18519537_sI’m declaring ‘no’ to more shame.  Actually, I’ve been doing it for a little while now by posting and operating under my own name (brianpigg.com).  Seemed pretty bold when I did it and I had a lot of feelings of inadequacy.  Particularly since I was going outside of what anyone I know would call the norm.  Who was I to blog, write books, and opine about the spiritual.  It’s nice to know that it was a call to no longer live in the shame box that I grew up in.

I’ve been following Dr. Bene Brown lately. I’m reading her book Daring Greatly and I’ve watched a half dozen of her talks and interviews.  The topics of shame, courage, and vulnerability have really resonated.   It’s very easy to see in myself, such as: I see vulnerability as weakness, I get discouraged when my expected results aren’t good as I hoped, I seek acceptance, and I too was raised in a shame box.  I found it very constricting.  To some degree I was in there voluntarily, we’ll get to more of that in a moment.

First things first though, I don’t think I was put in the box intentionally.  It’s more of a societal box.  I think my parents did a pretty good job raising their son and putting blame on them in any way is both inaccurate and well, just silly.  It’s not like I came with an instruction manual. Having a highly energetic boy who didn’t like the things other kids liked, had to be difficult.  Particularly in a suburban world where conformity is everything.

To some degree, I was in there voluntarily.  It was much easier to reside in the shame box and deal, run, or hide from my perceived inadequacy, than it would have been to find my own way.  Conformity was such a big deal.  An ideal I never met.  I never dealt with my differences.  Media portrayed men a certain way and it was a way my father agreed with, even if he never really met it himself.  I wanted to be like him and I wanted the things he wanted.

Actually, I wanted to be like my sister at first.  She was smart, well read, and played music well.  I was different, I hardly ever finished a book I picked up, and I was at best an indifferent musician.  I had to try different things-like playing football and joining the Army.  My father lived vicariously through me.  He was immensely proud, so it had to be good.  Honestly, I was never great at either of those things and neither brought me acceptance.

When you start your search for purpose in your late twenties, things are significantly more difficult than if you start as a child.  As a child, everything is possible and support is readily available.  That’s not true in your twenties and certainly not in your thirties.  The people around think you should know by now.   You should be settled with a house, picket fence, yada…yada.  If not you’ve failed. Everything outside of the norm is a failure at this point and people love to pile on.

The shame constraints grow higher the longer you don’t deal with them.  The box gets smaller.  A few find great success from inside the box.  Some people are satisfied with the norm.  Others resort to drugs, alcohol, or suicide to escape or deal with their reality.  The messages are the same on every box.  “Don’t be a failure.” “Earn big money.””Never show fear or insecurity.”  “How will you find love without X (car, money, success, whatever.) The problems are complex and our horizon narrows as we age – we are no longer boundless.

I just couldn’t see what to do and I had no one to talk to about it.  I stumbled on.  Leaving the Army was shame, construction was shame, failing at my own business was shame, bankruptcy was shame.  No one ever told me I was ‘daring greatly’.  (I think I was though.)  With little guidance and no idea what I was doing, I had still been moderately successful.  At least up to that point, but now I was in my parents basement.  (shame)

I was pretty desperate and dwelling in shame – as well as the basement.  So, I latched on to IT.  You could go to school and poof – have a job.  That I could do and I did.  Turns out IT is an entire field of shame based job functions.  I think the most common word used is ‘should’.   Economic constraints, (IT doesn’t usually make money for a company), keep budgets small, workloads high, and the rewards invisible.   Every corporation I’ve worked for has been the same.

Leadership is mostly absent in the IT industry.  There is no vision,  the status quo must be maintained, and no one will take risks.  The industry is littered with shame minefields and poor management.  I’m not sure which is worse.   In spite of that, I persevered.  Once again, I was moderately successful, but unhappy.  I was repetitively meeting the shame’s goals for me.  Not finding my own goals.  (And look at how I manifested exactly what I was looking for!  Yay me!)

So, no more.  I don’t know where the ‘path less traveled’ leads, but it is my path.  I am going to shamelessly put myself out there.  I am going to forge ahead doing things that feel good and that help other people feel good.  I will write, I will teach, and I will share compassion and empathy.  That appears to be the only way forward and it requires that I leave the box.  An uncomfortable prospect.

I know that on this path I will be hurt.  That is unfortunately part of being on the Internet and out in the world.  It means I won’t live up to the goals of others.  Dr. Brown suggests that you keep a inch-by-inch list of the people that matter deeply to you.  Those are the only inputs that have value.  Besides, what you think of me isn’t any of my business anyway (I don’t know who said that).  So judge away.

Courage is important to me and in order to be courageous, I have to be vulnerable.  In order to be vulnerable, I have to deal with shame.  So here we go – in a direction no one expected, with no expectations of an outcome.  This just might be fun.


Originally posted on brianpigg.com


Suggested follow up:

Read Dr. Brene Brown’s books – Here’s the Amazon page

Search Brene Brown TEDx talk or the other one here

Also try Brene Brown and Chase Jarvis for a great interview.