The shame game

The shame game

Posted on Jun 14, 2013

I recently finished reading a book that was a game changer for me, called Daring Greatly, by Dr. Brene Brown. It changed the way I look at shame and vulnerability and shone a very bright, and much needed, light on the ways that shame runs my life.


Researcher and thought leader Dr. Brené Brown offers a powerful new vision that encourages us to dare greatly: to embrace vulnerability and imperfection, to live wholeheartedly, and to courageously engage in our lives.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; . . . who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.” —Theodore Roosevelt

Every day we experience the uncertainty, risks, and emotional exposure that define what it means to be vulnerable, or to dare greatly. Whether the arena is a new relationship, an important meeting, our creative process, or a difficult family conversation, we must find the courage to walk into vulnerability and engage with our whole hearts.

In Daring Greatly, Dr. Brown challenges everything we think we know about vulnerability. Based on twelve years of research, she argues that vulnerability is not weakness, but rather our clearest path to courage, engagement, and meaningful connection. The book that Dr. Brown’s many fans have been waiting for, Daring Greatly will spark a new spirit of truth—and trust—in our organizations, families, schools, and communities.

I’ve somehow always had a sense that shame plays a starring role in my life; all of the “shoulds” and “not good enoughs” that roll around in my head can be traced back to shame. But reading Daring Greatly clarified for me why I feel so much shame, and maybe more importantly, the book provides a four step strategy for getting out of the shame web and for building what Dr. Brown calls, “shame resilience”.

The four elements of the shame resilience strategy are:

  1. Recognizing Shame and Understanding Its Triggers
  2. Practicing Critical Awareness
  3. Reaching Out
  4. Speaking Shame

At the risk of implying that Dr. Brown’s throughly researched and scientifically supported strategy isn’t complete, I’d like to add a fifth element to it.

5. Take some Bach flowers.

Being ahead of his time, Dr. Bach also recognized shame as a major emotion that all humans face and as a result, there are a number of flowers in the Bach flower essence system that can help to ease feelings of shame.

Here are a few of my favorites –


For general feelings of shame and unworthiness, Pine is the flower to take. It’s helpful for all the “shoulds” and “not good enoughs” I mentioned above. It’s also effective for feelings of guilt which, as Dr. Brown mentions in the book, we often confuse with shame.

Crab Apple

I know for me, my shame often is often tied to my body image. More frequently than I’d like to admit I feel ashamed of the way I look. I feel as if I should be thinner, prettier, taller, have better skin… the list goes on and on. If you find yourself in a similar situation – ashamed of your body – then Crab Apple is the Bach flower to take.


Are you someone who fears being shamed? I think perhaps we all do and I believe Dr. Brown’s work proves this. However, not all of us are aware of this fear. If you are someone who knows that the fear of being shamed is keeping you from engaging more fully in life, than grab some Larch.

At this point I’m sure it’s pretty obvious that I am a huge fan of Daring Greatly and of Dr. Brown. I encourage you to pick up the book, along with some Bach flowers, and Dare Greatly with me!


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