Monday, July 27, 2015

Dare to Be Brave: Engage Life with Compassion, Connection and Courage Wk.4

What we know and do is important, but who we are is more important.

Brené Brown writes in Daring Greatly, “When we spend our lives waiting until we’re perfect or bulletproof before we walk into the arena, we ultimately sacrifice relationships and opportunities that may not be recoverable, we squander our precious time, and we turn our backs on our gifts, those unique contributions that only we can make.”

The areas in our lives where we feel disconnected, disengaged and struggle for worthiness challenges each of us to dig deeper into our reservoir of innate strength and exhibit a greater measure of compassion, connection and courage. Only then are we willing to show up and let ourselves be seen.

Who Are You Becoming?

A common thread in the Dare to Be Brave series has been that we have to own and engage with vulnerability to transform our lives. There is a subtle, yet, huge spiritual and emotional cost that goes undetected for years, possibly decades when we shut down and disengage by protecting ourselves with masks and emotional armor. Any fear and erroneous assumptions we have about vulnerability prevents us from getting in the arena and embracing life wholeheartedly.

When this is the case, it is imperative that you ask yourself the following questions:

1.      Who am I becoming as a result of the actions I’m taking?
2.    Are my actions aligned more with my values or with my fears?
3.    Am I proud of the person I’m becoming?

When your fears dominate your approach to life, your courage shrinks. When your courage shrinks, you begin to play small. When you play small, you lose opportunities to express the fullness of who you are. When you fail to engage outlets for the purpose of expressing who you are, you will begin to feel frustrated with yourself and life. And if you allow this state of being define who you are, you are more apt to take on a victim mentality versus a champion mentality.

You don’t want to live life as a victim. The seeds of greatness within you yearn to be expressed. It’s your responsibility to stir up the gifts within you and express them passionately and purposefully. This can’t happen without flipping your script on the limiting beliefs and erroneous assumptions you have about vulnerability.

The Process of Becoming Your Bravest Self

It is difficult to own your authentic power without letting go of what people think.

It is difficult to cultivate self-compassion without letting go of perfectionism.

It is difficult to cultivate a resilient spirit without letting go of masks and emotional armor.

It is difficult to embrace the practice of gratitude as a way of life without letting go a scarcity mentality.

It is difficult to cultivate your intuition and trusting faith without letting go the need for certainty.

It is difficult to cultivate creativity without letting go of the need to compare yourself to others.

It is difficult to engage play and rest when being busy and exhaustion has become your status symbol.

It is difficult to experience calm and stillness when you’ve accepted anxiety as a way of being and living.

It is difficult to cultivate meaningful work without letting go of self-doubt and all the beliefs you have about what you’re “supposed to” be and do.

It is difficult to express laughter, singing and dancing without letting go your need to always be in control.

Becoming your bravest self involves the process of letting go some habits that are familiar and embracing a new way of being that includes accepting uncertainty as a part of life, taking risks and exposing yourself emotionally.

Becoming your bravest self involves cultivating a strong belief in your worthiness and holding yourself in a positive light. Regardless of the struggles you face, it is imperative that you hold on to the belief that you are worthy of love, belonging and joy.

Becoming your bravest self requires that you embrace vulnerability. It is through vulnerability that you discover the power of compassion, connection and courage.

Many of the lessons I’ve learned and the insights I share as a mentor, writer and personal growth teacher and speaker has come as a result of overcoming disappointments, heartache and adversity. I have discovered that this ability is what Business Strategist Tara Gentile refers to as my unfair advantage.

As a child, I was inspired by Martin Luther King Jr. to have a dream that enables me to make a difference in the lives of others. This sincere desire coupled with childlike faith that I will live out the divine plan and purpose for my life provides me with the necessary foresight to see how my most challenging experiences prepares me serve others in a greater capacity.

Redefining My Strong Black Woman Social Mask

In my book, Get Unstuck Now I share how after the unexpected death of my son, Blease I protected myself by numbing my feelings. And, how no amount of partying, booze or emotional buying helped me to heal my soul wound. I expressed how I was so concerned with maintaining my distorted definition of a “Strong Black Woman” that it contributed to me getting stuck in the fear-based story I started to tell myself which only increased my despair and sense of powerlessness.

It was not until I begin to see and peel back the layers of fallacy in the story I was telling myself about my loss  and engage the process of healing my heart wound in a healthy manner that I was able recognize the need to redefine what it meant for me to be a strong black woman.

