the vulnerability hangover and was ready to practice some courage. 

I love this story and this photo. This is connection. This is resilience. This is Daring Greatly.

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  • Response
    Response: Elephants approach
    The shrink said, “You don’t need to feel shame about your finances”. But I disagree – poverty has got to be one of the most reliable sources of shame going.

Reader Comments (42)

I would write my words on my chest, between my sternum and my solar plexus. Shame always makes me feel like I'm going to collapse inward on myself and crumple up.
01.29.2013 | Unregistered CommenterSarah
It starts with a tingling in my head... I'd like to just float away.
01.29.2013 | Unregistered CommenterMig
01.29.2013 | Unregistered CommenterANNA ALTIC
On my cheeks - they blush and I get hot and tingly and it makes me want to take flight.
01.29.2013 | Unregistered CommenterMJ
Shame is a tornado that starts in my brain with thoughts that start to swirl around and around. Very soon it expands down through my chest until I'm running for my hiding place.
01.29.2013 | Unregistered CommenterChelsea
My eyes, i can be looking but seeing nothing. i think a numb them so people cant see whats happening inside my head through them
01.29.2013 | Unregistered CommenterBiggz
On my sleeve because that is where I would like for my heart to stay. I hide it when I feel shame so that no one can see my pain.
01.29.2013 | Unregistered CommenterNatalie
Shame shows up in my feet, too. But not because I walk away, because I literally tear them to pieces.
01.29.2013 | Unregistered CommenterShannon Lell
Shame shows up in my belly because I have stuffed vulnerability down with food...But I'm trying to create some space to feel the vulnerability and all the other emotions that rise through the emptiness :-)
01.29.2013 | Unregistered CommenterLynne
Thank you all so much for putting words to these feelings. I cannot say how comforting it is to share a common language and know that I am not alone.
01.29.2013 | Unregistered CommenterCourtney
My RIBS! I had each of them showing when I was anorexic, and now my shame shows up in the collapsing of them, or when I am in openess and vulnerability, like in yoga, they are expansive.
01.29.2013 | Unregistered CommenterKendra
I am so trying to now...I just go numb and do endless odd jobs...I hope this is part of my process!
01.29.2013 | Unregistered CommenterSharon
Shame - One Gigantic Stop Sign - A 'Do Not Trespass' For Life
Shame Prevents Me From:
Shame Prevents Me From Living 
Shame Prevents Me From 'Being'....
As soon as I feel shame, my face gets bright red and my stomach gets a gigantic knot. Then my brain goes into overdrive....what's wrong with me? Why does this happen to me? How can I stop this from happening? Suggestions welcome.
01.29.2013 | Unregistered CommenterSue
I want to hide. I don't want anyone to see me. I beat myself up for years and years. I feel small, helpless, alone. I over indulge in food. I mearly exist.......I have lived in existance for years
01.29.2013 | Unregistered CommenterHilary
Several years ago I felt that shame was like a weight on my heart - the weight would force my heart down into my belly and keep me from standing tall. I would allow it take hold, and all I could think about was curling up into the fetal position and hiding under my covers. Just getting out of bed and showing up somewhere felt like a huge achievement.

Today, I see shame differently. Now it's a cape on my shoulders. It's torn, ragged, and ugly. And, although I wish it were otherwise, it does not make me fly. Before, the weight on my heart would pull my shoulders forward and down. Now, the weight of my cape pulls my shoulders up and back. Thanks to my shame, I am able to stand tall. My shame is not pretty, but it's what makes me human. It's what makes me a better person, a better friend, a better wife, and a better mom. It's what makes me pause before I speak, so that I might not hurt others with my callousness. It's what helps me calm my thoughts and put things into perspective, when the world seems to be going against me. It's what makes me step forward to help, when others only stop and stare. And it's what makes me able to share this with you, even though doing it is making me cry. I wear my shame on my cape.
01.29.2013 | Unregistered CommenterJulie
When I feel shame I turn to my words would be written around my tummy. Being overweight allows me to hide and go unnoticed.
01.29.2013 | Unregistered CommenterKim L.
There are a few things that I have said or done that are so embarrassing, I have a hard time forgetting them.
Whenever I see a certain couch in the hotel I work in, I think about one day when I was new on the job and made a snide comment about that couch to the interior designer, thinking he was about to replace it. I was just trying to connect with him, but it turned out he had just bought it! It was so humiliating every time I think of him OR see that couch I feel flooded. He doesn't even work for the hotel anymore and I still get a hot face and a tight jaw thinking about it...right now, in fact!
EVERY TIME I feel that, I have to remind myself that I am okay. That I am loved. That I am human.
It is easing slowly, but it has been 2 years and it still is pretty fresh feeling!
Shame is strong stuff!
01.29.2013 | Unregistered CommenterKara S.
I think the most visceral experience was when our entire family (kids were all teens) had head lice. For three weeks I felt as if I had a giant scarlet 'HL' flashing on my head. My heart ached for my children. All I wanted to do was go into a fetal position under the covers and make it go away. Those somatic memories are powerful.
01.29.2013 | Unregistered CommenterSally
Shame makes me shudder, the feeling goes through my whole body. I physically need to shake it off and at the same time I close my mind to the thoughts so as to stop the feeling. I am learning to feel it fully it, in full awareness, without shutting down,so as to embrace it as it flows through to let it leave me completely. Not easy!
01.29.2013 | Unregistered CommenterClare
Thanks to Brené and to all the commentators for showing how deeply our feelings and our bodies are connected. My shame sits on my shoulders.
01.30.2013 | Unregistered CommenterMaarit Suokas
Admire your courage! This is really inspiring Liz.
01.30.2013 | Unregistered CommenterRan Kaftory
The timing of this is amazing, just as a huge wave of "not enough" crashed down.

