Dr. Brene Brown on Shame & Perfectionism

Once in a while, an idea comes along which changes all the other ideas that I am teaching. I met that idea this week at The UP Experience in Houston.  Among the cadre of sixteen awesome speakers, who were all thought leaders in their fields, was Dr. Brené Brown.  Dr. Brené Brown is a writer, researcher, and educator. She is a member of the research faculty at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work where she has spent the past ten years studying connection – specifically authenticity, belonging, and shame, and the affect these powerful emotions have on the way we live, love, parent, work and build relationships.

Brené spoke as if she had been coached by me.  She started with her story of how  hard it was to prepare the talk she was giving.  Her own feelings of shame made her reluctant to speak at the UP Experience where she was afraid she did not fit with all the scientists and technology gurus. Sound familiar?  Here was an honored scholar who had the courage to reveal that she was afraid to speak among these other honored scholars. And that her fear came from her shame!  Her authenticity mesmerized the audience! Her personal story led her to talk about the connection of perfectionism and shame. Here is what set the cells of my body vibrating with excitement to revamp some of my own work…

Shame is the feeling that ‘I AM wrong.”  Shame is not like guilt which is “I did something wrong.”  OK, so I knew that part, but here is what I have not understood.  Perfectionism is simply one’s attempt to avoid the feelings of shame!  So, when a person is a perfectionist – as all people with stage fright are – that person is carrying the voice of shame which tells them that they ARE wrong.

This piece of information is exciting to me because I know how to deal with this issue!  I have learned to handle shame through my own transformational process. It is really what handling stage fright is all about.  I have been talking about releasing perfectionism for years, knowing that it is what people must let go of to be good at speaking.  But I had not really had a way of teaching people to let it go.  So, my work has not gone deep enough in this regard.  Now, another piece of the stage fright puzzle has fallen into place, and I can add some elements to my method that will enhance it immeasurably.

I am going to follow this blog with another posting on shame, what it is and what to do about it.  But for now, I want you to take a look at Dr. Brené Brown’s definition of authenticity at her website. 

Visit Brené Brown’s website for much more about her work and insights about authenticity.  Take a look at her book I Thought It Was Just Me.