Daring and Shaming

daring greatlyAt first I was a little dismissive of Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brene Brown, not expecting any great nuggets that would apply directly to me.  That sounds really cocky, but I don’t mean for it to come across that way.  I have indeed failed at vulnerability at times.  I have shied away from opportunities, not wanting to risk exposure and failure.  But generally speaking I like to try new things and I have pretty thick skin.  I’m usually willing to engage and take risks.  You may have noticed that I have a public blog!  I’ve done things like move to cities where I don’t really know people and forge new relationships and make good memories.

But, the book doesn’t just address vulnerability.  It goes on to address the issue of shaming other people, which makes them shut down and keeps them from healthy vulnerability.  This really caught me off guard because I don’t think I ever shame people!  Or, do I?  Then it hit me.  I realized that there have been a few recent occasions where I have unwittingly resorted to shaming a certain daughter of mine.  Thinking about it makes me feel like there’s a hatchet in my heart, because I definitely don’t ever want to do that.

Shame is different than guilt, according to the author.  Shame is a focus on self, guilt is a focus on behavior.  While helping my daughter with her math problems, or reminding her to hurry and finish her math (!), I have made comments that I enjoyed math when I was younger. I think I made these particular comments thinking she might come to view math as something that can be fun.  I am realizing though, that what I am doing is comparing myself to her and making her feel inadequate that she does not enjoy math.  This may not seem like a big deal to some people, but my daughter is sensitive and this has been a huge trial for us.  Math homework sometimes seems insurmountable because of her failure to focus and it often overshadows our whole day.

In the end, Math matters but definitely not as much as my daughter’s sense of worth and belonging.  I don’t ever want her to think she is inadequate.  I don’t want to compare her with myself or her siblings or anyone else.  I want her to know I love her for who she is.  She is enough.  She is perfect just how she is.  Math is nothing compared with how much I love her and what a precious girl she is.  I am so proud of her.

I have a lot of expectations when it comes to my kids.  Is this based on my pride or on my wholehearted love for them?  Probably both.  I love them and want the world for them.  But hopefully I am not destroying them in the process of trying to help them, because that would be tragic.  I am shaming my children if I ever make them feel inadequate when they do not live up to my expectations.  My kids need to know I love them unconditionally and I need to give them room to make mistakes, because they are human and they will.  If their mom is not a safe place in this world, who will be?

Brown points out that shame leads to hopelessness.  Shame corrodes the very part of us that believes we can change.   When we are shamed we don’t show up, we don’t participate and we don’t contribute.  My job is to motivate my children and correct their bad behaviors without ever resorting to shaming them.

My children also need to see me trying new things, being vulnerable, failing, and then getting back up, praying for grace, and picking up the pieces.  That will go a long way towards helping them be whole people who love life, are unafraid to try new things, and are fully engaged.

I said I didn’t think I had issues with vulnerability but, after thinking about it for a long time, I do.  We all do.  Who am I kidding?  So, I am grateful for Brown’s focus on vulnerability in her book too.  There is much that I can take to heart when considering that topic, as well.

The title of Brown’s book comes from a Theodore Roosevelt quote. I love this quote and think I need to memorize it with my kids:

It is 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 them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

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