Shame is one of those words that is hard to describe, but very easy to identify once its ugly face takes center stage.
It’s happened many times this week. And it feels like it weighs a thousand pounds.
- I left the side door open after leaving the house. It was locked, but wide open. Shame on me.
- I tried to meet with a financial advisor twice, but messed up both dates. One was a 7 am meeting that my busy husband carved out time for. Shame, shame.
- I yelled at my sweet toddler yesterday because she pushed me past my limits. Bad mom.
- I left the office door open last night, which means our elderly cat got in and peed on the bed and sofa. Dumb mistake.
As moms, we don’t address the reasons why we make mistakes. Instead we blame and belittle ourselves. That’s when shame arrives.
After I realized I messed up the second financial meeting, I got a call from the financial planner. He apologized to me for the miscommunication, although it wasn’t his fault. I couldn’t bring myself to call him back because I knew I screwed up again. I sent him a text message explaining myself. But it didn’t feel good. Why couldn’t I face him over the phone?
Researcher and mom, Brené Brown discusses how shame, guilt and blame have become poisonous in our society. People don’t talk about it. Instead, it brews and festers. It’s like a virus. If it’s not identified and treated, it becomes contagious. And suddenly one small mistake cascades into “I’M THE WORST MOM EVER!”
How do we prevent shame from ruining our self-esteem and relationships? How do we reverse the negative talk? We have to become what Brown refers to as shame resilient. In her book, Daring Greatly, she discusses how embracing worthiness and vulnerability can make shame wither away.
I’m not an expert on this topic, but I’ve taken some tips from her book and put them into perspective for moms (like me) who struggle with the never enough attitude.
I want to get more comfortable being vulnerable. Meaning, I want to be okay with making mistakes. I want to be comfortable with feedback whether its positive OR negative in order to move forward and grow.
I want to stop the if/when mindset. “I will have more self-esteem when ______.” The blank could be to lose weight or go back to work full time or get to church on time every Sunday.
As moms, we need to get rid of the “never enough” attitude. Shame thrives on perfectionism. It makes us feel small and afraid. It discourages innovation and self worth. It creates a false sense of competition among fellow moms. Social media has a lot to do with this.
Ever seen the family of four with matching smocks on Instagram and wondered “Gosh, they look so perfect?” Do you feel the need to post the perfect pictures in response? I do.
We need to let ourselves off the hook and engage in positive self-talk. It should look something like this:
- I left the side door open because I had the baby, diaper bag, purse and another package in my arms. It was 100 degrees outside, and I was just ready to get in the car and turn on the AC! It was an honest mistake.
- I messed up two meetings with the advisor because my calendar is inundated with work, junior league meetings, major kitchen renovations and family obligations. He will understand why we need to reschedule.
- Everyone gets upset with their little ones. It is a daily learning experience to help them grow and develop into mature adults. But in the meantime, we don’t always act mature. It’s okay.
- I left the office door open because I was up late doing work on my laptop. I was exhausted.
How Shame Impacts our Children
The most important lesson of all is that we cannot teach our children to be shame resilient if we are not. Brown says it best – “Who we are and how we engage with the world are much stronger predictors of how our children will do than what we know about parenting.” We need to teach them words such as: respect, authenticity, value, worthiness, creativity, forgiveness, compassion, and mindfulness. Be the adults you want your children to be.
Who cares if I forgot her bow or she smeared avocado all over her white dress?! I would rather raise my children to love others and know they are loved. For our family, that means raising them with a strong faith in God and with friends and family who enhance their feelings of self-worth. And no matter what mistakes or sins they commit, they are forgiven. They are enough.