In the past, I would boast about how I could “turn-on” and “turn-off” my feelings.  I wore this belief and way of being like a badge of honor. In the past, I placed a greater value on what I was doing versus what I was feeling. In the past, I suppressed a lot of my feelings in personal relationships to maintain peace and avoid conflict while I used sex, alcohol and work as a way to avoid having difficult conversations. In the past, being a strong black woman meant doing whatever it takes to help someone or reach a goal. Sometimes, my actions were not in my long-term best interest.

Today, I’m my #1 priority. I believe that being a strong black woman requires that I take care of me first. It means that I honor my core values and beliefs. It means that I establish boundaries in all of my relationships. It means expecting others to treat me with respect. It means engaging a personal relationship with someone who has similar values and beliefs and whom I can have a strong friendship and partnership. It means having the courage to have difficult conversations in a respectful manner. It means being very mindful of those I allow in my inner-circle of friends.

Being a strong black woman means that I will not accept scarcity as a way of life. It means that I must make time on a consistent basis to sharpen my sow to increase my efficiency and effectiveness towards the goals I want to achieve. It means honoring the Sabbath and taking a day each week to tune-out the world so that I can tune-in to the wisdom of my inner guide, rest my body and rejuvenate my spirit. It means engaging purposeful opportunities to stir up the gifts within me so that I am able to serve others in a greater capacity. It means expressing the truth of my feelings in a respectful manner and accepting that doing so increases my spiritual, emotional and mental strength. Being a strong black woman means that I practice radical self-love and self-compassion because to do otherwise leads to resentment, bitterness and anger. And I refuse to squander my life living bitter and angry. Instead, dwelling in a state of peace, love and joy is my ultimate daily goal.

Although this is my ultimate daily goal, I miss the mark. However, the work I continue to do towards mastering the meaning of my experiences enable me to accept my imperfections while holding myself accountable for walking my talk. Mihaly Csikszentimihaly asserts, “People who learn how to control their inner experiences will be able to determine the quality of their lives, which is as close as any of us can come to being happy.”

Compassion: Healing Balm for Wounded Souls

There’s no equation where taking risks, braving uncertainty and opening ourselves up to emotional exposure equals weakness,” writes Brené Brown.

Engaging compassion, connection and courage certainly challenges us to dare greatly!

Recently I had an experience with someone who was upset about something that had nothing to do with me, however, the energy of the words she spoke triggered a visceral response that created a shift in my mental and emotional energy. Although I didn’t like the person’s response, I couldn’t figure out why I was responding to the situation from a protective state of mind.  It was not until I begin to show myself some tender loving-kindness was I able to see that the person’s outburst triggered my need to protect myself because the incident occurred in an environment which I did not control. So, I started to feel unsafe in the environment.

As I finish this article, I am writing these words realizing that there is most likely something deeper that I need to flush out in order for me to process the emotional trigger that led me to being in this defensive mode. Until then, I will extend myself compassion and do my best to see the individual from a compassionate perspective.

By no means does this mean that by showing this person compassion I will open myself up to a similar experience. No. It means that I will use the gift of self-awareness to begin the process of healing that place in my soul that was effected by this experience. I will maintain an emotional safe zone whenever I’m in this person’s presence and extend kindness towards the individual. For now, that’s the best that I can do. And I’m okay with that.

If you’ve been reading any of my articles for a while, you know I don’t subscribe to this notion that we should overextend ourselves for others even to our detriment. I’m not a martyr. Nor should you be. That’s why establishing boundaries in our relationships is important.

When we see ourselves and others through the lens of compassion our hearts are more open and resilient and we become mindful of balancing our perspectives on experiences. In my situation, compassion is leading me to another level of healing my soul. I know from previous experiences that when this happens it is only preparing me to serve in a greater capacity.  Because I see this experience as a tool for helping me sharpen my sow, I’m grateful that it occurred so that I can shine light on the beliefs and emotions that shaped my response.  As I seek to find the treasure within this experience, I expect to become wiser, better and stronger. Compassion s a soothing balm for healing the wounded places of our souls and the souls of others.

Quality Connections Increase Your Sense of Belonging

The two most powerful forms of connection are love and belonging. Brené Brown writes in Daring Greatly, “…only one thing separated the men and women who felt a deep sense of love and belonging from the people who seemed to struggle for it: the belief in their worthiness.” She points out, “It’s as simple and complicated as this: If we want to fully experience love and belonging, we must believe that we are worthy of love and belonging.”

