Shame and Judgement are InseparableJudgment is Shame’s BFF. They go hand in hand. In fact, you can hardly remember a time that they’ve ever been apart. Think about it, your earliest memories can link these two together. They are almost inseparable. They bought those cute little necklaces, Be-Fri and St-Ends, in the early 90s when we all did. They get each other. They are "Ride or Die'" at this point.
I’m not here to break up a friendship group, but I will tell you that I don’t want to be part of this girl-gang anymore. They can stick together. But for me, I’m out, or at least I want to be out of this gruesome twosome.
In all honesty, I’ve been part of this close-knit friendship circle too many times. These are not just moments from my youth that I can disregard with a ‘we were young’ mentality. These are things that happened five years ago, five months ago, five days ago, five minutes ago…if you want to get real. So how do Shame and her gal-pal Judgment maintain their friendship? Well, in my experience, Shame is queen-bee and Judgment does her dirty work.
Judgment is Shame’s BFF. They go hand in hand. In fact, you can hardly remember a time that they’ve ever been apart. Think about it, your earliest memories can link these two together. They are almost inseparable.
Shame is a just a leader, or as Dr. Brown contends the master emotion. She is powerful. She weaves herself into any experience without invitation. By definition, shame is “the fear that we are not good enough” and “the intensely painful feeling that we are unworthy of love and belonging.” Judgment is her mouthpiece.
What Triggers Shame?
I have so many shame triggers and one thing that I’ve learned about shame is that shame doesn’t like talking about shame. Brené Brown says this so often that sometimes I consider if I should get my first tattoo….something reminding me about how shame doesn’t like when you talk about it. I wonder what that looks like in one of those cool fonts that they use for tattoos. Kidding aside, shame is hard to talk about. We feel like outsiders, risking more shame when we voice our shame triggers. We’ve been told things like “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer” “Never show your cards” and all things that probably Shame told Judgment to share enough so we all believed them to be irreversible truths of being human. This is the part that starts to get uncomfortable when I go to vulnerability and risk emotional exposure by sharing my truth.
So, here I go. I am gonna voice the ways that judgment hits my shame triggers. When my shame trigger is hit, I take this shame trigger and go “hog wild” as Dr. Brené Brown indicates in her years of shame research. From here, I take these besties, Judgment, and Shame, and do my thing and make it a party. Someone invited Judgment and she always gets her bestie to come along. Then Shame and I, we go and throw the best darn party…after all, I do enjoy hosting a party. Metaphor aside, why do I do this? Why do we do this? Before I can solve the why of my behavior, I have to get really uncomfortable and sit at this party that I’ve created. I have to know my shame triggers.
We all have them. We all have ways that the judgment of others hits the softest spot of our hearts and we offload that hurt into other places. I know I’ve been part of hitting other people’s shame triggers with my judgment.
I know my own shame triggers are so hard-wired into my narrative that I can hardly differentiate the difference between choosing my own ending or allowing a narrative that doesn’t serve me to take me to places that aren’t exactly me.
I still need constant reminders that when Judgment and Shame show up together as the inseparable pals that they are, I can decline this party. I don’t need them. Kindness and clarity of values can help me exit these gal-pals. But boy is this hard for me.
I don’t have to integrate the judgment of others into my own story. I don’t have to be emotionally triggered. I don’t have to let someone else’s “should” convert into my “not good enough.” So many of us are trained in thousands of interactions to hear the criticism of others and internalize it to be our own. We also push against this criticism and give Shame her best opponent…Shame. Even still, some of us just see Judgement and her bestie Shame coming down the street and we do that thing where we just pretend to not notice that we know them. We ignore them, not in the healthy way of attending to the messages that serve us, but in that way where we literally send the non-verbals of “I see you” but I will not acknowledge you exist stuff; that look that sent more than one high school girl running to the bathroom in tears.
Judgment and her ‘Ride or Die,’ Shame may look different in each person’s life but at closer glance, we all know these two.
Unpacking the Truth About Shame (and Judgement!)
For me, this is one of the most vulnerable blogs that I’ve ever even started to write. I am still not certain if this blog is for me or if I’ll actually put it out in the world. I guess you will know my decision if you are reading this. I’ve decided to talk about a few of my shame triggers and what I do with this hurt. Dr. Brown advises that vulnerability isn’t live-tweeting your bikini wax, so I will make these examples general not shame-meets-shame narratives (I’ve done enough of that and I do not need to memorialize it in a blog).
We all have ways that the judgment of others hits the softest spot of our hearts and we offload that hurt into other places.
I’ll share a few of the things that send me into a shame cyclone and then connect them to the sometimes well-intentioned sometimes less than that comments that gal-pal, Judgment, has instigated.
