Brené Brown on the power of vulnerability and listening to shame (plus personal story sharing)

Brené Brown: The power of vulnerability:

Brené Brown: Listening to shame:

Her demeanor in the second video really shows how far she’d come and how much all of her research and personal soul-searching had impacted her. Less joking and trying to smooth things over, more focus on the real problem at hand. I got the impression there were tears behind her eyes as she was speaking there.

Yes, shame…that’s the culprit I’ve been trying to wrestle with too. Didn’t always know what to label it as, but I can’t escape seeing what it’s turned me into over time. My partner and I discussed this a bit last night actually. He asked what the major difference is between he and I considering we share a couple themes sort of in common from our upbringing, whereas I’ve turned out depressed and agitated and he’s much calmer and more self-assured. In thinking about this question today after listening to this woman speak, I can clearly see where we differ in terms of perceived self-worth. He manages his own ghosts obviously, but that’s his own business to speak of and not for me to share. So I’ll focus on myself here.

I do feel a noticeable sense of shame and always have. My birth all unto itself was treated as a problem for the family and for my mother in particular. When my grandmother told me as a teenager that she had encouraged my mom to have an abortion, my immediate thought back then was that I agreed, she should have, and I do basically still feel that way despite having enjoyed portions of my life and being grateful for the friends I’ve made. I already know how people like to react to that sort of thing, and honestly their responses tend to do more harm than good since they like to take an admission like that as a sign of me hating my life (i.e., being ungrateful) or as something no one should ever speak about themselves (interpreted as self-hating or just an inappropriate conversation topic). When in reality that’s not what it’s about — for me, it’s about acknowledging how a bad decision set a snowball rolling down a mountain and wound up impacting a lot of people in the process, most of whom remained disgruntled (due to that and more). It wasn’t easy coming up feeling like my existence had ruined my mother’s life, because I loved her. And that created a lot of dissonant feelings within me going forward that play out in an oscillating fashion between deep sadness and regret to tremendous pressure to “earn my keep” and justify my existence to extreme anger and indignation for being made to feel like such a problem for everybody. And since people cannot handle me speaking about this, I tend to keep it to myself and only mention it to those closest to me (who also don’t tend to handle the revelation very well either).

It’s kind of a catch-22 where you can’t speak openly so the work you’re doing on yourself is all trapped up inside. If you share it with people they’ll remind you why you were better off keeping it to yourself. But then that breeds resentment and bitterness, especially toward those with lives that seem so much nicer, more comfortable, purportedly fulfilling and meaningful with lots of support from friends and family. I get to looking at those people with contempt sometimes and probably have ruined a lot of friendships as a result. Which then just feeds back into a sense of loneliness and isolation, which then begs that question once again about why I am even here. But if you state this out loud, it’s often misconstrued as a “pity party,” which can feel humiliating.

In recent years I’ve become more hermit-like, staying home more and more when not working, avoiding bars because I start too much drama there (usually not intentionally, but still), avoiding most people because I feel too emotional to handle the inevitable callousness, and drinking more than I probably ought to. I used to would at least escape into my books where I could relate with authors on various subjects, but lately I’ve lost a good bit of interest in that as well, which is really troubling. But when I look back on the past, as I do too often, it illuminates a gulf between myself and plenty of others due to the differences in our experiences, upbringings, and how we cope.

But to talk about it makes others uncomfortable, so most of it I have to keep to myself. I’m not a good actress though, so I do cry, and this too makes others uncomfortable. So I just try to leave people alone more and more, in an effort to not burden them with my bullshit. But some days it does feel like I’m drowning over here.

[Big portion later removed due to it being TMI.]

That’s a major reason for why I will not have children. People sometimes tell me I’d make a good mom, but they don’t realize what they’re saying. In a way I still feel like a child somewhere inside, still trying to figure out which way is up. Right or wrong, I’m being honest.

I’ve been writing to myself for so long that I guess it’s kinda easy for me to share my vulnerability through this sort of medium. Not so easy in day-to-day interactions. Maybe it’s because I live in my head and writing is my expression of what goes on in there.

As always, this post is directed at the universe…because that’s where I send my prayers and questions.

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