wholehearted living

Wholehearted Living: Moving Through Shame

I don’t know a woman out there who feels like she has it all together at home.

And because I don’t either, this makes it blessedly easy for me to lean in with empathy.

You’re down because it feels like your kids fight all the time? Mine do it too! 

You feel like everyone’s house is cleaner than yours? So do I! 

You wish your husband would put his midnight cereal bowl in the dishwasher (and you secretly think everyone else’s marriage is stronger than yours)? Been there, girl! 

A few weeks ago we talked about how shame is that quiet feeling of “not enough.” Not pretty enough, not smart enough, not creative enough, not outgoing enough. Shame researcher Brené Brown calls it the warm wash of smallness and inadequacy (love that description!), and judging by your recent response, none of us are strangers to it.

Shame Resilience: Learning to move through feelings of "not enough"

Since we’ve talked about what shame is and when we’re feeling it, the next step is learning how to move through it. The answer is simple:

Tell your story to someone who has earned the right to hear it.

“Shame cannot stand to be spoken.” Brené Brown

The moment you put a voice to it, it begins to dissipate.

Where secrecy, silence, and judgment provide the perfect environment for shame to grow, shame cannot grow in an environment of empathy.

So you need to tell your story to someone who can lean in. Someone who isn’t afraid of drawing on their past pains in order to help you through yours. You need someone who won’t laugh it off, someone who won’t shrug and say, “It’s no big deal! I do that all the time!” and then change the subject.

Because it is a big deal. It feels like a big deal to you.

One of the biggest things we can do to practice moving through shame without dwelling on it is to figure out who we can turn to with our stories.

So I’d love to hear—Who are the people you count on to hear your stories and respond with empathy?

  • Ashlie
    July 31, 2014 at 3:08 am

    First of all, I love your beautiful graphic. Here is my question: what is the difference between responding in empathy and saying “I do that all the time!” Is that not a form of (casual) empathy, to relate and assure a friend that they’re not the only one?

    I’m genuinely asking because my two toddlers are just old enough to start going on play dates, and I find myself meeting these new-to-me moms and our chats almost always turn into desperate confession sessions. Literally we’ll go from small talk to the weight of our decision to use formula in about 3 minutes. I hope that by saying, “me, too!” I’m not coming across as dismissive.

    Thanks for starting such an important discussion!

    • Erica Layne
      July 31, 2014 at 7:19 am

      Hi Ashley! Thank you so much for pointing this out! I edited the text just a bit to better portray what we’re talking about. I meant more the type of person who busts out their high-pitched, avoidance voice – “It’s no big deal!” and then changes the subject. 🙂

      As long as you are willing to *dwell* with your friends who seem like they need to share, then I think you are doing great. And yes, I know the formula confession all too well. Usually it was me doing the sharing on that one!

      • Ashlie
        August 1, 2014 at 4:44 am

        I thought your post was perfect, but I love that we get to talk about this. I feel like we’re (women, mothers) finally feeling brave enough to “confess,” and I want to make sure that while we’re dumping all this off our chests that we (ME!) have tools to be respond appropriately and be uplifting. Thank you so much for this space to explore that! Can’t wait to read more.

  • Sierra Burton
    July 31, 2014 at 10:04 am

    I’m so glad you shared this! I had a lot of people comment on my post about this saying I was dwelling too much on my faults, I’m definitely going to refer then to this post! I think the person I can most turn to is my missionary and my sisters! Life is hard we all need to team up and help each other through it. Again, thank you for sharing this!

    • Erica Layne
      July 31, 2014 at 2:31 pm

      I noticed that! And I thought it was so interesting!

      It’s not that we’re try to dwell on our faults; it’s just that we’re trying to recognize what issues send us into those feelings of inadequacy and smallness. We all have them, and I don’t think ignoring them helps. But the opposite (being mindful of those triggers) does help us identify what we’re feeling, which allows us reach out and talk it through…and then move on.

      You are awesome, Sierra!

