Accessing your Connection Network.
Updated: Aug 29, 2019
Building Shame Resilience
1) Know your Body Shame Triggers
2) Practice your Critical Awareness skills
3) Accessing your Connection Network
Today we're going to deconstruct what Brené Brown calls the Shame Web. This is key in understanding its antithesis, our Connection Network. In her article on the development of Shame Resilience Theory (SRT)1, Brené describes the Shame Web as:
A web of layered, conflicting, and competing expectations that are, at the core, products of rigid socio-cultural expectations... The sociocultural expectations are narrow interpretations of who women are "supposed to be", based on their identity (e.g., gender, race, class, sexual orientation, age, religious identity) and/or their role (e.g., mother, employee, partner, group member)...
In her article, Brené goes on to illustrate the Shame Web. If we were to each map out our ow Shame Webs, we'd see that these greater sociocultural expectations are expressed, imposed, and enforced through the more direct influences of our close people and spheres of influence (e.g., friends, family, church girlfriends, work, gym buddies, other parents, etc.). Whether intentionally or not, those that reinforce unrealistic expectations through shame and judgment are the people that make up your Shame Web.
By practicing our Critical Awareness we questioned these expectations. Asking is this a realistic expectation? What is the goal behind this expectation? Who does this expectation actually serve?
Okay, so Shame Webs are a real thing, but want gets us tangled in them? Why don't we just say, "Forget it. That's too much trouble" and walk away? Well, when we believe that failing to meet expectations means we can't belong, we'll do anything to meet those expectations. We'll do anything to avoid being perceived as our unwanted identities and anything to be seen as our ideal identities. We'll do anything to not be rejected. We are designed for connection. Threaten that connection and we'll fight to the death. As it so happens, it is usually our own spirits, hearts, minds and bodies that are slowly crushed to death under the impossible weight of these expectations.
Yet, before we understand how shame works, that seems like the only option, right? Stuff way down whatever feeling or need you have, and just try harder. Sleep less. Buy more. Hide that. Train harder. Unaware of the truth of shame and its expectations, we feel powerless to find any other way to belong. We feel trapped. We isolate out of busyness and/or shame of not being enough.
Powerless. Trapped. Isolated. The three-piece crux of the shame web. The dreaded feelings at the core. Our Connection Network is so powerful in part because it combats these three. Connection Networks are our group of safe people with whom we have established mutually empathetic relationships.
Empathy is the opposite of Shame.
The more life-giving empathy we give and receive, the more our shame dies.
So who are these life-giving empathetic people? Well, for starters, these are not the same people in your Shame Web. The caveat. It may be "shame category specific". Somebody who shames you for your body weight may be a great part of your Connection Network around finances. However, if you don't feel safe to be vulnerable with them, then consider not including them in your Connection Network at all. As you consider people for your Body Shame Connection Network, ask yourself these questions:
Are they empathetic towards me in this area?
Am I empathetic towards them in this area?
Has this person earned the right to hear my story?
Who is in your Connection Network? Name them.
Go through this checklist with one of your safe people in mind. Again, you can use this checklist for any shame category, but here we're focusing specifically on Body Shame.
Do your best to look at the reality of your relationship with this person and their character. You can love them. They can love you. You may want them to be what you need here. And they still might not belong in your Connection Network for this particular area. This checklist is not meant to be a 10/12 right answers means a "passing score".
This checklist is here to help you to cover your bases and consider this person from different perspectives. You have the power to consider these and the freedom to make your own choice. This checklist is merely here to help you paint the whole picture and set yourself up for success. When considering this person ask yourself...
Do they believe in Freedom from Body Shame? Is that a value of theirs?
Do they advocate for freedom from unrealistic expectations around Body Image?
Are they entrenched in diet-mentality and body comparison?
Are they sincere?
Do they turn to sarcasm or other defensive mechanisms when they are uncomfortable?
Do they have a history of keeping confidences? Both yours and other peoples?
Are they a truth-teller or do they lean more heavily toward people-pleasing?
Are they someone you can share knowing laughter with (as Brené calls it)?
Do you feel comfortable being honest with them?
Are they someone that you feel comfortable asking clarifying questions and making clarifications to?
Do you usually walk away from them feeling built up or beat down?
Do they share in your worldview? Do they also want to see things the way Jesus does?
Now go through this checklist with each person you're considering for your Connection Network.
Tapping into your Connection Network.
Next week we'll learn how to "speak our shame" (the final element in building Shame Resilience). We'll explore building a shame language and steps to practice speaking it. Along with helpful tips to "test the waters" with your Connection Network as you step out and build your own Shame Resilience.
1 "Brené Brown, "Shame Resilience Theory: A Grounded Theory Study on Women and Shame", Families in Society: The Journal of Contemporary Social Services, vol. 87, no. 1v