Doing everything wrong: Shame, truth-telling, and writing it out

From Daring Greatly by Brene Brown
From Daring Greatly by Brene Brown

This is probably one of the hardest posts here at Visible and Real. And yet, I feel like there’s an elephant in the room that needs to be talked about. Because I think it’s blocking a lot of things around my writing, about my showing up to this space (and other spaces), and I don’t like the way that feels. It’s not that I dislike writing book reviews – I’m actually enjoying it and sharing some of my new reads and old loves with you all. But, I miss posts like THIS one (which is a post that comes to mind frequently for me when I think of this space), where I felt I was real. I miss feeling real in this space.

So, let’s talk about shame, vulnerability, and {hopefully} moving forward.

The irony is not lost on me that this post is publishing exactly two years after my most popular post, the “unveiling” of Visible and Real classes. That I started this blog in March 2012, let it languish, and then dove back in and started writing more regularly when I wanted to start a business teaching writing practice online. Early posts are scattered, trying to be everything to everyone, throwing in this and that. I didn’t know what the hell I was doing – and yet, I was trying. I kept trying to put everything out there, and yet, I also know that I didn’t take the time to build a tribe, as They say you should. I didn’t have a Brand. I didn’t have a Platform. I was doing Everything All Wrong. And then, six months later, I said I was backing off of the workshops, etc. Cue shame, which creeped in and told me how much of a Failure I was and how I fucked it all up and did it All Wrong. It made me question everything I did in this space.

For me, shame often manifests in anger (not shown online), jealousy (not shown online), frustration (not shown online), and avoidance (cue the months of crickets and fits and starts of writing). There was all of this shame, self-loathing, and uncertainty of what I was doing and all this smashed together Stuff I had tried to do (and didn’t work). I wanted to make it work. I tried the best I knew how. And I appreciated the time I got to spend with those first few groups – small but mighty. Yet, I didn’t stick it out – for so many reasons.

But, every time I came to this space, I was reminded of the ways I had Done It Wrong and attached that to who I was (and what I was worth). Perhaps it isn’t such a surprise that this is a bit of a problem and makes for showing up hard, if not damn near impossible. Writing, storytelling, trusting myself and my own truth became difficult, because I felt that’s what I had been doing in creating this space and chasing my dreams of creating space for writing practice, and I did it ALL WRONG. It didn’t work. So, if it didn’t work, was I just blowing smoke?

Confession: I give up pretty easily on a lot of things, especially when it gets hard.

This was yet another instance. This was another place where I Gave Up and I walked outside of the arena. I couldn’t take it and I was Unworthy. {This is a message I have fought with, given into, and believed for much of my life.}

Confession: All of the good grades? All of the performing? The giving up when iI’m scared of failing? It helps keep me feeling Worthy of the grace, love, and beauty I am surrounded by. If I don’t fail, if I do everything Right, then I will be Worthy. I feel it is required of me to be the Bright Ray of Sunshine to make everything better and to not cause waves. And if I am not Worthy, I move in one of two directions: Complete Shutdown or Overperforming. {Either end of this pendulum is exhausting.}

And failing causes waves. Struggling with depression and self-injury causes waves. Being angry causes waves. Wrestling with the jealousy and feeling like I will never make my dreams come true causes waves (internally and externally). And yet, the experience of this all is the very storytelling that I was seeking to do here. And yet, I couldn’t show up and tell this truth – it would cause too many waves. {And to be honest? I also began to feel that because I couldn’t make dreams happen, I shouldn’t have them at all. Easier, my brain told me. I forget that sometimes, my brain lies.}

20140721_120032791_iOSOne of the things I have been trying to do is to work through some of this – through lots of writing, art journaling, and really trying to get down to the blood, bones, and sinew of what has kept me from being fully present here V+R the past year and a half. What is this that keeps me from this – and how can I work through it, on my terms, with my own truth?

In this, I have also needed to recognize my own culpability – the ways I shut down, the ways I tune out, the way I stick my head in the sand and keep trying to make sense of the world through lenses that are Not Mine. The ways that I give up and stop doing the work (whatever that means in the moment). I had to accept that I was making a choice in not showing up… and that showing up would require me to be brave.

This isn’t something that has come up overnight. Rather, this process has been prompted by my own desire to be braver, my work with my therapist, and what seems to be a message coming through in blog posts I’ve been reading, courses I am taking online this summer. And, frankly? I am sick of avoiding this space, of feeling this shame weighing down my shoulders. Heavy heavy heavy on these shoulders – it’s no wonder I’ve been having issues the past few weeks.

This shame has become a burden I can’t carry anymore. I won’t. And I have to keep remembering that this brave is a process, that this showing up is a process – again and again and again. It is a process to make the choice to stand on my own ground. It is a practice to stand in the arena and share truth vulnerably.

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, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming;

but who does actually strive to do the deeds;

who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause

~ from Theodore Roosevelt’s speech Citizenship In A Republic, delivered at the Sorbonne (1910)
courtesy of Brené Brown’s blog post on the wo/man in the arena 

This is my life right now – battling the demons of Shame and Not Enough. But, if there’s one thing I’ve learned from the amazing truth I read through other blogs, through books, through music, through conversation, and through learning to stand (wobbly) in my own truth – it is that coming forward and sharing {dare I say it, to make it visible and real} helps work through these demons and move forward.

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7 thoughts on “Doing everything wrong: Shame, truth-telling, and writing it out

  1. Much love.

    In all the ways I mess up, my eyes get pulled back to the prayer I arrived at on the dance floor one weekend, now written on the whiteboard in my kitchen:

    PERSISTENT PRACTICED COURAGE

    … and the knowing that it takes all three, that I’m much better at the brief, bright flash of courage, that dusting off knees and beginning again is somehow so hard, that I am so likely to plant my stubborn feet at cross-purposes to my heart.

    Which is to say, I get that. <3

    • Oh, that is lovely. I hadn’t thought of it like that, in terms of all three. And I hear you, on the “better at the brief, bright flash of courage.” And that’s a great way of phrasing it, too.

      Thank you for sharing that, and your experience, and for bearing witness. *huge hugs*

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