Monday, August 30, 2010

please be nice to my friend (that's YOU!)

This is a call to action!!! The action: practicing not a random act of kindness directed at a stranger, but a purposeful act of kindness to yourself.

<< It's a mouse pad, a declaration, a belief system, and possibly an example of my bad judgment. 

In "NO shame on you!" I explored the awful and oedipal things that can happen to children when they are shamed. Immediately after that post, I had the pleasure of happening upon an interview by leading "shame researcher," Dr. Brene Brown. Her blog rocks BTW, and it is the biggest gift I can give you -- although back to the tacky boxed wine give-aways in the next post!

Dr. Brown articulately and statistically confirmed the damaging effect of shaming children. However, it was what she had to say about adults that struck me the most. You know, on account of how we are the ones raising these hooligans.

Dr. Brown first clarified the difference between being "shame-based" and "guilt-based." For example, the difference between feeling like you are bad (shame) versus feeling like what you did, a singular and particular action, was bad (guilt).

Being shame-based leads to mental health troubles, violence, addiction, eating disorders, etc., etc. down a list of not-so-great things. Being guilt-based actually helps us be pro-social and foster our connections through appropriate behaviors and corrective actions. So how does one get to be guilt-based and not shame-based ... the number one predictor is ... bom bah bom ... PARENTING STYLE. Confirming what we already know. Get it right or your kid ends up on Celebrity Rehab, or just in regular rehab.

>>> This is Dr. Drew sitting opposite your kid circa 2024 and he's all "you're mom did what?!?..."

Personally and professionally I find that women often have little motivation to do right by themselves but huge incentive to do things in a care-taking capacity for their children. Even though that is actually kind of damaging, in this case it is a good incentive.

Please know that, regardless of what you say to your kids, your self-perceptions and how you use self-talk matters to them and their own sense of self. The identity of children is very much tied up in that of their parents for the duration of their formative years. "Well you're great, but your mom is sure fat, stupid, and worthless" or some variation will just never do. Unless of course, you want to meet Dr. Drew or get called on stage on some future version of "Maury Povich".

So how do we do it? According to Dr. Brown we get familiar with the feeling. You know that feeling -- that hot, prickly, punch-in-the-gut feeling we get when we feel disapproved of, not good enough, etc., etc.  Get to know it, become aware of your process, and then slap a label on that bad boy ... Shame is thy name ... apparently shame hates this. Move through the experience mindfully, being aware of what is happening inside of us. We can then put the appropriate messages around it and actually come out with more "compassion, authenticity, and courage."

Sounds good, maybe even better than giving myself one of those weird un-pep talks like some demented cheerleader out of a Nirvana video. Maybe if we extend compassion to ourselves and a healthy self-respect that is reflected in our actions and self-talk, we can raise kids that will know the foul stench of teen spirit when they smell it.

Let's hear it sisters: When do you find it most difficult to extend grace and compassion to yourself? How do you do it anyway? How does treating yourself kindly extend in real and actionable ways and show in your babes?
P.S.-- You are fabulous!


  1. Thanks, and so are you... fabulous, that is!

    I've historically carried a lot of guilt with me--not shame, according to the good Doctor's definition--over all, I've had an okay self-perception. But with respect to Dr. Brown, I'd have to say that guilt ain't so keen either. Can it be a tool to help keep us in check? Yes. But is it a healthy thing to carry around? I say no!

    We can carry guilt for things we have no business feeling guilty about. As an over-analyzer... if I'm not careful, I'll carry guilt for potentially having hurt someone's feelings, when in reality, they didn't give it a second thought.

    I think focusing on guilt puts too much focus on the self, and if we pile guilt upon guilt, could eventually lead to shame. We can just as easy carry a label of "guilty" as we can for any of the other shame labels we might choose to wear. Notice, I say "choose." This is one thing I've learned lately. I can reject those labels.

    I love that you speak to Shame as the enemy, saying that he "hates it" when we call him out. I agree. Anything that isn't beautiful, isn't of God and we can speak to it as an enemy. Identify the root of our pain. Give it a name. Reject it. Replace it with something beautiful.

    I am not Guilty, Condemned or Broken. I am Saved, Delivered and Healed (not by my own doing of course, I have Someone to thank for this). This is grace!

    Now this isn't to say I don't own up to any wrong-doings, or pay attention to my conscience and the Holy Spirit to avoid doing wrong. But I don't stay there. I mess up. I say sorry. I move on and pray that next time, I catch myself earlier in the process.

    And, as in other things, hopefully I model this for my kiddos and help them identify and reject any shame-based labels they might take on and help them see that we do the right thing out of love, not to avoid guilt.

    I hope this doesn't sound like a rant, I'm very passionate! See, I reject the guilt I'm feeling for being too wordy and too strong in my opinions. I embrace my passionate nature! And I ask for grace from and extend grace to anyone who might be offended by any of my comments. :)

    Thanks so much Lesa for a thought-provoking post, as always!

    Love, anj

  2. I am laughing because I had lots of similar thoughts when I first heard/read this research. As someone that can assume "guilt" over things I have no control over (other people's feelings, the weather, etc) I TOTALLY know what you mean. Definitely not all guilt is appropriate, so when I think about Dr. Brown's stuff, I mentally sub out my weird impulses for that normal, appropriate feeling of your conscience calling when you know you did something not right. I assume that is what she was talking about-I guess she just hasn't met us!

    All this does leave me totally examining my proclivity to take on guilt and, occasionally, shame. It is incredibly uplifting to know we have CHOICES. It feels good to call it out and choose something different. How liberating. Especially the moving on part. Who knew you could do something other than feel awful and relive it for years on end. Wow! Love you and your passion!


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