On Shame

I have been thinking a lot about shame.

Partly because I am only recently awakening to my own.

It is a new concept to me, and yet it has also been a part of me as far back as I can recall. I didn’t know that the sensations I had lived with for so long were actually a feeling, and not actually ME.

Sure, I had heard of it. Became a fan of Dr. Brené Brown years ago when her Ted Talk on vulnerability and shame went viral. (Brown’s 2010 TEDx Houston talk, “The Power of Vulnerability,” is one of the top five most viewed TED talks in the world.) She is sort of the Queen of Shame and Vulnerability. She is also a fellow introvert. (And a fellow Texan.) Read more about her and her work here.

Brown says: “I define shame as the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection. I don’t believe shame is helpful or productive.”

Brown says she “became a shame researcher, because shame is the experience or fear of believing we’re not worthy of connection, and how people described their experiences of connection with me was by describing disconnection.”

Lately, I have been considering shame as being something that is getting in-between me and my desire to follow my talents as far as they can go into the world, as well as my desire to know and be known, to be intimate and have deep, meaningful relationships with people from a place of full authenticity. Once again, I am drawn to her work.

Again, in Brown’s own words: “One of the findings from my work that people get crunchy about is my belief that there’s no such thing as creative or not creative people. There’s people who use it, and people that don’t. I do believe – and this is where people get upset – that unused creativity is not benign. Ignoring that part of our humanity comes at a cost because, as you say, we are wired for creativity. It’s part of our DNA. My question is, if we are really wired to be creative, but people are not doing it, what gets in their way? So much of what gets in the way is shame.”

I have been at such a loss. I have healed so much of what stood in-between me and my desires, and yet still, I hold myself back again and again. So I am in a place now of asking what do I do about this?

Brown has developed the Shame Resistance Theory, or SRT, which she writes about in her book I Thought it Was Just Me, (but it isn’t): Making the Journey from “What Will People Think?” to I” am Enough”. [This article expands in detail on it.] What I take from it is that the way out is through vulnerability and connection, courage and empathy. Through recognizing shame and practicing critical awareness, recognizing our triggers, sharing our story with others, we grow our resilience to shame and develop empathy to build connection, courage and compassion.

Ah yes. So it will take more hard work and diligence. No magic pill, unfortunately, like the rest of this spiritual journey I have been on since birth and beyond. Great.

OK. I will dig deep and find the will to meet my shame head on. I have come this far. I am certainly not going to turn back now. Not sure yet what this will look like, but I am all in.

Who’s with me?

 #shamewarrior #theanswerisvulnerability

 I share my posts here.



A Critical Juncture

I am a recovering perfectionist.

In “A Skin Horse Awakening”, I wrote about my perfectionism, and what I believe the genesis of this “ism” to have been in my life. (Or perhaps I should say “who.”) I don’t believe I was born with the affliction of perfectionism.

Let me walk this back. Perfectionism is bandied about a great deal these days. People jokingly refer to themselves as a perfectionist, and we all think things like “Oh, they work really hard to get things right,” or maybe that they are a bit anal (as in detail-oriented,) maybe a little bit OCD.

According to Wikipedia, Perfectionism, in psychology, is a personality trait characterized by a person’s striving for flawlessness and setting high performance standards, accompanied by critical self-evaluations and concerns regarding others’ evaluations.[1][2] It is best conceptualized as a multidimensional characteristic, as psychologists agree that there are many positive and negative aspects.[3] In its maladaptive form, perfectionism drives people to attempt to achieve an unattainable ideal while their adaptive perfectionism can sometimes motivate them to reach their goals. In the end, they derive pleasure from doing so. When perfectionists do not reach their goals, they often fall into depression.

When I say that I don’t believe that I was born a perfectionist or with a perfectionist gene, I am saying that I learned to be hyper-self-critical. I guess maybe perhaps you could argue that my being extremely sensitive is genetic, and therefore in a way that part of my perfectionism is genetic, as in I am extremely hard on myself and yet I am very sensitive to feeling like I am being criticized…maybe that being “so sensitive” is genetic?

If such a thing even exists. I can never know another’s internal experience, what life feels like for them through their nervous and other systems. I can only know my own.

So really, how can anyone, from my family (“You’re too sensitive!” “You are so sensitive.” “Don’t be so sensitive!”) to psychologists/people we label experts at such things be able to say that someone is “highly sensitive” or whatever? What do they mean? Are they really saying we are very emotional? More emotional? What does that even mean?