When we feel seen, heard and valued and believe that we can share our honest thoughts and feelings without judgment, we feel connected. People can be in the presence of “their people” and feel alone. Real connection is not just being in someone’s presence. Real connection is when you feel mentally and emotionally validated by others.

We have an innate desire to be part of something larger than ourselves. Our yearning for belonging and purpose often leads us to trying to be someone we’re not and engage behavior against our beliefs and values to fit in and receive the approval of others. These are hollow substitutes for belonging. So often, they become barriers to the very thing we desire: a sense of belonging.

Brown writes, “True belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”

As you seek to live a more connected life, establish healthy boundaries in your relationships, spend less time and energy hustling for people’s approval who don’t matter to the manifestation of the divine plan and purpose for your life and more time with family and close friends who support and demonstrate by their actions that they are for you. You will feel a greater sense of belonging and connection.

Get in the Arena: Activate Your Courage

In her book, Find Your Courage, Margie Warrell shares, “The word courage comes from the Latin word cor, meaning “heart,” and so the essence of courage is about living “wholeheartedly.” Therefore so long as you have breath in your body you have all that it takes to live a courageous life. In fact, your life is waiting on you to do just that-not because you might die if you don’t act with courage, but because without it, you many never truly live.”

My friend, courage is not just about the heroic acts that we read about or see on the evening news, it’s also a reflection of the choices we make on a daily basis. Such as, when we take responsibility for our lives, live with integrity, challenge our limiting stories, dream BIG in the face of daunting circumstances, persevere in the face of failure, say “No” to people, tasks and activities that are not aligned with the vision we have of the life we want to experience, speaking up for what we believe and taking action even when we feel afraid because of a compelling vision of a new possibility.

In the introductory article of this series, I shared the Theodore Roosevelt’s famous speech, “The Man in the Arena” which reads,

It’s not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deeds, who knows great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly…”

Become Your Bravest Self

Finding your courage to dare greatly challenges you to learn how to better manage your perception of your fears and self-doubt. Self-doubt is often a reflection of your fear of failure, being rejected, looking foolish, or just being inadequate. Finding the courage to dare greatly requires you to acknowledge and accept your fears and insecurities as a normal part of the human experience, while at the same time, refusing to allow them define who you are, who you can become and what you are worthy of experiencing in life. Finding your courage to dare greatly increases your ability to think bigger, live bolder and create more rewarding lives.

In Conclusion

As you exhibit compassion towards yourself and others, establish healthy boundaries in your relationships, cultivate relationships with individuals who got your back and consistently show you that they are for you, maintain a balanced perspective on your experiences, accept the reality that you will experience some measure of self-doubt and fear as long as you live and decide that you won’t allow this reality define who you are and who you can become and what you are worthy of experiencing in life, you will expand the territory of your life in ways beyond what you can imagine or think.

Hope is necessary to finding the courage to dare greatly. Hope inspires you with gratitude for what is, while a compelling vision of new possibilities inspires a passionate determination to create what can be.

Encouraging Words from My Book, Get Unstuck Now:

Be patient with yourself as you embrace the process of this journey. All progress is process.  Be confident in your ability to make incremental progress towards transforming the beliefs and assumptions that limit you from believing that you are well able to walk boldly in the arena embodying your authentic power.

You are loved. You are worthy. You are valued. You may think you are weak, but God knows the strength dwelling in you. Even when everyone else sees only your faults, God still sees possibilities. You may make mistakes; God has not given up on you. You may feel you don’t know your way; God is able to help you find your way.

It’s never too late to tap into a greater measure of the seeds of greatness in your potential. One step taken today towards showing up and allowing yourself to be seen brings you one step closer to expressing more of your authentic power than you were yesterday. Trust in the wisdom of your inner voice which prompted you to read this article. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.

1.      What actions can you begin to take to develop a practice of self-compassion?
2.    Are you in relationships with people that you need to establish healthy boundaries? If so, script the crucial conversation that needs to take place so that you don’t try to wing it or allow the conversation get hijacked by emotions.
3.    What can you do to accept yourself which will increase your sense of connection and belonging?


Feel free to send me a private message on my contact page about this series. I would appreciate your feedback.

