Walking My Talk: Adventures in Shame, Vulnerability, and the Space that Holds it All

I’m not sure where the message came from. It seems to just live in the collective soup of being a therapist. Something about not disclosing too much about oneself. Something about looking like you’ve got it all together. Or maybe the message is far more universal. Maybe I picked it up when I was two, or five, or nine. That one I just mentioned about looking like you’ve got it all together. Maybe you’ve got that message too?

My work, my passion is about radical acceptance. About fully embracing the messiness and rich beauty of being human. And yet I still at times feel like I need to present myself as if I’ve got it all figured out. I learned from Brene Brown, PhD that shame thrives in the dark and secret places of our lives, in our own hidden thoughts and self-doubts. I notice there are days when shame is present for me like a dull weight in my brain and body. Other days I notice how I feel without shame, the sense of lightness and tenderness for myself. Sometimes I feel strong enough to greet the shame, to sit with it and invite it to tea, to welcome the weight to be there as long as it needs to be. Other days the shame is so strong I want it gone. I strategize to figure out what I can do to rid my life of this all-consuming monster.

I can feel the vulnerability of writing these words. I hear the message in my brain that I shouldn’t reveal myself in this way, that it is too much, that it is unprofessional. And yet I want to be a voice of contradiction to the boxes we put ourselves in. I want to bust my own masks of cool, calm, and collected, to reveal the common humanity of struggle and imperfection. And in the midst of that very real place, I also want to say how much these practices of radical acceptance and mindfulness and shadow work have transformed my relationship with myself. Just to write these words is testament to that. As Pema Chodron says, it is like I am still standing in the waves but they appear smaller, and I know a little more than I used to that each one will pass and that change is the only constant. I have a tiny bit of perspective that I didn’t used to have, and I feel a little less urgent about getting anywhere else but here. And more often these days, these little bits are enough.


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