For the past two days I’ve had no voice. I woke up and it was gone followed by my energy level. My first reaction was to fight it. There’s too much to get done! Then when simply walking around my house caused me to feel as though I had just taken two spin classes I decided to look on the bright side…I get to sit and read. That’s exactly what I did.

While I finished my YA novel my husband dashed to the library with a list.

Brené Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection was one of the books on the list. I got half way through when I succumbed to the to-do list, knowing I had a blog post to write, I put down the book, picked up my notebook, and began writing. What spilled onto the pages was an incident from my past written in such detail it shocked me because it happened over thirty-five years ago. Why now? Where did this come from? My emotions were tripping over each other, anger, fear, compassion, and the reason, I realized, I wrote the piece in the first place, shame. Reading The Gifts of Imperfection had started me thinking about shame and the power it holds.

“Shame hates it when we reach out and tell our story. It hates having words wrapped around it–it can’t survive being shared. Shame loves secrecy.” Brené Brown – The Gifts of Imperfection

My husband and I sat down to dinner and I tried to tell him in my raspy voice what I had written. I told him what it was about without going into too much detail. First, he replied that maybe I should wait until after the holidays to share the article; implying that this is the time of year when everyone wants to be cheerful and full of joy. My story was certainly not either of those things. Further into our conversation I mentioned that what I had written was one of three incidents involving the same person. He looked at me and said, “three?”

That’s when it hit me over the head just how secret my secrets were. I hadn’t told him. We’ve been together twenty-five years. I had never mentioned that there was more than one time. Here I was questioning why the elementary-aged me had kept it a secret until I was a pre-teen and even then telling only one person, yet the adult me had kept quiet too.  Shame. Children feel it. Adults feel it.

Shame is that little voice in your head that repeats, you’re unworthy, you’re stupid, you’re fat, you’re bad, you’re____ . The ugliness that stays hidden in our mind. Why?

One reason has to do with my husband’s first reaction upon learning what I wrote. People don’t want to hear about such things. It’s uncomfortable. It’s better to paint a picture of perfection, joy, happiness, having it all together than to delve into the darker side of shame.

Another reason is because people are worried about what others may think. There’s the “Don’t tell anyone this happened. It could upset ____. ” “People will think less of you if they know what you did.” How many parents feel as though their child’s behavior is a direct reflection upon them? What messages do we send our children when they’ve made a mistake? Do we make them feel as though they’re human and mistakes are natural or do we fill them full of shame?

So, what’s the purpose of all this? Why mention it and make readers feel uncomfortable especially this time of year? Well, because I think one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself and your children is to recognize shame and develop strategies to deal with it. Does the voice in your mind constantly belittle yourself? What if you practiced and taught your children self-love?

“Practicing self-love means learning how to trust ourselves, to treat ourselves with respect, to be kind and affectionate toward ourselves. This is a tall order considering how hard most of us are on ourselves.” Brené Brown – The Gifts of Imperfection

I think we want to believe that children are innocent and free from thoughts that can damage their sense of self. It’s not true. Children just learn at an early age what is acceptable to say in public and what is not. So much is going on in their young minds and imagine what an advantage they’d have if they grew up with an inner voice that showed compassion.

I wish, wish, wish, I would have heard this twenty-one years ago when I became a mom. It’s beautiful.

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