We’ve all heard the theory that we judge in others what we loathe in ourselves. In kinder words, “We find our judgment where we are vulnerable to shame (Brene Brown).” I believe we can’t have honest conversations about non-judgment without also talking about what shames us. Knowing what our own shame triggers are, we can do something about it. As beautiful and powerful as our judgment-free parenting campaign is, without the tools to check our judgments, it’ll be a tight-rope walk. Unfortunately, the word shame sends 80% of us recoiling. The 20% staying in their chairs have probably had more practice, yet are still squirming. The practice, however, is important.
I feel the most ashamed when I feel vulnerable. There is something about that feeling that triggers my shame, fear, and anger. I hate it. ICK! I feel insatiably needy. I feel young. It’s scary. I find it all very unattractive (aka messy).
Judgment and blame help us to spew and spill out our own discomfort. If you imagine a tea kettle on high, judgment and blame are the steam and whistle. In my life it looks a little like this:
I’m feeling vulnerable because I’m up against a deadline I don’t know if I’ll meet. I’m afraid I’ll fall short. Funding and staff positions are dependent on this. I can’t let my Board down, and I really need to fit in a run sometime in the next couple of days because I’ve coped with a lot of Cheez Its. I’m working until 1am daily and back up by 6.
My vulnerability: “I’m not enough. I can’t pull this off. Who do I think I am? Everyone will discover I’m a fraud.”
I trash-self-talk myself through dinner, and am putting away laundry, doing dishes and offering my daughter cuddles while I wait for bedtime so I can get back on the computer and finish that report.
My son is running in circles as the dog chases him. On the last lap they run “off-road” and Noah takes out his Lego robot-which-converts-to-life-saving-spaceship. He immediately starts to cry, and my knee-jerk reaction is to scream at him for crying about something so trivial AND that HE caused because he was running around inside the house with a 50 pound dog chasing him. Of course something broke!
Okay, so I don’t scream, but I also don’t have to sit in the room for the waterworks, do I? Seriously, I have a report due that people’s job security depends on. Legos vs. financial livelihood. Pick yourself up by your Lego pieces and put it back together.
My son is showing his own vulnerability. He’s showing me his tears and disappointment. I can shame him, and at times I have, “go to your room until you can pull it together.” But today, I notice that I’m judging him for what I most loathe in myself, vulnerability. I can let the steam out of my tea-kettle of vulnerability and take it out on my kid, and at times I have. Or, I can sit with him while he finds Lego piece after Lego piece, crying, trying to fit it all back together in a way that is almost like it looked before he took it out. I can’t make it better, but I can join him. Sitting with him takes a lot more courage, since it also requires me to be with my triggered, vulnerable self.
Where are you vulnerable to shame? There’s no need to make a laundry-list: one place to start is enough. Is it your passion for organic food because of your own struggles with medical issues caused by food sensitivities? If that fits, and you know you’re hard on me for serving my kids happy meals, that’s a place to start. Pick one and own it, preferably without self-judgment. The next time your shame is triggered, breathe. A brief pause can be enough to turn a moment of judgment into compassion.
Like everything of value, judgment-free is not a fixed characteristic you can adopt and be done, it’s a practice, and it’s hard. I’m in it with you.