Chuck slithered, his belly against the ground, his fur barely clearing the space between coffee table and his back. Under the table, his front and rear legs stuck out the ends, and just the tip of his nose.
“You crazy dog!” My friend stood, hands on her hips surveying the scene–a tipped mug and a coffee puddle by her feet, the result of enthusiasm (for me) shown through the wagging tail of her blonde Labrador Retriever.
I leaned down from my sitting position on her couch to peer under the table. Chuck’s head lay between his paws and his sorrowful, shame-filled eyes looked into mine. “It’s okay, buddy,” I whispered. “I know you were just trying to show you were happy to see me.” I hear his tail pump on the floor. “I make mistakes too, even when I think I’m doing what I’m suppose to do.” I stroke his nose.
Just recently I found myself slithering away from people too, after a misunderstanding of directions. Although not meant to harm, comments by others over my misdemeanour left me feeling raw, stirred my ‘not good enough’ gremlins. Shame washed over me like a tidal wave and caught me in its under current.
Later, looking over Brene Brown’s shame resilience model from her book “I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn’t)”, I realized my wave reaction came from the left side of the model–blame, isolation, and shutting down. It took a day, a breathing space, baking my best chocolate chip cookies, and an empathetic conversation to move to the right, and come up from the depth into calmer seas again.
Shame is the most powerful, master emotion. It’s the fear that we’re not good enough. Brene Brown
When the shame wave hits (and it does for all of us–it isn’t just you!), Brene breaks down into steps how we can deal with those feelings.
- Recognize the personal vulnerability that led to the feelings of shame
- Recognize the external factors that triggered the feelings of shame
- Reach out to receive the offerings of empathy. When we share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive. Brene Brown
- Express our feelings of shame and ask for what we want
I would add one more step, or maybe two to Brown’s prescription.
a) Take a moment to breathe in and think of all the things you do well, and maybe even are regularly complimented on. And then go do it. Maybe it’s baking your famous pie or cinnamon bread, making that bed like it’s in a 5 star hotel, brewing that perfect cup of coffee, taking photographs of your cat, setting that dinner table pretty like you do…
b) Start a Brag Journal or start writing your successes in a different colour pen in your regular journal so you can easily see them on those days you need to remind yourself you are good enough.
After we cleaned up the spill, and settled on the couch with a fresh cups of coffee, my friend scratched Chuck behind his ears as he sat and lay his head on her lap. “Oh you crazy dog, but I love you,” she tells him just as the door bell rings. We hold on to our cups tightly as he spins, his wagging tail brushing our legs, and then races for the door to do what he does best–greet one so they feel they are the most important person in the world.
And that’s worth a coffee puddle or two.