In an interview with Brené Brown, Oprah Winfrey talked about shame when it comes to sexual abuse. She said that the act itself is something that people are able to move beyond, but it is the shame that you carry that makes it so damaging long term.
Like Brené says in the video, shame is lethal. She says that shame needs three things to grow in our lives: secrecy, silence and judgment. Those three things will cause shame to grow into every area of our lives. However, she says if you take shame and douse it with empathy, you create an environment that is hostile to shame. If something happened to you that caused you to feel shame and you talk about it with someone and they show you empathy, shame cannot survive.
It is so difficult for us to talk about the things that make us feel shame. But when we don’t talk about it, our beliefs aren’t challenged. So we stay stuck feeling bad or not good enough. When we are shown empathy when we feel shame, suddenly, we aren’t alone anymore. It isn’t a secret and the person who knows about it, isn’t judging us. They are showing us empathy and compassion.
We are only as sick as our secrets and monsters flourish in the dark. Shame needs to be talked about more. The truth is, so many of us experience the same feelings, but we don’t talk about it, so we feel alone. We feel like we are “bad”. But I think if we knew how often others struggle with similar feelings, we’d feel more connected and hopeful.
When we feel shame and remain silent, distorted opinions about ourselves aren’t challenged. If we aren’t challenged, how can we even feel like we are capable of change?