My Quiet Revolution – Conquering The Trojan Horse of Shame

 My Quiet Revolution   Conquering The Trojan Horse of ShameI’ve begun a quiet revolution inside of myself, committing to becoming really and truly authentic.  Vulnerable.  Heart open.  Shields down.  Weapons checked at the door.  I find the entire practice to be terrifying (as in, am I about to fall 2 ft or 200?), and therefore the perfect challenge for me at this stage of life.

I’m currently working on clearing shame, the feeling I’ve experienced more than any other for as long as I can remember.  If anything goes wrong around me, even if it has nothing to do with me, it’s likely to provoke shame inside of me.  Makes no sense, but there it is.

“If you are bothered by every rub,how will you ever get polished?”-Rumi

My dear and loving friend Daniel Peralta turned me onto Brene Brown’s work on shame and vulnerability,  The Gifts of Imperfection.  This is the one book I wish I’d written first.   Brown, a university professor from TX, is clear, direct and utterly honest, right up my ally.  Check out her hilarious TED talk.  She makes the point that I’ve long intuitively known, that imperfection is built into humans for a reason.  Imperfection is how we grow, like one cell bumping up against the next to find its rightful place.  It’s how we learn what we don’t want.  And best of all, it’s where the creation is.

Don’t believe me?  Think Edison and his 9,999 earlier designs for a working light bulb, each one imperfect while perfectly leading the inventor to that next right step.  Or any other invention for that matter.

We live in a shame-based culture spawned from capitalism – in order to sell us something, sellers must first convince us that we’re imperfect without it, 3000x per day.  We’re not thin enough, healthy enough, hard enough (as in sex), juicy enough (as in sex), relaxed enough, focused enough, happy enough, connected enough, efficient enough, smart enough, and on and on. It’s no wonder so many of our kids are rigid with perfectionism and therefore shame.

Brown’s point is that perfectionism is the one socially appropriate vehicle for hiding shame.   The Trojan Horse of Shame, so to speak.

How in the world are we going to create as a nation if we’re training so many of our kids to be perfectperfectperfect when all of us lame adults know in our hearts that no one is perfect?   Somehow, though, we believe that if our kids appear to be, then maybe we’ll appear to be too.  This is the equivalent of me, with my red hair, blue eyes and oh so little melanin in my skin, holding out the belief that maybe this time I’ll get a tan.

I’ve been a perfectionist all of my life.  The predominant message I received as a kid was that I was “too much”, in hindsight, probably because I was a raging extrovert among a family of genuinely shy people.  I know how fleeting success feels when you’re only as good as your last one. Or how my worth depended on being accepted by the conventional world when I was actually utterly unique.   Most of my earlier life was spent outrunning the Internal Critic Who Never Sleeps.  It was all so exhausting.

I’m clearing the shame and choosing to become authentic in order to save my soul.  And to pick my way through the brambles, making a path for others to follow, like one of my literary heroes, James Fenimore Cooper’s Natty Bumppo, a/k/a The Pathfinder, a/k/a The DeerSlayer, a/k/a Hawkeye.

Like it or not, you’re now along for the ride.  Ready?  Strap in.

‘Cuz maturity is not for sissies.

Less Stress, More Success

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New York Times
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Our book group just read your book and it sparked more conversation than we’ve had in the seven years we’ve been reading together. Being successful professionals with busy lives and even busier children, we’re all trying to figure out how to find the time to just stop and enjoy our lives amidst so much pressure. Some of us find ourselves quoting you to our husbands and kids now, so you are our hero. ;-)
Sophia N. and Nancy R.

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