Its is indeed a "full contact" emotion and (like Chrisina J Sweets comment) it stops me in my tracks. But seeing this arrive in my inbox as I sit frozen by shame and reading the comments of those who dare to share helps me start to wriggle free of the paralysis.
01.30.2013 | Unregistered CommenterAnne B
Emotionally naked in a sea of hustle. Gone are the sexy vibes, stripped of moxie and of expectation. I feel plain, droopy and utterly unremarkable. I am peeling off shame like a clingy wet bathing suit and I’m cold, exposed, and terrified of what people see. I fight the urge to cover my heart with my hands and close my eyes to hide my soul. I am not anyone beyond what is left; a mostly empty shell that looks exhausted, zit marred, and pasty. As I gaze sadly in the mirror, selling my soul to the devil shame, my heart quietly whispers, “but its a good shell”. “It’s made up of kindness, integrity, and plenty of funny - it’s good enough for me.” Today I’m choosing to trust my heart, trust it’s strength and let it be seen without trying to prove itself. Today, my shell is a little broken, vulnerable, even sad but it’s free to be because it’s good enough for me.
01.30.2013 | Unregistered CommenterAnna Altic
Beautiful! What a wonderful, courageous idea. Thanks for sharing this story with us :)
01.30.2013 | Unregistered CommenterTaleen D
Great timing! I just had to initiate a major confrontation in a volunteer group, knowing that my view would be unpopular and make a bunch of people unhappy - a huge shame trigger for me. Faced with shaming responses, my jaw has been tight and my stomach clenched but I know I did the right thing and have been working hard to "stand in courage". Now I can carry this wonderful visual with me as I work through this crazy situation. Thanks, Brene.
01.30.2013 | Unregistered CommenterMandy Giles
My words would say "I am prepared as I need to be" "stick around" "my vulnerability is beautiful" "I embrace courage." I would have to write them really small, :), and they would be smack in the middle of upper back, shoulders and neck. ALL my tension lives there. So much so my TMJ brings me pain every day. Letting it go is a moment by moment effort and release practice. I use the wholeheartedness practices to turn my mind in the positive direction. I am a little nicer to myself these days. There are more times than others that I practice resilience but it is a struggle. Exercise is done daily with intensions of healthiness and accomplishment for its sake only, not to be perfect. Thanks for everyone's vulnerability in commenting.
01.30.2013 | Unregistered CommenterHeather
a year ago your TED talk brought you to me and I shared your speech with several was a pivotal moment in our lives.......I so love the comments left by others also drawn to this large community which has spontaneously developed around the fearful perhaps the endorsement of the satisfied customer is always easier to believe than the pitch of the sales you know how wonderful you are?......and how wonder-filled we all have become?.....we are the living proof of your truth......and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for daring greatly.......and thereby helping us all to go and do likewise........Denise
01.30.2013 | Unregistered Commenterdenise
I was reflecting earlier today about how my body shook for almost 10 hours after I posted a blog post which shared an experience in my life I had been keeping hidden in shame. It was an intense physical release triggered by the act of writing and hitting send.
Thank you for affirming my experience.
01.30.2013 | Unregistered CommenterKate Arms-Roberts
The best way for me to describe my shame experience is a spaceship like the Star Ship Enterprise on Star Trekl that can disassemble in emergencies. The main cabin disengages from the rest of the ship so that most of the people can survive an attack. In a shame attack I have the sense that my head disengages from my body. Fortunately this is mostly an experience of my past as I've learned to focus on my breathing and stay in my body aware of the situation. This all came with practice - most powerful of all is my sitting meditation practice - and practice pays off.
01.31.2013 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne
When Shame speaks to me, it says, "GO SIT DOWN".
01.31.2013 | Unregistered CommenterSandra McQuade
Thank you all for sharing your experience of shame. It's so touching to read these comments. This is a sacred experience, to share our wounds together and heal them in the process.

My shame would be in my mouth and
on my lips for
speaking the truth when people didn't want to hear it
for keeping it shut when I needed to speak up for myself and others
for hurting others with my sharp wit and incisive perception of their vulnerabilities,
For not reaching out to another to soothe their pain when clearly they needed help.

Thank you all for the opportunity to express the unexpressed.
02.1.2013 | Unregistered CommenterPatricia
Awesome picture, shame really is a full contact emotion.