Who do you know will benefit from this article? Share it with them and make their day.

Be Your Bravest Self

PS. Get Your BRAVE On with Sara Bareilles


Brown, Brené. Daring Greatly. USA. Penguin Group. 2012.
Warrell, Margie. Find Your Courage. USA. New York, New York. Pocket Books. 1990. Print.
Brown, Jackie. Get Unstuck Now. USA. Createspace. 2014.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Dare to Be Brave: Free Yourself from Social Masks and Emotional Armor Wk. 3

In Daring Greatly, Brené Brown writes, “As children we found ways to protect ourselves from vulnerability, from being hurt, diminished and disappointed. We put on armor, we used our thoughts, emotions and behaviors as weapons; and we learned how to make ourselves scarce, even to disappear. Now as adults, we realize that to live with courage, purpose and connection – to be the person whom we long to be- we must again be vulnerable. We must take off the armor, put down the weapon, show up, and let ourselves be seen.”

Social Masks and Emotional Armor

I can look back and identify those times when I lived uninhibited and embraced life wholeheartedly and other times when I felt it necessary to protect myself with social masks and emotional armor. The insights I gained by looking at my life from these two vantage points helped me to realize that the most satisfying success I’ve experienced so far in my personal and professional life has come during those periods when I am actively engaged with living life wholeheartedly, and free of society’s preconceived limitations.

From the energy I embodied which defined how I show up in the world, to the people and opportunities that suddenly begin to show up in my life, to new experiences that allow me to expand my consciousness and faith in the possibility of new possibilities, when I am embracing life wholeheartedly, my soul feels awakened and life tastes delicious.

I’m not saying that during these periods of my life, everything was perfect. In many cases, the conditions of my life was quite the opposite of perfect, yet, so often, I felt the most alive during these moments because they required me to stretch beyond my comfort zone, learn new stuff and see myself from a more empowering perspective.  During these moments, I gave little thought to not being enough. I accepted the fact that there’s a learning curve for most things. As I continued to consistently apply what I was learning, tweaking my actions as necessary, I would eventually develop practices of execution which reflected my smarts, skills and strengths.

Whereas, during periods of my life when I took on the persona of various social masks for the sole purpose of “pleasing and impressing people” and built walls around my heart because of unspoken emotional pain, I was unhappy, and a lot of the success I experienced was hollow. During these moments, I spent way too much energy and time concerned about seeking the approval of others versus deeming myself worthy because of my intrinsic value.

Yes, it’s important for each of us to feel valued, loved and appreciated by others, however, I don’t believe our need for love and belonging should be to our own detriment. And, what I’ve learned from my life experiences is this, you and I have to first deem ourselves worthy of love and belonging before we can embody the fullness of that energy and begin to express it as our way of being when we show up in the world.

The love and support of others may cause us to feel valued and appreciated, and, yes, this is important to our well-being. What I know for sure is this, there is HUGE difference between having a confident knowing within yourself about your worthiness to be loved and feel connected THEN feeling that you are worthy of love and connection because other people say you are! The difference: one is within your control, the other is not.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Dare to Be Brave: How to Develop Shame Resilience, Wk. 2

“The opposite of “never enough”…is what I call Wholeheartedness.”

~Brené Brown~

Whenever we tell ourselves, “I’m never good enough,” “I’m never smart enough,” “I’m never powerful enough,” “I’m never thin enough,” “I’m never enough,” these scripts are a reflection of internalized beliefs shaped by a culture of scarcity. We are all susceptible to being influenced by this culture of scarcity. The cure to ending our allegiance to the scarcity messages rampant in our culture is developing shame resilience.

In her book, Daring Greatly, Brené Brown quotes a passage from Lynn Twist’s book The Soul of Money in which Twist writes, “We spend most of the hours and days of our lives hearing, explaining, complaining, or worrying about what we don’t have enough of….Before we even sit up in bed, before our feet touch the floor, we’re already inadequate, already behind, already losing, lacking something…. This internal condition of scarcity, this mind-set of scarcity, lives at the very heart of our jealousies, our greed, our prejudice, and our arguments with life…. (43-45) According to Brown, “Scarcity is the “never enough” problem.”