(I think perhaps it means that they are uncomfortable with our amount of feeling so they label us as “highly sensitive.” A label to explain away their discomfort.)

And if someone doesn’t “feel life”the way I or someone else labeled sensitive does, are they “insensitive” or unfeeling? Just because they do not seem to experience life the way I do, they are less sensitive? You see what I mean? (It is somewhat crazy-making for me, actually.)

Anyhoo. Perfectionism. Not genetic, in my humble opinion.

I learned to be hyper-critical of myself and to expect extremely high standards of performance from myself. I learned to care deeply and to depend greatly on what I thought others’ were thinking of me. To value other’s evaluation of me above all else, especially my own.

This relationship to myself and the world and myself in the world was learned. I learned it from a master, my father. I am not sure where he learned it. I am quite sure he suffered as much from it as I have. I am also sure that he had great regret later in life around the price of his untreated perfectionism on his relationships with himself, the world and the people he loved.

I am so grateful that I am in recovery around this. I do not have to suffer at my own hands anymore, or cause undue suffering in my loved ones out of my perfectionism.

One of the most tremendous sources of help around this for me has been the work of Brene Brown. You may have heard of her TED Talk on Vulnerability. If you have never watched it, I highly recommend it. Seriously, stop reading this and go watch it! Then come back ; )

She has been on my mind the past few days as she posted on Facebook from Houston, where she was volunteering her clinical services, making a plea for donations of clean, new underwear for those recovering from the hurricane. First things first, please take a view.

Here are three ways to give NEW (still in package) underwear. Please keep in mind that we need a variety of sizes for men, women, boys, and girls, including XXL.

1. https://www.amazon.com/…/2O89ZX93O…/ref=nav_wishlist_lists_1

2. Collect new, packaged underwear and mail it to the address below. It’s our local Hillel and they are collecting for us. This is a really great neighborhood or school project. If you’re purchasing, we recommend Hanes or Fruit of the Loom. UFE doesn’t process or give out anything but underwear!

Undies for Everyone
1700 Bissonnet St.
Houston, TX 77005

3. Give cash and Undies for Everyone will purchase wholesale: https://secure.lglforms.com/form_e…/s/uFpr61ITEItxPeN4Lo9zpA

Brene is an amazing woman. I could write blog after blog about her and how she inspires me. It has been through her work that I have had true shifts around my perfectionism.  I mean, I could understand before that I was one, but then what? What do I do to help myself out of it? Through it? She defines perfectionism a bit differently, and that difference has made all the difference in my being able to make shifts and heal. She defines it so:

Perfectionism is a self-destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: “If I look perfect, live perfectly, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment, and blame.”

She writes further:

Perfectionism is defeating and self-destructive simply because there is no such thing as perfect. Perfection is an unattainable goal. Additionally, perfectionism is more about perception – we want to be perceived as perfect. Again, this is unattainable – there is no way to control perception, regardless of how much time and energy we spend trying.

Perfectionism is addictive because when we invariably do experience shame, judgment, and blame, we often believe it’s because we weren’t perfect enough so rather than questioning the faulty logic of perfectionism, we become even more entrenched in our quest to live, look, and do everything just right.

Feeling shamed, judged, and blamed (and the fear of these feelings) are realities of the human experience. Perfectionism actually increases the odds that we’ll experience these painful emotions and often leads to self-blame: ‘It’s my fault. I’m feeling this way because I’m not good enough.’

To overcome perfectionism we need to be able to acknowledge our vulnerabilities to the universal experiences of shame, judgment, and blame; develop shame resilience; and practice self-compassion.

When we become more loving and compassionate with ourselves and we begin to practice shame resilience, we can embrace our imperfections. It is in the process of embracing our imperfections that we find our truest gifts and strengthen our most meaningful connections.” B. Brown (2009).

Wow. I mean, just yes. And yeah, this is a daily practice. It is a struggle one day, a breeze for the next three days, and then the shit hits my internal proverbial fan and it feels like I am at day -4. And then I feel free of it again. But Wow and Yes. And I’ll take that over interminable suffering in the depths of the hell of my own mind being run by unchecked and uninformed perfectionism.

If you know of what I speak, I recommend her work and any of her books.

It is a lifelong process, but it is truly gratifying to find true relief.

Oh, what a journey it is, this coming to life. This learning to relax into all of the things I used to hate so about myself. To even begin to embrace and yes, even find love for all my parts. Especially the ones most imperfect.

