Shame off You

This week’s book of the week is Brene Brown’s Dare to Lead. Today I’ve been reading section 4 “Rumbling and Vulnerability”. Shame is never an easy read. And Brene’s books are like taking a swan dive into the internal hard stuff. Dare to Lead is no different. Today I decided to write about shame, because I don’t believe until today, I realized just exactly how much it plays a role in keeping us from achieving our dreams and holds us down like an elephant sitting on a rock that those effected by shame are under.

Brene Brown’s definition of shame is simple, “Shame is the fear of disconnection – it’s the fear that something we’ve done or failed to do, an ideal that we’ve not lived up to, or a goal that we’ve not accomplished makes us unworthy of connection.”¹

I liked the above definition because it hits right to the heart; unworthy and unloved. “Ouch”, I can’t think of anything much more painful than that.

Then I started thinking about the critic vs the man in the arena that Brene talked about earlier. (As a side note this is why it takes me forever to read a book, because I do a lot of thinking and pondering in the middle of the read.)  The quote is by Theodore Roosevelt.

“It is not the 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… who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at the least fails while daring greatly.”²

My first gut reaction to this quote had been, “Yeah critic take that!” Not wanting to see or accept the fact that I have many times been that critic, maybe to myself or to someone else far far away. The point is that I think we all identify with the person who is daring greatly and want to secretly smack the critic because we all identify with being held back by someone else’s words if only through the act of mulling over what the critic has said.

Another way we do that is to retreat and become a smaller version of ourselves. I really identified with what Brene said about retreating as well, “Retreating into our smallness becomes the most seductive and easiest way to stay safe in the midst of the shame squeeze. But, as we’ve talked about, when we armor and comfort ourselves into smallness, things break and we suffocate.”

Then I began to read some of the examples she started to use that all began with “Shame is” and ended with multiple people sharing their shame story. A couple examples, although I highly recommend reading the complete list on page 126 -127, “Shame is getting a promotion, then getting demoted six months later because I wasn’t succeeding. Shame is getting sexually harassed at work, but being too afraid to say anything because he’s the guy everyone loves.”

So after reading this list, I decided to make my own list of all the “Shame is” scenarios that are surrounding my life. I wrote them down, each and everyone, especially those that are often set on repeat inside my mind. Some from childhood, some from a couple years ago, they were all written down. It’s amazing how you can forget what you ate for breakfast a week ago,  but I have no problem making a complete list of all those shame voices.

Something was extremely freeing about writing them down. I then noticed many places where I had written, “putting my heart into”. I crossed those out and put the word vulnerability. Because that’s what we do right? We put our heart into something, it doesn’t work out and then we vow to never be vulnerable again. Easy fix right? Our heart won’t get broken if we are not vulnerable. That simple act made me realize that I did not want to live that way. I want put my heart out there and be vulnerable again. Wait. Did I just say that? Saying that excites me and scares the shit out of me all at once. Saying that makes me realize that, that is the only thing standing between me and my dreams. The commitment to allow myself to be vulnerable again is the secret sauce of living a full life.

So resisting the urge I had to throw it in the fireplace, I took the “shame” list I had made, and I folded it up. On the outside I wrote, “Shame is getting in the way of the life I truly want. Kick shame out!!” I hope this article helps you kick out shame.

Sarah Popejoy

Vigilant Poster Girl

Read along with us Dare to Lead 



  1. Dare to Lead by Brene Brown, pg
  2. Dare to Lead by Brene Brown, pg xvii


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