Brené Brown writes, “Scarcity thrives in a culture where everyone is hypersensitive of lack. Our collective hypersensitivity to lack is driving a culture of scarcity and the stories we tell ourselves of “not being enough.” We only have to think about the shift that began to happen in our culture as a result of 911, multiple wars, the recession and numerous natural disasters and random shootings to recognize that the realities of our world is changing who we are, who we are becoming and what we believe to be possible in life. Unless we start to consistently make choices that challenge the dominant messages of scarcity in our culture: fear and suffering will escalate and continue to infect more of us. Engaging life with vulnerability and a healthy sense of worthiness increases our capacity to live wholeheartedly and develop shame resilience.

Debunking the #1 Vulnerability Myth

When we feel vulnerable it provokes anxiety within most of us. After asking research participants, how does vulnerability feel? Brown received the following responses,

·         Vulnerability feels like taking off a social mask and hoping that others accept who you truly are,
·         Going out on a limb
·         Feeling scared and terrified as you take steps toward uncharted territory
·         Going over the edge of a roller coaster and taking a plunge
·         Free-falling and letting go of control.
·         Feeling naked

Can you relate to a time when you felt similar emotions? Contrary to a common held belief, vulnerability is not weakness. Vulnerability is a reflection of your willingness to take risks, face life’s uncertainties with faith and share yourself emotionally with those who have earned your trust and support your efforts toward improving your well-being.

For instance, think about someone you love. You have to be vulnerable to love someone. There is no guarantee that the love you feel will be reciprocated at the measure in which you give it, right? Yet, you can’t imagine not loving those you love, even with the risks involved. Each time you’ve pursued a dream, you didn’t have a 100% guarantee that you would accomplish it, and, yet, with faith, a compelling vision of a new possibility and the willingness to do what it takes to achieve it, you pursued it anyway. Risks and uncertainty are a part of life. When you strive to be your best self and live you best life, you have to accept that they are a part of the equation and learn how to relate to them in a positive and empowering way so that they don’t prevent you from going after what you desire to experience in life.

I understand this can be difficult for most of us from time to time, however, recognizing how shame could be thwarting our efforts toward manifesting new possibilities in our lives equip us with awareness and knowledge we can use to navigate a path that lessens our anxiety as we build up our shame resilience muscles.

The first step in debunking the #1 myth about vulnerability and developing shame resilience according to Brown is, “our willingness to own our vulnerabilities and our ability to engage with the world from a place of worthiness.”

3 Brave Questions about Vulnerability

In order for us to move forward and experience quantum leaps in our level of connection with one another and maintain a commitment to realizing compelling visions of our present and future, we have to make choices that challenge the common notion of scarcity. This starts with an awareness of how willing we are to be vulnerable.

Brown shares in Daring Greatly how many people told her, “I don’t do vulnerability.” Most of these responses were based on the notion that vulnerability is weakness. From that perspective, who would admit that they are weak? She challenges us to bravely ask ourselves the following questions so that we recognize that even if we believe we don’t do vulnerability, it does us.

Q1: “What do I do when I feel emotionally exposed?”
Q2: “How do I behave when I’m feeling very uncomfortable and uncertain?”
Q3: “How willing am I to take emotional risks?”

Brown asserts, “When we pretend that we can avoid vulnerability we engage in behaviors that are often inconsistent with who we want to be. Experiencing vulnerability isn’t a choice – the only choice we have is how we’re going to respond when we are confronted with uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure.”
When we are willing to stand up and admit our failings, acknowledge that we don’t have all the answers, be willing to ask for help, take more risks and show up at home and at work wholeheartedly, these and similar acts of vulnerability are perceived by others as courageous, not weakness.

Defining Shame as It Relates to Being Brave

As a result of the data from her research, Brown defines shame as: the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.

When we believe the erroneous assumption that we are not worthy of genuine love and care and a sense of belonging we will do everything we can to armor up and protect ourselves from being perceived as vulnerable. As human beings, we are hard-wired for connection, love and belonging. When we feel unworthy, we begin to engage life from the perspective, “I’m not good enough or I’m not worthy.” This disempowering mind-set often cause us to strive for perfection as a way of proving to others we are worthy of connection, love and belonging. We find ourselves constantly judging and criticizing ourselves and others. Too often, we can get so caught up in the people pleasing, performing and perfecting rat race that we lose sense of our unique strength and talents which results in us defining ourselves based on external factors. When our identity and self-worth is defined by anything beyond our control we have abdicated too much power to a person or thing.

