I have this terrible thing that I do. I put people up on pedestals. I look at strong women in my life and believe they are the epitome of what I’d like to be. I believe that they can do no wrong, or that they have everything together.
Sometimes I feel like there are these girls that have it all figured out and I have absolutely no idea how to adult. I am thirteen year old trapped in the world of confident twenty to thirty year olds.
I ask myself, “How the heck did I get here?”
I had a moment like this the other day when I went to get coffee with a few friends. These women are beautiful and strong and all work in the world of addiction and recovery. They are speakers and writers and sky-divers and mothers. They ordered fancy drinks and said all the right things and, as much as I love them, I had this terrible feeling that started to creep over…
“I’m not good enough.”
“I’m not doing enough.”
“I’m so glad that I haven’t released this podcast yet because I’m totally unqualified and what she said sounds so much better than anything I’ve recorded.”
“Oh my God I’m a horrible friend because I’m comparing myself to them.”
“I have so much doubt and doing podcasts on courage.”
“Oh my God stop thinking and be present!”
“Oh my God you can’t even be present to love your friend!”
“Oh my God you’re so selfish and self-absorbed.”
“You’re the worst!”
I like to call these moments my “crazy brain trains.” I don’t know if this ever happens to you, but I swear that my mind never stops thinking, and sometimes it gets a little derailed.
Or, in this case, VERY derailed.
In other words, what I was feeling, was shame.
Author and researcher Brenne Brown describes shame as the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we've experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection.
I was ashamed of my work and then ashamed of the fact that I was feeling defeated by that comparison. That disconnect, made want to withdraw and hide and tuck my podcast in the deep pit which is my finder app on my laptop.
I was ashamed of being ashamed. Is that a whole new level of crazy?
The funny thing is, that these girls are my friends right? I AM happy for them. I DO love them. I also KNOW that they aren’t perfect! Not anywhere close! I know these PEOPLE ARE PEOPLE. But it was so easy to forget in that moment.
So, then the question become, what is the antidote?
Brenne Brown writes that the antidote to shame is empathy. By talking about your shame with someone who has empathy, that shame cannot survive.
This is hard, because for most of us, we have turned to destructive behaviors, our addictions, or other unhealthy people to numb our shame. Personally, I am a bit of an escape artist, so I have been able to use all of the above. No matter what, whenever I tried to run or cover up my shame I either took it out on other people or took it out on myself. Neither are pretty, and I don’t have time to be cleaning up the messes of my mistakes today. I barely have time to do my laundry.
So, I’m going to do a few things.
1. I’m going to pray about it. For me, this looks like journaling and bringing it to a God that I know loves me right where I’m at.
And 2. I am going to talk about it, and not just here to a microphone. I’m going to call and tell on my shame with someone else who has been there. I’m going to call another Recover Girl. Because a Recover Girl doesn’t react with judgement, only a ‘I’ve been there too.’”
And lastly, I’m going to take myself off the pedestal. I know that I said that I put other people on pedestals, and that that’s a huge problem, but when I’m holding someone else to a certain standard, it normally means I’m holding myself to the same unobtainable standard.
And that’s just ridiculous. I judge where I am insecure.
Just in case there was any temptation for you to put me on a pedestal, I hope that it has toppled right over. But first, you’re going to have to take yourself off it too. I’m on this journey with you! I haven’t arrived, I’m not the ideal, neither are you, and neither are my friends who sky-dive and change the world and make it look easy.
But we are all Recover Girls. Just people, on a journey. Clearly there is more work to be done, but we can’t walk forward, and certainly not forward together, standing on pedestals.
Plus, it’s much more fun here on the ground.
Today, let’s tell on our shame with someone who can practice empathy. If that person isn’t here right now, let’s write out what they might say.
I tried this little experiment, and this is what my Recover Girls told me:
“You are enough.”
“You are doing enough.”
“I’ve been there too baby and that sucks but it’s totally normal.”
“You are going to release that podcast, because we don’t make decisions based on fear anymore.”
“I’m glad we are friends.”
“Everybody runs down the rabbit hole of comparison sometime. You don’t have to stay there.”
“I’m glad that you’re talking about this.”
“You aren’t perfect, but that’s why you’re doing this- for all those girls out there.”
“You’re in good company.”