by Brene Brown
The shame researcher returns with an in-depth look at the elements of shame, shame resilience, and anecdotes to illustrate each step along the way. Based on years of research with women across all identities and demographics, Brown distills the themes into 12 main categories in which women feel shame, including things like motherhood, body image, and sex and relationships. Her research shows that these categories of shame are almost universal among women because they are taught both through interactions with others, and also through dominant narratives (thanks, media) of who, what, and how women are supposed to be. Brown suggests strategies for identifying areas in which we feel most shame, and asking where the shame messages come from. Shame messages often include “should,” as in “beautiful women should look like…” or “strong female professionals should act like…”. Recognizing shame triggers is just one step in building shame resilience, a multi-faceted practice that also involves identifying a supportive network and speaking your experience of shame. Based on the shaming experience, each step of resilience may look different. Throughout the book, Brown offers several questions and activities for developing awareness of our own shame, and emphasizes the importance of trying again to develop shame resilience.
“I Thought it was Just Me (But it Isn’t)” is one of many books by Brene Brown discussing emotions that, generally, people would rather not acknowledge, talk about, or deal with. Which is exactly why this book is necessary. As the saying goes, “that which we resist, persists,” which means the only way to pass through an experience of shame is to acknowledge, talk about, and deal with it. While the content often hits painfully close to home, Brown regularly makes readers practice one of the components of shame resilience – recognizing that other people deal with shame, too – by sharing anecdotes and examples from research participants. Each chapter covers an element of shame or shame resiliency, which makes the topic slightly more digestible because it becomes a bit less frightening when listed in an orderly fashion. By regularly reiterating the elements of shame resilience and returning to questions that help readers recognize their own shame triggers, Brown also puts the reader in the position to grow in their own shame resilience practice. Despite feeling alone in shame, Brown reminds readers that shame is universal, though the way in which it manifests and the strategies for overcoming it are highly personal.
This book reminded me of going through my social work program, in which every lesson was not just a discussion of social work topics, but also a practice in self-reflection to recognize the ways we had experienced these topics in our own lives. Brown compassionately but firmly encourages regular reflection throughout the book, which, more often than not, feels challenging. There is lots of depth in her discussion of shame and shame resilience strategies, and much for me to learn from this book. Definitely worth the read. And for men who think this doesn’t apply to them – she’s doing research on you too. Your book should be coming out soon.