The information that you gain as a result of engaging the Dare to Be Brave blog series is intended to empower you to become your bravest self by loving who you are right now. This is despite any area of your life which you might feel you need to work on. Yes, you are worthy of connection, love and belonging. It begins with the manner in which you relate to yourself. As you express love and connection towards yourself, you will embody it in your everyday life.

Read the first article in this series: Dare to Be Brave: Practice Radical Self-love. In it I share proven techniques for cultivating a healthy sense of self-love towards yourself.

Wholehearted living is defined by courage, compassion and connection. The people who are willing to show up in the arena and be seen are able to do so because they simply believe they are worthy of love and belonging. They don’t have perfect lives. They are confronted with similar challenges as you and I. But in the midst of their struggles they have developed practices that reinforce the belief that they are worthy of love and belonging. Brown argues, “A strong belief in our worthiness doesn’t just happen-it’s cultivated….”

Developing shame resilience enables us to cultivate positive beliefs about our sense of worthiness. Our belief that we are worthy of healthy love and connection inspires courage in our heart to show up and be seen. Although these acts of courage may cause us to feel vulnerable, they are actually helping us to be braver.

Defining and Developing Shame Resilience

Shame is real pain. According to a 2011 study funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, researchers found that, as far as the brain is concerned, physical pain and intense experiences of social rejection hurt in the same way. Neuroscience has confirmed that emotions can hurt and cause pain.

According to Brown, “When most of us think about shame we use terms embarrassment guilt, humiliation and shame interchangeably. The words we use when referring to shame is more than semantics.” Because how we experience any painful shame experience comes down to our self-talk i.e. the meaning we attach to an experience. You can read more about transforming your self-talk in my book, Get Unstuck Now.

According to Brown, “The majority of shame researchers and clinicians agree that the difference between shame and guilt is best understood as the difference between these statements, “I am bad” and “I did something bad.”

When we feel guilty, we strive to make amends or change our behavior. We recognize and own up to the fact that a particular behavior is not aligned with our highest values and beliefs about ourselves. This psychological discomfort or cognitive dissonance motivates us to make meaningful change. Guilt can be a positive motivator.

Whereas when shame is the driving force behind our actions, we protect ourselves, rationalize our behavior and offer disingenuous apologies. We blame external factors for our lapse of judgment and self-discipline. We attack and shame others. Brown states, “Shame corrodes the very part of us that believes we can change and do better.”

Brené Brown defines shame resilience as “The ability to practice authenticity when we experience shame, to move through experiences without sacrificing our values, and to come out on the other side of the shame experience with more courage, compassion and connection than we had going into it. Shame resilience is about moving from shame to empathy – the real antidote to shame.” She points out, “Self-compassion is key because when we’re able to be gentle with ourselves in the midst of shame, we’re more likely to reach out, connect and experience empathy.” Read about the Return to Self-Love Guide that I shared in the first article of this series.

How Shame Differs in Women and Men

Before I go any further, it’s important that I share the difference between how women and men define shame based on Brown’s research.

Here are some of the comments Brown received when she asked women to define shame:

·         Look perfect. Do perfect. Be perfect. Anything less is shaming.
·         Being judged by mothers.
·         No matter what I achieve or how far I’ve come, where I come from and what I’ve survived will always keep me from feeling like I’m good enough.
·         Even though everyone knows that there’s no way to do it all, everyone still expects it. Shame is when you can’t pull off looking like it’s under control.
·         Never enough at home. Never enough at work. Never enough in bed. Never enough with my parents. Shame is never enough.

Here are some of the comments Brown received when she asked men to define shame:

·         Shame is failure. At work. On the football field. In your marriage. In bed. With money. With your children. It doesn’t matter – shame is failure.
·         Shame is being wrong. Not doing wrong, but being wrong.
·         Shame happens when people think you’re soft. It’s degrading and shaming to be seen as anything but tough.
·         Showing fear is shameful. You can’t show fear. You can’t be afraid no matter what.
·         Our worst fear is being criticized or ridiculed- either one of these is extremely shaming.

Based on the information in Brown’s book, it would seem that women are under pressure to be everything to everyone while men are under pressure to never be perceived as weak.

Perhaps you don’t relate to these comments but there are some other messages that dominate your self-talk when you feel shame. The reason for sharing these comments from Brown’s work is to help everyone reading this article be aware that shame is an emotion experienced by women and men. It’s not gender specific.