  • Britni
    August 1, 2014 at 1:06 pm

    Hey there! Thanks so much for sharing this subject. Learning about this and how to deal with it in my own life has been a several year journey, and I imagine I will continue learning about how to deal with it in different areas of my life as time goes on. I will turn to my husband, mother or a friend……it depends on who is most accessible at the time. Learning to share my deepest/darkest thoughts and feelings with my husband has strengthened our relationship more than I would have expected. He loves me and just wants to help me in any way he can, yet for years I bottled things telling myself he just wouldn’t understand. He helps me see the folly in beating myself up and those sincere pep talks are invaluable to me and our relationship. As I began to trust him with more of my inner thoughts he became more empathetic. I could feel myself taking walls down that I didn’t even know were there. As I practice doing this with my husband I have gotten better at doing it with my sisters and friends. I have discovered just how much we want love each other as women. We don’t mean to be judgmental or unkind and I think that your advice to share really is the answer. The more we trust each other the stronger our relationships are. I have discovered that as I have shared I am more able to really do my best and actually LEARN from the failures; as opposed to my prior “bottling” approach that was a downward spiral of making the same mistakes, dwelling on that shame over and over. When I share I am better able to evaluate and learn from my mistakes instead of getting stuck at the shame wall. Thanks so much for sharing this! Your friendship is one of those that will always feel deep and real, even though we don’t talk as much as I’d like. 🙂 Your family is beautiful! Thank you for being the kind of friend that matches the definition of the word. 🙂

    • Erica Layne
      August 3, 2014 at 2:51 pm

      Hi Britni! It’s always great to hear from you, and this comment was so touching. Thank you! I love that you sharing with David has helped you guys grow closer and trust each other more. And yeah, it can be hard to do! Especially if you’re embarrassed of your issues, which I often am. 🙂 🙂

      My favorite part of your comment was when you referred to “how much we want love each other as women.” Well said, lady. I’m glad we’re on the same page. (Not that I’m surprised. 🙂

      Your family is beautiful, too! I wish we could meet up at the park – Texas and California are way too far apart!

  • Alexandra
    August 2, 2014 at 12:04 pm

    Hi Erica,

    Thanks for being so real. I’ve been going through a lot of this just transitioning home from college and comparing myself constantly. My bf wants me to be more real about what I’m going through on my blog – making me want to punch him in the throat, but I truly appreciate and admire your truth.

    Warm regards,

  • Jen
    August 3, 2014 at 7:12 am

    I have an interesting twist on this. You ask who do WE count on to hear our stories and respond with empathy. I was about to say my best friend whom I’ve known since age 14 (we are in our 50s now). But here’s the thing: she just completed her education and became a counselor. And now I feel self-conscious talking about anything emotional or psychological with her, because she can now listen through the ears of someone who knows “what’s wrong with me.” I feel she is probably analyzing me in her mind as a professional rather than hearing me as a friend. I don’t want to be viewed as some kind of textbook specimen who’s going through some kind of known ailment. I just want to be heard as a friend, but I no longer email her about this type of thing (she lives far away; that is how we usually communicate now.) and thus this once-free avenue of support has been cut off. And yes, I know *I* cut it off by what I *think* might be going on, but you see….that’s my own “shame thing.” I want to be accepted, not analyzed.

    • Erica Layne
      August 3, 2014 at 2:45 pm

      Hi Jen, you are right – that IS an intriguing twist. I think you hit it so well, saying it may be your own shame thing, but I think we can all relate to wanting to be heard and not necessarily assessed. I’m curious (just because that’s how I am 🙂 if she is still responding to you in the same way she always has, or if her responses and her tone have evolved in a way that makes you less comfortable than you used to be. Either way, I hope you can maintain the friendship, even if the nature of it does change, and that you always have SOMEone to share your heart with, whether it’s her or someone new.

      Best wishes, Jen! Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment.

  • Ashley
    August 4, 2014 at 7:48 am

    Wow- this sparked my heart. Love this!

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