On Mental Health

The Shame Trifecta

In case you missed it – I wrote a SECOND entry yesterday. One I scheduled to publish to lighten the mood around here and then forgot about until the email notification came in that it had published and – not noticing what website it was from – I got excited someone wrote about bras! And then I realized that “someone” was me and I know NOTHING about bras so, you know, stupid blog.

ANYWAY. This one is another heavy one so I really wanted to point you in the direction of the lighter one in case you’re sick of the heavy stuff.

So…I think about shame a lot. There are a lot of my social anxieties that revolve around feelings of shame. Shame about that time I did say the wrong thing leading to FEAR of shame that I might do it this time. Or DO the wrong thing. Or just BE the wrong thing. And all of the shame fears are founded in past experiences which I relive in perpetuation for hours afterwards.

But there are several types of shame.

There’s the shame where you are vulnerable and then embarrassed or unsure if you should have revealed that vulnerability. That’s a tricky thing about therapy, even though it’s a safe, judgement-free zone, there’s still that instinctive shame that ripples through my body when I get really raw and vulnerable.

There’s the shame when you have to be corrected professionally. Maybe there are some people who have never experienced that shame, but I have unfortunately. And sometimes it’s warranted and sometimes it’s not. Sometimes it’s just miscommunication, other times it’s entirely my fault. Either way – it’s such and embarrassing kind of shame because it’s like being a child being reprimanded by a teacher or a parent.

Then there’s the social shame I spoke about before. It’s definitely the most common in my life. That realization you said something wrong. Or maybe something you did was interpreted wrong. It’s not always in the MOMENT you process it. For me, it often comes with confusion related to a reaction from someone else. Like, “Wait. That was not the reaction I expected.” And then upon reflection and replay you hear how your words came off or how your intention was misunderstood and then suddenly you hear or see your words/actions from another perspective and understand their reaction but it’s usually long past time to correct yourself. Even if you had the courage to do so.

Those are the types of shame I experience in various degrees with various levels of frequency.

But yesterday? All in one day, baby. I got a 3-fer. A shame hat trick, so to speak.

I got raw in therapy (DRINK!) and battled feeling shame all day (I know. Right? So counterintuitive!) and then screwed up something at work and then fumbled the ball socially and then sat up last night replaying it ALL IN MY HEAD and feeling like THE WORST HUMAN IN ALL THE LAND.

I tried to remember Brené Brown and the importance of vulnerability to make those important connections. I knew I’d vomit the experience out on my blog this morning and I figured that would help me be more vulnerable which tends to take the power out of the shame. And allow connections with others who we share our vulnerabilities with.

But y’all? It just sucked. I just want a do-over, you know? I don’t think I’d change anything about therapy, but I’d not make the mistake at work, and I’d definitely keep my mouth shut after work and do a little more “thinking before I speak” so I make sure my words and my tone and my timing carry the intended meanings. I’d definitely fix those moments. I was wallowing so bad last night I even did that thing I used to do as a kid where I momentarily wished for a real do-over. Like that was possible.

I wish.

Today is an insane day. I knew I needed to write here to clear out the funky deposits yesterday left on my soul. And I know I need a run (not as long of one as I truly need, but I’ll do my best) so I’m heading out in a bit to do that. I’ve got a few hours of work before I do some more volunteering for one of the two races we have this weekend (end of the season!) and that always revives my spirit. And then I plan on curling up in bed with the kids tonight and watching a movie and doing a lot of self care to heal the wounds from an exhausting week where I fought demons galore.

Thank you all for encouraging me on this journey. It’s not easy, but it’s very important.

4 thoughts on “The Shame Trifecta”

  1. This reminds me of the post that you did a week or so ago about not letting your voice talk to you in a way you wouldn’t accept from a friend.

    In each of these situations it not as bad as you think.
    1. Your therapist is there for you to share and no matter what you said they have heard much, much worse!
    2. Everyone makes a mistake in work. You are not Nick Leeson you did not loose the company billions and put thousands out of work. I bet the person who pointed out your mistake forgot about it within an hour.
    3. Your social mistake. I’m betting it’s not really that bad.

    Try thinking again as if it is your friend that you are talking about. Would you let them talk the way you talk to yourself? Would you be thinking hours later about an error they made in work? Would you hold whatever you did socially against them?

    Give yourself a break and remember you rock!

  2. Boy, do I get it. As someone who has been in counseling/therapy for several years, I can say that the shame thing with your counselor will definitely get better. But that other stuff? Man, that is why I am often so reluctant to volunteer for things… I do not want to mess it up and then get shamed for being incompetent. I have a huge fear of failure (this from the girl who was just hundredths of a point from being salutatorian of her class). And I don’t get too many IRL conversations with people (other than my kids) so the tendency is always there for me to vomit something inappropriate when I do get the chance.

    I tend to catch myself having imaginary conversations in my head “just in case” the opportunity to talk to someone IRL presents itself. I play out those conversations a lot. That sometimes helps me edit out those things that I might regret later. I learned recently that my tendency to process everything internally before I share it externally is a function of my Myers-Brigg type (ISTJ).

    I second everything AlisonC said, though.

  3. I totally understand, Zoot! We are so alike and your blog has taught me so many things about MYSELF over the years. Fun fact: I didn’t know that “social anxiety” was even a thing before I read your blog. I just thought that I was broken and different than everybody else. And then I read about it here, and it was life-changing. Not only was there a name for the way I am, but there were also other people like me out there! Just knowing that has helped me make so much more progress in being around people and in loving myself anyway when I feel I’ve made mistakes socially. Basically, what I’m saying is that: I’m sure that your “mistakes” yesterday probably aren’t as bad as you feel like they are while you’re in this shame spiral. But, even if they are, even if they were a million times worse, I would still love you and be able to see what a great person you are. You are amazing, not despite of your flaws, but because of them. Flaws make you human, and we’re all so, so human.

  4. you are NOT ALONE, girl…not even a little bit!

    “shame” by the avett brothers…one of my all time favorites! 🙂


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