Day 611: Shame and Self Judgement

There's two things that I've learned in the last year. The first is vulnerability is not weakness. And that myth is profoundly dangerous. Let me ask you honestly -- and I'll give you this warning, I'm trained as a therapist, so I can out-wait you uncomfortably -- so if you could just raise your hand that would be awesome -- how many of you honestly, when you're thinking about doing something vulnerable or saying something vulnerable, think, "God, vulnerability's weakness. This is weakness?" How many of you think of vulnerability and weakness synonymously? The majority of people. Now let me ask you this question: This past week at TED, how many of you, when you saw vulnerability up here, thought it was pure courage? Vulnerability is not weakness. I define vulnerability as emotional risk, exposure, uncertainty. It fuels our daily lives. And I've come to the belief -- this is my 12th year doing this research -- that vulnerability is our most accurate measurement of courage -- to be vulnerable, to let ourselves be seen, to be honest. 
And that's what this conference, to me, is about. That's what life is about, about daring greatly, about being in the arena. When you walk up to that arena and you put your hand on the door, and you think, "I'm going in and I'm going to try this," shame is the gremlin who says, "Uh, uh. You're not good enough. You never finished that MBA. Your wife left you. I know your dad really wasn't in Luxembourg, he was in Sing Sing. I know those things that happened to you growing up. I know you don't think that you're pretty enough or smart enough or talented enough or powerful enough. I know your dad never paid attention, even when you made CFO." Shame is that thing.  
And if we can quiet it down and walk in and say, "I'm going to do this," we look up and the critic that we see pointing and laughing, 99 percent of the time is who? Us. Shame drives two big tapes -- "never good enough" and, if you can talk it out of that one, "who do you think you are?" The thing to understand about shame is it's not guilt. Shame is a focus on self, guilt is a focus on behavior. Shame is "I am bad." Guilt is "I did something bad." How many of you, if you did something that was hurtful to me, would be willing to say, "I'm sorry. I made a mistake?" How many of you would be willing to say that? Guilt: I'm sorry. I made a mistake. Shame: I'm sorry. I am a mistake. - Brené Brown

I am continuing me TED trend this evening with this discussion. I find it interesting that this discussion received more than double the views of other popular videos in the Psychology topic. I find it interesting because what she is saying is what Desteni is saying, just with different words - so why is there such a difference between the popularity of the two points?

In the video she describes how our inner chatter is most often what stops us from reaching our full potential - she calls these thoughts shame. Desteni calls those thoughts self judgement and looks at shame more in terms of when you do something which you know you shouldn't have done. The messages are the same - the difference is in the semantics.

Desteni takes the conversation one step further by offering how you can quiet those thoughts and make peace with yourself - make peace so that you start to actually do the things you've always wanted to do and really give life everything you've got. Of course, Desteni also focuses more on how how we can change the world by changing ourselves and that before every person in the world has the right to be given the opportunity to reach their full potential and that giving every person this right, at this point in time, is more important than directing our attention and resources to the "luxuries" in life (think, for example of how much money is spent in the fashion/beauty industry while there are millions starving).

Self judgement (and the shame that comes with it) is crippling to many people in the world. Sometimes it acts as a motivator where someone is always pushing their limits in the pursuit of proving something to themselves in order to validate their self worth - but they never can because there are these thoughts inside them telling them that they will never be good enough. Think of eating disorders - they stem from misalignments between the "ideal self", the "real self" and the "perceived self" where a person believes that they should be this magical ideal image that they see in the media or in the people around them (ideal self), but they have a skewed self image (perceived self) and see themselves (for example) as fat even when they are incredibly thin (real self). The perceived self and ideal self are constantly being fed by thoughts of self judgement and the energy (like the emotion of shame) that those thoughts generate.

Part of the problem in where sources of support like Desteni are brushed aside so easily is that there are very few people who are willing to make the effort and take the time to investigate something fully without any preconceived notions and so most people will run into some idea or website or whatever about Desteni (for example) that puts them off and will not look any further. It is impossible to see the whole picture when you do not look at all of the information and it is the tendency of most people to pick and choose what information they will take in which so often causes misconceptions.