For me, it used to be with eye contact. Any time I felt that feeling, I would notice my eyes shifting away from people. It took a lot of practice to be able to hold strong eye contact with everyone.
02.3.2013 | Unregistered CommenterNick
When someone shames me, like my boss, because she's a bully and can't tolerate vulnerability - I feel she considers it a weakness she can't understand - I feel like I've been tayzed in da HEAD. I see it, hear it and FEEL IT ( no one else is usually around to bear witness and if there are others around no one says a word...) and my anger surges from my upper chest into my throat. I want to tell her to F off. Give her the finger. Tell her to shut her arrogant PIE HOLE. Then I feel guilty for wanting to say/do those things so I CONVINCE myself no, I have taken the high road. But have I really. What I really want to say next time is, " I am not an idiot. And I don't see it your way. I think you are being a bully and I want you to stop speaking to me in that manner." Then I beat myself up and tell myself it would be a waste of time, falling on deaf ears etc. She will only laugh at me. Or worse yet, she has the power to subtlety make my work life hell. The fear of not being worthy of self protection, the fear paralyzes me. And when I do walk away, I feel like a loser. Shame makes me forget I am a professional and can conduct myself accordingly.
02.6.2013 | Unregistered CommenterDi Porter
Was walking with my son on the street at ladybrand this day (06/02/2013), my son was just after me and we were approaching a group of taxi drives and I had already put on my vulnerability armour ( the look cool and in control posture) when my son called me “dad, dad” I ignored him as I was just passing the group and my armour was at it maximum effect of paralyzing me. He call I again and as I turn I saw him signal that he wanted to through me a stress ball gift he got from kfc. I mumble something like “no man” and quickly turn forward and walked. And he threw the ball as if saying “ oh your scared of them, I’ll just through it anyway”> I hope I won’t pass this fight against vulnerability to my kids .>and now Im on last page of Guide post 10 in the Gifts of imperfection and Im beginning to realise that the chance to practice vulnerability is presented in many situations on a daily bases and it’s only thru practicing courage that I can grab such opportunities as and when they arise and improve my life for better.
02.6.2013 | Unregistered CommenterBiggz
My place is my chest, my solar plexis. I've had cancer twice (both times purportedly "terminal") - Hodgkin's Disease that manifested in my mediastinum, and lung cancer wrapped around my aorta. My shame is such I can't bear to think of going back to my home town, can't bear to think of joining Facebook (of being found). All because I said what I felt when I loved someone, or wrote them and letter saying so. I tried to keep the connection, to forge a new relationship.

I love this. It's so timely. So, so timely. Thank you.

An aside if I may - watched your Ted Talk on being vulnerable yesterday. Perfect. However (and I say this to you as I have no idea how to get it to the Ted folk) - having a hearing disability part of how I connect with your (these) talks is by reading lips. When the screen goes to a slide, and stays on it for such a long time (at all, really) it totally breaks my connection with what's being said and I miss that all together. So many times the slides aren't needed, and very frustrating to someone like myself.

Thank you for listening.
02.10.2013 | Unregistered CommenterBabs
First I left little packages of a tea bag and a chocolate heart, in the mail boxes of some neighbors. No name, just the little treat. But my greatest joy came when my Scottish widow neighbor, 82 years old, gave me the greatest smile as I handed her a bouquet and chocolates. She was blessed and so was I.
02.14.2013 | Unregistered CommenterKathy Tanner
Time and again your ideas, Brene, have brought to mind a comment that Steve Jobs made in his ~2006 commencement address at Stanford. He said, "You're already naked." (So don't kid yourself that you're hiding something ... and why bother?) And for some reason, that statement just rang of truth to me.

Now, the full-body idea just brought it to mind again. I think it's time I watched it again. How did we ever live without the internet???

For anyone who hasn't seen that video, I think it's a great complement to all of your work, Brene.

02.27.2013 | Unregistered CommenterKaren Gates
Karen - what video are you referring to?
02.27.2013 | Unregistered CommenterPatricia
Patricia, here's the video of the Steve Jobs commencement address (Stanford 2005):

Hope you like it!
03.1.2013 | Unregistered CommenterKaren Gates
Karen - thank you so much for the link. I've seen it before but great to watch again. I always like to know what people are talking about in these posts. So glad to be connected in this way.
03.1.2013 | Unregistered CommenterPatricia
Between your teachings and the incredible book, Dancing at the Shame Prom by Amy Ferris and Hollye Dexter, my opinion about SHAME has radically changed. i believe SHAME is the cultural and environmental response to a mistake. While we are encourage to make mistakes for that is how we learn, our environment and the people in it need to feel safe. Their safety is often dependent on their ability to deflect their own shame onto another. The Shame Prom is story after story of the shame so many women carry, and how they manage to move on, leaving it behind. I work with women all over the country and I would say that what lies beneath most suffering is Shame. Brene, you have taught me so much and so graciously influenced the work I am lucky enough to do. Bravo...blessings to you and yours.
03.14.2013 | Unregistered Commenterkristine

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