Working and studying as a therapist has thrown me head-first into a few topics that hit home in a big way. You know – the kind of topics that, as you’re reading about them, you’re thinking, “Oh crap. OH CRAP. This. Is. Totally. Me.” I’m about to dive into one of those topics. Enter, SHAME. Defined by the oh so brilliant Brene Brown, “Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.”

Take a moment to let that soak in. I’m sure your first thought is to deny ever feeling unworthy because…well, because feeling unworthy is embarrassing (read: SHAMEFUL). Do you see where this is going? It’s a crazy cycle that’s hard to escape.

Shame weaves its beady little head into men and women alike, but today I’m focusing on women. Let’s talk, ladies. Let’s talk about the shame that comes when you eat too much of something or not enough of the other. Or the shame that drives its way into your head and heart when you see another woman looking totally fabulous with her totally fabulous (well-behaved) children eating fancy home-packed salad while fabulous mom is rocking her uber-fit body all around the park. I can already see her coming as I sit here, 3 days without a shower, trying to pick up my back-arching fit-throwing son who just punched me square in the face (that has 3 day old makeup on it), while I stuff a sandwich down my pie-hole. Been there?

And then there’s “social media shame.” One of the deadliest of all. I’ve even been approached by women who’ve been unintentionally shamed by my social media avatar. According to Facebook, I run a seamlessly successful business, I have a way with words and I’m in a perfect relationship. ‘Perfect’ is far from how I would describe my life. My son really does punch me, I don’t shower as often as I’d like, and while I enjoy a healthy shake from time to time, I also gorge on Ben & Jerry’s like my life depends on it because well, I watched that hottie mom at the park and I felt bad about myself. WE ALL FEEL THIS. We see the rainbows and unicorns in the polished lives of others and we choose to believe the grass is always greener for someone else.

I was chatting with a friend the other day and she said to me, “You look so good after having your son. I still can’t lose the last 15!” She sounded so distraught saying this, and I felt…confused. Yea, that’s a good word – confused. What do you mean I look so good? Well, that’s because you haven’t seen me naked. When I picture myself in front of a mirror, I immediately see the stretch marks staring back at me. I see the cross-shaped one directly on top of the scar from where I used to have my belly button pierced. It’s an X that literally marks the spot, reminding me of the “good ole days.” I see the C-section scar that has absolutely no feeling in it. I see the sad excuse for breasts my 15 month old nursing son has left me with. My friend doesn’t see that. And you know what? I don’t see her +15 pounds, either. I see light, beauty and love! I see my friend and I see a powerful force to be reckoned with – a wonderful mom, an innovative entrepreneur, a glorious wife and an irreplaceable woman in my life. I wish I had told her that, by the way. I need to do that more often.

But what we did do during that conversation was CONNECT. We shared laughter over our crazy children and our terrible sneaky binge eating. We giggled because of our husbands’ jokes about said eating habits. We talked about how we could help each other, hold each other accountable and reach goals we wouldn’t be able to reach alone. We had the courage to share our true feelings, fears and doubts with each other. I felt it. It was there…the CURE for shame.

When you’ve had one of those talks with a friend that made your blood flow, made your heart race, and brightened your day, you know it. All of a sudden you feel seen, you see! CONNECTION. CONNECTION. CONNECTION. Oh glorious, CONNECTION – the ripple effect of courage. Courage is to speak one’s mind by telling one’s heart. It’s that moment when that shame seeps beautifully out of your heart where you’ve been housing it, hoarding it. Your courage to be raw, real and vulnerable will kick your shame out and throw away the key!

It’s time to unleash your courage; participate in compassion for yourself and others; make the connection. It’s like saying to life, “I am all in.” Do you even realize the kind of grace and beauty you would experience if you went ALL IN every single day?

There are people in your world trying to find that connection right now. The truth is – if you stop and look around – you’ll see courage is everywhere. It takes courage to open up on Facebook, to smile at a stranger, to make a joke with the waitress at your table or the taxi driver. We are all trying to connect, yet our opportunities pass by when we see the “grass is always greener” girl at the park with her kids…who probably has a story of her own that she just might have shared with me if we had connected.

“A moment of self-compassion can change your entire day. A string of such moments can change the course of your life.” - Christopher Germer


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