in: Wellness

The Power of Shame [TED talk]

woman feeling shame and covering her face with her hands

Shame is a sensation that most of us would recoil from. Brené Brown, expert on shame and vulnerability, teaches us the hidden rewards to facing and feeling this sensation.


Not too long ago we shared Brené Brown’s wonderful TED talk on the Power of Vulnerability.

If you haven’t already listened to to that segment, I suggest watching it first. It provides a lot of important background on shame’s role in our lives.

As she explained to us in this first video, vulnerability, while scary and hard for many of us, is also the place where happiness, creativity, innovation and love are born. It’s necessary to allow yourself to feel vulnerable in order to attain those wonderful things in life and truly connect with others.

Brown also shared that vulnerability is tied in with shame. As much as many of us would like to live without shame, it’s something that almost all of us experience. So where does shame come into all of this? 

Shame is the monster that keeps us from doing the things that we want to do in life. It’s the little voice in your head that tells you: “you’re not good enough,” “you’re going to fail,” “you can’t do it.” Even when we’re able to ignore that voice and go on, shame tries again and tells us: “who do you think you are?” “they’re all going to laugh at you!”

The thing is, the most successful people in the world are where they are because they have failed many times before finally succeeding. Successful and happy people are risk takers who don’t let shame control their actions. We can’t avoid shame completely because it is also tied in with compassion, connection and empathy. Although we can’t avoid shame altogether, there are ways—Brown tells us—that we can learn to cope and move through shame. 

You learn what your shame triggers are.

This means having to spend some time thinking about your insecurities and in what situations you feel like you aren’t good enough. What triggers shame for you?

Give yourself a reality check when it comes to your shame.

Speak to yourself kindly, as if you were speaking to someone that you love very much (after all, we should love ourselves very much, shouldn’t we?). Unfortunately, even though we should treat and speak to ourselves as kindly as we do the people we love, we’re often our own worst critic, which only works to feed shame and help it gain strength. Give shame a reality check and put it in its place.

Tell your story.

Instead of perpetuating the myth that we are all (or should all be) perfect creatures that never fail in life, share openly about your shame and self doubt and how you were able to move through it. Talk about failure alongside success and embrace what it really means to be human. The more of us that speak about our experiences with shame, the more we can move away from this belief that we all need to live up to a standard of impossible perfection.

Reach out to someone you care about and trust for support.

Often our loved ones can help us to see the things in ourselves that we can’t. Use your surrounding community, whether family or friend, as a source of empowerment rather than isolation.

To learn more about Brown’s thoughts on shame, watch the full TED talk here:

About the Author:

Meghan

Meghan Stone earned her Master’s degree in Clinical Social Work and Master’s of Education in Human Sexuality from Widener University. She has worked as a therapist, social worker, teen counselor, and sexuality educator. She currently resides in Buenos Aires, Argentina where she writes, teaches, and volunteers with the local community. Her passions are social work, travel, photography, art, yoga, and learning about other cultures.

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