Finding Shelter in a Shame Storm (and Avoiding the Flying Debris)
You're in it. That warm wash of "not good enough" has taken over. It doesn't matter how you get into shame; the trick is getting out. In one piece. Without sacrificing your authenticity. As a shame researcher, I know that the very best thing to do in the midst of a shame attack is totally counterintuitive: Practice courage and reach out!
But here's the tricky part about sharing your story: You can't call just anyone. If you share your shame story with the wrong person, he or she can easily become one more piece of flying debris in your already dangerous shame storm. We want solid connection in a situation like this—something akin to a sturdy tree firmly planted in the ground. We definitely want to avoid the following:
1. The friend who hears the story and actually feels shame for you. She gasps and confirms how horrified you should be. Then there is awkward silence. Then you have to make her feel better.
2. The friend who responds with sympathy ("I feel so sorry for you") rather than empathy ("I get it, I feel with you, and I've been there"). If you want to see a shame cyclone turn deadly, throw one of these at it: "Oh, you poor thing." Or, the incredibly passive-aggressive Southern version of sympathy, "Bless your heart."
3. The friend who needs you to be the pillar of worthiness and authenticity. She can't help because she's too disappointed in your imperfections. You've let her down.
4. The friend who is so uncomfortable with vulnerability that she scolds you: "How did you let this happen? What were you thinking?" Or she looks for someone to blame: "Who was that guy? We'll kick his ass."
5. The friend who is all about making it better and, out of her own discomfort, refuses to acknowledge that you can actually be crazy and make terrible choices: "You're exaggerating. It wasn't that bad. You rock. You're perfect. Everyone loves you."
6. The friend who confuses connection with the opportunity to one-up you: "That's nothing. Listen to what happened to me one time!"
Next: Find a "move-a-body" friend