Here are the four steps that Brown shares in Daring Greatly that will ultimately lead us to empathy and healing while building our shame resilience:

1.       Recognize Shame and Understanding Its Triggers. Shame is biology and biography. Can you physically recognize when you’re in the grips of shame, feel your way through it and figure out what messages and expectations triggered it?
2.      Practicing Critical Awareness. Can you reality-check the messages and expectations that are driving your shame? Are they realistic? Attainable? Are they what you want to be or what you think others need/want from you?
3.      Reaching Out. Are you owning and sharing your story? We can’t experience empathy if we’re not connecting.
4.      Speaking Shame. Are you talking about how you feel and asking or what you need when you feel shame?

Shame often reflects unspoken hurt. And it is this unspoken hurt of feeling that we’re not worthy of being loved and feeling connected to others diminishes our courage to be vulnerable, authentic and brave. Shame cannot be addressed with emotional armor that prevents us from connecting to one another. Addressing our shame and developing shame resilience requires that each of us be brave enough to be vulnerable and begin the hard conversations that lead to empathy and healing.

Although you might not completely understand how shame is running roughshod in your life, if you feel that there are conversations you need to have with people you love or those you work with to gain a deeper understanding of how to improve relationships, do it. You don’t have to understand every aspect of shame before reaching out and connecting to those that matter most to you.

When we have an experience that triggers thoughts of unworthiness and disconnection we need to show ourselves compassion and have the courage to reach out and connect with those we know have shown sincere concern for our well-being. Shame cannot be overcome in a vacuum. It has to aired out whether that is by talking to someone or via expressive writing to heal our soul wounds of past traumatic experiences. Be sure that the person(s) you share your shame experience is someone who has consistently shown you sincere concern and support, and he or she has earned the right to hear your heartfelt concerns.

We need to be and feel empathetic towards ourselves to have it within ourselves to exhibit towards others. We are only as hard on others as we are on ourselves.   Empathy ushers us into demonstrating compassion toward ourselves and others. It is the emotional balm that softens the armor we clothed our hearts with to ensure we never get hurt again. As Brown states, “Empathy is connection; it’s a ladder out of the shame hole.”

The following loving-kindness affirmation by Jack Kornfield can help soften your heart towards yourself and others:
“May I love myself just as I am.
May I have a sense of worthiness and well-being.
May I trust the world. May I hold myself in compassion.
May I meet the suffering and ignorance of others with compassion.”

In Conclusion

Accepting and allowing what you feel without judgment is a powerful demonstration of empathy towards yourself.

Demonstrate empathy towards yourself on those mornings when you wake up and before your feet hit the floor your thoughts are about what you don’t have enough of.

Show yourself some tender loving compassion when you feel vulnerable, yet, you choose to love and take steps toward uncharted territory.

Trust in your ability to manage uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure with a brave heart. You are so much stronger than you think.

As you develop a strong belief in your worthiness to feel love, connection and belonging, you will show up in the world and own your story and authentic power.

Transforming limiting and negative beliefs about your sense of worthiness begins with challenging the stories you are telling yourself. It’s time for you to end your allegiance to any distorted “love messages” that would have you believe that you are not worthy of love, connection and belonging.

You don’t have to continue to tolerate treatment from anyone who through their words or deeds would have you believe you are not worthy of love, connection and belonging. The cost to your soul’s well-being is too much of a price to pay.

Having an understanding of shame and shame resilience empowers you to develop authentic connections with others. Self-awareness is always the beginning of change. Finding the courage to become your bravest self is a process that involves taking action on a consistent basis to build up your courage muscles.

The courage you desire is already within you. Your mission is to begin to believe this to be true and take what you’re learning in this blog series and apply it in your everyday life. As you do, you will discover that your spirit is brave beyond measure.

1.      What is it that you believe, that keeps you from being fully yourself? Ponder away…
2.     If you were to FULLY express the courage in you, what is the FIRST change you would start to make?
3.     In a pickle, how would someone you respect and admire handle making the first change you would start to make?

What value did you gain from this article? I’d love to hear you thoughts. Share them in the comments below.

Who do you know will benefit from this article? Share it with them and make their day.

Be Your Bravest Self


Brown, Brené. Daring Greatly. USA. Penguin Group. 2012.
Kornfield, Jack. A Wise Heart. USA. Bantam Dell. 2009.