Recently, in our (un)Broken book study, we talked about
  • covering up the ‘shabby parts’ of our lives 
  • shame as one of the main reasons we hide our fears, brokenness, imperfections
  • empathy as the antidote to shame and as a catalyst to more connection and healing.
 
Here is the beginning of a chapter that we used for our discussion: 
(Cheryl, who I refer to, was my therapist at the time.)
 
“I wore my white slacks, Steward Witzman platform heels, black tank top, tiny Gap sweater, and a black necklace. I had my hair pulled back in a bun. I felt great walking into the waiting room – somehow, every time I go to see Cheryl, I make a point of dressing up. Perhaps I didn’t want to look shabby, since we are talking about the shabby parts of my life…”
 
I shared this journal entry in (un)Broken to describe one of my attempts to cover up what I was so ashamed of. 

 

Our brokenness can look so unacceptable to us that 
we become afraid to show up as who we are.

 

We try to hide behind a picture version of ourselves that we think people would love more, and we keep our ‘bad and ugly’ parts hidden. And although today the filters and touched-up photos posted on social media can be a great front, this is not a new thing.
 
Think of Jackie Kennedy, who was my grandmother’s hero of the ‘never let them see you sweat and cry’ mentality…
 
We are taught to keep up an unattainable competitive expectation that we and the world around us put on us, but we can’t uphold it.
 
We listen to the voice of shame that tells us we aren’t good enough, not smart enough, not young enough, not old enough, that we aren’t qualified or educated enough, and we begin to believe it. 
 
We become full of shame.
 
Shame is difficult to break out of because it becomes a part of our identity.
 
Dr. Brené Brown, who is a professor, author and researcher of vulnerability, courage, shame, and empathy, explains how shame is different from guilt:
 
“Shame is a focus on self, guilt is a focus on behavior. Shame is “I am bad.” Guilt is “I did something bad.” Guilt: I’m sorry. I made a mistake. Shame: I’m sorry. I am a mistake.” 
– From her TED talk “Listening to Shame”
(I highly recommend watching her talks and reading her books.)
 
At the time when the story of (un)Broken took place, I was struggling with depression, anxieties, panic attacks, a failing marriage, unprocessed grief and trauma from the past.
 
I was afraid to even express thoughts and opinions that were different from those around me, and to sing songs that I thought my audience wouldn’t approve of. 
 
I was afraid that I’d be pushed deeper into shame, fear and loneliness by the judgement and rejection from those who would think less of me if I let them see these parts of me.
 
But shame feeds on secrecy, silence and judgement. And, according to Dr. Brené Brown, it correlates with depression, addiction, aggression, violence, suicide and bullying.
 
The music helped me break some of my silence and secrecy and fear – because music has the power to disarm us and helps us to be more vulnerable. 
 
We can’t be vulnerable without courage. And courage and vulnerability bring us the empathy that is the only thing able to disarm and dismantle shame. (Brené Brown describes this in her TED talk.
 
It took me years of work to get to the point where I could release this story (with courage and vulnerability), and offer it as an opportunity for others to reflect and explore how shame, vulnerability, courage and empathy affects our lives, our relationships and how we show up in the world.
 
And I couldn’t have done it without the help of several therapists, coaches and my emphatic friends who supported me through it. 
 

So… What is your story about the “shabby parts” of your life?

 
I invite you to reflect on it and journal about it. Or share it with someone you trust; someone who will understand with empathy. 
 
Brené Brown explains that when we move from shame to courage and vulnerability, we begin to feel more empathy and compassion toward ourselves and others.
 
And more of those – and less of judgement and yelling – can bring healing from shame and create more connection between people.
 
Could it get us out of the mess we are in at the moment? I believe so. 
 
Here’s a short video on empathy that I invite you to watch:
 

Tatiana “Tajci” Cameron is an award-winning music artist, published author, inspirational speaker, and certified transformational and spiritual life coach.

She has many passions and is dedicated to helping others while also creating an enriched life for herself and her three sons. 

When Tajci is not on the road performing gigs, she volunteers with local organizations dear to her heart, spends time with loved ones (often involving music!), and collaborates with other artists to bring creative projects to life.

Tajci’s most recent projects include a meditation CD, an annual retreat & sea cruise in Croatia (that she organizes and hosts), and a multimedia CD/book (Un)Broken: Songs My Father Taught Me.

 

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