I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn't): Telling the Truth About Perfectionism, Inadequacy, and Power by Brené Brown
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I had a friend bring this book over and suggest I read it. I'm so glad she did! What an awesome read! I wish everyone could read it. I think it encompasses so much of what makes us human and shows us patterns of why we live our lives the way we do. It starts out by helping us realize that we live in a world of "shaming". With the internet, cell phones, etc we are able to shame one another at a whole new level. Stories that would once have only been told in a small circle have the ability to be shared globally and go viral. We are bombarded with shaming advertising telling us we are not good enough (unless we buy their product). This book helped identify for me why I shame myself, what areas of my life I feel ashamed of, how do I feel shame, how do I shame others, and how can I develop "shame resilience".
For me, this book helped to really define productive behaviors and damaging behaviors. This book also helped me realize that not all productive and damaging behaviors are polar opposites. Often damaging behaviors are disguised as productive, good and desirable. This book breaks them down and shows that while they may appear to be a productive behavior on the surface they are actually hurting us and keeping us further away from our authentic selves. Examples of this are: guilt vs. shame, empathy vs. sympathy, blame ourselves and others vs. holding ourselves and others accountable, etc. Before this book I might have viewed guilt and shame as synonyms. Same with empathy and sympathy.
The author helps us see that guilt is rooted in what we do, while shame is rooted in what we are. When we believe we did something "bad" we can be motivated to change it. When we simply believe we ARE "bad" we are motivated to hate ourselves, cover it up, isolate ourselves, etc. and are pushed further into the "bad" behavior.
Similarly, Empathy helps us connect with others and as a group move out of shame and toward change. Sympathy divides us from one another and pushes one or both groups into their own shame and leaves them alone there. She describes sympathy as someone saying "I'm over here and you're over there. I'm sorry for you and I'm sad for you. AND while I'm sorry that happened to you, let's be clear: I'm over here". I loved this description! Spot on! It also explains why in today's world when we go "sympathy seeking" by complaining on social media instead of to a trusted friend, or trying to one-up other people by saying "you think you've got it bad", we wind up feeling more alone and shameful then we did keeping it all to ourselves. When we try to set ourselves apart as being the worst or having it the worst we isolate ourselves from others because we don't give them a chance to empathize with us and they are left with only sympathy to give.
She also discusses the idea of "unwanted identity". We all have different identities that we don't want people to assign to us but often we assign them to ourselves. We worry that others think we are stupid, loud, ugly, naive, lazy, cruel, etc. We connect things in our lives like overweight=lazy. Opinionated=loudmouth. Assertive=bossy. We go to great lengths to avoid these "unwanted identities" and ultimately drive ourselves crazy trying to predict what others will think in every situation and avoid it by doing something else. It's impossible. And it's actually rooted more in what we think of ourselves than in what others think of us.
Mostly what any of us want is to feel like we belong. Some might describe this desire as wanting to be "normal". In chapter nine she even says that her shame research really breaks down into the power of connection and the dangers of disconnection. And this was really the thing I needed most to hear right now: "Disconnection is both the source and consequence of shame, fear and blame. Insulating, judging others, blaming, raging, stereotyping, labeling-these are all forms of disconnection. But there is another form of disconnection, one that is often more painful and confusing than all of these other forms: It is the feeling of being disconnected from ourselves. We are often so influenced by what other people think and so overwhelmed with trying to be who other people need us to be, that we actually lose touch with our sense of self. We lose our grounding. We lose our authenticity. The reason this is so painful is because our authenticity is the very foundation from which meaningful change occurs."
I could keep going all night but those were my biggest take-aways. The major point of the book was that we can't shame ourselves or others into changing. Love, compassion and empathy are the only ways to produce change in the world. We need to apply the principles of compassion to ourselves, our relationships, our parenting, and all aspects of our lives if we hope to see any change. Seriously, read this book and then lets talk!
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