The Emotional Shield

I had a very interesting debate today, during one of my workshops, about the “layers” people use to protect themselves from others. We talked about the professional facade we put on, the public image we project, and the countless strategies we use to shield ourselves from the world and the harm it may bring to us. In her book, “I thought it was just me – but it isn’t” – one of my favourite authors, Brené Brown, writes about shame – an emotion she calls the “silent epidemics” – and holds accountable for many of the destructive relationship patterns and life choices people make. She explains how we use anger as a shield against shame, the mechanisms that make us want to conform to what others seem to expect of us and the shame which comes when we fail, the impulse to hide who we truly are because we are too ashamed to show the world that we are imperfect and too afraid to let ourselves be vulnerable. She also writes about our tendency to run away from shame altogether, by denying it, even to ourselves. She also discusses labelling, stereotyping and the habit of shaming others before they get a chance to shame us, or as a means of coercion – for example parents using shame as an “educational” tool. Reading this book made me think of the many ways we build walls to protect ourselves from the outside world and how we strive to defend the image others have of us. Today’s discussion made me think one step further -how we often build shields to protect us from ourselves. Take one example. In our culture, boys are usually taught to be strong. Of course I am generalising here and I am aware there are many exceptions, but still, statistics show us the leading trend. And the leading trend is that boys are shamed by adults if they cry or show signs of weakness, which tends to be considered a feminine attribute. The...

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About the Courage of Being Authentic

Jan 23, 11 About the Courage of Being Authentic

Posted by in Thoughts/Ideas

There’s been a TED speech that several of my friends shared on the internet this past week and that I think is really worth writing about. The central figure in this story is Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston, whose research focuses on a very unconventional theme, actually on several unconventional themes – vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame. Brené’s speech at TED touched some deep spot in my mind and soul, since this is a woman who has devoted her career to understanding why people strive so hard to fit into some notion of who they should be in order to be accepted and appreciated, instead of just pursuing their own, inherently unique, authentic self. Why has this touched me? Because I am that person that she is talking about, as are most of my friends, my clients and hundreds of intelligent, successful people that have ever been to one of my seminars. We are all, to some extent, playing a part for the world to see and striving to be perfect for the world to like us. But in the end, who is “the world”? Isn’t it made up of people just like us, they too striving to be something they’re not because they are too ashamed of being who they really are? Unless you’ve already watched the video, I might not be making too much sense to you, so I’ll try to give you some examples. We all have our own measures of success – some people strive for money, others for titles, others for being “popular” and having lots of friends, others for power and authority, and the list might go on and on. Also, we all have our own fears. I’ve often had managers in my seminars say that it’s risky for them to admit they have made a mistake, because people will judge them. I’ve had a friend who lost her managerial job due to the economic downturn and was depressed because she could only...

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