***Disclaimer: My stuff may hit your own stuff and make you have the human response of rage, protection, validation, leveling up/down from my sorrows. As much as it feels amazing to hear from that “I’m right,” really this is just adding people to the Shame and Judgment party. We can’t take Shame & Judgment down with Shame & Judgement….this is the time to do the U-Turn (another Dr. Brown term) and figure out what in my story is something in your story that needs attention. I’ve delayed it long enough. Shame never wants to be talked about….It’s too hard to get too creative with my own shame triggers, so I’ll be real…or more truthfully how I remember the comments from Judgment and how Shame steps in. Then I’ll try to unpack these messages and share “a” truth, not “the truth,” but one that is devoid of confabulations and conspiracies. Usually, Judgment comes from another’s mouth, Shame is my internal thought that is rarely shared.
#1: Shame/judgment about work
Judgment says: “Wow, you work so much. How do you manage your kids…isn’t it hard to be there for them?”
Shame says: “You are a failure. You aren’t a good mother/wife/friend. You will never get it together.”
Unpacked Truth: I work. It may be less or more than other people.
#2: Shame/judgement about kids
Judgment says: “It must be nice that you get to stay in hotels away from your kids. Don’t they miss you when you are gone?”
Shame jumps in quick: “How dare you enjoy being away from your kids if you were a good mom….You’d want to be home. You would have never missed (the field trip, the book fair, the whatever)."
Sometimes shame goes in a different direction and says: “I sure do, A-hole. I’ve worked my booty off to be able to get to go to these places. If you put in a little effort…”
Unpacked truth: I enjoy hotels. I find it relaxing. I find the ability to choose to travel for new business opportunities to be a reminder I am creating the world that I want to live in. I am creating my own reality and when I travel, I grow, learn and bring my ‘change the world’ spirit to other places.
#3 Shame/judgement about reading
Judgment says: Well, this one judgment doesn’t have to mention anything. She just needs to create an opportunity where I have to read aloud.
Shame: “I am an idiot. I can’t do this….I need to avoid this, lest anyone know that I am not a smart person."
Unpacked truth: I can’t read fluently aloud. I am dyslexic….I know I am smart. I really do. It’s just hard to quiet this voice that I can remember from my earliest learning experiences of preschool. When I do read aloud and fumble my words, my body floods with emotion. I can hardly stand to be in the room. I feel very little. And I love to read. I read, and read, and read…and I can’t figure out why this voice of “I’m not smart enough” is my biggest shame trigger. I still need to work this one through in my own self-reflection process. It doesn’t match my reality. I know this, but as I have come to learn; emotions get the first crack at an experience then thoughts and behaviors follow. I want to see this one difference in the future.
#4 Shame/judgement about asking for help
Judgment Says: “I just Pinterest-ed this. It’s not hard at all. I just love Pinterest.”
Shame pipes in: “Eff me. I am worthless. I don’t know how to even make chicken let alone this masterpiece of a dinner…I need to crawl in a hole and just give up. I’m not a good enough wife/mother/employer/person.”
Unpacked truth: I very much know my strengths as a human being. I happen to be creative, courageous, and fun. I know that I can connect with almost anyone if we are 1:1. If we do connect, I will remember that memory forever. I have a great episodic memory….
AND I have a lot of support that allows me to be able to live my strengths. I get to live this beautiful life of changing lives only because I have a lot of people by my side. It doesn’t take a village to raise children, it takes a village to BE HUMAN. As much as I can hit a shame tornado and feel like I am all alone…it is really clear to me that this is not a ‘go it alone’ journey and I have so many people by my side; letting me live my dreams.
Jalina Morgan, our babysitter, and now FGTC office assistant….who I hear stories of on a daily basis and when she is not around my children wonder what she is doing and tell me of the wise advice that she gives them when I am not there to comfort them through problems. She is there.
My housecleaning dynamic duo-these two women don’t judge me when I don’t comply with the ‘clean your house before the cleaners arrive’ normative behavior of house cleaning. On every other Thursday, these women take in my house just as it is and I get the beautiful experience of walking into a more desirable home…even if it's just for a few hours.
Recently, Sophie Milstein entered my life and took over all these “I can’t” messages that were piling in around me. I have a hard time managing things like sending back Amazon returns, booking travel…things I have playfully referred to as “adult babysitting.” I am so appreciative that I have Sophie to manage the areas that my brain wasn’t exactly wired to manage.
A phone call away, I have a mom that desires a full blog of the generosity of spirit let alone the value of working hard and following one’s ambition.
And then there is Wendy Johnson; the woman runs the back end of this business..both Family Guidance and Love & Autism. She lets me be me and reminds me in the gentlest ways when the struggle of being me is landing on people in the wrong way. I know there is something greater than ourselves in this world—whether we call this God, The Universe, or something else. There is no other explanation for being able to live my own dreams..while working on revising my own shame narratives.
And in my bravest moments, I can speak directly to Shame and her BFF Judgment and say these words…..
“I am imperfect. I am worthy. I am lovable. I am not going it alone. I am living my dreams.”
Let’s get brave together and let go of Shame and Judgment.
I love this post, Jenny. I particularly love that you have surrounded yourself with people who can support you and help you live your dreams. You *are* creative, courageous, and fun – and truly an inspiration to those of us who know you – even from afar. Thanks for being you, and showing us that living our dreams takes a village.