Monday, October 26, 2015

Shame and Failure

   I am joining Kate Motaung and others who are writing every day in October. My intention is to record my reactions and feelings about Brené Brown's newest book, "Rising Strong". You can find the other posts I have written here.  

  "When perfection is driving, shame is always riding shotgun-And fear is the annoying back seat driver."

      The difference between shame and guilt is important. Guilt focuses on behavior. What I did was wrong. Shame zings who we are. I am a failure. Understanding the difference has made me look carefully at my own reactions and my interactions with students and my family. Shaming is often used as a motivational tool; in families, schools, and even churches. In the times I have resorted to shaming it comes from a place of personal weakness. When I am tired, annoyed by something out of context, or feeling small myself I am at risk of using shame to lash out. It pains me to admit it, but yet it is true.
    Spencer sat next to me on the piano bench. He struggled with the same measures that he struggled with last week, and the week before that, and even the week before that. For two months I could tell that he practiced not at all. I cautioned, I warned, I encouraged but that fateful Thursday afternoon I lost my cool.
   "So, do you feel good wasting your parent's money playing the same mistakes for me week after week?"
   I'm cringing just typing this conversation. 
   He met my eyes. 
   "You are the piano teacher from hell!", he said quietly but firmly.
   That evening his mother called asking what happened at the lesson. I felt bad. She felt bad that he had been rude. At the time I didn't really understand shame. Now I know I should have refrained from zinging him with my own frustration. I attacked his character not his behavior. The story ends well. He didn't quit piano. As I began rumbling with shaming others this story came back to me.. 

       I have developed a bit of radar for shame. I sometimes see it coming. It comes when perfectionism takes charge. I know I feel shamed when my thoughts go to how I'm perceived. On the other hand, I know I shamed someone when I feel like cutting them down a notch because of my own lack of self-worth. Rumbling with my shame stories helps to break down the feelings from the actual events. It is another way to compost failure. I hope I communicated this well but, I won't feel ashamed if you don't really get it. Ha! Ha!

"Perfectionism is not healthy striving. It is not asking, How can I be my best self? Instead it is asking, What will people think."



  1. I think you communicated it very well! I had never really thought before about the link between perfectionism and shame but that makes a lot of sense.

    1. I never believed I was a perfectionist until I saw my own need to control uncertainty.

  2. I'm with Carly. You got it just right. It's so important to make that distinction between guilt and shame and oh, how the two are intertwined. If I could just keep these truths in the front of my mind instead of my default mechanisms of feeling shame.

    1. Like many other of life's important endeavor's, it is a practice.

  3. Loved this post. Especially loved the last quote.

    1. I certainly am a recovering people pleaser.


What do you think?