Speaking Shame, Being Vulnerable, Sharing Stories (Shamefessional #8)

shameA friend of mine and fellow Orthodox Christian sent me this text today:


Question: How do you sort out the difference between being vulnerable and over-sharing? got any resources on that dilemma?”


That’s a great question! Personally struggle with that myself. For me, I wear my heart my sleeve, so it’s a fine line between over-sharing and being vulnerable. I do trust Dr. Brene Brown’s work on shame more than anyone’s since it’s so empirically-grounded. Her Shame Resilience Theory’s core components are:

  1. Recognize your shame and understand your triggers: how it hits you physically, the messages/expectations that cause it.
  2. Practice critical awareness to your triggers, the messages and expectations that cause them, in order to reality check these demons. Are they realistic, attainable, something you want, or what you think others want, or what others may indeed want or say.
  3. Reach out. Have a core of people with whom you can share your story who don’t judge, condemn, or hurt, but listen and empathize. Are you owning the shame and sharing it? If not we do ourselves a disservice because this prevents connection.
  4. Speak your shame by talking about how you feel and what you need most when you experience shame.

She finds that shame needs 3 things to grow: silence, secrecy, and judgment. The antidote is to put it in a petri dish and douse it with empathy. This involves being vulnerable. And she advises to do that with those who can wrestle with vulnerability with you whom you trust, love, and know are also practicing the life of vulnerability. Sharing out stories with people who don’t judge us, hurt us, betray us, etc is the key part of practicing vulnerability. Dr. Brown writes,

Our stories are not meant for everyone. Hearing them is a privilege, and we should always ask ourselves this before we share: “Who has earned the right to hear my story?” If we have one or two people in our lives who can sit with us and hold space for our shame stories, and love us for our strengths and struggles, we are incredibly lucky. If we have a friend, or small group of friends, or family who embraces our imperfections, vulnerabilities, and power, and fills us with a sense of belonging, we are incredibly lucky.”

It absolutely vital, I think, to speak shame and be vulnerable, but to do so wisely and with those who are daring greatly in life alongside us in the arena getting their asses kicked too for showing up, being seen, living bravely, and living with vulnerability. Vulnerability and empathy are the antidotes to shame, which I know you didn’t mention, but like Dr. Brown has discovered, I too don’t think we can have a talk about being vulnerable and how to do it and who with without a conversation on shame. Reaching out, speaking shame, and telling our stories are vital to practicing vulnerability. Of course for me, self-disclosure as a writer and counselor is important, and how much to self-disclosure, like Dr. Brown does through her books, is discernment-based. However, I have people to whom I can lay it all out on the line with, things I don’t write publically about in my blogs, everyday struggles with shame and vulnerability, because I trust them, know they struggle too, and are in the arena daring greatly with me.

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