To pull my own self down off the self-built marble column I had constructed so long ago into the real world where I can be with others, be a fully-fleshed human being among human beings. To smash the statue-like full body persona I had so carefully made and let the flawed imperfectly beautiful person I am start to live and breathe and love.


Inspired by The Daily Post Daily Word Prompt: critical

Word for the Year

I came to 2017 eager to find the word that will be my north star, my guide, as I navigate through the unknown terrain of the year ahead. I found a wonderful exercise last year through the work of Susannah Conway, and through it, I have have dug and delved to discover the words to serve as my anchor for 2017, that encompass what my spirit needs.

Last year, my words were EXPAND and CELEBRATE. I chose these words because I felt I needed to start going beyond the ingrained Protestant-shaped boundaries from my upbringing that were keeping me modest, careful, polite, protective, cautious and introverted. I wanted to get more comfortable with putting who I really am and what I really think and feel out there. (This blog was a big action in that regards.)

In my work as an actress, I wanted to go deeper and start letting myself be seen and heard on a deeper level and to a greater scope. To start to go beyond what and who I knew. To expand my circles.

In my relationships, I wanted to connect more with the people already in my life, and allow myself to make more genuine connections with people who I wanted to get to know.

I also wanted to begin to really focus on celebrating all that I have and am, and that I do in my life. I tend to focus on what I have not done and what I feel I am lacking. I really wanted to develop the muscle of celebrating my accomplishments and all that is working in my life. My strengths. Even my so-called failures. To celebrate my life, my self, what has happened, is happening and that I am working towards. Little things, big things. All of it.

I can see now that these focuses really were a through-line for me over the past year. It has become second-nature for me to recognize the good in what I am doing each day instead of only seeing what I have not gotten to. I can more easily have difficult conversations. Certain interactions are becoming easier and I feel much more authentic and seen and heard. I know that I have been getting to some exciting work within myself in my acting. Going deeper than ever before.

I have more work to do in these areas. I am a work in progress. But much movement was made, and it was exciting and gratifying. Very gratifying. Sometimes blissful even.

This year, after looking at how the year unfolded and making plans for what I want to bring into 2017 and create more of, and doing Susannah’s exercises, I discovered my words for the year.

(It is always a bit of a challenge for me to pick just one word. Thankfully, there are no rules around this, so I get to do it however my soul sees fit! I chose a main word, and also have a supporting word, along with many words and phrases that these mean to me for my life for the next year.)

After much soul-searching, I had narrowed it down to five:

Curiosity, Courage, Stretch, Soar, Creativity

In the course of the exercise, I found that DARING really encompasses all of those words for me. I am a big fan of Brene Brown, so when I started to create a Pinterest Board to support my Word for 2017 and the name of her book kept coming up, I knew I had found just the tweek my word needed to make it THE ONE!

DARING GREATLY. I am in love with this phrase and it just lights me up.

I want to put myself out there personally and professionally in ways that go deeper and more authentically than ever before. I want to soar, to go beyond expectation, to extend, to reach out, to amplify, enlarge, expand. To live full heartedly and be willing to take risks and try out new methods, ideas and experiences. To utilize courageous behaviors in order to find out more about the things that I am passionate about. To doubt my fears and my judgements and be brave enough to be curious instead to find out what limits really exist, if they even really do! To live from my curiosity and not my fear.

I am keeping STRETCH as a supporting word. Just saying that word makes me want to move. I want to use everything I have learned to the fullest extent of my capacity and then go even further until I reach the point of failure so that ultimately I keep stretching that fullest point further and further. I had a taste of that this past year when filming the lead in a feature film. It was amazing to use everything I had and go farther than I imagined I could and be in the space of beyond-the-whole-of-what-I-knew. From that place, I could keep truly learning and growing. I realized that that is the path of the artist, the craftsperson, and I do not want to turn back from that path.

Not just for my professional life. In my personal life, too, I want to be adventurous and go deeper. Push the limits of my comfort zones. See how connected I can feel to the people in my life, and nature, the world, even. Daring greatly and stretching to be truly intimate in my relationships and in my work.

I created this through Tagul.com to use as a reminder of what these words mean for my year:


It is my touchstone as I move through the year’s unplanned challenges and unexpected opportunities for growth (aka when the shit hits the fan.) It is my guide as I choose how to spend my time and the way I choose to feel as I spend it.

What will your word for 2017 be? Happy digging.

#findyourwordfor2017 #susannahconway #daringgreatly #stretch