We had our first TV interview this week to help launch the book. And although I (Cami) had a good time on the set, and although I’m as proud a parent as can be of Beyond Belief, I was surprised to notice, as Susan and I walked out to the parking lot in Seattle, the appearance of Shame. Are people going to like it? Did I say anything stupid? Is it okay to have told my own story? How many times did “um” come out of my mouth? Shame, uninvited, dove straight down my throat and settled comfortably, like it had its own key, in my chest.
Fortunately, everyone I know, it seems, is reading Brené Brown right now. Brown is a psychologist and “shame researcher” (can you imagine spending all day everyday with Shame?). So, because I had three of her books in my house which I had purchased at some point but never read, I picked one up and flipped it open. Here’s what she says about Shame:
Brown says that Shame is triggered when we are identified by others (or when we think we are identified by others) in unwanted ways. She cites a common unwanted identity surfacing when we have “difficulty navigating all the messages and stereotypes that discourage [women] from taking an unpopular stand on an issue or sharing opinions that might make others feel uncomfortable.”
The moment I read that statement, a light bulb went off in my head. Just the very possibility (which only exists in my mind at this point, by the way) that Beyond Belief or something I might say about it could make some people uncomfortable pulled me right back into something I lived with for 20 years in my faith: The belief that to step outside of “the lines” is to challenge something bigger than me—and that’s bad (which means I’m bad).
No doubt about it, to say what is true for you instead of what is true for the masses or for your religion or your parents or… whoever, is to face your Shame. Shame tells you that you’re small and should stay small, should be quiet. Many of the women in our anthology have faced this message; and now they’re talking.
Today I say to Shame, “Listen up! We all get to talk about whatever we want to talk about. That’s all. Thank you for coming. Good night.”
The writers in Beyond Belief (Oh right, I’m one of them!) have set a powerful example of telling their own stories as they experienced them. I’m so grateful for that example and I aim to follow it.
What about you, reader? How did/has shame snuck up on you in your life? Or how has it been fostered by others? What did you say back to it? How did you wiggle free from its grip?