Our culture uses a lot of shame in parenting. It’s true. Listen to yourself sometime when you’re feeling frustrated with your child. Natural consequences are often shame-filled. “Well, if you hadn’t done x, then y wouldn’t have happened.” That’s what you get.
We do it to ourselves too. We do to our children what we do to ourselves. Something I’ve known for a long time, but never fully manifested until recently is the idea that my daughter will become who I am, in a sense.
A few month ago, I noticed Annika saying to herself something like, “Oh, I am SO clumsy!” And saying that she felt stupid sometimes.
At first I thought perhaps it was just something she picked up from school. I mean, I’ve said a lot of things to her that I regret, but I’ve never said she was clumsy or stupid.
Then I realized where she had gotten it. She got it from me.
I was doing it to myself too.
Last week I made a mistake about timing of plans we’d made, and caught the mistake right before we were about to head out the door. Luckily, it all worked out, but as I explained to Annika the sudden change in plans, I said loudly, “Agh, I feel like such an idiot!”
I’m sure I’ve done/said these kinds of things a gazillion times in my life. And logically, I know I’m not not an idiot. But it was the first time I caught myself and saw what she must be seeing. A minute later, as it was all dawning on me, I looked at Annika and said, “No, I’m not an idiot. I just made a mistake. No big deal. Everyone makes mistakes.”
“Yeah, mom, it’s no big deal!” she agreed. “It’s okay mama.” She seemed relieved to hear me say it.
This is one of things that you don’t see. Until you see it.
Rationally I know that she copies me. Logically I know that she will mimic my behavior.
But I see myself in my head differently. I’m fairly confident person. I know that I’m capable and smart and all that other good stuff. But I have these bad habits. And beating myself up for small mistakes is also one of those things I do, even though I thought I was only doing it in my head where it couldn’t hurt anyone. (Well, except myself.)
I finally saw it due to multiple things. Parenting books, parenting groups where I can vent, and most recently, researcher Brene Brown.
Two of the scariest, most horrendous topics that I can think of.
Brene Brown is a shame researcher.
Brown studies shame and how it interferes with our ability to fully experience joy and connection. I love her work because she tells stories, but the nerd in me loves the stories even more because she breaks them down and pulls the data out of them and mashes it all up into something that she can measure. I love that. I love data. I love stories. This lady is right up my alley.
Even though she’s done multiple talks, podcasts and written five books, the message is basically the same. Shame disconnects. It plugs us up. It eats away at our ability to be happy, to feel joy and to approve of ourselves enough to enjoy the good things to the fullest.
Vulnerability is the antidote to shame.
I first heard her speak when I watched her Ted Talk that went viral in 2010.
Or you can watch it at this link http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability.html
Then I checked out The Gifts of Imperfection and Daring Greatly. They are great, great books. If you don’t have time for reading, you can listen to her podcasts, which are free on itunes. Or find her on Youtube.
You can read more about Brene Brown on her website http://www.brenebrown.com/
Shame is such a pervasive part of our culture, our parenting and our lives. Like I said, it’s something you don’t see, until you see it.