I recently read the book “The Gift of Imperfection” by Brene Brown for my ward’s book club. It is an excellent self-help book, one that I recommend. There was one idea that was particularly useful to me. Brown believes that when we feel shame the best way to overcome it is to share that feeling with somebody who can be supportive but can also help us be honest with ourselves.
This has been a useful discovery for me because I tend to internalize my feelings in ways that are not healthy. When I feel ashamed I try to bury those feelings. Of course they don’t just disappear, instead they end up turning into negative thought loops where I beat up on myself. If left unchecked these feelings can become a much more serious problem.
So that being said, I have something to get off my chest.
A couple of months ago I was at a conference on human trafficking and sexual slavery. This conference was held on the same campus that mr. mraynes works. Because I am currently nursing my baby I needed to pump while I was away from home. I couldn’t find a convenient outlet anywhere so mr. mraynes suggested I use his empty office. I went to the music department office and asked the secretary to let me into my husband’s office. I could tell the secretary was not happy about this, he was busy doing something else and didn’t want to be interrupted but he grumpily got up and took me to the office.
Unfortunately, he forgot that mr. mraynes had recently changed offices and he took me to his old one. Not wanting to bother this man any more than I already had and knowing that since it was the middle of summer the occupants of that office wouldn’t be there anyway I figured I would just pump quickly and go back to my conference. I had been pumping for about ten minutes when all of the sudden the door opened and in walked the actual occupant of the office and another professor. The office now belonged to my husband’s brand new colleague, a woman that I had never met before. Because I thought I had the office to myself I had not bothered to be modest so when these two women opened the door they were greeted by a strange, fully exposed woman.
I was so shocked that I could barely sputter out an explanation before I burst into tears. The conference had been so emotionally draining that I was unable to process that level of embarrassment. The professors quickly excused themselves and I got re-dressed and fled the office. I called mr. mraynes in near hysterics and asked him to send a coherent explanation and apology to these women. They were, of course, very nice about it but I still feel a great deal of shame over what happened.
I know I didn’t do anything wrong and the actual circumstances are pretty funny. I generally prefer not to meet my husband’s colleagues while topless so this is easily the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to me. What I am ashamed of is my reaction and the accompanying feelings. I feel stupid that instead of brushing it off I started crying in front of these two highly educated, professional women. Even though they were nice about what happened I worry about what they think of me. I worry that they think I’m emotional and simple-minded. This plays on my insecurities about not having post-graduate degrees and being a stay-at-home mother. And, of course, I am ashamed that I have these insecurities because I know that staying at home with my children doesn’t make me inferior or stupid.
I need to get over this because even months later I still hate going to my husband’s office for fear of running into these women. Last week we went out to dinner with them and the whole time I wished that the earth would open and swallow me up.
So how do you get over shame? Do you agree with Brene Brown that sharing your shame helps it disappear? Is there shame that your currently feeling that we can help you with? Please share.
P.S. I feel better.