Beaker from The Muppet Show, looking scared as always“Grammar; the difference between knowing your shit and knowing you’re shit.” That one always cracks me up.

But actually it’s not just grammar, is it?

It’s #shame.

In the last few weeks I’ve said a few times that if I could ban one experience from the face of the planet it would be the experience of shame. That #impostersyndrome thing. “I don’t really belong in this circle”, “Who do I think I’m kidding?”, “What I said / did / what I’m trying to do is just stupid and everyone else can see that.” A client once described the experience of being in shame as “like being covered in black, sticky tar”.

I thought that was spot on.

Just this weekend, I ended up confiding in a trusted friend and colleague about a crisis of confidence I was having. When she told me how she sees me, professionally, and what she thinks of me, I had this thought:

“Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all just get a glimpse from time to time of how other people see us?”

But I take that back.

The most inspiring book I’ve read in recent years is Brene Brown’s “Daring Greatly”, all about shame, #vulnerability and #connectedness. My experience with my friend reminded me of it. If I could have stepped into my friend’s perception of me, it probably would have helped put the gremlins back in their box. But in the process I would have missed out on something really precious; an experience of kind connectedness with another person, made possible only by my vulnerability with her, necessitated in turn by my experience of shame.

If I hadn’t been feeling covered in black sticky tar, I wouldn’t now be feeling clearer about my #selfworth AND kindly connected with another good person. So now, to the extent that the feeling of shame can serve as a doorway to deeper connection with trusted people, I’m not so sure about wanting to “ban” it.

Of course there are lots of ways and reasons to connect with others, but isn’t it true that there’s something about the type of connectedness that comes when a person in distress allows someone to be there for them, that is unique and heart opening? Longing for emotional self-sufficiency is understandable, especially for anyone who knows only too well what it’s like to be vulnerable about something difficult and either get ridiculed or just ignored. I’ve worked with a painful number of people who come to me because, frankly, a professional who is paid to understand and be kind is the only person they could risk being vulnerable with.

All of this puts me in mind of venom and anti-venom.

It was being systematically shamed, THEN, that made us shame prone, that broke our sense of safe connectedness with others, and taught us to hide our vulnerability behind #masks of confidence, cynicism, or “I don’t give a shit”.

But part of the cure is feeling shame, when it arises NOW, and “daring greatly” to share it with people who have proven we can trust them. And not only does that start to build up our immunity, over time, to shame attacks, but it gives us back something just as precious as our self worth.

It gives us a feeling of connectedness with other good people.