Oprah’s Life Class is one of my favorite, favorite shows. I can’t begin to tell you the number of ‘ah-ha’ moments I have experienced in my PJ’s watching t.v.. However, I tend to let the shows pile up on my dvr until I’m emotionally ready. Sometimes, I just don’t want to face the music, confront a fear, recall the past, examine my warts and all the ugly that resides just beneath my skin that only I can hear, see or feel. I’m really good at stuffing all that junk away, disguising it with sarcasm and a smile….But there are times that I’m brave and willing to slip on my amour in the name of growth.
Last weekend I watched Brene Brown on Life Class. She is a researcher, publishing and speaking on shame, vulnerability and living wholeheartedly. Yes, wholehearted living…that is the word, the definition of what I’m longing for. In short, the theory is that because of shame we build walls to deflect how vulnerable we are. Yet, we are not able to live wholeheartedly if we are not vulnerable. The essence of wholehearted living is putting your WHOLE self out there for relationships, for experiencing the unknown, for building creativity…none of these things, she rations, can happen if you are not vulnerable. I’ve bought the book….it is on my to-do list.
What I’m currently focused on is the idea of shame. There is a TED talk where Brene does a remarkable job outlining shame…check it out here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=psN1DORYYV0
Where does shame come from? Why does it linger in our hearts, around our minds, whispering in our ears? Why don’t we talk about it with our friends? It is almost as if we are ashamed of shame….I’m not prepared to answer all the questions about shame or even claim I’m an expert…Maybe Brene Brown can do that for you. What I will tell you is that once the veil of shame was lifted, there was a realization that shame is rampant. It can start at a young age from our well-meaning, loving parents, when they say those little phrases for behavior modifications…”Boys don’t cry.” “Good girls don’t wine.”..and if you do, you are bad…you are shamed. After a life time of hearing you don’t fit in here, you can’t do this, you shouldn’t do that, why can’t you be quieter, why can’t you express yourself more…trying to be someone we are not. The layers of shame are so deep we don’t even recognize it as shame, but as a way of life…It leaves us battered, worn out, changed, lonely, and fearful.
Over the last month or so, my younger son has been wearing tall knee socks —with shorts. I love his individuality and I encourage it. He now has three different pairs of superman socks (one complete with a cape), along with several other solid colors. He is fortunate to go to a very small school where the children are more like family than just a school. When asked why he wears them he replies “That is just the way I roll.” When asked where he purchased them, he replies “Awesome.com”. This makes me smile broadly. I’m super proud of him for stepping out and being his own ‘man’.
Today I took him to a doctor’s appointment at a new office. As we were walking up, a lady squishes up her face while lifting her brows and with disgust in her voice says, “boy, what is with you and those socks??”….
Um, do I know you??
Before I could evaluate what was happening, I saw my son’s face fall, his eyes down at his feet…I thought OH NO YOU DON’T…you will NOT SHAME him for his socks…
…Because he defines coolness differently than you…because what he wears is out of the norm and makes YOU uncomfortable…
Want to see me go from zero to crazy?? Mess with my children! I squared off, looked her right in the eyes, and with a curt smile I put her shame back where it belonged. On her shoulders. I did so politely and with out saying a negative word. But under no uncertain terms, she knew she had crossed a line. As we walked away, I reached across my son’s shoulders, giving him a slight squeeze… “You are so super cool.” I said, “Man, I love those socks.” He smiled that big toothy grin, eyes dancing.
We adverted the shame slinging today, barely…but we did it.
When you know better, you do better.