On Mental Health

On Corrections And Shame.

I did a Facebook post about my daughter attending high school with NO ONE SHE HAS EVER GONE TO SCHOOL WITH BEFORE. This is a confusing concept to explain in just a few words and so I reduced it to “In a district where she’s never attended school before” thinking that was explanation enough. Unfortunately, as someone who was confused pointed out, it’s a different zone…not district.

First of all, I know this. I’ve noticed over the last six months as my exhaustion taints everything…vocabulary is the first thing that leaves my tired brain. I don’t know if I would notice this as much if my Mom’s vocabulary center of her brain was the slowest to recover after her aneurysm in 2002, so I’m fascinated by brains and vocabulary. I grab the wrong word often when I am tired andI notice it all the time and so I know this was one of those situations.


And this is what I’m here today to discuss.

I could trip and fall at a store and be embarrassed, but I would laugh it off and move on with my life. But if there’s any sort of correction to anything that I connect to intelligence…I feel so much shame.

I struggle sometimes understanding the difference between embarrassment and shame. Brené Brown says embarrassment is: I did something bad while shame is: I am bad. And I’m not sure that really helps me but what does help me is pausing to reflect on the difference between those two examples I just mentioned. Fall at the store? Embarrassment. Saying/Doing something something dumb? SHAME.

I know, truly, where the source of this lies in those two examples. But before we get to that let me tell you a few others. One that haunts me is the first time I tried to smoke cigarettes around other people my age I did it wrong. I can’t remember how long I had been trying to smoke but I think I knew how to and I just got nervous, but either way…thinking about this older guy having to teach me how to smoke HAUNTS ME TO THIS DAY. (If you’re new here, I quit smoking in 2003! Don’t fret!)

There have been many times over the years where people here have corrected me about stuff and I am 100% grateful but it always lingers and haunts me for a VERY LONG TIME. Like how I’d been mixing up “phase” and “faze” which I think I still do sometimes now matter how many times I check this page. They were so kind which is what makes me so mad that I still feel shame about it.

Anyway…the root of a lot of the differences between me experiencing embarrassment and shame is that I am always worried someone is going to think I’m dumb. And while I could probably talk circles around the question “What even is dumb?” because it’s such a classist accusation…that’s not the point of this post. (Maybe some other day when I’m not longer talking in circles around it.) The point today is that my Dad’s major parenting flaw was losing his temper when I would say/do something stupid and fling intelligence-related cruel insults at me.

Now…this didn’t happen all the time, I assure you. But I was very scatterbrained in my youth. (Still am, obvs.) When he was not angry he would always say, “It’s because you have so much bouncing around your head at any given moment that seemingly obvious stuff falls through the chaos.” Which was exactly my problem and later I would learn that was very much a reflection of my anxiety disorder.

But…when he was not so calm and rational…he would yell and scream and throw things and call me not-so-nice insults that tended to focus on my intelligence.

So the fear of “doing something dumb” or “saying something stupid” – whatever those two things actually mean – is the root of most of my issues around shame. AND IT MAKES ME SO FRUSTRATED.

I want to be able to receive correction without spiraling. I mean, there’s definitely a good side to this, I tend to over-research everything I put online. But when I do need to be corrected I want to receive that with an open and grateful heart. BUT INSTEAD I GET SO FREAKING ASHAMED. And I really wish I knew how to stop that. I have a few tools in my arsenal (Thanks Brené Brown) that help me a little bit but man – I would really like to make myself feel more confident…or whatever it is I need…so that my initial reactions wouldn’t be so extreme.

I learned after RBG passed that there are a lot of “Christian” responses that are not actually appropriate for a Jewish person. I felt really embarrassed and instead of doing what 99% of people who made the same mistake did…just correcting the posts…I DELETED THE MISTAKE. Does anyone learn from you that way? No. Why couldn’t I have just added a footnote? Something that linked to this great article? I did share that article to Facebook but I did not acknowledge my own use of the “RIPRBG” hashtag that I deleted immediately. WHY WOULD I ADMIT THAT?

But why was I so ashamed when so many people were just like, “Oops! Look at the mistake I made! When you know better you do better!”

Whenever I see people make posts like that I’m in such awe. I’m like: THIS IS WHO I WANT TO BE. Alas, I woke up this morning still wanting to crawl in a hole and die over using the word “district” instead of “zone” on that stupid Facebook post yesterday.

2 thoughts on “On Corrections And Shame.”

  1. I relate so much to this. Being seen as incompetent or stupid is one of my biggest fears. I was told I was stupid so often that I have swung way the other way and have gotten more education than I know what to do with.
    In regards to being called stupid and the shame around that, I have been doing EMDR work with my therapist to unlock and change some of those initial shame responses. It’s helped me a ton.

  2. Oh man, I feel you. Sometimes I will still wake up in the middle of the night and go into a shame spiral over something I said 15 years ago.

Leave a Reply